Why can’t I hear her skittering down the hall?
Why isn’t she at the foot of my bed?
Why don’t her barks ring through the house?
Where is she?
Where is our Maggie girl? Where are her pointy ears? Where is her fur, black as Snow White’s hair, with white and orangey brown on her face? She should be back from the doctor by now. She should be back. She should be licking my hands or sleeping on the floor. She should be barking at the door. Where is our Maggie girl?
The silence of our house is louder than her noise. Where is she? Momma will tell me. Momma will tell me not to worry. Maybe Bridget came to walk her early. Momma will find our little Maggie, under the bed or in the bathroom.
Where is she? I see Momma lying on the couch. Help me find her!
Momma shakes her head. I can’t, I can’t. She isn’t here. She’s in a happy place.
Is she in the park?
No, no. A happier place. You can’t find her, but she’s happy. Don’t you worry.
Tears stream down Momma’s face now. We can’t find her. No, she’s not in this world. She’s in a park in the sky. The best park. She’s swimming and playing. Don’t you worry.
But I do worry. I worry that Maggie isn’t having fun. I worry that she’s in pain. I worry about where our Maggie’s gone. But I know that she’ll be ours forever. She’ll always be our Maggie girl.
* * *
Daniel got sick. He got very, very sick. My best friend since forever, who I played with every day, was sick. We did everything together, breakfast to bath-time, and now he was a fish without its fin. He was a stepped-on bug. He was a boy with a broken life. Because to have a complete life, you must talk and walk. Daniel could do neither.
It happened one morning. I wasn’t there, but I live four floors above, so I know all about it. I know how he woke up and couldn’t move his legs. I know how he called his parents and they ran in. I know how they phoned the hospital and rushed him there. I know how by the end of the day, he couldn’t move his mouth.
I know how he stayed at the hospital for five months. I visited him all the time. Seeing him for the first time crushed my heart like glass. My friend, who I had danced around with, now so pale and still. I waved at him, tried to force out words. He mostly slept.
I know that they had to teach him how walk and talk again. It took a long time. After five months, he still had a limp and a weak smile. I know that when he came home, he still had tons of physical therapy. How we never got to see each other anymore. I tried to see him, but he always had medications and needed to practice walking. A year passed.
And then, he got better. The physical therapy payed off. He could move his mouth without it hurting. He didn’t need his leg braces to walk. He could take the elevator to my apartment without his mom watching his every move. He could jump around and not fall over. He came over for a sleepover. He wanted to be with me again.
Now, we are six years older. I still go over, although less often. I knock on his door and wait for his crooked smile. I wait for his long gangly legs and arms. I wait for him to lean in the door frame and invite me in for a quick snack with his deep, deep voice. I like seeing him, and wondering, How did he get so tall? How did his voice get so deep? What happened to the three- year-old boy who wanted to marry me? Where did he go? And then I realize that he’s still there, just deeper down. Of course we don’t want to get married anymore. He likes someone else. But we still know each other, and we still have memories. We still have many, many memories.
* * *
At one point in time, Maggie and Daniel were lost to me. Although only one of them has returned, they both still lie deep in my heart.
Emily Schoeman, Age 12, Grade 7, Hunter College High School, Gold Key