Legs curled under her, head resting on the arm of the soft, overstuffed chair, she takes a big inhale, and lets out a deep sigh of contentment. Her breathing deepens into a gentle rhythm and her long black eyelashes fold together. She feels safe and allows herself to drift off to sleep.
Her face twitches slightly as the murmur of a dream calls her. But then she is still, except for the measured rise and fall of her chest. There are no nightmares for her this time.
Before, when she was so young, things were different. Sleeping was dangerous and being awake was frightening. She tried to keep to herself, but her hunger and her hope just kept pushing her to take chances. And sometimes her bravery was rewarded with a bit of food, or maybe just a kind word. Sometimes they would even stop long enough to play with her. Of course, she didn't always know the rules of the games and they would often laugh at her. But she didn't care. Their laughter made her heart light and she would laugh with them.
She no longer wondered why her mother had sent her away. She had many brothers and sisters. It was just her time to be sent out to find her own way in the world. Like a thousand others, she had to grow up and fend for herself.
The bad days were the ones when the people were angry. She would try to hide, shaking in fear if footsteps approached her secret place. Sometimes she would need to run away if they got too close. She was too quick for the swiping hands, but cruel feet often caught her. Feet hurt the most; they kicked and stomped. She wondered what she did wrong to cause such anger. Yet, she always forgave them.
But then there was that evil boy who came looking for a fight. Before she had a chance to defend herself, he was beating her with a rake. She cried out and others tried to stop him. He was cursing and striking her so violently. Her head swam in a fog as her legs gave out. She was certain she was dying. A high pitched wailing could be heard in the distance and then everything went black.
Kind hands, gentle touches...unable to move. Soft words.
When she opened her eyes again she did not know where she was and was frightened. But a woman softly petted her hair and she felt soothed. The woman's gentle voice made her feel safe.
Soon, she was walking again and though her head hurt a bit if she tried to run, she felt ready to play with the others in the hospital. There were many friends to play with here and no hands that hit or feet that kicked. She had lots of visitors and one special boy that would come every day with his mom. He had a great laugh and she would laugh with him.
When the pain in her head was almost gone, and she could keep up with all the others at play time, she was invited to stay at the boy's house. When she got to the big house with the green yard, they gave her a bed that was all her own. She stayed not one night, or two, but so many nights she knew where she was. She was home.
She will never know what happened to the man who beat her, but she feels he is far away. Now, curling up for a nap on her favourite chair is the perfect end to a great day. And her wagging tail as she snores lightly--that means she know she is loved.