Way Back MachinePart 4: Christmas Is Going To the Dogs
November quickly segued into December. The reds and browns of autumn gave way to vast blankets of white snow. Brisk fall air turned to a biting winter frost. I found myself spending more time indoors than in the snow. The winter that year was nearing record lows. It was weird to think that any time the weather acted up, it could have easily been a frost giant's malevolent work.
I, for one, did not mind the extra alone time with Grape.
We were playing catch up with years of lost time. The snuggles we never shared, all of the times we never said “I love you.” Movie nights that hardly ever happened between ourselves. I have a strong belief that things do happen for a reason. Had I not been in the shadow of Max for so many years, I would not appreciate the little things that I had the opportunity to share with Grape.
There was a deep warmth knowing she loved me like she did. I had only approached the threshold of such feelings once, when I was with Tarot. But it just wasn't the same. Perhaps it was because I had found myself with the girl I had my sights on for years.
Most of my free time had been dedicated to Grape's gift. It needed to be perfect. I spent so much time outlining it, getting the pose and shapes just right. I must have restarted over a hundred times before I felt comfortable moving on. Coloring it was going to be a nightmare, it made me regret not investing in digital drawing software.
The days continued much like this for the first week of December. It was not until the weekend I had received a strange phone call. The television was blaring Discovery Channel while Grape napped next to me. My paw gently scratching behind her ear. Mom and dad were off at some work related Christmas party. I was dozing when I heard our telephone ring.
Grape did not budge, and mom nor dad were going to get the phone any time soon. It fell on me to go grab it. With a yawn and a stretch I trudged over to the phone. The ring tone buzzing in my ears.
“Yeah yeah hold on I'm coming.” I muttered to myself as I lifted the phone from its receiver. “Hello?”
“Finally you pick up!”
“Tarot?” She was back? I felt my heart tremor a little. I had wondered what happened to her. Why she was calling me instead of sending me messages via the psychic airwaves.
“I know you want some answers, but I need you to come over to Sabrina's place.” I glanced over at Grape sleeping on the couch.
“Can Grape come?” I leaned against the wall and held the phone between my ear and shoulder. The line was silent for awhile.
“Cool! I'll be right over, just hang tight.” I placed the phone back on the hook. “Graaape!”
“I thought we both agreed you weren't going to do that anymore.” She groaned and put a cushion over her head.
“Tarot is back and she wants me to come over. She said you could come to.”
Grape sat up and tilted her head. “Wait she's back? What does she want.”
“To explain herself.” I replied wrapping a scarf around my neck “Remember she was in the whole celestial court thing and...”
“Right, right.” Grape held her arms above her head and stretched her back. “This better be good.”
“Come on, just because she broke up with me doesn't mean we aren't friends.” I tossed Grape a scarf and put earmuffs on. “I was worried she was going to be banished to some unspeakable realm or something weird like that.”
She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and wrapped the scarf around her neck nice and snug. I left a note on the fridge for mom and dad, explaining the situation. And with that done I nearly ran out the door. Grape was not too far behind.
Sabrina's house was not all too far from ours. I had not expected to hear from Tarot so soon. Then again I was not really familiar how court hearings went on that level of existence. Was time really a relevant thing to them? The equivalent of thousands of years could have passed and just a few mere weeks had passed here on earth.
I hoped she would not be cryptic, in my experience with these beings they were very fond of theatrics.
When we arrived at her house I almost did not bother knocking on the door. I caught myself mid breath and lightly rapped on the front door. I was panting madly, my tongue lolling to the side a little as Grape ran in from behind.
“What's the rush Peanut?” Grape stopped to catch her breath. “Keep that up and you're going to be the death of me.”
“Sorry...I was excited.” I folded my arms, my foot tapping impatiently as I awaited the opening of the door. I saw the door knob twist and smiled when I saw Sabrina poke her head out.
“Wow that was fast.” Sabrina raised her brow as she let the two of us in. “Glad to know you weren't going to keep us waiting.” We followed Sabrina through the main entry way of her house to the living room. She gestured to a sofa and smiled. “Just hang tight here for a minute okay, you guys need anything?”
I looked over at Grape and she looked at me. “Nah I'm fine.”
“I wouldn't mind something warm to drink actually.” Grape took a seat and looked around the house.
Artifacts of all kinds were scattered about. A bookcase laden with strange manuscripts in a language I could not even begin to understand. The only thing that felt out of place was the furniture, all of it simply bought from IKEA and not made out of some strange ethereal material. Sabrina nodded and left the room. Grape and I nervously looked at each other. I had wondered if Tarot was counting on me to hook up with Grape.
