The One That Got Away

You bump into an ex-lover on Valentine’s Day—the one whom you often call “The One That Got Away.” What happens?

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  1. kathleenmagner

    Dana unclipped Max’s leash once the park’s gate clanged shut. He romped along the gravel trail, the long hairs on his tail whipping about like russet streamers.

    “Max,” said Dana, slinging her backpack forward.

    As she exchanged the leash for the blanket squished by her textbooks, Max woofed and trotted back. Circling her legs, he settled at her knee and peered up, watery brown eyes intent.

    “That’s my boy.”

    A pale pink tongue drooped from Max’s jaws, his muzzle curving in a pleased, doggy grin. She scratched behind his flopped ears and then adjusted the backpack on her shoulder.

    “So where should we sit?”

    Max trotted beside her as Dana started into the park.

    In the sunny spots before them, pairs and quartets dressed in shades of red bunched while clusters of teenagers in similar holiday hues lay along the grassy hillsides whispering and laughing. Subdued families and picnickers squirreled themselves in shady patches beneath budding cherry trees, and couples perched along the granite rim of park’s main fountain, a few with roses in their hands.

    Sighing Dana ran her fingers through Max’s coarse fur. “You’re still with me right?”

    Max leaned into her leg, his body warm and solid.

    “Thanks.” The renewed wag of his tail brought a smile to her lips and Dana thrust her arm at the expanse. “Go on.”

    Max bounded off and swung into the grass, nose to the blades. Squishing the blanket into a ball, Dana headed after him and tried to ignore the flirtatious giggling and hands holding hands. She veered into section of sloped lawn above a flat stretch where a trio pitched a Frisbee and unfurled her roll of powder-blue tweed. Doffing her pack, she sat and scoped out Max’s progress.

    She found him snuffing around the base of a tree, and then followed his nose to a family picnic.

    “Shoo,” said the mother.

    She clutched a little boy in ruby overalls against her carnation blouse as if Max might gobble the child whole. Oblivious, the boy laughed and offered Max, who stalked tentatively closer, a carrot stick.

    “Max,” said Dana.

    His ears perked when he looked over his shoulder, then he swiveled back to the wide-eyed mother, the drowsy father propping up on an elbow, and the little boy’s treat.

    “Max,” said Dana, threading her voice with a sterner tone.

    She patted the blanket, and hanging his head Max padded across the lawn, up the hill and belly flopped at her feet.

    “Leave them alone, okay?”

    He woofed and set his chin on his paws. His eyes swept across the park, darting every now and then to the little boy and his newest edible acquisition.

    Leaving Max on guard, Dana lay on her stomach and brought out her textbooks. She angled her notebook alongside, slipped the pen from its spiral spine and ejected the tip with a press of her thumb.

    “Where were we,” she whispered as she flipped through the glossy pages.

    She’d found her place among the Renaissance painters when a high pitched voice called out in her direction.

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