It’s a cold February afternoon. There are tiny crystal snowflakes suspended in the frigid air. Many residents are thinking about Valentine’s Day gifts. Amelia is in her large dainty pink bedroom contemplating the big Victorian across the street called the Tabor House as the sun reflects off its snow-covered cupola. Looking out her window, she can view the corner of Commerce Street and Bluebird Crossing. As Amelia does this, she observes her girlfriend, Georgia sitting on her enclosed front porch. Her auburn hair is shimmering with a golden glow encircling her head as she reads from a big book in her lap. Georgia’s image makes Amelia think of sun-kissed berry. A tiny puppy is dozing against her left side on the white wicker settee. Georgia’s calico cat named Millie is sleeping against her right side. This intriguing glimpse of Georgia fascinates Amelia. She moves closer to her window. Amelia knows that Georgia’s father suffers from numerous allergies every spring. Dogs are one of the things on his long list to avoid. Millie is not permitted inside their house. The tiny black and white puppy will need care around the clock at this stage. Amelia thinks Georgia should keep the puppy indoors, or how will it survive?
Amelia gazes at her own face in her mirror. Her hair is smooth like corn silk, not one strand out of place. She heads down the curved stairwell. Grabbing her quilted coat from the hall closet along with her fur-lined mittens, Amelia watches for her mom as she puts on her winter outerwear. Amelia opens the front door and she goes out to sit on their front porch swing. Still thinking about the puppy and Georgia, she glances their way as Georgia reaches over to pick up the little pup. She cradles it in both arms, as Millie wakes and stretches into an arch. The cat backs away quickly. Millie jumps up into the windowsill, and she curls up into a ball. Amelia decides to visit them and see what is up with the new arrival.
Amelia knocks on the porch door as she peers through the glass. Georgia smiles. She comes over to open the door with the puppy still cradled in her arms.
“Georgia, where did you get that cute puppy?” Amelia asks with a cheerful smile spreading across her freckled face.
“Aunt Patsy gave him to me as an early gift for Valentine’s Day since daddy is a long business trip. He doesn’t know about him yet.” Georgia giggles as she sits back down letting the puppy rest in her lap.
“Won’t he be furious when he finds out?”
Amelia sits down beside Georgia. She strokes the puppy’s fur. Millie doesn’t seem to care at all about them. The cat dozes in the sun’s rays coming through the windowpanes.
“Mom says she will take care of it. Whatever that means…” Georgia rolls her eyes at Amelia with a smirk appearing on her face.
Amelia looks over at Georgia, she pauses, “Patsy is your father’s sister, so maybe that is what your mom means…” Amelia whispers to Georgia as if she is afraid that the girl’s mother will overhear them.
Amelia continues thinking about how lucky Georgia is to have two pets when she has none. Her black bunny that she named Bell died last winter. Her parents don’t want her to have another pet because they live in town. Amelia’s parents think she should be content to share a pony with her younger cousin, Charity. She lives in the country. Amelia doesn’t get to ride the pinto pony as often as her younger cousin does because their farm is a good hour and a half outside of the city limits.
“Mom says dad will get used to the idea of having a dog around.” Georgia picks the pup up and hands it to Amelia to hold for a while.
“I just love how his hair is all wavy. He has such blue eyes when he opens them. Gosh, Georgia I would love to have a puppy like him.”
“My aunt has two more puppies to find homes for since she is only keeping their mother. Maybe, you could ask your parents if you could have one, too.”
Georgia glances at Millie. She gets up to catch her cat. Georgia brings Millie over and sits down by Amelia and the puppy.
Amelia notices that Millie is purring loudly and rubbing all over Georgia. She feels a little sorry for the cat because she must share Georgia now.
“Georgia, do you think Millie is going to feel left out if you spend a lot of time with your new puppy? After all, he is going inside with you and she must stay on the porch. It’s not that warm out here at night.”
“No, he stays in our garage. I check on him every two hours. Mom says he’ll be fine. He has a new bed with his toys and plenty of food.” Georgia tells her.
“But, the garage is where your dad works on his car on the weekends. I bet he won’t like having this puppy out there when he is polishing his red Camaro for the next car show at the park.”
“I really don’t know what he’ll say. I named him Freckles because he has all these little black spots on his face.”
“What do the other puppies look like?” Amelia asks as she stares at the pup’s face.
“One is almost all white with some big black spots on his belly and around each eye. The only female has small white spots all over her tan body. All of them have these beautiful blue eyes and long wavy hair. But, my aunt says, their eyes may turn brown later.”
“I’m going to ask my mom if I can have one for Valentine’s Day! Before they’re all gone.” Getting up quickly, Amelia hands Georgia her pup.
Amelia pauses before crossing the street, as a car passes by. She can’t wait to get her own puppy. As Amelia reaches her porch, her mother comes out the front door.
“Where have you been? I was calling up the stairway for you. I need to go to the grocery for some milk and bread before it snows again.”
