Liv had forgotten her umbrella and was valiantly trying to hold off some rain with her handbag. It was coming down in sheets. She nearly missed seeing the heap lying on the pavement under a lamppost. It was the same lamp she’d reported to the council last week when she’d noticed it wasn’t working. As she glanced at the black bundle, Liv assumed the binmen had missed it.
Things like this irritated her so much. It would be a fortnight before the next collection. Hurrying on, Liv knew full well she would have to go back and pick it up. No one else seemed to worry about foxes or rats pulling it to pieces, and then it would be all over the pavement before anyone knew where they were. She stopped. What was the point of going home, getting the umbrella she forgot this morning, and walking all the way back? She may as well get on with it while already soaked to the skin.
Liv retraced her steps and went back to the lamppost. As she leaned forward to grab the bag, it moved. She froze for a second before realising it wasn’t a bag at all but a small black dog. A scruffy little thing, and it was whimpering.
‘Hey. It’s okay. I won’t hurt you.’ She put her hand out again. The dog didn’t move, but neither did it growl or bark. The whimper became a yelp as she tried to help it stand up. It wouldn’t budge.
Looking down at her sodden mac, Liv sighed. She’d only bought it last week, as the season had suddenly turned to Autumn overnight. The day before had been as hot as any day throughout the entire summer. Throughout September, everyone had still been wearing summer clothes and complaining about the lack of rain to cool things down. Then last Saturday, while out shopping, the heavens had opened. Tomasz Schafernaker had warned of storms the previous night. He had, until the lockdown, been her favourite weather presenter. Letting his hair grow long had put her off. He hadn’t bothered to get it cut after being set free of the lockdown in the summer.
Lifting the dog into her arms, it surprised her how light it was; she hurried home; the rain running down her face and down the back of her neck.
Inside the house, Liv went straight through to the kitchen. Laying the dog down on the tiled floor, she took the filthy mac off and dropped it beside the washing machine. Running upstairs, she grabbed two clean and warm bath towels from the airing cupboard, and came back down again. She laid one on the floor before lifting the dog onto it and covered it with the other.
‘Let’s get you some water.’ Taking a cereal bowl over to the sink. Liv filled it and placed it next to the dog. ‘There you go. I’ll just pop upstairs and get myself dry, and I’ll be back before you know it.’ The dog made no response either to her or the water.
It was still in the same position when she came back downstairs in a pair of jeans and a polo-neck sweater. She had wrapped her hair in a towelling turban. Liv sat next to the dog and gently felt for any injuries. It didn’t cry out. There wasn’t a collar to identify it. Perhaps it had been chipped. She rubbed it dry with the towel she had used to cover it. As she massaged, she discovered the dog was a bitch. It opened its eyes.
‘Hello, girl,’ she said. ‘Feeling better? Don’t worry, you’re safe now.’ She remembered Bess, the black Labrador she’d had as a child. Though years since her death, the thought of getting another dog was out of the question. It just wouldn’t feel right. Bess had been too important to just replace like a worn-out piece of furniture. Besides, she had only just got used to living on her own. Since leaving home, Liv had cherished her independence; her first step on the property ladder had changed her life completely. Finally, she could make her own decisions, taking no one else’s wants or feelings into consideration. It had been heaven. Well, most of the time. It was the fact that Boris said she couldn’t invite anyone around that got to her. Still, she could Face-time Mum if she felt lonely sometimes.
Dipping her fingers into the bowl, she held them up to the dog, and it licked the water as it dripped around its mouth. ‘Good girl,’ she said, repeating the action over and over.
When she paused, the dog’s eyes looked at her, big, brown, and imploring her to carry on. ‘Don’t you look at me like that.’ She stroked its head. ‘You can stay tonight, but we’re off to the vets and then the dog shelter tomorrow.’
October was chilly, but the bright days were back again. Liv strode up the hill to her favourite spot. The view from the top was amazing. She could see right across the valley. The town lay on the bottom, every roof visible. Church bells rang out the hour; the sunshine made the river sparkle as it meandered along the edge of town, down the valley and into the distance. Cows lowed in the field next to the footpath. Liv carried on walking up the path until she reached the open moorland at the top and letting Jess off the lead. She smiled as the scruffy little dog shot off in search of a rabbit.