The rain beats down on the paved sidewalk and the trees tilt in the wind. Rey hunches deeper into her raincoat, reminding herself of a turtle. The only part of her body exposed is her right hand attached to a leash, Beebee tugging lightly with each step, just as eager to escape the rain as Rey.
Of course it rains today.
First, another client tells her that they can't afford to hire a dog walker. Then some asshole runner nearly runs her over with his giant figure. Halfway through telling him off (and him amusedly chuckling at her), he bolted off in a hurry again.
And now her and Beebee, her beloved corgi, have to cut their favorite part of the day short and leave the dog park in a hurry to avoid being drenched.
Rey lengthens her steps, allowing the small corgi to pull her along and guide the way through the park, back to their shared loft, a safe haven from the inclement weather. Only rarely does she peek up to see the way and each time feels the spray of the rain on her neck. The water is so thick in front of her she can only see a few yards ahead at a time.
Beebee stops, peeking up and sniffing into the air, ears on alert. Rey squints her eyes, scanning the distance to see whatever had made Beebee halt. The silhouette of a shaggy dog grows closer through the sheets of rain, but there is no owner attached.
The corgi begins pulling Rey towards the other canine, tail wagging furiously. The other dog is much bigger than any Rey had ever seen before with a large puffy mane of deep brown that the rain couldn't seem to fully soak. She recognizes it as a Tibetan Mastiff.
The sight of the lone dog slowly walking through the park in search of its master is enough to make Rey forget how cold she feels.
"Here, boy or girl," Rey calls in her most soothing voice. It has the desired effect because the dog wags its tail and prances up to Rey and Beebee.
Rey unzips her walking fanny pack which she stocks with doggy bags, treats and thankfully an extra leash. She removes a treat for each pup and the leash.
"Sit!" Both Beebee and the mysterious dog obey quickly, eager to receive the treat and altogether forgetting the downpour. Rey clips the extra leash on the dog and rewards it with a biscuit, nodding approvingly at his good behavior. Beebee barks in protest not wanting to be left out, making Rey chuckle. "Here's yours, Beebee. Now let's get out of here."
Both dogs happily lead the way back to Rey's loft which is located near the park. The loft doesn't have a yard of its own, but luckily the park has a dog section for Beebee. It's expensive for Rey but she works hard constantly to make enough so her and Beebee have enough space in such a dense city, something highly important to her. Unfortunately, the rent keeps going up and every month is a struggle to have enough. This month is no different as Rey overschedules herself to help make ends meet.
Inside the coverage and warmth of the building's lobby, the dogs shake off excess moisture and Rey kicks her rain boots on the welcome mat. The lobby's doorman greets Rey per usual and she cheerily tells him about the weather being a hassle.
The mysterious dog is hesitant at first to get in the elevator but then follows happily with the offer of another treat. He looks so big in such a small elevator that it makes Rey smile.
Inside the loft, Rey sheds her raincoat, boots, and wet jeans before making her way to the dirty laundry basket for some towels to dry Beebee and his new friend.
"Now that it's not raining, let's see about that tag shall we?" Rey has always used a comforting, singsong voice when talking to pets and as per usual, this dog likes it too, allowing her to easily check his dog tag. "Chewie, huh? Well, Chewie, it's nice to meet you. Let me grab my phone and we'll call your owner."
She checks her pockets and a few surfaces around the room before realizing her phone must be in her jacket. She unlocks it and opens the calling app then dials in the number on Chewie's collar.
"You have reached WellPet Humane Animal Clinic. If this is an emergency please press one and we will put you through to our ER services. Otherwise, please call during business hours to speak with one of our representatives. Thank you and-" Rey hangs up, biting her lip.
"Well, I guess you are stuck with me and Beebee. We'll just have to call in the morning." Chewie lets out a small whine and lowers his head to the floor. "I know, Chewie, but we can make it fun! We'll watch 101 Dalmatians, have some treats, cuddle. This is a dog friendly zone."
Rey walks to the small kitchen in the corner of her loft and grabs a wine glass from the shelf containing the few dishes she possesses. The Cabernet Sauvignon is already by the sink, open from last night's movie night with Beebee, where Rey makes a meal for one and drinks cheap wine a la Bridget Jones.
Tonight is not much different and Rey makes a cheese platter before cuddling up on the sofa with both dogs, food and drink in hand. They all fall asleep to Glenn Close and barking.
Rey wakes up to the sound of Chewie snoring right next to her ear. It sounds much like a lawnmower, so she turns over to her other side, careful not to disturb either dog, in hopes that it would help but it does nothing to quiet the sound. She lays there for a little bit trying to will away the noise when she starts cramping badly. Maybe she was in her sleep and couldn't feel it then. She groans, throwing her arm across her forehead before getting up slowly to keep the dogs from waking.
