I get up and look out the window. It must have snowed all night because it looks almost a foot deep and it’s still falling. I report the weather to the boys who are still in the warm bed and I resist the urge to just climb back in with them. I can skip the shower this morning because of our bath last night so I pull on clothes and head out into the kitchen. Vader follows me, and after a good petting, heads down the stairs to go out in the yard.
“Ok, you’ve made your point.” Zeke comes out yawning and stretching. “Don’t keep banging the pots around.”
“I’m not.” I turn to look at him as I whisk the eggs I am going to cook. “I am just fixing breakfast.”
“Right. That’s why there was all that clanking and banging of metal.”
“Zeke, I got out this one pan.” I show him the frying pan. He looks at me and then turns to run back into the bedroom.
I follow him, puzzled by this reaction. He is opening a window and he leans out.
“Vader! Here, boy! Come on in the house!” He shouts this out the window and then pulls his head in to slam it shut. He sticks his feet in his boots and is pulling on his coat. I am also pulling on clothes to go outside, a sense of doom building in me.
There is no little black dog hurtling up the stairs as we run down and go out the kitchen door to look for him in all the white. I can see where he has come out of the doggy door, but he’s not in the yard. We hurry over to the side wall and come to a stop to see the gate hanging open, the lock dangling uselessly from the chain which has been cut—and Vader’s paw prints going out.
Schipperkes are notorious for running and I have been very careful to keep him locked up or on a leash so that he won’t find traffic to play in. He has taken the opportunity presented by this unexpected bit of luck to go explore the big wide world. We slosh out through the snow and go out into the front yard. He’s only been out about five minutes, but he’s not within sight. My heart is pounding and I barely keep enough presence of mind to look down for his tracks. Thank the Goddess for the snow—we will be able to follow him.
Zeke has made that connection as well and he puts his head down to find the trail Vader has left. He heads off towards town and I follow him, beseeching Pan to watch over the Devil’s Spawn. We move quickly enough that within a block, I can just see the top of Vader’s back as he prances through yards across the street.
“Vader! C’mere boy!” Zeke is careful to sound happy, like there are treats and good things waiting for him. He lifts his head and turns back to us. He looks at us for a moment and then breaks into a gallop, charging up to us with a goofy grin on his face. Vader loves the snow and he apparently loves his new-found (but short-lived) freedom. I am glad that he loves us more and will come when called.
As he starts across the street, everything goes into slow motion. Out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of a car coming down the street. I can see Vader running towards us and I turn to Zeke who has a horrified expression on his face. He’s screaming “NO! STOP!” and he, too, is moving out into the street. I can’t see inside of the car because it has tinted windows, but it doesn’t slow down. I am frozen in place, making a wordless shriek as the car hurtles past me, hits both of them and then keeps going.
The world stops.
I am rigid, unmoving…looking at their limp forms, laying in the snow. I cannot breathe, I cannot make myself walk over to either of them. They are so still. I think to myself, “So this is what it feels like when life ends.” There is only silence and the implacable falling of snowflakes. Nature doesn’t care that my whole existence has just shattered.
Zeke groans and rolls over. I gasp and run over to kneel beside him. He opens his eyes and looks at me.
“Gods, that hurts.” He holds his arm. “I think it’s broken. Where’s Vader?”
I get up and go to the motionless black form.
“Oh no! NO! Vader!” I fall on my knees next to him. I put my hand on his side, tears streaming down my face. I lean over him, feeling the scream build inside of me. I struggle for breath and am about to keen out my anguish when I feel his ribs rise.
“VADER!” He breathes again, and his eyes open. He rolls over and fights to get back on his feet, trying to get to me. I look carefully and he seems to be walking on all four legs, so I pick him up and go back over to Zeke.
I am only peripherally aware of the people beginning to gather. In the distance, I can hear sirens.
“Ummm, ma’am? I called 911. Are you all okay? I saw the whole thing. Man, that car didn’t even slow down. It’s like they wanted to hit your dog.” The young man has helped Zeke sit up, but he is cradling the left arm. I carry Vader over to him and he reaches for us with his right hand.
“Is he okay?”
“I think so, he was walking okay. I want to take him to the vet, but you’re going to the hospital first.” I turn to our Good Samaritan. “I’m okay, but I didn’t see the license. Did you?”
“No, ma’am. There wasn’t a license. I was looking. That car didn’t have a tag on it.”
We are interrupted by the first police car pulling up. They come over and talk to us and while we are trying to tell them what happened, the ambulance also pulls up. The EMTs immediately come over to look at Zeke.
“He’s got a broken arm, get the splint.”
I had been fine up to that point, but for some reason this makes it all hit home to me. I see little black dots and then…..nothing.
