Luna and Cooper are hanging out in the park. She sits nestled between his legs; her head against his chest. He leans back, his palms flat on the grass.
“We should get a puppy!” she exclaims.
“I mean, yeah, we’d be great dog parents.”
“I love dogs. Should we adopt at a shelter?”
“100 percent! No supporting breeders, not on my watch”
“Coop, do you think it’s weird that we haven’t taken the next step yet? I mean, we’ve been living together for 8 years now… And don’t get me wrong, I’m not fishing for an engagement… I like our life… I just… is it weird?”
“We do things at our pace and the way we want to. That’s what makes us work.”
He presses a kiss to the top of her head.
“Is that why you wanna get a puppy?”
“Que?” she looks up at him. He has a smirk on his face.
She punches at his arm. “Don’t mess with me Thindrel”
“It does scare me that you’re my safety net...”
“And you’re mine Lu”
She looks up at him again, “I can trust you right… I can trust you with my heart?”
He is taken aback; his brows drew together. “Where’d that come from?”
“Luna, I will always show up for you. I will always love you. You will always be my priority until the day I stop breathing. You can trust me with your heart”
She inhales, staring into his blue eyes that seemed clearer under the sunlit sky.
She turns her body to face him, kneeling on the grass. She cups his face.
“When you look at me… you have this insane ability to zone your focus so singularly… so intently on someone, as though they were the only person in existence. That fills me… and it scares me at the same time. I could crumble if that look were ever taken away from me…”
“Well…” he leans closer, “I will do my damndest to make sure we’ve always got it on lock.”
He kisses her mouth.
“Do you wanna get tacos for lunch?”
“Hmmm… si por favor…”
He chuckles, gets up and helps her to her feet.
“Then we’ll hit the shelter for the new addition to our family?”
She smiles, “Yes!”
They start walking in the direction of the taco stand a few blocks away.
“Are we going in with a game plan… or?”
“I think we’ll see him… or her… when we get there. Like, no preconceived notions of the kind of puppy we want. We’ll just know…”
He puts his arm around her shoulder, she tucks hers around his waist as they walk in stride.
They reach the taco stand, Cooper orders as Luna waits for him sitting on one of the benches.
Two girls behind him giggle, whispering to each other.
He turns around and smiles. The tall blonde introduces herself and motions to her friend.
Luna shakes her head; she had become accustomed to women flirting with Cooper. There was no point in getting worked up over it.
The blonde takes our her mobile, Cooper shakes his head and mouths “Oh sorry, no… I have a girlfriend…”
He nods in Luna’s direction. The girls turn to look at Luna. The blonde pulls a disgusted face, which does catch Luna off guard.
Luna could see the word Her almost vomit from the blonde’s mouth.
Cooper has an animated look on his face, but then gets called away with the order.
The two girls keep whispering, turning back every so often to look at Luna.
Cooper brings over the food.
“Come on, let’s take these to go?”
“Why?” Luna asks “They don’t bother me…”
“They’re ignorant little shits.” He seems perturbed “But we can eat here…”
“What did she say?”
“Lu, I’d rather not”
“Let me guess…”
“Do we have to do this… right here, right now? You know some people have a small-minded mentality”
“So, it’s not my looks per se… but the fact that I’m biracial? Hmphf… I could’ve copped to being too ugly for the hunk”
He sighs, instead of a retort he takes a bite of his taco.
The blonde girl turns to look at them again, mouthing “What the actual…” rolling her eyes.
“What did you say?”
“To what Lu?”
“When she said whatever it is she said…”
“I told them I have a girlfriend when the blonde girl wanted to give me her phone number… that’s all”
Her eyes bore into him, “And after she nearly spewed at the sight of me?”
Cooper gets up and walks over to the bin, chucks the half-eaten taco inside and walks off.
Luna stares at him in disbelief. She sits at the bench for a solid minute before getting up and walking over to the two girls, who had now taken a seat at a nearby bench.
“Hi” Luna stands with her hand on her hip
“Hello” the brunette musters.
The blonde girl completely disregards Luna.
“I hear you wanted Cooper’s number… or give him yours… I forget…”
“Look chica… you’ve got the guy, the prize… why’re you over here harassing us? Go get your swirl on or whatever it is your type say”
“Oh, que linda… sabes una palabra en Español. Puedes ser bonita por fuera… pero la intolerancia y la ignorancia no son buenas”
“Whatever, why don’t you go back across the ditch you crawled from”
Luna lunges toward the girl, but Cooper grabs her wrist in time. He holds her back.
She looks up at him, her eyes flooded with tears yet filled with rage.
Cooper pulls her away from the two, leading her off onto the pathway through the park.
Her breathing was shallow, nostrils flaring and tears now trickling down her cheeks.
“Are you gonna talk to me about what nearly happened back there?”
“What happened?” she stands still, her arms stiffly at her sides, then pointing back to the taco stand “Back there… you mean, where you failed to have my back? I mean, you will always show up for me right Coop? Unless it’s dealing with racist twats insulting my very existence!”
“I told you to leave it alone. They’re not worth it. But you always have to follow Luna’s agenda, have the last say… no matter how dumb it makes you look. You just played right into their hands”
“By standing up for myself?”
