by Laura Pearson
After dozens of false alarms, it was time. I sat with her head in my lap, stroking her ears the way she’d always liked. You didn’t say anything, and I knew your heart was breaking. She’d been with us from the start. Our second date, we walked past an animal shelter and you said you’d always wanted a dog, and we went inside. You took her home that afternoon. Two weeks later, I moved in.
‘I’ll drive,’ you said, a hairline crack in your deep voice. I lifted her, and noted how much lighter she felt. As if she was empty inside. We took her bed from the kitchen and laid it in the back seat, trying to make this last journey the best it could be.
You carried her in, and we were shown to a room where we could say goodbye. It was bright white, clinical, but there were human touches. A vase of fresh flowers, pale green cushions. I knew you were going to break down before you did, and I knew, too, that I would not. That my crying would be done later, in private. We held her, and your tears fell on the fur of her neck, and I knew I’d always remember that.
Afterwards, we went home, and it wasn’t the same place we’d left. We both knew it was over. I said I’d go to my mum’s, and you nodded, your face still wet with tears. I packed some things in a bag, said I’d come back for the rest. At the door, I turned. I said thank you. I meant for the way you’d loved me, and her. You put your arms around me and almost lifted me off the ground. And in that hug, all the love we’d squandered.