Disclaimers: These two look familiar, and they are, but they’re not yours.

Subtext: Yup. It is definitely gonna be in there, but meanwhile, patience, grasshoppa!

If you’d like to tell us what wonderful writers we are, or that we royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com or auth2b@hotmail.com



Kim Pritekel and Alexa Hoffman

Part 1

I dropped my bag onto the chair, grateful to rid my arms of their biggest burden, then hung my coat on the small knob that the last guy had installed on the side wall of my cubicle here at Wyatt & Weinheim where I worked in advertising as a copy editor. In fact, next month would mark my third year anniversary. I was lucky enough to get hired a month before graduation from Oregon University at Portland, where I was at now.

I picked the bag up from my desk chair and took its place, digging through the large, GAP bag, not a purse mind you, until I found my lip balm.

"You know, I just do not understand my kid!"

My head shot up in surprise as I saw Rhonda Thomlin storm by, headed to her office. Chapstick forgotten, I tossed the bag aside, and hurried around the cubicle to the main aisle, seeing heads poking out from behind their own little corners of the office.

Rhonda, the ad exec on our floor, was adding sugar to her cup of hot tea, the tag still hanging over the side of the cup.

"What happened, Ron?" I asked, plopping down in one of the two chairs that sat before her large, executive-status desk. She turned to look at me, then sat behind it, still stirring the hot liquid, perfect for a cold, February morning.


"Oh, boy."

"And then some. That damn kid got herself kicked out of University of the Sacred Heart." She sipped, scrunching her nose, only to grab another bag of sugar ripping the top off so hard that some of the white granules spilled onto the black surface of the contemporary desk, matching the black and gray hues of the office décor.

"Whoa, hold on there, tiger." I took it from her, pouring it into her cup. "The whole thing?" I asked, glancing up into narrowed hazel eyes. She nodded. "What happened?"

"She got caught with pot. Again. This time they’d had enough." She wrapped cold fingers around the hot mug, sighing in contentment.

"Where is she now?"

"Well, her ass better be at home." I could see the fire in her eyes, and a small part of me felt sorry for the kid; I knew how ruthless Rhonda could be when it came to something she truly believed in, or wanted. She looked at me, looking as though she would cry. "Brooklyn, did you do that sort of crap when you were her age?"

"At eighteen, are you kidding? I was too busy trying to get through my first year of college." I smiled, sitting back in the chair, trying to shut out the voice in my mind telling me about all the work that needed to be done back at my desk. My friend needed me.

"Why can’t she be more like you? Or more like Jodi, for that matter." She sipped from the tea. "I tell you, no matter how much they may look alike, or how similar their mannerisms, never have I seen a set of twins so different. Jodi got accepted into the National Honor Society, did I tell you that?" I nodded.

"Three times now."

"Well, I’m proud." The smile that came to her face as soon as Jodi was mentioned, quickly slid off as her troubles with daughter number two entered into her thoughts again. "I’m just praying that we can get her back into college by fall."

"Another Catholic school?" She looked at me, then grinned, shaking her head.

"No. That was stupid. Cody’s never been to church a day in her life. I guess I just thought a school with some structure would help, you know? Maybe give her some sort of direction, I don’t know."

She set the cup aside, and turned her computer on. My cue.

"Well, if you need anything, Ron, you know where I’m at." I stood, but she put her hand on top of mine, smiling up at me.

"Thank you, hon. Go to work before the boss gets angry." She winked, and I chuckled, turned around to head back to my desk. "Oh, Brooklyn?"

"Yeah?" I glanced at her over my shoulder.

"Are you still coming for dinner Friday night? I’m making your favorite—" I turned fully to face her, hopeful.

"Chicken divine?" She nodded. With a squeal and a hand clap, I nodded, and hurried back to my desk.

