The face of a black french bulldog

Twin Tails – a dog, his dad, and them

 “Hello, you sexy beast!” I’m terrible at flirting but Prince Barnabus Alexander Maximus Junior always responds with such eagerness, I can’t help it. “You’ll never be a good guard dog though if you keep coming to kiss whoever shows up at the door!” He has extremely low standards and will literally lick anyone and anything that even remotely gives him attention. 

“Fancy a rooftop stroll?” BamBam squeals with excitement seeing the leather strap. His whole body wiggles with his nails clicking on the hardwood floor, trying desperately to be patient while I clip it onto his collar. 

“C’mon silly, let’s go check out that view” teasing him, we head to the private elevator for residents’ use only that opens directly into the apartment. The leash is pointless since we’re only going up one flight, but the building’s rule is all dogs must be on leashes in the elevators. A minute later we’re on the roof and BamBam can’t contain himself.

“OK OK hold on” I plead, unclipping the leash as he sets off zooming back and forth and around me on the fake grass, rushing towards me then pivoting at the last minute in another direction, smiling all the way. The architects of this building planned this space so city dogs could still run freely and play in a safe environment. High glass barriers shield the dog park from the gale-force winds at this height affording us spectacular views of the city. Sometimes we meet other dogs since the roof is available to the entire building, but today we have the whole place to ourselves.

Watching a happy dog fills me with joy, and dogs like BamBam make my job satisfying and rewarding. I especially love ending my Tuesdays and Fridays with him so I let him play longer than I need to. Checking the time though, I call him back, because playing isn’t the real reason why I’m here. He resists half-heartedly, as part of our game, but eagerly lets me clip him back on the leash ready for his pamper session. 

“Who’s such a good boy?” rubbing his ears, he smiles up at me, his grey-blue eyes melting my heart even more, and we both know that he’s the good boy.

BamBam runs ahead of me and I hear his eager slurping. A penthouse wouldn’t be complete without a state-of-the-art, filtered, water fountain. It even lights up at night and has a moat to catch the splashes to protect the floors. I suspect it’s custom-made because, in all my years as a groomer, I’ve never seen one like it. The fountain is only a small piece of the unique art and furniture that adorn the apartment. You would think in such a modern building, the interiors would be stark and minimalistic, but here it’s warm, and inviting and despite the evident opulence, feels very much like a home. 

BamBam’s nails click along the hall and I know he’s going to the guest bathroom. He’s a creature of habit and knows how this works. I grab a stack of blue towels from the kitchen counter, freshly laundered and set out for me. I cringe to think of the first time I groomed BamBam.

James Duncan had called, interrogated me on my experience with French Bulldog puppies, and made sure I understood that Prince Barnabus Alexader Maximus Junior, aka BamBam, was very dear to him, and needed the best care. He specifically requested Tuesday and Friday late afternoons because he’s away from home until the evening on these days. My time with him also serves as companionship, and a much-needed toilet break as there’s no one else around to do it. We agreed on the terms, and the next day a key card with instructions to find the residents’ elevator was delivered to me.

The first day I was nervous to enter the apartment alone, and only realised that I didn’t ask James for towels as I was running the bath water. I found a linen cupboard and took what looked like the most used towels, although everything was stark white and pristine. I had left the used towels in the washing machine for him with a note, “Used these towels, it gets quite messy, sorry I should have mentioned.” The next time, a stack of well-used blue towels, was waiting on the kitchen counter with a note “Let’s use these instead of the white ones please”. Now we have a rhythm. I load the washer, and he dries them and then sets them out before I arrive. 

Joining BamBam, I spread a couple of towels directly around the bath anticipating the inevitable tsunami. While the tub fills, I tidy up his paws, clean his ears and brush his teeth. For a Frenchie, BamBam is extremely well-trained and is the goodest boy. I give him the “go on then” and he hops over the bath edge into the water splashing wildly.

Again, I just sit back and enjoy watching a happy dog. I could do all of this within 20 minutes but I have no one to rush home to so together we take our time.

