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Seeing Wanda Sykes

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Today is the day Eddie and Richie become fathers. It began with Richie leaping into bed fully awake and fully clothed, startling Eddie before he scowled with righteousness when Richie banged his elbow on the headboard.

“Rise and shine, babe, we got places to be,” Richie said, resting his forehead on Eddie’s as Eddie continued to glare and ignore the way Richie’s glasses pressed into his brow.

“One day, Rich,” Eddie said, “there is one day a week I sleep in. This day. A good day. Which you’ve ruined.”

“Which I’m about to make so much better , you have no idea, c’mon, get the fuck up.”

Eddie took a long shower and took a long time choosing his clothes and took longer than usual to throw together his ancient grains breakfast bowl. On his last bite of quinoa, Richie tugged Eddie out of the kitchen island’s bar stool and hurried him out the front door.

Eddie immediately protested, “I gotta clean up—”

“No you don’t—”

And Richie distracted Eddie with bickering all the way on the ride to the shelter. On the sidewalk outside, Eddie stopped short when he understood where Richie was leading them.

“We’re just gonna go in there and pick out a dog?” Eddie asked, eyebrows so high they threatened to take flight. “Just like that?”

“This is the only way to do it, Eds,” Richie replied, “otherwise you were gonna obsess over, like, breed personalities and medical history and other dumb stuff when there’s a perfectly good dog in there who wants us to take him home and love the shit out of him.”

Richie made some strong points. Eddie didn’t love when Richie was on the right side of an argument, but he was known to make exceptions. Also, Richie was fucking cute when he was suddenly a spokesperson for “adopt don’t shop.”

Which leads them to: Snorkel the terrier, Velma the pit, Shadow the collie mix. Eddie feels a little overwhelmed. They’re all good dogs, all wonderful in their own ways, how are Richie and Eddie supposed to pick? How are they supposed to just know?

“Look, this one has your eyes,” Richie jokes, pointing at one of the cages.

Eddie peers inside. In the farthest corner curled up on a fleece blanket is a small tawny dog, some sort of shaggy chihuahua mix. She looks at the two of them—her eyes are an enormous, buggy brown—and her ears prick up, but she stays huddled on the blanket, even as Eddie crouches and wiggles his fingers through the holes of the cage. She only stares and shakes little nervous, micro-earthquake shakes. Her laminated info sheet says she’s three years old and her name is Wanda Sykes.

Eddie’s heart is gone. It melted. It’s a puddle somewhere in his insides.

“Uh-oh,” Richie says. “I know that look.”

“I think I love her,” Eddie says. “You hear that, sweet one? I love you! Yes, I do!”

Wanda’s ears lower uncertainly. When Eddie looks over at Richie, Richie’s smile is so fucking huge, planets can’t rival its size. It definitely has its own gravitational force. Oh Jesus, Richie is going to give Eddie so much shit for saying “I love you” to an unknown dog sooner than he did to his boyfriend. Partner. Richie. Eddie still doesn’t entirely know how to refer to Richie, and his coworkers ask so little of his personal life that Eddie doesn’t get a chance to practice. Also, the dictionary doesn’t have a word for lifelong love forged through trauma, so. His Richie it is.

“I’ll get the front desk lady,” Richie says, and leaves Eddie to try to coax Wanda closer.

When Richie returns with a volunteer in tow, the cage unlocks, and Wanda, newly leashed, is lifted under the volunteer’s arm as she explains, “We just got her a few days ago from a hoarding situation. From what we’ve seen, she’s a little timid, but still a good girl. Definitely housetrained. Really responsive to treats. We don’t know much more than that, but she’s been an angel so far.”

The volunteer leads them to a private room to get to know Wanda and leaves an adoption application should they want to get a headstart on paperwork. 

“Do you have any questions for me?” she asks.

“Is her name really Wanda Sykes?” Richie asks.

“Oh, it’s a shelter name, you could definitely change it if you want,” the volunteer says with a shrug. 