* * *

The doorbell chimed, and I hurried from the solarium at the back of my house where I’d been watering plants, wiping my hands on my jeans. I smiled when I saw Keith grinning at me from the other side of the etched glass on the front door. I unlocked the deadbolts, and I was taken up in a strong hug. I inhaled.

"God, you smell good." We separated, and I was met with a light kiss. I looked up into bright blue eyes, my own green eyes narrowing. "Hon, when are you going to get rid of this thing?" I reached around until my fingers touched the blonde ends of his itty bitty ponytail.

"Hey, you leave my ponytail alone. I’m an artist, and we’re supposed to have long hair."

"Long hair, not so sure, an artist, yeah. This things looks like the end of a paint brush." He smacked my hand.

"You be nice."

I grinned. Patting his chest. "Hungry?"

"I’m starving," he said, following me inside, laying his jacket across the small table near the door. He took a deep breath. "Oh, that smells heavenly."

"It should. I’ve been working on it long enough. You said pork chops, right?" I glanced at him over my shoulder as we headed into the kitchen.

"Yes, ma’am. I can almost taste them."

I walked over to the stove where I uncovered the scalloped potatoes, poking at them with a spoon.

"So I see Sploosh and Shloop were out again." I glanced over at my boyfriend of eight months to see him kneeling down near a kitchen chair. He held up a tiny black pellet between his thumb and index finger.

"Aw, shit,"


"Guess I missed one. Yeah, I had them out earlier." Keith walked over to the sink, opening the cabinet underneath to throw it away, then rolled the sleeves of his button shirt to wash his hands. "Do they like the new hamster wheel I got them?"

"Oh, they love it!" I gave him a huge grin. "They were quite pleased, however I’m not so sure how thrilled I am. After all, I do have to listen to it all night." He chuckled, coming up behind me to give me a hug. I leaned back into him, always feeling so comfortable around him, with him.

Keith and I had met nearly a year and a half ago at his art gallery when Rand and I had gone to check out a show. He was in his late twenties, and bisexual. At first that had been a bit hard for me to deal with, but now I found it was an asset; he was so much like a friend, even though we were intimate, still, I could tell him anything and not worry about petty jealousies, or being judged from the typical mind of a man.

"So, how was the gallery today?" I asked, stepping away from him so I could check on the meat.

"It was good, actually." He answered, reaching over my head to grab us plates from my glass-fronted cabinets. My kitchen was my pride and joy right now. Last summer I had had it redone, the cabinets refurbished, new tile put in, and new countertops.

The table nearly set, and dinner nearly ready, I turned to Keith.


He followed me up the wooden spiral staircase, into the spare bedroom upstairs that had been transformed into my storage room/pottery studio. I had an old, used wheel, and Rhonda’s husband, Tom, who was a carpenter and had done most of the work on the house, had built shelves all along three of the walls for my work.

"Look," I grabbed my newest masterpiece, handing it to him.

"Oh, sweetie," he breathed, taking the delicate piece of work in his large hands.

"I call it Harmony," I explained. "See, this is a woman," I ran my finger down the back of one of the entwined figures, "and this guy here is her lover." I smiled at him as his eyes traveled all over the sculpture, no more than two feet tall.

"I love how the design you painted on them goes from one to the other, not stopping."

"Exactly. It’s all just, harmony." He grinned.

"Brooke, you’ve got to let me put this in the gallery. In the next clay show, please?"

"Oh, I don’t know about that, Keith." I took the piece from him, setting it back on the shelf.

"Why not? You’re really good. I know you’d sell, Brooklyn."

"Eh," I said doubtfully.

"I’ll tell Rand. She’ll talk you into it."

"Come on, you pain in the ass. I smell dinner."

* * *

The week had gone by so quickly, and I was glad. We had a huge Nike account right now, and quite frankly, I was working my ass off to keep up. I had things thrown into my in-box faster than I could ever go over them.

