Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Laura Lexx Writes You A Book - Chapter 4

 Chapter 4

Viv nodded sympathetically and looked back to her computer monitor to check rotas. “Of course we can organise that,” she said, although her face looked less certain in the light of the screen, “It’s too important not to.” There can’t be many bosses in the country this nice, Lia thought to herself and then said it out loud to Viv. “We work in a library, not a surgical theatre.” Viv said, smiling, “Books are the most important thing in the world, after people.” Lia felt her eyes prickling a little bit.

She and Harry had stayed up well into the night talking. It felt like it had been months, years maybe, since they’d talked so far beyond the contents of the current day. Since they had had discussions that weren’t shopping lists and work schedules, television choices and meal prep. They talked big.

“Let’s jump out then.” Lia had offered up, “I know you feel stuck, and I’m not saying we can fix that all in one go, but we can at least blow the dust off.”

“What do you mean?” Harry shifted his weight off his left arm where he had been leaning over. She watched him shake the blood back down to his hand. Florence had burrowed her head down into the elbow of his other arm and Lia watched with affection as he tried to get comfortable without disturbing her.

“Well look, I know we can’t do anything we want all the time, but… it’s not like we’re hand to mouth. Let’s go somewhere? Take some time off work and go and do an adventure.”

“How are we going to pay for it?” Harry frowned.

“We’ve got the savings account.”

“That’s savings.” Harry said automatically.

“And what are we saving for?” Lia felt buzzed.

“The future.” He replied limply.

“What future? If you’re sad now, what’s the point of building that all up and being sad and getting sadder? Sorry, I don’t know if sad is the right word. I don’t want to be getting this wrong.”

He just smiled, “Sad seems about right. Small. I feel like a small person.”

“Well you’re not. And we’re not. And, look, we’re lucky people who have savings and don’t have to be stuck. So let’s get out.” And so they built a plan. “What are you craving?” She asked, leaning over the arm of the sofa to grab the notepad that kept all their board game scores in.

“An adventure that’s not frightening. And to go home. And to be far away. Somewhere familiar and refreshing. Can you make all that happen?” He had his eyes closed and was laughing to himself a little bit. Lia felt it hit her for the millionth time that evening how different he was being. She was looking at him and thinking “yes this is Harry” and then wondering who he had been for the previous months if not this, and how she hadn’t noticed him changing?

“Cor you don’t want much do you? Ok… let me have a think.”

She’d gone to bed swirling. A mix of euphoria, and fear that all the ideas would seem grey and unrealistic come the morning. But the trick to making a plan realistic was to kick it into action and the first stop for that was Viv.

“Three weeks then?” Viv looked at Lia. Lia nodded. “Are you ok?” Viv asked, and Lia swallowed and blinked away the instant heat across her face and chest.

“I’m… I’m very sad.” She said, “But, I hope we caught it in time. Maybe I’m about to remember that I could be happier too?”

Viv nodded. “Off you go then.” She said cheerily and rubbed a hand briefly on the back of Lia’s.

“Oh, no, I can work today - I don’t want to leave you short and Harry is working anyway.”

“I’m sure we can cope. It’s a Wednesday in Taunton library. It’s basically a place for parents at the end of their budget and patience to hide in for free until relief arrives. We can manage with three of us.”

So Lia got on the bus. The bus she had craved for so long, and cursed Harry silently for not letting her be on. It smelt of damp and other people and stopped every 15 yards between the library and their suburb. She found herself furious at the bus. How dare you have turned my head from a man who I love. Stupid bus.

She put her key in the door and pushed it open to find Florence bouncing around on the door mat wanting to say hello. This was definitely a better way to come home. Ok dog ownership, you win this one.

“Lia?” Harry’s voice cam through from the front room.

“Viv is cool with it!” She called back, leaving her keys on the sideboard. And kicking shoes off between much requested rubbings of Florence’s head.

“I see that!” Harry met her in the door way and she took a moment to hold his waist and kiss him in greeting. They held eye contact and she focused on him, on his face and tried to make a moment for them.