“Good, there’s only room for one gay comedian at home,” Richie jokes. The volunteer smiles a polite, tight-lipped smile, says, “Well, if that’s all,” and leaves Wanda’s leash in Richie’s hand and before exiting the small room. There’s a bench, a single plastic chair, and the adoption application clipboard. And dog hair. Everywhere.

Richie drops the leash and sits down on the floor. Eddie knows in a true, bone-deep way that dogs have urinated on that floor. Eddie settles for the doggy dandered bench as Richie cups his hand out toward Wanda.

“Hey, little girl,” Richie says as Wanda touches her tiny nose to Richie’s fingertips. She ducks her head when he tries to pet her and trots over to Eddie’s feet. She looks up at Eddie. Eddie looks down at her. She’s not shaking, but her tail is between her legs. Eddie notices for the first time that her legs are somewhat bowed and point outward, like a basset hound. Unsure of what else to do, Eddie lifts her up.

Wanda immediately settles into Eddie’s lap.

“Hey, that’s my spot,” Richie protests.

Eddie ignores the joke in favor of stroking his hand down Wanda’s soft back. She’s a million different shades of brown, and her fur is too long to be short-coated but not long enough to mat. She’s disproportionately long. Eddie is absolutely covered in dog hair. He wishes Richie had the decency to warn him against wearing dark pants.

Wanda leaps up to place her paws on Eddie’s chest and sniff at his face. He knows this is bad behavior. He knows he should stop this. Bad dog , he thinks, but doesn’t say, because Wanda is licking his chin. 

Holy fucking God Jesus she is so fucking cute. 

“I knew we shouldn’t have brought a girl into our relationship,” Richie says, but his phone is out to take a picture, so Richie can eat a dick.

“Get over here and pet the dog,” Eddie tells him.

Richie gets up with minor struggle. He has to place his hand on the pee floor, and Eddie’s tempted to tell him he can’t come within ten feet of Wanda until he’s found some hand sanitizer. Then again, who knows what trouble Wanda’s been in? Eddie could be, like, stroking his fingers through a flea playground right now. His hand suddenly stills on Wanda’s back.

Richie shoves his ass into the bench. He reaches over to pet Wanda, who is now snuggled in Eddie’s lap in a perfect little doughnut shape. Her head raises and ears pull back as Richie scratches at her delicate temple.

“She is really cute,” Richie says.

“So fucking cute!” Eddie echoes. “But I don’t want to pick her just because she’s cute, I want to pick her because we’d be good for her. What do you think? You haven’t said much.”

“I mean, I’d have been happy with pretty much any dog,” Richie says, “but you didn’t see your face, Eds. I don’t have a choice. Like, this is your dog. Which makes her our dog. And besides, no one is gonna doubt she’s yours. She’s the spitting image of you, no paternity test needed.”

“That joke kinda sucks.”

“Yeah, not my best work.” Richie has moved on to scratching Wanda’s chin. Her eyes shutter closed in contentment and she nudges her face further into Richie’s palm. Eddie hears his quiet “holy shit.”

Eddie doesn’t need any more convincing. He grabs the clipboard and begins filling out the adoption application about six inches away from his face so that he doesn’t disturb the Wanda-Richie bond that’s happening. It doesn’t occur to him that he could ask Richie to move her. It doesn’t occur to him that he’s known this dog for twenty minutes and already he’s arranging his actions around her.

Eddie answers the questions as honestly as possible. They are oddly invasive. There are questions about the condo, about the size of their yard or lack thereof, about their work schedules. With Eddie in the office five days a week but Richie working from home most days of the year, Wanda won’t have the opportunity to be lonely.

“Holy shit we’re gonna be the best dog dads ever,” Eddie says.

“Hell yes we are,” Richie replies, and when Eddie glances over, Richie’s smile is less of a planet and more of a sunset promising a better tomorrow.

---

They don’t take Wanda home immediately. They take her to Petsmart.

