30 - Explanations

223 32 1

It was late evening before Nat returned home. She'd opened the shop late after the meeting with Matt Cook and stayed long after closing to tend to neglected paperwork. Liz had not been keeping up with the ledgers, and there were several days of sales and expenses left to track. But the work was easy, and Nat felt a lightness she had not felt in days, like that giddy weightlessness that comes from shedding a heavy burden after a long and exhausting walk. 

It had been stupid to leave the dog behind. There was no rational explanation for her fear. Matt Cook had been right; she could have likely sold it at a profit to someone if she'd been patient. Simply leaving it in the desert was a foolish, immature response to an irrational fear. Liz would be furious.

 Yet she could not seem to feel ashamed, however much she might tell herself she should be. 

Out in the eerily empty shop, the mouse moved. Nat could hear the tiny scratches of its minute footsteps, the scuffling of a low-slung tiny body across the floorboards.

She would have to think of something to tell Liz, some explanation as to why she was returning empty-handed. She considered, briefly, pulling some money from her own bank account, the small savings fund she had opened in college and maintained after their marriage. 'Oh shit' money, she thought of it; escape money.  Money for the just in case: just in case something happened to the marriage, in case Nat needed to get out and go. 

She'd never planned to use that money. But she'd held onto it as a security blanket, keeping it secret and safe as a reminder that it was there if she needed it. 

She hadn't had money saved up like that in college, the last time she'd been in love with an older woman. She'd been young and stupid and convinced that her girlfriend was telling the truth when she said she'd take care of her. She'd believed her when she'd said she'd never hurt her. 

Fluff had been right about her character, on the balance. It had taken Nat a long time to realize that was true, and an even longer time to get herself out of there after things had gone sour. 

She'd started saving money for herself after that. 

Not much. But a little bit. Enough that she could pull some money out and tell Liz someone had bought the dog. Maybe even say she'd sold it to Matt Cook. 

Hell, she could skim money from the shop. 

She had the books in front of her. It wouldn't be hard to cook them, fudge a few figures. She could deliver cash in hand to Liz and put the dog and the Riveras and the whole messy business from her mind. 

Except. Well. 

She couldn't really, could she? 

What if Liz found out about the lie?

It was a stupid plan. Getting rid of the damn dog wouldn't make any difference. They still had stacks of the Rivera's belongings, a couch, paintings, photographs. And she still had the memories and knowledge of what had happened to them, and that cryptic warning from Celia Rivera. 

She hadn't left any of that behind in the desert by Matt Cook's house. 

So why did she feel so relieved? And why was she scheming to lie about the whole thing to her wife? 

Nat pushed herself away from the desk, feeling scandalized at the idea of it. She was irrationally afraid of a taxidermied dog. She had to own up to that much. She owed it to Liz to be an adult, to be honest about this. 

She would just explain: The stupid dog creeped her out; its history disturbed her; Matt had said it wouldn't be easy to sell, or worth very much money. She'd decided to dispose of it. Liz would understand, certainly.

She remembered the look of anger in her wife's eyes, the night of Liam's nightmare. The accusatory stare.

The way she had left things, that morning; her mystery illness that could be cured by sleep.

Nat hadn't called home all day. She had forgotten, been busy, been so wrapped up in her relief from leaving behind the dog that it hadn't even occurred to her. Her phone, too, had been quiet, and she hadn't noticed or thought anything of the silence.

That, at least, filled her with an uneasy sort of guilt, shame that mingled with shame. It was enough to pull her away from the mostly-finished bookkeeping and the company of the store's lone mouse occupant. 

Standing, shutting off the computer and stuffing paperwork in the desk drawers, she prepared to go home and tell the truth. 

The Hound {WATTY WINNER}Read this story for FREE!