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Excerpt for A Dog in the Manger Part One by , available in its entirety at Smashwords





A Dog in the Manger Part One



Victoria Wallin




A Dog in the Manger Part One


Copyright © 2017 Victoria Wallin


Smashwords Edition


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written admission of the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed by a newspaper, blog or other social media.



All characters appearing in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons is coincidental.






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Detective Patrone Series Collection: Books 1 & 2



Table of Contents


Arrival of the Brute


Like a Walk in the Park


Super-model-new-(boy) friend?


A Neighbor in Need is a Friend Indeed


Sunday-going-on-Monday



About the Author


1. Arrival of the Brute


Trish had to rush to the subway to make it before the doors closed. She jumped into the car with mere seconds to spare, which made the other passengers give her surprised and/or annoyed looks. She didn’t care. She’d had a long busy day at work, she felt exhausted, she couldn’t wait to get home and take a long hot bath. Then she suddenly remembered, she had to get to the airport. The long, hot bath would have to be a quick shower. She sighed.

Her aunt Sally had sadly passed away suddenly the previous week, after a car accident. She’d lived in Oregon for many years, so Trish hadn’t seen her for ages, hardly knew her to tell the truth. She was surprised when she learned that Sally had picked her to take care of her dog Brutus. Trish wasn’t a dog person; she lived in a town and had a demanding job. Sure, she could work from home sometimes if she wanted to, well, sometimes she had to, her boss kept giving her more and more work, the office hours just weren’t enough anymore to him.

When her cousin Jules, her mom’s second sister Marjorie’s daughter, had offered to take the dog she had been tempted to accept. It was typical Jules, the good girl in the family, the one who always did the right thing, who had excelled at college, was married to a lawyer and lived in a nice big house. Trish wouldn’t be a bit surprised if she volunteered to read to blind children at the hospital. No, she wasn’t going to give Jules the satisfaction to play goody-two-shoes yet again, and make Trish look like the black-unaccomplished-sheep in the family again, like she always did. It was her bloody turn to save the day, she’d rescue the darn dog, though she really didn’t have the time, didn’t care for or had any previous experience taking care of a dog.

How hard could it be? She could probably bring the poor bastard to work in her handbag, she’d seen women running around in the city with cute little dogs in their bags. She was curious to know what it would look like, if it was a fluffy little thing like the one Lisa Vanderpump carried under her arm in Vanderpump Rules. Lisa was a renowned business woman, running several successful restaurants. If she had the time to be a dog owner so could she, Trish reasoned. Or perhaps it would be one of those French Bulldogs that everyone was posing with on Instagram these days, they always looked so calm and cute with their faces all pressed together as if they’d been hit by a car. Not very handbag-friendly, they had quite sturdy bodies, but… Well, she was going to find out tonight any way.

Her mom and dad lived outside of Fairview in a house on the countryside, and it would have been ideal for the dog, except her dad was very allergic. That also meant Trish could not expect a ride to the airport to pick up the dog, since it was just her dad who had a driver’s license in the family. So she had to take the train, which took over an hour, among stressed-out people with a lot of luggage and “travel brain”, that level of stress where people may or may not have forgotten to put the stove off.

Trish was also stressed, her boss had made her work late again, even though it was a Friday. She was an assistant to a marketing exec, Mr. Marshall, and he had suddenly needed help with a power point presentation for a meeting Monday morning. There was a lot of unexpected, last minute assignments coming her way lately, her boss said their business was expanding, but a lot of times she thought he just handed things over to her because he could. She had been working there for two years now, straight out of college. She was twenty-four, well she was turning twenty-five in six months. Halfway to thirty. No boyfriend, not even an office flirt, not that she had time for one either, she thought.

After a quick shower and a touch up of her makeup, she hopped on the train to the airport to pick up her aunt’s dog Brutus. She’d bought a sandwich which she ate while being stared at by a five-year-old boy in the seat in front of her who kept kicking her on the knees with his boots the entire trip. The boy’s mom kept looking the other way as Trish was squirming in her seat, trying to angle her knees out of reach, with no luck. Needless to say she was in a bad mood arriving at the airport, being run over by people’s suitcases and getting shoulder bags swung against her thighs in the rushed crowd, she wondered how many bruises her legs were going to have the next day. Just my luck, she thought.

