Little girl was brought out of her memories by the first drops of rain lashing the window glass. Delia hurriedly jumped from the windowsill, shook off the tiny wet droplets from her chemise and, after briefly admiring the night sky covered with gloomy clouds, slammed the shutters, not caring at all that this sound could easily reach the sensitive ears of her mother. Baby girl deliberately did not close the curtains - she wanted the sun's rays to penetrate into her room in the morning, which would give her a little warmth and light, which she had been missing so much lately.
She turned her back to the window and walked towards her bed. Making sure no one is there - oh those childhood fears! - Delia pulled back the edge of the covers and sank onto the cold sheets, but she was in no hurry to lie down. Instead, she sat on the edge of the bed and began to slowly rock back and forth, as if in a rocking chair. An almost dreamy smile wandered across her concentrated face - it seemed as if she was imagining herself standing on the deck of a small yacht sailing on the waves of the endless sea. Be that as it may, the rhythm in which she swayed did her good - by the time it was already raining outside, Delia had already mastered her emotions and leaned back on the pillow with a smile on her lips.
However, she still couldn't sleep - all she could achieve was to replace one memory with another. Pulling the blanket over herself, Delia fixed her unblinking eyes straight on the ceiling and immediately plunged into the peaceful stupor that was so characteristic of her that night. No one interfered with this process - the mother, apparently, had been sleeping was like a light a long time ago, since not a single sound from her daughter's bedroom woke woman up, which she would have perceived as an alarm signal. As for her father, Delia wasn't even sure whether he was actually in the house right now - who knows, maybe he stayed overnight at his friend's apartment, as he often did when he's got a deadline at work.
The girl continued to feel worried about her adult friend - it seemed to her that Jordan was languishing somewhere in captivity at that moment, like the youthful Sagamore from the fairy tale that she heard while visiting ajussi Japh. Delia still remembered the day when, for the first time in two months of their relationship, she did not find ajussi Jo in his own house (not counting, of course, those moments when he went to the center on business). This was about a day after her visit to his close friend - at first, for no apparent reason, the parents took the girl to the gynaecologist, youngish mister Madison Fraser, who, casually (one might even say, "for show"), examined her feminine nature, told gloomy mother of Delia that her daughter "Everything is exactly as she suspected!", released his patient on all four sides.
Delia, accustomed to her parents never discussing with her "low-order problems" (as her deeply religious father put it), did not ask them any questions about what happened, and resignedly went with her mother to the apartment of Jorge Coghill - father's old friend, where both women stayed for the night, while the head of the family himself went home "on urgent business", as he briefly explained to his wife and daughter. The next morning Delia was woken up by the owner of the apartment, a gray-haired and tall man - mister Coghill himself. Having treated his guests to coffee and toast, he shared with Delia's mother two meaningless pieces of news from the life of New York bohemian, and then invited them to some very significant event, but the mother politely refused mister Coghill and, citing lack of time, hurried away with daughter, left him alone with his wife - missis Susan Coghill, as old and tall as her spouse.
Throughout the next day, Delia was extremely uncommunicative with her family - when little girl got home on the bus, she didn't even say hello to her father, who greeted both of his women with an uncharacteristic sense of tact and tolerance. It seemed as if he deliberately kept himself as polite as possible - he even allowed baby girl to start dinner without forcing her to say a grace before eating, which in normal times would probably have been an unimaginable violation of the established customs of their family.
Delia suspected that her father was deliberately playing the role of a kind family man, to make amends for her some misdeed, about which the girl had not the slightest idea. However, a day later, she began to understand something. When at breakfast, according to her custom, she announced to her family that she was going to visit Jordan, her mother looked at her as if she were talking about something completely unthinkable, and her father, staring gloomily at his plate, took the sandwich in his hands and sighed.
- Shouldn't be doing that, - he said firmly and sternly, chewing a ham sandwich generously spread with mustard.
The little girl looked questioningly at her father, but he continued to move his huge jaws steadily, not paying attention to his daughter. Then Delia turned her gaze to her mother.
- Mom, why can't I go to ajussi Jo? - she asked, feeling a sense of danger growing in her chest.
- Because, - father, who has already finished eating, answered for her, - that neighbourly dog went mad from the heat and ran away, and now he's wandering around and might bump into you.
- Are you not going to let me go at all? - Delia feigned offence.
- We can let you go outside, but don't go to your neighbour, - father continued. - Who knows, what if the dog has already managed to bite him?
