Where to start?In the beginning I suppose you could say that I was just like any other well-loved pet... I had a person. My Person was special to me and I was to her. If I had only known just how far my story would have gone, I would have cherished those early moments, those days when I was her everything.
So much has happened in the last few years... so much and I've missed it all. My guilt blinds me and there is darkness all around. I want to go back. I want to return to her arms, soft cheek cuddled against mine. Even in the times of tears, even when sorrow seemed to overtake her, I was her rock. I was her confidant.
I miss her.
ScrutinyNo one thought much when they opened their mailboxes and the colorful envelope stared up at them. They thought even less when the envelopes were opened. Who cared if the impoverish little brunette had a birthday? No one, that's who. Regardless of how much money they threw at the home where she stayed, they just didn't care what happened to my Person. No one... except the kind man who bought me. Yes, I began my life like many other plushies, cold and emotionless, lonely on the shelf of some no-name store. I hadn't been there very long when the bell above the door sounded and he walked in. He browsed, slowly, intently, looking for that perfect present for that perfect little girl.
I think he walked past me three or four times, turning a scrutinizing eye on me more than once before his hands ever left his jacket pockets. I think he walked past all of us. It's so hard to remember so long ago. The darkness has been here for so long...
The rideWithout warning, the man in the store snatched me from my resting place. He looked behind me, beside me, then asked the shopkeep if there were any more like me in the back. Without looking up from his newspaper, the shopkeeper just shook his head slowly and into the basket I went.
The next few hours were rather disorienting. I was tossed about, boxed, tossed about again. It was my first experience with loneliness. In the box, it was dark. It was drafty. For the first time since my creation, I was without anyone to lean on. The cardboard was cold and unforgiving against my skin.
It wasn't until later that evening that I began to appreciate what had happened. Sure the box was horrible, but what happened afterward... Man, words can't begin to describe that feeling. I could hear weird noises, some voices I knew to be children, some voices of adults sounding annoyed or tired, I couldn't tell which. After a while of listening to the children's excitement grow in their voices, there was singing. A cute tune that I now know as "Happy Birthday" filled my ears. Those angelic little voices... I don't think I'll ever forget the anticipation I could feel in the air.
When the singing ceased, the room fell relatively quiet. They clapped. They jostled me around some more.
And then...Bliss. Heaven. Utopia. There are many different words to describe the joy I found when my box was opened. Cherubic, round, rosy cheek. Soft, pale skin. Deep silver grey eyes. Mess of chocolate brown curls tumbling down her forehead. And oh, how she smiled when she looked down at me. Her face lit up as she reached her chubby-fingered hands down into the box and scooped me up under my belly. It was the instant she pressed my face against her smooth cheek that I knew I was home. I was finally home.
Her body was warm against me and she smelled like cookies. I liked that. I had heard some of the other toys at the store talk about being hugged, how it felt to be squeezed so gently when your person thought you were really alive. I never thought I'd get to experience it. It was so refreshing to feel loved. Then my Person ran to the man who bought me, threw her arms around his neck, and did the same to him. He smiled down at her with love in his eyes, too, regardless of the inspection she endured in the eyes of every other adult in the room. My Person went back to her meager stack of presents; Some new shoes, some clean clothes, a few other small plastic toys. Then her attention turned back to me. I got tucked under her arm and she hugged me close to her until the party wound down.
LearningAfter the party, the kind man pulled one of the older ladies with the surveying eyes off into another room and my Person cleaned up the wrapping paper, boxed, plates, and decorations before walking off down a dark, creaky hallway and into a dank bathroom. She prepared herself for bed, night clothes on, teeth brushed, hair combed, and hands washed, then we headed into a small room with an old wrought iron bed against one wall. The mattress was bare and stained. The wallpaper was ragged. The wooden floor was cracked and buckling. A single bare light bulb hung low from the ceiling, small twine dangling from it. She set me on the bed, kicked off her slippers, pulled the light string, and together we cuddled.