I wake up in the hospital. There is a nurse standing over me and when she realizes I’m awake, she turns to step away. I grab her arm.
“My dog, where is my dog?”
She grins and points at my feet. I look down and there is Vader with a rope leash, sitting on the end of my bed. I sit up too fast and feel woozy, but clutch the bed rail as I reach out to him. He stands up and I pick him up and bury my face in his fur. He licks the tears that I can’t help shedding. I look back at the nurse.
“Where is my…there was a man…”
“Your husband is in X-ray right now. He’ll be back in a little while.” She leaves the cubicle and I hug Vader tight enough that he wiggles to be free. I let go abruptly when I realize what the nurse called Zeke. My husband. I say it again in my mind and decide that I like the sound of it. Vader noses me and brings me back to earth.
The doctor walks in and looks at us.
“Well, glad to see you back among the living. How do you feel?”
“I’m okay, I’m not the one who was hit. Is everything okay with Zeke? And did someone check Vader?”
“I assume that Vader is that unauthorized animal in your arms. Yes, we poked at him enough to know that he’s going to be sore, but nothing is broken. He just got the wind knocked out of him and got tumbled a bit. He was feeling good enough to refuse to leave you and your husband suggested that it was faster just to take him with us than try to find someone who could handle him. He’s a ferocious beastie, isn’t he?” He leans over and pets Vader, the very picture of canine innocence.
I have to wipe away another tear. I can’t seem to stop the waterworks. He continues.
“Your husband is getting pictures taken of his arm. It is broken and once we can see where, we can put it in a cast. He also got rolled around, so he will have some bruising and stiffness. Can you keep him off his feet for a day or two?”
I snort. “Yeah, right. I can do my best, but that man does what he wants to. Unless you want to give me something to knock him out?”
The doctor smiles at me while shaking his head. “I know. I’m not a good patient either. Just do your best.”
I sniffle and nod. Vader lies down next to me and the doctor motions that I should get horizontal. He makes some notations in the chart and leaves the cubicle. I lay back down and wait for Zeke. They roll him back in on the gurney and put him next to me so that we can look at each other through the bed rails. It’s like being in prison, but I can reach out and touch him.
“Oh gods, Zeke. I was so scared. Who would do such a thing?”
“It doesn’t matter. We’re all okay. We’ll be a little more careful, that’s all.” He grimaces as he shifts so that the broken arm is supported better. His face is scratched and scraped, and the left eye is already black. It’s a helluva shiner. He also looks…sleepy. “They gave me something for the pain and I feel goofy.”
“But do you hurt?”
“No, but I hope they hurry and put a cast on this. I want to go home and go to bed.” He looks at me. “How are you doing? I didn’t know you were the fainting type or I would have carried smelling salts. You should have seen Vader carrying on when they tried to move you.”
“The doctor said he was ferocious. I’m fine, I feel silly laying here when you two are the ones that were hurt.” I touch his mouth and he kisses my fingertips. “I would die without you, my love.” The tears, the damned things, are falling again and I know that it bothers him.
“Mattie, darling…I am not leaving you, I am not going anywhere. You are not getting rid of me. Or Vader.” He holds my hand to his heart and I can feel the strong steady beat of it under my palm. He speaks slowly but surely. “You and I are always together, in this life and beyond.”
I go very still. I don’t remember much of my past lives, but what he has just told me chimes with the reverberations of sacred Truth and I know that he is right. It’s like the clear pure tone of a gong, sending its pulses of sound through my soul.
“I love you, Ezekiel Joseph Taylor. I love you more than life itself. I love you for eternity.”
“I love you, Ma’at Luxor Weaver. I love you for eternity.” He kisses the palm of my hand and puts it back on his heart. I have to use the other hand to wipe away the tears that I just cannot seem to stop. Furthermore, I have the feeling that we have just had a wedding ceremony. Zeke closes his eyes and I am happy to just watch him dozing.
After what seems like hours, the nurse comes back in, with the doctor right behind her. He’s holding the x-rays. I nudge Zeke, who rolls over to look at them.
“Okay. We’ve looked at the x-rays and you’ve got a simple fracture on both bones in the lower arm. We’re gonna get a cast put on it and then have you come back next week to make sure that it’s healing properly.” He sets out vague medical things on the table next to Zeke. “I figure you’ll need to be in the cast for about six weeks. We’ll x-ray it again then, and if things are healed, take it off. Otherwise, we’ll leave it on for another couple of weeks.”
Zeke nods. “Right. Let’s do it. I want to go home.”
