'What's wrong with Reg?' Dinah asks. She crams her keys in the pocket of her cropped jacket while trying to take it off.
'Welcome, ma dear!' Doug's Scottish R rolls theatrically through our common room. 'I passed! Hurrah, I can now legally drive! The test went really well, how braw of ye to ask! Do ye want to see ma license?' He knocks over a chair and kisses her violently on the face.
'Congrats.' She bends backwards in his embrace and tries to look around his broad shoulders. 'Oh, hi Adam,' she says when she sees me. 'So you still haven't moved out, have you? But really, guys, where's Reg?'
I'm not surprised Dinah's the first to notice there's something wrong with our terrier, even though she doesn't live here. I'm trying to have a Godfather marathon, and this time I'm determined to reach the finish. The fridge is packed with lager and I've installed myself on the sofa four hours ago with a shit load of crisps and cookies, two packs of marb red's and four lighters, so I haven't noticed much at all lately. And Doug has been way too obsessed with his driver's test, anyway.
Obviously, Doug and I walk and feed the beast, in turns, but Dinah's got a different relationship with it, a deeper one. We always know she is coming long before she arrives, because Reg runs to the window and starts barking as soon as she gets a whiff of her perfume. I wouldn't blame Dinah if it was this enthusiasm that put her off: the dog always ruins her tights by jumping up at her, and will stay awake the entire night to chew on a vintage pump if it can get hold of one. Every now and then Dinah says we should get her a cage or a basket. She says a dog needs a place of its own, where it can hide and feel safe. But Doug thinks she's just trying to get rid of Reg by locking her up, so we never bothered.
Reg bit Dinah's leg once, when she was making out on the couch with Doug. When she showed me the mark, I interpreted her attitude towards the dog as an acquired phobia. But in due course I've come to understand it's more likely to be jealousy or, even worse, the unwanted confrontation with a mirror: she is just as randy a bitch as Reg.
'There you are,' Dinah says, walking toward the comfy chair. She straddles the arm and bends sideways to pet Reg. Her tail snaps against the floor when she sees Dinah and her breath wheezes, but she doesn't get up.
'What's wrong with my gal?'
From the sofa I can almost look under her checked skirt. This might distract me from Don Corleone for a minute.
'She does look a bit under the weather,' I say, nestling down a little further to get a better view. Though it's autumn and quite cold outside, she's not wearing tights under her skirt. Perhaps she was expecting Reg to damage them again. She doesn't seem to notice or mind me looking. Doug catches my eye, though. But he trusts me.
'She's aw reet,' he says, cheerful as always. 'There, she's waggin' 'er tail.'
'Oh, wake up and smell your own puke, geez!' I'm shocked by Dinah's sudden change of mood. 'Look at her, she's just laying there playing dead! That's not all right, she not fuckin' Adam! She's supposed to bite my ankles and make me trip with every step I take.'
I decide to let the insult pass. Still, I don't feel too comfortable any more and shift up. I reach for the remote control on the coffee table and pause the film. A beautiful shot of Brando raising his index finger at the camera. I frown at Reg and rest my elbows on my knees. She's officially the oldest resident of the mansion. She moved in nine years ago, when she was still called Foster. The Australian that brought her in, Barry, still drops by sometimes. To see if he's left a pizza in our freezer, or a clean pair socks behind the washing machine, as he puts it. I light a fag and move the ashtray from the coffee table onto a pile of vinyls next to the couch. I promised Doug I would bring them to my room, but as long as they're still here, I might as well use them.
When Barry graduated eight years ago, he moved out to live with his girlfriend, ten minutes down the road. Apparently this girlfriend was allergic to dogs, so Foster stayed. Soon, she had the place called after herself. At a legendary house party – I didn't live here yet, but I've heard the stories – all residents did their best marsupial-imitations while one of the guests wrote Reg's full name on our front door with a soldering-iron. 'Reginald Erskin Foster and Servants', it still says. That was the end of the Millenium, I believe nobody cared about gender back then. Since Doug moved in we call her Reg, emphasising the R and imitating his Scottish accent.
'You've been feedin' her beer again, innit?' Dinah gives her boyfriend an accusing look.
'Me?' says the poor Scot. 'I havnae been home long enough to have a swelly maself!'
'I suppose we're lucky, then,' she says. 'At least you can drive us to the vet.'
'But I jist got ma brother's car,' he protests. 'It's the Mazda with the soft top, you mustae seen it before you got in. It's a bludy two seater. Cannae possibly transport two folk and a dog in there.'
'Well, you've got a driver's licence now,' she says, 'and it's your dog.'
I can see where she going. 'So it seems like you're gonna have to do it on your own, innit?'
'But what if she soils the seats, or bites a hole in 'em? Ma brother will kill me!'
'I told you a hundred times to buy her a sheepskin.' Dinah's inexorable. 'If you listened to me then, you could have used it now to protect the car.'
