by Brandi Homan

Jackie was the one holding Honey when she jumped from the Datsun. The dog was small for a spaniel, but Jackie had allowed Honey’s paws to hook over the sill of the side door window. She had taken the leash off when they got in Lori’s car, stuffing it into the cup holder—the only space not crammed with Lori’s junk.

Consciously ignoring the shiner on her friend’s right cheek, Jackie wrapped her arms around Honey and stared out at the sunshine. Lori hummed with the radio as she drove. After the morning they had had, the wind was reassuring through Jackie’s peroxided hair, and she tilted her face up to it, shutting her eyes. It had become a good day.

“Do you think you’re really done this time?” she asked, Honey rustling in her lap. Lori had left Bruce before.

“I took more than the car and my school stuff, right? I took Honey this time, didn’t I?” Lori lifted her chin with pride. Although Honey was Bruce’s dog, everyone knew Lori took care of her.

“True, true,” Jackie replied. “I’ve never seen a car with this many drawers before.” She glanced around and gave Lori a sideways grin. When they had packed Lori that morning, they hadn’t bothered to put clothes in boxes in case Bruce came home early—he was over in Wrangely, coaching a wrestling meet. Instead, they made a two-person bucket brigade in the gravel driveway, swinging still-full particleboard drawers to the backseat of Lori’s car. Being part of the rescue, the urgency, made Jackie feel important. She fiddled with the cheap ring on her index finger.

“Yeah, I’m pretty impressed with us, if you ask me,” Jackie continued. In response, Lori slipped a hand from the wheel and gave Honey’s neck a squeeze. Jackie saw the finger-sized bruises on Lori’s forearm—junior varsity had given Bruce a hell of a grip.

“Yeah, we did all right,” Lori sighed.

Jackie knew why Lori had chosen her. Lori needed a friend’s house, a friend whose husband would be home for the night, for the next few nights. A friend whose house had strong storm doors and porch lights with motion detectors. A friend who knew the drill, who had done this before. A good friend, Jackie thought, biting her lip and twisting a piece of bleached hair in her fingers. She forced herself to focus on the wind.

Just then, Honey sprung.

The Datsun couldn’t have been going more than 40 miles per hour, but the suddenness of Honey’s leap made instant chaos. Jackie shrieked for what felt like days, reaching in vain after her. Lori yanked the car to the shoulder, causing Jackie—now leaning out of the window at the waist—to sway.

Once stopped, Jackie beat Lori to Honey by a hair. For a split second, the dog lay still on its chest, wind knocked out, chin bleeding on the pavement. Jackie couldn’t breathe, afraid to touch her. Then Honey straggled to her feet, pulling her paws in—slowly, but in one piece. Jackie scooped the dog up and nestled her to her chest. The dog smelled like asphalt.

“Honey, Honey, Honey,” she muttered.

“Is she all right? What happened?” Lori yanked the dog away from Jackie, holding Honey up under the shoulders for inspection.

“She just jumped.”

“What do you mean she just jumped? From a moving car?” Lori’s blue-black eyes flashed, but she never looked away from Honey. “Are you all right? My baby? My girl.” Softening, she nuzzled her nose into Honey’s fur, clutching her as Jackie watched, trembling nearby.

“Stupid dog,” Lori mumbled. “That’s another bill I can’t afford, you and the vet.” Turning away from Jackie, she put Honey on the ground and kneeled beside her, letting the dog sit for a minute as all three assessed the damage. Remarkably soon, Honey stood up and went over to Lori, sniffing and panting up at her.

Without a word, Lori rose and walked toward the car, Honey trotting along behind. As Lori held open the Datsun door, Honey jumped in, climbing into the passenger’s seat with ease to sit and look with sweet brown eyes at Jackie.

Jackie hadn’t moved.

Back in the car, Lori rolled up her window and waited impatiently for Jackie to get in. When she did, Lori locked the doors as Jackie rolled her window up with effort. They both exhaled, quiet.

Suddenly, definitively, Jackie knew. She felt it—whatever it was—at the back of her throat. No matter what Lori said, no amount of packing made things different. Lori would go back to Bruce, bruised and bleeding, again and again and again. As long as she could bring herself to stand.

About Brandi Homan

Brandi Homan currently lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she eats too many medialunas and writes not nearly enough. Probably, she loves you. She is the author of Bobcat Country (Shearsman, 2010) and Hard Reds (Shearsman, 2008). She holds an MFA in Poetry from Columbia College Chicago and a MA in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago. In addition, she is a cofounder, with Becca Klaver and Hanna Andrews, of the feminist press Switchback Books. Learn more about Brandi Homan at http://brandihoman.com/about/.