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All Bark, No Bite

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Patricia was a curious but cautious dog. She did not immediately attack intruders or even alert them to her presence until she could properly identify them, and she enjoyed surveying their entrance lazily from her position near the second story banister. Occasionally there was a maid or nanny, and this often warranted a trot down the stairs for a decent head pat and the filling of the food bowl. Stephen carried an odd scent and cared to ignore her as much as she desired to ignore him. If the girls returned from school or their father’s house, she would bark happily and certainly attempt to kiss them in welcoming. If her master walked in the door, she knew not to jump. She escorted Miranda to her room, offered companionship as the woman unraveled from her day, and then proceeded to curl near her feet when she spent her evening in the office. When Miranda retired to bed, it was Patricia that guarded the other side of the bed; Stephen had long ago made the guest room his personal quarters.

In fact, the only other humans that really sparked any interest in the canine were women that entered her home every night like clockwork to perform some mysterious ritual she did not fully comprehend. Most often the intruder was a lady with eyes painted dark. She was efficient in her work of depositing a large bag of clothes in a little room Patricia knew smelled of leather and fur before sliding a rectangular object on the table; however, she performed the task with a frown. If she muttered anything in her work, it sounded strange, much like how the Scottish terrier’s bark from next door seemed a little odd. Thus, Patricia deduced this foreigner somehow served her master, who always retrieved the offering on the table after the woman left. That was that.

The new girl was different.

The first few times she entered the home, it was apparent she did not know what she was doing. Patricia remembered this girl escorting her home once and recalled her generally awkward habits. Whatever complicated ritual the other woman completed quickly, this female human did slowly with an expression of confusion. She mumbled curses, tripped over her own feet, and anxiously scanned the foyer. However, she smelled nice, and Patricia therefore considered her presence a positive one. As time went on, this creature began executing her offerings for Miranda with much more control and haste. And yet, she always bore a smile. Patricia approved.

As the official guardian of the house, she decided this human was worth greeting more properly.

The next time Patricia heard keys jingle just beyond the door, she descended the stairs as gracefully as possible as she could for a dog as large as herself. It was fluff, not fat.

When the woman opened the door to find the dog staring at her in the middle of the foyer, she paused and stared.

“Hello?”

Patricia panted in response.

The human’s big eyes scanned the rest of the home before slowly inching inside.

“It’s just me, Andy,” she whispered, practically tiptoeing to the room where the first step of the offering was completed.

The canine, in an attempt to reassure the guest she was welcome, began barking merrily in response.

“No, no, Patricia,” Andy murmured in a harsh, rushed voice, holding up her hands while the bag of clothes and the square item were hazardously balanced in her arms in an attempt to stop the creature that was beginning to jump towards her.

“Bad girl,” she attempted to growl, but the fear in her voice was incredibly obvious.

Patricia, in a desperate attempt to convince her visitor not to be so afraid of the Priestly household, continued to bark.

“Crap.”

The human began clawing through a bag draped on her shoulder while muttering, “Come on, come on,” an utterance the large ball of fur took as a shy greeting.

Small yaps filled the foyer in happy response and conversation.

Andy gasped with victory and removed her hand from her bag, brandishing a small stick of as if it was a weapon. The dog paused in confusion.

“Slim Jim?”

There was the pealing of plastic before a delicious smell made Patricia’s mouth start to water. This woman was kind to offer her something in addition to the standard gift to her master.

“Slim Jim? You want it girl?” came the hopeful whisper as fingers quickly separated a piece of the jerky and waved it.

She sat down and wagged her tail, granting permission and demonstrating her willingness to accept the present offered to her.

“Get it girl,” Andy whispered aggressively, tossing the meat across the room.

Patricia, out of politeness, did not rush but still showed some haste in order to let her guest know she appreciated the food. She tried to eat without making a mess.

When she turned around, Andy was nowhere to be found. Patricia noticed the successful delivery sitting a top the table, and, after stretching, began to climb the stairs to her usual post.

She thought the whole thing went rather well.

Thus began a little dance between the two. Patricia eagerly awaited Andy’s entrance and would often bark in greeting, asking her to play or how her day was fairing. In what the dog could only imagine was gratitude for friendly conversation or perhaps watching the door so efficiently, the woman always brought a gift of food. Eventually Patricia felt close enough to the kind girl that she would kiss her when she entered, no longer needing to pester her with questions and greetings. Andy would deposit what she called “the book” and then give a quick scratch or belly rub.

In fact, she did such good work, she was a little disappointed her master hadn’t recognized how good this servant was.

After Andy came and went, Patricia would often ascend the stairs and peek in on Miranda, who sat behind her desk often tapping away at some weird box the dog thought made odd noises and produced a continuous buzz. Sometimes the woman went immediately to retrieve what the other left behind and return to the room. There were sighs and grunts of displeasure. Rolling of sore shoulders and heavy-handed scribbling.

Patricia tried to cheer her up and often asked her to play or take a break. She licked her hands or feet, she nosed at her leg, she whined, she begged. She rested her head on her lap. She missed her master, her mother. Especially when the two little ones left, as they often did for many days at once, Miranda did nothing but mutter “not now, Patricia,” and continued with her work.

She didn’t even smile anymore, and Patricia noticed.

The next time Andy came over, Patricia knew something had to be done. Had the young woman noticed how sad she was? She worked for her, couldn’t she do something?

When she heard the door turn that night, Patricia bolted down the steps in wild abandon. As the woman stepped into the foyer, the dog immediately called out to her, asking, pleading, and demanding for her help with Miranda.

“Hush, Patty, it’s me,” hushed the tall woman, reaching down to stroke the animal’s fur in an attempt to calm her.

The whining and barking continued, escalating in volume.

“Hey, settle down,” Andy whispered, retrieving the usual snack from her bag and tossing it to the yelping canine. The little bone-shaped dog treat went ignored as Patricia growled for her to understand.

