(This isn't really how they met. Peter was actually about nine, and he called Mel a 'cripple' before he fell in love with her immediately afterwards(!) Maybe I'll post that story later...)
Peter took half-conscious steps through the park gates. His gait was wavering; his neck was stooped; his shoulders trembled with the chill of lonesome contemplation.
“What have I done?” thought Peter; though he knew that the true question was in the negative: “What have I not done?”
Peter was lonely. He was lonely for friends and lonely for family. He was lonely for company and support. He was lonely for a confidante in this strange world, where the accepted are rejected and the friend-surrounded are friendless.
He staggered on under the oppressive weight of his years of folly and jest, his soul heavy and his self-worth suppressed.
“Once,” he thought, “I was the devil. I dared authority and I defied law. I was the darling of defilement and the dearest of deceit.”
He paused, his tongue rolling over the familiar words with a pleasing relish—till the morose depression returned with a brimming mug of steamy black poison. He accepted a generous swig from the devilish brew, and his dejection lengthened like shadows in dying daylight.
Yes; the laughter of old had evaporated into apathetic disapproval, the smiles squeezed and the mirth cold and dreary.—And Peter, unfamiliar with this frosty lack of appreciation for his perpetual quips and swindles, could only stare back at a wall of disinterested faces, alone in his confusion.
Engrossed in his own discomfort, he rounded a sharp corner in the path.
The fallen figure of a dog crowned the kerb, sheltered from the harsh sunlight by the spreading canopy of tree branches, bending over the broken body with a poignantly maternal instinct, as if to protect the fragile corpse from the disrespecting gaze of impartial eyes.
Peter knew the dog was dead before he approached it, but he was not one to be repulsed by death. No; the pitiful bundle of bones amidst the grass only served to humble his arrogant spirit, and as he parted the curtain of leaves and stepped into the cool chamber within, some queer impulse prompted him to kneel.
Peter was neither hero nor villain, neither saint nor heathen—but he craved poetry and drama as he craved sympathetic company. And so he knelt before the lifeless body of the dog, noting its carefully crafted canine features and warming his blue hands by the fading flame of life still present in the frail body; that faint warmth, albeit, waning swiftly.
As he watched, eyes both wet and dry, Peter perceived a tiny movement beneath the fallen form. Though he dismissed it instantaneously, the wriggling continued—and then suddenly a tiny black snout pushed out from under the sag of the dog’s lukewarm belly, and uttered a volley of pitifully small pants.
With a few gentle nudges, though he scarcely breathed for anticipation of the potential implications of his discovery, Peter freed the black-snouted being beneath the dead dog—and beheld two tiny puppies, half-suffocated beneath their mother’s bulk, but very much alive in the greater sense.
Immersed in solitary self-pity as he rounded that corner in the path, Peter had been prepared only for the bleak sight of a narrow trail leading him straight on to his lonely destiny. And yet when his feet stepped bravely away from the hedge, his head lifted to the sight of a radiant panorama, wide with chance and bright with colour.
“One life ends,” thought Peter as he scooped up the two puppies, feeling the regular throb of their tiny hearts with a vibrant thrill, “and two lives begin.”
The distinctive lyric echoed in the newly-expanded confines of his head, and in seconds he was beaming as brightly as the beacons of hope curled up in the palms of his hands.
Absorbed in the fresh happiness his antics had brought him, it took several minutes for Peter to perceive that he was not alone in his joy. There was a pair of eyes just behind the trunk of the great tree—gentle and trusting and peridot-green—and those eyes, he realised, had followed his every gesture with keen diligence.
Still breathless with the strength and matter of his transformation, Peter raised his gaze to meet that of his watcher. He saw a girl, fair of feature and fairer still of spirit, and his grin remained unbroken.
He straightened up, ever-careful of his two precious bundles, and she moved forward to join him. She glided in a silent wheelchair, and her pretty forehead was creased with pain, but she smiled warmly, and Peter—winsome Peter!—spoke no words. No words were required. A mutual connection and affection had already developed, and blossomed out into a beauteous romance to last many years. Popularity had been scrubbed away, but now there was a new purpose unfolding to a new destination.
Together they rambled over the verdant meadow beyond the thin path, free and content, leaving the limp body of the dead dog on the kerb, safe and still in the serene sanctuary within the branches’ tender embrace.
“One life ends,” thought Peter again, as his final glance lingered over the bending awning of the distant tree, beneath which lay a dead dog, “and two lives begin.”
He and the girl shared a smile.