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One of Those Things
My mom and brother were both cat people. I, on the other hand, always took after my dad in these matters. We liked dogs.
Which could explain why I happened to stop in front of the pet store at my local mall. It may be the reason I looked in and saw that beautiful chocolate lab with his sad eyes.
But it cannot explain what made me walk into the store and say to the guy at the counter, “How much is he?” while getting on my knees in front of the dog.
“You don’t want that dog. He—”
The man blinked as I started to pet the dog’s ears and he growled in contentment. While I smiled at the dog, the man finished with distaste, “…doesn’t like anyone.” He sighed, rather annoyed. “Two hundred.”
I took a breath in, then let it out. I had little more than thirty bucks on me, so I racked my brain for a solution. The dog started to whimper due to, I think, his realization that I didn’t have enough money.
The good news is that I came to a conclusion. The bad news is that it involved my savings account. My first question to the man behind the counter was, “Which way is an ATM?”
After buying the dog, I made to drive home when, suddenly, I felt the weight of what I had done. I had spent half of my savings to buy a dog without asking my mother’s permission.
She was going to kill me.
I walked into my house with the dog following me closely, but I told him to stay still when my mom called to me, “Daisy, is that you?”
“Yeah,” I replied, and walked into the kitchen.
It took a good half hour of me pleading and the dog looking up at her pitifully for my mom to agree, but it was worth every second when she finally said, “All right! He can stay, but he’s your responsibility…what’s his name, anyways?”
I hesitated before stating, “I don’t know…and it has to be perfect, so…I think I’ll sleep on it.” Turning to the aforementioned unnamed dog, I asked, “Is that all right with you?”
He barked once as if in agreement and I smiled until my mom rolled her eyes with a playful grin and said, “You are just like your father! You realize it—”
“He,” I interrupted pointedly.
“He,” she amended, grinning even more widely. “He can’t understand you dear.”
I looked back down to check the truth of this statement and the dog lay down and whined a little. I pouted before smiling softly.
“I’m not so sure,” I whispered.
He had still been awake by the door when I had gone to sleep, but I awoke to him sitting right beside my bed. Looking down, I patted my bed to get him to sit with me. As he jumped up, I scratched his ears and said, “I think I’ve got a name for you, Rumpelstiltskin.”
He looked confused for a minute until I said, “What do you think of Truman?”
He barked once and, for a moment, I could have sworn that dogs could smile. It made my grin become bigger.
As I made my way to the kitchen, Truman followed, and he barked once as I reintroduced him to my mother and the phone rang.
“I knew you answered the phone nicely once in a while.”
“Hey, Jermaine. How’s life?”
“Same as it was last time I called. And you?”
I told him about Truman and he laughed, but he said he looked forward to meeting him. After a few minutes, he said he had to get to class and he’d see me around. He finished with “I love you.”
“I love you too,” I answered, only to have Truman growl and stalk off. I rolled my eyes as I hung up the phone.
“I love you too, Truman,” I teased as I followed him upstairs and watched him sit in a corner in a way that reminded me of a six-year-old pouting.
In the middle of the night or very early morning—whichever you prefer to call two a.m.—I woke up to a car pulling into the driveway and Truman gone. Taking the stairs to the living room, I jumped when the door opened and a man stepped in the house.
He was smirking, even as I glared and asked, “Why did you wake me up at two a.m.?”
“Come on, Daisy! I drive six hours to see my baby sister and that’s all you’ve got to say to me?”
I blinked once, my expression blank, and corrected, “Hey Jermaine. Why, for the love of Napoleon, did you wake me up at two a.m.?”
“Does that mean no hug?”
I rolled my eyes, passing him. “Coffee first.”
After talking a while to catch up, which took more time than I thought it would have since we talked on the phone at least every other day, I got back to sleep only for him to wake me up at dawn, which Truman seemed to oppose, bless him.
“C’mon! We’re goin’ fishin’. You can bring the dog if you want.”
He got me out of bed somehow, but we were unsuccessful in catching any fish and it was starting to get late when we were on our way home. As the sun began to sink, with an hour to go before we were home, Truman barked urgently. I looked down to him in my lap and then towards my left to our driver.
