“I just think it’s a bad idea.”
“Because, you shouldn’t get attached. You can’t keep it. Good grief, you can barely take care of yourself, Jenny.”
A thoughtless comment, unintentional, but it was hurtful like so many she had been offered since the accident. Running her hand through her short dark hair, her fingers found the scar on her scalp. It had been one year, eight months and eleven days. Yes, she counted. Every day was one more day without Sam, her soul mate, the man she was going to marry. A drunk driver crossed and her life fell apart, just like that. She was beginning to think she had become too dependant on friends and family while she recovered from her own injuries. Lately, she was feeling smothered and suffocated by their good intentions.
With her other hand she clutched the shivering puppy against her chest. She found her this morning, a little black and white lump of fur shivering next to her car. She had a nice new collar but no tags on it. If Jenny had ever bothered to get to know her neighbours she might have recognized her and been able to take her home. But she was late as usual, so she gathered her up and brought her with her to the bookstore where she worked.
“Take her to the pound,” Anna suggested, “Just drop her off on your way home. If someone is looking for her, they’ll check the pound first.”
Jenny nodded absently while she put the puppy up to her face and made kissing noises.
Her friend sighed and took the puppy from her to get her attention.
“Look. You can’t keep her it’s too much for you”
She dropped the puppy into an empty box.
“She can stay today, but take her on your way home. Trust me Jenny, you don’t need this.”
A customer came in and cut off any argument she may have had.
Jenny spent her lunch break in the office making Found Puppy posters. She called her Happy. She did not intend to keep her, but she saw no harm in giving her a name until she found her owner. And that’s what made her, happy. Her mind was made up. After all, how much trouble could it possibly be to take care of an adorable puppy until she found its owner?
At two the next morning Jenny found herself dozing off on the floor of her laundry room. Happy was finally sleeping fitfully in her box. The old ticking clock wrapped in a towel trick had not worked to stop her whining. But somehow having a hand on her tiny back did.
“This is ridiculous” she complained.
As soon as she moved her hand the pup started whining again. She sighed and scooped her up. “It’s ok baby.” She crooned. “I know you’re scared.”
Resigned, she took her to her own bed. At three o’clock she was awake, changing wet sheets. At four thirty she was trying to convince the puppy that it was sleep time, not playtime. At six o’clock she gave up and took her outside. She put her on the leash she had bought along with all the other necessary puppy supplies the day before; the food, the shampoo, the vitamins, the toys and the sweaters. They watched the sun come up together while she taped up the Found posters in the neighbourhood since she just hadn’t quite found the time to put them up the day before. She had been up all night but she didn’t mind. By then she was in love and hoping no one would claim Happy.
A few hours later, Anna was not pleased to see her carrying the boxed puppy back into the store. Jenny plopped the box down next to the counter. She smiled at her friend wearily, “Stop thinking you told me so.”
She was feeding Happy tiny bites of her lunch when her cell phone rang. It turned out Happy was actually named Gracie and she belonged to a neighbour who lived just a few doors down.
“She slipped out the door when I was bringing groceries in.” Her neighbour told her. “I’ve been so worried.”
She hung up the phone and hurried to the washroom. Great, she did look like she’d been up all night. She dug into her purse for some lip gloss and a comb.
He arrived alone in a black mustang. Jenny watched him walk across the parking lot. He wore worn out jeans with an old tee shirt and he had a face that definitely matched his voice. She felt butterflies in her stomach as she watched him walk in the door.
“Jenny?” he asked. “I’m Ben.”
She shook his hand. His eyes were so blue; she thought she could get lost in them. She caught herself staring and blushed.
“Thanks for looking after Gracie for me. The little girl just slipped right by me.”
She lifted the puppy out of her box. She held her close and didn’t offer to release her. She wasn’t ready, not yet. She smoothed the Gracie’s fur and told him, “You need a leash. And you have to put it on her before you open the door.”
“Well sure, of course. You see, I just got her. She is a present from my sister.” He sighed and leaned back on his heels, his hands in his pockets. “The truth is I didn’t want a puppy. She thought it’d be good for me because she thinks I’m lonely. She finally gave up trying to set me up with dates. Now she’s setting me up with pets.”
He reached for the dog. Reluctantly she handed her over. Ben eyed Jenny from across the counter. He smiled and sent those butterflies in her stomach going again. “I really can’t thank you enough. I’d never hear the end of it if something happened to her. Besides,” he cuddled the puppy protectively, “I’m getting used to her being around.”
She sighed before she could stop herself. “I know what you mean.”
“Hey, you know,” he said, “you can come and see us, I mean her, anytime.” He started backing away from the counter, waving the puppy’s paw at her. “Bye Jenny. Thank you.” She waved back, smiled and then tried to look busy so he could not tell that she watched him drive away.
She had not really noticed how quiet and still her house could be until that afternoon. She cleaned up the bedroom and found a squeak toy under the bed. She did some laundry and saw the bag of puppy food on the shelf. She started to make some supper, saw the water bowl on the kitchen floor, and had no appetite. Finally she gave up. She found a bag and collected all of the puppy things around her house.
All of her courage seemed to have dissolved by the time she reached his door. But she knocked anyway. He opened the door and stood there, holding Gracie who had obviously just wet all down his shirt. Past him she could see into his living room where the floor seemed to be covered in fluff. His hair was wet and so were his bare feet.
“Oh Jenny,” he said, “I am so glad to see you. I just went to try and take a shower and she destroyed my throw pillows.” He sighed and looked at her with those deep blue eyes. “And now this,” he pointed to his shirt, “Help!”
She laughed and held out the bag so he could see. “I’ve got some snacks here that she should like more than your pillows. Unless of course your pillows are beef and bacon flavoured. Then we’re in a world of hurt.”
It took a few hours to get Gracie settled down and to get everything cleaned up. She found that aside from his lack of puppy knowledge, she had a lot in common with Ben. When they finally got the puppy to sleep, he helped her with her coat and opened the door.
“Jenny, can I ask you for a favour?” he asked. “This is obviously more than I can handle on my own. Will you stop by as often as you can, and check on us?”
“Sure.” She said, delighted.
“Tomorrow?” he asked.
She nodded and smiled. “OK, tomorrow.”
Walking home she realized her butterflies were gone. She felt better than she had in a long time. On her porch, she looked up at the stars and sighed. “I’m going to be ok, Sam.” She said out loud. “I think I’m going to be ok.” She smiled to herself and went inside.
– Garima Obrah