“So, I’ll call the guy and see if I can collect the van tonight then?” She grinned nervously at him. “God I hope it’s as nice as it seemed last night?!”

“Yeah. Are we mad?” He smiled back and she had to break eye contact, feeling too close, too exposed.

“Maybe. But we’ll deal with that later. We’re sorting out sad right now.”

He’d gone back to his desk for one last meeting and she’d gone upstairs to pack. They got a taxi out that evening to the van and drove it home immediately having fallen in love with the shabby little bed they barely fit on and the miniature kitchen. What on earth were they doing.

Thursday morning they loaded everything they could possibly assume they needed into their new home and set off, fervently hoping Florence wasn’t the car sick kind of dog.

The Brecon Beacons felt right. Home, but new to them. Far away, but not scarily far away. Beautiful, windswept, refreshing, and near enough to a city that if this whole idea was ludicrously less romantic when they started doing it they could give up and find a hotel.

The van was much less intimidating once it was on a motorway and Lia was trying to get to grips with it before they reached the windier roads of Wales where manoeuvring would be more complicated.

They listened to loud, nostalgic music and sang and laughed. Lia made sure to keep reaching out for Harry when he took over the driving, and she noticed his hand creeping over hers on the gear stick when she was in the drivers seat. It was nice. Within a few hours of tarmac they were pulling into a rather bleak looking field behind a very isolated pub and hooking the van up to an electricity main.

“Toilets are there. It’s got a sink. Are you eating with us?” The man who owned the pub and field asked. He was a short man with curly hair who looked like he’d been born in a wax jacket. Lia and Harry looked at each other.

“Yes,” Lia said, reading Harry’s eyebrow raise, “Yes, we’ll eat with you.” The thought of getting the van back out of the field and finding a supermarket now was not appealing. The landlord left them too it and they pulled on their wellies and marched Florence out into the wilderness for an explore. She stuck by them, clearly not too eager to delve deep into hedges unknown and Lia felt very in synch with the dog’s priorities. There was rain threatening and so at the point where Florence started to slow, her joints clearly not as greased as they once were, they headed back to the van and sat in the near silence.

“We did it.” Lia said. “We changed the world.”

“Yeah.” Said Harry. “Yeah.”

“I can’t believe this time two days ago I was pre-emptively mad at you for being late to pick me up and now we’re in Wales in a van with a dog and no plan.”

“I forgot you could just do different stuff.” Harry said.

“Yeah.” There was a companionable silence while they both breathed it all in. “You still want to go for dinner at the pub? Not too late to change that too if we want!”

“No, let’s go! I assume dogs are welcome?”

They put more music on while they got ready and then tramped across the field to the pub. Florence did a very neat piece of business on the way and Lia had her first experience of scooping a poop, having quite resolutely left the garden ones to Harry so far. Depression or no depression the dog was his idea and therefore the poops his responsibility. She knew she’d have to get over that at some point though and yanked a poo bag out of her pocket and got stuck in. Not too bad. Squashy, and one of the only times where warm was repulsive, but not too bad. The drizzle was now coming through on its threats and so they hurried across to the pub.

They were the only ones camping so the field was dark and quiet but when they pushed open the heavy wooden pub door they were pleased to find a good number of people inside despite zero cars outside it. Absolutely no one keen to be the designated driver, even on a Thursday.

Dinner was filling and hearty, with a much better vegetarian option than Lia would have expected. She would have felt guilty for expecting badly of such a remote location but all her guilt strings were twanging a Neglect of Harry note and so she just pushed it away for now. It would find her again in the middle of the night some time when she desperately wasn’t interested in thinking about it.

It was only as the landlord was clearing his throat and standing near their table holding a large ring of keys that Lia looked up from the conversation and noticed they were the last people left in the pub. Somehow, three hours had raced by full of conversation and food and an absolute focus on being in the present. They apologised for not noticing they were holding him up and made their exit. They heard the bolt scrape on the door as it closed behind them and they giggled and linked arms, Harry’s spare hand shining a torch ahead of them.

“Oh no I feel terrible! How long did we keep him going for?”

“I don’t know! I didn’t really notice people leaving!”