“I was visiting Georgia. She has the cutest puppy! Can I have one too? For Valentine’s Day?” Amelia watches her mom’s face for clues to what she might say about a puppy.
Her mother eyes Amelia closely. “I’m not the one to ask about that and you know it. When your father gets in this evening, you can ask him.”
“Oh, mom. Why does he always make all the important decisions? You could tell him the puppy is a gift for me. Please. Don’t make me wait on him—the pups might be gone by then.”
“Amelia, please just get inside the car. We need to get back so I can start dinner on time. Your father works out in the weather all day. He needs a hot meal on time.”
Amelia walks to the drive and she gets inside as her mother starts their old rusty Chevy. As they cruise down the street to the stop sign, Amelia waves at Georgia. During the ride to the store, she daydreams about waking up to a puppy licking her in the face every morning.
Arriving back home with several bags of food and cleaning supplies, Amelia and her mother unload the trunk. Amelia can’t see across the street now because is it dark. She wonders if Georgia asked her aunt about the remaining pups and if there are any still available.
In the kitchen, Amelia’s mom is singing as she cooks dinner. Amelia is at the table doing her math homework. She is having a hard time doing her story problems because she keeps thinking about puppies. The back door opens and in walks, her father covered in tiny snowflakes. His dark coat moist from the snow. He pulls off his black boots at the door along with his work gloves.
“Daddy, I have something important to ask you. Can I get a puppy for Valentine’s day?”
Her father looks up from tucking his wool socks into his boots. His eyes go to the cook stove where her mom is looking at her cookbook on the counter. Her fingers are busy moving down the pages checking the ingredients for making seasoned dumplings. She turns away from them and she walks to the sink to run water as Amelia goes to her father’s side. Amelia watches his face as she waits for his answer that seems to never come out of his mouth.
“Did you hear me? Can I have a puppy?”
“A dog is a big commitment. I’m not sure you’re ready for that kind of responsibility.”
Her mother turns around to stare at them. Then, she starts mixing up the dumplings. Amelia waits for them to say something else. However, her father walks into the living room and turns on the TV. His favorite sitcom is on and he doesn’t like to be interrupted as he watches each episode. He tries to figure out the answers to the mystery quest taking place before it is solved.
“You better finish your math before dinner.”
Frowning at her mother, Amelia picks up her pencil with worn eraser. She tries to focus on the last story problem on the page. There’s a knock on the front door. Amelia peeks around the doorframe as her father answers it.
“Hello, Mr. Gilbert. May I step inside? The wind is picking up and I’m freezing.”
Amelia sees a teenage boy holding a box wrapped in pink foil paper. He is holding the box closely to his body. His hat is covered in snow as well as his wool coat. A scarf is wrapped tightly around his neck.
“Of course, come on inside. Our dinner is about ready. You can join us if you like.”
“Oh, no. Just came to drop off your package. Mom is waiting in the car for me and my father expects me to help him with the feeding soon.” The young man stays on the tile by the door waiting for someone to come to him.
“So, nice that you came over this evening with this weather. We could’ve waited until in the morning to receive it.” Her father takes the box and hands the teenage boy some cash.
“Well, I better get going. Thanks again, Mr. Gilbert.” The boy turns to leave.
“I’m sure this will work fine and be safe on the road home.” After the boy nods to him. Her father shuts the door tightly.
“Amelia, come here. I wanted to wait until morning since Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. But, I don’t think this can be delayed.”
Amelia walks into the living room to stand beside her father as her mother joins them. She takes a seat on their couch with a dish towel still in her hands. Amelia looks up at her father. He hands her the pink box. It feels heavy and bit off balance. Amelia joins her mother on the couch as her father takes a seat in his recliner near the fireplace.
“Darling, maybe you should grab your camera and snap of picture of Amelia as she opens her early gift. Don’t feel left out, I have yours arriving in the morning.”
Amelia’s mother rises and she goes to retrieve her pocket camera from their bedroom where it is always lying on the bookshelf. The box seems to move a little on Amelia’s lap. She holds it tighter until her mother returns to the room.
“Okay, Amelia. I’m ready. Go ahead and unwrap your gift.”
Clunk. The box hits the carpet. Then, it rolls a couple of times. There’s low whine from inside it. Then, some squeals of some sort.
“Oh, no, I hope I didn’t break anything inside.” Amelia jumps up to get the box. But, her father is already picking it up.
“Go sit down on the couch, please.”
Amelia does so. She straightens her plaid skirt as she looks up at her father. He hands her the shiny pink box. Amelia places it in her lap again with one arm wrapped around it. She uses her other hand to rip the paper loose. The top of the box pops open. A set of bright blue eyes stares up at her. A pink tongue licks her cheek. Her fingers touch the tan wavy hair before the whole fluffy body lands on her chest. Paws on each side of her face. Wet kisses all over her freckles. A ball of energy wiggling in her hands. Amelia feels tears fall—joyful ones. She smiles at her parents, “This is the best surprise ever. I love you, both.”