She did seem upset about breaking it off with me. What with fate being a problem and all.
Sabrina came back holding a tray of drinks, four of them. Confused for a moment, knowing I did not ask for one, I looked up at Sabrina. I was about to speak when I saw Tarot walk into the room. She smiled a little at me and Grape. It felt like it had been years since I had seen her. She wasn't much worse for wear, maybe a little more, relaxed, is the word I would use.
Sabrina set the tray on a coffee table in front of the sofa and took a seat herself, taking one of the mugs into her hand. It smelled like some sort of herbal tea concoction. Too strong for my liking.
Then, another dog walked into the room.
I did not recognize this one at first. She was a Pomeranian like Tarot, roughly the same height and build. She had white fur and a brown mark along the front of muzzle. Grape looked over at me and raised her brow. I shrugged.
“Oh, my sister is in town.” Tarot replied and gestured over to the other dog.
“The name's Arcana.” She nodded. Her voice sounded familiar too. I was missing something here.
“She a psychic too?” Grape asked as she took one of the mugs of tea.
“You could say that.” Arcana nodded and smiled. I studied her closely, trying to figure out exactly where I had known her before. If anything she was definitely Tarot's kin. They looked almost exactly the same save for a few subtle differences in the face. Arcana's was a little longer, give or take. And then I noticed her eyes.
They were a pale green color.
“What brings you to Babylon Gardens?” Grape asked, she seemed to be taking charge of the small talk. The mystery had unraveled itself in my head.
“Heard Tarot was in trouble up at court and decided to come check on her.”
“Dragon?” I blurted out. The three psychics all looked at each other and smiled.
“I was starting to wonder if you would recognize me.” Arcana, or should I say Dragon, chuckled. “Do I really look so much more different?”
“For one you aren't a giant spirit dragon.” I laughed a little in disbelief. “Okay so what's going on here and am I going to 'wake up' from this?”
“Nope, this isn't on any astral planes. We are talking to each other face to face. “ Sabrina replied. “And Tarot, why don't you explain?”
I could see Tarot blush a little through her fur. “Oh right, I now have 'spiritual probation' on my permanent record. Mother is going to be so proud.”
“Not that I'm in a better position.” Dragon nodded. “After all was said and done, and the punishment was dealt out, all of the players in our little game were sentenced to life as a mortal until the sentence is up.”
“Spiritual probation?” Both Grape and I asked.
“I am not allowed to used psychic abilities without a probation officer of sorts,” Tarot replied, “at first I did not know what to think, but I personally find it a little liberating. No more precognitive visions, no more hearing things I don't want to hear. Just my own thoughts in my own head.”
“And I don't have the burdens of an all knowing being for a little while,” Dragon shrugged.
“You two sound a little too comfortable for just being punished.” Grape said.
“It could have been much worse for us, we could have been banished to a dark unspeakable places that even I could not truly fathom.” Dragon replied. “Fortunately we had a good lawyer with us.” She nodded towards Sabrina, who had a hard time holding back her proud smile.
“Not bad for a low level being, right?”
“What about the others, Pete and the fox guy you mentioned.” I asked.
“The same fate as myself, they were none too pleased.” Dragon said. “But the bird's wings are clipped, and even though I've been effectively declawed, I feel safer now than I did before. Even if it's just for a little while.”
I started to to wonder whether or not Grape was really taking this in. She seemed to be handling it well and I had explained the concept of the cosmic game before, though I hardly understood it myself. The entire scheme of things was unknown to me. But that was probably for the better.
“Oh and Peanut, I do apologize, for how we parted.” Tarot looked down. “I can't explain the details, lest we get into more trouble, but the future was looking grim in the direction we were headed. I'm thankful Sabrina had my back this whole time, and I hope you can forgive me.”
My eyes wandered over to Grape. I smiled a little at her, she looked back at me and flashed that half smile of hers. Tarot hurt me at first, but in the end I still had somewhere to go. I looked back at Tarot and nodded “Of course I forgive you, I just hope after all of this we can still hang out.”
Tarot looked rather relieved. “Good, just a hunch, but I take you two are...”
“Pretty much.” Grape interjected.
“Wait but where did Max go in all of this?” Dragon jumped in, a blush warmed her face as she looked down. “Sorry, not my business to pry.”
“Trust me, it's a long story.” Grape frowned.
“A very long story.” I grabbed her hand and squeezed it. “We might tell you later, but our parents could be expecting us home at any time.”
Tarot frowned and looked down. “Okay you two, have a safe walk home.”