As soon as she's fully on her feet, she feels the weight of her drinking and has to groggily stumble through her loft towards the bathroom. It's the only other room in the place, a cramped space with a tiny shower, but it gets the job done. It's so small that she has to get on her knees to reach the tampons in the cabinet under her sink. Rey sticks her head in the cabinet, scanning her eyes and feeling her hand around for the box. Her hand bumps into the nearly empty box and she feels triumphant, her drunken state heightening the sense of accomplishment.
It doesn't last long because when Rey tries to back out of the cabinet, she bumps the back of her head. Hard. She already felt dizzy, but the impact amplifies her state, driving her to lower her head to the cool tile. It hurts for a long time, but eventually Rey gets used to it. It takes a while for her to work up the strength to get to bed, and when she does, sleep doesn't come. Instead, she lays there, her head throbbing. When the sun comes up and light pours into her loft, she decides it's time to give up on sleep.
With a groan she gets up and turns on her kettle for tea. Even though there is a dog that needs to get home, it's still early in the morning and not yet business hours. On top of that, nothing will get in the way of Rey's morning routine. Two eggs, half a grapefruit, one piece of rye bread toasted, and a pot of English breakfast tea. While the bread toasts, Rey makes a bowl of food for Chewie and Beebee. She accidentally puts canned peas inside their bowls instead of dog food, but realizes that last second and fixes it with a shake of her head and a giggle. Even though she's hungover, she's determined to not let a headache ruin her day.
Rey usually reads the news on her phone during breakfast but she also typically loses said phone. This time she finds it lying beside the couch, nearly dead. Her ten foot long cable is already at the kitchen counter, and Rey pulls up a stool to eat. When she looks at her phone, the words twist and her headache feels worse, so she decides to just let it charge.
Rey usually doesn't like to take medicine if she can avoid it but this time she thinks it necessary to take some aspirin.
After breakfast and a quick shower, which helps her headache considerably, Rey suits up with her favorite overall dress and her trusty fanny pack. The last thing to do is leash the dogs.
"Sit. Good boys." Rey kneels down to clip both of them and then locks the door on the way out. She had decided it was best to just bring Chewie to the clinic instead of awkwardly describing him over the phone. This meant walking to the clinic because neither subways nor buses allowed dogs, which doesn't bother Rey in the slightest; even though she wouldn't consider herself a woman of patience, she loves walking.
What's more is that she dog walks for a living, having started her own small company where she is the sole employee, besides Beebee. The company, BB8, takes up all of Rey's time but she's so happy to spend time with dogs that it doesn't feel like work. Her and Beebee just walk the city with a pack of friends, Rey sporting a shirt with the BB8 logo that morphs the name into a paw.
It takes almost an hour to get to the clinic but the trip itself is fun because Chewie is so well behaved and gets along well with Beebee. Rey listens to music through her headphones and chews gum along the way, sometimes snapping pictures of things she finds beautiful.
The clinic itself is bustling with people and their pets. It smells of urine and there is constant barking, hissing, and apologizing going on in the waiting room. The TVs playing informational videos about heartworms and vaccines does nothing to help the chaotic atmosphere.
Rey spots an employee who is talking on the phone, eyes trained on the monitor in front of her. A man toting a cat carrier with a meowing cat pushes the front door open, nearly hitting Beebee and Rey hurries to move toward the help desk.
Rey waits until the employee hangs up and says "Hey, how can I help you?" She looks frustrated but like she's trying to cover it up, an effort Rey deeply appreciates.
"Yeah, hi. I found this dog at the park on tenth and his collar had the phone number for this clinic."
The woman peers over the counter and breaks out in a smile, one that seems much needed. "Yeah, that's Chewie. Mr. Solo's dog."
"Ma'am my cat needs attention now," the gentleman with the cat from before shouts over Rey's shoulder. The phone rings again, adding more to Rey's already painful headache.
The woman smiles apologetically and says, "Sir, I'll be with you in a minute." She focuses on the screen and types furiously with one hand while answering the phone, "WellPet Humane, please hold." She sets the phone down and grabs a pen and paper, scribbling something down with her eyes trained on the monitor. "Okay, this is Mr. Solo's contact info."
"Wait, can't you just take Chewie?"
"Sorry, but as you can see we have our hands full here. Besides, Mr. Solo is a very-" she giggles. "Nice man. Have a nice day."
Just like that Rey feels dismissed and somewhat begrudged that her day off will be spent searching for a Mr. Solo. She takes the paper and politely says goodbye and thank you before exiting.
"Now what?" She sighs and reaches for her phone out of her coat, dialing the number given to her by the vet employee. It rings three times before the line connects.
"Hello?" The voice is deep and velvety.
"Um hi… is this, uh, Mr. Solo?" Rey sounds ridiculous to her own ears, as if she was back in school talking to a teacher.
"This is he." There's a sense of melancholy in the man's tone, and Rey gets a sense that's she's heard this voice before.
