“Oooh, what about him?” I pointed at a cute German Shepherd puppy, wagging its tail ferociously.
Aaron cocked a skeptical eyebrow at me. “Do you think you really have time for a puppy right now?”
I halfsies-pretend glared at him. Ultimately, he was right. I had decided as a graduation gift to myself, I was getting a dog. But with working, and a little bit of school left, I really didn’t have time to potty train a puppy. My gut reaction was that Maddie and Sarah were still living with me, but I knew I shouldn’t expect them to help with this. Plus, Maddie was marrying Gavin in July, so she would be moving out then. Sarah had gotten a job with Gallup, so she would still be living with me, but she and Matt were seemingly getting serious, and I assumed they would be talking about moving in together sooner or later. Although, she had told me she planned on living with me at least through the summer, if I was okay with that (which of course I was!).
But, that’s how I ended up being at the shelter with Aaron. “How about that one?” Aaron asked. I looked to where he was pointing out an adult Chihuahua.
I squinted my eyes at him. “You’re joking, right?”
He busted out laughing. “Aleah, you should never be a poker player. Your face gives everything you’re thinking away. Always.”
I scowled. “You know how I feel about little dogs.”
“I know, I know. You don’t.”
He wrapped his arm around my shoulders and we kept walking down the aisle of dogs. It was a slow walk though, because every kennel we came to, I stuck my fingers inside to pet each dog. “You know, I could never work here. I would end up being a cat and dog lady spinster.”
“I know. We’d have to live on a farm to house all the animals you’d bring home.”
I quickly gave Aaron a side-glance, trying to not let him see that I was acknowledging that he was talking about the future, no matter how simple, or playful, he was being. It made my heart skip a beat, and a small smile played on my lips.
We finally made it to the last two kennels, and I was disappointed, because I didn’t see one that just clicked with me. The lady at the front desk had assured me before we came back that they get dogs in all the time. But the last kennel on the left housed “the one.” As lame as it sounded, as soon as I saw him, I knew I needed him to come home with me.
He was standing there, tongue hanging out to the side, wagging his tail slowly. His eyes dark brown and hopeful. His face was black and his body a fluffy golden brown. “I. Need. Him.”
I stuck my fingers into the metal fencing and he licked them. I heard Aaron said, “Looks like he feels the same way.”
I flagged down a worker so I could get him and take him outside to get to know him, aka play with him. He ran around a lot, jumped on me, wouldn’t fetch the ball I threw, and attempted to pee on Aaron. He was perfect.
After he was put back into the kennel, I promised to come back for him, and filled out the application, we left.
On Sunday afternoon, Aaron and I were going running. Sometimes we would run together, but usually we went to a park and ran separately. We had figured out a path that was 3 miles out and back. I ran 4 total, 2 out and back, and Aaron ran the 6. When he was running on his own, he ran much faster than me, so sometimes he would catch me for the last mile and we would run it together. We decided to start running together, and he stayed with me for the 2 miles, and said he’d see me soon. I knew he would take about 8 minutes longer than me once I got back.
I plopped down in the grass after my part, to stretch and wait for Aaron. I actually hate stretching, though. So by stretching, I mean I laid back in the grass and was watching the clouds. Until I heard my name.
“Well, Aleah, fancy seeing you here.”
It took me a second to focus on the face that was approaching me, because of the sun.
I sat upright, goose bumps immediately breaking out across my body. My body was already drenched with sweat, but I could feel new beads of sweat breaking out on my hairline.
“Cat got your tongue?”
“You can’t be here,” was all I could think to say.
“Well, actually, now that I’m finally out of the pen, and that I believe this is a public park, I sure can be here.”
I shook my head quickly, standing up and squinting towards the tree line to see if Aaron was on his way. “No. You can’t be near me, Luke. You know there’s a protective order in place.”
He took a step towards me, grabbing my upper arm. He spoke calmly, but I could hear the threat in his voice, “You really think a piece of paper is going to keep me away from you?” He casually looked around and laughed, as if we were old friends. “We have to finish what we started before we were so rudely interrupted by your cop friend.”
I snapped my face towards him, unsure if he was just being an asshole, or if he was truly delusional. Before I responded, I scanned the tree line again and saw Aaron just emerging on the path. Luke followed my sight line.
“Oh.” He released my arm. “I suppose now is not the time, then.”
“The time is really never.”
He started backing away from me, and smiled. “Still playing hard to get, I see.” And he winked.
I dry heaved.
“See you around, sexy.” And he turned and started jogging away from me, although to where I wasn’t sure, as my knees buckled and I collapsed into the grass, hyperventilating and crying. My body shaking uncontrollably.