"Just do this for me, please?" Amanda rarely begged, but she needed Carisi to hang with Frannie while she took Jesse to some mother-baby activities that day that didn't allow pets. She had already paid a deposit on one of them, and her usual dog sitter didn't work on weekends.
She didn't expect that asking Carisi to watch Frannie for a while would be such a big deal. She really wasn't expecting much of a problem at all because none of the activities were scheduled to start before he was done with church. And he usually spent much of his time after church on Sundays over at her place anyway. She really didn't understand why he was digging is feet in over this.
"Amanda, I told you I'm not good with dogs."
"Please, I've seen you with Frannie!"
Amanda is in a hurry and is starting to get a little frustrated with this whole situation. Then Jesse starts wailing as she's trying to get her jacket on. She throws her hands up in the air and turns back to him. "Look, I've seen you with other dogs, too. You're fine."
"I'm … I'm really not comfortable, 'Manda. Being left alone to take care of her."
They both look over at Frannie who is eagerly standing by the door, her purple doggie walking club bandana on. She's so ready to go that she's already got her leash in her mouth. But she senses Carisi's reluctance and is looking back and forth between him and Amanda, confused.
"I've left you alone with Jesse before. She's survived."
"That's different," he grumbles.
"It just is."
"Look," she places a hand on his cheek and kisses him lightly. When she pulls back from him she says, "I can see you're nervous."
"Yeah," he says, taking her hand off of his face and into his own, feeling a little ashamed for being such a wimp.
"It will be okay. You'll do fine. I trust you," she says firmly and shakes his hand a little.
At that point Frannie drops the leash and comes over to lick his other hand.
"See," Amanda continues and strokes his shoulder. "She does, too. You both will be fine."
"If you say so," he says doubtfully.
Carisi walks Frannie to the park where the Paws for Peace walking club was gathering. Amanda had recently joined this group and would bring Frannie and Jesse down to walk with them most Sunday mornings while he was in church. They had an afternoon session too, but she had never been. This would be Frannie's first time. And his.
"Hey there," Carisi approaches a group of women attached by leashes to dogs with the same bandana that Frannie has on. It is drizzling lightly.
A black Newfie starts straining at his leash in an attempt to get to Frannie. Frannie is wagging her tail and straining at hers, too. They appear to be friends so Carisi walks Frannie towards the Newfie and its owner. Frannie and the other dog exchange the typical canine greeting of sniffing around each other's whole body, including their asses. Then they commence to playfully nipping at each other's ears and emitting soft barks.
"His name's Winky," the Newfie's owner says to him cheerfully. She holds out a hand. "And mine's Catherine."
"Sonny," He says and takes it. "I take it you guys already know Frannie."
"Oh yes, we know Frannie. Amanda's puppy." She smiles. "I switch off mornings and afternoons each week so Winky and Frannie get to see each other every other Sunday. Since she usually only comes in the morning, you know. Until now."
"Hey, who's the new guy?" A pert blonde bounces up to them with the tiniest little round puffball Carisi's ever seen. Too small to even be sporting one of those purple bandanas, that's for sure. Are there even eyes in there or is that really a Tribble?
Catherine introduces them.
"This is Sonny." She points to him and then to her. "And Sonny this is Kibble."
"Ugh," the blonde groans. "It's Sarah."
"Yeah, but we like to call her Kibble," Catherine jests.
"Please." The blonde rolls her eyes. "Just call me Sarah."
As the drizzle begins to turn to rain, they head off on the trail with their dogs and soon Carisi, Frannie, Sarah, and her little puffball fall into step together. Frannie seems intrigued by their new companion and keeps sniffing it. The ball of fluff responds with cheerful yips from time to time which delight Frannie to no end.
"So Kibble, huh?"
"Yeah, don't ask."
"I have the same problem you, know. Keep asking people to call me Sonny but they won't … "
She nods. "Same. I'm about ready to give up and start introducing myself as 'Hi, I'm Kibble – you know, as in Kibbles N' Bits the dog food?'"
He chuckles. "Dog food, huh? Bet there's a story there."
"Let me just tell you. I stole Catherine's boyfriend back in fifth grade and she's never let me live it down."
"What does that have to do with dog food?"
"Wouldn't you like to know?" she says flirtatiously.
He grins. Yes he would. But he's not going to trample down that path.
Frannie and Sarah's dog are getting along famously and Winky has decided to join them again. The two larger dogs are getting rambunctious and Carisi finds himself getting worried for the little fuzzball's safety. He keeps pulling back on Frannie's leash to break it up.
At one point Frannie just stops and stares at him with a look on her face like 'Seriously?'
Carisi takes the time to kneel down by her side, getting his dress pants wet. He hadn't bothered to change from church. "Hey there, girl."
As he strokes the top of her head and then tickles her chin her tail starts wagging again.
"Forgive me, eh? I know you're a good girl and you'd never hurt your new little friend there. Not even by accident."
Frannie looks at him with what appears to be complete comprehension. Amazed, Carisi realizes this is just one more reason that Amanda loves her so much.
