When Miriam died and there were snaps in all the papers of Helen leaving the cemetery, one of the tabloids remarked nastily that she looked as if she had just been freed from a Chinese prison. She hadn’t felt that way. There were times during their long years together when she had felt closed off or kept in, occasionally tortured even, but she didn’t then. Neither could she remember Miriam ever being sick. Her collapse that day was like seeing something that had hardened through the millennia endure a cataclysmic event, a stray, dumb meteor striking the earth.
The burial was crowded, a lone photographer unobtrusive on the periphery. Miriam hadn’t made any arrangements, having never intended to die. It was only at the insistence of her agent that she’d made a will. Helen was thunderstruck, paralyzed with indecision, until, again, Miriam’s agent, Pat—oddly dressed, towering over everyone—threw it all together: the disposition of the body, the simple graveside service, the fête after at The Key to All Mythologies, a cozy literary hangout not far from the apartment, where Miriam liked, on the rare occasion, to hold court.
It was a miserable, damp, gusting day, with a lowering slate sky, Helen clinging to Pat’s arm, wind beaten, aware of no one in particular—Pat’s assistant running interference, letting no one approach—barely aware of the wink of the lone camera and the droning of the officiant, some uninspired fallen rabbi recommended by one of Miriam’s poets.
At The Key, the atmosphere was disconcertingly as it ever was, smoky, crowded, humid, just any other day. A warm glass of coffee and brandy was pressed into her hands; taking in its warmth and fire, the world began to take shape again and she felt marginally girded for the onslaught. Everyone of course was shocked, shocked, How could it be? they said, It just seems too impossible, Why I just saw her last week. Helen only agreed, all of it true, goddamn. What thready filaments, holding them up, they were all relying upon.
That Monday morning, before Miriam died, the clot had to have already been there in the upper chamber of her quivering heart (a symptom, Helen would soon learn, of the condition) when she came home after spending the weekend at the studio. As she came into the living room, Helen, already on her second cup of tea and reading a draft of the essay Miriam was currently toiling over, had said, “You’ll be glad to know the mouse hasn’t begun to smell.”
Miriam knelt down next to her, taking her hand, brushing her lips against her wrist, a gesture from their early days that took Helen by surprise.
On Friday evening—Miriam had left for the studio Saturday morning—they’d discovered their cat, Artemisia, sprawled seductively, eyes unfocused as if drunken, in front of the turntable, a mouse crouched, assumedly frozen in terror, a few inches from her deadly outstretched paw. Artemisia was a Hemingway cat, and each of her seven digits were separate in that moment of predation, open and loose, air flowing through them, so cool she was, she could take it or leave it, it didn’t matter one way or the other.
Miriam turned and sat on the sofa with her satchel. “Christ, I left the new pages at the studio.”
“You’re working here today?”
“It’s such a perfect day for the terrace.”
“I can run over and get them for you.”
“Don’t bother. I’ll be back in a flash.”
Not more than half an hour later, Helen was putting her teacup in the sink when the doorman called up to say that Miriam had fallen getting out of a cab and that Helen better come down. Miriam had a tricky ankle and had probably turned it again. In the elevator, Helen considered whether or not to attend the new King Lear. It was across town and she didn’t know anyone in it and hadn’t gotten any invitations to dinner after, but it had such good reviews and she thought it might be just the thing. They’d both been in an off-kilter place lately, not entirely yoked together. She decided then, as the elevator stopped at the tenth floor, the door needlessly clanking open to an empty hallway, that she would go. And would ask Miriam to go with her. After, they could swing by that little place with the pie that Miriam liked. Helen hadn’t been worried. Not much. Only that little niggling sort of thing that wormed around in the recesses. It was just a fall after all and she hadn’t known that the clot had already cleaved, the deadly fragment breaking free, shooting upward where it was blockaded at the entrance to Miriam’s brain as she stepped out of the cab, where, suddenly woozy, she put a hand along the side of her face and collapsed, crumpled, the doorman would tell her, like a doll, and that, like a doll, would haunt Helen for the rest of her life.
Later, Helen would think of their last conversation when the smell of the putrescent mouse wafted out from under the stove.
Miriam’s estate was settled quickly, the apartment during that time a train station of lawyers and publishers and editors.
Alone, finally quiet, Helen was sitting on the terrace with a coffee when the intercom buzzed.