“They had moved on, forgotten we even existed. But you just had to set the record straight”
“Yes, I did! Do you know what she said to me? She told me to go back across whatever ditch I came from. I’m supposed to just be cool with that?”
“No Luna! But you go looking for arguments and conflict that’s not there. You do this all this time. It’s you against the world”
“I don’t know if you’re gaslighting me right now… or if you have selective memory… but I didn’t ask to be racially profiled and insulted. So just because I’m dating a Caucasian guy, I should just get used to side-glances and snarky remarks?”
“That is not what I said!”
“That’s just it, you’re not saying anything! You didn’t say anything!”
“Can we just talk about this at home?”
“Are you serious right now?”
“People are staring Lu…”
Luna looks around, there were a few people looking in their direction. She hadn’t realized how loud their argument had gotten.
“You know what Cooper… never mind. My bad…” she walks off
He jogs after her, until they eventually both reach the apartment.
She gets to the apartment first, heads for the bathroom and slams the door shut. Cooper hears the lock click behind her.
He knocks on the door.
“Lu please… don’t shut me out” he knocks again, “Okay, I know… I shoulda backed you up… but I thought we should just leave it be… and I get it, silence is complicity… babe, I’m sorry.”
“Can you just go…” she says between sobs
“Lu I’m not leaving you alone like this… especially not since I’m partially to blame” he knocks again, this time a lighter knock.
He slides down the side of the door, all the way down to the floor. His hand still on the doorknob, his arm dangling helplessly.
“Luna… I shoulda had your back. I was wrong. You shouldn’t have to deal with those situations on your own. I can only apologize now in hindsight, but I promise to do better… be better…”
He can hear her sobs on the other side of the door. He holds his right hand up, palm against the door. He closes his eyes and takes in a deep breath.
She was hurting and there was nothing he could do on the other side of the door.
Cooper jumps up to his feet and goes out the bedroom window. He grabs hold of the pipe leading down, clutching for dear life as he looks one level down. He sucks in a few breaths and leaps toward the bathroom windowsill, hanging on by fingertips. He pulls himself up and through the tiny bathroom window.
Luna’s jaw drops open as Cooper climbs through the bathroom window.
He stands looking back at the window he just climbed through, clutching his chest across his heart with a fisted hand.
He then looks back at Luna. Tears stained her flushed cheeks. She was bundled up clutching her knees, sitting on the cold tiled floor against the locked bathroom door.
He rushes over to her side, lowers down next to her and wraps his arms around her. He kisses her forehead, temple, cheek in quick succession.
“I’m sorry babe! I’m so sorry. I will never leave you hanging ever again. You ever need me to back you up, I’ll be like Tom Hanks storming Omaha Beach in Saving Private Ryan”
He could hear her muffled giggle under his flank.
“Did you just break into our apartment through the bathroom window?”
“Yip” he presses another kiss to her temple, “and I’m hoping no one saw… because it was not pretty”
She laughs, sniffles, smiles.
“Can we go get the puppy now?” she asks
She sniffles again.
“Hey, you…” he whispers
She looks up at him, her eyes red and puffy from crying. Her nose and cheeks blotchy.
He runs his thumb across one last tear on her cheek.
“Don’t be sorry… just be patient with me please Lu… You know I’m a meatball, slow to learn and retain… but I’ll always try”
“I love you Cooper Thindrel”
“And I love you Luna Jiménez”
They sit there in silence for a few minutes. Luna laying with her head on Cooper shoulder; his arms wrapped around her, legs weaved and entangled.
Later they went to the shelter and the first puppy they saw leapt out at them.
He was a Gerberian Shepsky, a mix of a Siberian Huskey and German Shepherd. He was fawn around his eyes, ears and back; white paws, belly and tail.
“Oh my gosh… Coop… look at him, look at that face” Luna rushes toward his cage.
The guy at the shelter chuckles, “We actually just got this little guy… an elderly couple found him wandering in the park… they couldn’t keep him, so they brought him here. No one knows where he came from or who he belongs to… no tags, nothing”
“He’s like me…” Luna ponders
Cooper crouches down, resting on his haunches. He drapes his arm across her back, “And he’s got us now”
Luna beams, her knuckles turning white from gripping the cage so hard. The puppy was equally as excited, jumping and barking, licking at Luna’s fingers through the cage.
“Well let’s get you guys squared away then…”
Cooper follows the man to the front desk. He smiles back at Luna and the puppy.
Another girl comes along and brings a leash. She smiles, “Do you want to hold him?”
“Can I?” Luna’s smile matches her enthusiasm.
“Sure” the girl unlocks the cage and puts the leash on the pup. He wrestles away and runs toward Luna, jumping in her lap. He licks her face, as she giggles.
“Well, I think he likes you. What are you gonna call him?”
“He doesn’t have a name?” Luna combs through his fur with her fingers, as she cradles him in her arms.
“Well we tried Ginger; he didn’t really respond so well”
“How about…” Luna looks at the pup in her arm “Waffles?”
He barks almost as affirmation.
The two women and puppy walk to the front desk. The girl leans over and says, “Between us, I think he’d be happy to even be called Dog by you”
Luna smiles, “No, I’m sure he loved being here with you guys… right, Waffles?”
He barks in affirmation again.