Trish had got the flight info from her mom and went straight to the arrival department, a large hall on the first floor. She was getting excited now, where was her cute little pup? She looked around the tanned people coming in from various parts of the world. Over in one of the far corners was a large travel box on the stone floor and a man standing next to it dressed in airport working clothes, holding some papers. She was going to walk over and talk to him, ask him where her little doggo was. The man nodded at her as she approached him.

“You Patricia Berringer?” the man asked as if he had better things to do.

Ehr, yes,” she said, and looked at the dog in the box. To her sheer surprise, and slight panic, the dog that was in the travel box was a huge white dog that looked like Scooby-Doo with floppy ears and droopy cheeks. The large beast had to lie down in the compartmental cage to even fit in it. “Uhm, I’m here to pick up a dog named Brutus, from Oregon?” she said and stared at the man. There must have been a mistake.

Yup, that’s the one. Sign here, please,” the airport representative told her and held out a form, which she looked at a bit dumbfounded, but signed. There was no way out now. She watched the man open the box and let the enormous dog out. It crawled out and wagged its big tail, it yawned and stretched its huge body. The man put a leash the size of a thick rope on the dog’s collar and handed it to Trish. “Good luck,” he said and drove away with the empty travel box on a small vehicle.

Trish stood there with the leash in one hand and stared at the dog and took a step back when it started sniffing her leg and then licked her hand. The dog’s tongue was wet and sloppy and she immediately pulled her hand away. This dog was way more than she could handle. What if it was aggressive? She could die. Brutus started sniffing the stone floors and pulled away on the leash. He was strong, Trish lost her balance and took a few steps after him. Gosh, where was he going? She yanked the leash a bit with both hands, her heart racing, and the dog stopped and turned to look at her.

Good boy,” she exhaled. All right, it was going to be all right, she thought to herself, trying not to panic. “Let’s find the exit, sweetie,” she murmured and looked around. “Come on, this way,” she said and pulled the large animal along. Great, she was already talking to the dog, like one of those crazy cat ladies.

The train ride home was an even bigger nightmare than getting to the airport. Brutus was crammed in among heavy luggage and rude people and he was whimpering from all the new situations he had been put in. He squealed when some guy standing in the ally accidentally stepped on Brutus’ tail. Trish’s maternal instincts kicked in.

Hey! Watch where you put you big feet!” she yelled, then instantly felt ashamed. She could feel her face turning red.

Sorry!” the guy said with a scared look on his face. Trish couldn’t tell if he was afraid of her or Brutus. She was sweating profusely from all the stress and the crowded train, she had no more patience for rude people, her face was blushing.

When they finally got home to Fairview Brutus was shaking from the stress on the flight and the train ride and pulled hard on the leash, panting, striving forward. Trish had to use all her strength to pull him back on the rope-like leash. She had stepped off the subway a stop early and walked the rest of the way, so the dog could get some fresh air and do his business.

As they entered her apartment building she met one of her neighbors. She had forgotten he also had a dog. It looked like a miniature Lassie, and now it was sniffing Brutus who looked a bit defensive.

“Hello,” the neighbor said in a friendly manner. “Well now, have you got yourself a dog?” he asked politely. The man was always friendly and said hello to her. He was in his sixties and looked like a mix between Donald Sutherland and Alan Rickman with a full head of white hair, blow-dried backwards and a long nose which made him a very noble-looking man.

“I sort of do,” she said with a tired smile. “My aunt passed away, so I’m stuck with this one from now on,” she said.

“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that, darling,” he said empathetically. “Well, you’ve got your hands full. I’ll see you around,” he said and they parted ways.

“Thanks,” was all she could muster.

Trish was so exhausted when they finally made it inside her apartment that she just dropped everything in the hallway and went to lie down on her couch for a while. Brutus walked around her tiny apartment by himself, Trish could hear his clicking steps on the floor. When he was drinking water in the kitchen she suddenly remembered she had bought very small bowls, one for water and one for food for the little Pomeranian she thought she was getting. She got up and rummaged around the kitchen cabinet for a while and got out a large salad bowl out of stainless steel and filled it with water and replaced it with the tiny bowl on the floor.

Better, hu?” she asked Brutus who wagged his tail and licked her hand and she pulled it away from him. She wasn’t sure if he had eaten but decided it was best to give him something, so she brought out a matching salad bowl but one size smaller than the water bowl and poured some Kibble in it. Brutus devoured the food. Trish made a mental note to buy larger bags of Kibble. “What are we going to do with you?” she mumbled.

