"Sanctuary!" Su-Ma called. She dropped her multi-colored patchwork hooded coat on the threshold and flung her arms around Anne, almost knocking the platter and utensils from her hands. "You are a saint. I am starving!"
BooBoo, her Great Dane companion peered around the doorway. Snow still clung to the top of his head and the creases of his ears, making the black splotches on his gray-and-white face fainter. The big, lovable dog always looked to Anne as if he had rolled in spilled black and white paint. She could never figure out if he was white with black splatters, or black with white splotches. Argus stayed seated and tipped his head back, his nose barely touching the underside of BooBoo's jaw as the big dog towered over him. Anne muffled a chuckle. The two dogs were best of friends, but she always feared bruising Argus' dignity. BooBoo was as unself-conscious and clumsy as a dog could be, always with the air of a puppy that couldn't figure out how it had ended up in an adult body -- or how to run that body. He was perfectly paired with Su-Ma, who toned down her sometimes outrageous, exaggerated mannerisms and exuberance to keep her big companion out of trouble. In return, BooBoo helped Su-Ma with ordinary, everyday things that she couldn't seem to remember to do, always in a hurry to get on with the next task. She was notorious for forgetting to charge her cell phone or fill her gas tank before she headed off on a long trip, riding on fumes. The general consensus was that while everyone loved Su-Ma, they feared she would always be limited to courier duties.
"You're in luck. We had dinner guests, so Brooklyn went all out."
A clock silently clicked at the back of Anne's mind as she filled Su-Ma in on the Porters and the vaguely revealed connection in the past between Josh and Vincent. Anne knew better than to urge Su-Ma to hurry, because the other girl would try her best and most likely make a mess. Joan, Nikki and Darcy would be settled in the lounge in their pajamas and wouldn't start the movie without them, and they wouldn't complain. Anne knew it was better to take a little more time getting the party started than to have to clean up a mess. Still, she hated being late, even when a specific starting time hadn't been set. She knew it was one of her coping mechanisms after all the chaos in her childhood, but knowing really didn't help her get over it. Someday, though, she knew she would be entirely healed. It would just take time.