Every nerve in her body felt like a guitar string ready to snap. Abby usually didn't use her laptop when Aunt Gladys was in the apartment. But curiosity had gotten the better of her. Had this game of her grandfather's ever gone anywhere? She searched "Path of the Dragon", but all that came up was a role-playing game from Japan and some short story.
"I doubt it would still be on that disk if it had become a 'real' game," said Dominic from his place beside her. Once more he was resting his head on his fore-paws, ears twitching at the faint pecking of the keyboard. "Why not simply play the game? See what it's about?"
My luck it'll be too complicated with the commands. Abby shut the laptop off, then got out of bed and put it back in its hiding place in her trunk. I'll check the game out when she's gone. If I get stuck I'm sure Marlon can figure it out. She crawled under the covers, snuggling into her pillow.
"You're going to be more careful what you do in public," Dominic said as he shifted to curl up beside her. "That kid almost caught you; course, if you could just tell a little white lie..."
I'm not a liar, Dominic! Abby narrowed her eyes at the dragon. If I have to lie, then I shouldn't be doing it.
The dragon just grinned. "Like how you aren't supposed to have the laptop in the first place?"
That's different! I'm responsible! Abby punched her pillow as she tried to get comfortable. Aunt Gladys is just too old-fashioned. I don't think she even knows how the internet works.
"Still, what would you do if she caught you, hmm? If she asked where you got it?" His grin just got wider. "Or if she asked if you still talk to me?"
Shut up, Dommy, I need to be up in time for the class.
"Sweet dreams, Abs. Sweet dreams."
"He is too real! You just can't see him because he's magic!"
"Child, he cannot be real as there is no such thing as dragons. Do you know what happens to people who see things that aren't there? They are sent away. You don't want that to happen, do you?"
"No! But he is there so I'm not doing that!"
"Listen, we'll talk again next week, but you need to understand that this is just make-believe. There is no such thing as dragons and you are simply making this up. Now, your aunt is waiting for you. Just think about what I said. Because if you keep talking like this..."
"No! No, no, no! I don't wanna go away!"
"Then you must stop this nonsense. Please rejoin your aunt and I'll see you next week. Be good now."
She went out into the waiting room with Dominic curled around her neck, and took Aunt Gladys' hand. She kept her eyes on the floor.
"Did you understand what the doctor told you?"
"Yes, ma'am, I did." She didn't elaborate verbally. I understand; if I talk about Dominic anymore, I'll be sent away.
"So we've heard the last of that dragon nonsense?"
"Good. Now, let's go home. You can watch Children's Bible Heroes."
The ringing of her alarm clock startled Abby from her dream. She shut it off before it gave her too much of a headache, then sat up and rubbed her eyes. That's what I get for thinking about stuff before I go to sleep.
She got her clothes and headed for the bathroom for a shower. She adjusted the water and stepped under the soothing spray. As she lathered her hands, she took a moment to just breathe. She hadn't thought about that mess in years. While she'd never lied about Dominic being gone, she'd never told the truth, either. Not even the shrink had ever again asked, "Do you still see him?" So she'd let everyone believe she'd stopped pretending, even though she had not. After she washed her hair she stepped out of the shower to dry off and dress.
"Nice," commented Dominic, a grin on his face. "Very… nice."
Abby slapped the towel at him. "You are not supposed to be watching!"
"Oh, relax." He scratched at his chin with a fore-paw. "Not like I'm real anyway."
Abby buttoned her white blouse and shook her head. "I swear you're such a pervert."
"Just means you have a dirty mind." Dominic swished his tail then his expression became concerned. "How are you feeling? Nervous?"
"Of course I'm nervous! Driving is serious business, and everyone says the teacher is really strict." Abby pulled her hair back into a ponytail and smoothed her skirt. "I just hope he doesn't put too much pressure on us; I need my license." It was such a simple thing, that little square of plastic. But it meant freedom. If she could drive, she could go to college.
Dominic started singing. She could just remember the song; the words were familiar, but she couldn't place it. Something about a Catholic girl named Virginia.
She turned to him. "Maybe you should stay home today. I love your company, but you're a distraction."
