Year 2006 (49 years later)
There was a faint sound of crushing gravel as the little blue car pulled to a stop in the small parking lot. An aging man got out of the drivers side. He was extremely tall and well built for his age, and his hair was cut short and in varying shades of gray. A thick matching moustache adorned his slender, kindly face. Square glasses were perched on his nose. He reached back into the car, pulled out a simple mahogany cane, and with its help made his way over to the other side of the car.
He opened the passenger door and helped a young girl out of the car. This girl was fifteen years old, and skinny and straight as a twig. Her face was also slender like the mans, albeit much younger and more feminine. Shoulder length, sunflower blonde hair was swept up into a ponytail. She wore a simple white t-shirt and blue jeans, with flip-flops on her feet. Her hands were covering her eyes.
She half-stumbled out of the car, still keeping her eyes shut and covered.
Ok, you can open your eyes now Maddy, the old man said finally.
The girl moved her hands slowly to reveal big, sky blue eyes. She scanned what was in front of her, and a big smile slowly stretched across her face.
They were standing in front of a small building with white siding. A small flowerpot rested on the windowsill outside, and there was a friendly Welcome! sign on the door. Above the door was another sign that read Mapleview Animal Shelter.
Maddys eyes sparkled happily. She looked up at the man.
Really, Grandpa? she asked quietly.
The old man nodded happily, and Maddy bounded towards the door. She was so excited she could hardly contain it, the smile on her face stretching from ear to ear.
A bell above the door gave a small, cheery jingle as it opened and Maddy walked inside. The front office was small, but in a cozy kind of way. An empty reception desk sat on the far side of the room, and a few mismatched chairs were scattered along the apple red walls. There were several posters with phrases such as Adopt Me! and Take Me Home Today! on them.
Maddy wondered what sort of pet she should get. She already had it narrowed down to a cat or a dog, and was quickly weighing the pros and cons of each. Dogs were friendly and playful and easier to train, but required a lot more attention and were often slobbery and messy. A cat would be able to take care of mice and were quieter and cleaner, but cats dont usually like to cuddle or play as much as a dog. Such a decision!
As these thoughts were rolling through Maddys head, a man suddenly came through the door behind the desk. A warm smile appeared on his face when he saw Maddy, but Maddy instantly looked down at the floor when she saw him.
Hello young lady! the man greeted her. Are you here to adopt, or just look today?
Maddy stared at her toes as she fumbled for an answer. Her mind seemed to have gone blank all of a sudden, and she instantly went into panic mode. Um
. Her eyes shifted back and forth.
Another ring of the bell above the door was her savior as her grandfather walked in. She was instantly half-hiding behind him, still not making eye contact with the confused man behind the desk.
He asked if we were adopting or just looking today, she whispered in his ear.
Her grandfather nodded knowingly and approached the man behind the desk. Maddy was still half-walking, half-hiding behind him, eyes shifting between the floorboards and the man.
Hey, howre ya doing? her grandfather cheerily asked the man as they shook hands.
None too shabby, none too shabby
the man returned, clearly glad to be rid of the awkward moment between him and Maddy. Sorry to have kept your girl waiting here, I was just helping a few boys in the back. What can I help you with today?
Maddys grandpa rested his hands on her shoulders. Well, were hoping we can find Maddy here a friend.
Ahh, then youve come to the right place! Lord knows these critters need a friend as well. The man smiled at Maddy, who finally managed a to offer tiny smile back.
The man motioned towards the hallway he came from. If you go down this hallway, youll find the cats in the room on the left and dogs on the right. Let me know if you find one you like, ok?
Maddy nodded shyly and started speed walking down the hall. She was really relieved to be by herself, half because she wanted time to pick out her pet, and half because she was able to get away from that stranger.
Back in the waiting room, Maddys grandpa sighed and shook his head. Im really sorry about that, he told the man. Shes just shy and doesnt have very good
for some reason. Its been that way since elementary school. Thats actually why were here. Im hoping a pet will help her to open up a bit.
The man waved it off. Hey, dont worry about it. Not everyone can be the worlds biggest extrovert, right? Anyway, Im sure a pet will do her a world of good if its a friend she needs.
Maddys grandpa sighed again and looked down the hallway at Maddys diminishing form. Yeah. That girl really does need a friend... he mumbled sadly.