“I’ve not had a night like that where I wasn’t thinking about tomorrow in a long time!” Lia giggled. “I’m not even drunk, I was just fascinated by you!” They stopped in the dark and kissed. It was beautiful, until Florence wondered what the stopping was about and jumped up Lia’s legs to get her attention. Lia laughed into their kiss and they broke apart, Harry leaning his forehead in to rest it on hers.

“I love you.” He said, “I’m so sorry I didn’t talk to you earlier.”

“It doesn’t matter.” She said, and they held hands as they made their way through the rain across the mud and back to the van. They stopped outside and Lia removed Florence’s lead while Harry unlocked the door.

“You’ve got the keys.” Said Harry, as Lia straightened up from removing the lead and realised he hadn’t been unlocking the door.

“Oh sorry,” she said, and patted her pockets listening for the jangle. Nothing. “I don’t think I have?” She looked at him.

“You locked up, as we were leaving didn’t you?” He patted his pockets to check. Lia felt her stomach sink.

“Yeah, I did… I locked the van, would have slipped the keys in this pocket along with the… Oh god. They must have fallen out when I pulled out a dog poo bag. Wasn’t there a spare?”

“Yeah it’s in the van.”

“Well that’s not helpful!”

They stared at each other and then laughed a touch hysterically.

“Where did she poo?”

“Erm, somewhere between here and the pub… oh we’re never going to find the keys tonight. It’s so dark.”

“Shall we go back to the pub?” They turned to look across the field and just as Lia’s eyes landed on the building the last light in the windows went out. They couldn’t help but laugh.

“What are we going to do?”

“Erm…” Harry looked around, “Under the van?”

“What about it?” Lia was blank.

“Do we try and sleep a bit under the van and then seek out the keys in the morning?”

“I suppose… I mean… Oh god. Poor Florence. She needs to stay dry. Yes ok… I mean… let’s try it.”

Trying to persuade a spaniel to join you in crawling under van in the pitch black onto damp grass is not easy but they managed to get her to creep underneath with them and placed her in between them and inside their coats so that she could stay as warm and dry as possible.

“The poor thing. She’s going to wonder what she’s got herself into.” Lia muttered, stroking Florence’s soft head. Harry began to shake with laughter. “What?” Lia asked, trying to make out his face in the dark, “I mean… except for the obvious? What?” She tried to shift her weight and he shoulder caught on the underside of the van. This was ridiculous.

“Those poor people from the dog shelter. They worked so hard to check we were absolutely the right people to take care of her and it was such a waste of time. That very careful home visit asking where she’d sleep and where her food and water would be and the little monkey is here in Wales sleeping under a van in the rain.”

“Are we terrible people?” Lia asked, Florence was already asleep so Lia wasn’t terribly worried about her at the moment, but she didn’t know enough about dogs to know whether this was going to scar her for life.

“I don’t know,”Harry said, “but at least I vaguely feel like a person again.”

So, the next morning… do they find the keys?

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. Yes, and something else
  4. No, but they meet someone

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Laura Lexx Writes You A Book - Chapter 3

 Chapter 3

“Yes, I agree,” Lia slurred, “She does indeed have the most beautiful brown eyes in the whole world. But that doesn’t mean we can keep her.” They’d opened a nice bottle of red wine in order to ease the tension. There was an atmosphere in the room she’d not experienced since being the last person left on a deflating bouncy castle.

Harry’s eyes filled with tears as he half nodded, half shook his head in response. “But… but where will she go?”

They’d dried her off in the hallway and then set her water and food dishes down in the kitchen, before showing her the back garden and a place to use as a toilet when she wasn’t on a walk. She’d sniffed keenly round the entire house, particularly enjoying the edges of the kitchen where crumbs and bits of cheese were often kicked. Lia had been expecting the entire evening to be about stopping her from chewing and destroying everything in sight, but within an hour of them getting her in, she had curled up quite contentedly and gone to sleep. This left them with no more distractions from the plight of their relationship. Yet still, they discussed her rather than themselves.