Friday was here, and I had a little time to kill before I showed up at the Thomlin house for dinner. I was excited, and extremely hungry. I loved spending time with Rhonda and her family. I’d never met the twins, but I often babysat little Jake, who was almost four. That had been the deal in exchange for all the work Tom had done, and was still doing, to my house. I paid for all materials, and watched the little guy from time to time.

Now as I tugged on my spandex riding pants and slipped my feet into my clip shoes, I thought about the kid now, an immediate smile coming to my face. He looked just like his dad, replete with the cowlick in the back of his brown hair. That kid was entirely too smart for his own good, though.

I headed into the bathroom, looking at myself in the mirror. I grabbed an Oxy pad, scrubbing the grime from the day off my skin, then brushing out my hair, surprised at how long it had gotten. I had it short all through college, then had decided to let it grow. Now it nearly reached mid-back. I pulled it all back, wrapping it up into a short ponytail.

Ready to go, I grabbed my bike out of the garage, and headed out.

My ride, which usually spanned about six miles, more on the weekends, wrapped around the area, turning right off Chestnut, my street, then onto Rudd, which was a busier street, and which, luckily, I didn’t have to stay on long. I hated riding with cars whizzing by. It made me nervous. But, it was all worth it because then I’d turn off into Keller Park, which was massive, and housed bike paths, a skate park, hiking trails, and even a small amusement park in the summer for the little kids, near the public swimming pools.

As I peddled, I thought about my life now. I was twenty-five, turning twenty-six April 4, still about a month and a half away. I was actually further along in life then I thought I’d be when I was young. Youth. It’s no joke that youth is wasted on the young; if only I could do half of what I used to be able to do. I know I’d sure appreciate it more.

"Whoa! Asshole!" I yelled as a car whipped around me, nearly cutting me off. I have to say, the drivers in Vicksburg, Oregon were some of the worst drivers in the world. So inconsiderate. Then again, I think people in any town think that everyone’s a worse driver than they are.

Vicksburg, where my house was. I didn’t want to live smack dab in the middle of the city. I did that through college, and hated it. I needed to spread out and have some privacy. I’d been lucky when I’d found my house, a seventy-year-old brick two-story. It had needed some serious work when I’d moved in a year ago, but that’s where Tom came in. I’d gotten it cheap, so was able to use a lot of the money I’d intended for a purchase price, on remodeling and repairs. Now I could turn around and sell it for nearly double what I’d bought it for.

As I headed into Keller Park I looked around, all the trees, leafless and looking dead, surrounding me. One thing I loved about this part of the country was all the trees. The north west and the east. The poor middle of the country just got screwed in that area.

I passed the skate park, noticing the skate boarders all hanging around. They amazed me what they could do with a piece of wood with four wheels. I was lucky enough to stay upright on my bike let alone fling myself up in the air and land on a moving board.

Inhaling, I smiled, smelling the fireplaces and wood stoves throughout the area, people trying to ward off the chill of the oncoming night. The selling point of my house for me had been the fireplace that was in my bedroom. I had always wanted that, and now I used it frequently. Especially when me and Rand had our girl’s night; we’d rent movies, or chat, or whatever, and sit in my bed, a fire going. It was great.

I slowed my bike nearly to a stop as I looked up ahead, seeing two people on horseback, slowly trotting through the park, one of the beast’s whinnies echoing through the trees.

I swallowed, fighting the sadness, and turned my bike around, needing to get to Rhonda’s anyway. I stood on the pedals, putting some real leg power into it, gaining speed as I hurried home.

* * *

Dressed in a pair of comfy jeans and a sweater, I jumped into my four-year-old Nissan Maxima, a college graduation gift for me from my car dealer uncle, Bruce.

The Thomlin house was about a fifteen minute drive from mine, and luckily the Friday work traffic had died about an hour ago, and the night traffic hadn’t started yet.

I pulled up in front of the three-story house, the circular drive filled with Rhonda’s Saab, and another car, a little brown Honda of some sort.