It was Friday so she’d have the weekend to figure out what to do with Brutus while she was at work on Monday. It was clear she could not bring him to work, like she originally had planned. Maybe they had doggy daycare somewhere? She would worry about that the next day, it was too much to ponder on today. All she wanted to do now was order a pizza and lie on the couch and watch Dancing with the Stars.

Brutus was either sleeping on the floor or wandering around the apartment whimpering. He probably missed her aunt, Trish thought, and felt bad for him.

I know, sweetie. Everything’s going to be all right,” she assured him. But was it, really? She couldn’t help but feel a bit of panic in her stomach area.



2. Like a Walk in the Park



The next morning Trish was so exhausted she could hardly get dressed. She felt she had hardly slept at all, which was close to the truth. The dog had whimpered half through the night. It was suddenly difficult to put one leg at a time through her jeans.

Brutus had woken her up in the morning by licking her in the face and when she opened her eyes he just stood there wagging his tail and giving her an excited bark. She had mustered up enough energy to look at her alarm clock beside her bed. It was around eight am. Well, the dog probably needed to go to the bathroom, and so did she. She peed quickly and then rushed outside for a stroll around the block so Brutus could do his business too.

She wasn’t used to being outside this early and being so… unprepared. She hadn’t even washed her face or her teeth for God’s sake. She never left her house with her makeup on - which was probably fortunate this time because no one would recognize her, she thought to herself. There were other people out walking their dogs too. A lot of them were wearing sunglasses, she noticed. How clever. Next time she was going to wear shades too, even though it was April and cold and foggy outside.

Walking a large dog like Brutus was a challenge on the narrow pavements with patches of grass around the block. He was a curious one, wanted to sniff people and got very excited to see other dogs and pulled hard on the leash. To her knowledge, her aunt Sally had lived in a house on the countryside, so Brutus was probably not used to seeing so many people, and it would explain why he didn’t seem used to be walking on a leash. Trish was thankful that he seemed to be a nice and friendly dog, he hadn’t been aggressive at all so far.

Her mother had called the previous night while she was lying half unconscious on the couch, wanting to know how everything was going. Trish had wanted to tell her mom that it was a disaster, that her cousin could have the dog and save the day, but something had made her bite her tongue and reassured her that everything was just dandy. She wasn’t going to give up so easily.

Trish’s thoughts were interrupted when Brutus suddenly started walking in a circle and arched his back. What on earth was he doing, she thought, and then it became obvious when an enormous pile of poo landed on the pavement in front of her. Trish was baffled that a dog could dump such a huge load, it looked like human feces. Brutus finished and took a few steps and then scratched the ground with his paws, as if to clean them and wagged his tail and then snorted.

You aare going to pick that up, aren’t you, young lady?” a sharp voice made her twitch. It was an elderly woman who had come walking behind her with a tiny black poodle on a thin leash. Trish didn’t know what to say. Was she supposed to pick that up?? Was this lady completely crazy? She opened her mouth but nothing came out, she was so baffled. The woman pulled out a black plastic bag from her coat pocket. “Here, you can take this. We all run out of bags sometimes, don’t we?” the woman said with a sigh. “Hope you learned your lesson and bring two next time,” she snapped and walked on, the little poodle was dancing along after its master.

Trish looked at the pile on the ground and opened the black plastic bag. The poo was warm, it was reeking and vaporizing in the cold air. How did people do this? She opened the bag and put it on the ground in front of the poo. She looked for a stick or something on the ground and found a small twig and tried to scoop the poo inside the bag. The twig broke in half, but she had managed to get half of it inside. That would have to do. She quickly stood up holding the bag with two fingers and walked away from the scene of the crime. Thankfully she didn’t have to go far to reach a garbage bin to drop the evidence bag in. The smell was horrendous. She half-walked half-ran away from it, Brutus jumping up and down beside her, he thought she wanted to play.


***


Trish lived close to a park where she figured she could let Brutus get some exercise in the afternoon. After having fed him and eaten some breakfast of her own she had taken a long, warm shower to get rid of the smell from the poo that she imagined lingered on her very being. She carefully moisturized her body with an expensive perfumed body lotion she had splurged on, and put her makeup on and blow-dried her hair. She decided she would then curl her hair in soft waves with her curling iron. By the time she was done it was lunch time.

