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Work went by as usual, but as lunch time rolled around the shadow of a mustached man twitched over her shoulder and she hesitantly turned to look him in the face.

“Hey, just thought you should know, but Ray ran away yesterday,” Niles said, crossing his arms around him.

“What?”

Vera tried not to sound defensive.

“Yeah, well, he’s never done it before. At least I don’t think so. He’s a rescue, so who knows, but anyways, maybe you could keep an eye out?” Niles’s worry peeked its way past the curtain of his facial hair. It was a feeling she recognized and it pricked at the corner of her eyes. She could not bear to look at him directly and begged off eating lunch with him. Heavy work load today, she explained.

“I’ll keep an eye out for you,” Vera said over her shoulder as he walked away.

Then she typed with numbed fingers as fast as she could, leaning directly over the keys so that they were all she could see.

 

Their second night went smoother. Though about half-way home Vera suddenly remembered the dog bowls and kibble she needed to pick up and had to swing a U-turn back towards town to reach the pet store. It brought her home a bit later than she anticipated, but as they ate dinner together she was happy to have remembered. And she gave Ray a scratch behind the ears as he lay in the crook of her knees. Then she fell asleep.

The night passed well enough, but the joy of that first weekend with Ray never really came back. Ray continued to have to nudge her awake each morning so he could go out. And she began to anticipate coming home to a mess made of his boredom during a day spent home alone. At last one day, she unlocked the door to find her books torn and riddled with tooth marks. She shouted and in a fit of anger grabbed up a book and chased Ray into the bedroom with it. As he stared up at her with mournful, apologetic eyes she dropped the book to the floor and cried. It was her father’s book, her father that was gone and she was devastated to the point of wanting to strike that dog. In her mind he’d become the dog, not Ray.

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