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Ava’s attention was held captive once again by the single blue egg that sheltered in the nest right outside the window. The mother bird had clearly tried. She had built a home for her baby, spread her wings and settled onto the egg, and kept a watchful eye when the cat prowled underneath. She had done everything right, but still, long after it should have hatched, the egg remained intact. Ava didn’t have the heart to throw it out. Please, she thought, please don’t let that be me again. She felt Rose, a mix of something or other (they had never been able to pinpoint exactly what, possibly Lab with a hint of Boxer and a splash of Beagle), nuzzle her hand. 


But it was Ava again, of course, a week later when she went to the bathroom and discovered, for the third time, that there would be no baby. Rose laid as closely to Ava as possible in the double bed, in what seemed an attempt to absorb Ava’s grief. When the waves washed over her, Ava would grab Rose’s fur and sob into it. Rose never moved away, but, even when it seemed there was already no space between them, would somehow shift her weight even more to accommodate Ava’s tears. Rose felt her pain; Ava knew that. She wondered if at some point before Rose came to them if she had lost a baby of her own. She thought about telling her friend, Karen, these thoughts, but Karen would think she was crazy. Ava, I know you love her, but, for goodness sake, she’s a dog. No matter. Ava didn’t need someone to confirm what she felt in her heart.


Ty had been amazing after the first two miscarriages, and Ava had tried desperately to bounce back.  But by the third time, her hope was depleted. Ty mentioned adoption; Ava refused. She had an aunt and uncle who had taken a child in, but before the adoption was final, the birth mother had changed her mind. Ava could not endure that possibly happening to her. It would break her completely.  She would rather shut out the world, and so she did. Ty included.


After they had been separated a week, Ty called to set up a plan to see Rose. So Rose became, as so many before her, a dog in a divided house. When Ava came to pick Rose up, Rose placed herself directly between her owners. If they wanted to pet her, they would have to draw closer to each other. Ava and Ty saw this and couldn’t help but share a smile over Rose’s head. 


On one particular Sunday, almost a year after Ty left, he asked Ava to come inside for a chat before she left with Rose. Rose took her place between the two couches and looked expectantly back and forth between her people. 


Ty cleared his throat. “This is a little difficult to say,” he began. “But I had a friend come for a visit this weekend. A girl. Woman, I mean.”

Ava raised her eyebrows and felt her heart thud hard in her chest.


“It was just for a little while on Saturday,” he explained quickly.


Ava mentally stepped onto the high road. “You don’t owe me any details, Ty.”


“Oh. Right. It’s just. Well, there’s something that happened with Rose.”


“With Rose?”


“Yeah. My friend. . .uh, Denise. . .Rose growled at her.” 


“Rose growled?” Ava couldn't keep the disbelief out of her voice as she sought out a reason for the behavior. “Maybe she was just uncomfortable around a stranger.” 


“Maybe. But she growled the whole time. Like anytime she saw Denise.”


Ava considered. “So maybe she’ll get used to her eventually. It’s probably not that unusual. I mean, Rose has never growled, but still. She also hasn’t seen you with a strange female.”


“Okay, but there’s more. She also yakked in Denise’s shoes. I guess she had been eating some grass.”


“Well, surely that has to be a coincidence.”


“Then she yakked in Denise’s purse.”


Ava covered her mouth with her hand. She wanted to laugh, but Ty looked perplexed. And she knew, again in her heart, that Rose was fully capable of making a plan and executing it to shoo Denise away.


“Do you think that maybe your friend did something to Rose behind your back?  Maybe kicked at her or something when you weren’t looking?”


“I never left them alone together. I wouldn’t do that to Rose.”


Ava felt a surge of gratitude in her chest; his care for Rose was one of the things she loved most about Ty.


“So I was wondering,” Ty continued, “if maybe you could help me out here.”


“I’m not really sure what I can do. I mean, I’m happy to keep Rose the next time your friend visits instead of bringing her over.”


“No, that’s not really a solution. I thought maybe we could all get together.”


The gratitude disintegrated. “Excuse me?”


“I think Rose needs to know that Denise is okay. Maybe if she sees you around her, it’ll be better. I know it’s a lot to ask.”


“Denise is important to you?”


Ty’s eyes met Ava’s. “I don’t know yet, Ave.” 


His use of the name only he called her, Ave, caused Ava to smile, albeit somewhat sadly.


“Okay. We can try. For Rose.”


“For Rose.”


“We’ll meet you on Wednesday afternoon at the dog park. Surely meeting at Rose’s favorite spot will win Denise a little more credibility.”


Back in the car, Ava cupped Rose’s face. “I know we were his girls for a long time, Rose, but it’s different now. You might have to give Denise a break.” Rose snorted and looked out the window.