She ate the left over pizza from last night, texted her mom, assuring her everything was going great, and complained to her closest friends Alison and Melissa in a Facebook group chat about the hardships of being a new dog owner, and that her life as she had known it was now over. “I don’t know when I’ll be able to see you again, I’m afraid to leave him alone in the apartment, and I have absolutely NO plan for how I’ll be able to go to work on Monday. FML,” she typed with her long polished nails clicking on her cell. Her friends were secretly horrified but assured her it was just a temporary time of adjustment, and that everything was going to be fine. “We’ll visit you!” Mel wrote. “Yeah, he’ll get used to his new life living the city life,” Ali put in. Trish sure hoped so.



3. Super-model-new-(boy) friend?



After lunch Trish put on her track suit from Puma and her new pink Adidas and left for a walk in the park with Brutus. He sure was a handful, jumping, pulling on the leash, sniffing the ground.

She had cancelled her yoga class she always took on Saturdays since she was afraid to leave Brutus alone in her apartment. She had so much anxiety about Monday when she had to go to work. What if he barked all day and destroyed her apartment? Or ate something bad? The stress of it all was too much for her, she could barely keep herself from crying.

Her thoughts were pushed to the side as she noticed a guy with a fierce-looking dog was coming closer in front of her on the graveled pathway. She got a bit nervous, because Brutus tail was up and his entire body had sort of stiffened. She got a tighter grip on the leash and hoped the other dog wouldn’t attack. It looked like a pit bull.

Trish took a quick look at the guy. He wasn’t holding on to his leash very hard and she held her breath as he let his dog approach Brutus when they met. The two dogs stopped and sniffed each other’s noses and butts, tails wagging, which she assumed was a good thing. Trish exhaled a bit and gave the guy a polite little smile. He had green or blue eyes underneath a blue baseball cap and he looked curiously at her, which made her uncomfortable, even though she had her makeup on and her hair done, which usually empowered her.

That’s a lot of dog you got there,” the guy said with a deep voice and nodded towards Brutus who was twice the size of his dog.

He’s quite a handful,” Trish answered with a grimace. The two dogs took part in a little dance of going around each other in a circle sniffing each other, which totally got their leashes tangled. The guy, who was really hot Trish noticed, quickly and smoothly detangled them by changing hands and pulling his dog’s leash underneath Brutus’. “Oh,” she said, and then felt utterly stupid. The hot guy gave her a little smile and looked at her with curiosity again. He looked like a freaking model, she thought, with deep set green eyes, maybe blue, and a wide square jaw with a perfect stubble.

I haven’t seen you around here before, did you just move here?” he asked. Trish couldn’t hide her sheer surprise, which he noticed and explained: “I walk my dog here basically every day, so I recognize other dogs and their owners,” he said.

Oh, right, yes of course,” she said. “Well, no, I’ve lived here for a few years now, just up the street, but Brutus here is new,” she told him.

Oh, did you adopt him?” the hot guy asked and seemed impressed with her.

No, he belonged to my aunt. She died,” Trish said and stroked a few strings of her hair away that flew into her face by the wind.

Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” he said more seriously, with that deep voice.

Thanks. We weren’t close,” she said, not knowing why she felt she had to tell him that. He looked at her.

“Close enough if she trusted you with her dog,” he said with a friendly look on his face. Trish slowly nodded and didn’t know how to respond to that.

I’m afraid I’ll let her down, ‘cause, frankly, I have no idea what I’m doing,” she confessed. It felt good letting some of her panic out. The hot guy looked down at the dogs that were jumping around a bit, trying to play with each other.

Well, these two seem to be friends now,” he said with a crooked smile. “There’s a dog park behind the hill over there, do you want to come along, let them play a bit?” he suggested. “I’m Nick by the way,” he said with a wide smile that almost took her breath away. He had perfect teeth. She nodded and collected herself.

“Yeah, that sounds great. I’m Trish,” she answered and let him take the lead.

This is Jack,” he added and looked down at his grey pit bull as they walked side by side toward the dog park. His dog had a happy grin on its face, trotting along like a good boy. Brutus was pulling the leash again.

“Oh. Hi Jack,” she said to his dog. “My dog’s name is Brutus,” she added and yanked the leash.

“It suits him, he’s a giant,” Nick said impressed. “What breed is he?” he asked.

I have no idea,” Trish admitted. “I thought I was getting a Pomeranian,” she admitted. Nick laughed. He had a nice smile. Trish laughed too. It felt good to laugh at the situation.

“When did you get him?” he asked.

