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“I know, boy. He’ll be home soon. I promise.”

You smiled, your tired hands cupping the dog’s slack face. His tongue hangs out of his mouth, through his teeth loosely. You have to admit, you weren’t really all there when the front door was opened, startling as you sat up quickly. Your hands flew up and down your shirt as you made a sad attempt at looking somewhat presentable. Embarrassed beyond measure, you spun around in the lazy chair to face him.

“Oh, Mickey! I was just telling Pluto you’d be home any minute now...how was it? The movie?” 

Mickey paused to give you a pointed look before walking into the kitchen.

“I take it you weren’t all that into it.” You picked at your fingers, knees nervously bobbing up and down, your socks brushing against the carpet. 

“Down boy! Ah — use your words.” You listen to Mickey and Pluto yap in the next room for another good five minutes before Pluto was scurrying past you and up the flight of stairs. The blank stare you held at the wall in front of you was cut short by Mickey darting in front of you as he fell slack against the couch to your right. He held a large mug in one hand. 

“How was he? Not too much trouble, right?” 

You clear your throat, eyeing the hands on the clock intently as they tick past 11.

“No! He was fine. Absolute angel, he is.” 

“Ha ha! Maybe for you! ” 

There it was. His laugh. It was contagious, your cheeks warming to a dull red. You had been dog-sitting for this guy for what — two years now? It never got old, not once. He would leave for a night on the town, maybe work, whatever he did for however many hours, come home, and invite you to stay after. Of course, there were names that were brought up quite frequently throughout your many conversations...one specifically you choose to ignore. You would say you were pretty comfortable with his lifestyle and choices and daily routine, but this was getting to be a bit of a hassle.

You were getting too comfortable. 

With him? His home? His dog? You had no idea. It could be either, or, all. You couldn’t say for sure. All you know is that everytime he opens his mouth to speak  you can’t help but let your thoughts wander, thighs clamping together as your fists ball up near the hem of your skirt, struggling to keep focus on the words slipping out of his mouth and to keep yours inside. Deep inside. You could never confess. Never. It would ruin your relationship, this...beautiful relationship that you had built up over the years. 

“So Donald then turns to me and goes — hey, are you alright?” 

You swallow thickly, nearly flinching as you watch his hand move to rest upon yours. His gloves were soft against your skin, cotton thumb brushing back and forth when he leaned in to get a better view of your face. You turned away. You couldn’t face him like this! Your cheeks were burning, you couldn’t stop biting your lip. You let your hair fall around your frame, hiding your face from his strong gaze. 

“I’m fine. Really. Go on? With your story, I mean.” The last half of that sentence came out as nothing but a measly croak, and you desperately hoped he didn’t hear the anxiety in your voice. You felt helpless as his hand slipped from yours and he leaned back where he sat. You took your chances, eyes meeting his awkwardly. His mouth was cut into a deep frown, fingers tapping against one knee as he blew hot air from his cheek. He looked so...sincere. 

“What’s wrong? Seriously. I mean it, um, did I say something...to upset you? Or did Pluto do something? You can tell me. I won’t be mad. Was he digging through the garbage again?” 

You winced. You had caught Pluto in the trash today, but that was so far from the truth of what was actually weighing down on your mind. 

“I’m fine, I swear it! And no, Pluto was great...there have just been some things I’ve had to really roll over in my head recently. You know?” 

He nods knowingly, ears flopping loosely around his face. He wore a thick sweater, green and coated with lint, sleeves rolled up just above his elbows. You stare down at the carpet, unsure of what to say next. Did he expect you to continue? You hoped not. 

“I feel the same way.” 

Your eyes shot over to where he sat, jaw slack, lips agape. Did he…?

“Work, relationships, friendship. All so stressful, and for what? So I can come home and sit alone — with my dog? No offense Pluto…” 

You sighed. 

Shouldn’t have gotten your hopes up.

You didn’t fail to pick up on how he very clearly distinguished relationships from friendships. You wondered how frequently he got out and around. And with who. Pulled from the far back of your brain, you remembered an awful name you often choose to ignore and toss it aside. Setting the mug he had been sipping from throughout your ‘talk’ in the cup holder of the recliner portion of his sectional, he laid back, legs crossed over one another. 

“Well, if you ever need a pal — just know that I’m here for you.” He said, one eye shut as he stretched his arms far above his head. 

You nod, mostly to yourself, his tired eyes already shut tightly. You try to stand and go use the bathroom before heading out but...something held you back. 

No! You can’t. Don’t. You’ll ruin everything.

You shake your head, turning back towards the hall and shutting the door softly behind you as you stand alone in the washroom. You stare at yourself in the mirror, leaning against the counter framing the sink, fingers curling around the edge. It was cold. You really didn’t have to go...but…wow.

If only this man knew what he did to you.

You told yourself that you weren’t going to masturbate in his home and left the bathroom, sliding your purse over one shoulder and slipping on your socks. You were nearly at the door before your attention was turned back to where Mickey lay asleep on his couch. The grin that tore at your cheeks then almost hurt with how wide you were smiling. He laid with either leg crossed, one hand resting on his chest, the other propped up by his elbow to support the weight of his head, cheeks smashed. You bit your lip. This was wrong. This was really wrong. This was shameful. 

You really tried to stop yourself, and yet here you were, frame flush with Mickey’s own as you lay in fetal position. His skin was so warm against yours, and you had to fight the very prominent urge to cup your hand over his as you fell asleep against him.