“She’ll have to go back to the shelter.” Lia said quietly, “To wait for someone who can look after her properly.”

“We can look after properly.” Harry whined, and Lia took a patience steadying breath, marvelling that she was having this conversation with her boyfriend and not a small child. “I’ve been chatting to the lady there for weeks. She even came round and did a house inspection and said we seemed perfect.”

“But she never met me?” Lia said.

“No, but I told her all about you!” Harry’s optimism was heart-tweaking. “I told her how lovely and patient and kind you were. How you like reading, and writing and listening to classical music.” His eyes were round and wide on her. She poured more wine into her glass.

“And she thought a love of reading, writing and classical music was perfect for a spaniel? She didn’t think perhaps Florence would be better off with someone who liked, oh, I don’t know… long walks and rinsing fox shit?”

“Florence can’t do long walks. She has arthritis.” Florence, who had already decided she was the sort of dog who was allowed on the furniture, was lying asleep next to Harry’s feet and let out a huffing sigh at the mention of her arthritis. “That’s why her old owners gave her up. Couldn’t afford to treat it.” His eyes were brimming again and Lia felt herself melting.

“Why didn’t you tell me you wanted a dog?” Lia asked gently.

“I… I thought you’d say no.” he admitted.

“Right.” She paused, “So, if you thought I’d say no… why did you still get one?”

He looked up at her. “Because I wanted one. You would have said no, and I’d have wanted one anyway, and then it would have been a whole thing where you didn’t want one so much we couldn’t have one and I did want one so much I’d have to choose between you and I can’t make decisions like that at the moment.”

Lia was quite taken aback. She pulled a leg up towards herself, shifting her weight against the radiator. She was sitting on the floor underneath the window where she liked to sit when she drank red wine because she didn’t trust herself on the cream sofas. “Why do you want a dog so much? You’ve never mentioned wanting a dog before.” The song playing changed and the room felt very quiet in the silence in between. Just the sound of Florence’s soft huffling.

“I need something.” He said and his voice was so quiet and dry, Lia wasn’t entirely sure she’d heard him properly. She felt tears prickling the back of her own eyes as she felt the emotion radiating off him. He diverted his gaze down onto Florence’s fluffy head. She was a pretty dog: she had a surprisingly small head and a dappled white and black coat with long wavy black ears. On the top of her head she had a tuft of hair that Harry was twisting up with his fingers and then stroking back down flat to her head.

“What’s going on?” Lia asked, keeping her tone soft and her eyes fixed on the top of Florence’s head.

Harry cleared his throat and his jaw tensed as she saw him swallowing hard and trying to get his thoughts together. “I don’t do anything.” He squeezed out of a tight throat. “I don’t do anything.” Lia had moved up off the floor before she really realised she was doing it. She crossed to the sofa and sat on the other side of Florence. Her fingers joined Harry’s in playing with the hair on the top of the little head. Florence opened her eyes long enough to flick them up and across to Lia, and then settled back into her sleep. Lia had always thought having a dog would be a lot of work but so far Florence was proving idyllic. Maybe it was just puppies that were a terror? She sat in silence just stroking Florence in time with Harry and letting him steady himself again. “If I didn’t come and get you from work, I wouldn’t leave the house most days.” Harry said, and tears ripped through him. Lia felt her world collapse. The lens on her worldview suddenly zoomed out and she saw what a selfish focus she’d previously been filming in. He came to pick her up for him. He was leaned forward on the sofa, head in his open palms, sobbing like she’d never seen him cry before. The motion and the sobbing was enough to rouse the dozing Florence, who sat up and peered intently at Harry’s shielded face, offering the occasional tongue flick towards his tears in a bid to help. “I just sit in the spare room. And I work. And it’s so… it’s so is this it? And if I didn’t… I just… I know you are going to go, I know we’re not… I’ve felt it, but I don’t know how to… and I don’t… so… so I wanted something for me so that when you go… I’m not…”

The words fizzled out and Lia felt the tears dripping off the end of her own nose. She sniffed wetly and reached out a hand to grip Harry’s. “I wish you had told me.” She said.

