Encore

CHAPTER 1


He sat on my stomach, trembling and breathing heavily through his open mouth. My eyes fought against the weight of sleep, straining to see in the darkness. A flash of lightning illuminated the room and gave my still sleeping brain a clue as to my whereabouts while the roar of thunder that followed jolted my other senses to immediate attention. A storm raged with such ferocity that even my little cottage was quaking in fear. No wonder I’d been sleeping so soundly. Unfortunately, thunderstorms were not a comfort to everyone and, as if hoisting his thirty-plus pound self onto my stomach was not enough, the canine love of my life, a cross between Benji and the Shaggy D.A, swatted my face with a furry beige paw. “Come here, Moustache,” I said through a yawn, reaching out my arms and drawing him close to me. I felt his body relax and heard his breathing slow. Wrapping myself around the dog, I nuzzled my face into the back of his neck. Moustache gave a little groan, a warning that he was there under special circumstances and I’d better not push my luck. However, another clap of thunder sent him wiggling closer to me and, within moments, he was snoring gently.


*****


I woke to the sound of a distant siren. My clock was flashing. Moustache was on his bed on the floor. I leaned over the side of the bed and ruffled his ear. Moustache looked up at me with sleepy eyes and leapt onto the bed and rolled onto his back for the belly rub he had long since manipulated into our morning routine. When he’d had enough, he jumped off the bed and trotted out of the room, anxious to explore his new surroundings and stake his claim. I heard him jump onto the chair in the living room that gave him the best  view of the street and bark a bark I was sure could be heard several houses down. I knew this particular yowl to mean either the presence of a squirrel or a golden retriever. I had my own battle to wage today against the unpacked boxes that filled the cottage that only a day and a half ago had become my “home.” As far as furnished rentals went, it was better than fine. The furniture was in good condition, albeit a little dated. The place had been cared for and outfitted with everything one might need to live comfortably for nine months. The exterior of the cottage had character but the interior was pretty neutral—waiting for some of my own belongings to gussy it up and give it that lived in, loved look. However, unlike the dog, I was nowhere near as anxious to get started and, instead, threw the covers over my head and slept for another ten minutes.


*****


The storm had certainly been busy while the town slept. Looking out the kitchen window, I could see the backyard was littered with branches and one of the trees had been uprooted. Moustache was happily picking up from where the storm had left off, digging feverishly, kicking up bits of mud and bark which ended up on his back rather than the ground behind him. Rolling my eyes, I turned my attention away from Moustache, determined to enjoy a bit more of the morning before bathing the dog, a task which would no doubt be inevitable given his abundance of fur. I took a deep swallow of green tea—I had given up coffee only recently after buying into some hype about green tea helping to lose weight. I knew I was a perfectly healthy weight, but in show business an actress can never be too thin, and the insecurity about my curves was always rearing its ugly head. The tea was growing on me. And whether or not the weight loss thing was working, I was able to convince myself I could see enough of a difference to keep up with the trend. I took another sip and surveyed the cardboard that contained my life. It amazed me that thirty-some years could be packed away into a dozen or so boxes. Of course, this said nothing of the scores of emotional baggage that were, just as neatly, packed away. Knowing the baggage of the cardboard variety would be much easier to deal with I tore the tape off a box labeled BOOKS and began sorting the cookbooks. In the backyard, Moustache barked. His barking became more and more incessant. I hurried to the back door. Moustache was staring into the hole he and the storm had helped to create, intent on something out of my line of vision. “Moustache?” He looked at me, then back to the hole. Slipping on my Crocs, I walked out into the crisp March morning. “Moo! Come here!” More barking, no coming. Upon reaching the dog, I leaned over to grab his collar and caught a glimpse of Moustache’s buried treasure.