Maddy entered the room on the left, the one with the cats. Instantly a barrage of meows and purrs hit her full force. She couldnt believe how many cats there were! There must have been over 30 cats in that room! Each one had its own cage, which were stacked up on top of each other along the walls. Cats of every kind were there: fluffy, shorthaired, spotted, striped, white, black
Maddy didnt even know where to begin looking. But she figured the left side was as good a place as any to start.
As she looked through the cats, she quickly found out that choosing a pet was harder than it looks. Each cat is so adorable! And I havent even got to the dogs yet! How will I be able to narrow my choice down to one? she thought as she looked at each one. Occasionally she stuck her fingers into the cages to try to pet a particularly cute kitty. One eagerly licked her finger. Maddy giggled gleefully at the rough texture of the tongue.
She finished up with the cat room, and made a list of her favorites in her head. Heading into the dog room, she noticed that she wasnt alone. Three boys about her age were all gathered around a small pen in the center of the room. Maddy couldnt see what was in the pen, but she decided to avoid the boys if she could. So she started making her way around the outside of the room, where all the dogs were kept in one long unit surrounding the room.
This room was considerably noisier than the cat room. If a dog wasnt barking, it was panting, growling, or whining. Most of them came bounding up to Maddy on the other side of the cage, sticking their noses through the wire and pining for attention. Maddy tried her best to give each of them a pat on the head and beamed when their tails wagged in response. Already she was beginning to lean towards the dogs instead of the cats.
Suddenly a loud, ear-piercing yelp made her jump and wheel around. She found the source of the noise in the hands of one of the boys, and also discovered what was in the small pen in the middle of the room.
There were about seven golden retriever puppies in the pen, all about eight weeks old. Most of them were playing with each other, but one of them was being held by the scruff of the neck. He didnt seem to be enjoying it at all. Maddy watched as the boy grabbed onto one of the puppys ears and pulled it outward like Dumbos.
Look, its Batdog! the boy exclaimed. The other boys laughed, oblivious to the puppys whining and squirming.
Maddy hesitated, then slowly approached the boy with the puppy and tapped his shoulder. Um
I dont think
you should holditlikethat
Maddy barely breathed out the last few words.
Oh come on, the boy said impatiently. Were just having a bit of fun. Now get lost, will you?
Maddy thought for a minute, then slowly backed away. The last thing she wanted was a fight, and besides, it wasnt like the puppy was going to die, right? Let the boys have their fun
So she went back to looking at the older dogs.
Look, I can make him be Superman! she heard the boy say behind her. She turned to see the puppy being held with his forelegs and back legs held out like Superman and being flown through the air with swooshing noise effects by the boy. The puppy was whining softly.
Maddy turned away, trying to calm the small bubble of anger in her chest. Im sure the boys will go away soon
Dont start something with them
Its not worth it
But as she continued her way around the room, looking at dogs along the way, the puppys small yelps and whimpers slowly made that bubble grow bigger. Like a snowball down a hill, the more the puppy whimpered, the angrier Maddy felt. She closed her eyes and bit her lip, trying to calm herself down. Its not worth it, its not worth it, its not wor-
All of a sudden the puppy let out a series of ear-piercing yelps, the loudest it had made. The bubble in Maddys chest reached its breaking point and burst.
And before Maddy knew what she was doing, she ran up to the boy with the puppy and shouted, her voice shrilly, I SAID YOURE NOT SUPPOSED TO HOLD IT LIKE THAT! And in one swift motion she shoved him to the ground.
She reached down and snatched the still-whimpering puppy from him, cradling it against her chest. What the hell?! the boy shouted. What gives?!
But Maddy was suddenly silent, looking between the retriever puppy and the boy, mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water. Had she really just done that? Her, Maddy? Her blue eyes were wide as plates. Then she suddenly ran from the room before the boy could get to his feet.
Hey! Get back here! the boy shouted. Maddy ignored him and ran back out to the first room, where her grandpa and the other man were waiting. Their faces turned to mild shock when they saw Maddys wide eyes and the puppy in her arms.
Therere boys back there and one of them was holding this puppy wrong and he was whimpering and hurting and so I pushed him down and took the puppy away and its not my fault! She gasped for air, having said that sentence very fast and in one breath.