“Because you’d love me again if you felt sorry for me?” He said bitterly.

“I do love you,” she said, and meant it.

“I don’t think people who love each other end their relationships.” He laughed, “or describe them as clammy.”

“I haven’t ended our-“


“And if you’d told me how you were feeling maybe we wouldn’t have got clammy because things wouldn’t have got to this?” She took a sip of wine to wet her dry mouth. “I hated you picking me up from work,” she admitted, deciding they might as well really clean out this wound now they were here. Florence had lain back down again and Lia leaned back into the sofa too, the particular exhaustion that comes with the end of a bout of crying hitting her like a wave. “You are always late, and I hate waiting, and I just wanted to get home as quickly as possible after work. It never occurred to me you were coming to get me for you. I wish you had told me. I’d have understood it then, we could have made it more of a thing. I could have helped.”

“It’s very hard to admit that you need to come and get someone from work or your day is entirely meaningless.” Harry said, hollowly.

“Yes.” Lia nodded, “And I suppose I could have told you how much of an issue it was becoming for me and then we wouldn’t be here. We’ve not been talking about anything properly.”

“No.” Harry nodded.

“And now we have a dog.” Lia smiled and it melted into a laugh. Harry smiled too.

“What do you want to do?” Harry asked, and Lia sighed comically.

“That’s the question isn’t it?” She waited for him to say something magnanimous like if you want to leave me I won’t stand in your way I want you to be happy but he didn’t and she realised she was very grateful. The gratingness of his recent behaviour made a lot more sense in the light of it not being the way he wanted to behave either. She felt incredibly shameful for not having noticed, no, not just not noticed… not even considered the idea that Harry was or could be anything less than extremely happy and fine. “What do you need?” She asked, she looked at him but his eyes were pinned on the top of Florence’s head, avoiding eye contact at all costs. “Should we talk to a doctor?” His forehead wrinkled but he didn’t cry any more, it seemed a frown of confused concentration.

“I have done.” Harry said, and Lia felt surprise hit her like ocean spray all over again.

“Oh, right.” Was all she could muster. “What did they say?”

“They’ve offered me anti-depressants and I’m on a waiting list to speak to a therapist.” Lia smiled, there was something deeply interesting about Harry that she’d almost forgotten in their recent sleep-walking months of relationship. He was at once modern enough to independently reach out for and accept help, and old-school bottle it up Victorian enough to have not mentioned it to the person he loved and was supposedly partnered with for life.

“You did all that without talking to me?” Once she’d said it she saw her mistake. You don’t hear that from a person and then make the next sentence all about yourself, “I mean…” she backtracked, “that’s incredible Harry. That takes a lot of bravery to do. Why didn’t you feel comfortable bringing it up with me though?” There was no way to not ask, it seemed.

“It wasn’t about you.” He said, simply and she had no choice but to take a moment and sit in that.  There was a silence between them that lasted at least a Florence fart and a half. The first one was definite, the second might have been another, or just a shockwave from the first, but it was something.

“So what do you need?” Lia said eventually. Repeating herself was the only thing she could think to do. How Harry felt wasn’t about her. Harry wasn’t how Harry wanted to be at the moment. Guiltily, she realised this made her feel a bit better.

1 - she wasn’t awful for feeling unsure about a relationship with someone presenting as being extremely pleasant. There was something wrong.

2 - It wasn’t the end of their relationship, it was the beginning of them acknowledging unhappiness. She was unhappy in the relationship, he was unhappy full stop. The relationship could survive.

3 - There was an immediate course of action, and that was to focus on Harry.

“I need the world to unshrink.” Said Harry, suddenly. “Since the lockdowns and work moving into a corner of the living room, and everything changing… it all feels so small. I need to get the world back.”

“Ok…” Lia said, a plan forming, “Do you want to start big or small?” Harry grinned and Lia’s heart bounced. It had been a while since she’d felt that sitting in this room. She finished her wine and squashed down the mini-grief for herself that she’d missed out on that excitement for so long. There would be time to process that in a little while.


