When he touches me, my hair stands on end
How then can he be just a mere friend?
Hector says I have strange powers. I can understand why he says that. At times, he has caught me staring into the distance, looking at something he cannot see; or seen me react to a faint sound somewhere, a sound that he cannot hear. There is no doubt that I have better senses than he has. That is perhaps why I have been able to take care of him thus far.
At times, when he is walking on those long country paths, immersed in thoughts of his characters and his stories (for he is a writer), I accompany him. I give him his space. Though I walk with him, I never intrude upon his thoughts. When he thinks, I do not disturb. I occupy myself looking at those lovely woodsy sights that we pass along. I love being out in these misty woods anyway; I do all I can to smell each flower, hear each chirp and see each tree.
Sometimes he walks much ahead and then turns back to look for me. With mild irritation, he says, “Julie, you have to be quicker. Buck up!” And then I leave whichever bush I am admiring at the moment and run along to catch up with him, the smell of the earth still fresh upon me.
When he left home three years ago to come down and settle in these woods, it was only me that he took along. He said, “Julie, we are going to make a home together, out there in the woods. Would you like to be with me—only you and me?”
I was touched. I had never cried before that—I didn’t even know what crying meant—but those words brought some moistness to my eyes. I didn’t have words to express my feelings for him; I just tried to kiss him clumsily with my mouth, the way he liked. And he played with my soft hair the way I liked it.
The house wasn’t big, but it was enough for the two of us. While he typed out page after page of his stories, I kept myself entertained, never treading in his path. I made sure the house was exactly the way he liked it. He loved things to be in a particular way, and I made sure that even a pen wasn’t moved from its place in his absence. It was a happy home, for the two of us. We didn’t have much to eat or drink, but we kept ourselves happy.
Then his book was published, and people came to know him. It was wonderful that first night! We had a party, a house full of people, for the first time. Everyone wanted to meet him, talk to him. He introduced me to a few people, and I smiled politely at them. But not all his guests were good people. Some of them looked at me with odd looks, as if wanting to say, “What is he doing with that bitch?” I understood their feelings even if they didn’t say it out loud. And it was understandable. He was a remarkably handsome man after all, now even famous, and I had him all to myself.
But then, the happy bubble slowly began to burst. It was a very cold night when he brought the woman home. Yes, I will only refer to her as ‘the woman’ though I know her name. She was the real bitch, if you ask me. With those long eyelashes and pretty dolled up face and short skirts, she seduced my Hector. The first time she saw me, she looked down at me and, putting a very fake smile on her face, said, “Good to see you, Julie!” As though she meant that. I didn’t even answer her. Her perfume suffocated me. I looked away as a mark of protest.
Not that it made any difference to her. She began visiting us more and more, and she changed my poor Hector. She sat down to dinners with us, but I stubbornly refused to leave Hector’s side. Why should I give up my place to her? He didn’t tell me anything either, nor did she. They kept on their lovey-dovey talks right in my presence, in low whispers. They thought I couldn’t hear. But Hector seemed to have forgotten about my strange powers.
Then one night, he took her into his room, to his bed. That bed was mine! I had always slept on that bed with him. How dare he do that to me? He shut the door, and told me, “Julie, you don’t mind, do you? Why don’t you sleep on the couch tonight?” And he shut the door. I kept looking at him, thunderstruck.
I should have done something, maybe run away and never come back. I could not stand being treated like dirt in this manner. But I hung on. I knew Hector was misguided. I knew this would pass. He couldn’t abandon me just like that.
And I wasn’t wrong.
A few weeks later, the woman stopped coming. I don’t know what had happened between them. I tried asking him several times about her, but I could not express myself properly. That has always been a big issue with me—I can never say the things I want to say. I expect people to understand me.
But Hector did not. He only started wasting away. He didn’t write anymore. He only sat by the window and reeked of smoke and alcohol. But I sat by him, silently, soaking in his misery. Assuring him that I would always be by his side, come what may.
Weeks passed, and slowly he came out of his shell. I was very happy when he took out his typewriter again. I followed him in delight till he told me to leave him alone. That night, he wrote furiously till a very late hour, and when he could not sit anymore, he came and slept on the bed beside me. It was just like the good old times once again.
His second book was also a big hit. He was a changed man, rugged and more handsome in my eyes now. His guests began accepting me too. They seemed to say, “Yes, she is the one who gives him strength. She is his muse.” And then they laughed. I did not understand the laughter, but it was a compliment nonetheless. I grinned from ear to ear all through that night.
Tonight, I am on the bed, and he is sleeping beside me. I see his beautiful sleeping form and I snuggle close to him. He places his arm over me, still asleep. My eyes are drooping too.
Then I hear it—
A slow scraping sound at first, which begins to grow louder.
It is coming from the hall outside. Hector is still sleeping. He’s tired, I won’t disturb him. I get out slowly from the bed, without troubling him, and move toward the source of the sound.
I see it now—a window is open. There is someone inside. I can feel him. He has a strong smell of beer upon him. I can smell the bad beer.
I go back into the room where Hector’s sleeping. This is where the smell is the strongest. It takes a while to attune my vision to this darkness. And then I see him— the intruder. He has tiptoed into Hector’s room, and now he stands over his sleeping form. He raises his hand. He has something in it. A dagger. Its blade glints menacingly in the moonlight.
There is no time—
He is just about to strike.
And I lunge at him.
There’s nothing else I could have done. He was too far from me, and I was unarmed. He hadn’t seen me, and I took the benefit of it.
But it is too late.
Hector is up, writhing in pain. The man has stabbed him, right across his chest. I can see the gaping wound. Hector is passing out, collapsing.
The man has dropped his weapon in the scuffle. I try to take the weapon and finish him once and for all, but I cannot. I am blinded with rage. He has hurt my dear Hector. I am not going to leave him. But I let the dagger be on the floor. I don’t want any dagger for this wimp; my brute strength and my anger is enough.
I pin him to the ground; surprisingly, I am too strong for him. I never knew I had this strength myself. The rage is so strong within me that I can think of nothing but revenge. Using just my arms and my teeth, I rip the man apart to shreds. I keep up till he is gone. Just a mangled mess on the floor.
Then I go up on the bed to my poor Hector. He is still breathing.
I can still save him.
I hop off the bed, and plan to leap out of the window to alert someone’s attention.
And as I am about to leave the room, Hector calls out to me, and says with halting words:
“Julie… my dear Julie… you are the best dog a man could ever have.”
That’s all the gratitude a four-legged friend like me wants. I will save his life, I will.
The Death of Parker Greene also appears in Neil D’Silva’s short story collection Bound in Love.