“Would you like to go to the park tomorrow?” Lila asked, catching me quickly.
I walked back over, smiling at her. “Absolutely! Can I bring my dog with me?”
Her lips dropped open. “You have a dog?”
“He’s a French Bulldog pug cross,” I explained.
“Sure, I guess,” Lila said, without much enthusiasm.
I waited with them until a very familiar silver car pulled up in the spot next to us in the lot.
“Night, Daddy,” Billy said with a baby wave.
I took this to mean good-bye. I waved back and got into my car. I gave a moment’s thought to subtly following them so I could see where Lila and Billy lived. It took about two seconds to dismiss the idea. It was far too stalkerish. I was never that guy, and I had no intention of starting. Things were going well, and I didn’t want to ruin it.
Lucky was there to greet me as per his custom, and I picked him up and hugged him. My pup accepted this happily. His curly tail wagging so hard it looked to be at risk of falling off.
“We’re going for a big walk tomorrow, buddy.”
Lucky started yapping excitedly. The word “walk” the only part of the sentence he seemed to pick up on. I couldn’t leave him in that state and got his leash for a reasonably long walk to give him a workout, not wanting to tease the poor little guy. I ran him until we were both tired and we went home for an early night.
Morning really couldn’t come soon enough. Having learned from the previous day, I had my outfit picked out the night before and showered before going to bed. Preparation made things smooth and easy. Or at least it would have been had Lucky not decided to play a rousing game of chase when I tried to put his leash on. After nearly half an hour of trying, and failing, to catch him, I was struck by inspiration. Taking a dive that would make an Italian soccer coach proud, I writhed around on the floor, feigning grievous injury. Loyal pup that he was, Lucky came running out of his hiding place to see if I was okay and lick my pain away if needed.
Dog secured and everything else ready, I went gingerly down to my car and drove as fast as the speed limit would allow to the park, Lucky and I both singing along with The Germs as we went.
Despite the slight setback, I still managed to not be late. I wasn’t particularly early but close enough to show a semblance of responsibility, something of paramount importance when it came to proving myself to Lila. I didn’t know if she was ever going to take me back. She was still pretty cold, but there were hints that she still loved me despite herself.
“Oh, he’s adorable!” Lila gushed, seeing Lucky as we walked up to her a Billy on the playground.
“So, we’re told,” I said, playing it cool.
“What’s his name?”
“Like Austin Powers?”
“Like Joe R. Lansdale. He invented a type of fiction called Lucky Story-telling. It’s a sort of hybrid thing in which desperate genres are brought together into a seamless whole. I like to think of it as taking different yarns of a tale and knitting them together into a sweater.”
“That actually makes a lot of sense,” Lila said, thinking about it for a while.
“Puppy!” Billy said, with great enthusiasm.
“Yes, honey, see the nice puppy?”
Billy reached out and patted Lucky’s furry little head, the pup seemed to take the whole situation pretty well.
“Shall we?” I asked, holding my arm out for Lila to take.
We walked down further into the park. Finding a bench near the duck pond, Lila put down Billy and I took Lucky off his leash. We watched as they sized each other up and slowly started to play. Billy laughed gleefully as they played chase, the baby keeping up a good pace with the puppy despite mostly only being able to crawl.
Things remained civil and even cozy between my ex and me. She hadn’t glared at me once, and I hadn’t given her any reason to either. On top of which, our son and my dog were getting along famously. Everything seemed perfect.
The park was the second in a string of family dates over the next couple of weeks, including Lucky where possible. I really started bonding with Billy, who was calling me daddy without the “goodnight” first. I also felt like I was getting closer to Lila. She seemed a lot happier than she had when we first found each other again. It was difficult, but I held myself in check, trying my best to keep things friendly, without crossing the line and expressing my true, much more sexual feelings when I was around her.
Before our next get-together, I stared at myself in the full-length mirror as though searching for the secrets of the human soul. I dressed mostly for the hot weather, making sure there was nothing scry of vulgar on any of my clothes, as Lucky ran circles around my ankles, barking his happiness. It was almost as though he knew where we were going. He had hit it off with Billy, and they were becoming best friends. I just had to say Billy’s name, and Lucky would start looking for him, apparently under the impression that he was hiding somewhere in the apartment.