The human dropped her cargo on the table before kneeling, trying to calm the dog down but to no avail. Barking thundered through the house. All the pup wanted was for Miranda to be happy, and showing her how hard her servant worked had to at least make her smile.

Patricia hopped on Andy, sending her to the ground, and she howled in a final, desperate plea.

“Patricia, down,” suddenly came a chilling bite from the staircase.

At her master’s voice, Patricia immediately stopped. She trotted towards the foot of the stairs and sat at attention as Miranda took the final steps into the foyer. The dog panted, looking at Andy, presenting her proudly as someone who had been such a pleasant addition. Was her master not satisfied and happy now?

“Is there a particular reason why my dog is attacking you?” she drawled, eyebrow flicking upwards with her stinging question.

“I don’t think so,” Andy said slowly and nervously, rising back to her feet and brushing off her skirt.

“Clearly you thinking isn’t a successful endeavor this evening.”

Patricia, in confusion, cocked her head to the side as she realized, for some unfathomable reason, her mother was upset.

“You’re feeding Patricia this processed garbage?” Miranda continued bitterly, nodding towards the forgotten biscuit on the ground.

The dog beside her whined, asserting it was actually very good.

“She kept barking, and I didn’t want to bother you so, yes,” Andy explained, her voice stronger than before.

“Did you ever consider the possibility you make entirely too much noise when you come clamoring into the house like an oaf?

“Did you think maybe your dog is lonely and just wants some attention?”

The room went incredibly still and absolutely silent. Patricia could feel the anger fuming, rolling off Miranda in waves that suffocated the entire house. She looked over at the girl that had defended her and noticed sadly how her eyes glassed over with the threat of tears. Why was her master so upset? Patricia walked over to the young woman and curled around her feet.

“Patricia, come,” Miranda sighed in frustration.

Her dog only whined in response.

“Come, now,” was the firm, chilly command. Patricia knew what refusal meant. However, in order to help her master, to show her the state of abandonment in which her loved ones now dwelled and to push her towards the helpful kindness of this other human, it was necessary.

The command went unanswered, and Patricia brushed her nose against Andy’s ankle.

The silence of the room began to change. It no longer crackled with the silent thunder of a violent storm but dripped with the melting of winter ice that had suddenly woken up to a spring sun. Miranda’s eyes remained fixed on her once loyal companion and yet grew soft, as if she understood this too was an act of loyalty. Her rigid stature almost sagged as a realization sank and a weight lifted.

“Perhaps you would enjoy a walk?” she said softly towards her dog.

Patricia leaped up immediately and began running between Miranda and Andy, the later of the two who was currently standing stone still with wide eyes. She turned slightly towards the door as if Miranda suggesting a walk with her dog meant her assistant was free to leave without a complete scolding.

“Don’t just stand there. Her leash is in the closet.”

Patricia panted excitedly at the prospect Andy would be joining them. Andy, on the other hand, seemed petrified. She turned wide-eyed towards her boss before practically diving to retrieve what Miranda requested out of the closet.

Luckily, the assistant was smart enough to also grab her a coat, and the dog appreciated her attention to the elder woman.

When they stepped onto the porch outside, Miranda’s eyes swept across the street.

“Where is Roy?”

“I’ve started just taking a taxi here and then walking home so he doesn’t have to wait on me all night,” Andy explained, struggling to hold the leash at a position that wouldn’t cause it to instantly wrap around her legs as Patricia excitedly walked back and forth across the top step.

The walk had only just begun, and they were already talking. The canine was thrilled, her excitement only rising as they descended the stairs and continued down the sidewalk.

Needless to say, with each step and a continued lingering silence, Patricia got more and more anxious.

She got so anxious she realized she really should start finding a place to relieve herself.

The sidewalk was lined with a good number of plants, leaving her a lot of choices. She followed her noise, and the humans slowed their pace to match hers as she explored her options.

“Those little flowers are gorgeous,” Andy chimed more to herself than to her companions.

“Sage.”

“Hm?”

“The plant. Sage,” Miranda explained in her airy tone, as if she were only gracing the young woman with half her attention. Patricia’s tail wagged from the sound of her voice; her master talking was a good thing.

“Oh,” the other responded flatly, still a little shocked Miranda had answered, “I wish I knew more about plants.”

“Does your boyfriend not keep sage handy? He is a chef, no?”

Patricia noticed an odd look cross Andy’s face before she answered.

“He didn’t have the plant. Just the spice stuff already in the container.”

“Didn’t?” Miranda questioned, finally looking at the woman beside her.

“He moved out last week.”

A pause followed. The dog felt a little uneasy with the silence considering the progress that had just occurred, so much so, she decided it would be best to investigate nearby vegetation to take care of business. Luckily, after sniffing for another moment or two, Andy spoke up while pointing downwards.

“That one’s a lily.”

“Impressive,” Miranda smirked, her voice lacking any venom – it was merely playful sarcasm.

The younger of the two shyly smiled before cooing at the dog, “You have good taste in flowers, don’t ya girl?”

“She is my dog after all.”

“Do you have good taste in flowers?”

“I have good taste in everything,” the editor answered as if it was the most obvious fact in the world.

“What’s your favorite flower?”

“Freesias,” was the simple response. No explanation. No reasoning. As if she would ever expect Miranda to explain anything.

Patricia noticed the way Andy turned to look at the woman beside her, and, while she did not fully comprehend the words, the softness of the younger’s features provided the dog with an extra skip in her step. It was perfectly fine if the conversation was limited and practically stopped after Miranda’s simple admission. There was peace, fresh air, and, most importantly for the canine, no cats.

The simplicity and beauty of the evening continued in contented silence until their walk finally brought them to the threshold of the townhouse.

“Move the meeting with Ralph Lauren’s people up an hour earlier tomorrow morning. That’s all.”

Miranda offered no goodbyes. The dog followed her master inside after licking Andy in gratitude, and that was that.