Yesterday,” she said and then started laughing again, even harder, it all sounded so insane. Nick laughed too, she wasn’t sure if it was with her or at her. “I’m sorry, it’s been a crazy twenty-four hours,” she gasped between the hysterical outbursts of laughter. She wiped tears off her face. Nick looked amused underneath his cap.

They soon reached the dog park, a fenced rectangular area, which Trish hadn’t even known existed. It had at sign on the gate that said to keep the gate closed. There were no other people there but them.

“Take off his collar,” Nick instructed her.

“Not just the leash?” Trish asked.

“They can get stuck with their teeth when they play,” Nick explained and eased his dog’s neck and head out of the collar. The pit bull started sniffing the ground. She took off Brutus’ collar too with some trepidation and watched him trot away.

Don’t worry, they can’t get out,” Nick assured her. She had no other choice but to trust him. The two dogs started playing and they stood there watching them chase each other around and play-wrestle. Trish suddenly felt shy and glanced at Nick. The sunlight made his light green eyes that were darker around the edges look almost supernatural. She was jealous of his long, thick and dark eyelashes and thought about how unfair it was that guys always looked so perfect while women needed makeup. Her own eyelashes and eyebrows were bleached by the sun and she looked like she didn’t have any eyelashes or eyebrows at all without makeup on, like a cancer patient. She knew it wasn’t fair to think like that, her aunt had died of cancer for God’s sake. She tried to come up with something to say to break the awkward silence that was building between them, standing there watching the dogs play.

“So, what do you do?” she asked, and instantly wanted to kick herself for asking the most boring question ever. She was terrible with small talk. He glanced at her.

Um, I recently finished uni so right now I’m sort of floating around, taking some time off. I do a bit of modeling, which is great, because then I get to travel, which I love,” he said and put his hands in his jeans pockets in a vulnerable way. Of course, he was a model! People who looked like him were surely stopped in the street by photographers and model scouts, or whatever.

Oh, wow, that’s…that sounds great,” she stuttered and pulled that annoying string of hair that kept flying around in her face behind one ear. Thank God she had put on makeup today and done her hair properly, she thought to herself.

What about you?” Nick asked politely. She felt shy.

“I’m an assistant to a marketing exec,” she said. He would probably think she was dead-boring.

“Wow, that sounds like a lot of fun,” he said and glanced at her. She tried to hide her surprise.

“It can be. Mostly, it’s a lot of work,” she sighed. He nodded. “My boss is very demanding,” she added. She immediately regretted telling him that. She had to stop pouring her heart out to strangers, she thought.

“Really?” he asked.

Yeah, I have to work late all the time,” she went on. Stop talking, she tried to tell herself. She always blabbed when she was nervous.

“That sucks,” Nick said. How kind of him, she thought.

They watched the dogs play for a while longer. Nick brought out a tennis ball from his pocket and started throwing it, which the dogs loved. After a half an hour Nick said he had to get back home.

“Yeah, of course,” Trish said, but the truth was she would gladly have stayed longer. “Well thanks for the company,” she added and smiled at him.

Anytime,” he said and gave her a wide smile that made her weak in the knees. “Actually, look me up on Facebook. I’d be happy to help if you need to ask any dog-related questions or anything,” he slowly added. “It’s Nick Haley,” he continued.

Nick Haley,” she echoed. She had to remember that. She brought out her phone from her jacket in slight panic.

“Oh, give me that,” he said. “I’ll just add myself,” he smiled. She gave him her phone and he tapped away on it and then gave it back to her. “There you go, friend request sent,” he said and brought out his own phone and tapped on it a few times. “And accepted,” he grinned.

“Great!” was all she could say.

See ya,” he said and took off in the opposite direction. She slowly walked back towards her apartment, and turned around to watch Nick and Jack get smaller and smaller until they disappeared.


***


She had walked Brutus for over an hour and got back to her apartment again, after having bought new take away food at the Thai place nearby. She was too afraid to bring the dog to the supermarket and having him tied up, waiting outside. What if he got loose and ran away? What if he attacked someone who came up and wanted to pet him? Maybe tomorrow she would get the nerve to leave him alone in the apartment for an hour to do a grocery run. She had got dinner for two from the Thai, for lunch tomorrow, just in case.

