Let Them Lie
Something is prodding my rib cage. I squeeze my eyes shut tighter. I am not ready for this. Two hands shake me. One nudges me in the armpit. The other scratches behind my ears.
“Damnit, Jenna. Stop poking. What do you want?”
She smiles too big. She is crouching down next to me. Legs bent, grasshopper-like. Her fingers are spread in the fur at my neck, stroking absent-minded. A whining sigh creeps up my throat uninvited, and I jerk away from her. She frowns momentarily, then brightens as she digs her hand into her pocket.
“You left your lighter at my house! I wanted to return it.”
“I don’t smoke anymore, Jenna. No one smokes when they are sleeping.”
Her smile slips, again. This time it doesn’t return. She gets to her feet and begins kicking at the ground. She bites her nails. Weighs her words.
“Ok. I was bored. This place sucks. I haven’t had fun in...”
I cut her off here. A sharp bark escapes me before I have time to compose myself. I should have known. She is ever prepared. She would come with excuses.
“Surely, you could have asked the cat? She’s a riot.”
“Gillian? She scares me. She has no regard for my life.”
I want to tell her that Gillian has nine lives and therefore, has little regard for life at all. Now doesn’t seem to be the time. Striking a conversation will only prolong this meeting.
“Jenna. I’m going back to sleep. Wake up the cocker spaniel, Billy? Bobby? Benny? I don’t know. I’m sure he will be up for anything you like. He has a soft spot for you.”
“M, I’m so lonely. I needed to talk about it.”
I have a soft spot for her too. My body does that twitching thing. A shiver from my tail up to my shoulders. I try to shake it out, but it lingers. I feel heavy, even for a Mastiff.
“Alright. Well, you woke me up. Buy me a drink, at least.”
Jenna never makes me wear a collar or a leash. It is just one of the things that fuels my amity for her. She could. I’ve seen people tie up smaller breeds in hopes that they don’t run away. So they don’t chase their tails. To control the situation. Dogs are strong. Jenna knows she has no control. I’m awake. She has no control. She is quiet as we walk to the bar. I am rambling lazily. She trots to keep up. When we get to the bar she orders sparkling water for herself and an IPA for me. Something is off. She’s not talking. I feel anxious.
“You’ve got cigarettes on you?”
She rummages in her purse, then hands me my lighter and a square. My brand, not hers. I know why I’m awake.
“You’re sober now?”
She doesn’t answer. I know why I’m awake.
My name is M, and I am Jenna’s addiction.
I down my beer and order two shots. The first goes down hot as fire. The second, like syrup soothing my raw insides. I order two more, hand Jenna my cigarette. She takes a drag, blowing the smoke into the bartenders face. They both laugh, but hers sounds hollow, forced. I push one shot to her and paw at the other.
“To waking up?”
She looks like she might not accept the toast, but then she laughs again, raises her glass.
“To waking up.”
She throws her head back, swallows hard. I lick her nose, and now she laughs for real. A giggle. Small, but genuine.