“Miss Helen, Leah Segall is down here for you,” the doorman said.
Miriam’s sister, Leah, had been at the burial, so Helen heard, as well as after at The Key, conspicuously weeping into a handkerchief while looking askance at the bar, perhaps at the very existence of alcohol and drinking. But neither of them had sought the other out.
Today, at Helen’s door, she wore a black suit, one of those jackets where the shoulder pads jutted out past the confines of the body, with a voluminous bow erupting over her chest.
“Sorry to barge in but I lost track of your number ages ago. Miriam never called, you know, and eventually a person quits bothering.”
Leah was entirely unlike Miriam except for her eyebrows—bold, defined, somewhat belligerent—which were so much like Miriam’s that Helen, on the two previous occasions they’d been thrown together, felt a confusing fillip of desire. On this meeting she only felt gored and irritated and avoided looking directly at her. Leah lived with her family somewhere in the Midwest, a vowel state Helen and Miriam colluded to pretend they could never remember. She’d gone for Reagan and Nixon before. Here, in the Chelsea apartment, she stalked aggressively, creature-like, pausing here and there to finger an object or crane her muscular neck at a painting, finally planting herself in front of the big east-facing windows, the city jagged and vast.
“Couldn’t be more different from Kansas, could it?” She faced Helen then as if she expected an assent to the superiority of Kansas implied in her unspoken argument.
Not a vowel state then, Helen thought, and wondered how they’d gotten it wrong.
“Would you like a cup of tea or…”
“I hear you have a chef.”
“Are you hungry?” Helen replied, raising her eyebrows, smiling falsely. Helen had never wanted to be one of those women, the ones who came to lunch at the house with her mother, who let their feelings be known by a deceitful undercurrent instead of just saying plainly what they meant. But here she was, warring through subtext, figuring Leah, as transparent as a golden retriever, wouldn’t catch it.
“I’ll cut to the chase. I expected to have heard from someone by now.”
Helen nodded. “About the will,” she said.
Leah cocked her finger and made a noise, between her teeth and her cheek, a kind of chirrup that a terrier might respond to.
“The estate is closed and all dispensations meted out,” Helen said stiffly, sounding to herself like one of the lawyers.
“So, I would have known by now is what you’re saying. If you were to say it straight. If something was coming to me.” Leah shook her head and wandered away from the window. “Guess you made out like a bandit, huh?”
Helen exhaled sharply through her nose. She supposed she couldn’t fault Miriam’s sister for not knowing that what Miriam brought in for her essays, the occasional book, the lectures and appearances, was never going to encompass Miriam’s needs and desires, almost exponentially greater with each passing year. Helen never minded coming through when the checks had to be written but it rankled when others assumed otherwise. Helen wanted to correct Leah but it didn’t feel right, not then. One more time, she’d carry water for Miriam, throw up a final bulwark against threats, against her reputation, now her legacy.
“A wasted trip then. When it was none too cheap to come to this thing, whatever you call it, no kind of funeral I ever saw.”
Leah shook her head and headed for the door, Helen relieved that whatever this was, it was almost over.
But Leah stopped, planting her sensible low pumps solidly on the parquet with a terrifying aura of permanence, Helen sensing an impending speech. Taking a big breath, Leah said, “You know when our grandmother passed, she didn’t leave much behind. Neither of us had seen much of our daddy, or each other, when we met him at a diner. He came in carrying a big box with the two things his mother had owned that weren’t junk. His words. Miriam got the better one of course, though she claimed mine was worth more. A piano baby, a porcelain thing about a foot high meant to sit on a piano to hold the dust cloth in place. As if we had a piano. A few years after, Timmy was still little then and he was wearing his sister’s nightgown and swishing around the living room to some disco thing that was on the TV, just messing around, it didn’t mean anything—I don’t believe in that gene stuff. He crashed into the coffee table and the piano baby wobbled off. And that was it for Gramma Talia’s legacy.
“Miriam got the pitcher. It was from God knows where, but pretty, all sorts of inlay and swirls. Miriam called it an… objay. She always liked to say things that nobody else understood.” Leah looked at Helen pointedly. “I’d really like to go home with that objay. If it wouldn’t put you out. Since I have come all this way for nothing.”
