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Vera shoved Ray out of the way as if hoping to separate him from the horrible mess before her. But her voice betrayed her frustration.

“Bad boy,” she grumbled, “bad boy! Came home to this mess.”

Ray, disobeying her emphatic request for him to stay back, trotted up to her as she bent over the coffee grounds on her hands and knees. He started sniffing at her face, wondering what upset her, but she only ignored him with a sever silence.

That night, bed time was awkward. As she pulled down the covers, so unlike the makeshift bed of Niles’s couch, Ray stared up at her. He wasn’t entirely sure whether this was allowed or not, if she wanted him on the bed with her or down on the floor. Or even outside? But she looked down at his piteous face and patted at the foot of the bed where he happily he curled up and promptly fell asleep.

Next morning brought confusion once again. Ray rose from the bed before dawn as he usually did and wandered to the kitchen, but there was no water dish. No food bowl either. So he trotted to the front door where he knew outside was. There was no noise from the bedroom. His paw scratched at the door, drawing his nails into the wood with a subtle snick, snick. Ray looked over his shoulder, but still no one appeared.

Snick, snick, he tried again. The springs of the bed coiled with a squeak, but Vera still had not appeared. So he went and then headed back to the bedroom to sleep some more. After another fifteen minutes went by and she had still not let him out or fed him Ray hopped down and began to whine. When that did not immediately get her attention he barked and pawed at her.

Vera was not happy when she woke with his paw dragging across her face. But her anger mellowed when she realized that she had neglected to get him his own stuff. Furthermore, she realized how careless she’d been in not taking him out earlier. She might have to skip a shower if she wanted to get to work on time and still take Ray for a walk beforehand.

When she left for work, although things were strained, at least they parted knowing they were on equal footing. This was going to take a bit of adjustment, Vera thought before starting her car and promising herself to pick up some things for him on the way home.

She had forgotten about Niles.

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