|Rowena's Page, Rowena Gets Serious.||Rowena Moves In, Part 10|
Rowena held the door open as Sammy and Mike carefully climbed the stairs, bearing between them Sammy's coffee table. “Okay,” said Sammy, who was walking backwards, “let me know when I run out of steps.”
Rowena edged out so she could see. “Two more after this one,” she said. “One . . . two. You're there.”
“Hear that?” asked Mike, down in the stairwell. “I knew you would come out on top.”
“Ha, ha. Swing over a bit so I can make this turn.” Rowena watched him shuffle into position. “Let's tip it. This way . . . here we go . . .” And he came, backwards, into the room, the coffee table sideways with its legs sticking out. “This way,” Sammy repeated. “Against the bookcase.” And they set the table down, right side up, out of the way of the other things they were going to move and the paths they would have to take.
“Funny place for a coffee table,” Mike said. He straightened up, smiled at Rowena. “Hello,” he said. “How you doing?”
“Not too bad,” Rowena said. “A little nervous.”
“You're nervous? We're the ones risking hernias here.”
“She's afraid her dog is gonna eat my cat,” Sammy said. Rowena wouldn't have put it quite that way. Mike shook his head.
“Might take a little patience on your part,” he said, “but I wouldn't worry too much. Caesar can take care of himself.”
“It's just that . . . if Linus . . .”
“Caesar's pretty self-reliant.” Mike said. “You'll be okay. All of you.”
Rowena decided to keep her doubts to herself. She smiled. “Anyway,” she said, “thanks for the help. Would you like something to drink?”
“Thanks, but let's save that for when I really need it.” He looked over at Sammy. “What next?”
They had actually been moving, Rowena and Sammy, for several days; in the evenings and, in Rowena's case, also in the mornings. Today, with Mike helping, they were moving mainly the difficult things. The difficult things and the last-minute things.
Including their pets. Their cat and dog who had never met.
“Well,” Sammy said, “before anything sizable goes in the living room, we ought to get the kitchen table in place.”
“And the things for the bedroom and the office,” Rowena put in. “You'd better do my desk before you do the table; I put the drawers where the table goes.”
“Okay; let's get the stuff out of the car, and then do the desk.” Mike, hearing this, groaned elaborately. Rowena said, “My desk isn't that bad. I could almost move it by myself, if Sammy would let me.”
“It's not your desk I'm worried about,” Mike said, “it's Sammy's file cabinet. Sucker almost killed me. It looks so innocent, but there's nothing to grab hold of, and then you try to lift it . . .” He shook his head. “I think,” he said, “that your boyfriend is leading a double life. Hate to have to tell you this, but I think you have a right to know. I think he's moonlighting as a geologist.”
“And that's where he keeps his specimens, huh?”
“Gotta be. No other explanation.”
“Okay, you,” Sammy said. “Back to the car.” He went to the door, shaking his head. “Perfectly ordinary file cabinet,” he complained.
“Paper is heavy,” said Rowena helpfully.
Mike stopped a moment at Rowena's doorway. “Paper, ha!” he said. “I'd have a look at this ‘paper,’ if I were you.”
“Well,” Rowena began, but Sammy's voice floated up the stairwell to interrupt her.
“Hey!” he said. “What an interesting rock!”
Mike, straight-faced, gave Rowena a “told you so” look, and she couldn't help laughing.
Linus watched them drag furnishings out of his mistress' old apartment, wagging his tail hopefully and looking only slightly puzzled. Rowena said very little, but she petted Linus when she had the chance. And she reminded him that he was a good dog, as if she really thought that would help.
Sammy and Mike did not seem at all concerned. “Look at it from a cat's point of view,” Mike said. “You're a cat. You can handle anything.” Rowena was not convinced.
They worked at a pretty good rate until they got to the couch. The couch, last and most intimidating of the non-pet items, put up a fight. It didn't want to make the turn out of Rowena's apartment and onto the steps, and when they finally got the front end onto the landing, it didn't want to make the turn into the new apartment. Mike, in charge of the back end, had to tip the thing nearly vertically to get it through. But they got it in place, and promptly collapsed onto it.
