Tragically abandoned series here!
Kel’s always had a knack for finding strays, ever since she was small. She’d run across hurt birds and mice and bring them home, never got upset when they’d leave as soon as they were able, because she knows how wild animals are. When she heard a mewling behind the gym when she was eight, she crawled in and nearly broke her arm rescuing a stray kitten, and her parents just smiled, indulgent, told her to be careful, and let her keep it, because that’s how her parents are.
And it’s how she is, too; she doesn’t know how to ignore something small and in need of her.
She’s sixteen when she finds the boys attacking the dog.
She’s tall and broad, strong, plenty used to getting in fights from football. She wouldn’t ordinarily take on three boys, but they’re hurting a dog, a sad little thing that can’t take care of itself.
“What are you doing?” she demands. She’s not as tall as the tallest of them, but she’s more solid than he is, and the other two are scrawny. They’re picking on the dog because they’re bullies who don’t like a fair fight. She can make ot a little fairer, at least.
“What’s it to you?” asks one of the boys. “It’s just a dog.”
“If it’s just a dog, what do you care?” she shoots back.
“Hey, that’s Mindelan,” one of the guys hisses, the short one.
“From the football team. The girl.”
Kel gives them a tight smile. “That’s me. Leave the dog alone.”
The boys exchange a look, but that means their attention is off the dog. Kel snaps her fingers, whistles softly, and the dog lopes over. He’s too thin and needs a bath, but he manages a snarl at the boys.
Not three on one, then. Three on two.
The guys look at each other, and the leader shakes his head. “Whatever. It’s just a stupid dog. Let’s go.”
Kel watches until they leave, and then she leans down to let the dog smell her hand. “So, I guess I should get someone to check on you, shouldn’t I,” she says. She checks her wallet, sighs. “If I get a taxi, will you not bite me?”
The dog just looks at her, head cocked, and Kel sighs.
“I hope that’s a yes.”
She could use her parents’ emergency credit card for a vet visit, but she’d feel bad, especially when she knows Daine. They aren’t friends, not really, but Daine is close to Beka’s cousin, and Kel still has a small, childish trust for her. Daine is the counselor who always knew every animal, who seemed to be able to do magic when Kel was small.
She texts Daine on the way to the taxi, asks if she can bring a dog by for Daine to look at.
Daine calls immediately, which Kel supposes is fair enough. Can you look at a hurt dog is a weird thing to discuss via text message. Even on the phone, it’s pretty weird.
“What happened?” Daine asks, as soon as Kel picks up. “You got a dog?”
“I found some boys kicking him,” Daine says. “He seems friendly enough, when no one’s trying to hurt him. But he’s thin and I think they might have broken something. Could you take a look?”
“I can try,” Daine says, sounding thoughtful. “I worked for a vet when I was in college, I still know some things. And Numair’s fair good with animals, when he wants to be. Can you get him here? Or do you–”
“I can afford a cab,” Kel says.
“Tell me how much it is, I’ll pay you back,” Daine says. “See you soon.”
She’s never been out to Daine and Numair’s place before, a nice house, not too large, but with a large house. Two dogs bark when they drive up, and a cat flees when it sees Kel. There are papers and books everywhere, and Daine smiles like she’s embarrassed about it.
“Sorry. If I had known you were coming, I would have tried to clean. When you’re both in grad school, cleaning is the first thing to go.”
“It’s fine,” Kel says. She whistles for the dog, and it limps in after her. “Thanks for taking a look.”
“Oh no,” Daine says, soft. “Oh, you poor thing. Who would do that?”
“Just some kids from school,” Kel says, dark. “I’ll recognize them if I see them again.”
Daine nods, with a vindictive kind of satisfaction, which Kel appreciates. She doesn’t believe in revenge, but–she believes in keeping an eye on people who deserve it.
“He didn’t try to bite you, did he?” Daine asks. “Even though he was hurt.”
“No, he didn’t do anything at all. He’s been friendly.” She frowns, pets the dog, whose tail wags a little. “I don’t know why anyone would want to hurt him.”
“Some folk see something smaller than them and think it’s their job to hurt instead of help,” says Daine. “What are you going to do with him?”
“Oh. I don’t know. He doesn’t look like someone’s missing him, does he?”
“No.” She pets him. “I’m going to go grab a few things to clean him up and get him better. You can think about it. I know some people at the shelter.”
Kel scratches the dog behind his ears. He’s too thin, and he’s clearly been in more fights than just the one she pulled him out of. “You don’t look like you’d do very well at a shelter,” she says, and his stub of a tail thumps again. “Probably came from one, honestly. But I live in a dorm, I can’t keep you.” He whimpers, like he understands, but doesn’t really. Dogs don’t. “I would,” she says. “My parents aren’t here, so they can’t keep you either. But maybe Daine would, and I could come visit.”
“I was going to suggest that,” says Daine, coming back in with a smile.
“I’m sorry, you don’t have to. I might know someone else who wants a dog.” She worries her lip. “I’d just hate to see him back on the streets after this. I’d take him if I could!”
Daine laughs. “How do you think we ended up with as many pets as we have? Numair and I are bleeding hearts. And you’ll have to come see us more often. To check on him.”
Kel smiles. “You don’t mind?”
“I don’t mind.” She lets the dog sniff her. “So long as he can get along with everyone else, but he seems like a good kind of dog. And maybe once you’re done with school, you can take him.”
A lot can change in two years, and Daine might get attached. But Kel lets herself think about it, smiles. “Maybe.”
“Do you want to name him?”
The dog picks himself up once Daine is done, wags his tail at Kel again. He’s going to be energetic. A handful.
“Jump,” she says, smiling.
“Jump,” Daine agrees. “We’ll hold onto him for you.”