There’s suspicion, though. I’m already questioning whether or not she’s actually hearing things now that I know what a big role her mental health has on her daily life. We’ve always known she has issues, but now that our father has finally enlightened us to just how deeply rooted those issues are, we’re probably all going to be more suspicious of her erratic behavior. Utah stands beneath the basement window for a moment. We all remain quiet, but we don’t hear anything.
“What is it you’re hearing exactly?” Utah asks her.
She waves toward the window. “It sounds like something is wrong with that dog. It’s been crying all day and night and I can’t sleep.”
Honor looks at me with a sad expression. Our mother doesn’t even realize that Wolfgang has died and has been buried. More than once, actually.
“Mom,” I say. “The dog isn’t here anymore.” I try to say it in the sincerest way possible, but in my head I’m thinking, You poor thing.
“No, I’m telling you, there’s something near that window.” She’s so adamant about it, she begins to pace.
Utah nods and walks toward the stairs. “I’ll go check it out,” he says, running up the steps.
Our mother walks over to her bed and sits on the edge of it. Honor sits down next to her and runs her hand soothingly down our mother’s hair.
“Are you hungry?” Honor asks her.
As soon as she says it, I remember that none of us took her dinner tonight. We got the call that our father was arrested and we immediately left to go deal with that. I didn’t even think to grab her anything at Taco Bell.
“No, Victoria brought me a plate of food. And you girls forget that I have my own refrigerator down here. I won’t starve if I don’t get a meal.”
Honor and I both look at each other in surprise. “Victoria brought you food?”
My mother casually stands again like she didn’t just throw out there that Victoria was in this basement. I didn’t think Victoria had been in this basement since the day my mother moved down here.
But if I’ve learned anything this week, it’s that I don’t know people as well as I think I do.
There’s a knock at the basement window. “Merit,” Utah says, his voice muffled from behind the glass. “Come out here.”
I run up the stairs and go outside, around to the basement window where Utah is kneeling on the ground. “You aren’t going to believe this,” he says. He lifts something up and motions for me to come closer.
“What is that?”
“A puppy,” he says. “Two of them.”
I immediately fall to my knees next to him. “You’re kidding. Where in the world did they come from?” I grab one of the puppies from Utah. It’s black and tiny and can’t be more than a day or two old. I glance around. “Where do you think their mom is?”
Utah pulls the other puppy to his chest. “I suspect she’s buried near Pastor Brian.”
“Wolfgang was a girl?”
“Looks like it,” Utah says, laughing.
“But . . .” I look down at the puppy in my hands. “They’re probably starving. How are we supposed to keep them alive now?”
Utah hands me the other puppy and stands up. “I’ll see if I can get in touch with an emergency vet. You take them down to Mom so she can see what’s been keeping her awake.”
I gather both the puppies in my arms and carry them inside the house and down to the basement.
“What the heck?” Honor says, immediately grabbing one from me. “Where did these come from?”
Surprisingly, my mother grabs the other puppy. “Oh, my goodness,” she says. “So you’re the culprit, huh?” She nuzzles the puppy with her nose. “Oh, you’re so cute.”
“Turns out Wolfgang was actually a girl. Utah is calling the vet to see what we can do for them.”
“I want to keep one,” my mother says. “Do you think I can keep one?”
I reach over and pet the puppy in her arms. “I don’t know, Mom. It’ll be kind of hard to raise a dog in a basement.”
“Yeah,” Honor says, giving me a knowing look before looking at Mom. “But I bet Utah would let you keep one if you moved back to the old house with him. It should be ready in a few weeks.”
My mother doesn’t say anything for a moment. She just stares down at the puppy while she smooths her hand down its back. “You think he would?” she says quietly.
Honor looks at me and smiles.
I have no idea if she’ll actually move back to our old house, but this is the closest she’s come to entertaining the idea of leaving the basement in a long time. That’s progress.
Utah comes back down the stairs. “I found a vet who wants me to bring them in. He says there’s a formula we can syringe feed them, but we’ll have to do it every couple of hours for the first week.”
“I can help,” my mother says with eagerness. “Will you bring them back down here when you get back?”
Utah nods as he takes the puppies from her and Honor. “Sure. It might be a while, though. I’ll wake you up when I get home.”
“I’ll go with you,” Honor says, running up the stairs after him. Once they’re gone, I look over at my mother. She’s walking around her small basement apartment, tidying things up, preparing for the return of the puppies. It makes me smile, seeing her this excited about something.
“Did Utah say Wolfgang is their mother? Is that the same dog your father used to hate so much?”
“One and only.”
She laughs. “I don’t know why, but that makes me like those puppies even more.” She drops down onto her couch and yawns. I watch her for a moment, until she notices me staring. “What is it?”
I shrug. “Nothing.”
“You look upset.”
I sigh and then take a seat next to her. “Dad thinks I need to start therapy on Monday.”
She pats my knee. An unusual gesture coming from her. “Your dad thinks a doctor can fix anything. But my doctor never fixed me.” She glances at me. “You want me to talk to him?”
I think about that question for a moment. But I also think about the crumpled sheet of paper sitting on my bedroom floor. “Do you think maybe you just never had the right doctor?”
My mother regards me quietly for a moment. She starts fidgeting with her hands and I can see the anxiety starting to set in. She breaks eye contact and says, “It’s late. I think I’m going to sleep.”
Her words disappoint me, but not as much as they sadden me. “Okay,” I say. “Good night, Mom.”
She’s already off the couch and walking toward her bed. I head toward the stairs, but she calls my name.
“Yeah?” I say, pausing at the bottom.
She shrugs her left shoulder and says, “Let me know if you like the doctor.”
I smile at her. Another step closer. Even if it’s just a baby step.
When I make it upstairs, my father is staring out the window. I haven’t seen him since he walked here earlier this evening. I hesitate a moment, wondering if I should just go to my room or if I should say something to him. I eventually walk to where he’s standing and glance out the window. Utah, Honor, and Luck are walking toward the van. Honor is holding both of the puppies inside a box.
“He was a girl?” my dad asks, shaking his head. “That damn bastard dog was a girl,” he repeats. We watch out the window as Honor takes a seat in the passenger seat of the van, but before Luck or Utah get inside, Utah grabs Luck’s hand and they kiss briefly. It’s kind of sweet if you can overlook the whole related-by-marriage thing.
My father groans after seeing their display of affection. “I hope that doesn’t last.”
I chuckle. “I’m pretty sure Utah will be gay forever. It’s not really something that fades.”
My father turns away from the window, shaking his head. “I know that, Merit. I don’t care if he’s gay. I’m referring to whatever is happening between him and Luck. How am I supposed to explain to Moby that his uncle and his half brother are . . . a thing?”
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