This story is by Emily Courte and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
It was the same that day. The same as the day before. And the one before that. The same cavernous emptiness on the bed beside her. The same emptiness inside herself. Lorrie felt as if her body was weighted into the mattress. She could no more get up to close the blinds against the sun than she could fly to the moon.
Lorrie knew she should get out of bed. Knew she had to eat. Had to shower. Had to do something! But she couldn’t. She just tried not to think about who should be filling that space beside her. The one who would wake her up with a none too gentle shove so she would ‘accidently’ fall out of the bed. She could see his smile as he’d get out himself just to help her up.
That hollowness filled her again. Such resounding nothingness that was somehow worse than the heart shattering fear and grief she’d felt when she’d last spoken to Jack. When he’d said his last words to her over the Bluetooth in his car. When that idiot driver had looked down to send one more text and ran that red light. Taking everything from her in a single moment. Smashing her happy ever after to pieces.
They’d been talking about the wedding.
It all seemed pointless now.
The shrill ring of her phone forced her awake. She shoved the covers back, squinting in the light to look at the phone. Who was calling so early? It was only… 12:30 in the afternoon.
Seeing her sister’s name on the screen Lorrie silenced the phone and slumped back into bed. Her sister had been calling every day since the funeral and Lorrie rarely had the energy to answer. If she did, all she could do was wave off her sister’s invites to coffee, invites to talk.
Just as Lorrie was about to drift back to the bliss of sleep, her phone shrilled again. Without thinking she answered it to tell her sister to leave her alone for today. But the foreign voice shocked her into conversation.
“Hello? Is this Lorrie Hunting?”
“Hello Miss Hunting. You didn’t pick up Sampson today, were you busy with wedding preparations?” Lorrie’s gut wrenched and she couldn’t answer. “Just calling to arrange another time. We’ll be available tomorrow if that suits?”
“That’s fine.” Sheer habit had her answer before she realised what she was agreeing to.
What had she done?
Lorrie sat on the couch in disbelief the next afternoon and watched Sampson walk curiously around the loungeroom. His little paws near silent on the wood other than the slight click of his claws.
It was the same disbelief she’d been in when she’d picked the young pup up from his fosters. She’d barely heard his carer as she said he needed a short walk every day, a small breakfast as well as dinner and he preferred rope toys over squeakies.
She tried to tell them she couldn’t do it. To say he deserved better than the wreck that she was now. But then she looked at his curious brown eyes and the way his lopsided brown markings made him look permanently questioning, and the words stuck in her throat.
She wasn’t even a dog person! The Jack Russel cross, only a year and half old, was a wedding present for Jack, the true dog lover. She’d completely forgotten about him in everything that had happened. Completely forgotten that she’d been talking with the rescue group for months to get him just before the wedding.
Sampson stopped his wandering to sniff her, and Lorrie hesitantly reached down to scratch him, he grinned a puppy grin. The realisation had jolted through her when she’d gotten into the car to go collect him: it was the first time she’d left her house since Jack’s funeral. Ten days of locking herself away from the world. Ten days of her sister calling for coffee. Yet it had been Sampson, the rescue pup she’d completely forgotten about, that had gotten her outside. Lorrie sighed, gave Sampson his dinner, let him do his business outside, and went back to bed. It was six o’clock.
And it was six o’clock when a wet nose in her face jolted her awake. Sitting up in shock there was a thump as Sampson tumbled off the bed.
Shouting an apology, Lorrie lunged out to make sure he was ok. He just licked her face when she picked him up, then squirmed enough that she put him back down. She sighed in relief as he dashed off uninjured. Lorrie got back into bed and she was just drifting off again when Sampson launched himself back up to her. He pawed the blanket back from her face, whining.
She pushed him away and tried to pull the covers back up. But the pup was insistent. After ten minutes Lorrie conceded that she wasn’t getting back to sleep. Sampson stopped pawing at the covers but still whined just as loud while staring at her with those pleading eyes.
Her stomach rumbled, and she realised what he wanted. Lorrie munched on a singular piece of toast as she watched Sampson eat his own breakfast. When he finished his food he sprinted towards her, running around her in circles and looking silly enough that a small smile cracked through her even as she wondered what she would do next.
She had a feeling Sampson wasn’t going to let her get back into bed. She was still off of work after Jack’s death and though her house was a mess, the last thing she felt like doing was cleaning. As Sampson continued to run circles around furniture, jumping on and off the couch, the bed, nearly running into the kitchen cabinets, her decision was made. Going outside wasn’t high on her list of priorities either… but Sampson needed a walk.
Stepping out into the sunshine, it was still somehow foreign to her. Too bright. Too happy for a world as dark as hers. And even as Sampson walked along beside her, tail wagging like a helicopter, she couldn’t help but think that there was no way she could keep this up. Feed him. Walk him. Play with him? Everyday? She could barely take care of herself without Jack. She should never have brought him home. He’d be better off with someone else.
But could she take him back?
She was his third adopter she knew. The other two had given him back. Something about not getting along with other dogs and separation anxiety. Lorrie looked down at him. She knew the feeling. Even as she rolled into bed at six thirty that night, the thoughts didn’t stop. And at six o’clock the next morning Sampson woke her up and dragged her out of bed for breakfast. This time as he ate, she took her two pieces of toast to sit on the couch and flicked on the news. At six thirty her phone chimed, and she looked over.
Hope you’re ready to be Mrs Hadren! See you this afternoon!
Jack must have set the reminder before… before…
With her thoughts of Sampson, she’d forgotten what today should have been. Who she should have been with. Her gut dropped. And dropped. And dropped. She clenched her shaking fists as great sobs overcame her. Why? Why him? Why her? Why their happiness? Their lives? Their future? She spiralled deep and fast into her emotions, the wave she’d been trying and failing to keep at bay resurging with vengeance and taking her with it. She curled up on the couch and clutched her knees trying not to scream.
She didn’t feel the weight that jumped onto the couch. Barley felt the wet nose on her arms that made them release fractionally. But she did feel the warmth of the small body that wheedled its way between her chest and legs. Sampson stuck his nose in her face and licked her. The action so jolting her sobs stopped. She looked at the pup in wonder, face still wet with tears. She rubbed his ear with a shaking hand and croaked, “Thanks Sampson.” She sat up slowly, bringing him to sit in her lap. In that moment her decision was made.
He needed her for food, care, a home. She needed him to drag her out of bed, to make her go outside, to be there for her when she felt utterly alone and pushed anyone else away. She might have lost her happy ever after, but she would sure as hell give this pup his. She put him down and he dashed for the door, looking back expectantly.
Lorrie grabbed the lead and clipped it to Sampson’s collar, her hands drifting to her phone as she opened the door and scrolling to her sisters contact.
She could do with that coffee now.