The whole ordeal would have felt like a dream if weren’t for the fact it happened again. And again. Now, whenever Andy brought the book, Patricia greeted her loudly, and Miranda quietly descended the stairs before the trio embarked on an evening stroll. The canine of the group was overjoyed, not just for the exercise but also the slight alteration in her master’s behavior and mood, so slight in fact, she doubted anyone else could notice.

Patricia didn’t know that sometimes they only discussed work. In fact, she often did not always understand what it is they said to each other. However, she did see Miranda smirk on occasion. This she did know was a rarity, and it made her ecstatic. Sometimes their voices grew gentle, and sometimes Andy laughed. Even when the weather grew chillier, their evening walks were warm.

As a dog, Patricia was fairly sensitive to what happened around her, and the nightly walks encompassed a few changes of which she took note. Primarily, she noticed Miranda had begun applying more perfume before each stroll. She often heard Andy outside the door mumbling something to herself before she entered each evening. She could smell flowery lotion when Miranda pet her head and mint on Andy’s breath. Instinct told her to walk slowly certain nights when the weather was fairing well and the stars were bright. One particular night, she kept hearing a growling noise she knew was not a threatening dog or wild creature to be feared.

It originated from Andy’s stomach.

Patricia knew it was most likely audible even for human hearing, but she continued on, pretending she couldn’t hear it. Their walk had taken them towards a somewhat busy street still bustling with the typical New York energy. The two women remained quiet, mostly following Patricia who Miranda directed, choosing less populated routes that allowed for people watching without putting the editor in too much danger of being seen. The dog merely understood that this was an exciting detour from their usual neighborhood trot.

Even with all these new, loud noises for Patricia to embrace, Andy’s gut continued to roar.

“Oh, for Pete’s sake, Andrea, just eat something,” Miranda finally snapped, turning to fix her glare of annoyance on the young woman.

Andy responded with a sigh, “I’m sorry, it was just so crazy today, and I didn’t get a chance to-”

“Andrea,” the other interrupted, “Eat.”

Patricia knew an order when she heard one, and she sincerely hoped she obeyed.

“I guess there’s a vendor over there,” Andy trailed off, looking towards Miranda for some sort of comment or approval. Miranda simply walked towards it.

Patricia didn’t completely understand. It kind of looked like a car, it smelled like a car. It was parked on the side of the street. Yet, it also smelled like meat. Her two humans spoke to a man as he leaned out the window. He gave them something that smelt phenomenal. Andy reached for her purse, but paused when Miranda handed the man what appeared to be green paper. Miranda collected metal in return. Andy stared in wonder. Patricia just really wanted whatever food they were holding in their hands.

She followed them to a bench, her eyes never leaving the wonder they held. It looked and smelled familiar. She turned her gaze towards the women in hopes they would offer her some. Instead of catching Patricia’s pleading gaze, Andy glanced from her meal to her boss, who managed to delicately bite and chew what Andy appeared to need hunching and a handful of napkins to properly eat. Eventually Miranda looked up and their eyes met.

“Shocked I require more sustenance than the tears of my employees?” the elder quipped lightly after swallowing a bite.

“Nope,” Andy responded, smirking, “I just thought you’d like the blood of your enemies more than a hot dog.”

Miranda snorted before she replied, “Patricia enjoys them.”

The dog’s tail wagged at her name, her excitement growing as her master tugged a piece of the meat free and held it before her. Andy’s laughter filled the air as the dog devoured the scrap from Miranda’s hand.

“She likes lots of stuff,” the young woman quipped, stroking the dog’s fur.

“I suppose you would know given you’ve been secretly feeding her,” came the reply, lacking the icy sting typical for such a comment.

This too made Andy grin.

“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone eat a hot dog that gracefully before,” she muttered softly, her smile turning shy.

A beat passed as the dog marveled at the unblinking contemplation each woman fixed on the other.

“One of my numerous talents, I assure you,” Miranda replied, lips twitching to conceal what Patricia recognized as a smile. She couldn’t remember the last time her master had done that in front of another human before.

Not much was said for the rest of the evening. In the end, Patricia consumed more of Miranda’s hot dog than she did. The walk home was quiet, except for a confrontation with an obnoxious poodle that had decidedly put Patricia in a bad mood. She was ready for bed, and she felt infinitely happy upon seeing the house. She bounded up the steps with her master behind her as she heard Andy call out her routine “Good night, Miranda.”

Miranda took an unusual pause on the stoop and turned to face the other woman, and, contrary to her habitual comment or command regarding work for the next day, she simply said “Good evening.”

Patricia deemed this extremely good luck as they entered the house.

Given how well the evenings were when she bonded with her mother and their new friend, the days slowly became excruciatingly boring for Patricia. Sleep, eat, take a potty break when the maid showed up, sleep, play with the twins when they arrived home, eat, sleep, wait for Miranda, and so on. In reality, she knew it could be worse. Some dogs had to spend most of the day outside. The horror.

She took her place on the second floor and peered down into the foyer; it was really the last place a dog could get some decent sunlight through the bay window until the sun went down completely. She felt herself drifting off into a warm and welcoming sleep when the door suddenly slammed, causing the canine to immediately jump to her feet.

Stephen began climbing the steps, seemingly trying to break the stairs with each forceful step he took, clearly angry with whatever poor soul had decided to speak with him. Patricia almost growled but quickly decided it wasn’t worth the effort, merely staring as he stalked by. It actually wasn’t an incredible surprise for him to be upset when he entered the house.

The real surprise was when Miranda opened the door and climbed the stairs, eyes blazing like an executioner or a vet actually enjoying the prospect of putting an animal down. What on earth could have happened at work? Patricia approached her slowly, eager to welcome her own, but Miranda continued by, ascending to the third floor. The dog whimpered as she debated whether or not to follow the woman, and was convinced she should chick up on the girls until she heard raised voices echoing down from the top level. She immediately bounded up and prepared to protect her mother.

She entered the room in which Stephen slept to find the man pacing the floor like an annoying cat. Miranda stood with her arms crossed.

