Ann Walker stirred as she felt a weight settle in next to her in the bed. “Mmm, good morning, love” she mumbled, wiping blond hair away from her eyes.
A contented sigh rose behind her.
It was still dark, but a robin loudly proclaimed its rise from slumber. Ann squinted at her phone and pulled up her weather app. “Chance of rain this morning. Let’s wait and see if the sun comes out later.”
She turned toward her companion and stroked her face. “You’re my beautiful girl,” she praised, leaning in.
She was met with a sloppy lick and a paw on her chest. Ann laughed and pulled the blanket over her shoulders. She didn’t mind having her dog join her since the morning chill from winter still persisted into April. She continued petting soft fur as she closed her eyes, enjoying a few more hours of sleep.
* * * *
Ann chose a light pink button up blouse and blue jeans for the day. The swaying branches out the window caught her eye. She frowned as she grabbed a puffy vest, not zipping it all the way to spite the wind.
The welcome sound of yips and barks rose as Ann led her Leonberger to the dog park. A light breeze picked up a perfumed scent of early Spring. Ann turned to locate the flowers when a shot of red fur passed her vision.
“Goddammit, Maya! Stop!” a rough voice yelled.
A tall woman with dark hair sprinted after an Irish Terrier, the leash dragging behind it. The woman was so focused on the dog that she did not notice the tree roots emerging from the ground. She fell, her face hitting the dirt.
Ann ran over to the woman, her dog following behind her. “Are you alright?!” she touched the woman’s shoulder.
The woman slowly sat up, her low ponytail in a mess around her shoulders. She let out a disgruntled sigh and turned to face Ann.
Ann was struck by dark eyes and blushed slightly.
“I’m alright. Did you see where the dog went?”
Ann suddenly remembered the cause of the accident and looked up. The terrier stood at the base of a nearby tree, staring down a squirrel. “Yes, over there. Can you stand?”
The woman pressed her hands to her legs. Dirt smudged her dark jeans. “Yeah, nothing damaged, except my dignity.”
Ann smiled, “Good.”
“There’s the devil,” The woman grunted as she rose. She walked over to the tree and grabbed the leash. She scowled at the dog as it happily jumped up on her legs.
Ann hesitated to move closer, not wanting to be too invasive. The dark-haired woman turned back to look at Ann and held out her hand. “Thank you for your help. I’m Anne.”
Ann took Anne’s hand and shook it, noticing its’ softness and strength. “Of course. My name is Ann, too.”
Anne smiled, trying her best to wipe the dirt off her face and black suede jacket. “And this is Maya. Not mine. I’m taking care of her while my friend is on vacation. Who’s this?” She motioned toward the massive dog.
The two dogs sniffed each other, their tails wagging in approval. Maya was unperturbed by Tess’ large, fluffy body towering over her.
Ann’s collarbone peeked out as her shirt flapped in a breeze. Anne did not realize she was staring a little too long until the Leonberger brushed against her. She held out her hand for Tess to sniff. “She’s beautiful.”
“Thank you. Maya’s quite spirited,” she tried to stifle a laugh.
Anne rolled her eyes. “This one can be a pain in the ass but she’s sweet when she wants to be,” Anne scratched Maya behind her ear. “I don’t know why my friend trusts me with her. I’m not great with dogs.”
“Is it alright if I introduce myself?”
Ann knelt down with her side facing Maya. The dog sniffed her arm. “Well, you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. Irish Terriers are notorious tricksters,” she laughed as Maya’s wiry beard brushed her face.
Anne grinned. Ann’s voice was so soothing that her earlier frustrations were forgotten. “I was heading over for a walk. Would it be too forward to ask if you’d like to join me?”
“Oh,” Ann faltered in surprise. “I’d like that.”
They entered the dog park, making their way to the fenced in trail. It was not too busy. Most of the people ahead of them walked in small groups, some solo, their dogs off leash casually greeting each other and playing.
“So, you don’t have much experience with dogs?” Ann questioned.
“Mmm. My family has a dog. Argus. He’s partial to my sister. Whenever I go home to visit, he’s either sleeping or in the way.” She still didn’t trust Maya off leash and kept her close.
Ann laughed. Tess wandered far ahead of them, making Ann uncomfortable. She whistled and yelled “Tiny!”
Tess trotted up to her.
“Tiny?” Anne questioned.
“Yeah. My cousin thought it was hilarious that I got this big dog. She uses it so much that I call her that most of the time.”
Anne smiled. “Tiny must be good company.”
“She is. I’ll even let her sleep in the bed when she’s good.”
Anne nodded to herself, taking note that Ann most likely was not in a relationship.
The two women continued walking and chatting until they reached the sounds of splashing from a nearby lake. Dogs happily retrieved toys from the water. The idea of Tiny and Maya being wet and smelly was definitely not appealing. They turned to walk back.
A rosy-pink sunset crossed the sky as they returned to the park entrance. The wind picked up strands of Ann’s golden ponytail and she shivered.
Anne bit her lip. She decided to try her luck, “It was nice talking with you. Would you be interested in grabbing a coffee with me sometime?”
“Sure! I’d love to.” Ann spoke slightly more enthusiastically than she hoped. She didn’t want to seem too desperate. She gave Anne her phone number.
“Ann?” Anne’s eyebrow raised, looking up from her phone.
“I’m Lister,” she said and recited her own phone number for Ann.
* * *. *
Anne spent the evening on her friend’s couch, long legs perched on the coffee table. She tried to pay attention to a movie, but her mind wandered to golden hair and sky-blue eyes. She picked up her phone.
“Your damn dog made a fool out of me today” Anne typed a text, the contact listed in her phone as “Tib.”
A laughing emoji almost immediately popped up.
“And possibly landed me a date.”
“See! I told you my girl would come in handy”
Anne laughed under her breath.
“You sure she’s not straight? I don’t want you getting hurt again.”
“Be careful, Friend.” Another text quickly followed. “Gotta go. My lady needs me. Let me know how it goes.” A winking emoji followed.
Ann placed her phone down on the table. Tib mentioning her past only brought unwanted memories. One in particular came to mind: Ann hoping to give Vere a pleasant surprise but instead walking in on her with Don Cameron.
Maya nudged Ann’s hand with her nose, bringing her back to the present.
“To bed we go then?” she gently scratched the dog’s chin.
Maya’s head cocked to one side.
“Thank you for today. It turned out alright, didn’t it?”