Henrietta had had enough of Miss Rose’ s yapping and insistent little dog
There it was again. Henrietta groaned. The little terrier with the tan eye patch was scratching and barking at her front door.
Scratch, scratch, scratch, yap, yap, yap. Henrietta closed her laptop and stomped to the door.
She grabbed the dog’s collar and took the animal next door to Miss Rose. The old lady was sitting in a comfy chair in her living room.
‘Here’s your dog, Miss Rose. Again.’
‘Thank you, dear. Scamper does like to wander, doesn’t he? Lovely day, isn’t it?’
Henrietta sighed, her mind still on the spreadsheet on her laptop. She’d have to talk to the old lady. It’d be rude not to stay for a few minutes.
‘I suppose so,’ she said grumpily, then bit her lip. ‘Yes, it is a lovely, sunny day, but some of us have to work.’
‘Oh, I know, dear. And I did work in my day! Up at dawn every morning to milk the cows. Before dawn in winter. So cold you could hear your breath crack in the air.’
‘Afterwards you went in to a warm fire, no doubt,’ Henrietta said.
She was sick of her neighbour’s memories of the tough old days. She twisted her hands together. Her days were tough, too, especially when she had a deadline to meet and that silly little dog kept interrupting her work.
Henrietta worked as a public relations consultant and she had several projects on the go. The most important was the upcoming launch of a new range of Scandinavian lighting products. There was a diagram of the venue to complete, the press release to finalise and the catering to organise for Friday evening’s launch. It was a big job.
‘A warm fire? Only if we lit it ourselves, dear,’ the old lady was saying. ‘And you can guess who had to chop the firewood. Yes, me!’
Henrietta escaped as soon as she could and, back home, opened her laptop with relief.
For several days in a row the terrier scratched and barked at Henrietta’s front door. Each time she took it next door to Miss Rose and each time she gritted her teeth and talked to the old lady as her heart hammered impatiently in her chest.
On the fourth day, the day of the lighting products’ launch, Henrietta heard the familiar scratching and barking at her door and swore to herself.
She slammed her laptop closed and jumped out of her chair. She’d had enough.
The dog was barking and yapping insistently, harder than ever. The noise shredded her nerves, which were already at breaking point with her deadlines.
She swung open the door and shouted at the dog.
She pointed towards Miss Rose’s place and stamped her foot, then watched the creature run away with its tail between its legs.
In the afternoon, Henrietta was discussing the last-
She’d had enough – her nerves were at breaking point
minute details of the launch on her mobile phone when she heard sirens racing along the street. The sirens stopped outside Miss Rose’s house. Holding her mobile, Henrietta ran to her front door and opened it.
She saw two paramedics with a trolley holding a body along her neighbour’s front path. Henrietta saw the old hands on the white sheet and gasped. She threw down her mobile and ran out.
‘She had a fall, hours ago,’ the man told her as Miss Rose was wheeled out to the ambulance. The old lady’s eyes were closed, her skin pale, her hands gnarled on the sheet. ‘The people who brought her lunch found her.’
Henrietta was so shocked she could hardly speak.
‘Is she – will she be okay?’ The paramedic smiled grimly. The ambulance drove away with sirens still blaring.
Henrietta returned to her laptop, but her chest was tight and she couldn’t concentrate.
Guilt swept through her. Now she knew why the little dog had been yapping harder than ever that morning.
He’d wanted her to go and help his mistress.
Lying in her hospital bed, the old lady smiled up at her visitor. Henrietta had stayed at the launch long enough to raise her champagne glass in a toast, then she’d bolted to the hospital.
‘I know it was wrong of me to let Scamper go to your door every day, dear, but I have no-one else to talk to,’ Miss Rose said. ‘The people who bring my meals don’t have time to talk.
‘And, dear,’ she added, ‘you’re such a good listener.’
‘I am?’ Henrietta had been called many things before – efficient, cool-headed, a real professional – but never ‘a good listener’.
Something in her softened. She sat down on the bed and touched the old lady’s hand. Her skin felt like fine silk.
‘Scamper likes you, too,’ Miss Rose said, smiling. ‘He does?’ ‘You always give him a pat when you bring him back.’
Henrietta had a thought. ‘Who’s looking after him while you’re here in hospital?’
‘No-one.’ Tears welled in the old eyes. ‘I wasn’t conscious when they brought me in, so I couldn’t tell them about him.’
‘Where is he?’
Now she knew why the dog had been yapping so hard
‘At home – I hope.’ A gnarled finger touched hers. ‘Would you look after him? Until I come home?’
Henrietta didn’t hesitate. Looking after Scamper would intrude into her consultancy time, but she no longer cared.
She found the little dog whining inside Miss Rose’s cottage. She took him for a walk to the park, then led him into her own house and gave him a bowl of chopped meat to eat.
Every day until Miss Rose was discharged from the hospital, Scamper lay on the carpet at Henrietta’s feet as she worked.
Whenever she talked to him, the little terrier with the tan eye patch thumped the carpet with his tail.
And when Miss Rose came home, Henrietta decided she’d visit the old lady every day.