Eddie thinks she walks beautifully on the leash. Outside of the shelter, she’s curious, taking the time to sniff every available tree in the parking lot. She’s not afraid of the sliding doors of the store. She’s really not afraid of anything. Eddie can hardly believe she was shaking in a cage two hours ago when she’s very clearly the bravest and most perfect dog in all of the United States of America.

They’re in the treat aisle when Richie asks, “So what are we gonna call her?” 

Eddie blinks. “‘Wanda’? What the fuck else would we call her?”

“Oh, I just thought, like… “

“What, were you serious about the gay comedian thing?”

“No, just like, what do you think of the name Penny?”

“Fuck off , Richie.”

They head over to the toy aisle and pick up Wanda-sized tennis balls. Richie takes this time to test every single toy for Wanda’s approval. A stuffed rabbit is met with indifference but a squeaky baseball is just right. There is a turkey that makes a noise that no turkey, human, or beloved creature of God should ever make that Eddie vetoes for the sake of his sanity. Richie presents a rope toy with the flourish of a Jane Austen gentleman asking a lady to dance; it is huge and neon and quite possibly the size of three Wandas. Eddie does not laugh at this. Eddie is a very serious person therefore Eddie concentrates on slowly reviewing the Wanda inventory on his phone he drafted on the ride to the store.

“Do we need a crate?” Eddie asks. The adoption counselor did not cover this, which feels like a huge oversight considering they wanted to know his salary and pet history and everything under the sun save for his blood type.

“I don’t know, man, do you think animals belong in cages?” Richie asks with a playful lilt to his voice. Eddie knows he’s thinking about the four separate times he’s raged about the American agriculture industry and the benefits of free range. Okay, no crate. Wanda can be a free agent.

“Fine, but we need to have some ground rules. We can’t let her run our lives. No jumping on the couch. And she can’t sleep in bed with us.”

“Sheesh, how do you expect to bond with the baby without nightly skin-to-skin contact?”

“She’ll have her own bed! She’ll be fine. She’s a dog, not a baby. Not even a baby dog.”

“Aww, babydog ,” Richie coos. He turns to Wanda. “How do you like that, babydog?” Wanda looks up at him without blinking.

“You sound like Stan, Jesus.”

Richie blinks. “You calling Patty a dog?”

“No, like, the babylove thing—”

“Woof, Eds.”

“Stop—”

“Bow chicka bow -wow.”

“Oh my God. Oh my God! How am I going to co-parent with you?” Eddie takes Wanda’s leash from Richie and walks them to the tanks of bulbous goldfish instead of dwelling on all the ways Richie’s going to be the fun dad and Wanda’s going to love him more because he lets her have slices of ham when they should be watching her weight because gaining a pound means more when you’re a small dog.

They eventually make it out of the store: two men, one dog, and a small mountain of supplies. Eddie discovers a new-found enjoyment of the way Richie hoists thirty pounds of pet food onto his shoulder. 

They’re at home and climbing out of the car when Richie says, “Wait, wait, wait, get the thing out of the trunk,” his arms full of both dog and dog bed. 

Eddie pops open the trunk to find a Roomba. 

“When did you get this?” Eddie asks. Clearly it didn’t come from Petsmart.

“Oh, like, a week ago? I dunno,” Richie says, one foot shoving open the garage door.

A week ago. Which means Richie’s been planning on getting a dog a week or more now. They’ve talked about it, of course—Richie has enough brain cells to consult Eddie on major life decisions before making them, like should he start teaching a class at Second City and should they switch the laundry detergent from lavender to summer breeze. But Richie bit the bullet and bought Eddie a little robot vacuum because he knew Eddie would lose his mind about all the dog hair. Jesus. Eddie loves him. He really fucking loves him. He can’t believe his knees aren’t buckling under the weight of it.

They let Wanda into the condo and she begins exploring. Eddie washes her new stainless steel dog bowls in the sink as she sniffs at his heels—reaching out slowly with her nose, then sprinting away when she touches his pant leg. After dinner, they discover she’s not a fan of the dishwasher; she zooms out of the kitchen the second she hears it swirling to life. In the evening they settle in for what will become their new nightly routine: some playtime, a final walk, and a little downtime in the living room. Wanda jumps on the couch the second she sees it. Eddie picks her up and places her gently into her new bed, leaving a couple treats there so that she’ll associate it with happy thoughts. Richie thinks she shouldn’t eat where she sleeps, but Richie wasn’t the one who’s been frantically googling dog training for the better part of the afternoon.

