New York is a busy place. Which, of course, doesn't leave out the fact that it also tends to be filled with busy people. People in a rush to get home in the dusty evenings or crack of dawn to get to work. Busy people who don't really care about anyone but themselves. It isn't that we're all bigheaded or self-centered, most of us just tend to be a bit too wrapped up in ourselves.
New York was always sort of a "homey" place for me. It's where I feel comfortable no matter what, even when I'm alone. So maybe that's why I tend to get a little overemotional when we move house or even just switch schools. I don't like change much. Mainly just enjoy everything all orderly and set up nice. Mom jokes a lot and says I'm insane and whatnot, but none of her jokes are really funny anyway.
I don't have a lot of friends, to begin with. There is one girl at my school, Dawn. She's pretty cool, but she has a lot of friends and I tend to get pushed to the sidelines a lot, if you get what I'm saying.
So of course Japan was supposed to be a nice break for us all. After all, my mom always said the Japanese were very polite. Not pushy. Laid-back and quiet. So maybe this was the break we all needed from the tiring hustle and bustle of New York.
But as soon as we landed, I already knew it was going to be a long trip. Nobody there spoke English and we were lost there within the first few minutes.
Mom stepped up to a man in a bluish uniform with little silver buttons dotting down his coat. He wore a small sickly-blue cap. He looked like one of those police officers I'd seen in an anime cartoon once.
"Do you speak English?" she asked nervously. He responded in a different dialect and I turned my attention back towards my frayed sweater, fooling with a big plastic sickly yellow button.
I looked back up to see Mom tapping on her iPhone, and I suddenly remembered a moment from long ago...
I stared out the window forlornly, watching each silver raindrop slide elegantly down the window of the car, the gentle buzz of the motor filling my ears. The silence flooding the car was almost deafening. Most of the time, we never held conversations in our car. It was typical, of course, not to mention the fact that I was not pleased at all that we had left the comfort and safety of our home. Would Mother ever learn?
"Are we almost there?" I asked impatiently, running my fingers through my hair until I found my black pin. I clipped it off and began to fool with the tough plastic so I wouldn't have to look at Mother any more.
"I don't know, sweetheart..." I hated the way she spoke those words. I knew my mother was well aware of my bitter attitude for coming to this place this morning, but that didn't mean she had to act all sweet, as if we were heading off to the baker's for a cake, instead of off to the breeders for an ugly little mutt.
Which was what bothered me; really, really bothered me. She never looked at the situation for what it was- she always misinterpreted things and made them seem so small, so minuscule, when they really were just so much more.
"Fine. But I still don't think this is a good idea," I muttered so quietly that I might not have even said it at all.
"I heard that," Jason crooned from the front seat. My brow furrowed, but I held my tongue. I didn't need to make matter any worse than they possibly could be.
"Mother, Gretel kicked my seat," he whined, causing me to bristle. Older brothers did nothing but get you into trouble, I decided, although it wasn't the first time my thoughts had drifted upon this piece of information.
"I did not, it was the car. Haven't you noticed how bumpy this stupid road is?" I bit my tongue, because I knew either way I was going to get it for saying a cuss word.
"Gretel, that's enough," my mother said sharply, bringing the car to a stop on the edge of the road. "We're here. I want you to be nice to Miss Amelia, is that understood?" I nodded innocently and leaned over to open the car door with a hard push and a loud grunt, the raindrops resting upon the cold metal flying off and shattering onto the already-soaked road.
"I don't see why we need another dog," I whined as my mother walked briskly on the rough pavement that snaked along the grassy plain-like texture of the ground, navy blue shoes clicking as if in protest against the path. My mother waved a hand to signal my silence, a gesture that made me want to pull her sleeve and drag everyone back home again.
"It'll be good for you and Jason. You know, with Father and all." I bit my tongue, and I wanted to scream and drag my heels, delay us from entering the breeder's home, although I knew my efforts were in vain. So I simply pouted and stomped down the path.
