The short story of finding one love from a person with two first names.
The map on my phone did most of the driving. I handled the speed and the steering wheel. The phone was tethered to a charging cable in my center console. My head bobbed up and down. The turns grew more frequent and more important.
My phone directed me left into a neighborhood entrance. The street connected long driveways to single-story homes. All the yards stretched multiple football fields around the brick houses. In these parts of Florida, the residents love long fences. Horses need bigger yards than dogs.
I studied the numbers on the mailboxes. My phone chimed, but I dismissed the arrival alert. Not here yet. I pulled up to the iron gate – which was more of a hinge in the fence than an architectural entrance. The homeowner opened the gate from her kitchen. I crept down the winding driveway fighting a smile and racing heart. Not here yet.
As I parked my car, a symphony of protective barks erupted. The homeowner swung open the fence on the side of the house.
“It’s best to come around this way,” she said. She propped the fence open, turned around and headed towards the back of the house.
“I’m Kiran Susan,” she continued.
Without turning around, she asked me to close the gate. I lurched back, kicked the gate closed and continued my chase. The stone path bended around the house revealing an Old-Florida hidden paradise – complete with a stone deck, glistening pool and small barn disguised as a pool house. The barks echoed from the pool house.
I lunged for the screen door as it swung shut. The smell of animal food and wet fur floated through the screen. As I clicked the door open, Kiran slid open the glass door to her living room.
“So glad you made it. Take a seat out here.” Her voice trailed off. I weaved through the sun-bleached patio furniture.
“I’ll be right back with a few options.”
Florida transitions between Hot Season and Not-Hot Season in October or November – occasionally December. This was a rare year. This particular December, we were still waiting for the transition to start.
The fur-covered seat seemed like a dangerous suggestion. I loosened my tie, and I plucked at my shirt. Small puffs of relief fanned up to my face. Despite the risk of sitting down in a suit and standing up in a werewolf costume, I followed instructions.
I waited. Still, not here yet.
The barks from across the pool settled. Muted chirps grew louder in the house.
Kiran returned with three furry creatures. She carried them with one arm. The tiny creatures squirmed against her chest.
At the time, I thought Kiran didn’t notice their little grunts, but looking back, she did. Impressing me was more important than their ability to breathe. I should have realized how many of these creatures she can carry at once. Carrying three of them doesn’t require both hands.
“One of these is bound to be yours,” she said. Kiran began recounting all her accolades. Awards for “only producing the best” adorned her walls. She weaved the history of her successful hobby through stories of starting the local Tea Party.
Her impressive resume revealed her true gift. A talent she underestimated. Kiran managed to seamlessly blend her allegiance to the Republican party with her award-winning hobby. I tipped my hat to those details. She blazed right past them.
Kiran collected all three in her palms and held them up to me. Their heads fluffed with wisps of fur. Their eyes squeezed shut. One used her ladybug-sized tongue to lick her nose. Another sang soft yelps. They all fidgeted in her hands.
“Great choice. Her mom is Sarah Palan.”
She transferred two into one hand. I reached out with both hands for the black one. The little creature barely needed one of my hands, but with my heart racing, I needed two.
“And her dad is Ron,” she put a finger to her chin. “Wait, her dad is Glenn Beck. Her uncle is Ronald Regan.”
As I lowered her down, she continued to wiggle. Her yelps were just loud enough to hear over the ceiling fan. She settled against my chest. She liked the rhythm of my heart more than the sounds of her little voice. Silence. She cuddled against my suit pocket.
I could hear Kiran resume her boasting, but I couldn’t stop studying this little creature.
“Are you,” I whispered. “Are you Nola?”
The little creature lifted her head. She turned her face towards me.
I wondered if the ears hiding in all her fur even worked.
And then, as if a yes button was on the other side of my heart, she pressed her little head back down. Her eyes still squeezed shut. Her face smiled back at me.
I’m here. I’m finally here.
I leaned to the side, retrieved my wallet and handed it to Kiran.
Kiran stopped talking.