Now I was starting to feel a little bad. She had not seen me in so long, and she did sort of push me on the path towards Grape. I did owe her just a little bit. “Hey, how about you guys come over to our place to hang out tomorrow. We could play some “imaginate,” for old times sake. You could bring Dragon too!”
Tarot looked over at Sabrina, who simply shrugged. Whatever they were communicating, I was oblivious to it. Tarot looked back at me and nodded. “Sure we'll be over tomorrow.”
“Oh and by the way Peanut, my name is Arcana in public.” Dragon winked. “Not sure how people would react if you called me 'Dragon' in front of your friends and family.”
“You've got it Dr-I mean, Arcana.” I bit my tongue a little and smiled sheepishly.
“Good, now go on, don't want your parents upset at you.” She waved a little as we walked out the door.
“That went better than I thought it would.” Grape smiled a little to herself as we exited the house.
“No hard feelings towards my ex?” I ruffled her fur a little and laughed.
“So long as she stays that way I won't complain.” The purple cat gently ran her claws through my fur. “Peanut will you promise me something?”
“Whatever you want Grape.” I looked at her as we started walking.
“That you won't leave,” she played with her tail a little.
“I can't leave though, we live together.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Either way, I promise, cross my heart and I swear I will die, or, something like that.” I furled my brow a little in confusion.
“Same difference.” She said softly as she leaned into me and pulled me into a kiss. My eyes grew a little wide as I held her close. We swayed in the cold air, a few dim street lamps shone brightly like stars. I could feel her smile as she broke the kiss. “You feel really warm all of a sudden.”
“I think my heart exploded.” I smiled dreamily at her. It suddenly dawned on me that we kissed in public. Anyone could have seen that. I licked my lips and looked into her eyes. “What if someone saw us?'
“Would it matter?”
“They would treat us differently, and I dunno, make fun?”
“And? You still didn't answer my question.”
I looked at her and stroked my chin as I thought. “No, it wouldn't.” I grabbed her face and kissed her again. She giggled a little and pushed me off and started running. “What, where are you going?”
“You want kisses you gotta work for it!”
I gave her a head start, and began chasing after her.
I had never seen her act like that before. Maybe she was that way for Max sometimes, but I had never her seen her playful. Though what did seem typical of her, was making things a bit of a challenge. Turning our little evening kiss into a small race.
On the bright side we made it home at a faster pace. She ran up the porch and into the house first, but I meant for her to do that. She was falling ever closer into my trap. In the house she had nowhere to run. I smiled devilishly and stumbled up the porch and into the living room. Grape was panting and laughing at me.
Everything was going according to plan. I hugged her and pushed her into the ground and pinned her there. She looked up at me and laughed. “Don't look so full of yourself, I let you do that.”
“Well I let you run ahead of me.”I winked.
“I let you kiss me earlier.”
“I decided to keep kissing you.”
We locked stares while we panted like fools. Our scarves were a floppy mess around our necks and we were both covered in snow that we had tracked into the house. I gave her a kiss on the cheek and nuzzled her nose.
“You're one crazy mutt.” Grape sighed as she leaned her head back, catching her breath.
“It's one of my charms though.” I rolled off of her and gave her some breathing room as I took some time to catch my breath. “I love you.”
“Love you too.”
I closed my eyes and yawned. I wanted to fall asleep there on the living room floor but I just might regret it when someone stepped on me while getting a glass of water. I sat up and held Grapes hand, thinking about my next move.
“Gotta agree, that was quite adorable.”
That was dad's voice. I jolted to my feet and looked over to the kitchen. Sure enough mom and dad were standing side by side, dressed in snug coats and boots. “How much of that did you see?”
“All of it.” Mom smiled. “We just got home and read your note when you two nearly knocked down the door.”
“Hey relax son, you look like you were caught stealing.” Dad patted my head and pulled off his coat to hang it up. “Not like we don't ever see you dozing together on that couch there. You're not the only one who uses the camera.”
I walked over to Grape and stroked her cheek. “Well I guess I'm glad you aren't freaking out or anything. Most people do when they see a cat and dog do this sort of thing.”
“Most pets do, humans find it sweet.” Mom replied as she scratched my back. “You two are good for each other anyways, she's more brains and you're more heart.”
“Told you people say I'm the smart one.” Grape muttered as she curled up into a ball on the floor.
“I guess I can't deny it.” I smiled as I scooped her up in my arms and carried her bridal style. “My room or yours?”
“Mine, it smells better.” Grape wrapped her arms around my neck.
“She's got a point.” Dad laughed heartily as he walked to the kitchen. “Goodnight you two.”
