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There Was Never Enough Time
By H.N Hunt

    Bella feels the world crumbling around her. She hadn't understood exactly what was happening until this precise moment. It always seemed like the sort of thing that happened to others, not to her. She heard the stories but who wanted to believe them?

    There are people around her and she can't make out what they're saying but it doesn't matter because Matt is bleeding and the world is falling apart for her. She lies in the detritus of the alley, pressing her face against his chest and people are talking but none of this is bringing Matt back now, is it? 

    And Matt himself is running a hand over her head, the gesture so familiar and somehow so final that Bella can't help a whimper. She can't fix this. Nothing she knows can fix this. 

    “Easy, Bella,” Matt says and though his voice is low, she can hear it just fine over the chatter and sirens behind and around her. “Don't worry, girl. Be good for Karen, okay?”

    But Bella doesn't want to be good. Bella wants to howl at the injustice of it all because what did Matt do to deserve this? They walked this way all the time and nothing had ever happened so why now? Why this time?

    Then there are men in uniforms and they are coming to Matt but although Bella recognizes them as paramedics, she knows they cannot help Matt. She can smell the death already clinging to him. 

    Then hands are pulling her back and she fights, lashes out with her voice because she would never hurt anyone, not even now but she can't be away from Matt because if she's away from him then it will be over and he will be gone and he is her world and what does Karen know? She doesn't want to be a good girl and she doesn't want to go with Karen. 

    “Bella, please.” The voice is Karen's and despite her thoughts, Bella calms down, recognizing at last the hands that have her. They are touching, stroking, trying to convey and pull comfort at the same time. Bella doesn't want to but Karen is an ice floe of familiarity in this arctic sea of uncertainty and Bella leans into her, resting her face against Karen's abdomen. 

    “It's okay, Bella,” Karen says though it is not. Her voice is choked and Bella knows if Karen could, she'd be howling in tandem with her. “We only have each other now, Bella,” Karen says as the paramedics exchange grim looks. Karen is more realistic than most people and she knows as Bella does that Matt is not coming back. 

    “You've got to help me, Bella,” Karen asks, her voice thick, her arms heavy around Bella's neck. “Please, help me.”

    And Bella knows she will. Her world is over but here is Karen and Karen needs her and Matt asked her to be a good girl. So that is just what Bella will do. She presses her nose into Karen's neck and gives her tail a thump and promises herself that she will be a good dog for Karen.

H. N. Hunt lives and works in Pennsylvania. She spends most of her time reading and writing and playing with her dogs, who have not figured out the concept of personal space. She has had work published in a variety of venues and is excited to see her work in MARY. 

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