I rang the doorbell next door (Mrs. Foster’s house) and waited patiently listening for the footsteps. But, the only thing I could hear was my heartbeat. After a few seconds, the door opened and Mrs. Foster’s always smiling face appeared. She had her dog, Charlie on a leash. I cleared my throat, but she spoke first.
“Oh dear, I was so worried about Charlie. Neither I can take him to the yoga class along with me nor can leave him alone in the house.”
(She treated Charlie more like a child. She even called it him.)
Then she thrust the leash into my hand, took the coat and the bag that were hanging, gave me a lengthy instruction on likes and dislikes of the dog which I didn’t understand a word, locked the door, waved at me, and left. Everything happened so quickly that I didn’t have time even to understand what was happening and now I was left with a dog.
I came here to say Mrs. Foster goodbye. Yesterday, I got a promotion as the chief creative designer (I was a senior creative designer before) to the new branch of our company in the neighboring town and I have to be present by tomorrow. So today was the only day I had got to say all the goodbyes. Now what?
With the hope of saying goodbye to Mrs. Foster later, I left her house heading my way along with Charlie to Ava’s, my best friend. I had to make sure I was holding the leash tight because now and then Charlie would try to run after almost everything that moved. I wondered what might have been on that list of likes and dislikes Mrs. Foster told me because I wasn’t sure whether it was excited or angry.
On my way to Ava’s, I had to go past Lucas’s coffee shop “Coffee Express” which is the best coffee shop in the whole city. Lucas is one of my classmates and was gifted in cooking. I had a habit of visiting this coffee shop at least once a day to taste one of Lucas’s special coffees. So, I stopped by the shop and went inside to say goodbye. As usual, Lucas was at the counter.
“Hi, Hannah. Having usual?”
“I came here to talk to you.”
“Then what about enjoying a coffee while talking?”
That didn’t sound half bad. (To be honest, that sounded great. Who knows when I will get to taste Lucas’s delicious coffees again?) So I went to my usual table, made Charlie sit beside me and waited till Lucas came back with a steaming coffee on a tray. He served me the coffee and sat in front of me. I was just about to open my mouth when Charlie started to bark at the postman who was leisurely enjoying a coffee only two tables next to ours. I held the leash with all my might, but the dog was stronger. It got the leash out of my grip and ran towards the postman making the table trip down. My cup of coffee fell with a crash.
I got to my feet and ran after the dog trying to take hold of it. Charlie jumped onto the postman’s table, tripped his coffee onto his shirt and was about to bite off his head (at least that was what it looked like) when I finally got hold of it and dragged it out of the coffee shop before making any more trouble. We had passed “Coffee Express” and two other shops, but Charlie was still looking back and barking. Thanks to Charlie, I couldn’t tell Lucas goodbye. (Keep that aside, now I can’t even face him.)
After passing some more shops and houses, Charlie became completely calm. Maybe it was tired after all the barking, running, and jumping. So, I bought Charlie and me two hotdogs from a hotdog cart which Charlie gulped in three bites. Then we headed off to Ava’s again.
When we finally reached our destination, before ringing the doorbell, I looked sternly at Charlie and said, “Any more trouble from you, you’ll be sorry for that."
I was about to ring the bell when my phone rang. It was Ava.
“Good afternoon, Ava! I’m…”
“Good afternoon, Hannah! You won’t believe what I just heard. Zoey is back in the town and wants to meet us.”
That was indeed great news. The three of us; Ava, Zoey and me, are friends since we were in grade one. But when the thought, I was about to leave the town struck me, my heart sank and I guess that was evident through my voice.
“Aren’t you happy, Hannah?”
“Of course I’m happy. When does Zoey want to meet us?”
“Yes. At Lucas’s “Coffee Express”. Can you come around 4 o’clock?”
At Lucas’s? That was the problem. How could I go back there after all the trouble I have caused?
“Today I’m a bit busy, so I don’t think I would be able to come.”
“Oh! If that’s the case, we’ll meet up on some other day. I’ll tell her. When is okay with you?”
“Ah…I’m not exactly sure. I’ll let you know.”
That was it and now I won’t be able to say goodbye to Ava and Zoey as well. I turned back. Today was the worst. Nothing went as planned. How can I leave without saying goodbye? I started to walk slowly towards my home. I could still say goodbye to Mrs. Foster.
We; Charlie and me, walked past many shops and houses and were passing by the town’s mall when I saw the last person I wished to see; Emma, coming out of the mall with her grumpy cat. I had this idea of turning back and walk in the opposite direction, but I just kept moving forward. Emma and her cat were a matching duo: both were mean, grumpy, and annoying. I tried my best to act as if I didn’t see her, but Charlie dared; instead, he started to growl at them; especially at the cat which was making weird noises. I fastened my grip on the leash. The growls became louder and in a time of a blink, the cat had jumped out of Emma’s hand, hissed at Charlie, and ran away.
Now, Charlie was struggling to run after the cat and I was struggling more to keep the grip. I felt the leash lighten, and Charlie was running after the cat. I too started to run after them, and Emma was running after me. I could hear her shouting, “Stop!” now and then and after some time her voice faded away, but the cat and the dog were still running and were about ten meters ahead of me. I saw them running into the park, so I followed.
But, by the time I entered the park, they were nowhere to be seen. I searched every corner of the park; in the hedges, under the benches, up the trees; the only place I didn’t look was the sky above the park. Finally, exhausted and worried I sat down on a bench. What am I going to do now? How am I going to tell Mrs. Foster that I lost her beloved dog? I looked up at the sky and closed my eyes. Today was the worst. But I need not worry because I’m leaving tomorrow and I won’t meet them again (at least for some time). But how can I leave like this? I destroyed Lucas’s shop, lied to Ava, lost Charlie, and above all I couldn’t say goodbye.
I felt as if I was about to cry when something heavy touched my knee. I looked down at my knee to find an innocent face with big eyes looking at me. “Oh, Charlie! Where have you been?” Charlie waged its tail and barked joyfully. Then we left the park heading to Mrs. Foster’s (she must be back at home by now). I rang the doorbell. Mrs. Foster opened the door and Charlie jumped into her.
“Oh, Charlie, my boy! Did you miss me?
Hello, Hannah dear! Did he trouble you?”
“Ah…he is a bit of a trouble maker, but after all, he is a good boy.”
“Come inside dear. We’ll have some tea. I just baked biscuits.”
So, I went in and sat on a comfortable cushioned chair next to the fireplace. While I was waiting in Mrs. Foster’s living room, my phone rang. The call was from the company I worked in. The speaker asked me whether I can accept the position as the chief creative designer of the branch here because the present chief creative designer wants to take a transfer to the new branch due to a private reason. Why would I deny the offer when that was what I needed? So, I accepted it. Now I no longer need to leave the town or my family, friends and neighbors. I don’t have to worry about saying goodbye and can even make everything alright back again.
After a few minutes, Mrs. Foster came back with a steaming cup of tea and a plate full of homemade delicious-looking biscuits with Charlie at her heels.
“With all the rushing I couldn’t even ask why you came here.”
“That’s okay Mrs. Foster. That was nothing important.”
I said it more to myself and looked at Charlie who was now sitting beside Mrs. Foster, looking at me, its tongue hanging out of his mouth and wiggling its tail. I thought I saw Charlie winking at me, but I guess that was just my imagination.