Helen frowned. She knew the pitcher Leah meant. A Satsuma chocolate pot. Really quite beautiful, though not particularly valuable. Miriam had taken it to the studio for a bit of color.
“It isn’t here.” All she wanted was for Leah to go. “Are you in town long? Or should I send it? To Kansas.”
“Miriam kept a small studio apartment, just a few blocks away, a place to work without distraction. The pitcher is there, on the mantelpiece.”
“Mantelpiece,” Leah repeated, a perfect mockery of Helen’s intonation, those round vowels. Helen could see her intelligence then, her doughy features hardening as something connected in her mind, her eyebrows drawn together, a portrait of Miriam in anger.
“You paid for all this.” Leah swept out her arm, to encompass the apartment or perhaps all of New York. It was something between a question and a declaration.
Helen didn’t respond.
Leah made a sound like a bark. “We figured you must have something other than being tall and blonde to keep Miriam’s interest.”
“I’ll send the pitcher then.”
As Leah strode toward the door, Helen stepped forward and opened it.
“By the way,” Leah said as she crossed the threshold and paused in the hallway, half-turning, her skirt pulling taught at the hips, “whatever it is you all got up to together, it’s disgusting.”
Helen had begun the gargantuan task of going through Miriam’s papers. It was daunting and she was on guard against it taking over her entire life. Miriam had been prolific and Helen was barely into the early diaries from college before she was even published.
How will I be remembered? And for how long? A generation? A millennia?
Helen had laughed. Of course Miriam was Miriam even then, worrying over her legacy at eighteen years old.
They’d been introduced at the opening night cast party for a Miller play, some fifteen years before, Helen flying in from LA to step into the small, though she was assured, pivotal role at the last minute. The actress she was replacing had eaten some mushrooms and decided nothing could be more empty of meaning than stomping around on a stage and mouthing someone else’s words. Helen was fresh off a publicity junket for her first film, The Girl on the Platform, one of those few quiet late ’60s films somehow not overtaken by violence and nihilism, ignorant that it would be her last. The success of the film snuck up on her and she won a few awards; the trip to Venice was fun. All the critics said it was just the beginning for her.
Miriam was, maybe, twenty years older than Helen. Helen in that moment, when the director of the play introduced them, had understood that she should know who she was, was expected to know, and in the absence of knowing sensed a penance coming right at her, a tailored hairshirt flapping down Eighth Avenue. Until all at once, like fragments of a dream assembling, Helen could see her: photographs in slick magazines, a slightly younger Miriam all in black, her alluring, handsome intelligence gazing out from the page. She remembered then that Miriam was some glamorous intellectual, famous for essays on subjects both common and esoteric.
They soon moved in together, into the terraced fourteenth floor apartment Helen’s father bought her, so grateful she wouldn’t be going back to the West Coast.
In those days, Miriam was publishing six or eight essays a year, turning down invitations to parties, saying Helen should go along without her. Miriam’s essays, though to Helen maddeningly ambiguous, a secret language only for the initiated (Helen wasn’t initiated—though she read widely in fiction, works about ideas only made her feel stupid), seemed to be nearly universally accepted as groundbreaking, a brilliant, slippery body of criticism that just might last forever.
But soon Miriam was writing her first novel and it was failing to cohere. Miriam made it clear to Helen that she wanted to make art, not just stretch it out on a cold table and wield her knife. Her knife was sharp and she found satisfaction in using it. But it was still second fiddle, glossing instead of issuing forth.
Helen read fragments of it, finding it as inscrutable as the essays, if not more, overflowing with layered metaphors and classical allusions, with a bent toward the experimental, maybe even the surreal. Helen tried to understand it, tried to like it, she really did.
She eventually understood that Miriam expected her to gush whether she meant it or not. It wasn’t an accident that Miriam had been with other actresses. Helen should have arrived at this sooner but she had a penchant for believing her own fantasies, one of them being that Miriam was better, more noble, than her behavior bore out.
“Maybe you ought to focus on the essays. They seem to come so easy to you.”
“I only make it look easy. Putting together that Reagan assassination piece while people still cared almost killed me.”
They fell into a kind of wobbly dance, each intellectually unsuited for one another, their shared spheres social, economic. There, Helen withheld insincere praise, while Miriam nudged her away from work, variations on “I’m not sure that part is quite right for you” while Helen paid for everything, kept house and Miriam provided entree to people and places and things that constituted the life Helen thought she wanted to live.