“You couldn’t take five minutes for me?” he said bitterly, finishing what appeared to be a lengthy rant Patricia was glad she’d missed.

“What on earth was the emergency?” Miranda replied coolly.

“I wanted to see my damn wife.”

“You fail to comprehend this was a multi-million dollar deal that I could not simply pause.”

“You fail to comprehend you’re married to your job, not me,” he spat back, accentuating his speech by pointing to himself.

Miranda appeared to take a breath before stating, “You seemed incredibly comfortable with the arrangement of our marriage until Page Six started insulting your manhood.”

“I’m sick of the being the housewife, Miranda,” the man declared with a sigh.

“And I refuse to be one, Stephen.”

Patricia shivered at the ice in those words even though she did not know what they meant.

“Don’t worry,” Stephen growled, throwing up his hands, “your fucking assistant informed me of that this afternoon when she wouldn’t let me in your office.”

“Yes, as she should,” Miranda responded, shifting to place her hands on her hips, “ And it was so terribly polite of you to shout at her before storming out and still managing to interrupt my work,” she finished with a sarcastic bite.

“Well, don’t let me interrupt your life anymore,” he snarled, grabbing a large bag from the bed and storming out of the room.

Patricia watched as Miranda stared at the floor, each counting the beats of each step Stephen crashed into before they heard the door slam shut. Silence suffocated the house.

The dog walked over to her master and whined, brushing her nose against the woman’s legs.

“Shhh, it’s quite alright, Patricia,” Miranda whispered, squatting to look into the animal’s eyes. She stroked her head and scratched behind her ears as the canine desperately tried to lick and kiss in assurance that the man that had just left was not deserving of such a partner.

“We’ll be fine. We always are. They never understand,” she explained simply, more to herself than her companion, patting the floor in an attempt to calm her pet. Patricia laid down and rested her head on her mother’s lap.

“Perhaps he’ll come back after he’s had the opportunity to calm down.”

She continued to scratch the dog’s head.

“It would be good for the girls to keep him around, I suppose.”

Patricia whined and nuzzled against her legs.

“You’re so protective,” Miranda mused with a smirk, “Like her.”

The pooch wished she could ask who ‘her’ was, but she had a feeling. Instead, the two enjoyed sitting together until Miranda felt the need to put on her usual mask and provide her girls an explanation for the loud confrontation.

Patricia hoped the man never came back.

In either case, she followed in order to offer support. One would be surprised at how much easier a talk with the kids can go when there’s a dog cuddling them. Even when Miranda finished delivering the news, explaining what was happening with this mean man, Patricia remained with the girls. When their mother left, they lamented the state of their household. They were mostly concerned for Miranda.

Patricia was just ready for Andy to show up and break whatever curse was lingering in the house in Stephen’s wake. Therefore, when the lock gave its routine turn, long after the girls had gone to bed, the dog stormed forward to eagerly welcome the woman.

When she turned the corner, however, a look of deadly anxiety plagued the face of the young woman.

Did this have to do with what happened between Miranda and Stephen?

As the furry animal approached, deeply concerned, Andy immediately bent over to scratch her head before muttering, “I don’t know if we’re going to take a walk, Patty.”

The dog licked her face before a voice called down the stairs.

“Nonsense.”

Both females, canine and human, turned to look at the figure that descended. Patricia heard Andy gasp.

“Patricia,” Miranda said cuttingly, clearly not pleased with Andy’s nickname, “looks forward to them every night,” her heels began clicking when she reached the hardwood of the foyer, stopping only a foot away from the duo.

“We will go for a walk,” was her command, complete with a raised eyebrow.

A second passed. And then another. Even Patricia wasn’t sure what to do.

“Okay,” Andy replied, nervousness dripping from her voice before she turned erratically to the closet to retrieve the leash. Miranda brushed something from her blazer. Patricia marveled at her master. Not even two hours ago, she had looked so vulnerable on the floor upstairs, her work clothes wrinkled as she pet the dog. Now those same clothes were as clean and sharp as when she left that morning. Her eyes were fierce.

Andy didn’t tremble as she handed Miranda her coat. She even made eye contact.

There was another one of those pauses as the two ladies exchanged gazes that made the pup pretty sure this was going to be a very interesting walk for all parties involved. She was even surprised Andy managed to hook the leash on her collar and successfully make it outside without a breakdown.

It didn’t take the nose of a police dog to smell the thick, tension-filled air as they journeyed down the street. Patricia slowed her pace and took her time taking in her surroundings in hopes that, whatever this awkward intrusion was, it would sort itself out.

It didn’t. Silence echoed every step.

As they took a turn at the freesias at which Patricia frequently did her business and made the return trip, she realized something had to be done. She thought maybe going nice and slow would force them to talk.

Maybe it was time to go fast.

Patricia surged forward and began to run. Under normal circumstances, a dog couldn’t get away that easily. But Patricia was a big dog, and she knew it. As she built speed and continued on, she realized nothing stopped her. There was no tugging or interference. She must have surprised Andy, freeing the leash from her hand.

“Patty, stop!”

“Patricia!”

Just like that first night, she disobeyed. She ran.

Suddenly, everything was full of sound. Both women called after her, telling her to stop or return to them. As she dashed onwards, rushing air filled her ears, and she felt the power of her paws thundering against the sidewalk. Well, until she felt incredibly out of breath.

Maybe it was time to cut out the dog treats.

She panted and tried desperately to just reach the house. It didn’t make much sense. She knew it didn’t make much sense. But she had hope. Maybe somehow a little excitement would at least get them to say something to each other. However, by the time she managed the final steps to reach the front of the townhouse, the last thing on her mind were the two women.

She was just trying not to pass out.

Andy was the first to reach her and immediately took hold of the leash despite the rigorous panting that made it clear the dog would not being going anywhere.

As Miranda stalked over, and approached the animal, Patricia whined; that was a lot of work for her master to just get mad with her. The woman paused in response, and her face softened as her dog have her a pathetic look.