Bouquet of wild flowers in hand, I headed toward the front door. I waited for my ring to be answered, when finally I heard footsteps inside, and put a smile on my face as the door was unlatched, and pulled open.

I was surprised to be met by a young woman, obviously the daughter of her mother, tall with near black hair. She smiled.

"Hi. You’re Brooklyn."

"Hi. You’re a twin." She grinned.

"Jodi." Extending her hand, I switched the flowers to my other hand, and took the offered hand. "It’s nice to finally meet you after my mom has spoken about you for so long."

"You as well. I’ve heard about the wonder twins for the last two years."

"That’s my mom."

I just smiled, not sure what to say, and not sure why I was stuck standing in the door.

"Oh, jeez, I’m sorry. Come in."

"Cody?" Rhonda asked, stepping around the corner from the kitchen, the wooden door still swinging behind her.

"Nope. Not in this life."

"Hey, sweetie." My boss walked over to me, taking me in a one-armed hug, her other one covered in ... something. I looked down at it.


"Oh, I was mixing the salad." I held the flowers out.

"For you."

"Oh, Brooklyn." She hugged me again. "Honey, Jodi, take those, please?"

"Sure." The girl took the flowers from me, her hazel eyes smiling at me. "Come on in, Brooklyn."


I always loved to look around Rhonda’s house when I was here. It was so beautiful, filled with expensive art work and her prized possession — the Oriental rug in the den, where Jake was not allowed to go for fear he’d ruin it. There were little touches of him all over the place; crayon drawings, a pile of toys in a laundry basket in the corner, and his very own leather recliner, little boy-sized, sitting next to his father’s "big boy" size La-Z-boy.

"Jodi, is your sister here yet?" Rhonda called from the kitchen.

"Nope," the girl answered, arranging the flowers I’d brought in a blue vase. I walked over to her, the large, dining room table already set with place settings for six. "So, Brooklyn, you work with my mom?" she asked, heading over to the wet bar in the corner of the dining room to fill the vase with water from the small sink.

"Yes. She’s my boss, actually."

"How long have you worked at W-2?" she asked, using the name that those familiar with the company used.

"Oh, almost three years."

"Do you like it?"

"Very much. You’re in school, right?"

"Yep. I’m at Oregon U."

I smiled. "Great school."

"You’re an alumni?" I nodded. "How wonderful. Of course I’m just in my first year, but so far so good."

"Your mom told me you’re doing really well there."

"Well, I’m trying." She said, giving me a sheepish grin. "My plan is to graduate with a perfect 4.0. I figure if I can do it at the private high school Cody and I went to, then I can do it here."

"I’d say from what I’ve heard that your chances are great for that. Just stay focused, and you’ll be fine."

Ding dong

Jodi rolled her eyes.

"I’ll be right back."

I took a seat, waiting for someone to return. The front door opened, and I heard Jodi speak.

"Why did you ring the doorbell?"

"I forgot my key."

If I didn’t know better, I would have thought Jodi was talking to herself.

"You’re such a dork sometimes, Cody." She chuckled.

"Fuck off."

Rhonda pushed through the swinging kitchen door, headed straight for the front door, which was out of my view, but certainly not out of my hearing range.

"Can you not be here on time, Cody? I told you six-thirty sharp, and it is now seven ten. Where’s the watch I bought you for Christmas?"

"It got broken," I heard muttered.

"Cody, what am I going to do with you?"

The voices were getting louder, so I turned my attention to my place setting, not wanting them to think I’d been listening.

"Brooklyn, this is my other daughter, Cody."

I glanced up and was surprised with what I saw. She was a little taller than Jodi, maybe around five foot eight. She was thin, wearing baggy cargo pants and an over-sized sweater, her dark hair wild, as if it had been severely wind-blown, like she’d been on a motorcycle. She looked at me, raising a hand n a small wave.

"Hey," she mumbled. I smiled at her.

"Hi, Cody. Nice to meet you."

"Yeah, you, too."

