I sat there as I watched Mommy Kim swing slowly from side to side by the rope hanging around her neck. I watched as her green eyes slowly lose their colour and her skin growing pale. I stared at the beautiful light blue dress and her white high-heeled sandals and her ponytail dangled lazily over her shoulder. It was the same outfit she wore in the picture she showed me on her prom night. She looked so beautiful then. Now? Minus the position she’s in, she’d be even more beautiful than before.
I soon heard Stepdaddy Josh calling for Mommy Kim. I didn’t move from my spot. I didn’t want him to see Mommy Kim dangling from the ceiling with the rope around her neck, slowly bruising it. I went over to her and licked her toes. They were cold and hard and tasted a little like pee, but I kept on licking them. Either I wanted her to wake up or to say goodbye, I wasn’t sure. I was feeling rather giddy and disoriented still from the sight of her death. Right now, I just felt like licking her toes and giving her a few kisses before Stepdaddy Josh sees her this way.
Stepdaddy Josh came into the room. Chaos ensured. I watched him pacing to and fro with tears in his eyes, muttering “Oh, my God” over and over again. I went over to the cordless phone and fetched it for him. He stopped pacing and took the phone from my mouth to call for help. He was talking to Sister Monique. I could tell from the tone of his voice that he was blaming me a little for not saving Mommy Kim. I did. Of course I did. I wanted to save Mommy Kim with all my heart. I really did. But when Mommy Kim said goodbye before she stuck her head through the noose, I knew that she didn’t want to be saved. She didn’t want me to run to her and bark and bite and pull at her arm or tug her dress so that she would get off the chair like my fellow friends did saving their Mommies and Daddies on TV. She wanted to die. She wanted to go away and she didn’t want to be rescued. I love Mommy Kim and I always listened to her and did what she said, no matter how bad the command was.
I heard Sister Monique in the phone telling Stepdaddy Josh that she would be coming over and for him to call the ambulance. Stepdaddy Josh did just that. After the very desperate and emotional 911 call, he came up to Mommy Kim and tried to take her off the rope. As he lay her down on the floor, I tried to give her a kiss, but he forbade me to do so. Moments later, I heard sirens blaring. People in white came rushing in with all that human medical stuff I didn’t understand and carried Mommy Kim on a stretcher. Sister Monique came in later and had her hands on Stepdaddy Josh’s shoulders, trying to comfort him. He didn’t say anything. He just got up from the bed he was sitting on and followed behind the people in white into the huge red and white ambulance. Sister Monique took my collar—the precious red and blue collar Mommy Kim bought for me—and whispered for me to come with her. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay and wait for Stepdaddy Josh to bring Mommy Kim home, no matter how far-fetched that idea seemed. I wanted Mommy Kim to come home.
But I knew she would never come home. As Sister Monique coaxed me to get into her car and as we left the beautiful double-storey bungalow, I knew I would never ever see Mommy Kim again.
Just like I would never ever see Daddy Ron again.
I woke up to the sound of crickets outside the house. I sat up and looked at the window that let in the soft light of the moon, trying to remember why was I lying on a rug in the living room of Sister Monique’s house. Oh, right, I remembered. Sister Monique had decided to take me in because Stepdaddy Josh didn’t want to have anything to do with me anymore. Sister Monique had told him that he needed the company of man’s best friend at these mournful times, but he didn’t want to. He said something about me reminding him of Mommy Kim’s death and told Sister Monique to take me out of his sight. So she did.
I didn’t blame him. I never did. It’s only human for him to assume that I should’ve saved Mommy Kim beforehand, so it’s also only human for him to blame me for Mommy Kim’s suicidal death and to get rid of me. But I truly wished that I could tell Stepdaddy Josh about what I saw in Mommy Kim’s eyes. If only I could speak human language, I’d tell him everything. I wanted to tell him that Mommy Kim wanted to go. I wanted to tell him that she wanted to die, and that she didn’t want my help to save her. I wanted to. I really do. But I guess it was not meant to be.
I got up and went up the stairs into the bedroom where Sister Monique and Brother Wade slept. They were in each other’s arms, snoring peacefully and in full blissfulness. I smiled as much as my doggy lips would allow it before I went off to check on their kids—twins Michael and Wanda. They weren’t asleep, but they were too busy trying to hack into some secret NASA project to pay nay attention to me peeking on them at the door. Like father, like pups, my old mother used to say.