When it comes time for bed, Eddie’s nervous. He’s only had Wanda for about ten hours, but he doesn’t want to leave her just yet. It feels too soon. He wants to keep watching her to see how she’ll react to the blender or the squirrel that occasionally visits the balcony. But he’s tired himself, so he switches off the overhead lights of the living room and turns on a small lamp. He gets one final look at Wanda, curled up with her chin resting on her tail. Her first night in her forever home. Eddie feels like he should take a photo, so he does. Then he gets ready to sleep.

When they don’t have guests, Eddie likes to keep the bedroom door open. He thinks he makes for better airflow. He realizes he’s made a mistake when he hears the tap of Wanda’s nails on the hardwood. She click-click-clicks closer until he hears her approach his side of the bed. He can feel Richie awake under his arms and knows instinctively he’s trying not to laugh. The duvet tugs away from Eddie as Wanda braces herself up against the bed, vying for Eddie’s attention. She plops back down a moment later and lets out a pitiful whine.

“Eds—,” Richie starts before Eddie cuts him off with a whispered, “No! We can’t give in! She needs to learn!”

Richie sighs an enormous, hurricane wind of a sigh, but doesn’t say anymore. Wanda abandons Eddie’s side of the bed in favor of Richie’s. She uses the same tactic: a small jump, a big whine.

“Yeah, fuck this,” Richie says before bending over to pick her up.

“Don’t you fucking dare!” Eddie says, leaning up on his elbow. “If we let her sleep on the bed tonight, she’s going to want to sleep here every night. We will literally never have sex in this bed ever again.”

“Fuck the bed,” Richie says, Wanda cradled against his bare chest, “we have the couch and the guest bed. This is our fuzzy daughter, dude. Deal with it.”

With that, he sets Wanda down between his blanketed legs and lays back down. Eddie glances over at Wanda, who opts for curling up against Eddie’s shin.

“I’m gonna accidentally kick her in the middle of the night.”

“You’re not gonna kick her, oh my God. It’s like how new mothers don’t roll over onto their babies in the middle of the night. Wanda, tell your father to go the fuck to sleep.”

Wanda sighs.

Eddie settles back down and throws his arm over Richie once more. 

---

Wanda does not like the Roomba, as it turns out. Wanda doesn’t like a lot of things. She doesn’t like going to the dog park, for one. Every attempt to take her so far has ended with Wanda jumping on Eddie’s leg, leaving muddy pawprints in her wake. She weirdly has it out for huge, hairy dogs, as they discovered walking past the neighborhood Newfoundland. She doesn’t like people entering the apartment who aren’t Eddie and Richie; she’s scared the shit out of Bev on no less than three occasions. Bev jokes that she’s going to bring Ben’s shepherd over one day so that Wanda can get a taste of her own medicine, but Cash can’t leave the house without his beloved stuffed duck, so Eddie’s not sure how scary he really comes across. The security duck has the same emotional effect as a biker gang decked out in Barbie jackets.

But there are plenty of things Wanda does like. Eddie and Richie, obviously. She likes them a lot. She’s developed a habit of greeting Eddie after work with a butt wiggle dance that Richie has also adopted, which means Eddie comes home to his two favorite people squirming in the foyer.

She likes chasing things. Eddie wonders if this is some sort of small dog complex, considering the only things smaller than Wanda are rats and dust bunnies. Maybe Wanda feels powerful when barrelling down the hallway chasing her ball. Or maybe it’s a prey thing—Eddie’s beginning to suspect she’s part daschund, which would explain the hunting habits.

She likes burrowing into the blankets when Eddie and Richie first wake up. She likes sticking her nose through the rails on the outdoor balcony. She goes bananas for a slice of cheese.

