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Puppy Dog Eyes

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“Benny,” Beth inhaled deeply through her nose and closed her eyes, “when you said that you had a surprise, I was expecting that you booked a flight to Paris, or cleaned the bathroom, or- or, something! Not this.”

“But just look at her!” Benny’s voice curled up with a childish whine. “She’s so cute.”

Beth opened her eyes very slowly, staring daggers at the puppy that was on a mission to unlace Benny’s boots, pouncing on them playfully. She slid her glare up to Benny, who looked at her with an open, almost pleading expression. 

Puppy dog eyes , she thought wryly. 

“Dogs do not belong in the house,” she said firmly. 

“This dog does,” Benny replied, bending over to pick the puppy up. The cream-colored puppy was utterly delighted with this, licking Benny’s face as he held her to his chest. “Tell me one good reason why dogs don’t belong in the house.”

She accepted his challenge, crossing her arms over her chest. “They’re dirty and they pee on things and they get hair on your nice clothes.”

“She isn’t dirty, are you?” Benny crooned to the puppy before returning his attention to Beth. “And she’s already housebroken.” Truly, Benny had no idea if the dog was housebroken, but it couldn’t be that hard to train a puppy, if only Beth would let him keep her.

“We are not getting a dog.” Beth turned on her heel, stalking into the living room and sitting on the couch with a huff. End of discussion .

 

But Benny followed her, the puppy, on the floor again, romping at his heels in mad pursuit of the elusive shoelaces.

“Come on,” he settled on a chair, “why don’t you want a dog?”

“I told you,” she said, “they’re dirty. Besides, we can’t have a dog with how much we travel.”

“Harry or Jolene will watch her,” Benny objected. “And she isn’t dirty, just look at her. She’s so cute.”

“You can barely take care of yourself, much less another living being,” Beth said. 

He snorted indignantly. “Says the one who’s happy to live on eggs, coffee, and anything that comes out of a can.”

“Eggs are healthy!” she protested. “And when we take the dog back to the pound, I’m leaving you with it.”

“Fine,” Benny said wickedly, “but it’ll have to wait until Monday. The pound’s closed.”

Beth huffed again. “Then the dog can be on the porch until then.”

“But Beth,” Benny said, “it’s raining, and it’s cold. And she’s so little.” Benny picked the dog up, talking to her instead of Beth again. “You want to stay inside, don’t you? You’ll be good, right?”

Beth rolled her eyes. “It can stay in the kitchen,” she relented, “but only so you can quit your whining.”


In accordance with their deal, the dog stayed in the kitchen, barricaded with a row of boxes leftover from Benny’s move to Kentucky. Benny fed her some dog food to a background of protests-- “You can’t feed it using our plates, Benny, that’s gross!” -- and let her into the backyard to go to the bathroom. 

 

Though she vowed that Benny would be the one sleeping on the couch that night, Beth dozed off in the middle of some inane sitcom, legs stretched out over the arm of the couch and head in Benny’s lap. Lacking the heart to move her, Benny settled in too, shutting his eyes.

 

Beth woke to something warm and soft and nice on her chest, and murmured sleepily, content, settling back down. Benny’s hand, she was sure, resting heavily on her sternum to feel her heartbeat. Then the weight shifted, inching up to her head, and, suddenly, something cold was pressed to her ear, letting out a series of short exhalations. Startled and quite ticklish, she couldn’t help but squirm and laugh. This roused her enough to realize that it was not, in fact, Benny, but the puppy, sniffing in her ear. Her movement and noise, in turn, woke Benny with a “huh?”, before he realized what was going on, laughing too. He took the puppy off of her chest as she sat up grumpily. 

“She loves you, Beth!” Benny exclaimed, the dog straining in his grip to get back to her. “Come on, you’re really going to make her go back to the pound? All she wants is a family.”

Beth’s heart panged, but she tamped it down. “I can’t have a dog, Benny.”  She turned her back to him and the dog, refusing to engage in any emotional appeal.

Benny softened, the puppy curling up in his lap. “What is this really about?” She was silent for a long time, considering her options.

“I’m not ready to have some pretty little life with a dog, and-” she broke off, then tried again, “and whatever the fuck we are.”

“It’s not the dog then,” Benny extrapolated, treading carefully, “it’s not being ready to settle down?”

“It’s the fact that whenever I start to get close to someone and things seem halfway okay, things fall down. People start leaving,” she snapped, then shook her head tiredly. “I can’t do a dog, Benny. It’s too… domestic. I mean, I’m not even clear on what we are, and now you’re bringing a dog into the picture. Are we roommates? I mean, you really only moved down here because of the rent. Am I just someone you fuck on the side, too?”

The dog climbed off of Benny and poked her nose at Beth’s back, then into her hand. She stroked her absentmindedly. 

“I was thinking more like a couple,” Benny said experimentally. “Which means you can’t get rid of me that easy,” he joked, eager to lighten the mood. Beth did not respond. 

After a few minutes of tense silence, she spoke, voice quiet. “She is soft.”

“I know,” Benny took her hand, and she let him. “She likes it when you pet her here.” He put her hand on the puppy’s head, the dog’s leg starting to thump as she massaged the base of her ears.

“I think I like the sound of ‘couple,’” Beth mused. 

Benny let this sit for a few beats before asking the most pressing question. “And the dog?” 

“She can stay.”


“She needs a name,” Beth announced over lunch. In just a few short hours, she had become quite smitten with the puppy, confirming Benny’s suspicions that her initial protests were empty. 

Benny pondered this for a minute. “My sister had a book with a dog that looked just like this when we were kids,” he proposed. “ A Home for Sandy .” 

She arched her brows. “We can not name this dog Sandy.”

“Hm?” he asked, swallowing a bite of sandwich. “And why not? She’s got a sandy coat.”

“Because if she’s Sandy, I’ll be Little Orphan Annie,” she said seriously. “God, Benny, can you imagine what the neighbors would think?”

“Well,” he said, with the smirk that always made Beth want to wipe it off his face, “you do have the hair for it.” He reached over and tugged at a stray red lock. She slapped his hand away. “And what would that make me,” he mused, “Daddy Warbucks?” 

She rolled her eyes. “I don’t think Warbucks had as many gambling debts as you do.”

Benny shrugged. “Every Achilles has a heel. What do you propose we name her?”

Now Beth considered, assessing the puppy, who was laying flat out on the floor of the kitchen, asleep. Her tiny features were as delicate as a fairy’s, and every so often, she batted a paw out in a puppy dream. 

“Caïssa,” Beth said, turning it over in her mouth to see how it fit.

“The patron goddess of chess,” Benny nodded, approving. “I like it.”

“Better than Sandy?” Now it was Beth’s turn to grin wickedly. 

“Not sure about that,” he laughed, “I mean, the dog and Annie both ended up having it pretty good.”

“We don’t need the name to be some sort of prophecy.” Beth glanced from the puppy to Benny and gave a genuine smile. “We’ve already got it pretty good.”