Jack watches wide-eyed as Naomi lets out racking sobs; unsure of what to do, he rubs his neck and hovers near the edge of the bed. The pained expression on his face shows his heart break at not being able to help her, she looks up and he schools his face as best he can.
Her green eyes are red rimmed, making her look even more beautiful to a man who has already fallen hook, line and sinker. A tentative step forward brings him next to her and he slowly, nervously reaches out; a finger catches a few rebellious strands of hair and pushes them gently behind her ear. Feeling less fretful as she watches him, he sits next to her and silently puts his arm around her; pulling Naomi towards him into a hug.
Naomi doesn’t relax but allows herself to lean towards his body. Feeling his arms wrap around her triggers all the tension and grief in her to start pouring out as she breaks down, she doesn’t talk or tell him what’s wrong - she just cries.
Struggling to keep his own pain in, he avoids looking at the woman crying in his arms and just holds her tightly. He reaches up and lightly strokes her cheek; hooking some of the tears away.
Naomi sits bolt upright and pushes herself away from him. Anger and shame, at what she perceives as her own weaknesses, welling up inside her, she narrows her eyes.
“You should go,” she says softly, simply but firmly.
He feels there is no option open to him; he wants to stay, to help her, but he can see she is struggling to retain some semblance of calm and composure in front of him. Wishing he had the courage to tell her it’s ok to show vulnerability; he stands and walks to the door of the bedroom. He stops in the threshold and looks back at her, his expression showing his confusion and the perpetual sadness Naomi attributes to his unresolved attraction to her.
“You know where I am if you need me.”
Then he's gone.
Naomi sighs and pushes herself to her feet, her muscles aching from the intense workout at the gym.
“Loopy…” She yells as she steps into the hall and dread shivers its way down her spine at the lack of a response.
Wandering aimlessly towards the front door,her mind adrift as she tries to avoid thinking the worst; a cold, wet sheen of sweat begins to cling to her and she shivers.
She whistles in an attempt to bring Loopy out of wherever she is hiding.
Nothing happens. The only sounds are the echoes of the whistle fading into oblivion; leaving Naomi feeling more alone than ever.
Should I have asked him to stay? She asks herself as her mind whirls from thought to thought; making her feel as if she has thrown her head into a washing machine during a full spin.
A knock at the door pulls her out of her misery and she checks the spy hole on the door. Her sister, Linda, stands looking out at the street, waiting for Naomi to answer.
"Hi, miss me? I hope you don't mind but I took the dog for a walk, she was kind of antsi when I popped round earlier so thought I'd take her out while I waited," Linda blurted out in one breath upon Naomi opening the door.
Feeling a massive amount of tension just drop away, Naomi smiles as Loopy wags her tail excitedly and jumps up on her master. She takes a little time to cuddle the dog, only just realising how much she depends on the dog for the unconditional love she offers Naomi; using the few moments it gives her, she composes her features and wipes away the tear tracks.
She staightens up and smiles at Linda.
"Loopy, in you go," she says and then turns to Linda. "Are you coming in?"
"No, I gotta go home. Mom wants me to help her with something. I'm just here to ask if you want to come to my graduation party. So, do ya?"
"Of course; you know I do! The ceremony is Friday, yeah? And then the party is Sunday?" asks Naomi.
"Spot on," Linda adds.
"I'll be there," Naomi gives her sister a dazzling grin and then hugs her before they both turn away; Naomi going back into the house and Linda heading to her car.
Loopy barks twice and Naomi looks at the clock in a reflex action; it shows five thirty p.m.
"Time for dinner then huh?" she says as she makes a move towards the kitchen.
Loopy barks twice again.
"You can tell the time, but you can't grasp fetch? I'm going to phone the animal shelter and see if they'll swap you for a cat, maybe I can teach that to play fetch."
Loopy growls and tilts her head to the right.
Naomi laughs, ruffles the dog's ears and sets about getting Loopy's food out.
A short while later - after Loopy has done her best impression of a Dyson on her food - Naomi grabs the laptop and settles down on the couch, awaiting the system starting up she flips through the channels on the TV and, finding some music to listen to, she turns her attention back to the laptop, opening a blank document as she does so.
With a sigh, Naomi begins to do something she hasn't done for months; she begins to write. For years she has written stories, at first for her sister but quickly she realised it gave her a healthy outlet for her emotions. She pours her loneliness, her isolation and her emptiness into the story. Tears pick their way down her cheeks as she writes and writes.
Time passes her by and Naomi starts as Loopy's cold nose nudges her leg. Looking up, she realises three hours have gone. She saves her work so far and shuts down the laptop, placing it on the side table it sits on. Standing, she stretches off and shuffles her way to the back door, Loopy following in her wake.
Opening the back door and switching the outside light on, Naomi is suddenly hit by a wave of sheer exhaustion. The recent nerve-shredding events catching up with her and draining her of all vigour and energy as she watches the dog - nothing more than a black and white streak to her tired eyes - darting around the yard, trying to find the perfect spot to take a dump.
"If you crap on my pathway again; I swear I'll swap you for a parrot."
Too tired to laugh, she just smiles, moments later, Loopy is sitting in front of her patiently - having "taken care of business" and waiting for Naomi to step out of the way.
Finding that she is staring into space with a blank mind, Naomi shakes herself and steps back, Loopy heads for the bedroom to claim her usual bed for the night, Naomi locks the door and slowly proceeds to check, double-check and triple check every window and the front door.
Five minutes later she slips under her bed covers, feeling the walls of the bedroom walls close in around her; sealing her off just a little more from the world and the people she loves, burying her face in the pillow she fights the urge to cry until exhaustion takes over and drags her into a dreamless sleep.
© Copyright 2017 M K Brown. All rights reserved.
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