Chapter 3

Friendship is the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person. Having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words

~George Eliot


"Artemis?"

She walked past him to the bedroom and slammed the door.

Wally stared, "Uh? " He followed quickly, pausing at the door only briefly before cracking it open. "Artemis? Babe?"

She was sitting on the bed.

Just sitting there.

Artemis didn't cry, at least not in the normal sense of crying. However, he'd known her long enough by now to learn her version of the cry face and this was it; It was that dark eyed, solemn, tearful look like suddenly her world was caving in on her. "Babe. . . I 'm sorry about the mess. . . I'll clean it up." He wasn't sure what to say so, like the idiot he was, he just kept talking. "I promise. It won't take me very long. Heck, I could go now and be back before you even. . ./"

"It's not the mess," she said quietly.

"Then what? Is it the dog? I know we hadn't really discussed it." He sat on the bed next to her but kept his hand's off, just in-case she really was ticked. "I just thought you'd like him. I wanted to surprise you."

She sniffed once, then wiped her eyes with her fingertips.

Crap. She really was crying now

Wally panicked. "Look, Hon, I'll take him back!" He felt guilty for saying it, especially since Brucely had just nosed his way into the room and was watching them with those dopey eyes of his. However, regardless of how much he liked the animal, Artemis was more important. "I mean if you don't want. . ./"

"No, no he's fine," Artemis said quickly, finally looking at him. "That's just it Wally. . . He's great." She looked down again, watching the dog as he watched them back. "I've never had a pet before." She finally said, voice quiet as if admitting this fact too loudly would make the dog vanish. Her voice trembled a little as she continued. "I did once. . . Kind of. I found a stray puppy near a dumpster after school so I took him home." She rubbed her arm and grimaced. "I cleaned him up, fed him and stuff. He was really cute but. . ."

Wally watched her worriedly.

Artemis took a breath, wiped her eyes again, and finished the story like it didn't matter anymore. "When Dad found out he tried to use it against me. Big surprise right? If I didn't behave: train everyday, do well in school, do what he told me too. . . He threatened to take the dog away. So, one day he did. I don't know what he did with it, probably killed it." She fell silent.

"Oh my gosh Artemis. I'm sorry. I didn't know."

Wally hated this. He hated how things could be going so well and then Artemis' painful past would sneak up on them. The things she had to go through as a kid while he'd been loved, supported, and sheltered his whole life. . . It wasn't fair and it certainly wasn't right. "If it's too hard on you I understand, I mean. . ."

She grabbed his arm and shook her head "No. Wally that's just it!" She smiled, eyes damp, but more in a shiny fashion now, playing off the light. "I don't have to worry about any of that now. . . Ever again. I'm older and stronger and better. And most of all, I have you." She looked down at the dog, then turned, embracing Wally with a hug and a kiss.

It took his breath away and he stared at her. A little confused at the change of emotion. Why did girls do that?

She smiled. "I'm risking sounding really mushy right now, so I'm only going to say this once: Thank you Wally. Thank you for being here for me and being so amazing. I don't have to worry with you because I know you'll never hurt me."

"Of course not!"

"Well, the point is 'thank you.' And I do like the dog. . . What did you call him?"

"Brucely."

She pulled away, leaning forward over the side of the bed and wiggling her fingers. Then, in a sugary voice Wally had never heard her use before, (It was a little creepy) she said, "Come on Brucely. Mommy wants you."

The dog licked her fingers, first tentatively, then eagerly and happy.

"Well yeesh, don't give her any trouble." Wally grumbled, laying back on the bed, arms behind his head. "I knew he'd like you." He was glad the tears where over, glad that maybe he'd done something right after all.

"You know you still get to clean the apartment right?" Artemis reminded, halfway off the bed as she played with the dog's ears.

"Uhhu." Wally said, distracted by about two strands of blonde hair sticking out of Artemis' ponytail.

He'd clean the apartment later.


The end