“What the hell?! Are you fucking kidding me?!” he shouted, his voice making me jump a bit. He lifted his dog into his arms, cradling the pet as if it were his own child. As he stood, I stood. As he searched around, I searched around.
“Let me drive you to the vet,” I said, my body shaking from seeing the dog trembling in the stranger’s arms. I knew I should’ve been annoyed with the tone he’d taken with me, but when someone was in panic mode, you couldn’t really blame them for their behavior. He didn’t speak back, but I watched the hesitation in his eyes. His face was framed with a very thick, dark, untamed beard. His mouth was hidden somewhere in the wildness resting against his face, so all I had to rely on was the story he told with his eyes. “Please,” I begged. “It’s too far to walk.”
He nodded once and only once. When he opened the passenger seat, he and his pet sat inside, closing the door behind them.
Hopping into the car, I started driving.
“What’s going on?” Emma asked.
“We are just going to take the pup to get checked out, honey. Everything’s fine.” I really hoped I wasn’t lying to her.
It was a twenty-minute drive to the closest 24-hour animal hospital, and the car ride didn’t exactly go the way I’d thought it would.
“Take a left on Cobbler Street,” he ordered.
“Harper Avenue will be faster,” I disagreed.
He grunted, his annoyance shining through. “You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, take Cobbler!”
I took a breath. “I know how to drive.”
“Do you? Because I think your driving is the reason we’re sitting here.”
I was five seconds from kicking the rude jerk out of my car, but his whimpering dog was the only reason I didn’t. “I already apologized.”
“That doesn’t help my dog.”
“Cobbler is the next right,” he said.
“Harper is the next, next right.”
“Don’t take Harper.”
Oh, I’m taking Harper just to annoy the living shit out of this guy. Who does he think he is?
I turned right onto Harper.
“I can’t believe you just fucking took Harper,” he groaned. His infuriation made me smile a little, until I hit the construction zone and ‘closed street’ signs. “Are you always so ignorant?”
“Are you always…always…always...” I started stuttering, because unlike some, I wasn’t great at arguing with people. I actually sucked at it and normally ended up crying like a child because words didn’t form in my head at the speed that fights normally functioned. I was the awkward person who thought of the best comebacks three days after the argument took place. “Are you always…always…”
“Always what? Spit it out! Use words!” he ordered.
I swung my steering wheel around, making a U-turn, and headed for Cobbler Street. “Are you always a…”
“Come on, Sherlock, you can do it,” he said, mockingly.
“A DICK!” I screamed, turning on Cobbler.
The car went silent. My cheeks heated up, and my fingers gripped tightly around the wheel.
When I pulled into the driveway, he opened the door and, without any words my way, lifted his dog and rushed into the emergency room. I debated if that was where we should part ways, but I knew my mind wouldn’t be able to calm down until I knew the dog was okay.
“Mommy?” Emma asked.
“What’s a dick?”
Parenting fail number five-hundred-and-eighty-two of today. “Nothing, babe. I said tick. A tick is a bug.”
“So you called that person a bug?”
“Yup. A big bug.”
“Is his puppy going to die?” she asked next.
I really hope not.
After unbuckling Emma, we headed into the emergency hospital. Stranger was slamming his hands against the receptionist’s desk. His lips were moving, but I couldn’t hear anything he was saying.
The receptionist grew more and more uncomfortable. “Sir, I’m just saying I need you to fill out the forms and provide us with a reliable credit card, or we cannot proceed with looking into your pet’s injuries. Furthermore, you cannot just walk in here with no shoes. Also, your attitude isn’t needed.”
Stranger banged his fists against the desk once more before pacing back and forth, his hands running through his long black hair and landing against his neck. His breaths were heavy and uneven, his chest rising and falling quite hard. “Does it fucking look like I am currently traveling with credit cards? I was on a run, you idiot! And if you aren’t going to do anything, then get me someone else to talk to.”
The woman flinched at his words and anger, as did I.
“They’re with me,” I said, walking over to the receptionist. Emma clung to my arm and Bubba clung to hers. Reaching into my purse, I pulled out my wallet and handed the woman my card.
She narrowed her eyes, unsure. “You’re with him?” she asked, almost insultingly, as if Stranger was someone who deserved to be alone.
No one deserved to be alone.
I looked at him and saw perplexity in his eyes, along with the anger, which still remained. I wanted to break our stare, but the misery swimming in his irises seemed way too familiar to pull away from. “Yes.” I nodded. “I’m with him.” She hesitated some more, and I stood up straight. “Is that a problem?”
“No, no. I just need you to fill out this form.”