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The only worse than one depressed pug was two depressed pugs. Petunia draped over her left ankle and Greg on her right. After two days of heavy sighs, sweaty ankles and uncomfortably warm calves, Geneva couldn’t take it any longer. She picked up the phone and made the call she dreaded.
“They hate each other,” Geneva announced. “You were right. This was a dumb idea.”
To her credit, Sarah didn’t gloat. “They don’t hate each other. They’d be fighting if they hated each other.”
“You’re right. It’s even worse,” Geneva moaned, burying her face in her free hand. She stared at the glum wrinkled faces through a curtain of limp locks. “What do I do? I’ve never seen a dog so miserable. I think he’d be happier with Dr. Thomas.”
“No one would be better with Dr. Thomas,” Sarah said firmly. Geneva could hear the shudder in her voice. “Maybe he misses his mommy.”
“Of course!” Geneva’s groan took on a whole new level. “I was so busy worrying about Petunia finding a new boyfriend that I didn’t even think about that poor woman. She’s probably worried sick!” She leaned forward and her office chair rolled back off the plastic mat into the carpet. She stroked Greg’s head, but the pug didn’t even blink. He just buried deeper into her house shoe, his little wrinkled forehead peeking above the jaunty leopard print edge. “Do you want to go home, baby?”
Petunia sneezed. Geneva took that as a yes. “I don’t even know how to find his owner,” she told Sarah, rising back up and unsuccessfully trying to maneuver the chair back onto the mat. “Does she go to your stylist?”
“Not since the divorce. Don’t worry. I’ll make some calls.”
Geneva stopped trying to peel the mat under the plastic wheels. “Last time you made some calls, I got into this whole mess.”
“Do you want Petunia to have a boyfriend she actually likes?”
“Boyfriend, girlfriend, pet rat, I don’t care as long as she’s happy again.” Geneva pressed down and the wheels surged forward with enthusiasm, pinching her thumb and nearly crushing her fingers. She swore and snatched her hand back, shaking out the pinch.
“I hope you’re kidding about the pet rat. Give me a couple minutes.” Sarah clicked off and Geneva put the silent phone down. She eyed her two mournful pugs. “Don’t worry,” she told them. “I’ve learned my lesson. No more matchmaking.” Petunia raised an ear. Greg snorted. “She’ll call us back in ten minutes,” Geneva continued, wheeling closer to her laptop. “Don’t worry.”
However, Sarah didn’t call back in ten minutes later. It was three days later when Geneva’s phone finally buzzed with Sarah’s smiling face. Geneva swiped her thumb across the screen and snatched it up. “Tell me you found her.”
“I found her. But it wasn’t easy,” Sarah warned. Even over the phone, she sounded haggard. “You owe me $100.”
“For what?” Geneva exclaimed.
“For all the manicures I had to get to track this woman down. They only talk if you’re in the chair. You should see my nails. I look like a hooker. Neon red with rhinestones.”
“I’m sorry,” Geneva said, covering her mouth so she wouldn’t laugh. Remembering Sarah couldn’t see her, she lowered her hand. “So where is she? Greg’s lost three pounds. If we don’t get him to her soon, he may be nothing but a skeleton.”
“Relax,” Sarah drawled. Geneva could hear the swish of a emery board across acrylic. “Friday night, Petco, 7 p.m.”
“This sounds suspiciously familiar,” Geneva pointed out.
“Are you being judgy? Unless you have a burning desire to start popping Puppy Prozac into those two, I don’t think you have another choice.” More swishing. “And if you do have a problem, then you can go trolling through manicurists yourself.”
“What do your toes look like?” Geneva grinned.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” One final swish. “Good luck.”
“Thanks.” Geneva hung up and looked at her young charges. “Who wants to go to the park?”
Both pugs rolled joylessly over, paws curled in defeat and pale bellies bared in submission. Geneva groaned and turned back to her screen. “Never mind, never mind.” Friday couldn’t come soon enough. In fact, Geneva was so eager to see a smile on Greg’s face that they showed up at 6:30. Apparently, the rest of the town’s pet owners decided to do the same. “This is crazy,” Geneva muttered to the pugs, dragging them down the pet food aisle. “Everyone and their dog is in here.”
“Don’t forget their cats.”
From the frenzied snorting coming from between her feet and the whiplash effect of Petunia’s tail, Geneva had no doubt to the owner of the deep voice. She turned and smiled. “Hello, Max. Hello, Max’s owner.”
“Sam,” he clarified with a toothy smile. “Hello, pug lady. How is everything in the land of pug love?”
“Geneva,” she said pointedly. “And I’m afraid my career as a canine matchmaker has come to an end. Greg’s heart belongs to another woman.”
“A divorcee.” She smiled, watching Petunia and Max lick each other’s noses. “This is as happy as she’s been all week.”
“I’m not surprised.” Sam pointed to Greg, slumped against Geneva’s tall leather boot. “He looks like fun in a box.”
She couldn’t help the giggles streaming out of her. “That’s so mean! He’s got a problem!”
“Well, if he keeps frowning like that, not even Botox will work.” His grin broadened at her groan. “Thanks, I’m here all week.”
“Is this your typical Friday night date?” She gestured to Max. “Hot time in the pet food aisle?”
“For your information, Max is taking an exclusive obedience class,” Sam replied, pretending to curl his nose and raising an eyebrow in mock-haughtiness. “He’ll be a champion, you know.”
“A champion of chewing shoes?”
“Precisely.” He pointed to the door. “I believe that’s your date?”
A portly woman in sky-high red heels and a black faux fur coat tettered through the sliding electronic glass doors. She lowered her glasses, hit her knees and shrieked, “Greg!”