I continued to ponder about this family as I trotted down the stairs back to the living room. They’re so blissful, like a one big happy family with no troubles in the world to think about. Sister Monique is doing well as the new president of Club Banana and Brother Wade and the twins are practically flourishing in their career as the brains behind the crime fighters. They’re positively too rich and too happy to have me around to complicate their lives. After all, I belonged to an owner who committed suicide and whose husband disowned. I might bring bad memories for them. It would be better for them if I just left. And that’s just what I did. I scrambled out of the house through the half-open kitchen window and out into the dark night.
As I walked on wondering where I should go next, I began to recall my past, just as if it had only happened yesterday…
I was born in Middleton with 5 other siblings under a family called the Barkinsons. My mother was a pure bred Black Labrador but I was born yellow. That’s because, according to my mother, my father was a Yellow Lab all the way from a country called Japan. The Barkinsons family, who were famous musicians, was visited by a Japanese ambassador and his family, and my father belonged to his daughter. When my mother met him, it was love at first sight. They managed to get acquainted and mated before my father went back to Japan, thus my siblings and I were born.
When I was about 6 weeks old, my mother said that it was time for us to leave her and go to other homes to have new Mommies and Daddies. I cried and told her I didn’t want to leave her, but she told me that that’s life and I have to learn to adapt to it. She even told me that one day I shall meet the right Mommy or Daddy to be with and know they will be one even though we’ve only just met. It’s what she called ‘doggy instinct’, and when that time comes, I wouldn’t need her that much anymore. I refused to believe her, but little did I know that she was going to be right.
Soon, I watched my siblings leave to new homes one by one. Two brothers were sent back to Japan as a gift for the Japanese ambassador, and I was a little envious because they get to hang with our father. Another brother the same colour as me was sold to a very rich chef and was named ‘Salad’ the minute he set eyes on him. I soon heard from a phone conversation between Mrs. Barkinsons and the chef that Salad was doing really well and was spoiled rotten by his three beautiful part-time model daughters. My only sister was sold to a lady who lived at a town called Upperton, which was quite a long way from Middleton, so it was no surprise that we never heard of her again. Although I was glad I wasn’t sold yet, but I knew it might happen one day eventually.
That day was when I met Daddy Ron. The Barkinsons were having some sort of party and Daddy Ron and his family were invited because they were sort of a distant relative of Daddy Ron’s father. I noticed Daddy Ron wasn’t having a lot of fun at the party. In fact, he looked bored. I didn’t know why, but there’s something about him that kind of attracted me paternally. I suspected it to be the ‘doggy instinct’ my mother told me about, but I was in self-denial. Still, I couldn’t take my eyes off him.
Then he saw me. Or to be more exact, Daddy Ron’s pet saw me. The naked mole rat got out of Daddy Ron’s pocket and was curiously regarding me. I barked at him in delight—it was the first time I saw friends other than the cat next door and the birds on trees. Daddy Ron was all over him, thinking I was going to attack him, but I made him think otherwise by jumping onto Daddy Ron and giving him countless kisses. I didn’t know what prompt me to do this, but all I knew at that moment was that I wanted to go home with him.
I guess I kinda grew on Daddy Ron, for almost immediately Daddy Ron asked Mrs. Barkinsons if he could buy me. His father protested at first because he said he was allergic to animal fur, but Daddy Ron assured him that he was buying me as a present for his girlfriend. After much negotiation, Mrs. Barkinsons agreed to let Daddy Ron buy me for $50. I soon bid my mother goodbye and got acquainted almost immediately with Daddy Ron and his pet Stepbrother Rufus.
Valentine’s Day was the day I met Mommy Kim. Daddy Ron put me into a basket tied with a red ribbon and covered me with a warm red cloth. I couldn’t see a thing with the cloth over me but I could hear and feel everything around me. I felt the earthquake-like bumps and jerks as I was carried by Daddy Ron to goodness-knows-where and I could feel Daddy Ron’s leg occasionally hitting softly on the basket I was in. I could hear Daddy Ron saying “We’re almost there” as he knocked on the door and a woman’s voice inviting him in. then I heard Mommy Kim running towards Daddy Ron. A smooching sound indicated that they had just kissed. Finally I heard Daddy Ron say “Happy Valentine’s Day”.
