Dak lay on his right side with his little, black snout pointing at the base of the toilet, almost touching the visible crack left from last Spring’s repair job. His small, now cloudy brown eyes stared emptily into the space between the toilet and the wall while his back legs lay draped on a thin, pink pillow shoved against the side of the bathtub. She had never seen the pillow before.
“Kayla? Honey, what’s taking you so long?”
Jamie’s voice grew louder as she walked from the hallway into their bedroom. Her heavy, booted footsteps stopped just outside the bathroom door.
Pulling her shocked gaze away from the dead, gray terrier she turned to face her wife with shiny, wet eyes, her right hand automatically reaching out, groping for support. Her voice cracked with emotion.
“Jamie, Dak is dead.” Protectively she filled the doorway, using her body as a shield between Jamie and their dead dog. “Something has happened.”
Jamie’s small, not quite heart shaped face, expanded with alarm, her pale, blue eyes bugging slightly in their sockets. The grip of her hand, initially reassuring, slackened.
“What? What do you mean he’s dead? What happened?” Always the more nurturing one, Jamie pressed forward, trying to see past her into the bathroom. Her voice rose in panic. “Kayla, get out of my way. Let me see!” Three inches shorter but muscled like an iron-worker, Jamie used her shoulder to shove through the doorway.
Helplessly, Kayla watched Jamie take in the scene, her short, blond hair looking bristly in the stark bathroom lighting. Without looking she knew her own auburn locks looked like they belonged on a plastic, doll. They always talked about changing the bulb to something softer, but never did.
“Oh Dak.” Jamie’s voice was almost a whisper. “Oh Dak, what happened?” Crouching, she reached to touch the body and Dak’s head rolled loosely against the floor making a sound similar to someone cracking their knuckles.
“Jesus!” Yelping in surprise Jamie fell on her butt. Her boots thundered against the tile floor as she scrambled backward crashing into Kayla’s shins and staggering them both.
“I don’t know what happened, Jay. I just walked in and found him.” Putting her hands on her wife’s shoulders she squeezed gently. “It must have happened while we were out.” Feeling Jamie’s body tremble she dropped to her knees and wrapped both arms around her.
“I’m sorry, baby. I’m so sorry.” The apology was instinctive. Jamie had loved Dak with the fierceness of a lioness. The small terrier had been the child she could never have. Turning inside her embrace Jamie pressed her face into her shoulder, her body hitching with sobs. Kayla’s own tears trailed silently down her cheeks to drop unnoticed on Jamie’s hair.
Her eyes dragged themselves back to Dak’s body, horrifying her with the need to stare at the now obvious broken neck. The pink pillow under the dog’s back end stuck out boldly in the beige and blue bathroom decor. Where had that come from? Neither of them had a pillow like that, not even as a left-over childhood momento. It looked uneven and thinly stuffed, like something a kid might make when they were first learning to sew. Her brain struggling to work again, she gave Jamie another squeeze and tried to ease her away as her heart sped up with fresh alarm.
“Jay, get up. Someone has been here.” She felt Jamie stiffen and watched her expression change, the puffy, leaking eyes narrowing as her lips parted enough to be the precursor of a snarl.
“What do you mean?”
Kayla raised an arm to wave at the pink pillow.
“Is that yours? That pillow?”
“Of course not, it’s hideous.” Her voice was sharp and bitter, as if she were annoyed to have to acknowledge the pillow at all. “It looks like that stomach medicine.”
“It’s not mine either,” Kayla stated as her eyes snapped to Jamie’s face, magnetized by the sudden harshness of her tone. “Where did it come from?”
Pushing away, Jamie got her feet under her and stood up. With one hand she smoothed her hair down, staring at her palm as she brushed through the wet spot where Kayla’s tears had landed.
“You cried on me.”
Cocking her head to the side, Kayla stared at her wife. Jamie wasn’t looking at her, just staring at her hand like it was repulsive.
“Jay, did you hear what I said?”
Jamie nodded and wiped her hand against her jeans, still not looking at Kayla.
“Yeah, you asked if the pillow was mine.”
“Before that I said someone has been here.” Feeling like something was wrong, more wrong than just their dead terrier she fixed her eyes on Jamie and waited.
Satisfied that her hand was dried, Jamie looked up at her and nodded again.
“Of course I heard you, babe. Just because I’m crying doesn’t mean I’m not listening.” The bitter tone was back in her voice.
“What’s wrong with you?” Kayla took half a step backward, her heel landing on the bedroom carpet. Her heart leaped into her throat when Jamie laughed harshly.
“What’s wrong with me? My dog is dead! What wrong with you?”
“He was my dog too!” Stung, she looked away as more tears filled her eyes.
“Shit. I’m sorry, Kay.” Jamie stepped close and put her hand on her arm. “I didn’t mean that.”
Overwhelmed, Kayla could only nod as she began to cry again. Jamie’s body pressed against her and her arms wrapped around her in a mirror image of their position only moments before.
“We need to sort this out, babe.” Jamie’s voice was soft but firm against her scalp.
Looking again at Dak’s body, Kayla tensed, her eyes drawn to what looked like a small, brown stick poking out from under the pillow.
“What is it?” Drawing back, Jamie peered at her, then turned to see what she was looking at.
“Someone killed our dog.” She sniffled.