She had put the large bowl of stainless steel filled with fresh water in the kitchenette for him and after their walk Brutus drank with a loud, splashing sound. There was water dripping from his mouth and lips as he walked back into her living room, leaving wet drops on the floor, to her dismay. Suddenly he shook his head in a high speed which made tiny drops of drool and water splatter all over her room, on the TV, on the TV-bench, on her marble coffee table… Trish felt like crying again. She went and got a paper towel from the kitchen and started cleaning the TV, the bench, the coffee table and the floor. Meanwhile Brutus picked a spot on her carpet, her expensive carpet she had paid a lot for, and laid down and sighed. She should get him a proper dog bed, she thought to herself

Trish was on cloud nine all afternoon, daydreaming of the hunky stranger that had been so nice and helpful to her, and to Brutus. Her mind drifted off as she sat on the sofa after eating her Thai take away lunch.

She got online on Facebook to have a look at his profile. He had 1,252 friends she noticed, to compare with her more modest 211. Guys usually had more friends on social media, she thought. Probably because they did sports growing up, being on different teams, and making new friends that way. Girls who did sports probably had more friends too, she thought. She wasn’t the athletic type. Sure she did yoga or went out for a run, but simply because she had to look good and stay in shape, not because she liked doing it, as a hobby.

She scrolled through some of his photos. Gosh, he was good-looking, she thought. Out of curiosity she scrolled through some of his friends on the friend list. There was an unsettling amount of gorgeous women there. Blondes, brunettes, redheads, you name it. Probably models, too.

She wondered if he was single. A model like him probably had a matching super model girlfriend. She pushed that thought to the side. Maybe he would fall in love with her and she’d be the one with a super model boyfriend, she thought to herself. It wasn’t impossible, she decided. Just look at The 101 Dalmatians. Roger and Anita both had their Dalmatians, Pongo and Perdita, and they met in a park too. It was very romantic. She wondered if it was still on Netflix. She was going to watch it tonight. Indulge in her daydreaming.



4. A Neighbor in Need is a Friend Indeed


After another sleepless night of struggling with Brutus’ whimpering and him wanting to sleep in her bed, a tiny war they had fought until four in the morning, Trish staggered out of bed when she woke up from the dog barking out loud at the front door. He probably needed to take a leak. She was terrified he would pee on her very expensive living room carpet, so she flung over the duvet and got up, her hair looking like a cuckoo’s nest and wobbled out of her bedroom, hand on the wall for support, barely awake, and out into the hall where Brutus greeted her with a wagging tail and a wet tongue. Trish put one foot in her left pink Adidas and pushed her foot down while trying to push Brutus away from her, he was so happy he was moaning and trying to lick her face with his big sloppy tongue.

Ouff,” she said and pushed her right foot in the right Adidas, grabbed the leash on the floor and slid the collar onto Brutus’ white neck. He shook his head and body in excitement and looked up at Trish with his long tongue flapping out of his mouth as she was pressing on a navy padded jacket from Polo with the red emblem on the chest. She was still wearing her pink pajamas with ice cream cones all over it in pastels underneath. It was seven in the morning, who cares? she thought. If Brutus needed to go, he needed to go.

Drunk on sleep she managed to shut the door behind them and tagged along Brutus who ran down the stairs, stumbling and staggering until they were outside. Brutus gave out a snort in the brisk air and pulled on the leash so heavily Trish had to run after him, towards a tree where he could relieve himself. To her dismay male dogs did not just have a good long wee, no, they insisted on spreading it out on about ten trees or more, so she had to take him around the block to make sure his bladder was empty before bringing him up to their apartment again.

Trish was in a grumpy mood having trotted around the neighborhood in her PJs and was looking forward to some coffee and breakfast as she entered the foyer to her building with Brutus slowly walking behind her. He wasn’t as keen on getting back into her cramped living space as she was. She’d take him to the park again in the afternoon, she thought. Maybe she could go for a run. They could both use the exercise, especially she, having had take-outs and pizza all weekend, she thought.

In the middle of the staircase she met her neighbor with the fluffy little collie again. Brutus pulled on the leash as hard as he could to sniff the small elegant dog, his tail wagging from side to side, held high.

“Hi,” she said to the owner who was equally elegant wearing red pants, a white long sleeved shirt – was that cashmere? – and a silk scarf in red and blue paisley pattern, one part hanging down in the front and one part casually thrown over his shoulder.

“Hi, dear, how are you holding up?” the man said with concern in his pale blue eyes. Trish was overwhelmed by the stranger’s genuine concern and got all teary-eyed again.

“Oh, I’ve hardly slept, I don’t know how I’m going to be able to work tomorrow, to be honest,” she confessed with a smile that didn’t reach the eyes.

