Daisy pranced back and forth in front of the door. Master had been gone a long time. She sat down for a moment, tongue lolling out, and then got up again, unable to sit still.
She trotted back into the kitchen and nosed at her food dish, but it was just as empty as it had been all day.
But more importantly -- she looked longingly at the door -- Master was away, and she was lonely.
Click, click, click went her toenails on the hardwood hall floor as she resumed her eager pacing. Master had been gone a lot lately, but she knew he would be home soon. After all, he was Master, and she loved him.
Then -- could it be? Yes! The sound of keys in the front lock! And that voice -- it was Master! Daisy whipped around so suddenly that she lost her footing and tumbled to the floor, then scrabbled back to her feet and ran toward the door at full speed.
No sooner had Master pushed his way inside the door than Daisy was leaping up, trying to lick his face, her tail a frenzy of motion. His breath worried her instantly -- he smelled sick again. He had been sick a lot lately, and she tried to lick his face, to make him more comfortable until he got better.
"Damn it, dog!" Master's voice exploded from his chest, and something sent Daisy tumbling backward. She scrambled to her feet again and ran anxious circles around his feet as he slammed the door and trudged down the hall, one hand to his head.
Master smelled bad again. His face was red, and he was moving slowly as he walked down the hall. Daisy tried again to jump up and lick his face, but again was pushed back, with another growl from Master.
The hallway finally widened, and Daisy trotted alongside Master with a worried whine. He must not have heard, though, because he didn't reach down to scratch her head. He always used to scratch her head. She pushed her nose into the back of his hand, only to get pushed away again.
Master was going into the dining room and opening the cabinet. Daisy abruptly fell to her haunches, as the sick smell rolled out of the cabinet and washed over her nose. Here it was again, just like last night, and the night before. Something in the cabinet smelled sick, the same sick smell that Master had on his breath now.
Her hackles raised as Master poured something into a glass, and she let out another worried whine, but he didn't even look her way.
This had been going on for many nights, and Daisy didn't understand why. It had been going on since before Momma had left -- packed up her bags one day while Master was away, and left and not come back. The memory made Daisy tremble.
Then Master did something different. Instead of sitting down at the table, he stumbled into the den, and collapsed into his old favorite chair. Daisy's eyes widened. That chair only meant one thing -- curl up with the dog! She let out a joyous yelp and ran in after him, then sprang into his lap.
There was a blur of motion, something wet, and then Daisy was on the floor, trembling, as Master yelled. She didn't understand what he was saying, but something bad must have happened. She darted behind the chair and looked around the room, eyes wide, as Master stomped back into the dining room.
Then everything was quiet. After a few long moments, Daisy finally shook herself off and followed.
Master was sitting at the dining room table. The sick smell was heavy in the room, but then Daisy smelled something else -- fear. Master was hurt, and afraid. She sat down and whined, not knowing what to do.
Finally she got up and trotted under the table, to curl up at Master's feet. He didn't acknowledge her presence, but she could feel how cold his feet were. She moved closer to let her body heat warm him.
At her insistent touch, another shout rose from Master, and Daisy found herself tumbling away under the table, a sharp pain in her ribs. She yelped and scrambled to her feet, worried again about Master. What was wrong? What had happened?
She circled out from under the table and began trotting toward him, and suddenly there was a loud, awful crash behind her. She yelped and spun around. The balcony door was wet, and held the same sick smell as Master. Daisy cringed back, and looked to Master for help.
He was still shouting. He grabbed a plate from the table and threw it at her. She scrambled backward, and the plate shattered in front of her.
Daisy turned and ran blindly. She crashed into the balcony door, and its latch, already jarred by the hurled glass, came open. She scrambled out onto the balcony and cowered in the darkness.
Master was muttering under his breath. He stumbled over to retrieve his glass from the floor, then went back toward the liquor cabinet. Daisy watched with wide, frightened eyes.
Snatches of his words floated out toward the balcony. "...Didn't have to leave, that bitch didn't have to leave... I can quit drinking any time I want to... she didn't have to leave me."
Daisy heard him sobbing. Her heart ached to go back inside and comfort him, but fear held her back. Master had cried a lot since Momma left. But he still smelled sick, and the crash of the broken plate was still ringing in her ears. She let out a whimper, torn between her Master and her fear.
Finally, she rose to her feet, poked her head back inside the doorway, and whined questioningly. Master's tear-streaked face rose momentarily to meet hers, and her heart ached for him.
Then he yelled something, his words lost in a sob, and grabbed another plate, ready to throw. Daisy yelped and scrambled back into the darkness of the balcony.
And as Master's sobs continued, Daisy raised her head and howled her pain and loneliness to the sky.