The tiny, velvety flowers seemed the perfect way to let Doug know how much she, too, had cared…
The house had that
‘nobody’s in’ look about it, Cathy thought, disappointed, as she walked up to the front door, clutching her plant.
‘Cooee!’ she called through the letterbox, but got no reply.
A short while back, there’d have been an answering bark and the bulky shape of Bruno through the glass panel, wagging his tail in excitement. Seeing his lead still hanging from the hook, she understood how much Doug must mourn his old companion.
She quickly glanced down at the plant. It was a dog violet, so that gave it special significance. Tiny purple flowers peeped out from the bright, new leaves.
It had caught her eye at the garden centre when she went to buy plants for her balcony, and she’d thought it might cheer Doug up. He’d looked so down in the dumps when she’d seen him in town, and he’d given her such a look of longing when she’d said goodbye. It reminded her of Bruno pleading to be taken out for a walk.
‘Be careful where you plant it,’ the lady at the till had advised. ‘It tends to take over.’
Cathy smiled and thought of Bruno, who’d inveigled his way into her heart – just a few walks and she’d been smitten.
Cathy had seen the advert on the noticeboard when she’d popped into the shop for her paper: Dog walker needed for boisterous labrador.
She hadn’t been looking for a job, but she’d phoned the number and gone round that afternoon. Bruno had made a great fuss of her, bringing her his lead and a sock, and looking pleadingly out of his soft, dark eyes. For the first time since Robert died, Cathy felt needed.
Doug – a big bear of a man – explained he’d a bad ankle sprain and was having to take it easy for now. Bruno was bouncing off the walls without enough exercise. Was Cathy sure she could handle him?
‘Of course,’ she’d insisted happy to have the opportunity.
Cathy loved dogs. She and Robert had always had one, but now she lived alone in a tiny flat, where pets weren’t allowed.
Cathy had thoroughly enjoyed walking Bruno. Every day, he’d be waiting for her at the door, tail wagging furiously.
‘He’s very good once he gets over his excitement,’ she told Doug. ‘A perfect gentleman!’
People she’d never met before would stop and chat when they saw Bruno, and she was reminded that dogs were often a bond that brought people together.
After each walk, Doug would offer Cathy a cup of tea, and she’d tell him who she and Bruno had met.
Even when he’d recovered, Doug asked her to carry on walking Bruno.
‘He’d miss you,’ he told her. Sometimes Doug would join them on the walk and they’d wander around the park, putting the world to rights.
‘I work from home,’ he’d explained. ‘Computers. Some days I only see the postman.
It’s so nice to have company.’
Cathy felt the same. She’d felt lonely since Robert’s death.
But walking Bruno had given her a new sense of purpose.
For a moment, Doug and Cathy had locked eyes, then both looked shyly away.
She’d got so used to their walks that it came as a terrible shock when Bruno suddenly fell ill.
‘The vet said it’s just old age,’ Doug told her one morning when Bruno didn’t appear at the door. ‘He’s usually a lively lad, but he’s older than he looks.’
Doug’s eyes misted. Cathy wanted to say she’d be there for him. But she didn’t, worried it would seem like an imposition.
The next week, when she went round to Doug’s, she knew immediately Bruno wasn’t there.
‘I’m sorry not to have called you, but I wanted tell you in person. There was nothing the vet could do,’ Doug said quietly.
Together they scattered Bruno’s ashes, then sat on a bench in the park. Cathy felt a heavy sadness descend on her, but realised it was about more than losing Bruno. Then…
‘I suppose this is the last walk we’ll take together?’ said Doug. ‘Unless…’
‘Unless what, Doug?’
Cathy willed more words out of him, but they didn’t come. He just shook his head and murmured apologetically that it didn’t matter, and the hope inside her was quashed.
It wasn’t long afterwards that she’d spotted the dog violet at the garden centre and bought it on an impulse for Doug. She could have left her gift by the back door, but something told her to seek him out.
She headed to the park and the bench where they’d sat together. She could see the back of his blond head as she walked across the grass. He looked defeated.
‘Hello, Doug,’ she said gently, sitting down. ‘I’ve brought you a plant – a dog violet. I know you miss Bruno. I hope this will remind you of him.’
Doug’s eyes searched
‘Thank you for the plant,’ he said. ‘It’s a lovely gift. And the flowers are the colour of your eyes. I do miss Bruno, Cathy, but I miss you, too.’
‘And I miss you, Doug.’
She gathered her courage. What was there to lose?
‘Why don’t we have a walk each day together, just you and me, from now on?’
‘Yes, I’d like that,’ Doug replied, smiling. ‘I wanted to ask you that before, but didn’t have the nerve.’
‘It doesn’t matter.’ She gave his hand a gentle squeeze.
‘Let’s start from today.’
At first, it felt odd walking along without Bruno pulling on his lead, so Cathy slipped her hand into Doug’s. Perhaps one day Doug would get another dog, just as lively and loving as Bruno. But for now, the two of them felt just right.
When she went round to Doug’s, she knew immediately Bruno wasn’t there
© Maggie Primavesi, 2018