Melissa burrowed further under the covers, not wanting to greet the cold, rainy day just yet. As she did, her lab Frankie stood up from her resting spot, turned a circle, and then plopped down as close to Melissa as she could get without being on top of her. Melissa knew the day would come too soon that Frankie would never get up again, so she wrapped her arm around her and gave her a squeeze before climbing out of bed, she refused to think about all that right now.
As she made her way into the bathroom to start her morning ritual, Melissa glanced in the mirror at her hair and was only slightly shocked to see it had thinned even more. She fingered it and tried to see if she could shape it into something presentable but it was no use, today was a wig day for sure. Sure, she had hats and even a scarf but she had no idea how to wear those things. No matter how hard she tried, she always looked like some frumpy housewife and that was not her idea of cool.
Her husband kept tryng to get her to go to the Hair Club and see if they could help her, but she figured the cost of that would be astronomical and they just didn’t need that right now. With his dad fighting cancer and her own surgery looming, that was extra money they didn’t need to spend. And then there was Frankie to think about. It was going on thirteen years, quite a long life for a lab. Her health had not been the greatest lately, her hips were just about shot and the vet said she was riddled with small tumors.
In fact her birthday was today, now that she thought about it, she had been a treat not a trick so many years ago from her sweet hubby Joe as a Halloween surprise. He presented the pup in a huge pumpkin that had the guts pulled out. As she curiously took off the top, there was Frankie, her sweet face staring up at her just waiting to be hugged and loved on. And it was…love at first lick. Frankie latched on to Melissa and was her constant companion from that day forward. In fact, she thought Joe might even be a tad jealous at the fact that Frankie was so attached to Melissa. Honestly though, Frankie had enough love for them both.
Joe and Melissa had been married for just over thirty years and Frankie had been a part of their lives for so long, Melissa could barely remember her not being there. They got Frankie just as the kids were about to graduate high school, Joe thought it would help Melissa deal with empty nest syndrome. He knew her so well. The pup had been a Godsend and the gesture just endeared her that much more to Joe.
The two met each other just after each of them had ended their military careers, she had been Army and he a Marine. Funny thing was, they had gone to rival high schools, heck, grown up in the same town practically, yet never met. As it turned out, they met one night while out with friends who had each dragged them to some dive neither of them would have darkened the door of on their own. Once their eyes locked on each other’s though, that was it. They fell in love at first sight and were still going strong. They were the perfect match, he was the strong, silent type, and she was the outgoing, bubbly type. They always said opposites attract, right?
Melissa was so self conscious of her thinning pixie that she could barely stand social situations unless her head was covered. She didn’t have cancer, it was just a hereditary condition as far as she knew, yet wearing a wig also made her feel strange. Most days she just went with hats. Today she would make it her mission to learn how to wear a scarf and look fashionable, so she headed to the cancer treatment center where she worked as a technician to talk to a patient liason about it. She had taken a few hours off to be able to relax and get the instruction without feeling rushed.
After what felt like hours, Melissa finally felt like she had it down pat and hurried through her shift so she could go home and practice in her own mirror. As she barreled through the garage door, she noticed no one came galloping and sliding down the hall to greet her like normal. That was strange, but Melissa was too concerned with getting in front of her bathroom mirror to think much about it. Yanking off her hot, scratchy wig, she began to tie the scarf around her head like she was instructed. There! It really looks great, she thought as she made her way into the bedroom to show Frankie.
“What do you think missy? Mommie’s gone Paris on you right?” No response. Frankie didn’t even lift her head to check her out. Something was wrong here and Melissa was scared to find out what. Cautiously and with a knot of fear growing in her chest, she approached the bed and reached out to touch her beloved dog. She was stiff, cold. Melissa was devastated. She could not believe she was gone, just like that with no goodbye or anything. Suddenly her own comfort was not important anymore. She pulled the scarf off her head and wrapped it around Frankie’s neck, the tears flowing as she hugged her baby for the last time.
By Kim Smyth
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