Lucy moved in three weeks ago. Between her boss being an ass and me having extra space, there was no reason for her to not. She showed up with two boxes and a handful of garments draped over her arms. I carried in the rest of her possessions from the taxi and set them down on the couch while she settled into my arms to make the official announcement.
We live together.
I don’t regret a single moment of it.
There’s a thud in the other room. Scratch that other comment.
I don’t regret Lucy being here. I could never get tired of her company and positive energy and the way her things have started to fill up my shelves and closet even though I gave her dedicated areas for it. We look together. My vintage records are interspersed with figurines she adores and little pictures from her time at various burlesque clubs. She’s managed to make the kitchen a more functional room and turned the guest room into a changing area for her costumes. Our toothbrushes share a cup in the bathroom and we share a bed. It’s really the best of everything I could wish.
Another thud. Okay. I’m up.
Lucy is sprawled across the mattress, somehow taking more than half of it as her arms and legs spread in opposite directions, my green comforter tucked around her while I’ve been freezing for most of the night. I could get a new blanket from the other room, but then I wouldn’t be sharing the one she’s under. I don’t mind being cold. I don’t think I’d be able to sleep if I couldn’t constantly feel the warmth of her sleeping body and listen to the light snores she would never admit to having.
A rip sounds through the otherwise silent house.
There’s one problem with Lucy moving in.
I listen to paws scamper across the tiled floor of the kitchen, the damn thing moving like a rhinoceros on a rampage. I’m on my way. Coming. One slipper on my right foot, I slide my foot around the floor as I blindly search for the other. There’s another rip.
Forget the other slipper. I can’t rush into this battle fully prepared. I just have to get out there and tear the tiny puppy teeth out of whatever he has managed to destroy now.
“Dorian,” I whisper yell into the air, using the name we decided on because I’ve always been an Oscar Wilde fan and Lucy enjoys a more contemporary fantasy series with a prince who shares the same name.
There’s more pitter pattering of tiny paws as the little monster realizes somebody else is in the house for him to terrorize. His head pops out from behind the corner of the wall that leads to the kitchen. A piece of my black slipper dangles from his mouth.
The puppy lets out a grumbling yap and then takes off as I step towards him. I stumble into a mess in the kitchen that would make an active werewolf proud. Feathers from one of the couch pillows are strewn through the room, some still floating in the air as the little dog bounces away from me. He’s managed to bump the table hard enough to spill the latest bouquet of flowers I brought home to Lucy, decorating the disaster in splashes of green and pink and yellow from the stems and petals. I don’t even want to think about the creature managing to get into a cupboard just to chew up apples and lemons. He didn’t eat the fruit. Just gnawed on it and left it on the floor for me to pick up.
My heart hammers against my chest. This isn’t going to work. Lucy is amazing. She’s the love of my life, but this, this is far more than I signed up for.
Red creeps into the edges of my vision as I watch the ball of fluff roll in his mess and then go back to chewing on my shoe. I knew I should have told Lucy no. She walked home from a job interview three days ago and found him in an abandoned box. They were both wet and shivering from the late hour. There was no way for me to be heartless and tell her the pup had to go.
This is different, though. He is dry and fed and an absolute terror in the face of the kindness I’ve bestowed upon him.
Light footsteps sound behind me, the only indication that Lucy is about to sneak up on me. I flinch as her fingers skate along my spine. Breathe, Ashby. Breathe and calm down. This is an irrational reaction to uncertain circumstances.
Lucy doesn’t shy away from my red eyes and odd behavior. Instead, she loops an arm around my hips and pulls me towards her. “Hey. We can do this.”
All of my threats to throw the puppy back onto the street evaporate. Of course we can do this. She and I can do anything together.
I wrap my arms around her and kiss her forehead. “I didn’t think parenting a dog would be so difficult.”
She laughs into my shoulder. “You’re doing better than my mom. She abandoned me the second things got hard. We can stick together and help him. He doesn’t know any better, Ashby.”