Eddie can live without the Roomba. He and Richie have a cleaning lady come in once a month, but Eddie vacuums every Saturday. It calms him. Wanda’s not a huge fan of the Dyson, either, but all she does is duck out of the room and stare at man and machine from the comfort of a doorway. This is a vast improvement from her Roomba reaction, which is barking like a madwoman bound for the asylum.

There are certain things Eddie felt prepared for when it came to owning a dog: the feeding schedule, the walks, the large quantities of biodegradable poop bags ordered on Amazon. And then there are the things Eddie wasn’t prepared for: the shedding, the idiosyncrasies, the way his heart shoots out of his chest like a geyser whenever Richie scoops Wanda from the floor for snuggles. Oh—and her paws. Her widdle puppy pawsies. Yeah, Eddie’s the kind of guy who now thinks in baby talk. It’s the default Wanda setting. Hardwired.

Eddie loves the shit out of his dog. As a kid he wasn’t allowed one, of course, but that didn’t stop him from begging his mother from ages six to ten for a golden retriever like the one the Denbroughs briefly had. There was a day, Eddie remembers, when his mother finally snapped: “Eddie, we’re not bringing a filthy dog into our home, you have allergies and I’m not letting a dog piss on the azaleas.” It was the first time he’d heard his mother say anything close to a bad word. He stopped asking after that. When he was older he settled for trips to Mike’s farm, thrusting his hands into the fur of whatever collie or sheepdog they had at the time, horrified and delighted whenever he came away covered in slobber.

Now look at him: Eddie Kaspbrak, dog father, the kind of guy who spends two hours on Etsy looking for the perfect yellow collar and accessorizing tags. He picks out a small leather band with a metal clasp for the collar; the tag he orders has W A N D A stamped into brass with a tiny shooting star. He pays extra to include both his and Richie’s cell numbers on the back of the tag. Wanda’s worth every penny.

---

Eddie walks into the condo one Friday afternoon to Richie singing, “They call me the Wanda-da! Yeah, the Wanda-da! I Wanda around around around around—”

Eddie unlaces his shoes before tip-toeing into the living room to observe the puppy serenade. His blood runs cold when he sees Richie. Full-blown frozen lake in winter, so icy it could be used for a polar plunge fundraiser.

“What the fuck is this?” Eddie asks.

“Eds!” Richie’s head whips up from where it was lowered to Wanda’s level. “You’re home early!”

“We had a holiday half-day. Indigeneous People’s Day is Monday,” Eddie says absently. His eyes are zoned in on the sight of Wanda on the couch. Or, as Eddie liked to think of it before ten seconds ago, the one, sacred place in his home that wasn’t a part of Wanda’s queendom.

“Holy shit, this is why she keeps jumping on the couch!” Eddie yells. “This whole time I thought she was being a stubborn brat, when really you were letting her do whatever she wants when I’m not home!”

“That’s not true—”

“It is true! Fuck you, it is true, you look so guilty right now. Oh my God, she’s been getting mixed signals. Rich!” Eddie is no longer a frozen lake. Eddie is a forest fire ablaze and unrestrained. “I made a compromise with the bed, this is the one thing I asked for, come the fuck on!”

“Dude, you try saying no to her!” Richie retorts. “It’s impossible! She’s a little dictator!”

“SHE IS EIGHT POUNDS!”

Wanda shrinks into the couch cushions at Eddie’s raised voice. He realizes he’s never shouted so loud in front of her—she doesn’t take it well. The sight of her cowed and quaking sends a wave of cold, hard guilt crashing down his back.

But he’s still incensed. He’s genuinely pissed at Richie for the first time since he moved here. He can’t remember the last time he felt anything like this directed at Richie; the closest he’s come in recent memory is three months ago when he noticed Richie wearing two different socks.

“Do you do that on purpose?” Eddie asked.

“What?”

“The mismatched sock thing.”

“Oh. No, man, I don’t match my socks.”

Eddie was flabbergasted. Shocked. Appalled. “What, like, ever?”

