Smug Bastard by Stacey Marie Brown

Chapter 1


Kinsley





“Think that’s everything.” Wiping the sweat from my brow, I slammed the door on the converted van and turned to face my best friend, Sadie, her natural hair wrapped up in a tight bun. Already at nine in the morning, the early sun beat down on us. While Sadie’s flawless black skin glowed under the heat, mine sweated like a pig, turning my face the color of one too. San Diego was always warm, though, making me miss having seasons.

“Are you sure about this, Kinsley?” Sadie folded her arms over her tank, her bare toes curling into the warm pavement. “You know travel in America for a single woman is always on the list as one of the most unsafest places. I looked that shit up. And you…” She motioned down my thin, athletic five-six frame. “Are the epitome of an attacker’s target audience.”

Tucking a strand of my long, dark hair behind my ear, I sighed. I had gone through this argument with Sadie, my parents, sister, and brother ten times already.

“I’ll be fine.” I reached out squeezing her arm. “I have pepper spray, kung-fu moves, and Goat.”

“Goat.” She burst out laughing. “You think Goat will do shit?” Sadie gave me a pointed look before moving to the passenger-side window. She ran her fingers through his silky, white fur, scratching behind his ear, making his tongue roll out. “Yeah. So ferocious.” Goat sighed as he melted into the seat. “Watch over her, boy. Don’t let anything happen to her, okay?”

I had found the dog behind our apartment building so hungry he was eating anything out of the dumpster to stay alive. At first Sadie was against him when I brought him in.

“Oh, hell no.” She put her hands on her hips, her head going back and forth. “We can’t have a dog.”

“But look at him.” Peering at her with pouty eyes, I rubbed his head, his emaciated, filthy body wrapped in a blanket, shaking with fear and fatigue.

“No, Kins. We don’t have time or the extra money for a dog. We’re graduating this year, and my time is filled with working or schoolwork. I don’t even have time to see Nathan,” she exclaimed.

She was right. My time was also taken up with trying to graduate and work part time as a waitress, but logic didn’t register when it came to seeing an animal in need.

“For tonight at least? I promise I’ll take him to a shelter tomorrow.” I continued to rub his head, the one place on him not completely covered with dirt, grime, and matted knots. Under the muck, I could tell he had white fur. He was scrawny from malnutrition, but his bone structure was somewhere between a small and medium dog, with long ears. Complete mutt and the sweetest face I had ever seen.

“Fine. Just tonight.” Sadie sighed. Kneeling on the floor next to him, she reached out, stroking his fur. With a tiny whimper, he nudged his head against her palm and licked her hand in a thank you.

I saw it happen. Her shoulders sagged, her heart melting all over the floor.

The battle was won.

Though Sadie fought it for a while, Goat never made it to the shelter, burrowing his way into our hearts. He was named because he continued to eat everything for months, including my thesis. It was clear he had been abused, and probably by a man, seeing the way he growled and cowered from any male who entered our door. Nathan tried for six months, but so far Goat wouldn’t let him near him.

Maybe that was something else I bonded over with Goat. Not trusting males.

“Text and call me.” Sadie whipped around, folding her arms. “And give your family hugs when you get back home.”

Home was North Kingston, a suburb outside of Providence, Rhode Island.

“Yes, Mom.”

She glared at me. “You could fly.”

“I’m not putting Goat in cargo. He already has anxiety issues. And you can’t take him.” Our graduation was only two weeks ago, and Sadie had already been offered a job in a top computer company, moving her to the San Francisco Bay Area in a few weeks. Our notice to leave our apartment was already in, and all my possessions, what little I had, were packed up in the camper van I had traded my car for. Our life here for the past four years was coming to an end.

We both knew Goat was really mine. She loved him but didn’t have time for a pet. Goat curled up on my bed every night, like he knew I needed his security and companionship when the rest of me felt lost.

Sadie’s direction was set, while I floundered and wondered what I had spent the last four years doing. I had a business degree now but no clue what to do with it… if anything.