A Dog with Three Legs
A young man who looked to be in his early twenties and a woman who was slightly younger left the hearing room together. She pushed the honey-colored door in front of her and held it with one hand until she felt him pressing behind her. She turned left, walked a few feet and took a seat on the first wooden bench. The man sat beside her.
The woman rested her elbow on the armrest, extended it from her shoulder like a flying buttress. She crossed her legs politely at the knees which caused the fabric of her light blue dress to bunch in her lap just below the bottom of her sweater. Quickly, gently, the young man reached over and stretched the fabric out until it was smooth, allowing the hem to fall over her knees. His suit was a touch too big, but he pulled his sleeve back to hold her hand properly. Opposite them on the other side of the hallway, a large single-paned window extended almost from the floor to the ceiling falling just short on either end.
They gazed absently out of it as they spoke.
“We did everything we could,” he said.
“Now we just have to wait.” He massaged her hand.
“It’s the waiting,” she said. “That’s the hard part.”
“It always is.”
“Is it always?”
“When you really want something to happen it is.”
“I’m not even sure what I want to happen.”
“Well, what’s the right thing?”
“I’m trying to tell you I don’t know the answer to that.”
She got up from the bench and crossed the tiled floor. Below the window, it was mid-morning, after the crowds of commuters but before the bubbling of lunchtimers would emerge. A woman in a track jacket and tights ran purposefully in the park across the street. She passed by an older man on a bench with a large black retriever seated on the ground next to him and his gaze panned with her. The dog panned in concert.
“They’re all just going on with everything.”
“Honey, they have no idea what happened.”
“No, I guess not.”
She came back to the bench and sat close to the young man. She wrapped her arms around his and leaned her head on his shoulder. The suit was slightly scratchy against her face. She let her eyes close.
“You have been so good through all of this.”
“Just know you are not alone.”
“Well, unfortunately I am alone.”
“I’m right here.”
“You were not there that day.” Her lips pressed together. “It’s not your fault, but you weren’t there.”
She felt the stinging that preceded the tears that still emerged even now, two years later.
“I am here now.”
“And now I am like a dog with three legs.”
“Don’t say that.”
“Actually, I am not like the dog. Because the dog is not still waiting for its leg to come back.”
Just then, a white-haired man emerged from the hearing room and walked down the hall toward them, squatting down in front of her. She sat up straight.
“They haven’t decided. They asked a few questions, but no hint to what they are thinking yet,” he said.
She was silent.
“Thanks. Please keep us posted,” said the young man. The older man went back into the hearing room.
For a few minutes, they said nothing.
“When are your parents visiting?” she asked.
“They haven’t booked their tickets yet. Probably over the summer, though.” He squeezed her hand. “They’re looking forward to meeting you.”
She stood up and returned to the window. The man with the dog was still on the bench across the street. A woman was seated on the other end with a stroller she rocked gently back and forth.
“What did you tell them?”
“Nothing really,” he watched her from the bench. She shifted her weight between her feet.
“I didn’t fight back.” A tear rolled onto her cheek, hot at first and then cool.
“You were a young girl alone.”
“Now I would fight. And you wouldn’t have to tell your parents anything.”
“You’re stronger now.”
“Now I’m a dog with three legs.”
“I want you to stop saying that.”
“And they,” she tilted her head toward a slightly larger group of people, two young men in a group, gathered around an identical bench at the other end of the hallway, “get to go on with their lives like nothing fucking happened.”
“We will see about that soon.”
“Did I tell you one of them is engaged?”
Again, the tears welled, but she remained stoic, as if they belonged to some other young woman.
“I wonder what he told her. Does she think I just made it up? She needs to know.”
She turned toward the group at the other end of the hall.
“Honey, come sit.” The young man patted the bench beside him.
She took a deliberate step towards the other end of the hall. He stood quickly catching her hand.
“Charles, let go of me.”
He held fast.
She yanked her hand away and continued her march, briskly now, her body aimed resolutely at the group at the other end, all of them watching her progress.
“Sarah!” Her young man stood, helplessly suspended in the middle of the hallway. Only his eyes followed her as she continued forward.
About halfway between the benches, just past the door to the hearing room, there was a bronze-colored water fountain built flush into the wall. She stopped and leaned in. Her hand braced against the wall and the top of her head vanished from view for at least a minute. She emerged renewed.
She turned to continue her procession, but stopped short when she heard the door open behind her. The white-haired man leaned out.
“Sarah, they’re back in.”
Darius Goore is an aspiring novelist. He lives in New Jersey with his son.
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