Kindness is an overriding instinct.
Refitting Shattered Pieces
By Alicia Bruzzone
Keys jangled uncharacteristically early as the front door was pushed inwards, waking me from my afternoon nap. Dad came in, shaking rainwater from his hair as I dragged myself off to get a towel from the bathroom.
Dad rubbed his neck with the towel absently when I presented it to him, paying little attention as he unwound a bundle of blankets that had been clutched to his chest.
A tiny squeal of complaint erupted over the pitter-patter of rain on the roof, and I took a startled step back. He didn’t. He couldn’t have. There were only adults allowed here. Adults only!
“It’s alright, Charli,” Dad said, understanding my alarm. “This little girl is Brenda. She’s just scared- and in need of a new family,” he added with a thoughtful frown, rubbing Brenda’s back soothingly. “Her mother… There was an accident, and a car-” Dad’s eyes watered as he looked down at the dark haired bundle in his arms, pressing her into his chest. “Well, lets just say it’s best not to talk about some things with certain company present. And miraculously alive, despite the astounding odds.” He coughed lightly, before placing a fake smile on his face and looking down at our apparent ward. His tone was lighter when he spoke next, his pitch deliberately higher in an attempt to soothe the wriggling youngster currently trying to escape his arms. “She’s old enough to eat solid foods, I thought she might bond better with you. She’s going to need a new mum.”
Dad looks at me quizzically, but my gaze is still stuck on Brenda. How old is she? She couldn’t possibly be more than a few months. She’ll need a lot of looking after. I don’t think I’m ready. I can’t be responsible for her.
“Hey,” Dad calls, gently lowering Brenda to play on the floor so he can walk over to me. He grabs the sides of my face. “You can do it, Charli. I know you can. Why, with your own boys-” He cuts off, and with an embarrassed flush of his cheeks goes over to check on Brenda.
He should be ashamed. We never talk of them. Three boisterous boys I had once, and in one fell swoop I lost them all. It shattered my heart into a thousand shards of hurt that never healed, and I vowed no more offspring. And then Dad brings home a fresh orphan and expects me to adopt her?
I peek a look at Brenda, who is trembling and falling over backwards to avoid Dad. She looks so lost, with little slits on the pads of her feet, cuts from broken glass.
“Charli, I have to get back to work. There’s only so long the hospital runs without the doctor.” Dad’s brown eyes look over to pierce into mine. “Are you going to be able to look after Brenda, or do I need to find her another home? I don’t want to if we can avoid it, Brenda’s understandably terrified of travelling in the car.”
I give in to guilt, heaving myself over to the cowering little girl. Ever so gently, I pick her up and take her into the kitchen with me. Finishing my nap can wait.
“I’ll be home with supplies when I can,” Dad called out. Looked like it was up to me to improvise.
I slid a bowl of food in front of Brenda, wondering if she’d manage. She gnawed at a biscuit for an impossibly long time, before giving up and slurping some water. Dribbles ran in tracks over her chin and down her neck, exposing how filthy she truly was. I relented, giving in to my long abandoned maternal instincts. Someone had to care for her. A slither of content managed to fit between the hurt in my heart as she happily nestled into my chest.
I was still bathing Brenda when Dad returned home. “Ah, Charli, I knew I could count on you,” he called fondly.
I stopped licking Brenda long enough to get a scratch from Dad behind my ears.
“Who’s a good dog, looking after the little orphaned kitten? I knew you’d forgive me one day for selling those pups.”