  1. Big
  2. Small

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Laura Lexx Writes You A Book - Chapter 2

 Chapter 2

She recognised his lights as they swung round the corner and the indicator flicked on to pull over and stop for her. The car looked invitingly dry. Too dry to break up with someone in? No. Besides which, by the time she was sat in it for three minutes it would be soaking. Why would it be soaking? Because she was soaking. Why was Lia soaking? BECAUSE HARRY WAS LATE. She pulled at the door handle forcefully and her wet fingers slipped off the plastic and she caught herself across the nose with a slap. Her eyes immediately sprung with water, ending their time as the driest thing about her in that moment.

Harry gallantly leant across and pulled the door handle, pushing the door open and leaning across the gear stick. Lia reluctantly nodded a thanks to him and climbed into the passenger seat. She tried to wipe the rain off her face but her hands were so wet she couldn’t accurately say that she was helping at all.

“Are you alright?” Harry asked lightly and Lia turned her head sharply to glare at him. Even the act of rotating her neck quickly made water droplets spin out of her fringe and give him a mini shower. A tiny experience of what she had gone through waiting for him.

“Do I look alright Harry?” Neither of them said anything, but there was far from silence in the car. The engine, the rain, the wipers, the snuffling… it built up into a maelstrom inside Lia’s head. Hang on, the snuffling? “What’s that noise?” She said, whipping her head round to look at the back seat. The whip sent more water flying at Harry and he knew better than to complain.

“It’s a surprise.” Harry said cheerfully, “it’s why I was late!” He indicated back out of the lay-by and merged into the rush hour traffic.

“What is it?” Lia repeated, an icy weight settling into her stomach at his coy behaviour and the noises coming from the boot.

“It’s a surprise.” Harry said again.

“I don’t like surprises.” Lia said, her jaw tense.

“Well, it won’t be one for long. I’ll have to get it out the second we get home.”

“Is it alive?” Lia’s eyebrows shot up into her sodden fringe, pulling more droplets of ever descending water out of her hair and into her face.

“Might be.” Harry said, irritatingly bending all the syllables round a corner. Lia groaned. Harry flicked his eyes off the car in front of them and over to Lia, “What?”

“Why is there an alive thing in the boot of your car?” Lia tried to keep her voice not too grumpy, in case there was a reasonable answer. She was feeling more and more convinced there was not going to be.

“Oh don’t press it. You’ll ruin the surprise.” Harry whined.

“It’s not a surprise if you know a surprise is coming.” Lia snapped back, “It’s an impending thing that I’m aware of, which means it’s not going to surprise me so you might as well tell me.” This was why Lia had always hated surprises. Well, actually no, not surprises. Surprises that were actually surprises were fine (if they were good surprises). When something truly leapt out of the blue and into your life in a wonderful way: brilliant. When someone dangled something but refused to tell you the details, then it was awful. Once someone said there was a surprise there was nothing Lia could do to not guess what it was, and invariably her imagination was better at conjuring up what she might want than the surprise giver was. It meant gearing up for some sort of disappointment. She’d always maintained that once you knew a so-called-surprise was coming, it was better to just know what it was straight away so that you could start looking forward to it and thus elongate the happiness. Harry had other ideas.

“Alright it’s a dog.” Harry said loudly and angrily. Lia took a moment to compose herself. There was a calmness borne of anger descending on her.

“Whose dog?” She asked, her voice just about audible over the traffic and the stormy weather. There was still a chance he was just looking after someone’s dog.

“Ours. She’s called Florence.” Harry pronounced it so happily that a casual onlooker might have assumed that Lia and Harry had often merrily discussed obtaining a dog called Florence. The onlooker would have assumed the young couple often curled up on the sofa talking about how much they wanted a wonderful canine to love between them, and if only one would drop into their lap/boot they would name it Florence and all live happily ever after.

Lia had no idea what to say. 

“Say something.” Harry prompted, and Lia could feel his insecurity in his voice.

“I don’t know what to say.” She admitted.

