CHANNILLO

Chapter 1
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'Pets are considered property in a Massachusetts divorce case and as such, they are subject to an equitable division of property pursuant to M.G.L. ch. 208, Sec. 34.' No, this sounds icy and too lawyer-ish. 'Although I understand you might be attached to Charlie, under the law your dog is considered the same as a piece of furniture.' This is even worse.

I backspace everything to a blank page, then look out the window, frustrated the words for my last counsel refuse to come the right way.

The snow has been cascading for the past three days, mercilessly, turning the surrounding in a glistening blanket as far as the eye can see. Its view is hypnotizing and the flakes are so thick that in the early morning's quiet you can almost hear their fall.

It's my second winter in the country and this white barricade is something I'm still struggling to live with. Gone are the snowplow days, now the porch and garden path are all for me to shovel. I instantly shiver at the idea and reach for the steaming coffee mug on my desk to warm my hands.

Between small sips, I peep at the laptop screen while trying the umpteenth rewording in my head. The article still needs a few changes but, dog's hiccup aside, it's almost done. My fingers are already finding their place on the keyboard, resolute, when the sound of barefoot steps catches my attention. Hannah is approaching me, lids still heavy with sleep. "You're up early." My daughter has never been a morning person – and neither have I, to be honest - so it's quite a historical event that we're both awake before dawn.

"You too," she observes with a raised brow, moving closer to glance at the screen and at the notes scattered on the desk.

"Working on next week's issue."

"Exes fighting over dog's custody. Wow," she mutters with her typical vein of sarcasm.

What was she hoping to read? Ever since we moved to Gardner, there hasn't been anything exciting to consult. "Spare me your irony, please, this stuff pays your study," I reproach her, while she's already leaving my side. The idyll didn't last long.

She sinks heavily onto the sofa and looks outside. "I don't understand why dad can't contribute."

"Because I decided so." My voice doesn't grow of a decibel, but my tone is firm.

Dominique and I divorced four years ago, officially for incompatibility, after his gambling habits left us stone broke. It was my choice to never tell Hannah her father was a compulsive gambler – in the end he's always been a decent father, why ruin that? - but as she grows and gets demanding, it becomes harder to explain why she can't rely on her father's financial support.

"Whatever floats your boat," she grumbles.

One... Two... Three... Four...

Inhaling deeply, I force myself to count to ten, because I'd still have my old and highly-paying job if it weren't for... A shake of head pushes the unwelcome memory away.

Hannah huddles up defensively and none of us dare to speak for a few interminable minutes, but I keep a careful eye on her reflection in the window glass. In a couple of months, she'll turn sixteen and she's already about half a head taller than me. The more she grows, the more she resembles her father with those chocolate waves and black, piercing eyes. The only thing she got from me is the handful of adorable freckles studding her cheeks and most of the times she curses at them. The long-lasting heredity of red-headed women stopped with her and in my heart I hope one day she'll have a daughter with ginger curls to resume the family tradition.

"By the way, I had a weird dream."

Dream? The little and only apparently innocent word pulls me out of my genetic musings. It makes me chill when coming from her mouth. "Please no." A firm wave of hand makes it clear that the topic is not of my interest.

Every time she has a recurring dream my life turns unfailingly upside down. Last time it happened, exactly two years ago, we landed in this place I'm still slowly learning to love. I never told her, not that she investigated or showed any need to know, but it's something that runs in the family. My grandma used to have this kind of dreams, and it already scared me back then.

"It's only twice. This doesn't make it recurring," she underplays it, grasping the reason behind my protests.

But for me twice is already risky enough. "I don't care. I don't wanna know." My gaze shifts back to the keyboard first, then to the cursor flashing rhythmically on the screen, before I regain enough focus to remember where I left my sentence. In my mind, this should be enough to end the conversation.

"Why not?" she insists, ignoring my pressing deadline.

My eyes don't leave the screen, as I start to type furiously, 'Neither of you two idiots deserve the poor dog, no matter what the damn Massachusetts law states. Sincerely, Penelope Cosgrove,' then quickly backspace it. "Because I'm still adjusting to your last one."

"Hey, it's not my fault if your firm went bankrupt," she takes offence, clearing herself from any blame at lightning speed.

The proper sentence should be 'you got fired', but this is one of the many things I chose not to tell her. "Stop dreaming of me. It's creepy and undermines my mental stability." With a pointed finger I threat her, as if the gesture could be enough to stop those dreams. Or nightmares, as far as I am concerned.

"Oh, come on, this one was awesome," she protests with so much enthusiasm in her voice that for a moment I'm led to believe her.

"Did I win the lottery?"

"Uh. No."

I knew it. "Well, then I'm not interested." My mind tries to concentrate on the damn article for the millionth time, while perfectly knowing its pointlessness. Hannah won't give up this easily and that dream will keep haunting her anyway until she tells me everything about it. With resignation, I swivel my chair toward her and wait to know my fate.

"So, you were playing baseball," she begins, when she finally gets my full attention, "which is funny because you hate baseball. Or any other sports."

Baseball? "I was what? And I don't hate sports," I contradict her. When did I ever mention hating sports? Just because my body is too lazy to play any or because it's not of me to spend Sunday nights watching a bunch of overpaid idiots blow a ball, that doesn't mean I hate sports.

"Anyway, don't interrupt me, you were playing baseball and you kept striking."

"Wow, now I feel better." My sarcasm comes out loud and clear.

"It was weird though, because at the end you had some awful cup in your hands. Maybe you stole it. Or you murdered its winner."

My brows knit in scared denial, while secretly hoping, very faintly, that the repeated dream is just a coincidence and means nothing. "Well, I don't wanna know. And I mean it. Keep your disturbing dreams away from me."

"This one wasn't disturbing." As she says these words, her lips are curled up in a satisfied smirk.

Maybe she really thinks it, maybe deep down inside she's gloating over the chance of ruining my life again. "Well, it will be soon." It's just a matter of time.

"You're such a paranoiac." She stands up and gaits to the window. "Is it ever going to stop snowing?"

"Thank God my ungratifying job allows me to work comfortably from my living room," I mock her.

Her answer is a death stare, as she walks past me then leaves to get ready for school.

Next: Chapter 2

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Jeanine Lunsford      4/14/19 3:32 PM

I can easily picture your characters. You've drawn me into your story ...

Rebecca Holland      4/09/19 11:10 PM

I hope the dog finds a good home- I would take him ;) This is a great setup for these characters. I really empathize with the mom! Also- great dialogue. Very witty!