"I'm just worried about that big curly-haired mess over there, ya know? That Winky fella looks kinda wily. You sure you can trust him?"
With that Frannie nods. NODS. And licks his hand. He just shakes his head in amazement.
"Okay then. But you've gotta look out for that little one. We don't want her to get hurt now do we?"
Frannie just nods again and looks like she wants to rejoin the others.
"Okay girl," he says as the rain starts coming down harder. He looks up at the sky before they head back to the group. "I hope they're thinking about wrapping this thing up soon. It's not like this is Seattle you know."
Except, the woman running the group is a transplant from the Northwest. It figures. She never even carries an umbrella and can't comprehend why the others want to call it a day. Eventually she's over-ruled and the group disperses. In a huff she leaves, taking her bulldogs Spartacus and Maximus with her.
"Guess it's just us then. Huh, Sonny?" Sarah comes up to him, looking like she wants to take his arm. They are far from alone. For one, Catherine and Winky are still there and she has crossed her arms now, just shaking her head at her friend.
When Sarah deepens her flirtatious smile, it makes Carisi nervous. He's so distracted by it that he doesn't notice that her dog has gotten off of its leash.
"Are you seeing anyone?" she asks with feigned innocence.
And then it's all a blur of screeches, yelps, and rain.
Carisi bolts upright in bed, drenched in sweat.
"Did that rest do you any good?" He hears his sister Gina say from the chair across the room.
"No, I don't think so." He wipes some sweat off of his brow and reaches for his cell phone. "I gotta call 'Manda."
Gina is up out of the chair in an instant, wrestling with him for the phone. "No."
Grunting and rolling over him a few times with the effort she finally succeeds, stands up and points at him sternly. "No. She's the last person you should be talking to right now, Sonny."
"But I need to. . ." his face crumples in agony and he drops his head into his hands.
"No," Gina says gently now and sits beside him on the bed. She strokes her little brother's hair. "I saw her myself. She is so beyond pissed right now that anything you say to her is only going to make it worse. Trust me, okay?"
He nods and looks back up at her. "This isn't just hard for Amanda, it's hard for me, too. You know?"
"I know, sweetie. That's why I'm here." She strokes his back and whispers. "That's why I'm here."
They sit in silence for a while before she finally breaks it. "You wanna talk about it? What happened when we were kids?"
He nods and takes a deep shuddering breath before saying, "It was all my fault."
"I know you think it was Sonny, but you were only four."
It was his first memory.
They had been packing all morning, preparing to move to Staten Island. He was vaguely excited about the idea of moving to an island because Gina had told him that islands were surrounded by water. He wanted to see that.
He snuck out into the rain that Sunday to play with Caesar, the family dog, despite his mom's instructions to stay inside and help his older sister Theresa pack. His job was to hold the box open. But it was soooo boring. Caesar had caught his eye and with a look of mischief, off they went.
It didn't take long though before his neighborhood friend Tommy came up to talk to him and he lost track of Caesar.
"So, are you guys moving?"
"Yeah!" Sonny said excitedly. "We're going to live on an island."
"Why? Doesn't your family like Brooklyn anymore?"
Sonny frowned at that. He didn't know.
"Sonny!" he heard Gina call from the stoop. "You'd better get back inside. Mom's pitching a fit. You're in big trouble."
And then he heard the yelp.
He turned around and watched in horror as the moving truck backed over . . .
"Caesar!" He screamed and dashed into the street.
Gina was right behind him, running in fright as she processed the danger in store for her little brother. It ripped through her very being. "Sonny, don't!"
She tackled him right in front of the wheel, before he could fall under it. He was still reaching out for their dog.
"Caesar!" The tears were pouring down his face as he screamed. "Caesar!"
The truck was still moving. Keeping Sonny pinned beneath her so he couldn't squirm under the truck in his distress, Gina screamed up at the cab. "STOP! STOP!"
It took a while for the moving guys in the cab to hear her, but they finally did and the driver threw the breaks. He came bounding out of the cab.
"Oh, shit!" the driver exclaimed when he saw Caesar under his back wheel. He took in the sight of Sonny, shook his head and said, "I'm sorry little man."
"Caesar," Sonny whimpered, completely ignoring the driver.
Gina had released Sonny by this point and now he was trying to pull Caesar out from under the truck's tire, getting blood and fur all over himself. "Gina, why won't he look at me?"
Gina slumped down beside him on her knees, defeated. She started crying herself. She loved Caesar too. "Because he's dead, Sonny."
He stopped what he was doing and turned to look at her, confused. "What does that mean?"
What a terrible way for her brother to learn this truth about life.
"We won't ever get to play with him again, little bro."
"Never." She said definitively.
"That's sad, Sissy." He gulped with fresh tears. "I want to play with him again."
"I know," she said and took him in her arms. Crying into his still baby-soft blonde hair she rocked him, tried to give him some comfort. "I know."
Thanks to Katben08 for the beta! The Newfoundland Winky is modeled after KnittingHarlot's dog and Spartacus and Maximus are modeled after Coco's bulldogs of course. :-)