“Not until I say you can, so just relax and enjoy our hospitality a little longer.” The doctor takes supplies from the nurse and pulls up a stool to sit next to Zeke’s gurney. I sit up to watch and Vader even lifts his head to take a gander at what’s going on next door.
The doctor pulls out a key ring of…little cast pieces. He shows them to us. “Any particular color you would like to have?”
“Black?” Asks Zeke.
“Ahhhh, let me look. Yeah, we have black.” He turns to the nurse and she nods, walking over to a cabinet and pulling out the black casting materials. She comes back with a handful of packages and puts them on a little table next to the doctor. He is looking at Zeke’s arm, carefully turning it just enough to decide where to start. He puts on the stocking that keeps the actual cast material from sticking to the arm and then begins wrapping. It takes us another couple of hours to get the paperwork finished so that we can all three be discharged and go home. I end up calling a cab to get there since we didn’t come in our own car.
We aren’t even in the door before Zeke is headed back outside. He goes out through the kitchen door and I am running right behind him, trying to get him to come back in the house. He has only taken a few steps out into the yard when he stops dead cold. I smack into him from behind and he moans. I figure I have hurt something until I step around him and look at the yard.
Someone has been in our yard. Someone who was angry and had a sledgehammer. The wolf has been decapitated and is laying on its side. I don’t even see the head. The statue of Pan has been totally destroyed—there is not a single piece larger than a baseball. The gazebo has had the sides smashed and the gazing ball is in shards. Vader is standing next to us and his fur is on end as all three of us stare at the ruins.
I grab Zeke around the waist and pull him to me. He puts his arms around me and I am keenly aware of the cast as it rests against my back. He buries his face into the crook of my neck and I can feel him shudder and the wetness of his tears. I am also crying, sobbing as I hold him, trying to comfort him when I have none to give.
I try to lead him into the house but he pulls away from me to go to the gate. “It was broken open. I have to get it closed.”
I stand in front of him so that he has to look at me. “I will find someone to come and fix this. You are going back in the house and getting into bed, now!”
He opens his mouth to argue but the look on my face promises dire consequences if he does, so he closes it again. He takes a last look around and goes into the house. The dog and I follow him in and I feel much older now than I did when I woke up. I call our handyman Karl to fix the gate. I tell him to just weld it shut. We never use it and I want it so that no one can just break the lock and get in. He picks up the debris in the yard. He knocks on the kitchen door and when I open it, he hands me the wolf’s head. I burst into tears.
“Oh God, Miss Mattie, don’t do that, don’t do that. I can fix it if you want. I was lookin’ at the wolf, and it just got its head knocked off, I can fix it.” He wrings his hands, trying to stem my flood.
Once his words sink in, I just nod emphatically and hand the head back to him. I go back upstairs to Zeke.
I have forced him into bed and the strain of the day, the medications and the horror of the backyard have all worked together to knock him out. He is sleeping, but I can tell that this is not particularly restful. I wrestled a coated aspirin into Vader and he is also asleep, stretched out against Zeke’s side. He barely opens his eyes when I stand in the doorway, looking at the two of them.
I go out into the kitchen and contemplate the merlot. Choosing wisely, I push it to one side and pull out a tea bag. I set the kettle on the stove for hot water and sit at the table. The phone rings and I jump. I run over to it and pick it up before it can wake the boys.
“Hi, Mattie?” I recognize Laurie’s voice. Oh gods, I forgot all about her.
“Hi Laurie, I’m so sorry, we’ve had…a bit of a problem here today. I forgot to call you. Well, I couldn’t have. We had to go to the hospital.”
“Oh no!” She gasps. “What happened?”
“Vader got out and we were calling him back when he ran out in the street. Zeke tried to stop him, but then they both got hit by a car.”
“Oh, Mattie! Are they okay?”
“Yes. Zeke has a broken arm, but they are both home and doing all right.” I sit down. Having to repeat the story is awful.
“I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do? That would explain why you all weren’t home when I got there this morning.”
“And I’m sorry about that. I um sort of passed out and we all went in the ambulance. I didn’t have my cell phone with me, even if I had remembered. We’ll go next week, unless you want to go some other day this week. I think I’m going to close the shop for a day or two anyway.”
“Don’t worry about it. We’ll go when things have settled down for you. I ah actually called Planned Parenthood and I have to have a preliminary check up before they’ll do the, you know, abortion anyways.” She said. “I think I can manage that appointment on my own, and then I can set up the actual date and let you know. Is that okay?”
“Sure. And let me know if you change your mind about the preliminary one, I might be able to go, depending on when you decide to go.”
“I will. Thanks a lot, Mattie. I’m sorry about Zeke and Vader. I’ll talk to you later.”
We hang up and I make my cup of tea.
