― Ashly Lorenzana
Basil Heathrow, my ghostly guardian, had mentored me my entire life, but the time had come for me to seek flesh and blood companionship.
I thought he’d advise me to join an on-line dating site, but as usual he caught me completely off guard.
“You need living companionship,” he admonished me.
I was bemused. “Are you suggesting I find a mate?”
He handed me a business card. “Start with a dog,” he said.
So, here I was helping out at the Humane Society.
When the shelter became flooded with dogs rescued from a puppy mill, I volunteered to take in Heart—a golden retriever puppy who seemed to have bonded with me.
Charlotte, my trainer, was doubtful I was up to the task of permanently adopting the pup, but she reluctantly agreed on one condition—that she go home with me and get me set up for the night.
Outwardly I nodded and quietly demurred, but inwardly, my heart was pounding in my ears.
I had been falling in love with Charlotte and secretly hoping she might set up house with me.
It was an opportunity to socialize outside of work and it was exciting to think where my decision to adopt might lead me.
So, that afternoon, we rode the subway together, sitting closely on a bench, Heart curled up and sleeping at our feet.
An older woman sitting opposite got up to leave and then, paused and leaned down to whisper to us, “Such a lovely couple—and with your little pup, already a family.”
Charlotte blushed and my heart leapt at the thought of the three of us.
As we walked down my tree-lined street, I wanted to grasp her hand, but had to resist the urge—still, it seemed the most natural thing in the world to do. It was lovely being with her.
“I love this house, Cain!” Charlotte’s eyes lit up, and the same surge of joy flowed through me as the first day I set eyes on it myself.
I persuaded her to stay for dinner and as I prepared pasta, she went about puppy-proofing the downstairs.
We fed Heart and he curled up on a blanket by the kitchen door.
We dined with candlelight and wine in my hitherto unused dining room listening to Thirties music while an April rain pelted the windowpane.
Afterwards, I lit a fire and we had coffee in the front room while flashes of lightning, like wavering moonlight, lit the windows.
The thunder’s din frightened Heart and he began to whimper, but Charlotte cradled him in her arms softly stroking his fur and whispering reassurances.
We sat there, the three of us, on the rug before the fire, in my darkened front room—the storm gnashing outside, and the three of us, warm and fed and shut away from the black wetness, safe in our oasis of peace.
And then, we fell asleep.
When I awoke shortly after dawn, gray light was just beginning to suffuse through the blinds.
I looked over to see Heart, still curled up, his head resting in the crook of Charlotte’s arm. She was fast asleep; her cheeks a lovely pink, and her breath rising and falling like waves upon the sea.
I knew then I wanted this to last forever—that we three had become a family.