It had been a month since Sydney's arrival. The couple had scooped up the unremarkable girl from the equally unremarkable church in neck-breaking speed. They thrust her at once a new house, a new wardrobe, a new horse and a new school, all with built in friends and neighbors.
Dusty and plain Sydney with her trembling voice and timid brown eyes agreed with everything, and declared it all "lovely" when questioned. She was a physical fidget of awkwardness, always looming too long in one area or staring down at the ground. The bright dresses and blouses Jennifer bought her fell flat on her pallid skin and dull brown hair. She proved inept at sports, tone deaf with music and overall extremely average. She was a collective sigh from Jennifer's wishes to have the perfect daughter.
But Paul didn't mind her. He especially liked her quiet nature. He was doling out the water to the cows for the evening, humming to himself. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Sydney entering the barn quietly. She padded over to the new calf he had just watered before crouching down to study it. She explored its smooth hide and warm body with her hands, smiling a crooked smile. The calf swung its little tail and stuck its tongue out to greet her.
His heart warmed. Sydney seemed to be adjusting nicely to the ranch, and perhaps he would have a new farmhand soon.
"You know, you could help me out with the cows more often since you like them so much," Paul chuckled to Sydney, tucked neatly into the calf, which seemed to be sleeping now.
Her head perked up, eyes darting. She muttered a quiet "Okay" before dashing out. Like a butterfly, he reckoned, you couldn't approach her directly.
He walked over to the calf, admiring the one thing he and Sydney had in common. He ran his hand over the sleeping calf.
"It's nice that she appreciates animals like I do," he thought out loud.
Wait. What was that?
Or perhaps, lack of "that". He felt the slumbering calf's neck again. No pulse.
He stuck his hand around the calf's nose to check for breath but felt no sign of life. Flipping the little thing over, he pressed it's neck again. No pulse. No life.
It had died in less than five minutes.