Friday, November 13, 2015

Free Fiction: The Hidden Park VI

Saturday morning again, and Annabelle walked Duchess early. Both her fathers propped themselves up at the kitchen table, coffee mugs raised to their mouths while they blearily looked at each other. She'd have preferred they come with her, but they both looked like the work week had beaten them black and blue and purple all over.

It was a fine morning, and the air was warm, the sun shone bright, and Duchess trotted like she would bring home a blue ribbon in prancing.

Nothing else had happened all week, after her Monday adventure, except a very uncomfortable conversation with her parents about stranger danger, so now Annabelle's curiosity had raised again. She'd first noticed the park a week ago, and she wanted to know if it still held a tinge of uncomfortable magic, or if it would be ordinary.

Behind the pharmacy, the green space appeared the same as before. It stood quiet and unattended. The bowls of water and kibble were full.

She took Duchess to the middle of the space and stood there, turning in a circle and looking out. She noticed a dog sleeping in a patch of sunlight near a tree, on its side. He raised his head, sleepy and tired, and then put his head down again. His muzzle was white, in contrast to the dark shag of the rest of his fur.

"Hey there, pup," Annabelle said. She approached very slowly. "Are you friendly?"

Duchess whined in greeting.

The dog shifted its weight and leaned up. Annabelle approached it, and he licked her outstretched hand. "Good boy," she said, and scratched behind his ears. He closed his eyes, pleased.

"You've met Georgie?" came a voice behind her, and she turned to see the man. "He's an old puppy, but he's got a big heart."

"He's sweet," Annabelle said.

"That he is," the man agreed. "Not a lot of days left to him, though. He's enjoying his time sleeping in the sun."

Annabelle stopped rubbing Georgie's ears and he pushed his nose into her hand to encourage her to pet him again. She scratched the back of his ears again. Duchess stretched out next to Georgie, thumping her tail behind her, and leaning gently into Georgie's side. Georgie opened his mouth, looking as if he were smiling.

"You help the dogs, don't you," Annabelle asked. She'd been afraid of the man before, but Duchess trusted him. And now Georgie trusted him.

"Yup. Much as I can. Not a lot of me to go around, but I stretch it out."

"I'm glad," she said.

"They deserve every bit of love we can give them," the man said.

"They do," Annabelle agreed. She and Duchess stayed there for a long time, keeping Georgie company, before finally saying goodbye and going home.

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