A Promising Entanglement
by Kelly F. Barr
Tara awakened to sunshine lighting her lavender bedroom curtains. She turned her head to look at the clock on her bedside table – 8 a.m. She smiled, thankful she had slept well and later than her weekdays allowed. She sat up and Atticus plopped his forepaws and front part of his body on her lap. He lifted his head and licked her chin.
Tara giggled and scratched the black Labrador Retriever behind his ears. “Good morning to you too, Atticus. Give me half an hour to shower and dress, then we’ll go for our morning walk, and if you’re patient, we’ll stop by Scratch Bakes for breakfast.
“Woof!” The big guy responded as he moved, allowing her to move from the bed. He watched as Tara grabbed her clothes and strode to the bathroom, his tongue lolling out of his mouth.
When Tara turned off the blow dryer after showering, she heard Atticus whining on the opposite side of the bathroom door. She checked her watch. Forty minutes had passed from the time she’d entered the bathroom. “Okay, big guy. Sorry I’m a bit late, but cut me some slack. It’s Saturday.”
Atticus responded with another whine and Tara grinned as she brushed her hair and applied a light coat of hairspray. Then she stepped into her jeans and slid a purple short-sleeved t-shirt over her head. She hung up her bath towel and opened the bathroom door to find Atticus sitting, looking up at her, his tail wagging.
She gave him a scratch behind the ears, kissed the top of his head and moved to sit on the foot of the bed to put on her socks and lavender sneakers. Then she moved to the bedroom door, opened it and walked through the living room into the hallway to her apartment door. She stopped to grab her purse from the small table near the door, as well as Atticus’s leash and her keys from hooks above the table. She attached the leash to her eager Labrador Retriever and the two of them left the apartment and jogged down one flight of stairs and through the building’s lobby.
They entered the park and followed the walking path. Lots of people were in the park and several others walked their dogs on the path. Tara always moved Atticus to her right side and held him close to her side whenever anyone passed them, well aware that some people were uncomfortable with Atticus’s size. As an English Labrador Retriever, the larger of the two Labrador Retriever breeds, though Tara knew he was gentle and friendly, strangers to him weren’t so sure.
As they walked, Tara spotted a man jogging with a smaller, American Labrador Retriever on a leash running alongside him. Though Tara, again, pulled Atticus close, the jogger made no move to pull his dog in and as they drew near, his dog looked at Atticus and he returned her interest. Tara realized the jogger’s Lab was a female, and though Atticus was neutered, she knew he’d want to greet this pretty female.
“Atticus, no. Heel.” She spoke to her dog in a quiet but firm tone. However, the jogger’s dog crossed the path and met Atticus face to face, bringing the jogger to a stop. The two dogs sniffed each other and attempted to maneuver around to sniff each other’s backsides, as dogs do, and entangled their leashes.
The jogger became frustrated at the situation and Tara began to laugh out loud.
The jogger looked at Tara for a moment, then joined in her laughter. After a couple moments, he stopped laughing and said, “I’m so sorry.”
Tara stifled her giggles and said, “Well, I will try to untangle the leashes if you will follow my instructions. I’m pretty good at untangling dog leashes. Atticus has gotten into such predicaments before.”
The jogger raised an eyebrow at her. “Atticus? That’s your dog’s name?”
“So you are either a fan of To Kill a Mockingbird or you’re a lawyer?”
Tara smiled. “I’m not a lawyer, although I am a secretary to a lawyer. But, yes, I am a fan of To Kill a Mockingbird and Atticus is my favorite character in the book.”
“Mine too, although I do love Scout and Jem as well.”
“So are you a lawyer?” Tara asked in a teasing tone.
He chuckled, then said, “No, I’m a history professor at Lancaster Bible College and To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the books I require.”
“Good for you. Now, let’s get these dogs untangled.” Tara returned her attention to the leashes.
When the leashes were separated, Tara petted the jogger’s Lab.
“Tara, and you already know my dog’s name, but I’m afraid I didn’t catch either of your names.”
“Oh right. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. This is Lila.” He patted his dog’s head. “And I am Michael. Where are you headed?”
“Atticus and I are headed to Scratch Bakes for breakfast.”
“Sounds delightful.” He lowered his gaze to her hands. “I hope I don’t sound too forward, but I don’t see a ring on your left ring finger. Does that mean you’re not married?”
Heat crept into Tara’s cheeks. “No, I’m not married.” She lowered her eyes to the path as the heat of her cheeks told her they must be bright red.
“Neither am I. Could we meet at the dog park next week? That way Lila and Atticus can run without becoming entangled. We could talk more and, maybe … make plans for dinner without Lila and Atticus?”
When she looked up at him once again, she noted his cheeks had turned pink. She smiled and said, “I think Atticus and I would like that. So, same time next week, but at the dog park instead?”
He nodded, then looked at his dog and said, “Okay, Lila, you’ve got a date next Saturday morning and I may have one next Saturday night.” Lila barked once and Tara and Michael laughed.