When they reached the house, they were greeted by a tall picket fence adorning a neatly-trimmed bed of flowers, each twisting their golden faces up towards the sunlight. I wanted to smile at the sight, but inwardly kicked myself, because I just had to keep my attitude bitter, if I wanted to prove to my mother the better option was to just leave this place.
Little rows of blue wildflowers were sprinkled across the field, and when I squinted, I could see tiny dewdrops splashed upon tiny blades of emerald-green grass. It was a very lovely place.
Further up ahead, I took note of a small shack, which looked quite modest compared to their own house. Based off of its height, it was only one floor high. How could one possibly live in such a disgraceful place, I wondered, although I kept her thoughts in her head. I didn't want to upset Mother by being rude, although I could hardly see how speaking the truth was rude.
Shaking off my thoughts, I let my gaze fall upon the house once more. Tiny scattered blue tiles lined the roof neatly, accenting the pale yellowish paint that looked like it was scraping off of the walls. French windows were visible to the side, and she could see in very plain sight, a sign. It read:
BEWARE OF DOGS. NO TRESPASSING ALLOWED.
I scoffed at the sight of it. Surely a person should not threaten others, most especially with a dog. I knew how kind and docile mine had been...
Tears sprung up at the idea of my old dogs, whom I missed more than anything. But I hastily wiped them away. I wasn't going to grow soft for this dog, because everything I loved died. I wasn't going to get hurt anymore, I promised myself. I sucked a breath in, smoothed the ruffles and crinkles out of my skirt, and waited patiently on the doorstep by my mother.
The older woman raised a fist and knocked quietly on the fading mahogany wooden door. We were forced to wait a few moments in silence before a plump woman with strewn-about hair came dashing to the door. By this time, I had already wandered off, but came running back up when my mother motioned for me to come.
"Are you Lavender?" Mother nodded and shook her hand politely.
I scowled and did my best to look upset, so perhaps this woman would dislike me and send us all home again.
Without a dog.
"And you must be Gretel," the stranger said kindly. She gave me a tight hug, which made me secretly screw up my face in distaste. I knew the woman was trying to be nice, but I hated being hugged, because it made me feel like a child.
I was actually 10 and a half, and should be treated respectably, like Mother. Maybe if I had offered a hand first, then they could avoid hugs. Yes, I decided, I was going to offer my hand first next time. No need for ridiculous bear hugs.
After what seemed like ten million years, the stranger released me from her iron grip. I noticed Jason hurriedly extend his hand. Stupid.
As if reading my mind, her mother leaned over and whispered into her ear; "Act polite, Gretel." Normally, I would've laughed.
"Act polite," she had said. Like telling a child to pretend to be something they weren't. No matter, I could already tell that there was no point in arguing. I was too tired to do so, anyway.
"Now, let's see, I do believe I have your dog inside," the woman said, clapping her hands together. Mother looked a bit uneasy, but she nodded and led us- the children inside.
"Thank you for taking him in, no one else wanted him. He might've ended up in the pound," the woman said, cleaning and tidying up things as they went further in. "Oh, sorry," she said, picking up a stuffed toy from the couch. "Sorry," she said, tossing a chewed-up newspaper. Her eccentric behavior made me wonder how she acted when she was alone. Or when she thought she was alone.
"Here he is," she said, simply making a motion towards the pen. It was closed up, and I could not see.
"But I can't see him, that flap is in the way," I pointed out. I noticed the stranger stiffen slightly. Had I said something offensive? I had always been taught to be a polite little lady, and I didn't want to embarrass my mother.
"Oh, yes, well, of course I'll take it off." She headed off in the direction of the pen, before hesitating. "Perhaps you will not want to see," she said, causing me to squint her eyes and frown in suspicion. Why was this lady so nervous? I didn't see what was wrong. It was just a regular puppy, right?
After a long, hesitant moment, the woman finally lifted the blue flap, and I let out a little gasp of delight.