Rook knew the time had come. Girl had only become worse. She had not fumbled back to the light, instead tread deeper and deeper into darkness. Rook had seen friends, family, loved ones, come to try and lead her back to health and happiness, but always Girl drove them away. Fewer and fewer came, and then none. Girl had built a wall with her demons, prohibiting anyone from getting through to her.
And here was the Lady.
Girl hadn’t slept in two days, but she still managed a semblance of routine. In the early, pre-dawn hours, she would leave her room, go to the kitchen to make coffee. Rook would follow, waiting patiently by the door to be let outside to relieve her bladder. Girl would prop the door open, so Rook could come back in at her convenience. This was the routine they held since moving on the mountain three years ago.
Usually she would sleep on the floor, near Girl. Last night some instinct told her to curl up on the bed. Though her bones ached, and Girl would often move around, getting up, laying back down, Rook laid her head on Girl’s lap every chance she could.
Now, coffee was brewing, and Rook could hear the front door opening. Girl was moving around the house, unable to stay still in any single spot for more than a few moments. The Lady appeared, sending her electric presence throughout the house. Girl paused, mid-walk, and Rook was sure she felt it. The moment passed, and she was on the move again. The Lady gave her a look of sadness before coming into the bedroom, kneeling in front of Rook.
“Hello little friend. I had hoped to see you again under better circumstances, but unfortunately our girl has not been able to climb out of her hell. She’s been very close, but her demons keep her clutched. Come out, say your goodbyes. We don’t have much time.”
Rook slowly, carefully, made her way off the bed, her old bones antagonistic and cracking in protest. She walked into the living room, waiting for Girl to pass her on what would be one of many circuits through the house this morning. Girl came from the guest bedroom, saw Rook and came to give her a loving pet. “Good girl Rook. When you come back in why don’t we do some painting?” And then she was off to find paint, brushes, and something to beautify them with them.
I love you Girl, Rook thought as she made her way outside. The idea of no more painting, no more pictures, no more cuddles, hurt her heart fiercely. But she had made a promise long ago, to always protect Girl.
She always gave the road a wide berth, doing her business close to the house. Now her bladder and bowels felt empty. She made her way to the Lady, who was waiting for her at the road’s edge. The sun was still hidden, but the world was waking up. Some early birds sang, small furry creatures scurried in the woods, and headlights were in the distance. Some busy human, on their way to do important human things.
She stopped by the Lady, waiting. She felt that familiar calm slide through her as the Lady lovingly stroked her head. She was thankful for it. Nothing would have made her change her mind, but the soothing presence of the Lady’s touch made it easier.
The lights were closer.
Will it hurt? It was the only thing she was worried about. She wasn’t afraid to die, but she was afraid of the pain.
“For a moment, yes. But it will be gone quickly, you won’t even realize it.”
The lights were almost here.
“Thank you for this my little friend. You are saving her life. While I miss her terribly, I’m not ready to be reunited with her yet. She has too much life to live.”
A few tears fell from Rooks eyes. She loved Girl so much, and almost couldn’t bear her loss. Almost.
She stepped away from the Lady’s touch, into the road, as the lights finally crossed her path. There was a sound of screeching, the smell of burning as the driver tried to brake and swerve, but it was too late. The truck hit Rook with the corner of its front bumper. Possibly knowing it was too late, the driver hit the gas again. The initial hit broke her spine, and for one agonizing moment, the pain was enormous, unbearable. But by the time the front passenger tire rolled over her body, the pain was gone. So was the truck, red lights disappearing around the bend.
And then she heard Girl’s scream, getting louder as she ran outside. Rook wanted to go to her, comfort her, but her body wouldn’t cooperate. Instead, Girl picked up the broken pieces of her faithful friend and carried her to the yard. She was crying, yelling, cursing. “Please no! Please Rook, don’t leave me! You’re all I have!”
Over and over until it became a jumble of unrecognizable words and sobs and prayers. Rook was trying to lick her face, take her tears, ease her pain. She felt nothing, but knew her bones were broken, knew her organs were decimated, knew her life’s blood soaked her fur, the ground, and precious Girl.
The Lady appeared, kneeling behind them. She laid a hand on Girl’s shoulder, the other on Rook’s head. And then Rook could see it. The vicious darkness surrounding Girl. Moving, breathing, encircling her, embodying her, crackling like lighting in her mind. This was what the Lady saw long ago, and what she couldn’t break through. But now, as Rook lay dying in Girl’s arms, small freckles of light appeared. Pin pricks at first, barely visible. Then they grew, burning through the storm surrounding Girl. Rook couldn’t tell if they emanated to Girl, or from her, but they were so beautiful. In them, she saw Girl’s path enlightened. She saw Girl packing, loading up a truck, leaving the mountain to live with family. One by one, she saw the demons disintegrated in light as she grew healthy and happy again. She saw a long, loving life ahead. Then she was back in her body, slowly fading away. She looked at Girl, reached up with her last bit of strength, and kissed her goodbye.
She could see herself, now lifeless, as Girl continued crying, rocking Rook’s body. The Lady was there, standing beside her.
“What happens now?” Rook asked.
“What you saw. It will still take some time, but her path to life is no longer invisible. This was her rock bottom. Pain is a horrible teacher, but your sacrifice was the only thing to save her.”
Now came the worst part of it. She had to leave Girl forever.
“Not forever little friend. I will still check in on her and come when she needs me most. On those occasions, you can come with me. We can see her together.”
At this Rook raised her head, hopeful again. It’s wasn’t sleeping with her head in Girl’s lap every night, or swimming in the river, or collecting pieces of nature. But it also wasn’t forever, it wasn’t the long depth of time until the Rainbow Bridge. She could see her, visit her, be here for her. It was something to look forward to in the long years ahead.
Girl was getting up, bringing Rook inside. She was calmer now, but tears still streamed down her face, and broken sobs still escaped her throat every few seconds. It was getting hard to see her, light was surrounding them outside. The sun was rising, but it was more than that. It was gentle and pure, the light engulfing them. Sunrise broke the mountain trees, streaming on a house with a broken girl, and a brave, lifeless dog.
The Lady began to walk into the light, and Rook followed. She looked back once, seeing Girl in the doorway, holding the last anchor keeping her on this dark mountain. The sunlight began to surround her. Before turning back to the Lady, she sent one final thought.
I love you Girl.