Half an hour later Doug and Reg are at the vet, while I'm pouring Dinah a glass of cheap bubbly wine. It will give her a headache in the morning, she knows that, but for now it tastes fine. Very sweet, but girls are into that sort of thing.
'Sorry about that,' she says when I hand her the glass. I take a gulp of Carling from a can and sit next to her.
'That's all right, love,' I say, and put my hand on her knee.
'I do hope she'll be all right.' She leans forward to offer me a deep look down her shirt.
'I'm sure she will. Doug will take great care of her.' I start rubbing her leg.
'I know it seems like that dog and I don't get along,' she says, 'but I'm really quite fond of her.' She closes her eyes and expects me to kiss her.
'I know that,' I say, looming towards her. 'So am I.'
She can feel my breath on her face now and sags her lower lip.
'The house wouldn't be the same without her.'
I hold my breath and look at the crumbs of mascara in her lashes. From the telly the Don still waves his finger at us; a warning gesture. Fuck it, I think, let her kiss me. I'm not gonna make the first move again. For a second we sit still; she's enjoying the forbidden tension. Then her tongue finds its way into my mouth and I start massaging her leg again. Her skin is soft and warm, and she flexes and relaxes in the rhythm of my rubbing. Our tongues emulate in the same pace as well. This is why I offered her wine rather than beer: I can lose myself in the sour after taste on a girl's lips.
Still kissing me, she gets on her knees and crawls on top of me, pinning me to the couch. My hand follows her inner thigh. I notice she is very soggy. She managed to get wet quicker than I got hard. Perhaps she was turned on already when she had the arm of the chair between her legs. The thought excites me and I start poking her with three fingers. With my other hand I play with her breasts.
'I want to feel you inside me.' Her breath tickles my neck. She unbuckles my belt and tugs at the buttons of my jeans.
'What's this for?' I ask, and then it dawns on me. While trying to pull off her undies, I had groped a pad. A soft, squidgy, smeared sanitary pad. I jerk my hand back and push her off me.
'That's gross!' Films of slimy blood reach up until my wrist. 'You disgust me! Get out of my house!'
She just sits there on the sofa, looking at me, wide-eyed. As if she doesn't understand. As if she's gonna cry. That look makes me want to smack her with my bloody hand.
'Now!' I shout. Damn, I'm so angry!
When she still doesn't move, I grab her shoulder and drag her from the couch. She doesn't struggle, just lets me push her into the corridor and toward the door. My hand leaves smears of blood on her right shoulder blade. It's so repulsive, I can barely look at it. In a flash, I remember how wet she felt at first. She's sobbing now. Nausea surges up within me, and when I push her over the doorstep it almost feels like throwing up. With a loud bang I shut the door behind her. Ugh.
When I get out of the shower, I find Barry in the common room.
'What's up,' he says, taking a sip from a can of Carling. I'm stunned: the place looks like someone told a crackhead to go looking for meth Easter eggs. The sofa has been turned upside down and is resting on the coffee table; the comfy chair has been tossed to the other side of the room and blocks the entrance to the kitchen; some curtains are shut, others have been torn down. And scattered between all the furniture are my vinyls, books and newspapers.
'How did you get in, mate?' I ask.
'Doug let me in.' He grabs a round cushion and sits on it. Then I notice Reg, in the middle of this mess, laying on a similar pillow. They're darn ugly, huge and burnt umber, and I'm quite sure I've never seen them before.
'Apparently, Foster's got diabetes,' Barry says, stroking the terrier.
'Will she be okay?'
'She'll need regular insulin injections and special food,' he says. 'If that's too expensive for you, I'll take her back. Things aren't working out with me and Jane, anyway.'
'I'm sorry to hear, mate.'
'Oh, I'll be fine. I'm not so sure about Doug, though.'
'Why's that?' I spot another of those dreadful pillows and sit down on it.
'Can you imagine what it must be like for him?' He cocks his head and looks me in the eye. 'He's mad about this bitch, Adam, he freakin' adores her. He would eat his own arse if she told him to.'
'So?' I ask. I don't see his point.
'When Dinah sent him away like that, he dropped Foster off at the vet and went to a pet shop. She'd said a dog needed a place of its own, so he bought her three dog beds, to make up for all those years she had to do without.'
Doubtfully I look at the corduroy pillow I'm sitting on. 'Do you mean that, in order to avoid killing Reg, Doug bought three orange cushions?' I can hardly suppress a snigger.
'Yeah, because that's what Dinah told him to do. And when he got home, all proud and hoping to please her, he found the two of you, having it off in the shower. Geez, that's so harsh!'
'No, man,' I mutter. 'She left! I'm telling you, she's not even here!'
'Don't tell me,' he shrugs. 'Tell Doug. Look what he did to the place before he called me.'
Seems like I won't finish my marathon, again: even the telly is trashed. I'm surprised I haven't heard anything while I was in the shower. The Scot must have gone berserk.
'Go on, then,' Barry thrusts his mobile at me. 'Before he parks that pretty M5 against a tree!'