Walking into the lobby of the hotel, the warm air hits me in the face. It’s October and I can already tell that winter is going to be rough. The lady behind the counter looks up from her computer with a look of shock on her face. I can’t blame her. I look like I feel which is crap.
“Oh, honey are you okay?” she asks. I hate that question.
“I'm fine. ” I try to smile. “I need a room. Something that’s dog friendly, if you have it. ”
“Of course,” she says, looking back down at her computer and typing. “How many nights?”
“Just one. ” I lean on the counter, feeling the exhaustion of the last few days catching up to me.
“Room 312 is dog friendly. You just take the elevator to the third floor and take a right. It will be seventy for the night and a fifty dollar deposit for the dog. ”
I hand over my card. Waiting for her to finish checking us in, I look down at my new companion. I can’t believe that he saved my life.
From what I can remember, I was attacked and he came out of nowhere, jumping on the guy attacking me. The cops said that if it wasn’t for him, I probably would have been killed or in a coma. Instead, I just had a concussion, two broken ribs and a sprained wrist.
Beast was the first thing I saw when I woke up in that alley with the smell of garbage and urine all around me. I thought I was dead until I heard whining and felt a warm, wet tongue move across my face. I opened my eyes to see a huge face looking down on me like some kind of doggie angel. He stayed at my side while I gathered my strength to get up. He never, even when I stumbled into the apartment to call the police. He was my own personal guardian through every moment.
“Here you go, honey,” she says, handing me the room card. “The elevator is right down that hall. ” She points to the left.
“Thanks,” I mumble, ready to get into bed.
“I know that it’s none of my business,” she says and I stop to look at her. “I hope that you were able to get in a few licks before you left his ass. ”
“It’s not what it looks like. ” I smile and shake my head.
“Mmm humm, honey. If you say so. ”
I don’t have it in me to argue with her so I just let it go and smile. “Come on, boy. ” I drag Beast along with me towards the elevator while trying to carry my bag. “You can smell everything in the morning when I'm not so tired,” I say through a yawn while pulling him behind me.
When we finally reach our room, I'm overwhelmed by the smell of dog urine. I wondered why they take fifty dollars if they were obviously not using it to get the smell out of the carpet. I’m too tired at this point to care and just happy to have a bed. We could sleep in my car but with all of my stuff stuffed in it, there’s not a lot of room. I take Beast’s leash off and go to the bathroom, carrying my bag with me.
After brushing my teeth and washing my face, I look in the mirror and cringe. I look like a cow. My face is black and blue, my green eyes are red and puffy, my upper lip is cut, and I have so many bruises that even my hair hurts. I pull off my jeans, sweater and bra but keep on my tank top and panties then crawl into bed. Leaning over, I turn off the light. Two seconds later, I feel the bed bounce with Beast’s huge body as he curls into me. And then I'm out.
The sun is shining through the crack in the curtain. I moan and roll over. Beast is lying on his back with his legs straight up in the air, and he’s snoring. He is the strangest dog I’ve ever met. Not that I have a lot of experience with dogs. I’ve always tried to avoid them. When I was four, we went to visit one of my mom’s friends out in the Hamptons. They had a dog that attacked me. I ended up in the hospital with stitches from my eyebrow to the corner of my eye. Ever since then, I’ve had a deep fear of dogs. Including the small ones that everyone thinks are so cute because they look like you could put them in your pocket. My dog, Beast, is not small. I Googled dog photos after I found him and from what I can tell, he’s a Great Dane. He comes up to my waist when he is standing on all fours. I'm five four and when he stands on his back paws, his head is a good four inches above mine. Surprisingly, I'm not afraid of him at all. Actually, I don’t think I would have made it through the last couple days without him.
“Come on, buddy,” I say as I pat his stomach. He rolls his body to the side, looking at me like I'm crazy. “Yeah, it’s time to wake up and get back on the road if we want to make it to Dad’s by tonight,” I say while getting out of bed. He still doesn’t move.
“Whatever. I'm going to shower,” I tell him like he cares. Stumbling my way into the bathroom, I start the shower. As steam fills up the small room, I take off my tank top and panties and climb in. Peeling the paper off the cheap hotel soap, I wash my body. After I’ve washed from head to toe, trying to be careful around the cuts on my legs and arms, I find the shampoo but realize there’s no conditioner. I regret not digging through the stuff in the car last night to find all my bathroom supplies. Getting out and drying off, I try to finger comb my hair enough that I won’t look totally crazy when we make our way down to check out. Not that it will matter, I laugh to myself.
One look at my face and no one will care what my hair looks like. I find a clean bra and panties and sweats. I throw on a hoodie and put my hair up in a messy knot at the top of my head then slide my sunglasses up to rest on my head till we get downstairs. Walking out of the bathroom, Beast is sitting on the bed, looking like he has been waiting for me forever. Typical male.
