Franny hooked the leash onto Precious’s collar, as the dog showed every sign of needing to go outdoors, now. Although she had permission to keep Precious “temporarily” in her apartment, Franny also obeyed the unspoken part of the agreement with the landlord to make sure none of the other tenants saw them coming and going. Fortunately, Precious was quiet these days, and the cooler fall weather allowed Franny to wrap her largest coat around them both as she scooted outside.
Precious had been with Franny, off and on, since that day last spring when Franny found her in Marilyn’s empty house. Douglas had wanted to keep Precious at home, but his back and forth trips to the local hospital, and then to the hospital in the bigger city farther away, made it difficult. Leo would have been the obvious choice to keep Precious, given his basement apartment with direct access outside, and a lackadaisical landlord.
Franny’s attachment to the dog, and Precious’s obvious preference for Franny over Leo, made it obvious to them all that the two needed to stay together if they could. During the summer, Franny spent days at a time living in Marilyn’s house, taking care of Precious, and feeding Douglas when he was able to share a meal. After a few weeks, Douglas asked Franny if she wanted to give up her apartment and move in full time.
“I’m not here much, and who knows what the future will bring,” Douglas had said. “You could save some money by not paying rent. Live-in help, we’ll call you, and your room is your compensation.”
Franny had expected this offer, and up until the moment it was made, she’d been ready to take it. Marilyn’s house was small enough to care for easily, the garden would be a wonderful benefit, and of course, there was Precious.
“And if you and Leo…” Douglas had continued, letting the implication linger as his voice trailed off. If Leo and I want to be together, to live here together? Panicking, Franny immediately jumped in.
“No, Douglas. I mean, thank you very much. It’s a kind offer. But no. I need, I still need, I can’t.” Get it together, Franny scolded herself, seeing the confusion in Douglas’s eyes. “I’m not ready to give up my own place, I guess, Douglas. I’m sorry. I’ll be here as much as I can, don’t worry.”
He smiled wearily. “I understand, Franny. There’s no pressure. I’m very grateful for what you can give.”
What I can give? Franny mused, still, after the long, hot, terrible summer had faded. Am I ready to give anything to anyone?
Precious snuffled at a shrub, did a few spins, and sprayed a stream of urine. Her expression was one of sublime pleasure, and Franny laughed.
“I can give you a chance to pee, right?” They walked on into the cloudy day.