“Yeah, night dad, night mom.” I smiled as I carried Grape away.
“Why don't you ever carry me to bed Earl?” Mom playfully poked dad's side and hugged him.
“I'm not 20 any more dear, might throw out my back.”
“You're not that old.”
I heard the two of them go at it the whole way to Grape's room. A smile crossed my lips as I lay the two of us in bed. If there was a couple I wanted to model my relationship after, it would be Earl and Jill Sandwich's. Grape tucked herself against me nice and tight as I wrapped a blanket around us.
I cannot remember what I dreamed that night, but I do know it was wonderful.
Eventually it had reached the week of Christmas. Everything felt so giddy and excited. Tarot and Dragon, well Arcana I mean, came over to our house often. Usually for company, which was sincerely welcomed. However we had received a special letter in the mail that day.
Grape walked into the room holding a red envelope with gilded edges. The Milton Insignia had been inscribed on the front on fine black print. We all gathered around, sheer excitement and wonder gripped us all. The Milton's spared no expense, even if the letter was about something mundane it was probably made of golden sheets. Grape used her claw to cut open the letter and gently removed a folded piece of paper.
She cleared her throat and began to read aloud.
“Dear sir or madam,
We at the Milton household are inviting you, yes you, to our big Christmas Shebang. Bring a date, or go it stag (no offense to any stags that might show up). Food and entertainment will be provided for all guests. The party will be held at the brand new Babylon Forum Community Center at Seven o'clock, and will run until the DJ passes out.
Sincerely, the Milton Ferrets.
P.S. To all cats, no eating the mice, and to all dogs, no eating the cats, and to all cats, no taunting the dogs. To the mice, no hitting cats over the head with relatively (and comically) large objects. Otherwise I will be forced to get the wolves on your case.
P.P.P.S Simon this is not an online post.
P.P.P.P.S I don't care....”
Grape paused for a moment and sighed. “That goes on for the rest of the page.”
“So what do you think?” I asked. To be honest I was rather interested. It was the first time in a long while we had a co-ed party. Dogs, cats, and mice got along together about as well as Spike, Tom, and Jerry. The ferrets were asking for anarchy and chaos, which to be fair, was a typical thing for them.
“I think it's a waste of time.” Grape tossed the note aside and sat down next to me.
“I think it sounds fun.” Tarot shrugged. “I'm not doing anything that night anyways.”
“Come on Grape, you could be my date.” I gave her my best puppy dog eyes and smile. She grinned a little and looked away.
“Not until you say yes.”
“No I'm not doing it.”
Grape rolled her eyes and punched my shoulder. I winced a little. “Fine we'll go, but at the first sign of trouble we leave, alright?”
“Fine by me,” I smiled complacently. “I'm sure everyone can be civil for at least the first thirty minutes.”
“If that.” Grape remarked.
Inside I was bouncing around like a puppy with a sugar high. This would be my first real date with Grape. In public, in front of people. I wondered, just for a moment, if our relationship was ready for the exposure. Fido and Sabrina kept theirs under wraps so long for a reason. At the moment, however, I was much more optimistic than realistic. I had convinced myself no one would care that much. Maybe Bino would, but what did that matter? Grape and I would be fine, nothing bad would happen to us.
I had about three days to work up my courage to face the crowds. Three days to think about what I would say and when exactly I would say it. It felt like I had all the time in the world yet not enough time at all. Possible escape routes had to be considered of course, even though I was optimistic, I am certain Grape would kill me if I dropped the bomb and did not plan ahead. Assuming we made it out alive.
Tarot and Dragon had my back, I knew that much. Sabrina would as well, and Fido certainly would if his girlfriend was on board. Plus there were all those wolf bouncers, I'm sure they would not let anything happen to us.
The rest of my spare time, when I wasn't with Grape or devising escape routes, was spent putting the finishing touches on Grape's gift. I had outlined it with pen when I was finally happy with the sketch. Colors were filled in all over the place. My purple colored pencil had been pitifully whittled down, but I could always get a new one.
I recall, most vividly from that week, the atmosphere.
Grape is much better at putting that kind of thing to words, but Christmas time always had a special air to it. Sure it was a shopping season, the season of giving also meant the season of buying, and it was a rather lucrative economic opportunity. But that's besides the point.
Everyone acted just a little nicer to eachother, the world turned into a brightly decorated wonderland. Not to mention the smells. As a dog, I get a very unique perspective. Everything smelled warm, comfortable, sweet. So many things to describe it. I could list words all day. Best of all, it came with a grand sense of optimism and kinship. If there ever was a season dogs and cats would get over their differences, at least for a day, it was Christmas.
