Kaia Tham, Grade 7
Low black fencing seals off a green lawn leading up to the school. I plant my feet in the ground, a wild look of terror clawing at my eyes, watching the children behind the gate who are held in captivity. I could feel the sharp pinch of tears cutting my eyes and I squeeze them shut, holding Griffin closer to me. I didn’t want to go.
The blackness of my mind disperses into the creamy embrace of a wool blanket and the soft kiss of Griffin’s fur against my arms. Fingers of buttery morning light creep into the room, stealing away any lingering shadows. I sit up in bed, not worried about school or making friends; those things don’t exist in Griffin and I's world.
Griffin’s tongue flaps against my face in rhythmic strokes; an anchor. A quiet gurgle breaks the blissful silence and Griffin glances down at his tummy in alarm. My laugh rings out over the room, a carefully woven mixture of delicateness and boisterousness like wind chimes twinkling in the breeze. The walls around us fold down like pieces of origami, twisting into a new scene. Here, nothing is impossible.
A feast is spread out before us, lavish dishes of extravagance snatching my eyes. I’m seated on a cushioned chair that snuggles 'round my shoulders, warm and cosy, like the hug of spring. Griffin is at my hip, licking his chair of dog bones greedily. Bells of laughter peel out my lips as I stab squares of waffles doused in lukewarm chocolate sauce into my mouth.
Griffin’s ears prick up, hearing something I can’t and says in a husky voice, “It’s time for me to go.” He gallops down the hallway on four paws without another word. I try to follow, but my chair wraps around me, holding me down. I scream for Griffin to come, come back to me, but he does not. His deep voice bursts in echoes through the dining room, disembodied, “Go, Leo, be brave. I love you.”
“Hello?” I startle at the voice, when did Griffin sound that high pitched? Delicacies crumble to dust in my dry mouth, chairs fade and my castle shrivels. Reality. Poisonous to humans and dogs alike.
A small girl stands nervously, blonde ringlets scraped into two pigtails, hands twisting with nerves. Seeing my gaze, she stutters out, “My name’s Stella. I live next door to you… I’m in your class this year.” I look around me at the other kids walking near me, fear dripping away into another feeling. Excitement? Maybe Griffin was right.
I hand him to my parents, who accept the dog from my arms, surprised at my readiness to go. I take a step forward and open the gate, the lock catching behind the girl and me with finality. But a finality to this beginning.
“My name’s Leo,” I say, and I take her hand. Kindy looms ahead of me but… I’m ready now that I have a friend. I’m ready to go.