A short story by E.L. Hayes
Abigail and Dean crossed the wide street, The Pizza Cutter’s neon red lights reflecting off the pools of water left by the recent rain. Dean could smell the gooey goodness long before they made it to the door. “Smells good.” He stamped his feet on the mat before walking over the threshold.
“Best in town.” Abigail pulled off her jacket.
“Maybe we should call Mike. I told him we could meet for a beer soon.” Dean suggested.
“Nah, he is out with Macy tonight. They invited me to go karaoke with them over at The Pub.”
“Did you want to go there? I mean, I don’t mind.”
“No, I don’t like to sing unless it’s in the shower. I mean, well, you know.” She tilted her head from side to side “I admit it, I sing in the shower.” She crinkled her face gave a nervous giggle.
He rubbed his hand over his neck. “That’s cool.” A mental flash of her singing in the shower made him blush, “uh, I mean that you sing at all. I sound like a howling hyena.” He pointed to a booth near the back, “How about over there?” They sat opposite each other deciding on a large cheese and sausage. After the waitress took their order they were left in an awkward silence.
Abigail mercifully broke the quiet, “Sadie is a beautiful dog, she is in great health, really helped with the surgery.”
“She’s my best friend. I found her near a dumpster, someone abandoned her, she was so little.” He opened his phone after a moment turned it to show Abigail the picture of a boney little puppy with sad eyes. “I knew the moment I saw her she was mine and I was hers.” he felt warmth at the memory of coaxing the small dirty little pup to accept him with slices of ham and cheese from his Subway sandwich.
“Well, she is lucky to have you.”
“I am the lucky one. Twice. Lucky have her and you, for her vet I mean.” He felt the burn in the back of his throat when he thought how close he had come to losing her. “She is a good girl.”
Their pizza arrived. Dean put a slice on her plate first then one onto his own.
“She is strong. She fought hard.” Abigail lifted her slice offering a salute, “To Sadie.”
Nodding, his eyes glowing, he met her slice, “To Sadie.” They bit into the hot gooey pizza in unison. “Oh, that is good.” He took another bite. They ate and laughed, Dean enjoyed the ease of her company and found himself lost in her stories about her work and her beautiful blue eyes.
Hours ticked past, Dean leaned back and rubbed his aching sides as she finished a story about her encounter with pet hedgehog, “That’s the best story yet.” He looked around noticed the staff had started closing procedures looked at his watch, “Oh my gosh, it’s almost eleven o’clock.”
“They are open until midnight on Fridays, don’t worry about it.” She shifted her foot under her knee, “You need a ride home?”
He grimaced, “Yeah, I think I do. I was just going to call a taxi.”
She chuckled, “Well, see that guy over there?”
“The guy asleep on the bar?”
“Yeah, he is the taxi in these parts.” She reached over the table and tugged at his sleeve, “Come on, we can pop in and peek on Sadie before I take you home.”
He tossed his wallet in the air, “Whoo Hoo! That would be amazing. Let me settle up and we can go.” She reached into her bag and took out her wallet. “Oh, no you don’t,” he tapped the table, “This is my treat remember.”
He paid the bill and followed her back to the animal hospital. She unlocked the back door, greeted the overnight staffer. “We just want to peek in on Sadie.”
“She’s still sleeping.” The large man in Snoopy scrubs led them to a viewing area with a large glass partition separating the kennels from the hospital, pointing to the kennel on the bottom. “She’s there, she’s been asleep since I got here. Pretty dog.”
Dean felt his heart swell when he saw her, the tubes still in her wrapped leg, she lay on a cushion with a soft pink blanket. He stood watching her for a few minutes “That’s my girl.” He crooned from behind the glass. As if she heard him she opened her eyes and wagged her tail a few slow thumps then she went back to sleep. Abigail touched his shoulder and led him out of the area. “I don’t want her to wake up too much, she needs her rest. You can come back tomorrow and see her.”
She pulled into his driveway and cut the engine off. He thanked her as he fiddled with the door handle. He struggled to end the night. “I can’t tell you enough times how much I appreciate what you’ve done for Sadie, for me.”
She shifted in her chair. “I am very happy for you both.” Rubbing her hands on her jeans. “She is a beautiful dog.” She bit her bottom lip and her eyebrows arched.
He swallowed hard, “Um, is it okay,” he shifted to face her and moved forward to erase the space between them, “is it okay if I kiss you?”
She hummed agreement, closing the remaining gap between them.