Which was partially why I got my hopes up.
Before I knew it, I was waiting at the front door reverberating with nervous energy. I was waiting on Grape, who was taking a little time to get ready. I told myself she could not possibly take that much time, considering pets really did not go all out like humans did for events like this. Generally there was no jewelry, no extravagant dress, not even a fancy collar.
Then again she probably still was not too enthusiastic about the whole party thing. She never gave me a straight answer as to why, I always assumed it had to do with the co-ed thing. Eventually I saw her walk into the living room.
“Come on we have to go now or we'll be late!” I said as I pushed open the door. Grape nervously followed. I was hoping my excitement would somehow rub off. Though it didn't seem to at all.
I started to feel a little bad. Maybe I should not have dragged her along. Though it was a little too late to start second guessing myself. Seeing as how we were already mere yards away from the community center by the time I started thinking about how she might have felt.
“And here we are.” I said. What a sight it was to behold. The building was covered from the foundation to the roof with Christmas lights. The trees just outside of the building had all been topped with stars and decorated with baubles. I reached my hand down to Grapes and grabbed it.
She let a timid smile creep up on her face.
“We'll be in this together, don't act like you're going to be all by yourself in there.” I gave her a quick smooch on the cheek and led her inside. “Come on or we'll miss all the fun!”
The main room had been converted into a Ballroom of sorts. Tables had been set up all around with a large serving table at the front of the room. Already the building was crawling with all sorts of pets. Cats and dogs had already self segregated themselves in the table area. Well a good amount had. There were the scant few that had joined tables, and believe it or not, were getting on quite well.
Christmas music blared from speakers at all angles while a gigantic tree served as the centerpiece. The star at the top had to have been bigger than me, and the lights were about the size of my fist. Presents of all shapes and sizes were placed randomly across the bottom of the tree.
“Hey you wanna go find a table?” I asked out of the blue, Grape seemed a little unresponsive.
“Sure, I hope there's someone out there we know.”
I saw Sabrina on the cat side of the room, along side her was Tarot and Dragon. For a moment I had wondered where Fido was, but I saw him on the dog side. I guess they were going to lay low. I could only wonder when exactly they were going to get together in public.
“Hey lets go sit over by Sabrina, looks like they have a few seats open over there.” I looked to Grape. She nodded a little and followed close behind, I could only imagine what was going through her mind. Probably a million reasons why being there was a bad thing. At least she humored me.
“So I see Grape kept her word.” Dragon said as we approached the table.
“What's that supposed to mean?” Grape raised her brow a little.
“Oh I meant nothing by it, just nice to see you here is all.” The mystical Pomeranian gave a small nod.
“Have we missed anything yet?” I said as we both took our seats.
“Nothing special, the Ferrets did the opening ceremony, and for now it's just party time.” Sabrina shrugged. She looked a little bored, I could even call it sad.
“Why aren't you with Fido?” I asked.
“Peanut.” Grape elbowed my ribs.
Sabrina chuckled a little and played with her collar. “We're both rather nervous about it. I have to say you're brave walking in here holding hands.”
“That or stupid.” Grape muttered.
"Hey you're the one who said we shouldn't care."
"But do you have to showcase it at the biggest pet gathering I've ever seen?"
I looked down a little and sighed. “You want anything to drink hon?” I had never called her a pet name before. It just casually slipped out of my mouth. I could not tell if she took note of it, but to me it seemed an important bench mark.
“Something sweet I guess.”
The whole time I went to go grab that drink I had tried to think of ways to make her happy. Maybe the only way I could ever make her happy in this situation is to just take her home. But the party had just begun and I was not ready to give up. There had to be something she would enjoy.
I approached a large metal bowl of fruit punch, with, I could not believe it, a fountain built into the center. Like I said, the Miltons spared no expense. I held out a cup and caught the punch trickling out.
“Peanut, that you?” I perked my ear and turned a little.
“Max?” My reaction was that of confusion and uneasiness. After all this was the guy that sent Grape home crying. She hardly ever cried. “What are you doing here?”
“It's a party, what do you think?”
“Forget I asked.” I shrugged as I filled up a second cup. Max looked around, words on the tip of his tongue. He almost did not want to ask me it seemed.
“Is Grape here?”
“Yeah, she's at my table.” I replied as I started walking. He looked ahead of me and saw Grape, the only purple cat in the entire crowd.