Yeah. Right. I survived a world war and the transition into a vampire, but Lucy had a far more fucked up childhood. This is important to her. I’ll do anything I can to help her if this is something she needs.
“Do you want to sweep or start coffee?” I ask as the muddled colors of my vision finally clear.
She takes the broom immediately, sweeping the pieces into a pile in the center of the room, her giggle filling the space as Dorian flounces in the shifting mess. He catches the end of the broom in his sharp teeth, shaking his head from side to side with a growl. Boiling water for our coffee, I watch the exchange. Lucy and Dorian on opposite ends of the black utensil, laughter and grumbles filling the room.
This. She needs this.
I watch the two of them for a moment. Dorian wobbles on his end, unsure of his feet and round body. Lucy lets him win, though. She puts on a big show of losing control of her end of the broom before lowering it to the ground. He pulls it several feet, his short tail blurring as he celebrates his success. Lucy chases after him, tucking her arms around his chubby body and hefting him into the air.
Pure joy filters through Lucy’s green eyes. The pup yips and wriggles in her arms. The two of them together are the picture of a happy home.
My happy home.
I prepare the coffee and move to join them, tip-toeing around the mess until I’m on the other side of Lucy. I take a sip of my hot drink and then offer it to the beautiful woman in my kitchen. That’s not what she wants, though.
Grabbing me by the back of my neck, she drags me down, kissing me like the lovestruck fool I am. Dorian joins in on the action, licking our chins and grumbling about his squished position. I laugh, patting the little monster on his head.
. . .
I’ve slept less than five hours this week. Dorian is a whirlwind pup that needs to have constant supervision lest he destroy something else in my house. Most of the cupboards now have chew marks on the bottom of their doors. The couch is covered in his thick fur. There’s no correct placement for the furniture anymore. Already growing, Dorian bowls through everything in his way, a tornado ready to take out my home’s interior while I hastily put it back together.
Lucy has a plan. She squeezes my hand before hefting Dorian into her arms. We’re going on a family walk. Just two lost adults trying to figure out how other people manage to train these feral creatures.
It’s raining outside, the cold streets of the Bay filled with wind and water. My umbrella wavers in my hold as I try to keep it over Lucy and Dorian. It doesn’t matter if I’m wet. My tailor would yell at me for treating my vests this way, but I don’t care. They’re my priority.
It’s a short walk to the pet store, Dorian wriggling in Lucy’s arms the entire time as he attempts to nip the end of our black umbrella. Naughty pup. Mischievous mutt. He’s going to grow up to have Lucy’s total lack of fear in the face of the world, ready to take everything he can with his front paws and floppy ears.
As if to give into my theory, the customer service members at the front of the little store completely fall over each other to get to Lucy first, all cooing words and pleas to pet the rambunctious creature that has overturned my life. Lucy lets the two women pet Dorian for a few moments before she starts to tell them about our predicament. In a matter of minutes, Lucy and Dorian are whisked away to the back of the store to talk about training instruments and other puppy needs.
This is her thing. I let her go, her focus solely on giving this stray animal a good life as she happily takes all of the advice the team members can give her. Wandering on my own, I glance at pictures on the wall behind the service counter. There’s sketches of animals done by children: a cat in green crayon, three dogs in a rainbow selection, turtles, lizards, and several birds outlined by a thoughtful adult and then scribbled in by anxious toddlers.
My chest tightens. Out of the corner of my eye, I watch Lucy kiss the top of Dorian’s head as he melts into her hold. I’ll never be able to give her this. Children aren’t really the point of genetically altered vampires. I’m a lab experiment gone right. There’s plenty of research on syrens and vampires, but none of them are exactly like me and her.
We haven’t even had the sex talk. The woman showed up with her things, took over the spare room, and then begged to share my bed when she realized I only had a cot in the other room. I don’t regret a single moment of it, but there are hard things we’ll have to discuss if we want this to last for as long as we both live.
