There was the chemical smell of detergents from the clothes in the dresser and closet, as well as the bed sheets. The laundry must have been done recently. Bits of food stains stood out on the carpet where the had been wiped clean, but not scrubbed away. The waxy scent of crayons and the sharper, pungent reek of felt markers came from the desk. The window had been replaced, but the fresh caulk had yet to dry filling the room with aromatic solvents.
There was another scent here as well. The fourth person that she had sensed but not seen was stronger here. Sophie sniffed around the floor until she located the source under the bed.
Bobby climbed on top of the bed and patted the blankets, inviting her to join him. She decided she would wait until he was asleep before exploring the room some more, so she hopped up on the bed and lay down. The soft mattress felt good underneath her. She could definitely get used to this kind of luxury. It was certainly better than the garage or the patch of dirt under some scraggly trees that she had slept on the night before last.
“Here, let me show you this,” said Bobby and he pulled a book from the nightstand. “This is Princess Penelope. Everyone says I imagined her, but I know she was real.” He pointed to one of the characters in the book, a woman with long red hair. “I mean that’s not really her. That’s just a book, but that’s what she looks like.” He flipped to the front of the book. “See, she even left me a note. I showed it to Mom, but she said it was just some scribbles. I don’t know why she can’t read it, or why she couldn’t see her.”
Sophie looked at the note scrawled on the page. She managed to read it just before he closed the book again. It said, “Dearest Bobby, I will treasure the time we spent together forever, and always remember – Penelope was here.”
The door opened and Anne poked her head in. She eyed Sophie for a moment before saying, “Okay, Bobby. Nap time. Put the book away and close your eyes.”
“Yes, Mom,” he said. He returned the book the nightstand and climbed under the covers. Sophie lay down and pretended to sleep, hoping that Anne would leave them alone for a few minutes. When Bobby had settled in, she left the door ajar and went back downstairs to speak with her husband. She could hear them, but couldn’t make out the words, so she went back to investigating what was under the bed.
She nosed her way underneath and found a bag, so she closed her teeth around it dragged it out. The large purse was the source of the scent she had detected earlier. It was a woman’s smell, not heavy with a lot of cosmetics, but clean with a hint of green apples. With some effort she managed to open it an dug around inside. There were clothes inside along with a smaller bag full of soap, toothpaste, and the like.
Her paw touched something hard and she pulled out a small hard-bound notebook. Inside, there were diary passages in the same spidery handwriting that had left the note in the storybook. Carefully and with some effort, Sophie managed to turn to the last few entries. They described how the woman had met Bobby and come home with him and how excited she was that someone had finally been able to see her.
Sophie was stunned. This woman was on the same quest that she was, to find out why she was different from everyone else and how she got that way. Sophie had to find her, but the only one who had ever seen her was Bobby, a five-year-old boy. She could search the entire city for her scent, but the woman might be anywhere by now. She needed help.
As best as she could, Sophie pushed the contents of the purse back inside. Bobby was still sleeping, so she quietly made her way out into the hall and down the stairs. Anne was sitting in the kitchen enjoying a cup of coffee while she had the chance. The events of the past day had troubled her and it showed on her face. For a moment Sophie felt bad that she was about to make them worse, but it was important for all of them.
Sophie sat on the floor near Anne and stared up at her. “What do you want?” asked Anne. “I already gave you food.”
“Excuse me, Anne,” said Sophie, “but we need to talk about Penelope.”
To be continued…