He ran off, nearly knocking the punch out of my hands. Fortunately my coordination had not failed me and I did not spill on any innocent bystanders. I certainly hoped Max would be okay, because I was not very sure if Grape would be.
I eventually made it back to the table, Sabrina looked like she was trying to hide a smile. Max and Grape looked like they were having a rather nice conversation.
“Wait so you're here with a date?” I could hear Max ask.
“Oh yeah, he went to go get me a drink.”
“What's he look like, do I know him?”
“You know him. He's got brown fur, wears a red collar.” Grape seemed to be enjoying herself. I was rather confused to be honest.
Max's befuddled face seemed to make the whole table want to laugh. I'm sure he saw that too and was wondering what was so funny. I eventually walked up to the table, hoping to end his troubles, when in reality I made things seem a little worse for poor Max.
“Oh well here he comes now.” Grape replied.
“What, where?” Max looked directly through me. It seemed he would not believe she was dating a dog. “I don't see him.”
I set the drinks on the table and took my seat next to Grape. “Hey I'm back.” I said as I took a sip of the punch.
“Thanks,” Grape grabbed her drink, “hon.”
She said that last part with a certain relish. Was I her way of sticking it to Max? I certainly hoped I wasn't there just to make him jealous. Max's eyes widened when the realization hit him.
“Wait, you and Peanut got together.” He said.
“Not sure why this is so weird to you.” Grape shrugged.
“If this is something to get back at me...”
“You selfish little...” Grape took a deep breath, “this has nothing to do with you. Peanut and I got together because we wanted to give this a shot, not because I'm mad at you.”
Max looked distressed. No snide comments, not even a stupid mean one. He was speechless.
“You can sit with us if you like Max.” Sabrina winked and laughed.
“Come on Max, you know me, I don't bite.” I looked up at him. Grape gave me a really weird look. “Can't we go back to being friends again, like we were before this whole mess happened.”
Max looked between us and sighed, his tail hung low in a dejected fashion. He shot Grape a nervous glance and then looked at me. “Not sure she wants me around though.”
Grape looked a little guilty and bit her bottom lip. She knew it was up to her whether or not her ex was going to sit at the table. I think a little bit inside of us all wanted our little group to be back together like it used to be. “Sure Max, you can sit with us.”
He instantly perked up and took a seat next to me. For a moment there it was like things were, dare I say it, normal again. Before the break ups, before the spiritual court. Things were structured a little differently, sure. But we were all friends. Grape had enough heart to remain civil, thank goodness.
“So uh, who's this?” Max asked, nodding towards Dragon.
“I'm Tarot's sister, Arcana, moved here from Edgewood to check up on her. It's a nice little place out west.” Dragon smiled, the midwestern American accent was unmistakable. I was impressed, she went all out for her disguise.
Max nodded, “not really sure where that is, but I haven't been really far out of state before.”
The group felt whole again. The months we weren't together melted away. Maybe it was the Christmas spirit working a little magic. I could not help but wonder, that if right after the magic wore off, we would be back to our disjointed state. In any case I had to appreciate the little things as they came, rather than worry about what was next, that was the key to my happiness.
A slow, melodic piece began playing over the speakers. It hit me that there was also dancing. I glanced over at Grape and looked at my paws. Social suicide here I come.
“Hey Grape, would you like to dance?” I tried to make it sound confident but in reality I'm sure I sounded like a puppy yipping its first words. She looked a little surprised by the move.
“I have to admire a dog without fear,” Sabrina laughed a little to herself. “Better take him on that offer before he gets cold feet.”
Grape took my hand and stood up. We both nervously walked over to the dance floor. “You know how to slow dance?”
“Haven't the faintest idea.” I blushed madly.
She took my hand and moved it down to her hip and used her other to grab one of my hands. When she was finished she put her hand on my shoulder and laughed nervously. “Just follow my lead okay?”
I want to say my first dance was magical, and don't get me wrong it was, but I'm sure I looked as awkward as I felt. The eyes of the crowd were upon us that very moment. Hard to miss a purple cat dancing with anybody, I'm sure.
“You feeling okay?” I looked her in the eye. “About the people staring.”
“Too late to get cold feet now.” Grape replied. I shrugged and smiled a little as we swayed with the music.
I had to forget I was the center of attention for a moment. Pretend it was just me and Grape at the house. Things felt natural that way, when I stripped away the social pressures. They just felt right. I had not noticed that we started hugging closer and closer as we danced, and I'm sure that added more to the pressure of the crowd.