“I’m so sorry, Miranda!” Andy exclaimed, sensing the form halt behind her and assuming she was enraged her assistant dropped the leash.

“This behavior is odd for her,” her boss murmured, a soft sound that caused Andy to quickly turn and stare in wonder.

It was as Andy took a breath that Patricia really got her hopes up.

“I’m sorry about earlier today too,” the young woman practically whispered.

Patricia looked between the two of them in amazement. Had her plan actually worked?

“Really, Andrea, are we sharing secrets at a sleepover? Speak up,” Miranda responded, but the sentence lacked bite, especially as she continued to look at the dog and not the speaker.

“I’m sorry I said what I did to Stephen,” Andy replied more firmly, “It wasn’t my place.”

“It was a fair assessment and not entirely untrue,” came the simple answer, and Andy could not determine if this was a new level of disappointment she had yet to encounter or something else entirely.

“He just marched into the office and expected to interrupt the run-through and I knew you’d-“

“You’ve grasped a concept my husband cannot understand,” Miranda interrupted, finally meeting Andy’s gaze with her own, “Your defense, so to speak, in my honor was,” she paused before softly saying, “Acceptable.”

Patricia could have licked the both of them as Andy smiled, “I thought you’d want to kill me.”

“I can assure you I’m much more concerned with controlling my rage with him,” Miranda sighed, flicking back a stray lock of hair from her face, breaking eye contact to take the leash from Andy’s hand.

“Even when I called him a misogynistic bastard that should learn to appreciate his wife’s career?” Andy questioned somewhat sheepishly, slipping her hands into her pair of skinny jeans with a smirk.

“You really can do anything,” the editor mused with a playful smirk, an expression the dog rarely saw outside their house.

The only way Patricia could describe Miranda’s face as her eyes found Andy’s was like the sweet success of the first time the dog caught her tail.

Then it ended like the first she caught her tail and bitterly realized biting one’s own tail was extremely painful.

“Come along, Patricia,” Miranda said with a turn and tug of the leash – the moment was gone, and the woman marched up the stairs to their home.

“Miranda?”

The duo stopped and turned at the top of the steps.

“If, um, well,” Andy stuttered, suddenly looking anywhere expect the woman above her, “ If you need anything. Just call. Since I can do it,” she rambled, finishing with a chuckle, “Anything, that is.”

Her voice sounded sweet and musical like usual, and Patricia panted happily in response. However, when she looked to Miranda, there was a look she had never seen before. She stopped and stared.

If humans could smile without actually doing so, then that was it.

“Good evening, Andrea,” Miranda said so tenderly, Patricia was sure she misheard her.

“Good night,” the young woman practically gasped before suddenly she was gone behind the front door.

Miranda dropped the leash on the foyer’s floor and leaned against the inside of the door with a sigh.

Patricia still didn’t really know what was going on. She never really did. But she did know that she had never seen that look on her master’s face. She didn’t know if it was good or bad. She did know it made her ache while it glittered in Miranda’s eyes.

And then it was gone. Like a flash or a spark or that squeaky toy behind the sofa. It was simply gone, disappeared behind Miranda’s mask and icy expression.

Patricia began to worry. She worried even more when Miranda poured herself a glass of scotch the next evening. The funny smelling liquid was a sign of her master’s distress.

The word “Paris” started popping up around the house for the next few days. When Miranda coordinated with the maid, when Miranda made plans for the girls to visit their father. Patricia thought she heard her master breathe the word in her office or on the phone. She even heard it when she poured that now nightly glass of the amber fluid over ice. Sometimes it was laced with the name of a woman Patricia immediately recognized.

The night the dog started to fully understand the word was when that very woman entered the foyer with her usual cargo. Patricia greeted her happily and was instantly rewarded with a scratch to the ears.

“Hey, girl! Ready for a walk?” Andy said cheerfully, patting her head before turning to the closet with the typical plastic bag.

Little did she know, a walk was not in their future that evening.

“Andrea?” Miranda’s voice drifted into the foyer, summoning Andy to the back living room. Patricia wasn’t normally allowed in the area considering her massive amount of fur, a dangerous threat to the nicer furniture in the house, and she simply listened from around the corner.

“Do you have the Book?”

Fumbling. A pause.

“Paris is the most important week of my entire year,” Miranda began, speaking as if she was distracted, “I need the best possible team with me.”

Another pause. Patricia cocked her head to the side.

“That no longer includes Emily.”

“Wait. You want me to,” Andy started before shifting gears with a slight stutter, “No, Miranda,” she exhaled sharply, “Emily would die. 

Her whole life is about Paris. 

She hasn't eaten in weeks. I can’t, I-“ she stopped and took a breath.

“I can't do that. Miranda, I can't.”

What was a Paris? Why did it have Andy so upset?


”If you don't go, I'll assume you're not serious about your future,” Miranda drawled, “at Runway or any other publication. The decision is yours,” she said, her voice so empty that Patricia felt her fur stand on end.

“That's all.”

Andy walked slowly into the foyer, as if in a trance, with her cloudy eyes remaining unfocused. Patricia walked up to her to see the results of the conversation, and perhaps beg for another head scratch, but Andy headed straight for the door.

Apparently this Paris thing was a serious deal.

Paris?

Miranda made it sound like a time. Was it a place? Would she be safe? Patricia had the sickening feeling she would be unable to follow her master. Of course the woman traveled often, but this time it seemed much more important. The dog thought she could remember trips like this before, but with everything going on in their home, she was so incredibly worried.

Patricia stared at the door that had seen Andy’s exit just moments before, and the thought of the lady calmed her.

After all, if Andy was with Miranda, Patricia knew her master was safe. The dog knew she would protect her.

Andy would stay with her until the end.

Right?

Chapter Text

The house was empty.

The scent of Stephen’s cologne had long left the guest room. It made sense; he had always been a guest. The twins were gone, their father had summoned them, gently informing them their mother needed some time alone. The maid walked softly and did her work efficiently.

Miranda was a ghost.