That was my cue. I popped out my head and Mommy Kim gave a cry of surprise. She was the most beautiful human I have ever seen—with her reddish hair, full lips and dark green eyes. I liked her as immediately as I liked Daddy Ron with his golden hair and brown eyes. I barked and wagged my tail, brining the rest of her family to see me.
“Oh, isn’t he adorable!”
“It’s a ‘she’, Mrs. Dr. Possible.”
“Cool! A pure-bred Labrador!”
“Where did you get her, son?”
“Just someone related to my dad. Don’t worry, Mr. Dr. Possible. She’s fully vaccinated. No rabies, no nothing.”
“Why the gesture, Ron?”
“Oh, you know, KP, since I have Rufus, I thought maybe you needed a pet of your own. I mean, I always thought of getting a dog instead of Rufus before I knew Dad had fur allergies, so I was hoping a joint custody might work…”
“Don’t worry, Rufus ol’ boy. You get to take care of him too, like your own little brother. You’re still my favourite.”
The wash of human exclamation and conversation came in folds, but I wasn’t really paying attention to any of them. I was staring at Mommy Kim and Daddy Ron, the most appealing ones among the humans around me. There was something I couldn’t understand clicked between them and me. It’s like they were meant to be my new Mommy and Daddy and that life with my mother was a thing of the past. Suddenly I felt as if I didn’t miss my mother that much anymore, and I was sure that I’d settle in nicely with my new family.
Darn, I hate it when my mother is right.
As if confirming my thoughts, Mommy Kim smiled and gave Daddy Ron a big hug, thanking him over and over again for the present and saying that I was just what she needed. Despite her father having doubts about her responsibilities of taking care of me, she took me in and planned to name me all the same. After much bickering and random checks on books, Mommy Kim and Daddy Ron decided to call me ‘Kaija (pronounced Kai-yah)’, the name of a very beautiful Red Indian human princess from some tribe I couldn’t pronounce, because they thought I got the human princess’s eyes.
Mommy Kim did not let me down. She bathed me, fed me, walked me and played with me regularly and Daddy Ron did his share whenever he got the chance. They nicknamed me ‘their lovechild’, which was quite cute. She would protect me from being used by her twin brothers as an experiment guinea pig—although sometimes they succeeded in doing so when she wasn’t looking—and let me sleep by her feet on her bed. She brought me along when she and Daddy Ron had to go on crime-fighting missions and I had my share of adventures as I helped fight bad guys together with Stepbrother Rufus using the skills they’ve taught me. Villains like Dr. Drakken, Shego, Duff Killigan, Monkey Fist and D.N. Amy were no stranger to me. I had a few misgivings and jealousy spats with Stepbrother Rufus before, but we soon came to a brotherly understanding that Daddy Ron would love us either no less. Mommy Kim would tell me stories about her and Daddy Ron’s childhood and the lives they’ve been through together. And, of course, the prom night that decided their relationship was more than just friends.
I got to meet Sister Monique, who was Mommy Kim’s best friend and Brother Wade who never seemed to be in person. They’re nice but I don’t see them often, unless there was an upcoming exam where Mommy Kim, Daddy Ron, Sister Monique and Brother Felix—Daddy’s best guy pal on wheels—get together and study, or when Brother Wade offered up another crime-fighting mission. I noticed the secret admiration between Sister Monique and Brother Wade, especially there were times when Sister Monique had to assist in the crime-fighting when all our hands and paws are tied. Mommy Kim and Daddy Ron were equally surprised too, since they’re totally opposites of the brain level, but despite that, we ganged up together and played Stupid Cupid to pair them up, which was a success, by the way.
Sad to say though that good things must come to an end someway somehow. Despite the fact that Mommy Kim and Daddy Ron had been dating (and mating) for the rest of their senior years, a letter tore them apart. It was that fateful day when they applied for college. Mommy Kim got an unexpected letter from Denmark giving her a full scholarship to study in one of their most prestigious colleges. The Dean used to be one of Mommy Kim’s rescued victims from an assassination and he said it was the least he could do to repay her. Mommy Kim had always wanted to study abroad but she didn’t want to leave Daddy Ron behind in his upcoming Upperton college life. He was so looking forward to go there with her.
