“You shouldn’t encourage her,” Juanita’s mother pontificated.
“Me? I thought it must have been you.”
“I never said a word. She made it all up. By herself.”
“She has some imagination, I’ll grant her that. But she’s only a child. She’ll get over it. In time,” said her dad patiently.
“Reality catches up with us all,” sighed her mother.
“It’s just a pet. One of many,” replied Juanita’s Dad.

The back screen door groaned. Both parents looked at each other. Always they were bound to the unspoken rule. Parents must be seen and not heard. At least not in front of the children.

A click of heels announced itself. A pink tutu swayed first side to side then up and down. A moppet curl appeared as if from nowhere.
In leapt Juanita. She skipped lightly, her face beaming, her voice joyous.

“I said my prayers,” she said. “Just like I was told to.”
“Juanita…”, her Dad began. Her eyes smiled at him.
“Who told you that?” Snapped her mother.
“My friend. The one you can’t see.” Juanita’s voice was like running water.
“Sometimes, things don’t…,” counselled her mother. Juanita tossed her curls. And laughed. Neither parent could look at her. Nor could they speak.

“We know Misty is sick,” interjected her father.
“And sometimes sick people don’t get better,” added her mother.
“They do. She said so. I said so. And Misty will too”, Juanita said confidently. “So there,” she concluded.

Her tousled hair flew. She nodded.”I know.” She pointed to herself. Then she pointed upwards. “And He does too.”
And she danced away. The back door thudded shut. Mother and Her parents exchanged forlorn looks both clouded by doubt.

“I don’t know where she gets it from,” her mother said, “she’s only going to be disappointed.”
“Well, I didn’t tell her. She certainly didn’t get those pious thoughts in her pretty little head from me,” her father chuckled. “I have a whole canon of atheism to defend. She’ll get over it.”
“I know. Losing a pet is a horrible experience for a child to go through. And she’s making it far worse by denying it,” her mother replied.
“I’m going to have to bury it, you know,” her father said grimly.
“If she’ll let you. She still goes back to it hoping it will wake up.”

Both parents looked outside. Juanita was bent over a prone black body. They only turned away for a second. But that was enough for both of them to feel a warmth steal in from outside. Enough to make them shiver.

A scratching like steel wool against a fry pan. Then a dull sproing. Then a rusty metallic groan. The outside screen door had swung open again. Both parents looked at each other.

Unusually or rather as usual then there was a thump. Soft rubber paddling on wood. Then the soft pitter patter up the stairs. Four paws padded in. Black eyes glittered from a smooth furry head. All suffixed by a hungry meow.

“What?” both parents spoke at once.

A click of heels. A pink tutu. A shake of curls. A flutter of angel wings. Then Juanita appeared. Skipping, dancing, smiling. “See!” Her parents still couldn’t.