Patricia had guarded the house for a week, trusting that Miranda’s journey to the faraway land called Paris would be safe in the hands of Andy. She remembered the faint smile, now like a phantom dream, that had played at the edges of Miranda’s lips as she folded a silk robe into a suitcase. It was almost a sad smile, but Patricia had sat on the bed, hopeful that her master would return from this grand venture rejuvenated…perhaps with whatever form of doggie treats came from the land of Paris.

Then Miranda came home, and Andy never came back.

A routine emerged in which Miranda would come home from work and take dinner in her office. Patricia often brushed against her leg, trying to ask her what had happened but never getting an answer. At first, blue, watery eyes would turn to her as if the mask she wore throughout her day was finally cracking. Sometimes she got a pat on the head. Now and then, Miranda just sighed, “Oh, Patricia.” Once or twice, Miranda had aggressively stood up and walked over to instead indulge in a glass of scotch rather than acknowledge her dog. Now, she did nothing. She continued to work. The mask had hardened. Patricia saw the light leave her master’s eyes.

Three months passed. The girls returned home, and they were the only source of the rare smile that graced Miranda’s face. The girl with hair like fire again returned to performing the daily nightly ritual of depositing the offering to Miranda on the table.

What had happened in Paris? Where was Andy?

It was as if the whole thing had never happened, and Patricia was almost afraid she had dreamt those lovely walks and the woman that had warmed her master’s countenance. Everything simply returned to how it had been many months ago. Patricia waited on the steps, tended to the young humans, and quietly lamented the emptiness in Miranda’s eyes.

Patricia finally decided that in order to fully perform her duty as the guardian of the household, that meant protecting Miranda even from a harm that was not physical. That required Andy.

But how to go about it? When the maid let Patricia out into the backyard, she was faced with the Great Wall, a fence much too high for her to jump (and she certainly wasn’t a little, agile dog). The front door was impenetrable without the help of human thumbs. Her master practically ignored her now. How could she capture her attention?

Patricia spent all day pondering this problem while she lay beside the banister on the second floor. Well, maybe not all day. There might have been a nap or two.

The twins came home from school and trudged up the stairs with heavy backpacks, petting the dog on the way to their rooms. Patricia could smell the cooking and sizzling of dinner in the kitchen prepared by the woman that watched the two girls until their mother returned home. Still, Patricia had no clue what to do. Maybe dinner would help.

As she bounded down the stairs and started dining at her bowl, the sound of the door opening and closing sent Patricia trotting into the foyer. Thus the usual routine unfolded. Patricia sat down, Miranda nodded, gave her a light pat on the head, the baby sitter was dismissed, the twins each received a kiss, and the mother of the household retreated upstairs to her office.

Patricia just stared as she marched away. She knew her master would only emerge again to retrieve the offering later tonight.

Wait, the offering!

The mystical square Patricia had often heard the humans call “The Book.” Miranda spent hours looking at it – this had to be the way to get her attention.

The white and brown mass of fur parked herself right beside the table in the foyer. And she waited. And waited. She felt her eyelids sagging until front door slowly and quietly opened.

The redhead stepped into the threshold and locked eyes with the canine.

Things got awkward very quickly.

It was as if Emily knew the dog was waiting for her and therefore did not trust her position directly beside the table where she was to place the Book. She signed and placed her hand on her hip, looking around the foyer nervously.

Patricia tried to act natural. She began to pant, seemingly innocent.

The woman’s eyes narrowed with suspicion. The dog began to worry the human was on to her plan. Nevertheless, her feet clicked as she stepped forward, her hand slowly extended, and the magical Book was deposited on the table. Emily took another moment to stare at the animal sitting and staring at her in return. Patricia continued panting, adding a tail wag for good measure.

With a roll of the eyes and grunt, the assistant left the house.

The dog trotted slowly towards the door and listened, not wanting to begin her delicate work too soon and have the whole operation completely compromised by the assistant’s return.

Silence.

Patricia turned to look at the offering on the table. There it stood, like a shiny chew toy, high on an altar just waiting for the fluffy mass to retrieve it.

She trotted over, stood on her hind legs, and delicately inched her snout around a strange, large cup holding flowers to grab the rectangular object between her teeth.

She placed it on the floor. It had weird pictures of humans on it. Then she did what had to be done.

It didn’t exactly taste good. But Patricia knew it had to be done for her master’s sake. She would tear the offering to pieces, and Miranda would have to assume that this not-Andy girl was the culprit and bring back the beloved human. She shredded it, her desire to protect Miranda and see the return of the cheerful girl fueling her destructive actions. The offering fell apart easily and ripped into tons of pieces.

She barked proudly at her success and called desperately for Miranda to come see the mess.

Her incessant howling brought the woman into the hallway from the living room, and her gaze turned demonic at the sight before her.

“Patricia!”

The dog immediately realized that maybe her plan was not so good. Perhaps it had been a bit too obvious she was the one that had torn up the book. She forgot humans don’t bite things to break them.

Her master marched into the foyer, glaring at her pet. Miranda opened her mouth most likely to spill the rage that was in her eyes, but, suddenly, her ferocity simply vanished. No words left her mouth. Instead, she slowly looked around the floor.

Her pet just waited for the punishment that was about to befall her.

The woman kneeled on the floor and got very close to her dog.

“Patricia, Andrea is gone. She left us,” she explained slowly, each syllable falling heavily and darkly.

But Patricia didn’t understand why she had left. She whined and pouted, touching her nose to her master’s face.

“Silly girl. It’s much better this way, I assure you.” But Miranda’s own voice broke, and her statement seemed unconvincing.

The animal climbed onto her mother’s lap, incredibly sad and crying with grief, so desperate to see the woman that made Miranda happy again.

Arms encircled her and hands stroked her fur while a voice breaking with tears replied, “I know. I wish I could have said goodbye as well.”

They sat together for another hour on the floor surrounded by the chaotic abyss of paper that spread through the foyer.

The dog felt lost.

