The children’s reaction to Marigold’s death was what she expected: tears and mild hysteria. Heather had broken the news. They hadn’t asked about the dog when they got home from school. In fact they hadn’t even noticed that she was missing. Michael held Kaitlin on his lap, Dylan sobbed into her shoulder and Ava stripped off her clothes and ran around the house unattended. In a sick sort of way, Heather was pleased by their grief and was glad that her children were better people than herself. Wasn’t that the whole point of parenting.
Dylan joins Heather on the sofa and sits on her lap. “Do you think Marigold is in heaven?” Dylan asks, raising his tear filled blue eyes to meet hers.
“Yes,” Heather says, feigning certainty.
“Then I think I feel better,” Dylan says and wipes his wet freckled face with the back of his hand. He wonders aloud about what dog heaven looks like and if you have to pick up poop there.
“It’ll take time to get over this,” Heather says. She was raised without any religion. And maybe this was a mistake. It would be nice to have something to believe in. The idea of Marigold floating on a cloud seems ridiculous to her but Dylan manages to smile.
“Maybe we can get a puppy,” Kaitlin says from across the family room.
Michael nods seriously and Heather thinks about throwing the large blue sofa pillow and knocking him in the face.
“We can’t buy our way out of grief,” Heather says.
Kaitlin and Dylan begin to sob again and beg for a puppy.
“But Chloe Winston has a Peekapoo,” Kaitlin says.
Dylan nods hopefully. “I’d take any puppy,” he says. “I’d walk it and feed it.”
“It could sleep in my bed,” Kaitlin says.
“No, it would sleep in my bed,” Dylan says.
They begin to argue over the imaginary puppy and Heather starts to doubt her success as a mother.
After the children are finally asleep, Heather prays to the Internet God. She hopes to find some sort of answer on the afterlife online. She searches Heaven. There are 201,000 results. Some sites talk about animals returning to earth as guardian spirits, but Heather doubts that Marigold would choose to return to be a comfort to her now. Still, when she hears a creaking sound in the room, she startles. Michael comes into the office. His hair is askew and work shirt wrinkled. “I fell asleep with Kaitlin,” he says. “I can’t read Harry Potter aloud anymore. What are you doing?”
Heather’s face flushes, she feels like he’s caught her on a porn site. “Looking for God,” she says guilty.
He shakes his head and laughs. “Maybe you’re on to something,” he says. “Tim Warrenton’s Internet company went public today and sold for three hundred and fifty million.”
“Have we made a mistake in not joining a church?” Heather says.
“We talked about all of this before,” Michael says. “But if you think it would help things, I’d be open to looking into one. Besides, it might be good if we want to send them to private secondary school. I hear the Catholic schools are half the cost.“
“Jesus Christ,” she says and shakes her head. “I don’t think that’s a reason to join.”
“Lets’ talk about this tomorrow,” he says. “I need to go to bed.”
“I’ll be there in a few minutes,” she says.
Michael nods and walks away, turning off the hallway lights as he goes.
Heather sits alone in the glow of the computer. She yawns and logs off. It’s dark and the house is quiet. She tiptoes down the hallway. She peeks into the children’s rooms, they’re sleeping soundly under their warm comforters. She wonders if Marigold is watching.