She walked out of the dining room, followed by Rhonda. They disappeared down the hall toward the bedrooms and bathroom. Jodi plopped down in the seat next to mine, running a hand through her long hair.

"I wish so bad that she would just get herself together, you know?" she said, glancing over at me. "It would save her so much trouble in the long run."

"She’s young, Jodi. She’ll get it eventually."

"Yeah, but before she and my mom kill each other?" I shrugged.

"You can only hope. Where’s your dad and Jake?"

"Mom forgot to get rolls, so they headed off to the store, though," she glanced at the grandfather clock at the mouth of the hall. "I think they’ve gotten lost or something."

Just then the automatic garage door opened, and I could hear the two guys laughing as they entered, small feet running across the tile in the kitchen, the swinging door bursting open as a bundle of three-and-a-half-year-old energy surged out. I chuckled as I saw the tell tale signs of some sort of treat in the corners of the boy’s mouth.

"Bookie!" he shouted when he saw his buddy. I smiled, kneeling to catch his small bulk as he plowed into me, nearly knocking me over. I grabbed him, sweeping him off his feet as I stood.

"What’s that?" I asked, pointing to the brown stains on his mouth."

"Ice cweme!" he yelled, excited. I glanced over at Tom with accusing eyes. He grinned sheepishly.

"There’s nothing wrong with a father having some fun with his son."

"Uh huh," I muttered, winking at him. I turned back to the little boy who I’d happily steal given the chance. "So, what did you do today in preschool?"


"What did you color?"

"A clown, and a duck and a twuck."

"Did you bring your art home?" He shook his head, a huge grin on his face, bringing out the deep dimples on either side of his mouth.

"No? Why not?"

"Cause. I spilled milk on it."

"Oh no, that’s not good."

"Hey, sweetie." Rhonda said, startling me as she came around the corner, walking over to her husband, kissing him on the cheek. "If you ruined his dinner, I’ll kick your butt," she said as she headed into the kitchen. Tom looked at me.

"How does she do that?" he asked. I laughed, shaking my head.

"I think it’s a pre-requisite to being a mother."

"Damn." He walked over to me, taking Jake out of my arms. "Come on, buddy. Let’s get you washed up for dinner. Hey, hon." Tom said to his daughter as Cody entered the dining room.

"Hey," she said. "Buddy!" she said in an over-exaggerated voice when she saw her little brother. Jake squealed in delight, and Cody grinned as she walked to her chair across the table and just down from me. She looked down at her empty plate, her hands in her lap. She had brushed her hair, flipping it back behind her shoulders. I noticed back behind her ear that the hair was growing back in, obviously from being shaved.

I smiled, looking down at my hands, wondering what the heck Rhonda must have thought of that stunt. I glanced over at Jodi who sat next to me, talking with Cody, her hair very shiny and neat, her clothing, khakis with a polo, clean and bright. Then there was Cody, barely put together enough for a get together.

"So, Cody, what do you do?" I asked, wondering what on earth kept this girl content and entertained. She looked over at me. I was struck by her eyes. She had the brightest, most beautiful blue eyes I had ever seen. I wondered if they were real. She and Jodi must be fraternal.

"Not much," she muttered.

"Well, what does not much entail?" I asked, sitting back in the high-backed dining chair.

"She skateboards," Jodi said, earning herself a glare from her sister.

"Really? I pass a skate park everyday on my ride."

"What, do you own a Harley or something?" she asked. I chuckled.

"No, it’s a Marin Urban Novato," I said proudly. She looked at me like I had four heads.

"What the hell is that?"

"It’s a bicycle," I said simply, my wind suck right out of those sails.

"Girls, come help me, please?" Rhonda said, holding the door open. I stood. "Not you, Brooklyn. You’re our guest." She smiled before she disappeared inside. The twins stood, and made their way into the other room.

The six of us sat around the table, Jakey in his booster seat. The conversation went around and around the table, covering just about every topic.

