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Sunrays pour into the old slider window, illuminating the white-washed walls of the bedroom; posters and certificates are plastered on the opposite wall, their color faded from years of sun. A little girl is curled up in bed, clutching the blankets in fitful sleep. I sigh and gaze through the window at the pale blue sky, which is undisturbed by occasional clouds. Outside, the leaves of the cherry blossom tree slowly wave in the breeze, and the birds continue their constant chatter.

“Let’s go play,” I whimper as I lick Sarah’s face.

“Oh, Hua Hua, you want to go play?” Sarah asks; her face reveals a solemn expression.

“Play!” I bark, wagging my tail.

“I’m sorry,” she replies, and lies back down.

I rest my chin on my paws, and Sarah pulls me close to her chest as she lazily strokes my white fur. Nuzzling my nose into her arms, I breathe in the unmistakable scent of her, like daisies. Only the smell is muddled in with something else I can’t quite explain; it must be from her numerous trips to the hospital. I look around Sarah’s room. Her closet stands in one corner, with her clothes and walking shoes neatly sorted inside. Her homework still lies open on her desk. Usually, she would finish it before she’d take me on a walk, but it’s been awhile since we’ve gone outside together. The nightstand by the bed is piled high with get well cards from all her friends and neighbors, those people I like to bark at when they walk past. Her room smells like the vet’s office, too spotless, not like it used to. It used to smell like sunshine—clean, fresh, crisp.

I remember when Sarah and I first met. I was a little puppy then, running around with not a thing in the world that concerned me. You could say I was very energetic, curious, and brave. I didn’t care if I got hurt because I didn’t know what pain felt like. In the cage at SPCA, Sarah crouched down next to me and brought me into her arms. I looked at her and smelled daisies. Her golden brown hair was like long grass growing on the hillside. Her bright smile radiated so much happiness that it was like lying in the warm sun. I took in her freckles, her dimples, and her eyes; I memorized the shape of her face and her daisy-like smell and etched them into my dog heart. Her eyes were blue like sky, and they let me see so deep into her feelings. I saw happiness, playfulness, and pleasure. I saw anything and everything I ever wanted all in a little girl.

That day, Sarah took me to my new home, and we played together in the park. She laughed at me running in circles, chasing my own tail. Sarah’s laugh was so beautiful; it sounded like the wind chimes that were always tinkling lightly in backyards. That sound was so sharp and crisp, yet delicate and light at the same time.

I remember we also played with my red rubber ball that she gave me. She drew her arm back and threw it far, far into the field. I came bounding back through the grass with the ball clenched in my mouth and placed it at her feet. I yipped at her to throw it again and again until I lay panting on the grass, too tired to play.

Feeling the dryness in my throat, I heard the rushing water of the fountain nearby. I raced over to the fountain and dove in. Instantly, I realized that my paws struck only cold water, no surface. Frantically gyrating my legs, I tried to keep my head above the water splashing down from the top of the fountain. What I thought would be refreshing was suddenly like dying. Just as the water began to push me under, I felt two warm, delicate hands pull me to safety.

“Hua Hua, you’re such a silly goose. Why would you jump into such a big fountain?” She dried me and hugged me close, burying her nose into my fur.

How I long to be at the park right now with Sarah. I can almost feel the wind ruffling my fur and smell the soil beneath my paws. I can feel myself soaking in the warm sunshine spilling from above, and picture myself running with my red ball in my mouth and dropping it at Sarah’s feet.

With contentment, I sigh as I recall these joyous moments of our lives. I turn my head to look at Sarah now. She still has her dazzling sky-blue eyes, but she has lost her golden brown hair, and I no longer hear her beautiful laugh anymore. We no longer spend the afternoon in the park playing with my red ball, or sprawled on the grass, and we no longer go outside. Now, she just stays in bed and takes trips to the hospital.

I understand that she still loves me, but she can no longer play with me or take me on walks. I understand that things will never be like they were before. I snuggle up closer to Sarah, and she giggles. Whatever she is going through, I am her guardian and loyal friend, and I will do my best to keep her smiling. Nothing in the world can make me leave her side. Just as she saved me from the rough waters, I want to pull her to safety.

Stella Lin We No Longer Go Outside
Stella Lin, 12
San Ramon, California