Annabelle Lee Chin peeked out from under her new soft red blanket, out through the screen door of her new “room” in hopes to see exactly what was happening to her. Just moments before her Grammie Coleen, who she had known all of her 15 Chin years (or 5 peoples months), had kissed her on the forehead and whispered in her ear that she just knew Belle would grow up to be a beautiful and wonderful girl… and that Grammie would never forget her. After that, Belle softly licked the water that rolled down from the peoples womans eyes and down her very thin cheeks. Belle didn’t understand the words Grammie was speaking, for she had never heard them spoken before. Grammie kissed her Belle one last time and then handed her over to another set of hands.
“Grammie”, asked Belle… her eyes never leaving the peoples womans eyes, “I want you to holds me some.” But the Grammie didn’t answer. “Grammie… I NEED you to holds me some” pleaded Belle.
Grammie Coleen smiled, stroked her round Chin head and said “Goodbye baby, Chin… never forget where you came from” and then looked over the Chin and into the eyes of the large peoples man who had the baby girl in his sizeable hands, “Care for her, be good to her and love her with all your heart for all the days to come… will you?”
The melodic voice of the peoples man answered softly but with great strength, “Already do, Grammie… already do”. He reached over and hugged the Grammie lightly, as if she would break if he was not careful. “Say goodbye my Belle! Time to hit the road.”
With that, the very round peoples man turned away and walked in a direction away from Grammie with Belle cuddled in his arms. Belle struggled for a moment to free herself and quickly found out her strength was not enough to overpower this giant round peoples. As she relaxed, his grip lightened a bit and this allowed her to look over his shoulder and back into the very large room where Grammie Coleen watched them walk away.
“GRAMMIE!!!” shouted Belle, “GRAMMIE… I AME HERE AND YOU ARE ALL THE WAY THERE!!! I NEEDS YOU TO HOLDS ME FOR A MINUTE!!!” Grammie waved at Belle and smiled a weak smile. Belle was sure that Grammie didn’t understand what was happening to her, “GRAMMIE!!! I AM NOT A SEE YOU ANY MORE!!! YOU ARE GETTING VERY SMALL!!!” Belle and the peoples man walked through a big glass door an into the Real World, which was very warm and windy. “GRAMMIE!!! GRAMMIE” shouted Belle, in a panic. She had not been this far away from her Grammie in forever. “Grammie… OH GRAMMIE” she cried.
The peoples rubbed her back and ears, “It’s okay, my baby Belle… it’s okay, I promise it will always be okay.” He kissed her lightly on the top of her head and looked into her eyes.
“But… but… my Grammie, where is she” Belle asked.
Just then, something rather amazing happened. This peoples man, this large and round man with the beard and small glass windows over his brown eyes that turned green if he looked at you a certain way, didn’t speak AT Belle… this soft voiced, large armed, oversized peoples spoke TO her.
“Belle, I know you are afraid. I understand that, my love” he whispered in her ear. “But Grammie brought you all the way here, smack dab in the middle of the Real World, she drove and drove on the long black sidewalk… all of that trouble and travel… just so you could meet me and come to live with me in the Old Brown House.”
Belle’s eyes grew wide and she cocked her head to one side, scrunching up her nose as if she had eaten a sour pickle, “You can hear my voice, old peoples man”, she asked? “Grammie never heard my voice come out of my mouth and my voice never jumped into her ears and over into her brain…. Hows a come you can hear my voice?”
The peoples man laughed and his belly shook, taking Belle for a bit of a hopping ride on top of it, “I don’t know why, Belle… I just can. I’ve always heard you Chin’s talk… and sometimes its darn annoying, I’ll tell you that” he said frankly.
Belle still didn’t quite believe he could understand her, “Well, round one… when will my Grammie come and take me back to our Varjignia” she asked?
The peoples smiled and chuckled, “That’s Virginia, Belle… that was where you USED to live with Grammie. Now, today and forever, you live with me and our pack.”
“I do not think I like that idea” Belle said flatly, “So you can rush me back to my Grammie where I will holds me for a minute or two. It has been good to meet you.” She completed her sentence and turned her head away from his face, turning on her indifference to its maximum setting.
The giant round peoples man sighed and whispered to himself and the air around him, “Maybe this was not such a great idea after all, May” He shook his head and frowned, “Maybe it’s still too soon… way too soon. After all, Mamie… I wasn’t looking for a dog when Coleen called me about this one.”
Out of nowhere, Belle heard a voice ring in her ears. It was not Grammie Coleen, it was not this peoples man who strangely talked to his own brain… it was NOBODY at all that she could see.