The dragon looked hurt. "But… if I'm not with you… What if you outgrow me? I promised not to leave, but if you forget me…"
With a sigh, Abby slid on her shoes. "Fine, you can come. Stop the puppy eyes. Just keep your mouth shut for a change."
Dominic grinned and raised a paw and placed the other over his chest. "Dragon's honor!"
Shaking her head, Abby headed to the kitchen for breakfast. She smelled the cooking pancakes all through the apartment. She went to set the table, wishing Aunt Gladys good morning.
"Where is this driving class again?" Gladys carried a plate of pancakes to the table. She put two on her own plate, then two on Abby's. "I'm not sure you should walk there. This city isn't what it used to be, you know."
"It's in the parking lot at school, Aunt Gladys." Abby reached up to move a stray hair off her forehead before she smoothed the front of her shirt and brushed at each of her shoulders. Dutifully, she clasped her hands and silently joined the older women in saying grace. "I've walked to school since I was ten; I'll be fine, don't worry."
Dominic smiled at her discreet Sign of the Cross, laying his head on his paws as he settled at her feet.
"I'd still feel better if someone went with you." Gladys picked up her knife and fork to cut her pancakes into perfectly proportioned bites. "A lady shouldn't go anywhere without an escort."
"Marlon said he –" Abby froze at the look on her aunt's face.
"How many times do I have to tell you I don't want you hanging around that Samson boy? That family has no concept of Christ. His father's got two women over there some days, and one's not even his wife! To say nothing of that younger boy; in my day, if a woman had another man's child she'd be a laughingstock! You hang around with them you'll end up just like his harlot-of-a-mother! I will not have you alone with that boy! Boys like him only have one thing in mind."
Abby sighed. "All the more reason for me to spend time with their family. If – please let me finish – if no one's there to show them, how will they ever see another way? Marlon said he and Felice would be happy to accompany me. They're attending the class too."
At the mention of Marlon's twin sister, Gladys lost some of her fire. "I suppose you're right, but I honestly don't see how you stomach being around those people."
She poured syrup on her pancakes and took a sip of her milk. Guess we're even, Aunt Gladys, she thought as she cut into her pancakes. I don't know how you handle Preacher Davidson's family, either. "Some people have to lead by example," Abby said, frustrated with the double meanings she was forced to use just to live her life. Her honest nature warred with the knowledge that if she was blunt, she'd never see her friend again. "Or others will have nothing to follow."
"It does my heart good to see people your age taking ministry seriously." Gladys smiled and sipped her coffee. "I'm so proud of how you're turning out Abigail; you'll make some lucky Christian man a lovely wife one day."
"Thank you," Abby replied automatically. She took another bite to give herself an excuse not to speak. Marriage was the farthest thing from her mind. She lost herself in daydreams of being a respected psychologist, one that had a good understanding of children and would never scare a child who talked about their imaginary friend. Someday, she thought, smiling. Someday I'll make a real difference. She put the last bite of pancake in her mouth.
Gladys finished her plate, too, and smiled when Abby cleared the table. "Yes, my dear, any good man would be lucky to have you."
Abby bit her cheek, nodding as she ran the sink. She rolled up her sleeves and started the dishes.
"You're certainly trained in housework," said Dominic, sitting beside her. "I guess if you look at it in that light, her insisting you tend to so much of the upkeep makes sense. Any good bitch learns to obey before she's of use to anyone."
You better mean a female dog, Scales-for-Brains! Abby scrubbed a pan a little harder than she needed to, then dried it before setting it in the strainer.
Dominic blinked up at her innocently. "What else would I refer to?"
Abby shook her head. Sometimes I wonder why I put up with you.
"You love me." Dominic's grin showed all of his sharp teeth. "Besides, you know you were thinking it. Not my fault I had the guts to say it."
Dishes done, she went to get her purse. Come on, you over-grown gecko, she thought as they headed out the door. And try keeping your – at his look, she corrected herself – my opinions to yourself!
"Yes, ma'am." He twisted around her legs like a cat before taking his place at her heels. "My lips are sealed."