At the time, we had no way of knowing that a cold would turn our family of two to a family of three.
I knew how you were feeling just by looking at you. You looked like shit. But I asked anyway.
“How’re you feelin’, Edgar?”
“Like shit,” you confirmed.
“Would you like me to go to the apothecary and get you something?”
I snuggled up next to you on the dark red sofa that matched your blood-shot eyes and the flush in your cheeks.
Your nasally voice was pathetic. I kissed your face all over as if kisses really did have magical properties.
“You’re the best,” you said.
“No, you. Love you.”
It was either a short ride or a long walk to the apothecary. I opted for the ride to lessen the length of your suffering, although the sun was setting and the oncoming evening was cool with a nice breeze.
The carriage swayed beneath me and the lazy pace of our horse Betsy’s hooves set a melodic tune.
I purchased a cold remedy, cutting short the usual chitchat with the clerk because, as I relayed, “Edgar’s at home and he looks like shit.”
The ride home was peaceful and uneventful, as most rides home tend to be, until I reached the gate. A small creature darted across the path, causing Betsy to rear up and nearly trampled the thing. My heart sped up as I dismounted and ran to the bushes to search for it, not really expecting to find it.
An elderly couple appeared. So intent was I on locating the creature that they might as well have manifested from the twilight itself.
"Good evening, Mr. And Mrs. Benson," I said, not giving up the hunt.
“Hello, Shana,” Mrs. Benson said. “We saw it too, the poor thing. It shouldn’t be so near the road! Did you find it, dearie?”
“No… wait! There!”
I saw it, curled up in a ball, a flash of silver and grey. I thrust my hand into the bush, expecting it to run, but it froze in my grip. I held it up triumphantly, a hatchling no more than a day old and shouldn’t have been away from it’s mother.
“Aw, bless it’s heart, the wee darling,” Mrs. Benson said.
“Are you going to keep it?” Mr. Benson asked, putting an arm around his wife.
“Do you want it?” I offered it to them, secretly hoping they would say no. I thought maybe that's why they were hovering. Plus when Edgar pitches a fit I can say I tried to give it away.
“No, no. We’re much too old to be raising dragons,” he said.
"Great!" I said, a little too quickly. I brought it to my chest, still surprised it had not tried to escape. Its breath was shallow and rapid as it trembled. “You’re okay,” I cooed. “You’re mine now. I’ll take good care of you.”
I parked the carriage, put Betsy in her stable, and approached the front door, the hatchling curled up in hiding beneath my hair at the base of my neck.
I opened the front door and you had not moved from your spot.
“What took you so long?” you asked, sniffling.
“I’m sorry. I got your medicine. And this!” I said, overly cheerful. I pulled the hatchling free from my hair and it clawed feebly at the air, unhappy at being exposed.
“What the hell, Shana?"
That was pretty much the response I had expected. Actually, I expected worse, since I had been asking for one for a while and you were always quick to say no.
I hesitated, trying to gauge your thoughts, and then stated my case in one breath. “It ran across the road! Look how little it is! It would die out there on it’s own. I saved it’s life. Can we keep it? Please?”
“All I wanted medicine.This is what I get for not going myself.” You heaved a great miserable sigh that was part exasperation and part inability to breath. You grumbled something more, but it was inaudible.
I gave you my most charming smile.
“Don't be such a sour pickle. Pleeeaase?”
“Well, I guess so…”
Your tone suggested defeat rather than acceptance. I pretended not to notice.
“Oh thank you thank you thank you!”
I thrust the creature into your hands. “Now hold it so I can go get it supplies. A food bowl, a water bowl, a bed, some toys." I started rattling off a list as I ran out the door. When I closed it behind me, I saw you sitting there sick, bewildered, and looking just as lost as the little hatchling. I almost felt bad. Like I was taking advantage of your weakened state. Almost. “Love you!” I shouted over my shoulder.
I returned to the store, collected some supplies and food, and rushed home, afraid you were going to change your mind. All of our previous conversations came flooding back. “Our place is too small for a dragon. Dragons are expensive. Our house isn’t fire-proofed. We don’t have dragon insurance.”
But when I opened the door it was curled up on your chest and you were gently protecting it with your hands while looking down in admiration.
“What are we going to call it?” you asked.
“How about Pickle?”
I was only half-serious.
Pickle lifted it’s head and blinked at me. It sneezed, a little puff of smoke rising from its nostrils, and then laid its head upon your chest, falling asleep.
“You’re right about the fire-proofing, though,” I agreed. “First thing tomorrow.”