It wasn’t that Mommy Kim never tried to pull some strings. She begged the Dean to give Daddy Ron the same offer he gave her but the college funds were limited and the remaining funds was only enough to cover hers. Mommy Kim had no choice but to break the bad news to Daddy Ron when he came to visit her with the Upperton College acceptance letter.
“KP! KP! Look! I got accepted by Upperton! We’re going to UC, baby! Booyah!” Daddy Ron nuzzled me and said, “Ooh, there’s my little dear ol’ lovechild. You’re a good girl, yes, you are!”
“Actually, I want to tell you…”
“That you’re accepted too, aren’t you? Come here, let me see that letter…Uh, KP…? What is this…?”
Mommy Kim broke the news. Daddy Ron was upset that the Dean didn’t let him go under full scholarship and that she didn’t turn the Dean down. He accused Mommy Kim of not loving him enough and that no one ever pays attention to sidekicks anyway. They soon got into a heated argument neither I nor Stepbrother Rufus could pacify and yelled to each other that they were through. It hurt me to see Mommy Kim cry and Daddy Ron leave, but there’s nothing we pets could do. All I could do was comfort Mommy Kim and give her a few kisses, assuring her that I would never leave her side no matter what.
Finally Mommy Kim decided to leave Middleton and go to Denmark as soon as possible. After getting me vaccinated and checked up, I followed her throughout the long plane hours to reach there. That was when I met Stepdaddy Josh. He just so happened to be another one of those full scholarship students studying in that college and he and Mommy Kim soon hooked up together. I didn’t like Stepdaddy Josh at first. He was an uninteresting guy with a weird streak of pale yellow across his brown hair and pale blue eyes, and he wasn’t as fun as Daddy Ron. It was he, too, that made Mommy Kim decided to quit crime-fighting and live the normal life. I heard that the position was given to another teenager by the name Norman Trouble and sidekick Betsy Probable. Brother Wade was reluctant to switch sides, but again, there’s nothing to be done. I had to accept Stepdaddy Josh as my new Daddy. No one can change the hard-headed Mommy Kim.
I began to miss Daddy Ron.
After college, Mommy Kim was married to Stepdaddy Josh. A week later after that, we attended Sister Monique and Brother Wade’s wedding. Since that day, we got to see Brother Wade in person more often. Mommy Kim moved on from college to become a fashion designer while Stepdaddy Josh became a traveling artist. Although both their jobs involved traveling, it wasn’t as exciting as before. Nothing could compare the thrill of traveling to the other side of the world to bust crime. Seeing Norman Trouble and Betsy Probable in the news didn’t help either/ to make matters worse, Stepdaddy Josh got into a car accident on his way to a neighbouring city, making him blind in one eye and infertile. Because of his infertility made mating between them uninteresting, Mommy Kim decided to have an affair, and with her archenemy Senor Senior Jr. nonetheless!
Uncle Senior Jr. wasn’t exactly a villain anymore. He thought life as a villain was troublesome and boring, so he decided to take his inheritance in advance and moved out, leaving his father to do his hopeless dastardly deeds. He became a model for Mommy Kim’s company. He never forgot about Mommy Kim being his anemology soul mate—his Blue Fox—and wished to pursue a relationship with her in spite of her married status. Since she and Stepdaddy Josh wasn’t much into their mating life, she accepted his pursuit. Wherever her job took her, he’s there, and Stepdaddy Josh was too engrossed in his arts to pay attention to this affair. All I could do was watch as Mommy Kim led her double-life as Stepdaddy Josh’s wife and Uncle Senior Jr.’s lover, and I was almost glad that I was a dog and that no one understood me even if I barked out everything. But I also wished that they understood me, because that way I could persuade Mommy Kim to end this affair before it’s too late or make Stepdaddy Josh catch them in the act at the least.