“Hey, Jermaine. I think Truman needs a pit stop.”
He looked at me in exasperation. “No way.”
Truman whine, and I reasoned, “When you gotta go, you gotta go. And if he goes on me, you will be in big trouble.
Jermaine rolled his eyes, but took the next exit.
It truly was dark forty-five minutes after stopping, but there was no sign of that dog. Beginning to worry, I called, “Truman? Truman!”
I called for another fifteen minutes before Jermaine put a hand on my shoulder and told me, “Let’s go home.”
I was close to crying now. I had just gotten him, but I was already really attached to Truman. I began to protest, but Jermaine went on. “It’s dark. It’s getting late and Mom is expecting us home. Plus, you have school tomorrow. I’ll come look for him in the morning, okay? Come on.”
I reluctantly allowed him to lead me to the car, silent tears streaming down my face. That was the first time I had cried myself to sleep since my dad died.
I awoke without my alarm with a black nose nudging my chin. I sat up and hugged him.
“Dumb dog, don’t do that. I thought I had lost you.” He shyly nuzzled my neck as I held him tighter.
School was uneventful, but I was thrilled to get home to Truman. Unfortunately, he didn’t leave me alone to do my homework.
A week or so went by like that until one night that I awoke to darkness…and a man sitting across the room from my bed. He was sleeping, but he woke up as I said, “Who are you and what do you want?”
Jerking up violently, he said a few choice words, all ending with “it.”
“Don’t scream,” he pleaded, the first G-rated thing to come out of his mouth.
Honestly, the thought hadn’t occurred to me. I had thought about hitting him over the head with my dictionary—very, very thick and hardback. But screaming hadn’t crossed my mind.
“Seriously, Daisy, don’t. Please.”
“You know my name,” I stated in awe. He sighed.
“Yeah, I…Hear me out, okay? I know this is going to sound crazy, but—”
“Chill. If you were gonna hurt me, you’d have done it by now. I know that, so…take a breath.”
He looked at me with disbelief, then groaned. “You gotta be really stupid to just trust a guy who—”I gasped. I’d just gotten a good look at his eyes and they looked strangely like the ones that belonged to—
I was four inches away from him now, and he looked down to me, breathless and, it would seem, shocked.
“Yeah,” he whispered. “I…I was cursed. I’m really human but I turn into a dog during the day, and—how can you possibly be buying this?”
“You…you seem pretty honest to me…and…I don’t know…” I trailed off. I was amazed. My dog turned into a man—a young man, but a man nonetheless—when night fell. “How were you cursed; why?”
He grinned coldly. “Let’s just say that I made the wrong person mad. It doesn’t matter.” He was silent for a minute. “You don’t mind…living with a guy?”
I shook my head. “Not so long as we show a little modesty. I’m glad I know. Usually I end up changing in front of pets.”
“I’d leave,” he said, insulted, or else faking. Gently he demanded, “Now, get some sleep, all right?”
I nodded, sliding between the covers and blinking my eyes shut as I watched him take up his previous position across the room.
As the days got shorter over the next few weeks, he quit disappearing right before the sun went down and, as stupid as it sounds, I ended up falling for him. I will admit it, no matter how embarrassing it was to fall in love with my dog. Whenever possible, he went with me, but he usually ended up going to do his own thing. We walked a lot and, when my mom wasn’t around, we watched the sunset.
I rolled my eyes at the slurring voice. “Trevor.” He drove me insane.
“You wanna go for somethin’ to eat?”
I sighed, knowing that, in his mind, getting “somethin’ to eat” translated to “make-out session,” and probably even more.
“No thanks.” I then proceeded to walk away, but he grabbed my arm and pulled me to him.
“Trevor,” I growled threateningly. “Don’t—”
He yelled out in shock and pain as he backed away. I looked down to see Truman with his teeth firmly latch around Trevor’s ankle. He looked at me and I immediately knew what he wanted, so I turned and ran. After a few seconds I heard four feet padding after me, that soon turned to two feet as darkness surrounded me.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only thing I heard.
“Where were you thinking? Do you—”
Angrily, I spun and almost crashed into him, but he caught my elbows and I settled my hands on his forearms as he, breathing as heavily as I was, nearly rested his forehead on my own.