After Leah left, Helen went back out onto the terrace and stood at the parapet. She had competing urges. Either to plunge herself into amber, ossifying all that remained of her life with Miriam, or to press forward toward whatever might be next, whatever that could possibly be.
The math, if math it was when she totted it up, was murky.
Still, she headed down to the street and turned south, intent on dispensing with the task related to Leah straightaway. It was windy and she had to corral her scarf as she passed by a cigar shop. She lingered in front of a shoe store while waiting for the light. At knee height were a pair of black flats similar to the ones Miriam had always worn. She’d have to do something with Miriam’s clothes, her shoes. But what? Take them to Goodwill? To be worn by other people? Impossible to fathom. She stood dazed, her mind churning through unsatisfying alternatives, until she became aware of her reflection in the window. She’d taken to avoiding the mirror. Approaching forty, she didn’t know exactly how to think of herself, how she fit in. She’d read an article in a magazine at her dentist’s office that said once a woman hit forty, she may as well be sixty or eighty, as far as her desirability went. She thought again of Miriam’s clothes. Her papers. Pat said her papers should go to a university. “But not the diaries,” Helen had said. “Why not?” Pat asked, frantically. Miriam had been a prodigious diary keeper and Helen hadn’t even made it out of the college years. She was afraid of what she’d find when she got to their time together. Miriam believed in merciless truth and Helen feared this was especially so in the privacy of her diary.
Enough, she thought, and turned from the window and crossed the intersection.
Miriam’s studio was a walk up. Breathing hard, Helen pushed into the hallway on the sixth floor, the pungent odor of liver and onions bludgeoning her in the face. The studio was at the far end of the hall. She walked slowly, suddenly overcome with a feeling that she was trespassing or that somehow she’d be interrupting Miriam at work. All for an idiotic chocolate pot. Eventually she’d have to come back and clear the place out, that notion, the clearing away of the recently living, unbearable.
The door was ajar. Miriam could be careless but never with her work. A break-in was possible, even likely in this neighborhood. Helen turned to look back down the hall; nothing there but the liver and onions. She should go down to the street and call the police. Instead, she nudged the door open with her knuckle, remembering then how light it was, hollow, nothing to it.
A woman stood at the window by Miriam’s desk. She turned, only her head, as Helen wavered at the threshold.
“You must be Helen.” She had an indefinable European accent.
Helen stepped inside.
“I only just heard. I am a friend. Of Miriam’s.”
She was wearing a wrap dress, cut low, always in style, no lines, her body apparently requiring no undergarments. Cheekbones, hair pulled back tight, the bones on her chest conspicuous.
“A friend with a key.”
The woman shrugged with one shoulder.
“I was on set in Brazil. The director a real fucking tyrant. No newspapers, radio, phone. Art, you know.”
“You and Miriam…”
She shrugged again. “I am sorry if it is… unpleasant.” She turned fully to Helen then, leaning back against the windowsill, her gaze direct. “Miriam and I had a similar understanding of life.”
Helen didn’t need to ask what that was. She went to the mantle, took the chocolate pot and swaddled it in the tea towel she’d brought with her.
“I wanted to be here, where she was, where we were together, one last time. Just for a moment.”
Helen settled the pitcher into her bag. She’d stop at the post office on her way home, package up the Satsuma pot and send it on its way to Kansas and be done with it. “Leave the key under the door when you go.”
The woman angled her weight off the sill and took a step toward Helen. She was one of those women fully aware of her body, how it situated in space, how it looked when it moved, aware of its power. An actress. As Helen once was.
“I don’t know if you and she…had lately been together. We, of course, didn’t speak of such things. In Brazil, I had a little problem.” She crossed the room, as if gliding, and was suddenly right in front of her. Her fingers were long, wraith-like. She encircled Helen’s wrist, gripping her hard in emphasis. “It was very, very itchy,” she said, laying her other hand over her groin like a fig leaf. “Very bad to deal with there. The Latin doctor thought I was a common whore.”
One night not long before she died, Miriam and Helen attended a party. Miriam had spent the afternoon writing. Having a good session, she mixed herself a celebratory Amaro and seltzer and suddenly felt like seeing people. So, they dressed and headed crosstown.
