Sitting up Jemma cocks her head, holds her body still, listening. She wants to make sure it really is the car she’s hoping for, bringing the people she loves. The person she loves. Sitting like a statue Jemma recognizes the cough sputter, the tiny brake squeak, of this car as it slows to a stop in front of the house. As soon as the dog sees the child she starts to shake and then bark. The bark that evolves into a yip from the excitement of visitors. A small little sighing whine escapes her and her body shudders as she watches from the upstairs window.
As I step out of the car I hear Jemma. She remembered despite the fact that it had been a while since we’d been here…gosh, as I search my own memory I think maybe we had never been here. I look up and fear she will jump right out of the window to get to me. My desire to save the dog makes me run for the front door. I stop short with my hand on the knob realizing, this is not my house. Can I just walk in? My mother nods. Before my foot crosses the threshold I hear Jemma leap from her lookout point upstairs. A not so graceful kerplunk and then a scratchity-clicking-clawing as her little feet scramble to gain contact with the wooden floor. I sense when she has gained momentum and is about to hit the stairs, her little body skidding as she tries to make the turn, her little paws once again trying to get a grip on the slippery floors.
I stand at the bottom, waiting . I loved watching this little dog run to me. There she was, at the top and in a second she is air born. Feet barely touching a step on her way down. Mouth open in a smile, tongue lolling out, ears flapping, front feet straight out, back feet scrambling to keep up, tail a blur.
With another not so graceful crash we are together. Licking and laughing and tail wagging to the nth degree. Her little body shimmies with glee as I hug her close and whisper how I’ve missed her. So engrossed in my reconnection with this package of unbridled joy I barely hear the grown up voices from upstairs. Rumblings, murmurs between the two. One feeble and weak. One unfaltering and determined.
Before my happy reunion with Jemma can run its full course I am called upstairs. Jemma and I race to the top, neck and neck, her with visions of romping together in an unmade bed before settling in for a nap. Me with visions of reconciliation, even though at four, I couldn’t possibly know what that looked like.
And there he is. Shirtless and rumpled in a small bed with white sheets surrounding him like snow mounds blown by the wind. The sun is streaming in and I can see the little swirls of dust kicked up by Jemma’s exuberance. The room is blindingly bright. White walls with sunshine bouncing off them. No curtains, just a sheet slung over the rod. I see dark pants and shoes in a pile by the bed. No socks. There’s an old wooden desk chair by the window where Jemma keeps her vigil. A yellow and white shirt lay wrinkled next to the chair where it had fallen, missing it’s mark. It smelled like stale sleep in this room. A sleep that was past its prime.
And before I can remember the face, I am leaving. We are going, I can sense that there is no arguing, no debating, no choice, I cannot stay. I recall he said something. I can’t see the face. Jemma isn’t smiling anymore. Is he still talking? What does his face look like? I scream these questions today as I try to conjure up this last meeting. Did he love me like the dog did? Did he say he loved me? I can’t see the face. I spent too much time on details that didn’t matter and all I remember of the last time I saw my father was the sadness I felt leaving the dog.
How does this sound for the first chapter of a book?