“You know, dear one… he said that very thing to me once upon a time, long ago” the voice in Belles head said softly. “He did not mean it then and he does not mean it now.” Belle held very still as she scanned the area with her round Chin eyes, looking for the face that went with the voice in her ears. She pretended not to hear that voice and did not answer. “It’s okay, Belle… you can speak to me inside of your brain.”
Belle looked around again. The peoples man just stood with his head down and mumbled to himself and nobody else was around to speak to her. She was very confused.
“Who is speaking to me from inside my ears” she asked, a little afraid and a little excited.
“I am the Sophie May… daughter of this Round Man who is holding you,” the voice answered.
“And why can I not see you, Sophie May?” Belle questioned, still sure that this was a trick someone was playing on her.
“I am everywhere, Belle… and I am nowhere. I am the wind and I am the Sun.” Sophie May replied.
Belle questioned more, “Why do you speak to me Sophie May” she asked?
“So you will know that my Father will not harm you, he only wishes to love and care for you” Sophie continued, “doG has sent you here, to this place and time, right now, here in the Real World to be with my Father… OUR Father”.
“But why” Belle asked?
“To fill the hole in his heart, Belle” Sophie said with much emotion in her voice. “That hole is wider than the Sun and deeper than the water in the oceans. This Round Man… he is alone when there are many souls around him.”
Belle thought what that hole must look like and she sighed, “that is very sad, Sophie May”.
“Indeed it is, my love” Sophie agreed.
“What could cause a hole that big and how can I fill it” Belle wondered, “I am but a bit of a dog and know very little of the Real World”.
Sophie’s voice rolled around in Belle’s ears, “You will have to do nothing to fill the hole, Belle. Just let this old gray peoples love you and it will fill itself. Love does that, young one… it heals all wounds.”
Belle thought she understood what Sophie was saying, “How do you know so much about the Father and his heart hole, Sophie May” she said with great curiosity.
The voice of Sophie May was silent for a long moment but, somehow, Belle knew she was still there in her ears. “Because that hole is where I used to live, my child, I was his heart for oh so many years. When I left, little one, his heart broke and the hole was wide that three other Chin could not fill it. That is why doG made you, Belle… and why he sent Grammie Coleen to raise you till our Father was ready to bring you home.”
Now Belle was silent for a moment, thinking of all Sophie had just said to her and what it all meant outside of the voices in her ears and in the Real World.
“Sophie” Belle said inside her head to a dog she couldn’t see but knew was there, “What if I can’t fill the hole? What will become of me… and the Father?”
“Impossible, Belle… impossible” Sophie said with confidence.
“Why come is it impossible, Sophie” Belle wondered?
“Because it is already happening, baby Belle” Sophie informed her, “I’m watching it happen right now. All you have to do to fix his heart is to let him know you want to go with him”.
“Am I a magical, Sophie” asked Belle.
Sophie laughed and Belle could feel her smile deep down inside, “Not quite yet, Belle… I am magical; you are just a wisp of a puppy dog tail.”
Belle smiled and turned to the round peoples man, who was gazing off into the white puffy clouds floating in the deep blue sky of the Real World. She could see and feel his sadness.
“We should go now” she said out loud to the peoples.
He slowly turned away from the sky and looked down into the eyes of the tiny red and white dog in his arms. “What did you say, Belle” he asked?
“Grammie is likely all the way back in Vojiniania already” Belle lied, knowing that Grammie could not have had enough time to travel the 45 Chin years (or twelve peoples hours) back to Virginia. “I supposes I will have to see the place where you watch the back of your eyelids.”
“You sure” asked the peoples.
“Yep… I’m sure” replied Belle. She now understood what all of this growing up she had been doing was all designed to accomplish.
The round old peoples man smiled a mile wide and scratched Belle on and around her fuzzy ears. “Well then… LET’S GO” he shouted.
And with that, he walked over to a very big glass box on wheels and opened the door. Inside, on the seat next to a round pointing stick, there was a black box with a screen door on both ends. Inside of that box was a big, soft, red blanket and treats… oh and toys and it smelled very nice.
The man put Belle inside of the box, explaining that it was her “Keep safe” room… a place where she could always go to keep herself safe. This was her room and nobody else would take it from her. He circled around the glass box on wheels and climbed in the seat behind the pointing stick. He pulled a large belt over his round belly and lap. Belle thought it was likely there to keep his pants up while he pointed the glass box on wheels to the next place they would go. Then, he jingled some shiny keys at the pointing stick and Belle felt the glass box start to move on the long black sidewalk.
Belle rode along in silence for awhile, thinking of Grammie and how lonely she must be by herself. Belle looked out at the peoples man and thought how lonely she must have been before she arrived to come live with him. She thought about how little she knew about this peoples and his life. The peoples would talk for awhile about silly peoples things and then turn and smile down at her. He would point out things along the long black sidewalk, sing silly songs that had Belle’s name in them and ramble on endlessly about a smell or a snack. Belle thought it was very funny how she was beginning to enjoy this adventure with this peoples. However, she did not know what to say to him or how to speak to him. Grammie had never understood her words, so she never had to worry about speaking to Grammie.