Oh dear,” he said and shook his head. “You know, I’ve been thinking, me and Cookie here are usually at home all day, so if you need a dog sitter, we’d be happy to help – unless you’ve sorted that out already,” the neighbor said. Trish couldn’t believe her ears.

Wha-at?” she gasped. “Really? That would be so awesome! I’m so afraid to leave him alone,” she confessed. “It’s part of why I can’t sleep,” she added and swallowed a lump in her throat. It had been on her mind constantly since she’d picked Brutus up on Friday.

“Well, I’m taking Cookie out anyways, so it wouldn’t be any trouble bringing Brutus along, I’m sure,” the man said with a shrug, as if it was nothing.

“That’s so nice of you,” she said, shaking her head in bewilderment. “You’re a life saver,” she said looking him in the eye. She really meant it. He smiled.

I’d be happy to help,” he said. “Why don’t you pop by later this evening with Brutus, so the two of them can get more acquainted?” he suggested. “I’m Steven, by the way,” he said and held his right hand to her. She shook it hard, she was so happy.

Sounds great! I’m Trish!” she smiled, eyes sparkling.

Splendid! I’ll see you later,” he smiled and they passed each other on the narrow staircase. She was starting to feel like a circus artist managing Brutus in small crowded spaces; it was sometimes like walking on a thin rope covered in Vaseline, hoping you wouldn’t fall, or anyone else for that matter.

Yes, see you guys later,” Trish said walking up the stairs another floor to her apartment. She realized she had just talked to them both, as if Cookie could understand what she was saying. She shook her head at her own behavior. She was definitely becoming one of those crazy cat ladies. But it didn’t matter; she had a dog sitter now! As she closed the door behind her, she made a little jump of joy in the hall of her apartment. Everything was going to be all right. Brutus licked her hand and for once she didn’t pull her hand away in disgust, she scratched his white neck tenderly before removing his collar.


***


After breakfast she got curious and logged on to her Facebook to see what her friends were up to – mainly her new friend Nick. He hadn’t updated his status since Friday where he was having drinks with some friends. How boring, she thought. Then she noticed he was also on Instagram, so she quickly opened her app on her Smartphone to have a look.

Wow, she thought. Nick had over 20,000 followers on his Instagram account. She scrolled through his pics, there were lots of professionally taken photos of him, and quite a few of them were of him without his shirt on. Trish’s heart was beating faster as she went through the pictures. Nick was very fit, with bulging muscles on his shoulders and arms and a perfect six pack. One was a close up of his face and his green eyes were simply luminous and that stare was book cover-worthy. Trish found herself staring at it, mesmerized.

She suddenly felt ashamed, as if she was spying on him, and she put her phone down beside her on her plush sofa. Brutus came over and put his head down on the seat, tail wagging, and glared at her.

What do you want?” she smiled at his dorky, droopy face, his sloppy cheeks spread out. She patted him on the head. Maybe she could take a selfie with Brutus and post it on her Instagram? She pushed the coffee table a bit and called for him.

Come on, Brutus,” she said, patting her leg, to try and lure him over. Brutus happily waved his tail and stood in front of her. “Sit,” she said. Brutus just continued to wag his tail and looked at her. “SIT,” she said more determined and he sat. “Good boy,” she praised him. She picked up the phone and turned the camera mode on and leaned in beside Brutus’ large head. It was not easy to get a decent looking picture, and after eleven photos Brutus backed away.

She looked at the photos and picked one where she wasn’t too ugly, and uploaded it to Instagram with the caption: “My new beastie boy”. Pleased with herself she put her phone down and fantasized of meeting Nick again. Her thoughts were interrupted by her mom calling again, to see how everything was going. She had a long talk with her mom, it felt good to spill some of her anxiety now that everything was working out.

After they hung up, Trish noticed she had got a bunch of likes on the picture on Instagram of her and Brutus. Nick had liked it too! Her heart skipped a beat. Should she like one of his pictures in return? She lost herself in looking at his pictures again. Half of them were professional photos that he probably used to market himself as a model, and half were of him with friends and of his dog Jack. She picked a photo of him and Jack lying on a sofa together from last week and clicked Like. She had nearly chosen a picture from last year, but she realized she didn’t want Nick to know she had scrolled through all of his pictures from now and a year back. She liked and answered the comments on her own picture from her friends.



5. Sunday-going-on-Monday


When Trish rang the doorbell to her neighbor’s apartment she felt a bit nervous. What if he had changed his mind? It also felt weird visiting a neighbor; she had never gone beyond saying hi to the people who lived in her building.