“Stop eating the soap” I say laughing at him. Finally washed I pull the plug letting him play as the water recedes. I’ve learnt my lesson trying to take him out with water still in the tub. It ended with me face down and soaked through.

Drying him halfway in the bath then lifting him out swaddled in the towel to cradle him in my lap I let him chew the towel as I rub.“What’s your daddy like?” I only ask because he’s such a sweetheart of a dog and clearly well taken care of judging by his healthy blue coat and how friendly he is. I’ve been grooming BamBam for six months since he was 12 weeks old, and still never met James. I’ve avoided googling him, enjoying the versions of him I make up in my mind. But today, more than usual, I’m curious.

The apartment gives nothing away about who James could be. Trusted to come and go without him here, I don’t disrespect his space and snoop around. What I can see of his home entering from the elevator off the living room, then the kitchen I go through to get to the laundry, and just slightly down the hall to the guest bathroom, there’s nothing personal lying about to give me clues. I know he works from home because he’s said so, but I haven’t seen his office and don’t know what work he does. The apartment is always clean and smells vaguely of cologne and vanilla incense, but that tells me nothing.

Some days I imagine him burly, barrel-chested, bearded and covered in tattoos. On other days I guess him lean but muscular, blonde-haired and blue-eyed. I’ve pictured him dark-skinned, and dark-haired. His voice gave nothing away, typical northeastern accent, so he could be any race. 

I’m brought back to reality when I hear a man’s voice cheerfully calling “Prince Barnabus Alexander Maximus Junior where are you?” Caught off guard at James’ arrival I let go of BamBam so he can charge out to his dad. I mop the floor with the towels, leaving the bathroom in showroom condition. 

“This is awkward,” I whisper, wishing I hadn’t dawdled so long and didn’t have to face him now. It’s exciting to imagine what James is like, but now the prospect of meeting him makes me feel shy and uncomfortable. I secretly crushed over my fake Jameses and now he’s here, what if he’s not what I imagined him to be?

Recovering my composure, I decided to sneak out rather than alert him to my presence. I plan to throw the towels in the washer and get out as quickly as I can. Peaking my head into the hall, I hear James’ voice cooing at BamBam “Who’s a handsome boy?” and I can’t help smiling at the image of him sounding just like I do. In the kitchen without being detected, I freeze seeing a wine glass on the kitchen counter, frosted with condensation and lipstick. He’s not alone.

Rushing I swing the machine door too far, knocking it on the wall. BamBam comes charging at me, excited that I’m still here, and knocks me over from my crouched position. 

“Silly boy, go back to daddy” My whispers fall on deaf ears as he eagerly licks my hands. It’s too late.

“What are you doing?” he says behind me, and when I don’t turn or answer, “Were you wearing that earlier?” Confusion in his deep voice.

Standing to face him, we both draw breaths in surprise. He’s better than any of my imaginings – tall, muscular, bronze-skinned with dark blonde hair and piercing ice-blue eyes. 

He shakes off the moment, although confusion is still evident on his face, and then focuses on BamBam again, “Wow since when does he like you so much?” I’m grateful for BamBam’s presence so I can look away, gathering myself.

“He’s always loved me,” I assure him, but then my eyes lock on the elegant, sophisticated version of me in a pretty summer dress and sandals, dark curly hair loose around her shoulders, and make-up perfectly highlighting her sea green eyes. I blush, realising she must see a sloppy version of herself in old sneakers, torn jeans and a wet grey t-shirt, hair in what’s left of a messy bun.

We can only stare, taking each other in, James entirely forgotten until he says, “One of you mind telling me what’s going on here?”

This story was inspired by a super cool website I found. I particularly love the slot-machine-like-writing-prompt-randomiser despite the challenging combination I got on my first spin. I also discovered this site was created by a woman that has an incredible story of her own, and she’s using what she’s learned to help writers like myself hone our skill. My writing journey may have started as a kid, but it’s only just beginning to take off now, and I’m embracing every opportunity to learn. Tell me what you think of my story in the comments. 

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