It has to be said that Moonlight was easier to see at night.
She was still there during the day, but she was harder to see.
Emma wondered about this, but only for a moment. Considering all the strange things that had happened around her over the past year, not being able to see her dog clearly during the day seemed like a small concern.
Emma’s second favourite part of her day was sitting on the old leather couch in her aunty and uncle’s lounge room watching a movie. She could have gone to her room and watched it on her computer — been alone with Moonlight, but she sensed that Moonlight enjoyed being with the grownups — hanging out. Considering Moonlight had defended her when she needed it most, Emma felt it was the least she could do.
Moonlight didn’t watch the screen, she watched Emma — head on her lap, sitting at her feet. Emma stroked her head and scratched behind her ears — Moonlight liked having her ears scratched, not because they were itchy, but because she knew this touch was full of love.
“Why do you do that Emma?” asked her aunty.
“No reason,” said Emma as she stopped stroking Moonlight.
Mrs Brown had been told not to make Emma feel like she was doing anything unusual. “Try not to notice when she does things — strange things. It’s all part of her healing process.”
Emma was slightly ashamed that she took advantage of the advice she overheard her psychologist give. Nevertheless, she took full advantage when it suited her, particularly around bedtime. Unfortunately, this only worked for a few weeks, and she learned not to overdo it — too precious an advantage to waste.
After a few months, the police stopped ‘dropping in for a chat’. They were hoping that Emma could remember more of that night, but there wasn’t any more to add to what she had already told them. Her mother told her to hide, and Emma was very good at hiding — she knew all the best places. She remembered the adults shouting — strange voices she didn’t recognise — Moonlight barking and growling, then silence. Emma stayed hidden until the policewoman in the white overalls found her. Two men were arrested at the Emergency department of the local hospital. Moonlight had inflicted severe wounds on them both — had driven them off before they could search the house — before they could hurt Emma.
The police said Moonlight was badly injured when they found her. She didn’t know who these people were so she tried to drive them away as well, but she was too wounded to put up much of a fight.
The policewoman in the white overalls told Emma that Moonlight had been taken to a Vet.
Moonlight was fine now. She came to Emma that first night — the night Emma rode in the police car to her uncle’s house. They turned the flashing blue lights on for her, but said they couldn’t turn the siren on, “It tends to wake people up, and people need their sleep.”
Emma didn’t sleep much this days.
In the beginning, it was strange to sleep in a new bed in a new house, but then she got used to the all the new things. Moonlight kept her company on those sleepless nights.
Emma didn’t have to go to school for several weeks, and when she did, it was a new school, and she had to start all over again — find new friends.
No one at her new school knew what had happened, although Emma sensed that her teacher knew something — they never talked about it.
Emma was the only girl at that school who was allowed to have her dog with her during the day. No one said why and she didn’t ask — she didn’t want them to send Moonlight away, so she didn’t bring it up.
Sometimes, Emma lost sight of Moonlight at school, but soon she would turn up with an old tennis ball or a bone and lay it at Emma’s feet.
“Not now Moonlight, I’ve got an essay to finish.”
Emma’s best friend, Josie, knew Moonlight, but sometimes the other girls would ask Emma who she was talking to.
“Don’t you talk to your dog?” Emma would ask.
Josie would usually change the subject and suggest that they all play a different game.
Emma didn’t catch the bus when it was time to go home from school because the long walk home with Moonlight was a highlight of her day.
Their usual route took them past Maccas, and if Emma had any pocket money left, she would buy a small ice cream cone and share it with Moonlight.
Moonlight loved ice cream almost as much as she loved Emma.
“You wait here Moonlight while I go and get an ice cream. Be a good girl.”
Sometimes Emma didn’t say why she was going into the shop because Moonlight would get very excited and spin around in circles at the thought of ice cream. It took her a long time to settle down and even when she was sitting, her bottom wiggled with delight. Even when she didn’t say the words, Moonlight knew what was about to happen — Moonlight was a bright dog — she knew stuff — what she didn’t know she could sense. She knew when Emma was happy or sad. She tried to lick away her tears, but Emma scolded her when she did. She wasn’t really mad at her and Moonlight knew it.
Mostly, Moonlight knew that her job was to stay close by because Emma needed her.
Moonlight knew that something was different after that night, but she didn’t waste time thinking about it — she had a job to do and a girl to whom she could give all her love — that was enough for her.
After ice cream, they would cut through the park and sometimes there were other dogs to play with. Some were hard to see in the daylight, and some weren’t, but dogs don’t worry about such things — they live in the moment.
After the park, there was Mrs Jenkins.
Mrs Jenkins was ancient, and she smelled like eucalyptus lollies. Moonlight liked lollies, and so did Emma.
Mrs Jenkins would be waiting for them, every day, standing at her front gate. When the weather was warm, they would all sit on her front verandah and drink milky tea. Moonlight would rest her head on Mrs Jenkins’ lap — she knew that Mrs Jenkins had a cat, but the warmth of a dog is unique. Moonlight knew that Mrs Jenkins was coming near to the end of her life. It had been a good life — full of wonder, but all of her friends were gone, and she was looking forward to seeing them again.
When Emma and Moonlight said their goodbyes, they walked the rest of the distance to their house, but they did it very slowly, not because they didn’t want to go home — they liked being there, but because they didn’t want the experience to end.
The days rolled into weeks and the weeks rolled into months, and as they did, Emma and moonlight settled into their new life — far away from their old home.
Emma’s aunty and uncle were kind, and their house was warm and comfortable, but it wasn’t their home — not really.
“You miss your mum and dad don’t you, Emma?” said her aunty. They had been watching a movie together, and the movie had gone into an annoying bit.
“I miss them every minute of every day, but Moonlight is still with me, and I don’t get too sad when she is around.”
“You do know that Moonlight died that night — defending you?”
“I know she was hurt, but she got better and came to me. I know she is a bit hard to see in the daylight, but she is always with me.”
Emma patted Moonlight and Moonlight licked her hand and went back to dreaming about walking home from Emma’s school and ice cream and playing in the park and Mrs Jenkins and her eucalypts lollies — life was good.