The Biggest Love (Krissy Kneen)
No one could ease the pain he felt, had been feeling for too long now. She raised an eyebrow as he entered the kitchen, held her breath. She could smell the grief off him. Emotional pain like an aura captured by Kirlian photography. He wandered in a fug of it and Girl felt her throat tighten. She would not whine. He always misinterpreted her care for him as hunger. At her most empathetic moments he would open a can of meat and scoop it into her bowl. Sometimes at night he would let her climb onto his bed and curl up beside him. Sometimes he would bury his head in her neck and she could feel his whole body shake with the pain of it.
This had been happening for too long.
He sat in the chair he liked to sit in and she dragged herself closer with her toenails, sidling up along the linoleum till she could rest her chin on his foot. She breathed on his ankle. Each little puff a whispered secret. Your wife is gone. I am here. Your wife is gone. I am here. And as if he had heard and understood he reached down and touched her head and Girl closed her eyes and whined, knowing there was no way she could love something or someone more than this.
She had taken to easing her way into the bathroom. When his wife was alive he would shut the door completely. She would sit outside, and even her thigh pressed against the bathroom door would not budge it. Some mornings, on the weekend the wife would join him in the shower and girl would pause between breaths, listening for the little human sounds, the coos and giggles, the grunts. There was of course something not right about it. Her excitement was ludicrous. They were people. Naked, hairless, ridiculous. Once they left the bedroom door open and she crept in and sat by the bed. There was something tender about their little naked bodies entwined that way. Rolling like pups, and the mounting that occurred in the middle of it seemed a mimicry of adult love. The smell of them, hot and acid, off-putting at first, but she got used to it, became almost excited by it at one point, hunkered down onto the carpet and pushed against it in that way that felt best.
Since the death of the wife he had taken to leaving the bathroom door ajar. Girl wondered at first if this was a sign of hope that one day his wife might return from the grave and step into the shower beside him. Or perhaps he knew that Girl was there, her paws protruding onto the damp tiles, little hushed sounds at the back of her throat as she scrambled precious centimetres forward, quietly nosing the door a little wider. Perhaps her presence was some sort of comfort.
The sound of the shower stopped suddenly. He stepped out onto the bath mat. It was ludicrous. She looked towards him, the little upward bounce of his penis.
Huge love. An ache.
She watched him stare at his own reflection in the mirror. Lost. Girl shuffled closer.
Not lost. He had her. She knew exactly where they were. Here. In their bathroom, with the cold tiles and the fluffy bath mat that his wife had loved.
This in the night.
Girl, warm. Freshly washed, smelling of sweet chemicals that humans seemed to like. Him, pungent, the stale scotch sweat leaking from his armpits. His pyjamas unwashed for far too long, the yellow stain of his sweat on the back of them. Him with his arm draped around her shoulder. Him with his face pressed against her collar. This moment with him. This shuffling back against him. This contact, the hardness of him. He shifted his hips once, twice. She held her breath. This love. This huge love. And his sob against her neck.
It grew warmer. She shed her winter coat. He shed his clothes and moved about the house naked. Staring at his reflection in the dark windows or the silent television screen as if he had discovered a stranger in his own home. Mild surprise, concern, curiosity. They lay together in his bed and sometimes it was an easy comfort. Other times he grew agitated, pushed at her, ordered her to the foot of the bed, regretted his tone and fell on her with apologies. Girl breathed through it. She turned her rump towards him. Love, she thought, biggest love.
There was nothing to it when it came down to it. It was quick. It was nothing really. Just a physical representation of the big love. After it was done, he clung to the nape of her neck with his fists, shaking. That was the nicest part. She was reminded of her mother, a vague memory of being carried, the loose skin at her neck held tight, a comfort.
He put a mattress at the foot of the bed. She understood. He needed space from it, from her. She sat up on her haunches and rested her chin on the end of the bed and watched him twitch and clasp his knees to his chest. Sometimes at night he cried out in his sleep and then she would leap up onto the bed and lie with him. It was summer, hot, but he had taken to wearing cotton pyjamas that stuck to his skin in damp patches.
“There,” he said, tired, barely awake, but raising his hand to stroke her chest regardless. “Good Girl, good, good Girl.”
And then Girl closed her eyes and abandoned herself to love. The biggest feeling of love that there ever could be and it almost tore the skin off her back with its ferocity.
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