The next night, when the girl brought a new offering to a perfectly clean foyer, the dog’s master stood on the stairs and issued a command with a face of stone and a voice of ice.

“Patricia is growing restless. Take her for a walk. That’s all.”

She disappeared back up the stairs as quickly as she had descended.

Emily sighed dramatically and turned to glare at Patricia. The ball of fur wasn’t exactly thrilled to spend time with her either. The woman clicked the leash in place and out the door they went.

The pace was a little too fast for Patricia’s enjoyment, but she tried to at least embrace the outdoors as best she could. The exercise was nice and gosh did she have to go to the bathroom. When the reached the end of the street, she started sniffing around for a good spot.

“Can’t you hurry up?”

Patricia suddenly decided she didn’t like this flower patch and they would have to walk to the next one.

With a huff, Emily pulled out a small device from her purse that Patricia recognized and really hated. They made weird noises sometimes.

The woman touched a few buttons before bringing the device up to her face. After a moment, she said, “I know you’ll be incredibly surprised, but I’m going to be later than I thought.”

Great, now she was going to be talking the whole time.

“What do you think?” she responded to the mumbling on the other end, “Of course she gave me more to do. I have to walk to the bloody dog.”

The dog growled under her breath. She was going to take all night to do her business now.

“Ugh, Andrea, don’t give me a sob story about the smelly animal.”

Andy?

The St. Bernard exploded into a series of barks and howls. She needed to talk to Andy! Could Andy hear her?

“Patricia, down. Patricia!” she exclaimed before screeching into the phone, “How do I get it to shut up?”

The barking only grew in hopes of reaching the woman she needed to save her master.

“What? You’re where? You think that will work?” Emily yelled in order to be heard over the insane canine whose volume was beginning to attract the displeased looks of passersby.

“We’re at the end of her street by that odd statue I think looks a tad too phallic,” she explained loudly before removing the device from her face and touching the screen.

Patricia stopped barking and eagerly panted, pacing back and forth around the plants waiting for Andy.

“Oh, now you quiet down,” the woman muttered bitterly as the canine relieved herself in order to prepare for her friend’s arrival.

This time when the dog growled, she didn’t do so quietly. She tugged and tugged on the leash, trying to tell her it was time to bring her to Andy. Patricia continued to excitedly howl and even jumped on the other woman eagerly despite shouts of protest until a familiar voice called out across the street.

“Hey!”

Patricia immediately turned around and the lovely scent of the young woman hit her before she could even see her. The dog launched herself at Andy and happily received scratched to the head before licking her face.

“Whatcha doin’, girl? Why you all excited, huh? Em, give me the leash.”

“Thank you. Thank you, thank you,” Emily sang, immediately relaxing her arms that were now free of Patricia’s pulling force on the leash.

“What happened?” Andy asked, wrapping her arms around the dog to try and calm her down.

Emily practically screeched, “I have no clue. I was on the mobile with you, and she went mad. I didn’t sign up for this. This week has been hell. I just wanted a fucking drink tonight. I don’t even like dogs.”

Andy looked between the woman and the dog and finally sighed, “I’ll take her back.”

“Really?” the Brit asked in surprise, aware of what such an offer meant. Patricia whined as she licked Andy’s cheek, praying it was true she could bring her home to Miranda.

“Yeah,” she responded, her resolve growing with each nod, her grip tightening on the leash, ” Go meet Nigel, and I’ll show up later.”

“Try not to die,” Emily drawled, “We only just started having a weekly ‘girls’ night. I don’t want to endure the tale of Nigel’s most recent hook up alone again.”

“You’ll live, Em. Give me the key to the townhouse. If I don’t show up in an hour, start planning my funeral.”

Once Patricia saw the metal hit Andy’s hand, she started jogging home, tugging the woman along behind her.

The canine inspected Andy’s clothes and realized the materials didn’t smell quite right. Not the kind of stuff Miranda liked to wear anyway. Not that her human friend smelled bad. Her head fur was groomed well. Her master was just picky about that sort of thing.

Andy would have to do as she was.

When they reached the threshold of the townhouse, Andy looked up at the building and sighed, “You’re always getting me in trouble, you know that?”

Patricia whined, nuzzling the girl’s leg, trying to nudge her towards the front door.

After climbing the stairs, Andy retrieved the key from her pocket, fiddled with the lock, and slowly opened the door.

She peaked her head in and looked around. The coast was clear.

The woman turned back to Patricia and whispered, “Now, you gotta be quiet, okay, girl?”

The dog responded by rushing in through the door and barking loudly to alert her master that she had brought home a present.

“What did I just say?” her human companion mumbled aggressively, immediately dropping to her knees to unhook the leash and attempt a getaway.

However, her actions were in vain as a voice came from the banister, “Could you attempt to do your job without waking up the entire–“

Miranda froze in place once she looked up from her descent down the stairs. Patricia proudly trotted up to the older woman and greeted her warmly while presenting the girl she had fought so hard to find. The woman kneeling on the floor slowly rose as they remained locked in a staring contest.

The awkward pause continued until Andy blurted, “Hi.”

Even Patricia felted embarrassed for the ex-assistant’s complete failure at initiating conversation.

Miranda stood up straighter as the surprise in her expression gave way to anger. “I see I need to have a conversation with Emily about keeping a better eye on her key.”

“She let me borrow it. Patricia was out of control, and she called me.”

Miranda’s quickly darkening gaze flickered down to the animal, who slowly backed away with the scary realization that she was probably not going to get a treat for this.

“Did you think you would just walk in her, drop off my dog, and then leave again?”

“‘Again?”” Andy repeated, something in her voice growing bitter.

“I do not have time to deal with this,” the older woman stated firmly, turning to walk back up the steps.

Her response was a growl that Patricia thought was worthy of a true canine. “Don’t walk away from me.”

Miranda immediately whipped her head around, eyes shimmering evilly. “You come into my home and dare to issue commands?”

That’s when Andy snapped.