----------------------------------------


Wednesday was the best day of the spring so far although Ava had hoped for rain, which would provide such an easy excuse to skip the dog park, back out of helping Ty find happiness with Denise for at least another few days. 


At the park, Ava let go of Rose’s leash and she bounded toward Ty. It was always a tender reunion between those two. Rose planted her front paws directly on Ty’s chest, and he gave her the best ear rub he could muster. As Ava approached with what she hoped was a sincere smile, she saw everything change. Rose reluctantly dropped her front paws back to the ground, narrowed her eyes, and started a low growl in the back of her throat. 


Ah, Denise, Ava thought, as a young woman approached, clad in stylish shoes that were not at all appropriate for the dog park. Don’t judge, Ava reminded herself. She probably doesn’t have a dog. 


Ty made brief introductions, but the cadence of Rose’s growl never faded. He looked uncomfortably at Ava and then down at Denise’s shoes.


“How about Ava and I take Rose to play a little chase. Let her wind down a bit.”


“Sure,” Denise said. “I have to make a call anyway.” She pulled her cell out of her red leather crossbody. “Go ahead.”


Rose’s absolute favorite game was chase. She loved to get the ball, and despite her intuition and her obvious ability to understand her humans, she never once brought them back the ball. In addition, Rose always won. Ty and Ava could never catch her, but they always gave it a valiant try and today was no exception.  They ran, shouting instructions to each other--”Cut her off there!” and “She gonna cut left!”--and punctuating the moments between with laughter.


Quite some time had passed before Ty remembered Denise and saw the spot she had previously occupied on the bench was vacant. 


“Let me just try to call her,” Ty said, as Rose finally brought the ball to Ty and dropped it at his feet. She promptly lay down and rolled over, waiting for her belly rub, always the prize for finally returning the ball when she was finished with catch.


Ava, as she awarded Rose the belly rub, couldn’t help but overhear Ty’s side of the conversation even though he had moved a few feet away.  It didn’t sound good.


“Is she okay?” She asked, as Ty appeared back at her side. 


“Um, I think she’s okay. Yeah. She’s just not okay watching me have such a good time with you.”


“Oh. Gosh, Ty. I’m sorry. We should have stopped earlier. I just. . .”


“We were just having fun. Just like we used to. There’s nothing to apologize for, Ave.”  He paused. “Rosie hated her anyway.”


Ava covered her face and laughed. “She did, didn’t she? I can’t believe all that growling she did.”


“Let’s sit for a minute. You have time?”


“Sure. Rose and I had blocked out the whole afternoon just to help you with your love life.” She smiled as she settled herself on the bench beside Ty, but he, in contrast, looked serious.


“That’s the thing, Ave. I really was trying to have a life, a love life, to move on, but today proved I don’t really want that. I forgot about Denise. I mean, completely forgot about her when I was with you and Rose.  That means something, right?”


Ava sighed. “I think it does mean something. But I don’t know what that means for us. How are we different than when we separated, Ty? I still can’t have a baby. I still haven’t changed my mind about adopting. You still want kids. What’s changed?”


Rose hoisted herself up and came to rest her chin on Ava’s knee. Ava ran her hand over Rose’s silky head. 


“What’s changed is that I know my life is better with you and Rose in it. Ave, have you ever thought about the fact that we’ve already adopted?  We adopted Rose and look how that turned out. It was a risk, I know. Someone could have come and claimed her even after we took her in. Remember how we tried to find her owners because we felt it was the right thing to do?”


Ava shook her head. “I know you’re right, but. . .”


“Look, I’m not saying we have to adopt. We don’t ever have to do anything. But I do want to be with you and Rose. If we’re the three that make up our family, then that’s okay with me. Can it be enough for you, Ave?”


Ava didn’t answer because at that moment, Rose bolted. Ty and Ava jumped up in surprise; Rose was not one to run away without a game of catch in progress.


As quickly as she started, though, Rose stopped, right in front of a little boy who was holding a ball. “Hey guys,” he called excitedly.  “Is this your dog? Can I play with him?”


“It’s a her, actually,” Ty said as they approached. “Rose is her name. What’s yours?”


“Edwin. I’m here with my foster group from the home. Our day used to be Tuesday, but now it’s Wednesday. Do you guys always come here on Wednesday? I sure hope so. Maybe I could always see Rose on Wednesdays then. Do you think so?”


Ty nodded. He and Ava smiled at each other and something passed between them, something that had been buried, something they thought had been lost. Edwin threw his first of many balls for Rose, who glanced back as she ran and congratulated herself on a job well done.







May 16, 2020 01:21

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