Victoria Fullard has over fifteen years experience as a professional writer and editor. She is currently revising her first novel, a publishing company–set mystery, inspired by her years working as an editor in the industry. She lives in New York City with her partner and their dog, and she hasn’t left the apartment without a book in over a decade. Learn more about her at www.victoriafullard.com and connect with her on Twitter at @victoriareads.
“Good morning,” he called jovially. Of course he did. He was unrelentingly friendly. Every morning he joined Rochelle (squirrel-obsessed English pointer), Noor (blue-eyed huskie), and Brit (puggle—short on pug, long on beagle) in the dog park. The three women had found themselves on the same morning schedule, convening daily before work to let their pups unleash a day’s worth of energy in 30 minutes. They stood in a semi-circle, sometimes watching their dogs chase and wrestle each other, just as often watching them chew sticks. He was a new addition.
“What’s his name?” Brit asked, watching him bend to unleash his chocolate lab. A breeze ruffled the tree leaves above us, shaking remnant raindrops in our direction.
“Nicholas?” Noor suggested.
“Henry?” Rochelle countered. She stuck a finger through her belt loop and heaved her jeans back up over her hips. She wore them too many days in a row between washings. She knew that. But she only wore them for half an hour each day. Granted, it was the dirtiest thirty minutes by far, but still. And she liked how by the end of the week they’d stretched enough to feel loose, like maybe she could still describe her build as slim or athletic (Average would be bad. Zaftig even worse. Voluptuous at least sounded somewhat sexy. Right?). Noor and Brit obviously still wore pants whose labels proclaimed success with their single digits, but no matter. This was no beauty contest. Here in the dog run it was sweat pants all the way for them.
Rochelle had made mistakes in the beginning. The pointer was her first dog, and she simply had no idea. She’d grab Daisy right after work and skip over to the park (most days it was a drag more than a skip, but she liked to envision herself as someone who skipped to the park with her perfectly behaved dog. Daisy, nose to the ground for discarded chicken bones or dropped pieces of pizza crust wasn’t exactly holding up her end of the bargain, either, frankly). Rochelle cottoned pretty quickly to the fact that wearing her work clothes to the dog run only served to increase her dry cleaning bill. These are the hidden costs of dog ownership that no one warns you about. There were jumpers galore in the dog park. And let your hand linger near your pocket for a moment, and some optimistic pup was sure to zoom over, hopeful for a treat. God forbid you actually had a treat. You’d be descended upon by every dog in the park: some slobbery, some dusty, some (yes) having just rolled in another animal’s shit. And they’d all rub up against you in the hopes of receiving a tasty morsel. She’d worn ballet flats once, but when some lap-running dogs had made a hairpin turn near her, almost colliding (“Bend your knees!” one of the long-timers called out), a spray of undoubtedly urine-soaked gravel skittered across the bridge of her feet and down into her pretty, black Tory Burches. She had to crunch piss pebbles to the first bench in sight. Disgusting.
So she’d learned: soiled jeans and grubby sneakers. Her dog park friends (neither had graduated to more established friend status yet) stood just as ragtag: pony tails, a bit of yesterday’s makeup smudged under the eyes, a crust of sleep still in the corners. It was 7 a.m., for Pete’s sake. Who could ask for more?
Nicholas (or Henry), that’s who. Well, actually, he didn’t ask for more. He simply delivered more. Every morning the three women watched him come in wearing a full suit and tie. His cocksureness amazed her. What amazed her even more was that he left looking just as polished (and it was icing on the cake that he was devilishly handsome to boot).
“It’s obnoxious,” she whispered, watching him throw a tennis ball. Noor and Brit looked confused. “Coming in here looking that good. How does he get away with it?” Brit’s puggle started making the rounds, jumping first on Brit, then, when no reward for bad behavior was forthcoming, onto Rochelle, leaving two perfect paw prints on the thighs of her jeans. A stencil wouldn’t have produced a cleaner outline. Daisy and Noor’s huskie tandem somersaulted through a mud puddle. If Daisy were truly loyal—as dogs were supposed to be—she’d sideswipe him right now, Rochelle thought. Instead, he played fetch with his lab for a few minutes, called a hearty good bye to the women, and left again, just as dapper as when he’d come in.
“You’re right,” Noor offered in solidarity. “He leads a charmed life.”
Rochelle was still mentally grumbling about it as she walked Daisy home a short time later. It was nearing rush hour, and a city bus rumbled half a block away, spooking Daisy, who leaned against Rochelle for comfort. Gone were the two perfect paw prints, replaced by a large patch of brown. Rothko-esque, if Rothko had worked in mud.
“Shhh….” she comforted, reaching down to rub Daisy behind the ears, never mind the dirt. A little dirt never hurt anyone, especially if it meant offering comfort to her best four-legged friend. Who cared about Nicholas (or Henry?), anyway, she thought. Rochelle was feeling quite proud of her ability to rise above.
Then the bus drove past, soaking her in a spray of gutter puddle.