“You all right?” he asked softly. I nodded, looking at my feet. Nodding, he took my hand we walked home together.
“Hey Truman?” I asked, still holding his hand. “There’s a way to break the curse, isn’t there?”
“Don’t worry about it,” he answered shortly, speeding up.
“Don’t!” he exclaimed, turning suddenly. After a moment of silence, he said, more gently, “You can’t break it, Daisy. You’d only make things worse.”
I felt a little offended, to be truthful, but the way he said it—tired and concerned—eased that feeling some. It made me wonder just what had to be done to get rid of it.
I guess I was allowing my imagination to run rampant with possibilities the next afternoon, not registering the noise that had to be barking; not until it stopped and Truman nipped my arm.
Truman backed away immediately as I covered the spot he had bitten with my hand. I looked down to him, smiling. “It’s okay. I say that when I’m surprised, too, all right? That’s what it was. It’s not a big deal. Now, tell me what you wanted.”
But he was already walking out as my mother came in.
“He mad at you?”
“No. He just…it’s nothing.”
Taking my hand away from my arm, she gasped. “He bit you? Come downstairs, honey. We’ll get a bandage and some antiseptic…you may need a tetanus—”
“It’s not a big deal, Mom,” I interrupted. My mother could be quite the Drama Queen. “It—He wasn’t trying to hurt me…he was just trying to get my attention.”
She sighed. “You should have scolded him anyway.”
I love my mom, but…scolded? Who uses that word any more anyways? Except, well, writers, of course. But they’re crazy anyway.
“I’ll go get the Band-Aid…and maybe some Neosporin, okay?”
I nodded and let her go, and was about to call for Truman when he came in and licked the blood away, which would’ve grossed me out if he had been human, but was something my old dog had done once. Then he rubbed his head against the sore and I reached out and scratched between his ears.
We were taking a walk a few days later when Truman got excited and raced into the road.
“Truman!” I yelled as I saw the car approaching. The last thing I saw was him turn around as I stepped into the road in front of him.
I knew nothing more until I heard Truman’s voice. It scared me. It sounded so desperate.
“Come on Daisy,” he urged. “Wake up. I told you not to break the spell, didn’t I? Come on. Open your eyes!”
I did, only to be looking down at me, unconscious on the hospital bed, and Truman sitting there, in human form, holding my hand. Sunlight was streaming in through the window.
“She won’t make it,” a female voice said from my left. I turned. The most beautiful woman I had ever seen was looking down on me. Truman spoke to her, his voice pleading.
“I’m begging you: don’t let this happen.”
“She has to die, Truman,” she responded coldly. “You knew that, for you to return to your normal life, someone was going to have to lose theirs.”
“But you didn’t expect to fall in love with her, did you?”
He looked back at my body, just lying there, and I thought he might start crying. He sucked in a breath and turned back to the woman with a flame of determination in his eyes.
“Turn me back into a dog,” he demanded. “Give me back my curse. Kill me even!”
“No!” I exclaimed, knowing he wouldn’t hear me, but begging him to listen anyway.
“Just…bring her back. Don’t let her die on me.”
“Why shouldn’t I?”
There was a silence, broken by a voice so soft and hurt that it was almost a whimper. “I need her. I love her.”
“The curse has been broken,” the woman said as she disappeared. Suddenly, I felt like I was being sucked into a vacuum cleaner and I was pretty sure that I was dead. My only thought at that moment was that I would get to see my dad again, which was the only possible silver lining I could find.
Everything was dark again.
“Open your eyes.”
I did, and Truman was sitting right where he had been, clutching my hand. I saw a tear reach his jaw. I sat up as much as I could.
“You okay, Truman?”
He looked up, shocked. He blinked a couple times before he smiled and jumped up, hugging me to him.
“I love you, too,” I murmured into his neck.
He pulled back to look at me, amused. “Too? What exactly did you hear while you were unconscious?”
I opened my mouth to tell him, but instead I leaned back and laughed.
“It’s one of those things that’s impossible to explain and difficult to believe if I managed.”
“My curse was one of those things too,” he reasoned, “and we still managed it.”
I nodded, trying to decide how to tell my mother.