“I just need a few minutes to compose myself,” Heather says, and Dr. Morris walks back into the animal hospital. Heather leans against her dirty white Escalade feeling suddenly grateful that she can’t find her phone. She dreads having to tell Michael and the children that Marigold is dead. Dead! She can’t believe it.
Minutes later she’s on PCH driving home. Ava’s still asleep in the backseat. It must be nice to be a baby, Heather decides. She tries to remember being tucked into a soft cotton blanket and rocked to sleep. She can’t. And Marigold is dead. Heather shakes her head, rolls down the window and the scent of ocean fills her car. Like a wave crashing over her she feels an unexpected rush of relief. There’s one less being to care for. Three kids, one husband and no dog. That sounds doable. No more picking up poop in the backyard or weekend trips to Petco for grooming and organic dog food. Fighting with Michael about whose turn it is to take Marigold for the walk. Heather is free. She accelerates and the wind rushes through her long blond hair. The morning sun warms her freckled skin. She suddenly feels younger and then, like a sociopath. My poor dog, she thinks. Only eight years old. A kind, loyal, sweet companion and I am celebrating. What kind of monster have I become?
She turns up the hill into the Highlands. She remembers the time before children when she’d rescued a stray. At Berkley she marched for elephants rights. I used to be an animal lover. Am I now an animal hater?
Ava begins to cry. Heather parks and carries her inside the house. She’s too young to understand death, but not Dylan and Kaitlin. They’ll be devastated. She’ll have to go online and research how to best explain this while hiding her own private… relief. It would be bad to have a monster for a mother. They’ll plan a memorial and bury the ashes in the backyard.
Heather settles Ava in front of the TV to watch Go Diego Go and calls Michael at the office. He sounds, bothered and distracted. ”I have some news,” she says. “Marigold is dead.”
There’s a long pause. She wonders if he’s crying. After all, it was Michael who rescued Marigold from a former co-worker who couldn’t have a pet in his apartment.
“How did this happen at a vet’s offices?” Michael asks.
“They suspect an aneurysm,” she says and explains the situation.
Another long pause.
“I’m not paying the bill,” he says.
“Excuse me?” she replies.
“The bill for the boarding,” he says.
Suddenly she’s furious. “What kind of person are you?” she asks. “How can you talk about the bill at a moment like this anyway? How can you be so cold?”
“I’m not,” he says. “Just realistic.”
She hangs up the phone, outraged.
Ava is giggling in front of the TV. The babysitter will be here soon and Heather will have to go to the grocery store. Cartoon Diego is saving Baby Jaguar on TV. Diego is a real animal lover and obviously a better role model than Michael and I, she thinks. Maybe I should allow the children to watch more TV.
Note: The ModernMom Chronicles is a fictional novel. The story is not a personal blog, nor is it based on existing people or events.