Chapter 4: Maddie
Maddie can imagine ten different reasons it’s her own fault for being left behind. She can’t measure how much time has passed. If the mall closes soon, Sadina and Rio will have to leave her here as the lights die one by one and the bars slide down over the fronts of the stores. If that man who sells the animals sees her first, he’ll ask questions, questions, questions, maybe even call the police to get Maddie out of the store, and there will be no Sadina to step in front of her and make it okay. No Sadina to lift her chin and say, “Forget it. You know I talk enough for both of us.”
Maddie closes her eyes. In her head she can see, again, the two Dalmatian puppies that drew her in. They were white, no spots, silky and baggy-skinned. They smeared their noses against the pet-store window, and Maddie pressed her own nose onto the other side of the glass. All she wanted in that moment was to feel their softness with her fingertips. Inside, the store smelled of pee, but it didn’t matter, because there were more puppies, and kittens and ferrets and rabbits, and even the fish with their feathery fins seemed to smile at her.