“No, dude. Who cares? No one’s looking at my socks.”

Eddie was looking at his fucking socks. “You’re forty-one years old!”

“Yeah, I’ve got one foot in the grave, I don’t have time to match my socks! I have better shit to do! Why are you on my dick about this?”

“That is an insane person thing to do! You’re like a serial killer. Henry Bowers probably didn’t match his socks.”

“Don’t talk about Bowers, dude.”

Eddie knew he’d crossed a line the moment Henry’s name fell out of his mouth. They’d talked about Bowers before. They had to. Richie had these moments where he woke up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat. He spent hours staring into the blackness of the bedroom, willing but unable to fall back asleep. He wouldn’t talk about it until one night when Eddie sat up, grabbed his hands, and said, “If you’re not going to sleep, I’m not sleeping either.” Richie told him about the anxiety that gripped him, how it worsened at night, how his brain clicked like a stereoscope through the images of axe, Bowers, blood. Eddie felt like the worst boyfriend—partner—lover?—what the fuck ever, he felt like the worst person for his inability to help when Richie was in pain. He couldn’t do much more than hold Richie. But most of what Richie needed was to be held. To be loved.

“Sorry,” Eddie said, his hands enveloping Richie’s forearms. “Hey. I’m sorry.” A kiss to Richie’s chin before he wrapped his arms around Richie’s waist.

Richie stood still for a fraction of a moment before his own arms took their place on Eddie’s shoulders. “S’all good, I forgive you, little man,” he said into Eddie’s hair.

Eddie rolled his eyes. “Thanks, big guy.”

Well. Now that he remembers, that fight—if it was a fight—was sort of sweet. Presently, Eddie is at his limit. He didn’t want the dog to sleep in their bed and now the dog sleeps in their bed. He didn’t want the dog on the couch and now the dog is on the couch. He doesn’t feel like he’s asked for much. So much of their lives now revolve around Wanda—around when to walk her and when to feed her and when to order things for her. When to cuddle and when to train her that Bev is not the enemy. When to carve out time for enrichment activities, because it’s not enough to walk her three times a day, she also needs to play and use her tiny dog brain to find the treats hidden in her maze toy. Eddie wants one thing. He asked for one fucking thing.

“I get it, we have different parenting styles,” Richie concedes.

“No, I thought we fucking agreed on something but you didn’t listen to what I had to say,” Eddie says.

Richie’s eyebrows come together. “Is this about something? Did you have a bad day at work?”

“No, fuckhead, it’s not about anything other than the fact that I wanted to have exactly one space in this entire condo that wasn’t covered in dog hair, and you didn’t feel that was important. Ugh, I haven’t vacuumed the couch since last Tuesday.”

“Oh. Shit, Eds. I mean. I can vacuum it?”

“You’re not going to do it right! Fuck!”

Eddie throws his hands up. He doesn’t want to have this conversation when he’s mad and Wanda looks like she’s a leaf about to blow away in the wind.

He marches upstairs to their bedroom. Sitting at the edge of the bed, he tries calming down, tries breathing exercises, tries to imagine where he’s going to find it in his heart to forgive Richie.

A few minutes later, Wanda walks in.

Her tail is down but she’s no longer shaking. She sits at Eddie’s socked feet and sniffs at his toes. Eddie picks her up and places her in his lap, smooshing her ears together in slow circles.

“There’s no end to your reign of terror, is there?” he asks. Her ears prick up beneath his palms.

Yeah. At the end of the day, he’s going to give this dog everything she wants. He doesn’t know why he tried the couch thing. He thinks he wanted to have boundaries, but, shy of eating her own shit or trying to start a fight with the neighbor’s shih tzu, Eddie’s like Richie; he’s not going to stop her from doing anything. She’s a good dog.

Not long after, Richie fills the doorway.

“Heyyy, Spaghetti,” he says. Eddie pats the bed next to him, and Richie obligingly sits. He reaches into Eddie’s lap to stroke Wanda’s fur.

“I’m sorry, I’ll do better about keeping her off the couch,” Richie says eventually.