Rowena went into the kitchen and brought out three glasses of lemonade and a pitcher. Only one hurdle left, she thought; it had come down, now, to Linus and Caesar. She handed a glass each to Sammy and Mike, then raised her own glass in a toast. A few minutes ago the couch had been Rowena's; now it belonged to her and Sammy both. Together. “Success,” Rowena said.
“Of course,” Sammy said, sprawled at one end of the couch. “What'd you think?”
“She thought we were gonna fall flat on our asses, with the couch on top of us,” Mike said, slumped at the other end. “Just like I thought.”
“Nonsense,” said Sammy. He closed his eyes. “Nevertheless, I intend to have my revenge on this couch. I intend to give it a sitting-on it won't soon forget.”
“Hear, hear,” Mike said.
Sammy took a deep breath, exhaled, opened his eyes. “This is the life,” he said, gazing across at his entertainment center. The shelves had been reassembled and reloaded, but nothing was hooked up yet. “No commercials, no nothing. If only I had a coffee table to put my feet up on . . .”
“It's over there,” Mike said. “How long are your legs? You know what Lincoln said: They should be long enough to reach the coffee table.”
“You're acting like guys again,” Rowena warned.
“It's the heavy lifting,” Mike told her, his eyes shut. “Kills the brain cells. Scientific fact.”
“Where would we all be,” Sammy mused, “without science?”
As he and Mike rested, Rowena went into the bedroom and made the bed. Her television set was in the bedroom now, as was her stereo, but they looked different here. Rowena had never had a television in her bedroom before; there was something a bit decadent about it, more so than having a second stereo there. The bed looked different, too; it was hers as well as Sammy's now. Their bed, for the two of them together.
If only their pets get along . . .
She returned to the living room, where she regaled Sammy and Mike with a description of her sister's visit the day before, when Maralynne had come by to pick up some duplicate items, mostly things used for cleaning. Maralynne now had her very own mop and broom, plus a bucket, a dustpan, a squeegee, and even a cheap vacuum cleaner which had, until then, belonged to Sammy. She had not accepted these items very graciously.
“You sure she's not gonna just ditch the stuff?” Sammy asked.
“All I know is, I've done my part,” Rowena told him. She was not worried about her sister's new mop.
Eventually Sammy and Mike were rested. And they were ready.
“Half an hour, tops,” Sammy said, heading for the door.
“Right,” Rowena said. Sammy waved cheerfully, and he and Mike were gone. Rowena looked at her watch. Half an hour. When they came back they would have the cat tree with them, and the cat also. When Sammy and Mike came back, it would be time to move the animals upstairs, and then to introduce them.
She went back down to her old apartment, where Linus greeted her with wagging tail and dancing feet. Her couch was upstairs in the new place, so she sat down on the carpet; such a lot of carpet there was now.
Her first apartment. She had been happy here. She and Linus both.
“You're such a good boy,” she told him. “Can you be a very good boy? Can you be friends with a cat?”
He was sure he was a good boy, but that was the only part he understood. “You're going to have two people to spoil you now,” she told him. “Two people. And—and maybe you and Caesar . . .”
She didn't know Linus' history from before the animal shelter. He did try to chase cats he saw on his walks, but he didn't snarl at them, and he behaved himself fairly well in the veterinarian's waiting room. She did not know what he would do if he met a cat nose-to-nose and off his leash.
“Cats aren't big and tough like you,” she told him. Not that Linus was all that much bigger than Caesar. “Cats are delicate. You're going to have to be very nice to the cat. Very gentle. Can you be gentle with a cat?”
Linus wagged his tail and licked her hand. She'd known he could be gentle with her.
“We'll have much of the same furniture,” she said brightly. “And we can go for the same walks, except that now we'll be going up and down the stairs too; won't that be fun? Going up and down the stairs?” She ruffled up his fur, and Linus wagged his whole body.
She couldn't give up her dog.
And she couldn't let him hurt or terrorize Sammy's cat.
“You'll work something out,” Terese had said. “I don't know how he feels about cats, but he's a good dog.”
