The car barely came to a stop in the driveway before Mary was out the door and bounding up the steps. While her family piled from the car, and their friends’ car pulled up behind them, she danced impatiently at the door. Her dad grinned at her as he jangled the keys and unlocked the door.
“I’ll just get his bottle ready and you can see him,” she called over her shoulder to their guests as she bolted into the house. In a minute she had taken off her shoes, changed out of her Sunday best, and was back in the kitchen, preparing a bottle of warm milk for her lamb. He would be starving, for it was an hour past his feeding time. She smiled as she pictured him waiting at the fence, bleating for her.
The microwave pinged and she pulled the bottle out, shaking it vigorously and then screwing the plastic nipple on top. She tested the temperature against the inside of her wrist. Perfect.
“I’m going out,” she called down the stairs, to where her dad was giving their guests a tour of the house.
“We’ll be right out,” he replied.
She slipped into her shoes and headed out the door. Skipping down the pathway, she scanned the fence. “Davy!” she sang out, and listened for his answering bleat. Silence. “Dave, it’s dinner time!” she called, reaching the gate and sliding the latch open. Still no sign of a little white lamb.
“Davy, where are you?” She glanced around the pasture, then started down the path towards the small shelter at the back. “Come on, lambkins, your—“
She stopped in the doorway of the shelter, the bottle suddenly very heavy in her hand. Davy lay stretched on his side in the corner, his little black hooves lost in the straw, not moving. Somehow she knew, without going any closer, that he would never move again. For a long moment she stood there.
Then she bolted, running as hard as she could, back up the path, slamming through the gate, and pounding back to the house. She crashed through the door to where her dad stood with his friend in the entry.
“Something’s happened to Davy!” she gasped out, her words distorted by her rush.
“What?” her dad asked.
“Something’s happened to Davy,” she repeated.
“We’ll go check,” her dad said, moving to get his shoes. His friend headed out the door. She stood where she was, watching them go. From there, she saw them go through the gate and into the pen, down to the shelter, where they looked at her lamb. She saw their shaking heads.
Slowly she went into the house. She put the still warm bottle on the corner of the counter. Downstairs, she could hear the rest of her friends, laughing and talking. With heavy feet she climbed the stairs to her room. She closed the door quietly behind her, and climbed onto her bed, where she curled up into a tiny ball.
Davy was gone. That was all she could think of. She could feel him in her arms still, his soft warm body, his short curly wool, his nose pushing against her cheek or her shoulder. She could hear him bleating by the fence, waiting for her to come play with him, and hear the way his voice changed when she called to him. She could see his big round eyes, his soft white ears that she so loved to pull, his tail wiggling as he sucked at his bottle.
Downstairs, she heard her dad come into the house and quietly tell the others what had happened. She heard him come up the stairs to find her. He didn’t say anything, just held her and let her cry, until he had to go back to their company. She stayed in her room, weeping or remembering.
She knew he could have told her it was just a lamb, not worth crying over. But Davy was her playmate, her pet, her darling. This was the first time she had felt such pain. She would raise more lambs, would love more deeply as she grew up, but she would never forget the feeling of losing Davy.
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