You are my firss stuft ahneemal." she lisped through her missing front teeth. My heart melted. Those were her first words to me, but there were many more to follow. In the coming months, she told me about her parents, how they were in a car accident, how she visited them once in the hospital. She told me about her father's sister, with whom she stayed until the day she got dressed all in black and watched the church man bury two boxes. She told me about her first day in the place we were in now, how her new mommy and daddy just haven't found her yet. She told me about how lonely and cold she gets... But that has all changed now. She has a friend.
LifeThere are holes in my memory that I wish I could fill, times I wish I hadn't forgotten no matter how mundane they seemed back them. But through the holes I remember this: It wasn't more than three days past her birthday that the kind man who bought me took my Person home with him. He showed her his house, large and elegant. He showed her his kitchen, pantry filled with food. He showed her his den, there was even a television there. He showed her a bedroom decorated all in pink, green, and white stripes. The bed was large and soft. There was a box of new toys in the corner. Then he asked if she'd like to be his daughter, if she'd like to live with him. It was the first time I saw my Person cry.
Tears of joy, tears of pain, sorrow, guilt. I caught them all and wicked them away. I held on to each one. I wondered while I was catching them if I'd ever need them myself. Would I ever use them? What on? I didn't know the answer then. I wish I didn't know it now.
She called him Daddy then, the man who bought me. And she through her missing teeth she called me "Ciloh." If anyone else called me that, she corrected them, though. To them, I was "Shiloh, like SHip and SHoot." which still sounded like "Ciloh like sip and suit" to me, but I didn't mind. Her life was so much easier now, so much happier. I spent my days relaxing on her bed, hanging with her from tree branches, soaking up the sun, laying in the cool grass, shopping. I knew what it was to be truly alive.
UntilOur day started normal enough with breakfast at the table while Daddy read the newspaper and sipped his warm brown liquid from a royal blue mug. We went to play in the garden... but today, my Person didn't run or jump. She kept telling me "I'm tired, Ciloh," and breathing heavy. Her grip on me loosened as she walked. I fell to the dirt somewhere in the garden. She fell a few short steps later. Daddy was there, in a flash, scooping my Person up in his arms and screaming and pleading "Wake up, my love! Please, wake up!" Picking me up was an afterthought. "I can't leave Shiloh here. She'll be heartbroken if she wakes up and you aren't there.
This place was strange. It smelled like bleach. The walls were a sterile while. The floors were a cold tile. The lights were bright and clean. When next I saw her, my Person had strange tube in her arms, some coming from her nose, and was wearing a pale blue gown. She was covered in a blanket and her eyes were closed like she was sleeping. A look of pain creased her perfect face. She looked up at Daddy, tears in her eyes, and reached out for me. He handed me down and she hugged me close.
The newsFrom across the room, a man in a long white coat told Daddy "She's still very weak, sir. We aren't sure why. There is no easy way to tell you, but we saw a mass on her X-ray. We're looking into it, but prepare for the worst." Through her pain, she smiled down at me and her eyes lit up again. It was one of the last times I'd ever see joy in her eyes. "I luff you, Ciloh..." she whispered before she nodded off to sleep. People came and people went, some holding her wrist and looking at a clock, some sticking needles in the tubes in her arms, and some came just to watch her sleep. Daddy was there every day, right along side her.
The days melded together, and my Person grew weaker. We didn't go outside and play anymore. We didn't swing, or hang from trees, or sit in the sun. The light was lost from her eyes. The color was lost from her cheeks. She cried almost every day now, and I was still there to catch each and every one. Eventually, more and more of her chocolate curls were left on her pillow each morning until there were just none left on her head. Dark circles grew under her eyes. She was frail and cold. Daddy cried a lot. My Person said she didn't the energy to cry with him. Sometimes, I wondered how she had the energy to keep her eyes open... Then she couldn't do that anymore either.