“Sophie” Belle said inside of her ears, “Are you there?”
“I’m always right here, Belle” Sophie answered right away. “Do you see how you’ve changed him already” she asked?
“I don’t know how to talk to him” Belle admitted.
“You say anything to him… anything at all” Sophie confided to her. “If you ask a question, be ready for a LONG answer” she warned.
“What should I ask him” Belle wondered.
Sophie thought for a moment, “Ask him about your sister and brothers”.
Belles eyes grew large, “I HAVE BROTHERS AND A SISTER” she asked, very excited about the idea.
“Yes” replied Sophie. “It’s really not all that awesome.”
Belle peered out of her safe room and up at the Round Man. Once he stopped talking about cheeses and types of meat a dog could eat, Belle spoke up.
“Father” she said softly, “Tell me about my pack at our home.”
The peoples man went silent for a long moment. He pointed the glass box on wheels to the edge of the sidewalk and brought it to a halt. He smiled a weak smile and looked down on the tiny Chin in the black screen room beside him.
“What did you call me?” he asked softly, with a very serious look on his face.
“Father” Belle repeated, almost in the form of a question. “Is that okay?”
The Father picked up Belle and held her close to his face, kissed her on the head and snuggled her against his cheek.
“I likes it fine, my Belle” he said with water in his eyes that rolled down his cheek, “I likes it MORE than fine”. He placed her back into her room and they resumed their trip back down the long black sidewalk towards their home. “Well” he continued, “There is Tammy… she is your sister. She can be a bit difficult and controlling but she is good at heart and she will learn to appreciate having a little sister like you”. The Father stopped to take a deep breath, “OH... and Buddy Boy, he is the best brother a girl could have. He’s big and kind of dopey but he will protect you and love you. And there is Finn. Finn is a horse of another color… he is older and set in his ways. But when I think of everything he will teach you… well Belle… it will be wonderful. Did I ever tell you about the time when Finn got his foot stuck behind his ear?” The Father asked, talking a mile a minute. “You’ll enjoy this story… you see… he was in front of the fan in the room where we watch the glass picture box and….”
Belle felt a long story coming on and she was just too tired to drink it all in at this particular moment. She closed her eyes, just for the smallest of a second and just so she could rest. The next thing she knew, she was staring at the back of her eyelids and squarely in the space in front of her brain. It was very peaceful there and quiet. Just when Belle was at her most relaxed, a voice snuck up from behind her right eye.
“Hello Belle” spoke the familiar voice of Sophie May.
Belle turned around and there she was and she was beautiful. She was mostly white with patches of black all around her. Her head was mostly black with a white patch on top between her ears. She had a white snout and long dark whiskers.
“Hello Sophie” Belle smiled. “Will the Father be alright now”?
“Oh yes, Belle” Sophie grinned, “I can see his heart hole filling up already”.
Belle was glad for she found herself strangely drawn to this peoples man. It was as if she had known him all her life.
“How can it be as if he and me have always been together when we have not” she questioned.
“Because, Belle… you two are now, DEVOTED” Sophie answered honestly. “You can be apart for one hundred Chin years but when you see each other, It will be as if you were never apart. Soon you will know everything he will say before it leaves his mouth and you will enjoy the times when you do nothing more than nothing on a rainy day. I envy you Belle… these are the days of the long hello when you learn EVERYTHING about each other.”
Belle looked into Sophie’s eyes and saw happiness… but noticed the sadness behind it.
“Sophie” she whispered, “How can you know so much about the Father and how the two of us will be in the Real World”?
Sophie looked deep into Belles eyes, “Because, baby Belle… I was once just like you and he was my Father and my everything.”
Belle suddenly understood why Sophie had come to her to tell her all these things. She had been the child of this peoples man, this Father. She not only knew him, she understood him because they were, DEVOTED.
“What are we… you and me… where do we fit together” Belle wondered.
“You are my very special Sister, Belle” Sophie said, smiling. “You are my family, my Chindren, my pack and my darling one”.
Belle thought about it for a moment, then she looked at Sophie and nodded, “and I likes that fine!”
Sophie would always be no more than a question away from Belle for the rest of her days with the Father. This was a good thing because, little did Belle realize, there was much to learn and much to do once she arrived at the Old Brown House. In fact, three very needy and lonely brothers and sister were waiting for their Father to arrive with a present he had promised them… and who does not LOVE a present? Although, I do not think this it was going to be the present that any of them expected!