Ping, Monica texted back. “But the Brian is in your class.”
Both girls had mad text skills. “He’s so into himself and his friends he might as well be gay.”
Ping. “Hurt because he didn’t notice you in your new red dress?”
Yes, how could she not be, Holly thought. She liked her new dress and thought everyone else would too, especially the Brian since it was pretty tight fitting, so tight fitting that she thought her mom or dad was going to say something that morning about how high school freshmen shouldn’t wear such tight fitting dresses to school and tell her to go change her clothes. But neither said anything, not even raised an eyebrow. They were too in a rush to get hot coffee down their throats and be off to work. Parents, what are they good for?
But the Brian didn’t have an excuse. He was like the only guy at school who she hadn’t caught staring and it was just her luck he was the guy she liked. So what if he was a junior. She was mature for a freshman, at least she thought so. But she didn’t text that, instead she snapped a pic of herself, still in her red dress, flipping the bird at the camera and sent it to Monica.
Ping. “Don’t be so sensitive.” Ping. “Have you ever noticed how big his nose looks from the side?”
Holly’s dog, a black lab named Nosy, pushed her bedroom door open, walked in and jumped on the bed, circled and lay down facing her.
“Nosy says hi,” she texted.
Ping. “Maybe the Brian wasn’t staring out of respect because he likes you?”
“That’s good,” she texted. “I’ll go with that one. Self-delusion is much better than the truth.”
Ping. “So says my therapist.”
“Got to go. Homework calls,” Holly texted, turned off her phone and set it aside on the nightstand and opened her calculus textbook. She knew if she didn’t turn off her phone it would ping again in about five minutes with a text from Monica complaining of how boring homework was. She had the attention span of the over-caffeinated. Homework was all the same to Holly, mildly interesting but not terribly so. Probably how Nosy felt about half the things she sniffed, and Nosy sniffed everything. She was sniffing Holly’s dress as Holly scratched her behind her ears.
“You like my dress, don’t you girl?” she asked, expecting unconditional love, not an answer.
“Made in china,” the dog said, then took a deeper sniff of the fabric. “By children younger than you. I can smell their skin on it. One had a cold and a runny nose. There are snot particles all over it.”
“That’s so gross,” Holly said, disgusted at the thought of a bunch of strangers’ skin cells and drainage on her dress, then she realized the voice had come from her dog. She jumped off her bed and dropped to all-fours, ready to drag her little brother, Charlie, out from underneath her bed, but there was nothing under there except dust bunnies and dog fur. She got up, checked her closet, then the hallway outside her bedroom, but both were empty too, so she turned back to the dog.
Nosy gazed back at her with her deep brown eyes, a small twinkle in them. “Charlie is in the basement with a girlie magazine he found. He wanted to be alone so I came up here.”
“Gawd, even grosser,” Holly said, again disgusted before becoming shocked. She put her hands on her hips and stared at Nosy. “Dogs don’t speak. You need to shut up because I really don’t need to be crazy this early in life.”
Holly sniffed at herself. “I do not.”
“Child labor and cigarettes. Your friend Monica is stupid. Why would anyone voluntarily inhale smoke? Has she gotten you to smoke too? Do you think she looks cool when she smokes? Exhaling cancerous gasses? Ooo, so sexy. Gosh, I’d sure look sexy if I smoked. I’m sure it would drive Rex from down the street wild.”
“Stop it. Start barking or growling or something. Anything but talking.”
“I’m tired of barking, it hurts my ears, and I’m even more tired of growling. I thought I’d try something new.”
“Mom,” Holly called out.
“Oh, don’t do that. We were having such a nice chat. I won’t speak in front of your mom.”
“Between you and your brother, a talking dog would send her over the edge. She talks to herself all day long and I’ve pretty much heard everything she has to say. When you tell her I can talk, she’s going to say, don’t be silly.”
Her mom stuck her head in the doorway, frosted blond to cover the gray. “What is it, dear?” She spotted the calculus textbook open on the bed. “If it’s help with math, you’re going to have to wait until your father gets home.”
Holly leaned forward and poked the dog on the bed. “Go on, say something.”
Nosy opened her mouth and started panting. Holly poked her again.
Her mom shifted her weight to her other foot. “Honey, what are you doing?”
“Oh come on, don’t leave me hanging here like this. Say something.”
“Are you talking to the dog? She can’t reply, believe me, I’ve tried.”
“But she was just talking.”
“Don’t be silly, dear,” her mom said and left, but then popped back in. “I better not find out you’ve been smoking pot again. I have spies, you know.”
“You have one spy, and he’s busy in the basement.”
“What’s he doing in the basement?”
“You don’t want to know.”
“Ghost hunting again, I bet,” her mom said and was gone again. “That boy loves his ghosts,” she could be heard saying as she went down the hall.
Holly sat back down on the bed. “I hate it when this happens in the movies. It’s so frustrating.”
“Try barking at the neighbor’s dog through the living room window every morning. Now that is frustrating.”
Holly rubbed her cheeks with her palms. “Maybe I’m still high.”
“You are. I can smell the THC in your sweat.”
“You really need to shut up.”
The dog sighed. “And you need to accept me for who I am, not who you want me to be. We’re girlfriends, and girlfriends tell each other everything. Did you know I was house-trained long before I stopped peeing inside?”
“Are you serious? You kept going under my bed. Some nights when I can’t sleep I swear I can still smell it.”
“No, that’s from Charlie when he sleep walks.”
“Charlie pees under my bed?”
“He makes your BFF Monica look like a genius, but in his defense, he is asleep when he does it.”
“That is so gross.” She crossed her legs meditation style. “Was my dress really made by little sick kids?”
“I think only one of them was sick.”
“Ugh.” Holly went to her closet, changed into jeans and a t-shirt, then got back on the bed and started petting Nosy.
“Behind the ears, please.”
Holly started scratching her behind the ears, then stopped and stretched out her jean clad leg in front of Nosy’s nose. “Any child labor on these?”
Nosy gave Holly’s leg a slight sniff. “Pakistani spit. They really hate you.”
“Gross. They don’t even know me.”
“Does it matter?”
“Adult spit or child.”
“Both. A family affair.”
“You can tell all that?”
“Welcome to my world.”
It was Holly’s turn to sigh. “What clothes do I have that aren’t going to gross me out to wear?”
“The clown costume you wore for Halloween was child labor and hate free.”
Holly had to think for a moment. “That was seventh grade. Anything a little more current?”
“Well, you are a bargain shopper. There is that sweater your aunt Mabel knitted you. It still smells like graham crackers. You like graham crackers, don’t you? I sure do. So does Charlie, and Charlie shares. You could learn from him. Now tell me about the Brian. Does he like graham crackers too?”
That night when they all sat down to dinner as a family, Holly was wearing her aunt’s sweater. Seeing this, her mom smiled.
“My sister is going to be so glad when I tell her you were wearing the sweater she made you.”
Holly smiled back. Maybe her aunt could knit her a dress, something retro 70s in greens and oranges, she thought as she palmed a piece of chicken from her plate and slipped it under the table to Nosy.
The dog gobbled it down with a little grunt, then said, “More. Give me more.”
Still smiling, Holly’s mom said, “I didn’t catch that. Did you say something, dear?”
“This is really good chicken, Mom.”
From under the table, Holly heard a grunt of agreement as a wet nose nudged her for more.