It was a typical party for them, starting out inside a civilized bubble before a devolution into the sloppy and raucous, inevitably soiling itself with broken glassware, liquor spilled, strange, modern furniture scarred by the careless cigarette. As soon as they arrived, Miriam peeled off. Helen didn’t mind; she liked floating through a party, moving from cluster to cluster. She’d found herself in a clutch of actors gossiping about the Tony shortlist and uncharacteristically accepted a joint when it came round to her. She broke away soon after, intent on another drink, when she saw a woman exiting the only water closet. Helen slipped in, taking her opportunity.
The bathroom’s small window was wide open and the cold air was sublime. The woman had forgotten a cigarette, just lit, burning on the edge of the sink. Helen took a drag, savoring being alone before going back into the din. The light, too bright, was cruelly harsh. She frowned at the lines on her face, now in stark relief. Somebody put on “Boys Keep Swinging” and turned it all the way up. A man and a woman were outside the bathroom door, right up against it. Just then the joint kicked in. Helen suppressed a laugh. She heard snippets of conversation through the door and imagined the fragments floating cartoon-like under the gap of the door, snaking around her legs and waist until slipping, lasciviously, into her ear.
Lucy in the sky…
Helen smiled and gazed at herself in the mirror, watching as she took one long last drag on the abandoned cigarette and flicked the butt out the window, so thankful Miriam was still on people’s minds. It made it all worthwhile.
“In the public’s consciousness,” she said aloud. But the way her mouth looked when she said it, as if she were a toddler struggling to form the words, made her double over laughing till she cried.
The door strained in its jamb and Helen heard rustling.
She flicked the lock and turned the knob. The couple, a man and woman of similar height, both with glittering eyelids and electric pompadours, caught themselves before falling into the bathroom. She stepped past them and tried to remember what she was supposed to do next.
Her mouth was so dry and then she remembered, a light bulb carving out space in her brain. She could have turned down the hall and gone into the kitchen for her drink, but she hung back. The light in the hallway was burned out and she was shrouded as she looked through the large open doorframe. She could see nearly the whole of the party rendered as if it were a painting, suddenly animated. There was the famous writer with the dramatic silver streak in her thick black hair making a beeline toward Miriam. And there was Miriam herself, standing too close to a woman, pretty, willowy, just Miriam’s type, not unlike Helen, twenty years younger.
It was Helen’s wont to engage in fantasies, stifling self-knowledge, her strategy for the maintenance of equilibrium. Equilibrium, she thought, might be the most vital human need after the obvious bodily requirements. It was moments like this that tested Helen, her ability to achieve that essential counterpoise. She lighted another cigarette, somehow magically provided with cigarettes and flame, though she lacked pockets or a bag—where had she put her bag?—and retreated into a memory from that morning when she went round the block to pick up bagels and encountered a person and a dog on the street. This of course was not unusual on the streets of Manhattan, but there was a quality about the day that made Helen take particular notice. The person’s attention was elsewhere, and as the dog’s eyes met hers, Helen felt seen in a way that she suddenly knew she required. As the distance between her and the person and the dog collapsed, she splayed out her hand and when she felt the cool of the dog’s nose against her fingers, she put her other palm to her chest, that’s how pleasurable it was, so finely was her entire body suffused with wellbeing, a minute, perfect liaison.
That feeling had lingered like a tender ghost on the periphery of her consciousness all day. But the tableau before her made it fizzle and all she could see, all she could know, was that Miriam and the girl were about to kiss, right there, in front of everyone.
Helen called for an appointment the moment she got back from mailing the chocolate pot and lucked into one that very afternoon. She decided to walk. Her long-ago agent’s admonitions on the necessity of slimming had lodged in her psyche and her grief had resulted in some minor bloating, her euphemism for gaining weight.
She’d just turned the corner when a woman, highly made up, in heels Helen only associated with lawbreaking, stepped in front of her.
“Helen, is that you?”
“My God, it’s been eons.”
It had. Kerrie had been the lead actress in the Miller play that had brought Helen to New York. They’d had a minor entanglement just before she met Miriam. Kerrie was with a Black woman similarly made-up, their arms cozily linked. Helen and Miriam had never been showy, an unspoken agreement, and Helen couldn’t help but turn her head to see who might be noticing her with these two women. Kerrie wore a knee-length red plastic coat over the sort of lingerie one might wear on one’s honeymoon or performing a burlesque; her friend was in a black leather mini skirt, a filmy teal blouse and matching felt cloche. Helen suddenly felt very old. Or very staid. If there was a difference.
