Kay strolled slowly through the antique shop. She and Barry had met in such a store. She gently lifted a nautical barometer.
“My, aren’t you handsome,” she said. “So manly and wise and helpful. Barry would have enjoyed you so much.” But she set it down again, a bit wistfully. Barry had broken off their relationship three years earlier and she had to visit antique stores alone.
Walking on, she saw a magazine rack that had been both well used and well cared for. She touched a corner. “Sam would have liked you, even though he wasn’t particularly fond of antiques. You would have looked good in his home.” But again she moved on; Sam had dated her, briefly, before Barry had.
Kay came around a corner in the shop and froze. There, at the end of the aisle, two little boys were engaged in a very serious tug-of-war with a china figurine. She strode down the aisle quickly.
“I want it!”
“No, I’m gonna have it!”
As she neared the boys, who weren’t at all mindful of her, Kay could see the figurine was of an animal. Then she heard another voice.
“No! Help! Don’t!”
Kay realized the cry was coming from the figurine. She could hear the voice in her head.
“Stop them! Help me!”
She reached out and firmly grasped the middle of the figurine. “Boys! You’re going to break this. Let go!”
The boys both held on, stubbornly looking at Kay.
“Let … go,” she commanded.
They sullenly complied as a voice from several feet away called.
“Jeremy! Peter! Get over here and stop touching things!”
The children gave Kay one last baleful look and trudged away. Kay looked at what she held, and shifted it to both hands.
It was a collie, about seven inches long, made of china and beautifully painted.
“Oh, thank you!” the collie gushed. “I’m sure those boys were going to drop me or pull me apart. Thank you so much!”
Kay walked a little farther toward the back of the store, away from the other customers.
“You’re very welcome,” Kay said softly to the collie. “I’m glad I was here to help.”
“I’m fortunate you’re more sensitive than most people,” the collie said in Kay’s head. “Most of the antiques in here aren’t like me. But I once belonged to a little girl who loved me all her life. She cared for me and kept me safe and gently petted my head every day. When something is loved so much, even something inanimate, it develops a soul.”
“Yes,” Kay agreed. “I understand that. What happened to the little girl?”
“She aged, as little girls do, and died a few months ago. Cora was 96, and one of the last things she did was to pet my head one last time. She willed me to a niece she thought would take care of me.
“Instead, I was sold here. It’s very lonely living in an antique store. I get picked up, turned every which way, and set down again. Sometimes I’m placed very close to the edge of the shelf. Today was the closest call I’ve ever had. Even when Cora’s home was damaged in an earthquake, she held me close and protected me.
“Cora didn’t live forever, and I know I won’t either, but I’m as afraid of pain and death as any living creature.”
Kay looked at the price tag hanging from a paw. It was a little steep for a china figurine on her budget. With her next paycheck, she would finally be able to buy the new kitchen stove she had needed for months. She had been eating a lot of cold meals because the current stove wasn’t reliable.
A crash came from toward the front of the store.
“Peter! Jeremy! What have you done? That was a very expensive plate! Now I have to pay for it and it’s in tiny pieces!”
“Please,” the collie said, “I know I’m just a piece of china. I can’t do anything. But would you take me home and keep me safe?”
Kay looked down at the collie nestled in her hands. The new stove would just have to wait another month. “Yes, I’ll take you home with me. I won’t be Cora, but I’ll love you and protect you. But you’re wrong about one thing: There is something you can do. Every day, I’ll gently pet your head, and you can tell me about Cora, and about being a china collie.”
And Kay felt an outpouring of love from the figurine.
“I’m Kay. What’s your name?”
“Cora called me Sunny.”
“Let’s go home, Sunny. I’ve got several china cats and an elephant I’m certain you’ll become friends with. I’ll introduce them to you myself and then you can all chat.”
She walked toward the front of the store to pay for the figurine. Who needed a Sam or a Barry, nice as they were, when she had such fine china friends to talk with?
Not to exclude the dolls and the plants and her two beagles, of course.