For fifteen years they were inseparable. Always side by side. The walks on the beach with the gentle waves calling, the seagulls cawing. All those hikes on the trail where the trees canopied over like arches, wrapping them in a soft cool shade on a hot sunny day. Even just a ride to the grocery store for something Martha may have forgotten, they always went together.
Though he knows that in some ways he should be thankful for just having their time together – those moments forever etched in his heart – and that the sickness took Max quickly rather than dragging out the pain for weeks, maybe even months, he still feels cheated. That somehow he is missing years that could have been.
Unable to sleep, he looks around the all too empty room, letting his gaze fall upon the leash, which still hangs from the peg by the door. It seems to wait patiently, ever ready for that next big adventure. As his eyes well up, he realizes for the first time how much his grief weighs, how hard it is to even rise with such a heaviness inside.
It is then he hears a shuffle from behind and turns to see Martha standing in the doorway, her shoulder resting against the frame.
“I thought you might be in here,” she says. She looks down at him for only a moment before her stare drifts to the couch. “I miss him, too, Jake. More than you’ll ever know.”
There’s a faraway melancholy tone to her voice, but he knows that her heart, like his, has a hole too big to fill. His head drops and he gives off another long sigh, which seems to prompt her to come over and kneel down onto the carpet beside him. She slides a hand under his chin and lifts it up, then tucks back his long, floppy ears, such that their teary eyes can meet.
“I guess you do know, don’t you, Jake.”