“Call the thrift shop and cancel the pick-up,” Berna had advised. “Especially your bed. And pay another couple week's rent on your old place so your landlady won't give it to somebody else in the meantime.”
Her mother: “If they don't get along, make Sammy buy you a house, or at least rent one. Then Linus can live in the backyard and the cat can stay inside.” Rowena wondered why she ever told her mother—or Berna—anything at all.
“Well,” she said to Linus. “They'll be here any minute. Are you ready?” She remembered Mike's comments as they'd removed Rowena's desk from the old apartment. First he'd said that Linus was a vicious beast who'd nearly slobbered his hand off, and a couple of minutes he later informed Rowena that she shouldn't rely on her dog for home security. She sat quietly, petting Linus under the chin. She wanted to make herself a cup of tea, except that she had already taken her teapot and all her dishes upstairs.
She had taken everything upstairs, everything that she was going to keep. Everything except Linus and his supplies.
She heard Sammy and Mike outside her window, approaching; she heard their voices. She took a deep breath, bundled Linus into his pet carrier, and closed the carrier door. And then she opened it again and reached in to scratch him behind the ears. “Good boy,” she whispered. “There's a good boy.” She closed the door again and picked up his dog bed and the carrier. She stepped out onto the landing and joined the procession: Mike, with his arms full of disassembled cat tree; Sammy, with Caesar in his carrier, and finally Rowena, with Linus and his doggie bed, an assortment of toys riding precariously inside.
“Everybody okay back there?” Mike called back. His burden was the largest and, Rowena suspected, the heaviest. “Is the cat-killing monster good and hungry?”
“Mike,” said Sammy, more or less tolerantly. And, to Rowena, “Don't worry.”
Rowena smiled at him. “Good boy,” she said to Linus. She hoped he would be a good boy.
Mike managed to open the door, and they trooped in after him.
Into their new home.
They put the pet carriers on the floor, not too close and not facing each other. “Put the tree over there,” Sammy said, pointing.
“Well.” Rowena watched Mike with the cat tree. In his carrier, Linus made a small scuffling sound.
“See, Caesar?” Sammy was saying. He turned Caesar's carrier so the cat could watch Mike fit together the pieces of his tree, then tip it upright. “This is our home now. See? There's your tree.” He looked at Rowena. “So. Think it's time?”
Rowena nodded. They turned the carriers so that the barred doors faced each other, then knelt next to them. Good dog; good cat. I'm right here. Linus came curiously forward to stick his nose against the door; Caesar just sat and watched. “Sniff sniff sniff,” Rowena said. “That's a cat. His name is Caesar. He's going to be your friend now, right?” Linus watched attentively as Caesar continued to do nothing.
“Come on, Caesar,” Sammy said. “Say hello to Linus.” But Caesar did not say hello; at least, not so Rowena noticed. After a while the humans, thinking their pets needed more time and perhaps a little quiet, retired to the couch, where they spoke softly among themselves, making, they hoped, a calming, reassuring background for the meeting.
There was very little sound from the pet carriers.
Finally Rowena and Sammy got up and resumed their former positions. They spoke to the animals again, and then looked at each other.
“Ready?” Sammy asked. Rowena nodded. They pulled the carriers a little farther apart, then opened the doors.
Linus came out promptly; Caesar did not. Rowena held Linus back while Sammy coaxed and petted. Eventually Caesar emerged, and Rowena, after a moment, allowed Linus to go, rather more slowly than he had in mind, to get acquainted.
“Easy,” Sammy said, steadying Caesar with his hands. The cat quailed nervously back from Linus but allowed himself to be sniffed. “Easy there, Linus; good boy,” Rowena was saying, when Caesar drew himself together, swiped Linus across the nose, and shot up to the top of his cat tree.
Linus let out a yip, Sammy cried, “Oh, Caesar!” and Rowena drew her dog into her lap to comfort him. She looked at his nose; he was not very hurt. Her big fierce cat-killing dog. He huddled against her, whimpering a bit; she cuddled him and murmured reassurances until he quieted. She looked up at Caesar, crouched angrily in his tree; she could almost hear him calling Linus names. “What now?” she asked.