“Oh, you think you’re mad? I’m pissed! I’m furious! Everything was fine until you dragged me off to Paris and just randomly decided to screw me over. I thought I had I figured you out. I thought we were finally on the same page. You actually spoke to me when we walked your dog. Whatever you needed, I had it ready, and you didn’t yell at me. I organized everything to the last detail, I made the hotel change the soap in your room when I found out it was orange scented because you’d flip a shit,” Andy spat, her hands moving viciously in her explanation while her feet steady and planted, “I wasn’t looking for a pat on the head, but you used to at least look at me like I was a human when I did my job to meet your crazy-ass standards. And just when I thought we were having an honest to God moment about Stephen in your hotel room, you tell me to go do my job and send me away. Then to top it all off, you ignore me when I try to help you save your job. You didn’t even give a shit. All you cared about was making sure I didn’t bring in any freakin’ freesias. Which I don’t even get. You told me your fucking favorite flower was fucking freesias.”

A beat passed. Miranda looked away and stared at her dog sitting on the floor. Patricia pouted. She begged her master silently, pleaded with her eyes to be open and honest.

“In case you haven’t noticed,” she said softly, “I’m often in the habit of pushing things away that I love.”

“Wait, what?” Andy barely breathed.

Miranda’s gaze returned sharply to face the woman before, “It was dangerous to have you remain at Runway.”

Andy’s forehead knotted with confusion, but, when her mouth opened to question the editor’s comment, she found the words jammed in her throat.

“This is who I truly am,” Miranda stated with absolute firmness, her voice almost issuing a warning to stay away.

“You’re lying,” Andy exclaimed, taking a step forward and finally moving away from where she had been rooted by the front door, “I know, Miranda. I know all about it. Nigel called me a month later to tell me about his promotion when you guys got back to New York.”

Andy crossed the foyer until she was only a pace away from the other woman.

“Why did you let me think you were going to just abandon him?” she muttered sadly.

Patricia was extremely confused, but the whole ordeal was getting pretty exciting. They were getting closer to each other.

“I needed you to leave,” came the stone-cold, stiff reply.

“Then why didn’t you just fire me?”

“You did exactly what I told you to do. Firing you was not an option. You did your job,” Miranda explained, turning to pace to the opposite side of the room.

“You’re going around in circles,” Andy exclaimed, throwing her hands up, “Just tell me how we ended up here, Miranda.”

Another pause. The dog sat perfectly still.

Her master slowly turned to her companion, standing tall, and said resolutely, “We are here, Andrea, because my dog is insane.”

Patricia pouted. She wouldn’t go as far as ‘insane.’

“Those nightly walks started to haunt me. Suddenly, I was no longer safe. Even the office was hazardous. I became too familiar with the sensation of being beside you, our arms brushing. It started happening as we walked to meetings or I allowed you to ride in the elevator with me. One night I would mention my attraction to a certain color, and the next day, you would be happily donning a shirt in that exact hue. You,” Miranda’s normally strong, authoritative voice finely cracked, and with a quick breath she continued, “You brought freesias into the office. You would stay late at night when I was chained to my desk with edits. You turned one night and oh so innocently asked, ‘Shall we go home and walk the dog?’”

Andy replied with a sheepish grin, “It…it just slipped. I was really embarrassed after I said it.”

“That small instant crumbled me. I wished for nothing more than to take you home,” Miranda explained, turning her head slightly to hide her flushing cheeks, a slight increase of heart rate Patricia could sense.

“Oh,” the other woman replied before seemingly doing a double take, “oh!”

“Indeed. You attacked and destroyed everything I had built in order to protect myself.”

Andy recovered from her shock and countered, “What could I do? I was silly girl with a crush on her married boss.”

“I am an old woman that invests herself in her job. And her children. And her dog. The thought of making room for someone else is quite…” Miranda said as her soft voice trailed off.

“Terrifying?”

Eyebrows flickered upwards and chin defiantly turned up. “Hardly. I’m not afraid of anything.”

The dog almost rolled her eyes. The ex-assistant completed the task instead. The foyer stayed quiet as the women seemed to ask themselves where they went from here.

“Why does this have to be such a big deal?” Andy finally questioned with a shrug and a simple smirk, “Miranda, can’t we just give this a shot?”

Patricia immediately gave her support with a firm bark before returning to her panting and tail wagging. Andy shot the dog a huge smile.

“See? She thinks it’s a good idea.”

“Of course she does. She’s been anxious to have you back,” Miranda murmured, her tone almost suspicious.

“She’s the only one, right?” The brunette asked, the sarcasm in her question very apparent.

Patricia watched with anticipation as Miranda tilted her chin regally, her eyes so deeply focused on the other woman.

“Who encouraged you to have this overabundance of confidence?”

Andy’s grin practically exploded. “I can do anything, remember?”

What happened next was so subtle, so small, Patricia almost missed it. Her master smiled.

As a dog, Patricia knew the golden rule. Kisses solved all sorts of problems.   Sometimes it was a good idea to just smother someone with lots of kisses until they giggled. This is what she did for the girls when they had bad days at school. She also knew that sometimes kisses could be hungry like you’ve been waiting your whole life for your food bowl to get filled and suddenly it’s there and the need makes you devour all of it right away. Let’s just say Patricia knew about those kind of kisses because of the charming German Shepard with shiny eyes that lived next-door.

But when Andy shyly stepped forward so that their bodies brushed, gently cupped Miranda’s cheek, and gently placed their lips together with the softness of a whisper, Patricia knew this kiss was different. She didn’t need Miranda’s resulting sigh and tender embrace of the younger woman’s waist to tell her that this was special.

In the end, Patricia really didn’t fully understand what they had discussed. But she did know that, after Andy left that night, she would be coming back again. And Andy did come back two days later to escort Miranda on a mysterious adventure to something called ‘Date.’ She knew there would be plenty more kisses and smiles and, finally, love back in the household she was sworn to protect.

She also knew Andy didn’t leave until the next morning. But that was none of Patricia’s business.