“You love dogs!” Harry proclaimed, so vehemently that Lia wondered if she did love dogs. She didn’t hate them. Who could hate dogs? But was there anything about her neat life full of clean tidy books that screamed “please bring a dog into it”? A book about a dog maybe. Why couldn’t he have bought her a copy of Call of the Wild? It could be wrapped up nice and neat right now on the parcel shelf. Possibly the first time in history that that weird boot divider would have ever been used for an actual parcel.

“Harry, why did you buy me a dog?”

“I bought us a dog.”

“Why did you buy us a dog?”

Harry’s mouth opened, then he frowned, closed it again, blinked a few times, and opened it again. “I felt like we needed something.”

She felt like her mouth exploded. “We did need something! A chat! A talk! A long discussion about our slightly clammy relationship. We didn’t need a dog! And why is it in the boot? Are you meant to keep dogs in the boot? Do you have food for it? Is that rolling around in the boot with it too? What breed is it? How old? Where from? How much exercise does it need?  Why did you get a dog?”


A bi-product of being a librarian was getting very used to quiet. It wasn’t like you became a librarian because you were naturally hushed, but when you were in that environment for eight hours a day it often felt weird to come out and then come back to normal volume. As a result, Harry was quite unused to Lia being so loud.

“Clammy?” He repeated into the approximation of silence afforded by the surroundings. “Do you think I’m clammy?”

“No,” she sighed, “Not you, as in your skin is clammy. But… we’re clammy, or not… clammy. Forget about the word clammy. Something is weird with us, we’re… we’re on our way out or whatever and -“

“Is that what you think?!” He almost shrieked, “We’re over?”

“Well…” she squirmed, this was not how she’d foreseen any of this going. “Well you must have felt it too?”



“I didn’t get the dog because I think we’re over… I got the dog because we’ve not been clicking as well as we used to and we’re… we’re…” he petered out, “clammy.”

He said it so quiet she almost didn’t hear it. The rain had slowed a bit, leaving the windscreen wipers less intensely busy and a squeaking sound emitted from one of them at regular intervals. His voice was faint, and a little bit heartwarming. She smiled and put a hand over his where it rested on top of the gear stick. “Clammy.” She confirmed, “the relationship, not the hand.” She took her hand off because truth was it was actually clammy but that was largely to do with her overall soggyness.

They drove the rest of the journey without talking. Lia felt happier that something had been said. It wasn’t her being ungrateful, or over reactive or mean, or picky or insensitive… something was wrong! Weirdly, him thinking the relationship might be over made her feel closer to him in that, at least they weren’t on completely different pages. There was no driveway for their house so Harry found a space in the crowded street of cars and edged impressively neatly into the space.

“I can never do it first time.” Lia mused, momentarily forgetting the weird limbo they were in. He just said “yeah” in response and it came flooding back in. Were they about to go inside and break up? Would one of them move out tonight? If they were about to go in and break up was it in fact already over? “Come on then, let’s go in.” She said, unclipped her seat belt and climbed out of the car.

“Can you grab this bag?” He called, pulling a large carrier bag off the back seat. She took it, and he pulled out a leash from inside. Oh god the dog. In the silent consideration of the possible end of her relationship, she had managed to completely erase the concept of the dog from her mind. Never mind where she and Harry would sleep, break up or not, where was a dog going to sleep?

Harry opened the boot and the dog bounded straight out of its confinement and into the road.

“Oh god!” Lia spun round and watched the dog head straight into one of the gardens. “Call it back!” She looked at Harry worried. It wasn’t a busy street but there was the occasional car. As much as she didn’t want a dog, she also didn’t want a dog to get hurt because they were irresponsible owners.

“Florence!” He called, the dog didn’t look up. “She’s not trained yet.”

Lia checked for cars and then picked her way through the puddles and across to where the dog was neck deep in a hydrangea. Any drying out she had done in the car was being negated by the drizzle, the puddles and… and the dog shaking. Brilliant. She slipped her fingers into the collar around the dog… Florence’s neck.

They crossed back to Harry and he unlocked the door. Then the three of them stood in the hall and stared at each other, wondering who would decide what happened next.

What breed of dog is Florence?

1. Golden Retriever

2. Jack Russell

3. Pug

4. Spaniel