What was done was done. Mommy Kim and Uncle Senior Jr. got married when I was 4 years old. They assumed that I was happy for them, but the truth was I wasn’t. I may be wagging my tail when they exchanged vows and kissed in a Las Vegas parish, but I wasn’t happy. I was forcing myself to pretend to be happy. I may not have a lot of affections for Stepdaddy Josh, but I had it the least with Uncle Senior Jr., which is why I wouldn’t look at him as another Daddy. I knew that unlike us dogs, humans cannot have more than one mate at the same time, and what Mommy Kim did was called ‘bigamy’, if I’m not mistaken. Somehow I knew it was wrong, and I felt worried for her. And I thought only male humans did this sort of thing.
I missed Daddy Ron even more.
Just when I thought I would never see Daddy Ron again, fate stepped in. mommy Kim had a new design of winter wear and had access to do her fashion shows at one of Middleton’s most exclusive hotels. Uncle Senior Jr. couldn’t show up because he had to attend Senor Senior Sr.’s funeral (that old bag of bones finally died by the hands of Norman Trouble and Betsy Probable), so I was glad he wasn’t around Mommy Kim for once. It’s been a long while since we’ve been in Middleton and it brought back memories, mostly about Daddy Ron. After a successful fashion show, everyone dug in to the food catered by Bueno Nachos. And that was when we met Daddy Ron.
Oh, how happy I was to him! Although his freckles were gone, his hair longer, his body tanner and more built and him wearing glasses, I recognized him immediately. He had the exact same smell the first time I met him. He was there to check in on the catering when I saw him and I pounced on him the same way I did when I was a puppy. I kissed him over and over again and I was glad that Daddy Ron recognized me too. He was rater taken aback to see Mommy Kim again, but he was old enough to keep his cool.
We sat outside a restaurant to have a drink and a chat. Turned out that Daddy Ron had quit halfway through college and decided to work in Bueno Nachos. His reputation for making new and better recipes for the company earned him a job in the high places, and he’s now the head chef and head caterer of Bueno Nachos Industries. Stepbrother Rufus had already died of old age and the new naked mole rat occupying Daddy Ron’s pocket was his grandson Roofie.
More meetings of chance occurred during her fashion shows throughout Middleton and Upperton, and with Uncle Senior Jr. out of the way, old flames were rekindled, with a little help from Roofie and I. One night, during dinner at their childhood haunt, Daddy Ron began apologizing for not understanding Mommy Kim’s feelings and being all childish over a stupid college application. Mommy Kim also apologized for being selfish and overlooking their relationship that was supposed to be bright and dandy. They felt sorry for giving each other up and wanted to give themselves another try at this. Needless to say, that night Roofie and I were stationed at the verandah of Daddy Ron’s condo as old flames burned into a familiar fiery passion.
Mommy Kim soon made the decision I have always been waiting for. She said while we were eavesdropping on their pillow talk that she decided to break it off with both Uncle Senior Jr. and Stepdaddy Josh and move in with Daddy Ron. Roofie and I high-fived. We were so glad about it that we never suspected what was coming for them.
Uncle Senior Jr. didn’t take it so easily though when Mommy Kim brought in the divorce papers. He cried and begged and almost threw a tantrum but she was adamant. She said that she would divorce Stepdaddy Josh too as soon as the fashion show was over. She gave him back her wedding ring and excused him from the office.
If only she had seen the rage in his eyes as he gave her one last look before slamming the office door.
Mommy Kim’s decision came with a bad price. Somehow Uncle Senior Jr.’s rage over the divorce had brought out the true villain in him. When we came home from the fashion show, we were shocked to see Uncle Senior Jr. planting bullets on Stepdaddy Josh. Mommy Kim tried to stop him but when she saw Daddy Ron’s lock of hair held in his hand, she went all weak, shocked and unable to fight. Uncle Senior Jr. said no one gets the better of him and that if he couldn’t have Mommy Kim, no one would. That’s when I knew from that lock of hair that he had killed my Daddy Ron.
