Posted by Lexxie Couper on Sunday, May 13th, 2012
I wrote this waaaaay back in 1995. Can you believe it. Not a kiss to be had. Wow. But it’s sweet and I thought you’d like a little glimpse into what my mind was like before I became debauched
Ralf and Rover – A Love Story
Can’t someone write a song about something else apart from love?
Jennifer Wilson rolled her eyes, bit back a groan and, with a sharp flick of her wrist, switched off the radio in her small vet clinic. Her assistant-cum-receptionist had left half an hour ago and now Jenny was shutting up shop for the day.
“Love! Who needs it!” She scooped up Rover, her blue-tongue lizard and perching him on his favourite spot: her shoulder. “In fact,” she continued as she made her way through the clinic, “I’m giving up on men completely. If I wasn’t already a vet, I’d become a nun.” Rover wrapped his tail around her shoulder, tongue gently flicking. Jennifer smiled at the lizard, feeling better for her spat. “Men,” she mumbled. Rover cocked his head up at her and emptied his bladder.
“Ooohh Rover!” Jenny moaned, quickly forgetting everything except the spreading stain on her shoulder and the insolent lizard now scuttling down her back to the floor.
“Excuse me.” A deep voice broke through her embarrassment and Jennifer looked up, knowing her face was red. Worried grey eyes meet her embarrassed green ones.
A man stood at the counter, tall with light brown hair and a strong nose. A young German Shepherd—wrapped in a blanket and whimpering softly—was cradled in his arms.
“My dog’s been hit by a car.” The man’s voice was worried and Jennifer could see he was shaking himself. “He seems only shaken but I’d like the vet to look at him. I’ve only just moved to town and haven’t needed a vet until now… I don’t have a file. It’s not too late for the vet to see us is it?”
“No, not at all. Please, follow me.” The spread of lizard pee staining the back of her white T-shirt forgotten, Jennifer quickly led the man into the examining room, indicating to a stainless steel table.
“His name’s Ralf.” Ralf’s tail thumped weakly at his name, his brown eyes moving between Jennifer and his master as she began to check over his trembling body. “Thanks Miss…err, Mrs…”
Jenny looked up quickly from the young shepherd, trying to hide the smile twitching on her lips.
“It’s Miss—but I prefer Doctor.”
“Are you the vet?” The man looked around quickly, a hint of amazement in his tone, his cheeks turning a faint pink. Jennifer nodded, wondering if he had assumed she was just the assistant—most people did, something she found a little annoying. But this time she didn’t feel the tightening resentment that normally accompanied such an assumption. In fact, all she could detect in her stomach was the stirring of nervous butterflies, a reaction that left her puzzled. Turning her attention back to her patient, she quickly but thoroughly ran her hands over the young dog, her voice low and soothing as she spoke to the skittish animal. There was a small abrasion on his left shoulder and Ralf was less than happy about her touching the area, trying to lick and nip at her fingers as they gently moved over the wound. Probably the point of contact with the car, she thought, carefully feeling the muscles and bone structure around the area. After running her hands over the rest of the dog’s body, she was convinced there wasn’t too much damage.
“Ralf’s fine,” she said as she made one last check of his eyes. “There’s a small wound on his shoulder that’s going to be a little tender for a while but it won’t require stitches. I’d like to keep a watch on him though, so he should stay here tonight.” She looked up from her patient and caught the man studying her, a frown creasing his forehead.
“All right Ralf.” He quickly turned his attention to the young dog who was wagging his tail again. “You’re going to be okay, mate.” Grey eyes glanced up at her. “Thanks Dr…?”
“Wilson. But please, I insist all my patient’s pets call me Jennifer.” He smiled at her, putting out his right hand, his expression friendly.
“Tom Peters.” She took his hand in hers, noticing how his skin was warm and dry. It was nice.
“I’ll fix up that scratch and get Ralf settled and then I’ll be out.” She turned to the counter behind her, letting Tom Peters say goodbye to his pet without her watching. People, especially men, sometimes felt foolish talking to their animals in front of her.
