Airee and I had driven for hours checking out all Counts usual spots. Finally she signaled for me to head back. Not too long after we arrived, the others got back. They too hadn’t found him. When Gavin got back from checking the shelter, Airee told me I could leave. She tried to say she knew I would have plans but, I could see by her expression that, that wasn’t the case. She was about to cry.
So I said goodbye and went to my bike but, instead of leaving I went back out to look. After all, she had promised to share him with me someday. I pulled off the road once I was out of the clinics sight, and tried to think of where he could be. “If I were Count, where would I go?” I asked aloud.
Instantly the old park off Hebron came to mind. When I was little my parents had always brought me there to toss the ball around when I was still too young to play on a league. There were always people walking their dogs there. A lot of girl dogs, I smiled to myself. It was just down the street too. Kicking myself for not thinking about it sooner, I pulled back onto the road, and made my way.
A few minutes later I turned in, and found him running from two men dressed in the local animal shelter suits. Shit. “Count!” I called out to him. Recognizing my voice, he turned, and lunged into a dead sprint in my direction. I only just had time to open my arms as he jumped. He was panting like crazy, and covered in mud.
“Don’t let us find him out again boy, do you hear me!” The animal control officer warned me. At first he had to stop and catch his breath before he began his lecture. The entire time he shook his finger, he scolded me about how next time it would cost me. Blah, blah, blah.
When I made it back to the bike, I had pulled my cell out to call Airee, and let her know. Only then to realize I didn’t have her number or anyone else’s for that matter. I put it away. The trip back had been longer than the way there. Balancing a hyper dog like Count wasn’t easy while trying to keep your balance but, eventually I pulled into the clinic, and as if she were waiting for us. Airee came running out the door. Together we gave him a bath, and she even let me help with a flea and tick treatment, in case he pick any up while he was out.
It was almost nine by the time we finished. I reached my bike and slipped on my helmet ready to go home and take a shower of my own, when I felt a small set of arms wrap around from behind me, and squeeze. “Thank you so much.” Airee smiled through watery eyes.
“It’s nothing, I owed you one for my friends being idiots.” I laughed, though I had meant it. They were idiots. Airee didn’t say anything, she just smiled.
I could hear Gavin and a few of the other guys calling for Airee to hurry up. I looked past her, and found they had all changed. Instead of their Pet Clinic official shirts, they were wearing basketball shorts and sky blue shirts with numbers on the back. I rubbed the back of my neck, and laughed. Airee, who had started walking towards Gavin’s car, had turned around. I found her bright green eyes first among the shadows of the parking lot. Damn, they were so green.
“Let me guess,” I called out to her. “IHOP?”
She gave me a strange look, and then shook her head. I had only asked because I was curious. I wouldn’t really go; I just didn’t like awkward goodbyes. As if hearing my thought aloud, she took a small step towards my bike, and smiled. “Tonight’s softball night.”
“What?” I asked, though I was sure I’d heard her right.
“Every Wednesday the guys play in a league. Did you want to come?” For a split second, I thought about saying no but then Airee did something that I hadn’t expected. She used my guilt against me, and it was working. “Look, it’s not a big deal.” She had said. Her smile, though it seemed innocent enough, was taunting me. “If you have “plans” that’s fine. Just, try not to talk about me so much this time. My car can only take so much.”
I watched her turn around, and slowly start walk back to Gavin’s car. “Okay,” I called out as she was half way there. “Okay, I’ll come but, I can’t stay long.”
She waved Gavin on and walked back to the bike. She looked pleased with herself as if she had just won some huge award. We pulled out of the lot when the thought hit me, and I wondered what I would do if someone I knew was there, but then I felt a tight squeeze from her as we sped through a red light. And for a second, I couldn't care less.
“Something wrong?” I could feel her ask more than hear it, as we pulled to a stop in the town rec-fields. She was still wrapped around me when I turned the motor off. I quickly scanned the fields in front of me before deciding it was safe and pulled off my helmet. She did the same, though I doubt she was as worried about who would see us like I was.
“Not yet.” I had whispered against my breath but, when I turned around to face her I knew she had heard. She didn’t say anything but, she had heard.