For the time being, my initial ideas of the crowd were wrong. They were not attacking, in fact some of them just kept dancing. They were calm, they whispered a little, and I'm sure if it was any other time of the year they would be upset. But for now they just wanted to be happy.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Sabrina get up from her seat and walk over to the dog side of the room. I leaned in a little closer to Grape and sighed happily. It was a unique feeling of peace I felt there on that dance floor. Knowing that I had to no longer hide, and that I was right where I wanted to be. Where I had always wanted to be.
“Love you Peanut.”
“Love you too Grape.”
I kissed her gently, not too passionate, as we were still in public. I swear I heard a few “awws,” much to my surprise. Fido and Sabrina, I would later learn, danced many times that night. I did not see Sabrina at all for the rest of the time I was there, but I knew she was happier where ever she went.
The music began to fade out, and we let go. “Was that worth it?”
“Totally worth it.” She nodded as she nuzzled my chest. “When do we go home?”
“Whenever you want.”
“Well now that I'm here I'm actually starting to have fun.” We looked at each other and laughed. The night was young, and there was much fun to be had.
The scrapbook had many pictures from the party. I took none but I knew of a few who took some pictures of the dance. I searched for the best ones and kept it nice and safe in the book. Someone, who I am sure was very shocked at the time, nabbed a picture of me and Grape slow dancing. The first time I learned a thing or two about dancing, and I got to do it with my favorite purple cat.
There were more pictures of the party, Tarot and Arcana sitting next to each other, looking almost like twins. They posed the same in the picture, with a slight tilt of the head and brows furled in confusion. They really could pass for sisters.
Sabrina and Fido both found themselves in the middle of the fun. I bet he did not hear the end of it from Bino that night, but I am certain it was worth it. Then again, maybe Bino loosened up that night too. I never found out. Grape and I went home relatively early. The DJ apparently did pass out eventually but we weren't about to stick around and find out. I wanted some alone time with her, I think we both worked hard enough for some kisses.
Better yet, I had a little time to put the final strokes into the picture I had drawn up for her. Christmas Eve was the following night and it had to be ready by then.
Christmas Eve day was a very easy and relaxed day. No one came over, it was just us Sandwiches. The neighborhood pets were all probably fast asleep that morning. Grape and I passed the time just watching old Christmas movies and shaking our presents to figure out what was inside.
We both knew mom and dad would remove the packaging form the presents and put them in different boxes just to screw with us, but it never hurt to play the guessing game. There were a few pictures taken of us under the tree, one to this day rests in the scrapbook.
As the day turned to evening, I found myself ready to sleep. Most years before I would lay in bed excited for the morning. Listening for Santa until I dozed off, barely missing him every time. This time, I had Grape, and she wanted to just sleep. I remember that somewhere in the middle of the evening while we were talking to mom and dad, she dozed in my arms. Grape had started getting into the habit of that. Of course I knew that meant I just had to carry her off to bed, where I would join her.
Mom smiled at us both while dad took a picture. Capturing that small moment of perfection for years to come. For a moment in time, we did not have to worry about what our actions would start. We would not have to worry about stigma or problems. We just had each other and we loved every minute of it.
Christmas day was nice and easy. I was used to waking up bright and early in the morning. Yet I savored my time in bed with Grape. Her body nice and warm beneath the covers. The feeling was so much more enticing than the frosty air of the morn. We did get out of bed eventually, mom and dad were surprised to find that they had beat us to the Christmas tree.
“Who are you and what did you do with Grape and Peanut.” Dad chuckled as he saw us walk into the room.
“I was just enjoying the company is all.” I replied as I rubbed Grapes back and sat on the couch. “Now lets dig into some presents!”
I remember that year I was more concerned with what Grape was going to say when she opened my gift. It was all I thought about. A voice inside said she was going to hate it, but like just to make you happy. I certainly hoped that would not be the case. I felt like she knew what I was waiting for because she chose the present to open so late, and when she did pick it, she opened it nice and slow. My tail wagged nervously as she peeled away the wrapping paper. Little by little, bit by bit, until my gift had been unwrapped.
There in a nice cherrywood frame, was probably the best drawing I had done up until that point. I had went all out with it. Grape's first reaction to the picture was a big smile. She didn't say anything, she simply looked over at me and gave me a kiss.
“Look on the back” I said. Sure enough there was a handwritten letter taped to the back.
To this day I still remember what it said.
“Grape, as crazy as things have been for us, I feel like we have been together for years. No matter what happens, I always can count on you. I have a very serious, and sincere question to ask you, you want to keep it that way forever?”
She looked up from the note with a smile that warmed my heart. “Yes Peanut, I do.”
“Yes!” I jumped for joy and tackle hugged Grape into the ground. I did not ever want to let go.