“Come on, boy. Let’s roll. ” I pat my leg and he jumps down from the bed to walk over to me. Sitting at my feet, he waits for me to attach his leash. “Okay, sweet boy, I’ll feed you outside,” I say while double-checking the bathroom to make sure I didn’t leave anything. Walking to the elevator, with beast in tow, I slow down so he can smell everything that he missed last night.
The elevator opens up and the person stepping out almost stumbles at the sight of Beast. I mean, he is big but he is not that scary looking. His fur is dark gray with black spots, his nose is pink with black spots and his eyes are almost blue. He’s actually really beautiful. I give the guy a look and apologize. “Maybe my face is what scared him,” I say to Beast when the elevator door closes. He tilts his head in agreement. Once on the first floor with the elevator door open, there’s enough light to put on my sunglasses so I slide them down my face.
Walking to the checkout, I notice there is a new desk clerk. I’m praying we don’t have to have another uncomfortable conversation. That’s when I spot a key card drop box and make my way to it without a second look at the front desk.
Once I drop my key inside, the smell of coffee hits me. My feet move without my command to the source of my weakness. I love coffee. I drink so much coffee every day that my coffee consumption alone could support a small country. Coffee in hand and a bagel hanging out of my mouth, we make our way out to my car. Outside, the cold air hits my lungs and it feels amazing. I walk to my other baby, my light blue convertible VW bug. I pop the trunk and drop my bag inside then dig out Beast's food and water bowl and set them down on the ground. Leaning against my car, I watch Beast scarf down his food while I enjoy mine. Once he’s done, I put his bowls back in the car and take him to the grassy area near the parking lot to take care of his business. I lay down in the cold grass, looking up into the sky and all I can think is in a just few hours, my life is going to be so different.
Driving is not fun. Okay, let’s be clear, driving in “my” car with a giant beast of a dog, going from New York to Tennessee is not fun. My car is small and with all my stuff packed in the trunk and the back seat, there is no room for Beast. I feel bad for him being stuck up here with no place to lie down. But I have to say, he is pretty inven tive. At one point, his butt was on the seat while the upper part of his body was lying on the floor board. It didn’t look comfortable to me, but apparently he didn’t mind because within a few minutes of finding that position, he was snoring. Who knew dogs could snore so loud?
We’ve been stopping every couple hours to use the rest room and stretch our legs. We still haven’t made it out of Virginia. To be honest, I’m just glad the roads are clear. You never know what kind of weather you’re going to run into during this time of year. October is one of those tricky months. Some days are beautiful and sunny with fall in the air and other days are freezing and all you want to do is go hibernate for the winter.
I hate the cold. Maybe after I get settled with my dad, I’ll take a trip to a beach somewhere. The only good thing about winter is being able to wear cute sweaters and boots. But I do miss my dresses during the winter. I wear a dress every day during the summer. I’ve taken sewing classes just so I could make my own summer dresses. There’s nothing like getting up in the morning, taking a shower and slipping on a dress and a cute pair of sandals. There’s no work involved. You can add a cute jacket or extra jewelry but you don’t have to. A dress is simple. During the winter, not only do you have to wear pants and boots but you have to make sure that your shoes go with your top and jacket. Yep, I hate the cold.
My phone blasting Breathe by Anna Nalick startles me out of my daydream about summer and dresses. Looking at the screen, I see it’s Dad calling.
“Hi, Daddy. ”
“Hi, baby girl. Just checking to see how far you got. ”
Looking at my GPS, I say, “We're still in Virginia and have about six hours left. I’ve been stopping a lot for Beast. ”
"Oh, yeah. Forgot you’re bringing that thing you call a dog with you. ” He chuckles under his breath. “I hope you know the only reason I'm letting you bring him into my house is because he saved your life. ”
I sent him a picture of Beast when I told him he was coming with me. Dad was shocked. He told me that girls were supposed to have little cute dogs for pets, not things that looked like they would eat you.
“I know, Dad, but he’s a really good dog. ” As if he knows we're talking about him, Beast lifts his head and barks. “I know, sweet boy,” I coo at him.
"Yeah, I guess it's not such a bad thing that he can help me scare off all the guys who start sniffing around. "
“Ha ha, Dad!”
"Well, baby girl, I’ll call you in a few hours to check on you. "
“Okay, Dad. Talk to you then. ”
Hanging up with my dad, I have a smile on my face. I wonder how different my life would be if my mom would have left me with him rather than take me with her. I also wonder why she took me to begin with. My mom met my dad at a graduation party when she was eighteen. They had one night of drunken, unprotected sex and I was born nine months later. Two weeks after that, my mom took off with me to live with her cousin in New York. Growing up, my mom wasn’t involved at all. I had a nanny from as far back as I can remember. Her name was Mrs. B. She lived in the apartment next to us. She was the person I always counted on. If something happened, I would go to her. She would bandage me up or tell me that I shouldn’t cry over boys because they were all stupid. She was the only parental figure I’ve ever really known and when she passed away, I felt like my world crumbled around me. My dad found me not long after Mrs. B’s passing.