Rage took over. I was infuriated. How dare he kill my Daddy? How dare he take the life of the only Daddy I’ve ever loved? My crime-busting instincts kicked in and I made for his hand that held the gun before he could shoot me. We struggled and fought. I tasted the metallic flavour of his blood and I felt punches landing on my body, but I held on. I would never forgive him for killing Daddy Ron. If it meant dying to avenge his death, so be it. When I heard gunshots and felt Uncle Senior Jr. stopped struggling, I looked and saw Mommy Kim holding his smoking gun with shaking hands and tears in her eyes. I let go of his bleeding arm and walked slowly towards her, whining and whimpering as she took me in her arms and wailed.
Stepdaddy Josh was lucky. Even with multiple gunshot wounds, he was still alive but in a coma. Daddy Ron’s death and Uncle Senior Jr.’s attack was all over the news. News of Mommy Kim’s bigamy went everywhere. I was by her side when she was being questioned by men in suits. They said that before Daddy Ron breathed his last, he managed to type a message on his computer for her and it read:
I may not be able to see you anymore, but remember this: I love you…I love you…
Those were the saddest last words we have ever heard. Even before his death Daddy Ron still thought of Mommy Kim. His love for he never ceased and was never gone, even in his dying breath. I cried as I thought of Daddy Ron’s last words and watched helplessly at Mommy Kim being sentenced to jail for her crime as a bigamist. She may have hired the best lawyer money can buy, but what she did was still a crime and she had to face the consequences. Sister Monique took care of me while she did her time and her family was real nice to me, but not a day went by without me wondering how Stepdaddy Josh was doing and how life was in prison for Mommy Kim.
The day Mommy Kim was released from prison was the day Stepdaddy Josh woke up from his coma. The first thing she did when she got out was giving me a hug and a kiss. She apologized for all the trouble I had to go through because of her deeds and would make it up to me. She didn’t need to. I was just glad she’s OK and that she’s with me again. I missed her so much. I could tell that she was sorry for what she had done and regretted ever dragging Stepdaddy Josh into this whole mess. She vowed that she would take care of him and love him as much as she could to make up for her bleak past.
I was happy for her.
On the way to the hospital, Sister Monique told her that though the doctors couldn’t do anything about the infertility, Stepdaddy Josh had finally received a new eye from the donors’ list. Due to the trauma, he couldn’t remember anything about the attack and had no clue about her cheating on him with other men or about her going to jail. He was due to have the bandage removed that day to give his new eye a test drive. Mommy Kim begged Sister Monique not to reveal her in front of him. She’d rather if Stepdaddy Josh’s impression on her remained as it was before. Sister Monique agreed. I didn’t have to. He wouldn’t understand me anyway.
Stepdaddy Josh was in perfect shape when we saw him. He had a thick bandage around half his face and was in all smiles. Mommy Kim hugged him and gave him a light kiss. She still looked guilty but she was trying hard to be calm and collected about it. Soon the doctor stepped in. He congratulated Stepdaddy Josh on his recovery and told the nurse to bring in the mirror while he removed the bandages. We waited patiently as layer upon layer of it was taken down from his face. First, the nurse held the mirror in front of his face to let him look at himself first before taking in the rest of the big picture.
I’m now lying in a cardboard box, weak of starvation and dehydration. I know I’m going to die. I can tell. Like my mother said, ‘doggy instinct’. As I slowly let myself succumb to the silent invitation of death, I try to recall the last thing that led to Mommy Kim’s suicide.
“It’s really good,” I remember Stepdaddy Josh’s satisfied tone. “I can see perfectly well. Although the colour looks kind of weird together with my original one.”
“It was the only one that actually have a match with your blood,” the doctor replied. “But don’t worry, Mr. Mankey. You’re not alone. Plenty of eye transplant patients have different-coloured eyes.”
“I guess that’s the price I’ll have to pay to be normal again.”
The nurse put down the mirror for us to see the results. Mommy Kim gasped in horror and fell on her knees. The doctor and nurses, Stepdaddy Josh and Sister Monique asked what was wrong but they got Mommy Kim’s sobs for a reply. I finally remember what pushed Mommy Kim off the cliff. One look at Stepdaddy Josh and I knew then that the past would never go away that easily. No matter how much Mommy Kim tried to overcome it, it would always come back to haunt her day and night, reminding her of what she did and that there was no escape from it. It tormented her for years until it drove her to take her own life.
For taking the place of Stepdaddy Josh’s blind eye was unmistakably the hazel-brown eye of Daddy Ron.