Shaking off the sad thoughts, I watch her find a green collar with a bow tie and fit it to the puppy. It’s my favorite shade. Green like her eyes. She marks the pup as an official member of our family, accepting a small metal tag for his identification information. The team members have nothing better to do, so they find him a matching harness and leash set that’s meant to expand as he gets bigger. One of them leaves and brings back a cart full of supplies that they assure Lucy is all necessary for our little guy.
So quickly, Lucy glances to me and bites the corner of her lip. It’s the most nervous I’ve ever seen her. For once, I get the chance to play Prince Charming and dash in to save my damsel in distress.
“We’ll take it all,” I tell them as I step over.
Lucy’s eyes widen, but she doesn’t contradict me until the two women have left for the counter. “I’m between jobs right now, Ashby. As much as I love this dog, I can’t exactly afford all of that right now.”
Resting Dorian on one hip, she puts her other hand on her opposite hip as she looks up at me with a look of absolute disbelief. “Way to rub it in my face that you’re super old and have made good investments.”
That’s not what I expected her to say. I can’t help the laugh bubbling up through my chest. “What if I actually worked for the money I have?”
“That’s so much worse. You already spoil me nonstop. I won’t let you spend your life savings on us.” She quirks an eyebrow at me, her bottom lip trembling.
Oh. This is an important conversation. I was standing in the corner dreading how I would eventually get this woman to talk to me about our future and it’s already here for us to deal with.
I reach out and pet Dorian’s nose, his chubby body gelatin in Lucy’s hold as he tries to sleep off the excitement of the last few moments. “What if I want to do that?”
She shakes her head. “I already have to replace your slippers and we both know I can’t really afford the stylist you employ. You can’t do this much for me.”
Tears glimmer in her bright eyes. I have to say the right thing. This is a big moment, a foundational conversation for us to move forward.
Gently, so scared to look at her too hard but unable to keep from touching, I caress her cheek. “I won’t do something you don’t want, Lucy, but I want to take care of you. I want to take care of him. I,” there’s no stopping the words as they tumble out of my mouth, “want a life with you, a happily ever after with some version of a family, and I want to start that sooner rather than later. Today is as good a time as any.”
She sniffs, her lips quivering. “He ate all of your couch cushions.”
“He just has expensive tastes like me,” I smirk, begging her with my eyes to let herself give into my touch and my words and walk out of this place a stronger couple than when we walked in.
That does it. She breathes out a shaky giggle, rustling the puppy who gives his own yowl of approval with a shake of his tail.
“I think I want this, too,” she says, those emerald eyes threatening to drown me if I continue to meet her gaze. “I didn’t know that when I quit my job and showed up or when I brought him home, but I feel safe with you. I like to spend time with you. I don’t know what the future really holds for me, but I might like it more if you promised to do it with me.”
There’s no reason to stop and think this through. I stopped thinking rationally when she plucked my wallet out of my pocket all of those months ago. Lucy Lore has put a beating heart back into my cold chest and I will let the world burn around us if that’s what it takes to keep her in my life.
“Me too,” she whispers, lifting on her tip-toes in order to press a kiss to the corner of my lips.
I steal the dog from her then, nuzzling my face into his thick hair and staring into his blue eyes. “Let’s go get you checked out, Dorian. We have plenty of puppy training for you to do this afternoon.”
Lucy hooks her fingers around my elbow and trails us to the counter. My heart could float from her sheer proximity. I thought this pup was a bucketful of problems. Rather, he’s the solution to so many bigger concerns.
Lucy and I are going to be parents together. Her, me, and Dorian.
It’s the best kind of family.
Guys, I completely panicked when I first read this prompt! I did not know who or what I was going to write about. My wife gave me the idea of Lucy and Ashby adopting a puppy, so I‘m incredibly excited to now incorporate a dog into the general body of my novels. Ashby is such a fun and unique character to explore through these stories as he isn’t a major POV character in my novels and is generally viewed as a “bad guy” by the others.
I hope you all enjoyed reading this cute story as much as I did writing it!
Please be sure to check out my writing partner’s blog for Bridgette’s short story on an elderly couple dealing with the problem of booming bubbles: https://bridgettetales.com/2022/07/30/challenge-week30/