Her grandpa and the man looked at each other in confusion for a moment, but then the three boys from the dog room came out, each looking mad as a rabid hound.
Maddy instantly scurried behind her grandfather, still holding the puppy. Thats them. The boy in the middle was the one hurting the puppy, she mumbled softly, pointing at them from behind her grandpa.
The man looked at the three boys sternly. Is that true, boys?
I wasnt hurting it! It was just a bit of fun! the boy growled. Sure, it was whining a bit but
The man held up his hand to silence the kid. Thats enough. I think its time you boys left, dont you think? He motioned towards the door. His eyebrows were furrowed and a frown was on his face.
The three boys all looked at each other for a moment, then the one in the middle scoffed. Fine. It wasnt much fun here anyway. They all silently slinked out the door and down the gravel road.
The man sighed and rubbed the inner corners of his eyes. Those boys wont be coming back here again, Ill be sure of that. Thank you, Maddy. You did the right thing, he said gently.
Maddy smiled and looked down at the puppy in her arms. His fur was reddish brown, darker than most retrievers. He looked back up at her with deep, round eyes the color of chocolate. They were sparkling.
She brought him up to her face to get a better look, holding him under the armpits. He gave a happy little bark and licked her nose. She giggled softly.
Well, are you going to go back and look some more? her grandpa asked.
Maddy stared at the puppy a little more, scrunching up her lips as she thought. Then she finally said, Nope, I like this one.
The man behind the desk smiled. He reached under the desk and pulled out a few papers. Alright young lady. Ill just need you to sign here, and Ill also need your guardian to sign too.
Maddy handed her new puppy over to the man as she signed her full name: Maddy Toddson.
She handed the pen over to her grandfather and he signed his own name: William Toddson.
And Im sorry to put you on the spot like this, but youll have to think of a name for him right now so I can put it on his papers, the man said as he took the signed papers back.
Maddy was a little taken aback. She had been so busy thinking about what animal she should get that naming it never even crossed her mind! She quickly scanned the room, looking for inspiration. Flowerpot, chair, desk, poster
None of them were even remotely good names, or even names at all. Then her eyes came across the nametag pinned to the mans plaid shirt.
It read: Hello, my name is Riley.
Riley, she said softly, slowly, listening to how it sounded out loud. Yeah, Riley. Thats his name.
The man behind the desk raised an eyebrow and chuckled. Maddy flushed and quickly blurted out, Im sorry, I can change it if you want
No, no. I think Rileys a nice name, the man said a bit smugly. Im just glad you didnt choose a showy name like PopTart's Momentary Lapse of Reason Concrete Hullabaloo. That got a shy chuckle out of Maddy.
The man handed the papers to Grandpa William, gave Maddy her puppy, and sent them on their way with a friendly wave. I hope you and your new friend enjoy many wonderful years together, he called warmly.
Out in the parking lot, Maddy was scratching Riley on the top of his head when she noticed something sparkle in the gravel. She looked down and saw a necklace. She had seen it before, but it was always on her grandpas person. Most of the necklace was silver, but within a small cage hanging off the chain was a small gem. It appeared to be a perfectly round opal, but it was the most beautiful opal Maddy had ever seen. Depending on the light, it appeared to contain all the colors known to man and more. It truly was remarkable.
Maddy picked it up and brought it over to her grandpa, who was unlocking the car. You dropped your necklace, Grandpa, she told him, holding it out in her hand.
Her grandpa instantly went stiff. His eyes widened slightly and he snatched the necklace from Maddy fast as lightning. He turned around and seemed to whisper something to it, but Maddy couldnt make out the words. After putting the necklace in his pocket, Grandpa William turned back to Maddy, who cringed, thinking she did something bad.
Instead his expression softened. He made a small smile and said, Thank you, Maddy. That wouldve been bad if wed left it here. But Im going to have to ask you not to touch that necklace again, ok? I
I think its best if I just hang on to it.
Maddy was a bit confused, but nodded slowly, agreeing not to touch the strange necklace again.
Soon the incident was forgotten as they made their way back home in their little blue car. But now they had a new member of the family. William hoped dearly that he would be a good influence to Maddy. But as he saw her laughing and scratching Rileys tummy in the passenger seat, he smiled. He didnt think he had anything to worry about.