Now they were suddenly more than friends their thoughts for each other could shift quickly. The proud tilt of her head might so easily be arrogance or his charm smarminess. But for the moment they were happy.
They were walking by the lake, arm in arm, half turned towards each other.
There was a growl on the path behind them, a yelp and a scramble. A young girl’s fearful call. They turned. An Alsatian cross, brindled back bristling, leapt for a cowering pug.
The girl screamed.
‘Do something,’ called Phee.
Preston looked around for a stick or rock. A weapon, so he didn’t have to approach. He pulled on a branch but it was too green to snap.
“Preston, do something!”
Teeth, fur, saliva, blood. A deathly howl and gurgle. A girl’s inconsolable whimpering.
Preston tried to yell, “Back. Back,” but the words stuck fast.
A man lumbered out of the scrub. With barely a glance at the others he clipped a chain on his blood-drunk dog, then punched it hard across the jaw.
‘Oi,’ said Preston.
The man spat on the ground then turned and left, saying nothing.
Phee cradled the distraught girl. ‘Well that was pathetic,’ she hissed.
She knew nothing of the scar that circled his thigh, nor the snarl of his childhood neighbour’s out-of-control mongrel.