Now you would think that all the effort that Rastus and I had put in winning Penny over would have done us some good. For a few weeks everything was fine. Whenever she had a day or two off we would visit her or she would come down to us.
We were a happy band of three tied together with a curious love. Penny loved Rastus. Rastus loved Penny and me. I loved both Penny and Rastus. But the relationship between Penny and me was a little odd. She was funny, warm, pliant, and so lovable…but I could sense she was holding something back. She had already guessed that I was recovering from a break-up in a previous entanglement from which I had emerged with a few thorns for my troubles. But that is the problem with men we don’t have a mind like a dentist’s drill searching out all the cavities and pain of someone else’s life. We just take things at face value.
Last week she had come down to my place for a sleepover. Well that is what we called it but I hoped I would be suffering from lack of sleep the next day. What bliss there is to wake up next to the person you love in the morning. To reach out and touch and kiss them as they too stir and to breathe in that exquisite musky scent of her body that you couldn’t get enough of the previous night. As I was gently kissing her tummy I felt her fingers run through my hair and then she wrapped both arms around me and hugged me tight. For all the closeness we never discussed future plans. You know the sort of thing moving in together, establishing whose toothbrush went where and just who was boss in the kitchen. Each deferring to the other that would establish us as Kurt Vonnegut had described it as a “karass” of two or more. Two people so bonded together in love that they were like Siamese twins that were an entity to themselves. Us against the world. Sadly we were not like that and I began to suspect that I was the one at fault. In fact I was coming to believe I was a “stuppa” or fog bound child.
The penny finally dropped (and no that is not a joke) when we got up very early in the morning to go for a walk on the beach. It was deserted and Penny had slipped her sandals off and paddled at the edge of the water while we strolled along together but not close each doing their own thing. Rastus checking out the scuttling crabs and stinky dead fish with a satisfied grin on his face; Penny walked along at the waters edge and looking at her I could see she was singing some happy song but I couldn’t make out the words. I on the other hand was searching for the rare finds on the beach; the perfect shell, the smooth pebble with a fascinating colour in it and the worn pieces of broken glass from so many years ago that finally the sea decided did not have a place in its bosom and tossed it back at man for his impudence.
So as we walked our separate ways we drifted apart and looking back Rastus was equidistant between us so I called him. He cocked his ears searched around saw me then bounded up to tell me what he had been up to. Penny saw this and called him in turn. Immediately he raced back to her in excitement and we kept this up until he could see through our little game and sat back down on the sand immobile except for his tongue lolling out looking quite pleased with the game as when he had got his breathe back he barked a joyful bark. He had however settled in close proximity to Penny. She then came toward him and they sat on the sand together.
It was at that moment I had a sudden revelation. I had missed out. I had missed the message. I was going to lose Penny unless I gave her something. It wasn’t the plastic bag of beach finds; it wasn’t the superficial love and affection that was our lovemaking; or the snuggling up together on the settee watching old movies, it was something far more valuable. She knew I had been let down in a previous relationship by reading the signs. She gave herself utterly to me and I had merely taken what she offered. I had however not given the most important thing back to her. It was an all encompassing trust and understanding that she had given me. Even Rastus had understood that at their very first meeting when he sat with her on that park bench and placed his head on her knees. He had somehow said to her “I understand your pain.”
She had been hurt just like me but I had failed to recognise that. If this relationship with her was to survive. I had to do something…now. I called out “Penny, Penny.” Then started running over to where they were. They both looked up in curiosity.
When I reached them I fell on the sand by their sides. Rastus got up, gave me a lick then sat down again.
“I have been a fool. I love you completely, utterly, without reservation. I have been blind to your pain. You saw that I had been devastated by a previous relationship but didn’t even recognise that you too had been through the same trauma. Isn’t that so?”
Penny reached forward and touched my face; gently tracing her fingers round my chin and over my nose then fingered my ears and came to rest holding the back of my neck. She spoke not a word.
I went on “I was so near to losing you wasn’t I? That would have been some retribution for my thoughtlessness.”
She shook her head sadly. “I hadn’t given up on you yet. But my, you came close. If it wasn’t for Rastus saying to stick with you for a little longer, who knows?”
Rastus had recovered from his exertions, came over and sat down by our sides trying to touch both of us with his body at the same time.
“So what treasures did you find?” she said pointing to the results of my fossicking.
“What are the treasures of the world if you are not part of me?” I reached over to hold on to her ankle hoping we could fuse together in one being.