Almond-Eyed Love

Submitted into Contest #16 in response to: Write a story that involves love at first sight.... view prompt

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Romance

    The first thing I noticed about him were his eyes. Yes, that’s a cliché, I know. But honestly, his eyes were beautiful. They were a light brown, and they glowed in the sun when it hit them. He had the softest blond hair, that curved over his skin in wavy locks. But I never loved him for just his looks. It was his personality- he was sweet, loyal, and was always wanting to make me happy. I loved him from the time I first saw him. And that’s why I adopted him! His name is Lenny, and he’s my Golden Retriever.

    I remember the day I adopted him. He was sitting on a worn blanket behind rusty wires. His almond eyes peeked out at me from behind a shag of fluffy golden fur. I don’t know what made me so compelled at that moment to tell my mom that it was him. He was my doggo- my very best boy. “Lenny,” my mom says, staring at the tag attached to the wires of his cage. “You’re sure sweetie? He’s the one you want? We haven’t even seen the rest of the other dogs!” “Yeah, mom. I’m sure. Believe me.” I smile down at Lenny. “Come on, boy. It’s time to go home.”

    I’m staring at my future pet as a shelter worker unlocks the cage and leashes him up. The worker seems to be around seventeen or eighteen, maybe a junior in high school. He’s pretty good-looking, with dark hair and a splash of freckles across his nose. What does get my attention, however, are his eyes. They are just like Lenny’s- almond brown and sparkly. I catch myself wondering if he’s my age.

   He hands my mother the leash and gives her a clipboard laden with thick paperwork. I glimpse at a cheap metal tag attached to the worker’s polo shirt. It reads: “Aiden.”” Aiden” I think. “Huh. It’s not the most unattractive name I’ve ever heard.” He grins at my mom and I and then turns to leave. “You can turn in your paperwork at the front desk. The shelter requires the names and phone numbers of three of your friends so we can make reference calls. Let me know if you have any questions.” He walks off toward the front of the shelter, leaving me speechless.

   “Haleigh, look at him! Look what a good boy he is,” my mom says, crouching on the floor petting Lenny. I chuckle softly. “Mom! Don’t spoil him so soon.” “Maybe we could stop at Petco on the way back... some toys? Food? A bed? Halloween is coming up, Haleigh. He needs a costume,” mom mumbles absentmindedly. “Okay, mom. But first paperwork. Let’s take Lenny home by legality, not thievery.”

     Soon Mom finished the paperwork. I watched as she flourished her signature on the bottom of a pink form. “Alright, Hals. That’s it.” She stands up and dusts herself off. “Vamos.” I follow her out the door at the front of the room. We step into the reception area.

     To the left is a room full of cats in kennels. I watch two (who are roaming the room’s floor) play with a fake mouse. Their paws bat at it eagerly, waiting for it to come to life and try to flee.

      To the right of the room, a large alcove juts out of the wall. A desk protrudes from the alcove. Standing behind it is Aiden, talking on an old, blocky, gray phone. I hear Lenny whimper at my mom’s side, straining at the leash. “Aw, mom,” I whisper. “He wants to go home.” Mom smiles and nods, glancing down at him. Her beautiful, tan face is full of love as he sits at her feet.

      My attention turns to Aiden, who seems to be finishing up his phone call. I watch his hand gripping the receiver. I look at his hair, one piece curling down over his forehead. His eyes, mischievous and smiling, glisten gently. Suddenly, he turns and catches me look at him. Oh. Oh no. Uncomfortable, he quickly averts his eyes and glances down at the phone, which he places on a matching gray stand. I feel color slide up my neck and into my cheeks. Oh no.

         “Mrs. Andrews,” he says, a friendly smile on his lips as he looks at mom. All the traces of uncomfortableness are gone from his face. “Finished up the paperwork?” Mom nods, ripping her eyes away from Lenny. “Yes, thank you. The references...?” “All good. Lenny’s yours! Believe me, I’m glad to see him find a home. He’s a good dog.” Aiden steps out from behind the alcove, exiting a thick wooden door. My heart races as he steps closer. I think he must’ve noticed my panicked energy, because he stops a few feet away from my mom. “I-I was just going to tell Lenny goodbye. If you don’t mind, of course.” “Oh yes! Go right ahead,” mom says. Aiden pats Lenny on the head gently. “Bye, boy. I think you’ve found a good home.” He turns to my mom. “Here’s our number. Let me know if you have any questions.” He turns to leave, but then stops and looks right in my eyes. And I mean right in my eyes. His lips curve gently into the starts of a smile. Then all of the sudden he’s back behind the counter. Like magic.

           “Haleigh,” my mom says gently. I look and she’s at the door. I know that twinkle in her eyes. She knows exactly what’s happening. “Let’s go, sweetie.” I dart out the door, about as embarrassed as humanly possible. Lenny’s nails click on the pavement as the two follow after me. I dash to the car, a human bullet, and strap myself into the front seat. “Mom, you stay in the back with Lenny. I’ll drive. Petco, you said?”

              Mom is oddly silent on the way home. Every time I glance back at her, she’s grinning at Lenny. I sigh. I know it’s not Lenny that’s making her grin.

