The sun is tinting the sky a bright orange when the next living thing I see reveals itself. It moves quickly – like a brown cheetah – streaking through the gravestones effortlessly as if it does so every day. The greyhound bounds and leaps over graves – occasionally stopping to sniff at flowers or something less pleasant. It has light brown fur and is wearing a pink coat to keep it warm.
Sometimes it runs back along the footpath in the graveyard, and these times it is even fuller of life than before. It lets its tongue hang out and flop around and its tail never stops wagging. Then it runs away from its owners again, who are somewhere out of sight, and straight towards me. It skids to a stop and towers above me, a glob of saliva dripping from its tongue and onto my arm. It sniffs my tummy with its cold, wet, black nose. It tickles.
The dog inhales my scent – that of an old bear – a few more times before it makes a decision. It picks me up by the leg and takes off. I dangle from its mouth, upside-down, as it dashes along the path. Sherlock's grave disappears behind a wall of fur. There are few people here, but the greyhound zeroes in on a little girl and her mother.
The girl has long, fair hair that travels past her shoulders. She can't be more than four-years-old. She still has baby fat on her cheeks, and her eyes are a bright blue. She's wearing a pink coat as well. It is she who spots us first, and she tugs on her mother's sleeve to drag her attention away from the gravestone they are watching. It is a plain stone, the opposite of Sherlock's expensive-looking one, which simply says 'MORSTAN'. "Mummy, Mummy, look," says the little girl, pointing.
Discreetly wiping a tear from her eye, the mother turns to look. She has brown hair pulled into a rough ponytail. Her face is similar to that of her daughter's, but it is narrower. Her coat isn't pink. "What? Oh. Teddy – put that down," she commands to the dog that has stopped beside them. At first I think that she is talking to me, but then the dog's grip on my leg suddenly ceases and I tumble to the ground head-first. The greyhound – Teddy – gives his owner a sheepish glance and then me a longing one. "Go on, Ted. Off you go." Teddy obediently runs off to do another lap of the graveyard.
The little girl picks me up. She inspects me for a moment before she gives me a little hug. "Mummy, Mummy – can I keep him? He's a he cos he's got a blue bow. Do you see it, Mummy?"
The mother bites her lip. "I don't know where it – he – came from, Hayley," she says.
"Teddy-doggy got him from a shop," smiles Hayley. "He wants me to have him."
Hayley's mother smiles back, and kneels down on one knee so that she's eye-to-eye with her daughter. Hayley is hugging me close and she gently prises me out of Hayley's arms. "Honey, Teddy can't go into shops and buy things. He must have found this bear somewhere nearby."
"He's an abandoned bear?" asks Hayley, sounding outraged. "Like Teddy-doggy was?"
"Yes – no." The mother closes her eyes and inhales. "No... Maybe this bear was left here on purpose. On someone's grave. The problem is I don't know who." She glances around, as if the gravestones will give her the answer.
"Maybe, maybe we can look after the teddy bear until someone says that it's theirs," suggests Hayley. "We come here to visit Daddy every day. Please?" She stretches the word out.
"I don't know..." Then she sighs and hands me over to Hayley, who buries me protectively in her little pink coat. "Just be careful with him, okay?"
Hayley nods; "Yes, Mummy."
The mother rises to her full height again and takes her daughter's hand. It's warm and snuggly underneath this coat; I'd forgotten what it was like to be hugged. The mother blows a kiss at the grave marked 'MORSTAN'. Then she leads the way along the footpath. We're not far from the gate leading to the living world when the mother stops and whistles. "Come on, Teddy!"
The greyhound doesn't take long to reach us and the mother clips a lead onto his collar. He trots obediently behind the mother as we leave the graveyard and my old friend behind.
And from behind a tree, out of the corner of my eye, Sherlock Holmes – alive and breathing – gives me a little wave of goodbye.
A/N: And that's the end. Thanks for sticking with Teddy and I for so long, it means a lot. Thanks also for the reviews and the alerts/favourites.
Until next time,