Greg’s head whipped around. He bounced to his paws and sprinted towards the woman, ripping his leash from Geneva’s fingers. The woman scooped him up, cooing and covering his face in red smudges. “Mommy is so sorry! Mommy is so sorry, baby! So, so sorry! Did that bad man hurt you? Did Mommy’s baby worry?”
Greg, his face buried in his owner’s cleavage, replied with the steady thumping of his tail. The woman hurried over to Gevena and Sam stepped back, but Petunia strained after him. “Thank you so much,” the woman simpered, pressing a crushed bill in Geneva’s hand. “Su Lee told me what that bastard did. Taking my baby to a shelter! Thank you so much for taking the time to find his owner.”
“Oh, he didn’t”— Geneva started, but Greg’s owner had already turned toward the door, her heels clicking as quickly as the delighted pug’s panting.
“Let’s get baby a bath and some new toys. What does baby want for din-din? Steak?” Greg wheezed so hard Geneva was surprised his lungs didn’t wind up on the floor. “Let’s get baby some steak!” The doors opened and a limo slid up. A driver stepped out and helped them inside. The last Geneva saw of Greg’s euphoric face was a pink tongue and the red leash she’d bought him sailing out the window into the street.
She looked at Sam. “Shelter?” he asked, raising a brow.
Geneva shook her head. “That’s Sarah, not me. I swear.”
He raised a leash-draped hand. “Hey, I’m not judging.”
“You have a judgy look,” Geneva informed him. She tossed back her hair, unable to hide the smile spilling out of her. She hadn’t had this much fun in days.
“Judgy?” he echoed. “This is not judgy.”
Sam laughed. “I’m sorry about Petunia losing her friend.”
“It’s ok.” Geneva sighed. “I think this time I’ll get a girl. I’m done with love.” She grabbed Petunia’s leash just before the pug eloped with Max. “There’s an adoption event here tomorrow. Maybe we’ll come try our luck.”
“Pugs or non-pugs?” Sam asked.
“Both. If they’re not going to breed, it doesn’t matter.” Geneva watched Petunia scamper about the aisle and smiled. “Pugs are just so cute though. Maybe I’ll get lucky.”
“Maybe I’ll join you,” Sam suggested. “Max needs a friend. At least, that’s what the three shoes I have left tell me.”
She laughed. “It’s a date then.”
“It’s a date,” he repeated. They shared a cozy smile before reeling in both dogs who had found the world’s most interesting squeak toy peeking out between two bags of dog food with very thin wrapping.
Four months later, Geneva picked up her phone. Her feet, for once, were blissfully cool and dry. Her kitchen, however, from the sounds of clanging and banging, was already a disaster. “Hello?”
“Hey. What time are you coming over?” Geneva slid back and started towards the panicked squeals of a squeak toy.
“Six?” A loud pop punctuated Sarah’s question. “How’s Popcorn?”
“She’s great.” Two white streaks flew by Geneva’s feet, followed by a large brown one. “Max, don’t do that!” she called, jogging after the boxer.
“He’s great. He’s picking up dessert.” She skidded to a stop, groaning. A chocolate lab lifted his head from the center of her now gutted couch. A wad of white fuzz drifted off his nose and landed between her leopard print house shoes. “I have to go. Taylor just ate my couch.”
“I got your invitation,” Sarah continued, snapping her gum.
“What’d you think?” Geneva grinned, shooing Taylor off of the excavated cloth cushions.
“I think you’re crazy. It’s only been four months.”
“When you know, you know.” The door lock clicked and the door swung open. “We got to go!” Sam bellowed in the distance.
“See you there,” Geneva told her friend.
“Crazy,” Sarah repeated. A bubble popped.
“Judging,” Geneva pointed out.
“True. Sorry. See you at six.” A final pop and Sarah was gone. Geneva turned in the chaos that used to be her apartment. Sam’s eyes twinkled and he wiggled a plastic bag behind his back. “Ready?”
“I bought a surprise.” He whipped it around and pulled up the bag. Geneva burst out laughing. “She’ll love it! It’s perfect.”
“I thought you’d like it.” He lowered the tiny wedding dress on the couch and wrapped his arms around her shoulders, resting his fingertips over the back of her neck. “Did you ever think four months ago we’d be having a wedding?”
“No.” She kissed his nose. “Did you?”
“Never.” He picked up the second bag. “I’m going to get dressed.”
“Me too.” She picked up the small wedding dress and scooped up the panting blur racing around the living room. “Come on, girl. We need to make you beautiful.” She placed the squirming pug on the counter and pulled her dress over her head. “There!” she told Petunia. “Don’t you look beautiful?”
The bride puckered her wrinkled face and sneezed. The groom busted in, his bow-tie askew around his neck. “Max!” Geneva scolded. “It’s bad luck to see the bride before the wedding.”
Popcorn, the bridesmaid and flower girl, as only puppies can be, danced around Geneva’s feet until she got her own dress. Taylor, who had already eaten his bow-tie, settled for a fresh brushing.
Sam emerged in a suit and Geneva in a dress. With two leashes around each hand, they grinned up at each other. “Ready?”
“Ready,” she answered. Arm in arm, four sets of paws led them toward the gleaming double doors and neon lights of Petco. The preacher, or Sarah, was already waiting with a pet owner’s manual, The Pet Bible, in hand. In her other hand was a tiny bouquet of milk bones. The entire pet food aisle had been decorated with swaths of tulle and rawhide.
The ceremony was to begin at seven.
Stay tuned, Invisible Friends!