“And that, was how I courted a cat.” I smiled and nuzzled Grapes nose. She gave off a loud yawn and curled up against me.
“I never get tired of hearing our story.” Grape smiled as she traced her fingers along the picture of us on Christmas day. “Better get some sleep though, tomorrow is a big day.”
“Indeed it is.” I smiled as I shut the scrapbook and set it gently aside. “Goodnight kitten.”
“Good night pooch.”
I kissed her gently and turned out the lights.
~~Epilogue: And they all lived...
I paced back and forth at the waiting room. Every little sound magnified a hundred times. The clock ticking rang in my ears, shaking my nerves to the core. I did not know what to expect, when to expect it. She had been in there for a good thirty minutes now, and I was getting a little worried.
Mom went in there with her, though, so I told myself not to be too worried.
Dad watched me, an expression of bemusement on his face. He had seen guys like this before. I had a feeling it never got old to him.. I had started to regret letting just Grape go in alone. Surely I should have went in to. But we agreed it was going to be up to her.
“Relax son, you've got the two smartest women we know in there, things are going to be fine.” Dad gave me a pat on the back.
“I can't help but be nervous, I'm a dog!”
He smiled at me and leaned back in his chair. “You got me there. How about you just take a seat to help you relax? All that pacing isn't helping.”
Another five minutes passed, thirty five minutes in total. They were in there way too long. Something was up. Eventually I just caved in and took a seat. The person sitting at the desk shared a laugh with my dad, though I was too anxious to care. Then, the doors opened. I ran over to Grape and mom as they walked out. A small timid figure poked his head from behind her leg. He had white fluffy fur and ears that drooped at the tip, much like myself. I smiled at him and squatted down to his level.
“Hey there pal,” I held out my hand, he sniffed it a little and wagged his tail. “yeah don't be afraid, it's just your silly old dad."
“Mr. and Mrs. Sandwich?” The young woman at the desk asked.
All four of us turned.
“The human ones, would you please sign the adoption forms, now what is this little guy's name gonna be.”
I looked over at dad, “any suggestions?”
“Oh lord Peanut what have you done.” Mom rolled her eyes.
“Jon, that's his name.” Dad finally said. We all looked at him like had just spoke in Chinese. “After Jon Turkey of course.”
“Who?” I asked.
“I...never mind, it's a math thing.” Dad looked at us all. “Sandwich theory anybody? No?”
“Jon Turkey Sandwich, kind of has a ring to it.” Grape smiled at the small puppy. He looked up at her with excited eyes, eyes that just met its mother. “How do you like that?”
“I...I do.” He nodded. I wondered how old the pup was, he was really young for a dog at the shelter. He could barely speak.
“Well it's official now, Marshmallow here is from this day on, Jon T. Sandwich.”
“Welcome to the family big guy.” Dad patted the small pup on the head. Grape leaned down and picked him up and held him in her arms. He gave her a gentle lick on the cheek as we both walked to the car.
The first thing I did when I got home, was grab the camera and handed it to dad. Grape and I sat on the porch with Jon in her lap. He was already smiling and absorbing his new surroundings. He was not a dog of many words, but he looked like someday he might be.
“Say cheese!” Dad snapped the picture and went inside to print it. He knew exactly what I was doing.
I looked over the bookshelf, a few books were rather dusty, but one had recently been used. On the spine it read “Your very own Wayback Machine
.” I pulled it out and set it in my lap, opening to the next page with enough space for a picture. Dad walked back into the room and handed me the small digital photo, still warm from the printer.
“My boy's all grown up, can't believe it.” Dad chuckled to himself as he walked away.
I grabbed my Scrapbooking tools and got to work setting it into place. Beneath the picture, I took a pen and wrote the words “puppy ever after.” I capped the pen and nodded.
“What's that?” A small voice called up to me. I looked over the book and saw my son. Goodness, my son. I could call him my son.
“It's your family's history book Jon.” I said as I lifted the small pup into my lap and opened to the first page. “Look it's me.”
He tilted his head and smiled at the picture of me as a pup on the porch. Grape walked into the room and saw the two of us looking over the scrapbook. She took a seat against me and laid her head on my shoulder.
“Jeez, how long has it been? Feels almost like yesterday I was a young pup...”The End
And so it's over for now. I certainly had a lot of fun writing this little story! I originally did not want to end it on a sequel hook, but I could not help myself. I certainly hope you had as much reading the story as I did writing it though. Thanks again for the feedback and for taking your time out to read my little fanfic.
As always, Happy reading! See you all next time.