They sleep until it’s dark outside. I am restless so I clean up the discarded attempt at breakfast and then start some stew. It’s one of Zeke’s favorites and it requires enough chopping and preparing that I can occupy my mind with something other than replaying the morning. I end up with the merlot since I have to put it in the stew anyway. It’s the only way Zeke likes it…and I find that I can breathe a little easier with a little alcohol in my system. I know it’s not a good answer but right now, I don’t have any better.
Vader comes out first, moving stiffly and with great dignity past me to go downstairs. I follow him, turning on the outside lights and watching him. He walks out just far enough to have all four paws in the grass and he relieves himself. Then he walks back in and I lock the door. We go back upstairs to hear Zeke moving around in the bedroom.
My greeting dies on my lips as I look at him. He is standing there naked and I can see where the car hit him. He has a bruise that begins at his shoulder and goes to his heel. He is also scraped in various places. The cast is stark black against his skin and his eye is a lovely shade of purple—and puffy.
“Do I look that bad?” He reaches for me and I go up to him, trying to put my arms around him without hurting him. “Just hold on, darling. Don’t worry about the bruises; I don’t feel them when you touch me.”
I hold on.
We stand there for a few minutes, then he shifts a little and I let go.
“Sorry, but I need to pee.”
It’s a little anticlimactic, so we both giggle and he walks about like Vader did…slowly and with great dignity—that is marred only by the string of cursing that is coming out of his mouth. I go to find him some pain relievers and a glass of water to take them with. I stir the stew and am just putting the lid back on when he comes into the kitchen.
“I smell something good. When do we eat?”
“Now? I’m glad that you’re hungry.”
“I haven’t eaten today. Our little escapade happened before breakfast, you know. I could eat a horse.”
“Well, it’s a cow. Where do you want to sit?” I reach for bowls to put the stew in and somehow come up with three. Oh well, let the dog have some, he hasn’t eaten yet today, either.
Zeke manages to get comfortable on the sofa and I hand him the pills and water to take. He makes a face at me, but he takes them so I know that he is really hurting. Like most men, he refuses to admit when he is in pain. Like most women, I ignore that and just tend to him the best I can.
I bring the stew out and put Vader’s on the floor so that he can reach it. He approves, inhaling his almost before we can begin eating. Zeke won’t let me sit anywhere but next to him, so we finally end up with his cast resting on my thigh as we have dinner. As I do the dishes, I tell him about Karl fixing the yard. He agrees about the welding of the gate and brightens when I tell him that the wolf can be fixed.
“Good. I am so glad to hear that.” He looks at me, and then leans towards me to really peer into my eyes. “What else?”
“What else, what?” I look back at him. The attempt at innocent eyes doesn’t work this time. Not that it ever does, he knows me too well.
“What else do you know about the yard?” He arches his eyebrows up. I sigh because I really don’t to talk about this. I have no proof other than my gut feelings.
I hesitate and he cups my face in his hand. He puts his mouth on mine, kissing me deeply and using his masculine wiles to coerce me. Damn him. I tell him.
“I think, and I stress the word ‘think’ because it’s only a gut feeling, but…I think I know who did it.”
“Yes, because he…” I start to defend my reasoning but he interrupts me.
“I agree; it has his energy written all over it. He was really pissed but very glad to have the chance to hurt me.” It’s Zeke’s turn to sigh. “I supposed I deserve it because I worked at making him mad. And he’s not really taken anything that mattered. We can repair stuff or replace it. He didn’t hurt you or Vader.”
“But he hurt you! You’re wearing a cast, remember?” I point to it indignantly.
“I don’t know that he was driving the car. Outright murder just doesn’t seem like Lord Kiss My Ass’ way of getting back at someone. He doesn’t want them dead; he wants them alive and suffering. Death would be too good—and not nearly as satisfying to him.”
I have to agree with him. He begins to fade soon after that, so I tuck him into bed—okay, he let me—and then I make a sign for the front door. I plan on being closed at least the next two days and possibly the whole week if I need to. I go down to post it on the door. There is a person standing on the porch, looking in the glass. I almost scream and my heart is pounding as it dawns on me that it is Eric, Apollo GoldenHawk, looking more like a lost child than a young man. I turn on the porch light and unlock the door.
“Hi, Mattie. Ummm, I was wondering…can I talk to Zeke?” He is nervous and I am too tired to try to figure out why.
“I’m sorry, Eric. It’s been one hell of a day and Zeke is already in bed asleep. Can you come back—mmmm, maybe tomorrow afternoon?” I do not offer more of an explanation than that. He looks disappointed, but agrees that he will return late in the afternoon. I am very careful to lock all the doors, including Vader’s. I will take my chances with having puddles.