I don’t often write short stories these days, but here is one I wrote in 2018, which was inspired by this picture of this black labrador pup. Lucy, with a difficult childhood and a failed relationship behind her, has finally, found the one.
Hi, Jack, I’m home! It’s been such a long, hot day and I’ve missed you so much. Thank goodness we’ve got the weekend to chill together. Just give me five minutes to change into something cooler, then we can take a stroll by the river.
I thought we could stop at the Cutty Sark for a drink and something to eat; I really can’t be bothered to cook. Jennie rang me earlier to say that she would be there with your mum and suggested that we should join them.
It’s glorious, isn’t it? A perfect July day, balmy with a hint of a breeze, very much like the first day we met. Do you remember? You did that impossibly irresistible thing you do with your eyes.
It should have been my first summer of love with the ridiculous Atticus Ridley. Why his parents chose to call him after an ancient Greek philosopher is a mystery. Looking back, I think his Christian name affected him psychologically, especially at school, when his classmates nicknamed him Abacus. Mind you, he was brilliant with figures even as a child, which I suppose is why he became an accountant. Then there was his OCD problem… an obsession with cleaning. The upside of that was I never had to lift a finger in the housework department.
Given all his faults, his obsessions and his anxieties, I still put up with him until he went off with our dentist. She was my dentist, you know. I introduced him, but I should have realised that there are only so many visits you need to have to sort out a root canal.
Who would have thought that the baby-faced Attie would turn out to be an adulterous accountant? Being unfaithful is something I’ve never been able to stomach, so I kicked him out. Good riddance is what I say, out of my life and into the dentist’s chair. Still, he will have near-perfect teeth for the rest of his life if he manages to stay faithful to the tooth-yanker. Mind you, after what he did to me; I hope all his bloody teeth fall out.
I was still coming to terms with what Atticus had done when Jennie asked me over for a glass of Pimms. As I walked up the garden path to the front door, I saw you for the very first time. You were on the lawn, lying on your back with your eyes closed and chewing on a blade of grass, not a care in the world.
Jennie came to the door, and the sound of our voices disturbed you. You sat up, blinking your eyes open against the glare of the sun.
‘That’s him,’ she whispered.
I turned to look at you again, and it was your eyes that grabbed my attention. The way you looked at me made my heart flutter under my ribcage. I dismissed it as indigestion because my heart had never reacted like that before, or since when meeting someone for the first time. Jennie called over to you.
‘Jack! This is the lovely Lucy. The one I’ve been telling you about.’
There’s no need to shout! I hissed, and I gave you a ridiculously silly little wave.
You got to your feet to acknowledge my presence, still holding my gaze. I think you hypnotised me. I allowed myself to be sucked into the deep, limpid pools of your cocoa-coloured irises until your mother distracted you, and I went into the house with Jennie.
‘He could very easily be the one, he’s so adorable,’ Jennie said, pouring me a glass of Pimms. Don’t be so ridiculous! II said, forcing a belly laugh. Loud enough to convince myself that I didn’t need another man in my life. Not then, not ever, believing that all of the males of the species would be like Attie, not necessarily an accountant, but unfaithful.
We went outside to drink our Pimms and somehow, without me noticing, you were there, sitting so close I could feel your warmth against my leg. Jennie smiled and raised her eyebrows. You know, an irritating, knowing sort of expression, which I returned with a slight roll of my eyes, before turning my attention to you.
You gave me that look again, your beautiful dark brown eyes, intense and staring. This time, my heart cartwheeled inside my chest, and that was the moment I really knew you were the one. I promised to spend time with you the following day and the rest, as they say, is history.
We’ve been through so much together since then, haven’t we? That dreadful holiday with my darling little sister in Cornwall when she spent the whole time picking fights with her ghastly ex-boyfriend. At least we managed to escape some of the tedious verbal skirmishes by going for very long walks. Thank God she lives in Australia now and we don’t have to meet up with her at all.
I find it hard to believe we are sisters, we’re not remotely alike, and we have nothing in common. She was irritating as a child and insufferable as an adult. Mummy, God rest her soul, had a little fling with Bernie Armitage while daddy was on secondment to the New York office. I was only six at the time, but I do remember ‘Uncle’ Bernie always being at home when I got back from school.
After dad came home and found out that mum was pregnant, he didn’t seem very pleased. That’s when the awful rows started. I couldn’t understand why he was so cross at the time, I thought he would have been excited at the prospect of being a father again, but it all makes sense to me now. Even though Daddy, unlike Attie, was never great at mental or any other kind of arithmetic. But he managed to work out how many weeks had actually passed since he and my mother last, you know, did it and the figures wouldn’t have added up. So, dad left home because, like me, he didn’t take infidelity well. But I never forgave him for leaving me behind with my adulterous mother and my super-annoying little sister.
Last year was the worst, though, wasn’t it? When both mum and dad died, and my darling sister couldn’t be bothered to return to the UK for either funeral. ‘What the point,’ she said. ‘They’re dead. They won’t know if I’m there or not.’ She should try coping with the aftermath of a death, twice, six months apart.
But you Jack, you’re my rock, did I ever tell you that? Well, you are. And it’s important to me that you should know that. Once you and I were together, Attie was soon archived in my dim and distant past, and you’ve seen me through all the dark times since then, with your unfailing love and support.
So I don’t care when you come home muddy and filthy after chasing a silly football around the ‘Rec’ all afternoon. You are so very different from the squeaky clean adulterous accountant, and I love you for that! I’ve even put up with your, sometimes, unsavoury, eating habits in front of the telly. And we’ve come to know what foods cause you prolonged periods of flatulence, haven’t we?
You know why I put up with all these things, don’t you? Of course, you do! You don’t need me to tell you that I love you unconditionally, because you know, just from looking in my eyes. We only need to look into each other’s eyes to know exactly how the other is feeling.
Jennie will always be my very best friend forever because she introduced us and she was right, you were and are the one. I have never felt so close to anyone in my entire life, and you saved yourself just for me.
Jennie told me you were shy and hated meeting new people. The first time she ever saw you take an interest in anybody was when I walked up the garden path that evening. And look at you now, you are my constant companion, no longer shy, and the word unfaithful doesn’t even exist in your vocabulary.
I’m so lucky to have the handsome you sharing my life. Wherever we go people stop and say isn’t he gorgeous. They all fell in love with you at the vets when you had your little op, and you were such a brave boy.
Oh, look… there are Jennie and your mum now waiting for us. I think she can smell you from here, because she’s getting very excited, bless her. I’ve never seen a tail wag so fast! Go on… what are you waiting for? Go and say hello to your lovely mummy.