I shiver. Had I known it would be this cold up here, I would have swiped another sweater from that clothesline. But I didn’t. So I shiver.
I can hear Tommy hissing in my ear now: Serves you right. You deserve worse. Knowing I should be in the clink only makes things worse, and my legs are shaking so badly now I can hardly move… but I’ve got to. I’ve made it this far, and I’m too close to the hope of a new life to turn back now.
But a tiny whimpering stops me. The scrubby bushes on my left tremble slightly. Scrambling on my hands and knees, I search. There’s a puppy, small, damp, spotted, and dirty, staring out at me with brown eyes too big for his body.
He’s alone. Like me.
“It’s okay, buddy.” I inch my hand towards him. My arm won’t stay still… but the cold’s not to blame now. I think it’s the foreign feeling of letting my guard down around another living being.
The little fellow whines again as I grasp his ribby body, but he doesn’t try to run. That’s a first. His eyes are glued to me as I lift him out and hold him close. He’s shaking, too. “It’s okay, buddy.”
While I unbutton my coat and slip him inside, he’s shaking and crying. “Shh… shh. It’s okay. It’s okay, buddy.” I let myself stroke the hairs on his tiny head. They’re matted and grimy. “Are you lost, too?” He just looks at me. He still doesn’t run.
Maybe some company on this trip wouldn’t be so bad.