The flames burned bright in the stone fireplace, forming flickering shadows on the wall. A scraggy, brown, flop-eared dog lay stretched out on the floor, whimpering in its sleep. A pale, ragged pink scar adorned its left ear, and ribs showed through its dirty coat. A door creaked, and the dog slowly raised one drooping eyelid in assessment. Content at what it saw, the dog fell back into slumber. Heavy footsteps vibrated throughout the room.

A figure in a heavy brown coat that looked too big sat down on the floor next to the fire. It took off its hat. Dark hair came tumbling down and a young woman's face was revealed. "Oh, Amber, what am I to do?" The dog looked up, yawned, and trotted over the the girl. She buried her hands deep into the dog's dark fur, stroking its back. The dog rumbled in satisfaction and looked into the girl's eyes, pleading for more. "Ha, you always want more!" she teased, and scratched Amber's ears. 

The woman shrugged off her large coat and hung it by the fire. "I'll go out tomorrow. See what there is to see." Her dark brown eyes shifted. "Nobody'll recognize me. I'll be fine." Amber whined and thrust her cold nose into the girl's hands. The girl absent-mindedly ran her fingers down the dog's fur. "I'll be fine," she whispered. She bit her lip, which was cracked from being bitten numerous times.

Amber smelled something the next day. She flapped her lips anxiously as the sun slanted through the single window. The woman yawned and stretched and groaned as she walked stiff-legged to the door. Outside, she splashed her face with clear water from the bucket. On went her coat, her hat, her boots. Satisfactorily disguised, she crunched in her boots to the forest. Amber growled and whined. "Amber, I'll be fine! No worries, honest!" The young woman glanced back at the house and continued onward.

The End

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