Daffodil

Daffodil is a very young, very silly red Italian Greyhound in Darling Beast and her personality is inspired by my own Miss Puppy Pie.

What the child found so fascinating about him, Apollo had no idea. His work was the same as the other gardeners’—tedious and wearying—yet the boy seemed to spy only on him. In fact, Apollo had noticed that Indio’s hiding place became closer every day, until today the boy was only feet away. He was beginning to wonder if the boy wanted to be noticed.

Apollo bent to pick up his long-handled adze. He swung it over his head and then down into the soft ground at the root of a stump. The heavy adze hit with a satisfying thump and he could feel that he’d struck one of the main roots.

He wiped his brow with the sleeve of his shirt and heaved the adze free from the stump. Then he swung again.

Daff,” came a hiss from the bushes.

Apollo’s lips twitched. Indio hadn’t chosen a particularly adept spy-mate. The greyhound obviously didn’t understand his young master’s need for stealth. Even now she was wandering out of their hiding place, nose to the ground, more interested in some scent than Indio’s frantic call. “Daff. Daffodil.

Apollo sighed. Was he really expected not to notice the dog? He was mute, not blind—or deaf.

Daffodil ambled right up to his feet. She’d apparently lost her fear of him in the last week of spying—or perhaps she was simply bored of sitting still. In any case she sniffed the tree stump and the adze, and then abruptly sat to scratch one ear vigorously.

Apollo extended a hand for the little dog to sniff, but the silly thing jumped back at his movement. She was quite near the pond bank and her sudden leap caused her back legs to slip in the mud. She tumbled down the bank and into the water, disappearing beneath the surface.

“Daff!” The boy ran from his hiding place, his eyes huge with fear.

Apollo put out his hand, blocking him.

The boy tried to dart around his outstretched arm. “She’ll drown!”

Apollo seized him and swung the boy off his feet and then set him down firmly, placing his hands on his shoulders and bending to stare into his eyes. He narrowed his eyes and growled, never so frustrated by his loss of speech as now. He couldn’t argue with the child—tell him what he meant to do and instruct him to obey, and thus he was reduced to animal grunting. Better the boy should fear him, though, than drown trying to rescue his pet.

Indio gulped.

Apollo stepped back, keeping his eye on the boy, and pulled off his shoes, waistcoat, and shirt. He hesitated a moment, staring suspiciously at the boy.

Indio nodded. “Yes. Please. Please, help her.”

Without waiting further, Apollo turned and waded swiftly into the water. The little dog had reemerged at the surface, but she was thrashing in panic instead of trying to swim.

Apollo grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and lifted her clear from the pond. She hung pathetically, water streaming from her rat-thin tail and drooping ears. He turned and waded back to the shore.

The boy hadn’t moved from where Apollo had stopped him. Indio watched him intently.

Apollo picked up his shirt and wrapped the shivering greyhound in it before handing the little dog to the boy.

Indio clutched her to his chest, his eyes swimming in tears as the dog whimpered and began to lick his chin. He looked from the pet in his arms up at Apollo. “Thank you.”

Daffodil coughed, choked, opened wide her narrow mouth, and vomited up a thin trail of pond water all over the shirt.