From the moment her tiny legs could carry her from the big house across the expanse of green grass and up the gravel path toward my front door, Sarah’s laughter echoed off my walls.
From the moment she could talk, she hosted tea parties for her stuffed animals at her little table, her favorite baby chick always getting the first cookie and spot of tea.
On rainy days, she dashed across the lawn, hands above her head as though her tiny fingers would stop the droplets from soaking her dark curls, taking shelter under my roof.
Her first absence was short, just a day. She’d been sick, she said and mommy wouldn’t let her outside. But she was back the next day, and the next.
Her next absence was long and the big house seemed bleak—the lack of slamming doors and Sarah’s squeals and mom’s calls felt louder than all of Sarah’s sweet laughter.
The last time I saw her, she was not herself. She sat at her table, wrapped in a blanket, her once sun-kissed cheeks now almost the color of the sky just before a storm. She did not laugh, she did not run. She studied my walls with the eyes of a mom or a dad, not a small girl of 6. She was sad and I wanted her to laugh again but when she stood from her table and walked down my path she lifted her small hand just slightly and I knew she was waving goodbye.
The big house grew dark and sad.
One day, it filled with people all dressed in black. Some stepped into the backyard and breathed in the wet, spring air, tears streaming down their cheeks.
I was empty…until dad came out. He ducked under my doorway and sat at Sarah’s table, his knees reaching his chest. It was when he began to cry that I knew I would never see Sarah again.
Soon, a “for sale” sign went up. It was when I began to fear another child might try to step through my door and sit at Sarah’s table that she walked in. She sat down like it was any other day, and poured herself a cup of tea.
When a new family moved in and excitedly brought their own little girl out to show her the playhouse, she refused to come in, claiming I gave her the heebie jeebies.
So, they left us alone. While the new girl grew older, within my walls, my Sarah stayed forever six—her sun-kissed cheeks glowing and her laughter forever echoing off my walls.