“Be good Ralf,” she heard him murmur as she turned back. Tom smiled at her, his eyes warm and something in her stomach did a little flip-flop, completely taking her by surprise. Bending down to the shepherd, scratching him gently behind the ear, Jennifer studied the man as he left the room, trying to hide her sudden nervousness.
“Don’t worry Ralf,” she whispered to the young dog, “Your dad will be back tomorrow.”
At that wholly wonderful thought the butterflies that had softly been fluttering away in her stomach exploded.
* * * * *
Moving through the clinic Jennifer checked on her patients, Rover again perched contentedly across her shoulder. Most of the animals were asleep; her more serious cases snuggled up in heated cubicles and blankets. Only one small kitten required constant attention tonight, but it was enough for Jennifer to set up the camp bed in the clinic. Besides, it was better than spending the night in her small unit alone, even with Rover for company. Stopping by Ralf’s cage, she looked in on her patient, his tail thumping in the blanket when he saw her.
“Hello, boy.” She squatted down lightly, unlatching the door. He stretched his head, his warm tongue licking her hand as she scratched his muzzle. “How’s that shoulder?”
Jennifer found herself thinking about the young dog’s owner, Tom Peters again.
Be honest, those grey eyes hadn’t left you all afternoon.
That was true. After she had tended to Ralf and placed him in his cubicle, she had gone out to the front counter to find Tom Peters looking at her framed university degrees hanging on the wall behind. It hadn’t taken her long to create a new patient file, but as she entered the data into the computer, the man had stood quietly, his grey gaze on her. It had made the butterflies stir again and she’d begun a nervous conversation about God-knows-what, sounding—now she thought about it—like a giggling schoolgirl.
“Great impression you made there, Jenny,” she mumbled. “He probably thinks you’re a complete idiot. And he’s bound to go to another vet!” She sighed, picturing the natural ease of his smile. She looked at Ralf again, his coat a healthy sheen, his eyes bright.
“You’re no help.” She scratched Tom’s dog behind his ears. “How can I not like someone who loves his dog so much?” Ralf’s tail wagged again, his tongue lolling from his mouth in a doggy smile. Rover moved on her shoulder, seemingly aware of the attention she was paying the German Shepherd and deciding to take a look. With uncanny grace, the lizard moved down her arm, his nose coming close to Ralf’s. The dog cocked his head slightly to one side, ears cocked as he watched the approaching blue-tongue. Preparing to move her pet from within mouth range of the Shepherd, Jenny was surprised when Ralf gently sniffed at the reptile. Even more surprising was Rover’s reaction. The lizard flicked out its bright blue tongue, unconcerned with the snuffling investigation.
“Wow.” She raised her eyebrows as she moved Rover back to her shoulder. “What’s got into you?”
As she was re-latching the cubicle door, the front buzzer rang. The clinic was closed after seven pm, but most of her clients knew she stayed back late at night, some calling by on their way homes to visit their pets. Walking to the front of the clinic, she scratched the soft underside of Rover’s scaly neck.
“Who’s come to visit tonight?” she asked the lizard as she unlocked the door. Opening it Jennifer stared. Tom Peters stood on the other side.
“The light was on…I was hoping you…” He held a bulging plastic bag and Jennifer caught a whiff of something spicy. “The Indian restaurant down the road was having a special… Do you like Indian?” He stopped, the frown returning quickly. “You’ve probably eaten…I’m sorry, dumb idea. Is it okay if I say hi to Ralf?”
Jenny felt her lips stretch into a wide smile. “I love Indian. I haven’t eaten. And you may say hi to Ralf.” The butterflies in her stomach burst into riotous flight but for some reason, now they didn’t make her feel nervous or clumsy. Just happy. Tom hesitated at the door for a moment.
“What’s the chances of Ralf and that lizard of yours getting along?” His grey eyes seemed to shine. Jennifer knew she was grinning like a fool, but those butterflies were having a wild party.
“I think the chances are pretty high.” She laughed. “Tell me, do you like love songs?”