"I found your dog in the park yesterday?" It comes out as a question even though it's the truth. Something about the voice on the other side of the line intimidates Rey.
The stranger lets out a sigh of relief. "Ah yes, thank you. Thank you so much."
"Yeah, sure, no problem."
It's silent for a few moments.
"So. How can I get him?"
"Right, well um. How about the park on tenth?"
It takes a moment for him to respond but he clears his throat and says, "Okay, that works for me. I'll head over there now."
"I'll be there as soon as I can. Should take me about an hour to walk over."
"Do you need a ride?"
"I have a car, I can give you a ride."
"Mm no thanks, I'll just meet you there and enjoy my last hour with Chewie. Meanwhile, you should contemplate the meaning of being a good pet owner," Rey snaps.
He laughs, and even though it comes through the phone, it's warm. "Alright then, princess. I'll see you at the park entrance in an hour."
"See you soon." The line drops and Rey growls into her phone and then shoves it into her pocket.
"Let's go, boys."
Rey really does want to make the most of her time with Chewie and her day off so she chooses a route that Beebee favors most. It'll take longer than an hour, but she doesn't care, might as well let that man wait. Serves him right for losing Chewie.
Along the way rests a shop with organically and naturally preserved dog treats. There she buys Beebee his favorite pig ear and grabs Chewie a rabbit and duck's foot, which he gobbles up before Beebee can finish his treat and Rey can finish paying. She leaves a business card at the counter for the umpteenth time, hopeful that someone picks it up and gives her call. She could really use more business.
Later on the walk, Rey passes a dog friendly bar that is half indoors and half out, and just as she's about to cross the street, decides to double back and enter. The patio is surrounded with a small metal fence to designate the drinking area and Rey takes a seat at one of the bar stools. She figures she'll need a little liquid courage to deal with Chewie's owner who failed as a dog walker and called her princess.
It's early and the bar is nearly empty so Rey easily flags down the bartender, a woman in her forties with hair dyed black and pulled into a bun on top of her head. She flashed a bright smile at Rey but it doesn't touch her eyes, which are bloodshot and tired.
"Hey, what can I get you?"
"Something for my hangover. A Bloody Mary please? But can you make it extra spicy?"
"You got it."
Rey ends up ordering two and tacking on an extra thirty minutes to her walk to the park. When she and the dogs finally get back on course, Rey feels tipsy, light and giddy.
The sun is out and the skies are blue for the first time in a week, and nothing can ruin Rey's day. She stops at the fruit popsicle stand at the front entrance of the park, ordering a blueberry lemonade popsicle. It's a bit on the expensive side for Rey, but she figures she deserves a treat just like Beebee and Chewie. It takes a moment to get cash out of her fanny pack with only one hand (the other holds the leashes and popsicle), and even though at first she tries to hand the guy a doggy bag, she manages to pay with a friendly smile and moves along, happily unwrapping the popsicle. As soon as she starts moving, Chewie bolts with all his might and speed, causing Rey to drop her popsicle and lose control of his leash. Her perfect moment is lost.
"Chewie!" Her and Beebee chase after the beast of a dog. Chewie weaves through a few people who all shy away from his hulking figure, then hops in the lap of a man sitting on a nearby bench.
The man is the definition of handsome, with neatly cropped black hair and a bright smile, a smatter of beauty marks splayed across his pale face. He wears a fine tailored suit, navy blue with the coat buttons undone. His ray ban sunglasses complement the outfit perfectly and rest low on the bridge of his long nose, the vision of relaxed wealth.
Rey had brewed for over an hour about what she would say to the stranger on the other side of the line who let his dog run wild through the city, but the alcohol makes her head spin and she can't deny the stranger's looks are having an effect on her.
Chewie nips and licks at the man's face, tail wagging wildly. With a low chuckle he says, "Alright Chewie, I missed you too." He easily readjusts Chewie into a more comfortable position and it impresses Rey because she learned quickly how difficult it is to move that dog.
"Um, hi." Rey can't deny she's minorly confused. It's altogether unexpected that Chewie is so fond of his owner because in Rey's experience, owners tend to lose their dogs because the dog is actively trying to get away, usually to abuse or neglect. Instead Chewie has his head rested on his owner's lap, happily wagging his tail.
"Thank you for returning him to me." He stands, shifting Chewie to the side and setting him gently on the bench. The dog protests lightly but then hops off the bench and moves to nudge Rey in the leg. "I'm Ben," he offers his hand, smirking down at Rey from his towering position.
"Rey." She doesn't accept his hand.
"Well, Rey, you sure know how to keep a guy waiting," he says looking at his watch. It looks expensive to Rey's eyes and she scoffs. Her smirks down at her. "So you remember who I am?"
Rey blinks up at him, more and more confused. He chuckles and that triggers her memory. The man from earlier. The jerk who ran into her.
Seriously, how could this day get any worse?