"Well, the plan is to get my undergrad at OU, then move on to grab my MLS. I wanted to do it together, like you did, but unfortunately it’s not offered for library work here." Jodi explained as she cut up her meat.

"Oh, I’m sorry to hear that." I tore open a roll, spreading an ample amount of butter across it. "What about you, Cody? What were you doing in school?" She shrugged, looking down at her plate.

"I don’t know."

"She’s a wonderful artist." Rhonda chimed in. I looked over at her to see her smiling at her daughter, pride in her eyes. I smiled at that.

"Mom," Cody muttered, glaring at her.

"Yeah, you should see some of the stuff she’s done," Tom continued. "One time when she was about ten or eleven, I built a doll house for her from the plans she drew up."

I looked at the girl, impressed. Cody glanced up at me, then looked to her mother.

"Can I be excused?"

"What? Honey, no, we have company."

"I’m finished eating mom, can I go?" she asked, her voice a bit louder than it’s normal low, mumble. Rhonda sighed, glancing over at her husband who shrugged. "Go on, Cody."

Without a word, the girl stood, grabbing her plate, glass and silverware, and headed into the kitchen, only to emerge a few minutes later to head toward the bedroom.

"You be careful, Cody," Rhonda said when she appeared with a skateboard under her arm.

"Later," the girl said, then headed toward the front door. I looked around, everyone noticeably quiet.

"Did I say something wrong?" I asked. Rhonda looked at me, shaking her head.

"No. She’s just, I don’t know. Being difficult."

"She gets embarrassed really easy." Jodi said next to me as she wiped her mouth, her empty plate before her. She noticed my own empty plate. "Are you done, Brooklyn?"

"Um, yeah." She grabbed my plate, standing, gathering her father’s and brother’s. "Here, let me help you,"

"No, it’s okay." She smiled at me, then disappeared into the kitchen. Rhonda followed the girl with her eyes, a smile on her lips the entire time. It wasn’t long before Jodi was sitting next to me again.

"So, what do you do for fun, Jodi?" I asked, sipping from my after dinner wine.

"Well, I love to read,"

"Yeah, but that doesn’t count." I smacked her hand playfully. "You’re going to school to be a librarian."

"Okay, okay. School can be a little stressful, so I try and take my dog for a walk, or things like that."

"That’s great."

"What about you?" Jodi turned in her chair so her elbow rested on the table, her cheek in her hand.

"Well, actually I love pottery. I have a wheel, and a kiln in my house."

"Really?" She perked up. "I adore pottery. I do beadwork, though. I was never real good with slinging mud, though I’ve never used a wheel."

"Well, I get the pleasure of teaching a bunch of kids who have also never used a wheel how to make a monumental mess." She laughed.

"I bet. What ages?"

"My first class, which are on Saturdays, are the 9-12 year olds at 8:30, then at 10, I get the young ones. That’s a trip and a half." We both glanced over at Jake.

"I’m so sorry."

I chuckled. "They’re so cute, it just makes up for it all, you know?"

"Oh, I imagine. Where do you teach?" She raised her head from her hand, and grabbed a pepper shaker, turning it in her hands.

"There’s a little studio over at the corner of Fifth and Rogers."

"Yeah, I know where that’s at. I’ll have to show you my beadwork sometime."

"Yeah, that’d be great."

"But," she stood. "For now I need to get going. I have work early tomorrow."

"Where do you work?"

"Portland Library." I laughed.

"I should have figured." I also stood, extending my hand. "It was really nice meeting you, Jodi."

"You, too, Brooklyn. I’m sure I’ll see you again." She grabbed my hand with both of hers, then let it go, turning to her mom. "Mom, I’m going to get going."

"So soon?" Rhonda stood, giving her daughter a huge hug. "Drive safe, sweetie."

"I will. Thanks for dinner."

"Of course, Jodi. I love you."