The final dayDaddy never once moved me from her side. He never took me away. He never shoved me off. I sat right where she put me, settled between her ribs and the side of the hospital bed, calmly stoic under her right arm. I could feel her breathing here, I could hear her heart... so I know when it slowed. I felt when it stopped. I watched my little angel take her last breath and felt her pull me close to her one last time. I felt her whole body relax beneath me while Daddy leaped from his chair and sprinted across the room to her. The man she called "Doctor" wasn't far behind.
Daddy sat down, holding her small hand in his, tears streaming down his face. "She's gone..." he kept sobbing. I knew I couldn't hold all of his tears, too. There were too many. I was too full already. My Person had given me so many that I was just full up. I curled up there next to her, and I, too, closed my eyes.
The endI wasn't sure how to react when Daddy lifted me away from my Person. He held me close, too, but he wasn't as warm. He was still sobbing softly as he walked down the hall of the hospital and out to his car. He sobbed harder when he looked in the empty back seat of his car. He sobbed more as he entered his now-quiet home. The crescendo of his sorrow was met in my Person's room. The joyful pink and green and white walls even took on a grim and sad tone as the rain fell softly on the window pane. Even the sky was crying... mourning the loss of my Person.
He placed me gently on the bed, just in front of her ruffled pillow. He tried so hard to smile down at me just like he did to her, but the pain he was feeling in his heart overtook him as tears streamed down his face. "Rest well, Shiloh. The next few days will be rough for both of us."
AloneWas it days? Weeks? I'm not sure how long I sat alone in the dark in my Person's room before Daddy came to get me again. He was dressed in a nice black suit. His forehead was creased with stress. His eyes were bloodshot from lack of sleep and and overstock of tears. Without a word, he tucked me under his arm and we headed for the door. The back seat wasn't as sad for him this time.
The car ride was short. We pulled into a strange place that smelled like wet grass and the freshly turned dirt in the garden. There were a lot of people there I didn't know. Everyone was wearing black. It was a long time before I knew why Daddy brought me here. He quietly walked to the center of the group of people and set me down next to my Person's arm. She looked so beautiful. She was wearing a bright pink dress and had on a wig. The color had returned to her skin now, but she was hard and colder than I had ever known her. She wasn't breathing anymore. I couldn't hear her heart. I knew in an instant what had happened.
My seams bulged. My body swelled. I felt like I was floating for a moment before everything I was holding in burst forth. Every smile, ever warm embrace, and every tear from my little girl I had ever caught came rushing to the surface as the church man spoke. I finally had my answer. I used every tear I had. I cried along with Daddy, along with all those people with the scrutinizing eyes in the house where I met my Person. I sobbed and my little stuffed body was wracked with sorrow. When I was done, I was droopy. My head no longer stood proud on my long neck. My tail flopped sadly behind me. I gave my Person one final nuzzle just before Daddy lifted me out of her reach. The lid was closed on the box that held my Person and she was lowered into the Earth.
Past, present, and futureMy life ended that day, too. My heart was buried with my Person. I will never forget that little girl whose eyes lit up each time she saw me. No one will ever take her place.
I miss her.
When we got back to the house, Daddy placed me on a side table in her room and I watched him pack her things away. All the other toys were gone. He took down her drawings of us together. He tucked her pretty clothes into dirty boxes. I was the last thing to go. He picked me up, hugged me gently just like my Person used to, and laid me square in the middle of her bed. He pulled the curtain closed. He shut off the light. I was alone in the darkness.
I often wonder what my life would be like if she were still here, or where I'd be if I had any other person. Would I still be getting loved? Would I be abandoned in a box somewhere? Would my Person outgrow me and give me away? There are so many questions that I'll never have answers to. There is one thing I never wonder. I never wonder if I was loved. I never wonder if my Person thought I was real. I never wonder who was my dearest friend. I may be here, alone, in a dark room with nothing but my memories, but at least I have those, and with those, I know that I am truly happy.
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