For my story, keep reading...
The tall man with the weak shoulders raised the hatchback, stooped into the car, caught her dark eyes in the rearview and said, “You sure about this?”
“Is there a problem? I filled out the paperwork and passed the home inspection.”
“There’s no problem.” He shook his head and then stopped abruptly. “If you’re sure. I mean, you’ve seen him though, right?”
“I paid the money didn’t I?”
“Alright, then.” He straightened and whistled. The rear door to the vet’s office opened and two techs lead the pit bull outside. One held the thick, mesh leash taunt while the other put himself between animal and parking lot. When they reached the car, the tall man giddy-upped. After the pit jumped into the back, he slammed the hatch.
She lowered the window. “We done?”
All three nodded.
“Thanks,” she said. The pit pressed his scarred muzzle against the glass, watching them as she pulled away.
She waited for 3E to unlock her door and grocery-bag home before opening the entrance. The dog followed, walking slowly by her side, pacing her down the hallway. He sniffed the door while she unlocked her three locks. When she pushed it open, he looked up at her for the first time since the vet. His black eyes were expressionless. Hollow.
She breathed quietly and said, “Go on.” Make sure it's safe, she thought.
He did and she followed.
She shut the door, locked it, and unhooked the leash from his wide collar. Once free, he sat with rump pressed against the door. He made a noise she didn’t understand. She draped his lead on the coat rack.
She clucked her tongue. The dog didn’t move. She watched him for some sign of fear or aggression. Nothing.
She chanced a touch. It was slight. Just a brief brush against a ragged ear nub. His jowls raised and revealed sharp, yellow teeth. The brindle fur rippled down his broad, meaty back. Her hand hovered. The dog’s nose quivered. He stilled and she petted him again, firmer, running her hand up and down his back, over fur, skin, thick scars, and uneven muscle bulge.
The dog stood, stacked and entered the living room. She resisted the urge to watch, to follow, to make sure. Instead, she entered the cramped kitchen to prepare his food. Yesterday, she had divided the 40 lbs bag into individual servings. She filled the deep, metal bowl with kibble and opened one of the cans. She spooned the wet pungent mass on top of the dry food, mixing both before sitting the bowl down on the puckered linoleum.
She turned and found the dog watching. “Food,” she said.
The pit sniffed.
She sat at the kitchen table and opened her purse. She lit a cigarette. Reached over and closed the long vertical blinds that hung over the backdoor. When she looked back, the dog stood over the bowl. “Go ahead,” she said.
He looked at her, at his food, then back at her. His eyes narrowed. She nodded. He lowered his head and ate loudly.
She worked the mace out of her pocket, sat it by the cigarettes, and removed the gun from her purse. She checked the safety. Still locked. She dragged twice and dropped her cigarette into her breakfast Coke can.
The dog twitched and growled when she walked around him. She ignored him and went down the hall to the bathroom. The pit’s feeding echoed through the small apartment like some ancient beast in a distant cave.
She sat the gun on top of the toilet, turned on the water and fished for a clean towel under the sink. She hung it over the shower and pushed the door closed with her foot. She waited for the mirror to steam over before she undressed.
She stared at the white towel rack as she stripped, avoiding sight of her own body.
The dog nosed the door open.
Breath caught in her chest. Her tummy tightened and quivered, gooseflesh raising with the light, downy hair on her arms.
The pit didn’t seem bothered by what he saw. He wagged his tail stump and cautiously, paw by paw, nail click by nail click, entered.
She reached over him and pushed the door closed. He sniffed her foot. Slowly, she lowered her hand. He licked her arm, rough tongue against her own raised scar. She said, very quietly, “I really don’t mind the scars.”
His head tilted in reply.
“Yours, I mean.”
He tilted the other direction.
The pit blinked and brushed past her, circling the rug twice before collapsing with a heavy sigh. She took that as a yes. For once, for the first time in a long time, it was enough and brought some comfort.