Sammy sighed. “He'll come down when he's ready,” he said.
“It'll be okay. He just has to calm down a little and realize that Linus isn't a threat.”
Threat, indeed. “Come on, Caesar,” she said. “Nobody's going to hurt you.” She realized she'd just been saying almost the exact same thing to her dog.
“‘Of course not,’ he says, ‘because I'm stayin' here where it's safe.’” Rowena had forgotten Mike was there. He shrugged. “Well,” he said. “Nothing to do but wait.”
“For what? For my cat to be overcome by the force of your logic?”
“No, for your cat to get tired of all this and come down of his own accord. He's a cat. He's not going to listen to logic.” Mike went to the couch and sat down. “Even my logic,” he said.
“What do you mean, even yours? Is that supposed to be good or bad?”
Rowena sat and petted her dog. Nothing to do but wait.
For a while they tried ignoring him. Rowena continued to pet Linus as Mike helped Sammy hook up and test the entertainment center equipment.
“Linus'll be okay,” Sammy said. “Caesar's not going to hunt him down or anything.”
“I know,” said Rowena. She ruffled up Linus' fur and Linus aimed some more slobber at her.
He wasn't afraid.
Rowena and Sammy, finally on their own, really truly living together, cuddled up on the couch in Caesar's view and watched a television show. Not quite the way Rowena had thought their new life would begin, but it had begun.
Caesar stayed where he was. Rowena and Sammy went to bed, to their bed, not just his; made love, and afterwards took a last peek at the new living room, Sammy standing right behind Rowena, holding her to him, the two of them looking at their apartment with all their things in it, and Caesar still in his tree. Except for Caesar's misgivings, everything seemed to belong: It really looked like a home. Their home. Sammy kissed her neck and they turned at last and went back to their bed, together, leaving Caesar behind. And then with Sammy's arm warm around her and Linus (as usual) eschewing his dog bed to curl up at her feet, and with no sound at all coming from the living room, Rowena fell asleep.
She woke to find Sammy smiling at her. “Good morning,” he said.
He leaned over and kissed her. “Breakfast in bed?”
“Sure.” And then Sammy rose and she said. “Oh. Thank you.”
“You thought I was asking you for breakfast in bed? What do you think I am, a husband?” He gave her another kiss and climbed over her, put his feet on the floor.
Rowena noticed that her dog was missing. “Where's Linus?” she asked.
“He was gone when I woke up. Admittedly, not very long ago.” Sammy lifted his bathrobe from its hanger. “You just stay there and relax,” he said. “I'll call you if I blow up the kitchen.” He grinned at her, and left.
“On second thought,” he called back, “why don't you come on out?”
She hastened into her robe and out to the living room. Linus lay near the couch, chewing his tug-of-war towel; he thumped the floor with his tail when he saw her. Also on the floor and not three feet from Linus sat Caesar, washing a paw, utterly unconcerned.
All day the animals got along well enough. Only once did Linus get too playful in Caesar's immediate vicinity, but even then he didn't get scratched for it. On Monday Rowena went off to work, and in the evening she came home to find both animals waiting at the door.
“Hi, guys! How goes it?” Linus danced around her and Caesar, hanging back just a bit, waited patiently to be petted. Rowena petted both of them, called Sammy's name but got no response. The agreement was that the first one home would fix dinner, so Rowena excused herself to wash up.
In the kitchen Rowena opened up her new cupboards, selected one of her old familiar pots and a less-familiar pot of Sammy's, and put them on the new stove. Old things and new, and no more single portions. Linus pranced around, Caesar watching tolerantly, until Sammy arrived.
“Rowena?” Sammy called.
She went to meet him and they managed, despite Linus, to kiss.
“So,” Rowena said, heading back to the kitchen, “how was your day?” She smiled at him; she had been waiting to say that. She put the last dish on the table and sat down.
“My day was fine,” Sammy said. “But it looks like my night's gonna be better.”
Rowena looked at him and smiled. “I think,” she said,“ that a lot of things are gonna be better.” And she reached across the table for his hand.
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