              The following days go by quickly. Junior year for me is busy. Between researching colleges, volleyball meets, and schoolwork, the next few weeks pass by so fast! Especially since I go to a magnet school (Denielle High, a marine biology school for juniors and seniors), I usually have lots of homework and no free time. What little time I do have is reserved for weekly volleyball practice. Overall, my life is pretty busy. The funny thing is, I’m okay with that. I’m the kind of person that has to always keep their hands busy. School does that for me. So does volleyball. And so that’s why when mom handed me the flyer three weeks after I got Lenny, I was incredulous.

          I’m sitting at the kitchen counter, doing science homework when she hands it to me. “Where in the world did you get this?” I squeak, looking at the fine print on the flyer’s front. It’s very cheap; a blue background and a green border decorate the area around the words. “Restinbrooke Animal Shelter” is in large font. Underneath, in smaller print, it says: “Help needed, part-time.” It then lists the shelter’s number and address, and a link for an application paper. “Oh no,” I say, looking up at my mom. “No. No, no, no, no. Mom...” She grins at me, a mischievous glint in her eyes. “Come on, sweetie... with us paying your tuition for Deinelle, you might want to think about college payments...” I roll my eyes at her words. “Mom. No. I have no time for a job whatsoever, and you know it!”

             “That’s where you’re wrong.”

             “What?”

             “Volleyball season is almost over. Your last game of the season is next weekend! And, it’s a part-time job. You could work whenever you’re available. Just think about it.”

            I sigh. I know what mom’s up to, and I’m not going to fall for it. There’s no way I will. Me and Aiden? Pshhhhh. Never. But then again... College. Wait...

  “Hal?” Mom presses.

  “Fine! I’ll do it!” I cry, exasperated. Oh boy. What have I done? I think.

   Applying goes smoothly. With all of my achievements put down on that form, it’s no big surprise when I get an email from the shelter accepting me for the job. My hours are five to seven p.m., no big deal since I start work the week after my final volleyball game. And my uniform happens to fit perfectly. No matter how much I fight it, I cannot shake the fact that this feels right.

   Two weeks later, I drive to the shelter after a rigorous afternoon of homework. Aiden greets me at the door as soon as I walk in. I have to fight to keep down the panicky feeling in my stomach. Forcing deep breaths, I greet him back. “Hi, Aiden.” He grins back. “Hey...Haleigh.” I feel his eyes search my nametag, feeling strangely self-conscious the whole time. Again he flashes a devastating grin. “Ok, new recruit. Follow me.” I smile stupidly as he leads me into the backroom where I first saw Lenny. “Your job is simple- feed each dog their specific amount (you’ll see that on the tag underneath their name, here) and let them eat for fifteen minutes. Then take them to the outside to play in the back for an hour. Once an hour is up, bring ‘em in and make sure they’re cozy in their beds. Now, here’s the doggos that need medicine in their food.” He leads me around the room, laughing and smiling at the dogs as he introduces them. It is then that I realize how much I love it all- him, the dogs, this place. I know I fit in here.

   After about fifteen minutes, Aiden returns to his desk. I glance at him as he walks away. As if he can feel my eyes on him, he turns around and looks at me. “You going to work now?” He says playfully. I nod, color rising in my cheeks.

    After school, I do my homework as fast as humanly possible so that I can work a few hours overtime at the shelter. I learn to love the dogs. Even if they’re bratty or misbehaved, they’ve still got character. Sometimes people would adopt one or two animals. I watched cats and dogs find homes. Animals came and went, but one thing remained the same. Aiden.

     It started a week after I’d first began work.  He’d come in and oversee me working- I’d always thought it was to evaluate me or make sure I was on task. But each day he came in for a little longer. Eventually, (on less busy days) he’d come sit with me my whole shift. It was never uncomfortable for either of us. He’d make perfect conversation. I loved how he always knew exactly what to say, even when I didn’t. He was... perfect. And I realized soon that I’d completely fallen for him.

   One night, after a particularly long shift, he walked me out to my car. “This is yours?” He quizzes, gesturing to the old jeep that I drive to work every day. “Yeah. My parents bought it for my sixteenth birthday. It’s my baby. Well, besides Lenny.” He chuckles. “Yeah. It’s really nice.” He looks at the car, a distance in his eyes that makes it hard for me to read his expression. “You really love Lenny, huh?” His eyes. Again. Looking at me. Right in the face. I suddenly find it hard to breathe. “Um, yeah. Yeah, of course!” He smiles and looks into my eyes. They sparkle in the moon-light, almond- colored and bright brown. “Haleigh... do you maybe want to have dinner with me sometime?” I’m bewildered. Absolutely shocked. My mouth opens before I speak. I’m sure I look like a gasping fish. Oh. My. Goodness. “Yes. Aiden, yes!” A warm feeling runs through me and I smile. Aiden looks happy and confident. “Good. I’ll see you tomorrow?” “Yep.” Before I run to the jeep, I spring onto my tip-toes and kiss him on the cheek. He stands in front of the shelter, paralyzed with shock. Color forms in his cheeks. He waves at me, dumbfounded, as I open the door and climb into the car. As I start the ignition, there is something in my heart that tells me this is only the beginning.

   

 

November 22, 2019 22:23

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3 comments

Yoomi Ari
17:53 Nov 29, 2019

Glad to have inspired you!

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Yoomi Ari
22:43 Nov 27, 2019

Just beautiful and amazing. No other words could form this wonderful story. Great job👍

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Jayden Mendez
13:38 Nov 29, 2019

Thank you so much! This is my first time entering a writing contest. Thank you for inspiring me to write more!

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