“It has, ten years at least,” Helen said, only then seeing they were in front of a basement bar that she’d somehow never noticed. Women and men loitered on the sidewalk in knots determined by sex.
“I’m sorry about Miriam. Who knew anything could bring her down.”
Helen didn’t have anything to say.
“You know, I just got cast in a new play. I have a really good feeling about it. There’s a part you might be right for. Come in for the open audition tomorrow.”
“I don’t know…”
“What are you doing over here anyway?”
Helen gestured to the door two buildings down, stenciled, Laura Bogojevic, OBGYN.
“Expecting, are you?” Kerrie’s joke amused only herself.
Helen sat quite peacefully in the waiting room. She’d brought the John Updike she’d been carrying around for months and passing her eyes over until she hit something rankling that made her snap it shut. Helen knew it was entirely impossible to have contracted whatever contagion Miriam had conveyed to the slinky European actress (or she to her) as it had been some months, maybe upwards of a year, since they’d gone to bed. Nonetheless, she was determined to be cleansed.
In the room, stirruped and open, she explained the nature of the predicament to the doctor, minus the timeline. Though the examination found no signs of infection, she was prescribed a course of antibiotics anyway, since a delay in the onset of symptoms was typical. As she pushed through the door onto the street, a stranglehold on the prescription, Helen exhaled in a great rush of air, perhaps an expiration of all that she had kept inside through the years.
At home, after swallowing the first dose, she stood before Miriam’s chair, the shiny black Eames, almost totemic, one more time taking in her absence, the craterous gap Miriam’s exit had left. Then she turned and sat, leaning back and settling her heels on the ottoman. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, the leather of the chair warming under her. She’d slept so little since Miriam died. She felt that shimmer, that wavering of the line between awake and asleep. Did she sleep? Suddenly, her weeks of muddled restlessness evaporated and like a blind snapping open she felt miraculously awake. She brewed a pot of coffee and went out onto the terrace. Helen, after only a small, sugared hummingbird sip of fame, had long ago grown accustomed to not having it. Tomorrow was the audition. Kerrie had called, the phone ringing just as she came in the door from the pharmacy, to press her to come. Helen imagined herself on the stage, playacting, hungry eyes upon her. It was a fine clear day, the city crisp, somehow more consoling in its definiteness. She could see the Westside Theatre, where she was to go for the audition, its peaked roof and arched windows winking a few blocks away.
Helen awoke the next morning refreshed. Instead of picking up one of Miriam’s diaries as she’d done each day, she put on a Paul Simon record and glanced at the Times. After lunch she dressed and went out, headed for the Westside Theatre. Her seasonal urge to walk through the park stole over her at the sight of the leaves on the pavement in the flat and stealthy sunlight. On Tenth Avenue just after Chelsea Park, a panhandler she’d never seen was sitting on the concrete outside the liquor store, a circle of cigarette butts forming a sort of protective circle around him. A few feet away, a dog, medium-sized, wire-haired, bearded in a way that suggested a nineteenth-century eccentric, sat sniffing the air, his leash untethered, snaking around him on the concrete. A woman in a calf-length cashmere coat gestured in front of the Louis Louise shop window, talking emphatically to her friend about the scarf array draped on the headless mannequins.
Helen’s heel caught in a crack and she lurched awkwardly, sinking down onto her knee to prevent herself from falling. She was then partially within the panhandler’s circle. He leaned forward, bringing his face to hers, his eyes unfocused.
“Yours?” she said, indicating the dog.
He raised his finger, as if he was bidding at an auction, and reached into his mouth where he dislodged a blackened molar. Helen stared, transfixed. She heard a shriek and turned her head to the women window-shopping, laughing, unaware of Helen, the panhandler, the dog. Looking squarely at her, the tufted fur of his ears and muzzle moving slightly in the breeze, the dog inched toward her on his haunches, with a sneaking backward glance at the women. The panhandler held his tooth up to her as if it were a prize and put it into his pocket. Helen tried to smile, knowing she failed. She took a bill out of her bag and placed it in his cup. She opened her hand to the dog and when he settled his chin in her palm, she picked up his leash and, together, they went home.