- He's got a point, - The girl's mother, who had previously been sitting silently, suddenly gave a voice. - Listen to dad, Delia, and don't wander around the surroundings alone.
- So will you allow me or not? - Delia repeated loudly and persistently, desperate to wait for a clear answer from her parents.
- No! - the father answered in the same tone, who was just reaching for the hot kettle to pour some tea into his mug.
- Now get ready for school, otherwise you'll be late! - mother said. - You already missed your exam yesterday!
The girl threw her half-eaten sandwich on the plate and, jumping up from the table, ran to her room, grabbing a suede jacket hanging on the dining room door as she went - because in five minutes her dad had to take her to school in his car. In the bedroom, she quickly collected her briefcase and rushed to the door that led to the street. The father still continued to eat breakfast, and only when the girl had already run out onto the porch did he deign to break away from food and reluctantly went to get dressed.
Meanwhile, Delia climbed onto the fence and sat down in her usual place, dangling her legs down. While waiting for her father to come out, she began to look into neighboring yard - indeed, her beloved Buffalo was no longer running on the other side of the fence, and Jordan himself was somehow not visible. But the girl did not attach much importance to this then, because she thought that he could either be at work, or he was simply sleeping until lunch (which often happened to him when the Delia's mother did not wake him up with a call in the morning).
Then, two days later, one morning the parents told their daughter that she would not go to school today - the thing is that the father will take the mother to the pharmacy where he worked because he will need her help. With these words, the parents locked the entrance door and left for the center, leaving Delia sitting at home alone. His daughter could not understand what was wrong - the reason her father gave seemed so unconvincing and ridiculous that she decided that some kind of trouble had happened in their family, which daddy for some reason did not want to talk about. And suddenly a hunch flashed through Delia's mind that her parents decided to hide something connected with ajussi Jo from her.
As soon as Delia heard that their car had driven away from the gate, she immediately rushed out of the hallway and, throwing open the shutters, stared out the window, which just looked out into adjacent yard. As before, not a soul was visible there - neither the Chien de Berger Belge nor its owner. Then the baby began to sob - quietly at first, then more and more loudly. Further she threw herself on the bed, burying her face in the pillow, and a stream of tears flowed from her eyes at that very second.
When Delia calmed down a little, she again went to the windowsill and began to peer intensely into the window of the neighbour's house, hoping to see a familiar face in it, but alas, there was nothing behind the glass. The singing of birds reached the girl's ears, which at that moment seemed like a taunt to her - as if nature itself was mocking Delia, laughing at her grief. The poor thing wanted to cry again, but she didn't have the strength left to do so - then she made an effort and tried to pull herself together, but the feeling of trouble hanging over Delia's head did not leave her until her parents returned.
When the whole family gathered at the table in the evening, the girl noticed that the adults were clearly upset about something - one could feel tension and some kind of impotent anger in their movements. After reading the grace, they were silent for a minute or two, in no hurry to start eating, while her dad looked preoccupied and sad, and her mother was unusually quiet and absorbed in her thoughts. Soon the father, exchanging glances with his wife, suddenly turned to his daughter, who was sitting on his left hand.
- Delia, - he said with effort, turning to her. - I want to ask you for one favor.
At these words he swallowed the lump that had risen in his throat.
- What you means, daddy? - like holy innocence, the girl asked.
Delia could not imagine what he would ask for, but, sensing something was wrong, she instinctively tucked her legs under the chair and, looking up at her father, saw a strange sparkle in his eyes.
- Forget about him, - he said as he skated off. - About this Jordan, - father added gloomily.
The girl was ready to hear anything, but not this. Although, to be honest, from the very first day of moving to Portland, Delia suspected her father of hating his neighbour with all his heart, but she had never heard her dad express his dislike publicly before. Therefore, when the head of the family uttered these six words, they had no less effect on the girl than the very fact that Uncle Jo, along with Buffalo, had never deigned to please Delia with their presence in their former place.
The stunned little girl silently looked at her father, not finding the strength to speak - she only pressed herself tighter into the back of the chair and batted her eyelashes, as she often did in a state of extreme shock. Soon Delia managed to pull herself together and lick her lips, which were dry from excitement.
- Why, dad? - the girl stammered, constantly looking at the old man's wrinkled face.
- Because, sweetie, that ajussi Jo died, - he answered with surprising gentleness, popping a slice of bacon into his mouth.