"I love you, too." Jodi went over to her father and hugged him. I joined Rhonda in the kitchen as she started to clean everything up.

"So, what do you think of my girls?" she asked, rinsing the dishes off as I stacked them in the dishwasher.

"They seem like really good kids."

"Oh, they are. I really miss Jodi when she’s away at school. I only see her maybe a couple times a month."

"Why? She’s not that far from home?" I looked for a place to stick the glass I had just been handed.

"I know, but she’s busy. She belongs to so many clubs, and she works a lot of hours. I don’t know how she manages to pull it all off." She laughed. "However, I am happy to say that Cody started talking to me today about a college she may be interested in."

"You should really encourage her, Ron."

"I’m trying. There’s just such a thin line between encouragement and downright grabbing by the hair and dragging to the door of the school, you know? I mean, the only reason we were even able to get her to go to Sacred Heart was because she got a full ride scholarship."


"Oh, yeah. The girl isn’t dumb, she just doesn’t try. Well, stopped trying, I should say." She sighed sadly. "I don’t understand these kids these days, Brooklyn. When I was a kid, I didn’t have these kind of choices."

"You are full of shit, Rhonda. You and Tom were the biggest hippies I’ve ever met. In some ways, Tom still is." She grinned.

"Cody’s just like her dad."

"Then what’s not to understand?"

"As soon as I graduated from high school I started getting serious about life, and went to college. Very few women did at that time, I’ll have you know."

"And you have to keep in mind that Cody just graduated last summer. She’s not some old spinster quite yet, Ron." She chuckled.

"Don’t give her any ideas.

"It could be worse." She glanced over at me as she handed me a plate. "She could have come home pregnant or something."

"True," she conceded. "I’m just so disappointed."

"I know."

* * *

I walked into the bedroom, heading straight for my hamsters’ cage. They began to squeak with excitement when they saw me.

"Hello, babies," I cooed, opening up their cage, gathering them both up, and carrying them to the bed. They sniffed me and then the comforter, Sploosh curling up next to my arm. "Are you tired, little one?" I asked, using just the tip of my finger to pet the top of his head. Shloop wasn’t far behind until they were both cuddled up next to me. So little.

When I was staying with Uncle Bruce, he had this old hound dog named Candy. This dog must have been near twenty years old. She had arthritis and was blind in one eye, but she was the best company I’d even known; far better than any friend I’d ever had. She could sense my sadness, and would come over to me, her head hanging, the slight limp in her back leg, but she’d always find me and find a way to get to me, and she’d lay her head on my arm, or my shoulder, or even my stomach, depending on where I was.

I remember laying there for hours just stroking her back, careful to avoid the growth down by her tail. I’d talk to her, ask her all the questions I wanted to ask the person in charge of life, or I’d tell her my dreams, and all that I wanted to do with my life. She listened like no one else, whining once in a while to let me know she was still there.

Seeing that Sploosh was about to take a dump, I gathered the animals in my hands, and put them back in their cage, grabbing the food bowl to refill.

I remembered how Bruce had called me at school, telling me that Maggie had finally gone to doggie heaven. I had been so upset, missing my class that night as I laid in my bed in that ratty apartment I shared with Rand. She had come home and had laid with me for hours, letting me talk or cry. See, when Maggie had died, well, it had been hard.

But, as time passed, I came to realize that she was there for me when I had needed her most, and I had been the one who paid the most attention to her. Sometimes I feel guilty, like when I left for school she just finally gave up. But, I knew it had been the best thing for her. She was one sick little lady.

Readying myself for bed, I changed into the t-shirt I’d slept in since college, and slipped beneath the covers on my bed, the down comforter just folding around me like I was sleeping under a protective cloud. Though I was a quarter of a century old, sometimes I still got scared, especially when the dreams came. I hated that.

Sometimes Keith would stay the night and just hold me. I slept the best those nights. Though he had no idea why I cried, he stayed with me. The brother I’ll never have.


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