Eddie sighs. “It’s okay, there’s no stopping it at this point.”

Richie lets out a breath. “Whew. Okay, good, because that shit was gonna be hard and I didn’t want to do it.”

Eddie gives him a look. Richie removes his hand from Wanda’s back and says, “For real, I’m sorry, I didn’t think it was that big a deal. I get now that it was.”

“Yeah, well,” Eddie says, “for future reference. Now you know to listen to me when I ask you to do something.”

“I’ve literally only listened to you, like, three times in my whole life, this is going to take some getting used to. I need a grace period.”

Wanda hops off Eddie’s lap and sits next to Richie. She leans against him as he resumes petting her. Looking at these two loves of his, Eddie feels full enough to burst.

It’s kind of a miracle to experience loving more than one thing. Eddie’s love for the Losers made him feel maxed out. He was at capacity—six people had filled up his love quota and he couldn’t make any more room inside his carefully arranged heart; the rest of the world would have to handle a cruel Eddie or a silly Eddie or an enraged Eddie, but never a loving Eddie. His heart runneth over.

But there was room. There was always more room, because love wasn’t a finite thing. And for such a tiny dog, Eddie found a lot of space for Wanda in the home of his heart.

It’s easy to do. Whenever Richie belches, he turns to Wanda and says, “That wasn’t very ladylike of you,” and Wanda looks at him unamused for so long that he has to lose a staring contest with a dog. It’s a dumb joke. So stupid. Eddie laughs every time. Richie so rarely calls Wanda by her name, it’s always W or Obi-Wands or Little Girl, but she responds to every single one. Eddie apparently experiences something called “cute aggression” which means he often grits his teeth when he looks at Wanda and says, “I love you. I love you so fucking much, do you hear me? Do you know how much I love you? ” He often combines the words “cute” and “beautiful” into “cutiful” and isn’t even embarrassed by it.

Wanda is good for them. She’s another piece of home.

Eddie’s brushing his teeth later when he hears Richie’s voice from the bedroom. There’s a loud smack as Richie gives Wanda a kiss. “That’s one. Oh, you want another? Okay. Mwah. There you go, two kisses for the prettiest puppy in the world. More? Wanda, you messy bitch, if you insist…”

Eddie smiles wide and a dribble of toothpaste goes sailing down his chin.

He rinses his mouth and washes his face, then pads into the bedroom to join his little family. He crawls into bed where Richie and Wanda are bathed in the low light of Eddie’s blue-free lamp. Wanda’s tucked against Richie’s chest, but she moves to sniff at Eddie’s minty breath when he lays down. 

“Watch out, she uses tongue,” Richie warns.

Eddie places his own kiss between her ears. Then, following Richie’s example, another and another and another until Wanda escapes to the safety of the end of the bed and begins digging into the comforter to create her nightly nest. She plops down with a mighty sigh.

Eddie looks from Wanda to Richie. Richie’s eyes are still on Wanda. His smile is little more than a slash of shadow, but it’s there and it’s soft. He glances at Eddie, then places a hand on Eddie’s arm.

“Sooo…,” he begins as his fingertips dust over Eddie’s skin. It fucking tickles. “Do you think Wanda needs a brother?”

Eddie’s relieved Richie mentioned it first. He’s pretty sure he’s become one of those pet parents that people in the neighborhood gossip about. He’s made enemies by telling off strangers who don’t pick up their dog shit. It’s a good thing they don’t take Wanda to daycare or have to deal with a doggy PTO. He might be a helicopter dad.

He leans over and kisses Richie. Wanda rolls over onto his foot. 

“Fuck yeah I do,” he says, pretending like he doesn’t have Petfinder open on his phone. He and Richie can scroll through it together instead of what Eddie’s been doing, which is browsing the site during his lunch break and feeling his heart seize at every mutt and go into cardiac arrest at every chihuahua. He’s partial to a little guy named Tamale in need of a foster. But he’s getting ahead of himself. He, Richie, and Wanda can decide together. He’s looking forward to it.