Steven opened the door wearing a white linen shirt and those red pants, and a smile.

Well, hello there,” he said and stepped back. “Come on in,” he added.

Hi,” she smiled, a bit bent forward with a hand on Brutus’ collar. Cookie yapped and did a little dance of enthusiasm which made Brutus’ tail stand up and his ears pointed forward. She let go of the collar and the two dogs started sniffing each other front and back. Trish closed the door behind her hesitantly and they both watched the dogs for a few seconds.

“They seem to like each other,” Steven concluded and the sound of his voice made Brutus wag his tail and lick his hand. Steven patted Brutus with both hands. “He is magnificent, isn’t he?” Steven said with a look at Trish, who scoffed.

“I think he looks like Scooby-Doo,” she answered, which made Steven laugh.

He does,” Steven agreed. “Come on in,” he encouraged her and they walked into his living room. The apartment was underneath hers, with identical layout. But the décor was very different from her sobre grey scale. A large white sofa was centered on a zebra striped rug with throw pillows in red and green patterns on each far end of it. A huge palm tree stood next to the sofa and a wooden fan on the ceiling created a chic jungle atmosphere. Trish’s eyes were drawn to all the large black and white photos hanging on the walls. She walked over to look at one of them.

It was a male naked body, a dancer in a dance pose. He had his back to the camera and his arms up and the face to the left. It was very dramatic.

“Do you like it?” Steven asked her. She hadn’t even noticed that he stood next to her with his hand thoughtfully on his chin.

“I do, very much,” she said. “It’s beautiful. Dramatic,” she said. She wasn’t an art critic, so she couldn’t throw out anything deeper than that. “Who took it?” she said, creating a diversion from her lack of knowledge.

“I did,” he said and looked down for a second.

“Wow, it looks very…professional,” she said. “Are you a photographer?”

I am, yes,” he nodded. His eyes lingered on the photo. “That’s one of my favorites,” he added with a dreamy look in his eyes. Trish wondered if he meant the picture or the man, but she was too shy to ask. “I am biased of course,” he snickered. “That’s Carlos, my late husband,” he continued with a sad look on his face. “He was a dancer. We met in Marbella,” he went on. Trish didn’t know what to say.

“Oh,” she said, and tried to come up with something more without stepping on anyone’s toes. “I’m so sorry for your loss,” she added. Steven sighed.

Thank you, darling,” he said. “He’s been gone for over a year now,” he said, turning away from the picture. Trish also turned. She was impressed with his interior design.

I love your sofa,” she said, changing the subject. “Is that white velvet?” she asked and went over to touch the fabric. Steven smiled and nodded. “I guess red wine is a no-no,” she joked. Steven scoffed.

I only drink Prosecco,” he said and waved the idea off with his hand. “Would you like a glass?” he asked and turned his hand over in a more suggestive gesture, seemingly in a better mood. Trish was pleasantly surprised.

“Yes, actually. I would love some Prosecco,” she said with a smile.

The two of them curled up on his sofa and clinked their tall flute glasses together. Trish told him about her weekend and meeting Nick, which he was very excited about and made her show him a picture of Nick. They scrolled through Nick’s Instagram, oooh-ing and ahh-ing over this marvelous looking man. They even watched America’s Got Talent together, before Trish decided it was time to call it a night.

The dogs had gotten along just fine, they had to separate them a couple of times when their playing got a bit too wild. Trish felt so relieved and handed Steven her extra keys to her apartment before saying good-night, and thanked him again, from the bottom of her heart.


***


As Trish came back to her apartment she sat down on her sofa and stared blankly at the television for a while, her head was still spinning from the Prosecco a little bit. What a whirlwind of a weekend she’d had.

She’d made two new friends. Not bad for a weekend, she thought. Well, three friends if she counted Brutus, and she felt she should. She felt they definitely had a friendship going on, getting to know each other. She looked at him snoring with his head on one of her feet under the table.

Then there was her neighbor, God bless him, for helping her. She should give him a bottle of bubblies as a thank you, she thought.

And Nick…she could think about him all evening…


The End



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About the author


Victoria Wallin is a freelance translator living in Stockholm Sweden. She has always written stories, starting when she was a child; making small newspapers that she sold to family members for a small sum and later on writing plays in school. In 2015 she decided it was time to publish some of her work that had been hidden in drawers for many years.


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