Saturday 6 January 2024

Date Night by Sarah Swatridge, ginger beer,

It said a lot about Anna when her guinea pig had more of a social life than she did!

She stroked Biscuit. The animal was definitely not herself. In fact, she’d not been right since Ginger had died. She’d been off her food, and whimpering. ‘Do guinea pigs grieve?’ She asked Joe, her brother, but he just shrugged.

‘A friend has a lonely male guinea pig,’ Anna told him. ‘She’s suggested I take Biscuit over to see if they get on.’ Anna confessed.
‘Is that wise?’ Joe asked, full of concern.
‘Panda’s been ‘seen to’, if that’s what you mean?’ Anna was quite indignant.

The following day Anna took Biscuit to meet Panda, but it was clear from the start, they weren’t compatible.

Anna read the small ads in the paper, she looked at the postcards in the newsagent’s window, she visited all the local pet shops; there didn’t seem to be any suitable playmates. Eventually she contacted the animal rescue centre.
‘We have just the guinea pig,’ Fiona, the manager told her, ‘bring Biscuit over on Saturday… for a date.’

‘Hi, come and meet Cookie – named after the Cookie Monster,’ Fiona greeted them warmly when they met at the weekend.

Anna followed her into a log cabin office. On one wall there was a large cabinet full of books and papers at each end, but in the middle there was an elongated metal cage. The cage was occupied by one guinea pig surrounded by a ‘Pleasure Ground’ of plastic toys, ramps, slides and tunnels.
‘Wow! That’s an impressive set up,’
‘Cookie needs someone to share it with,’ Fiona said as she gently took the cage from Anna, and set it down beside Cookie’s adventure playground.

‘Fancy a coffee while we see how they get on?’
‘Yes please.’
The two girls chatted for a while. Anna explained she’d been working from home but it didn’t really suit her so she was job-hunting, but without much luck. ‘My brother’s been telling me I ought to get out more.’

Anna was fascinated by the way Biscuit’s nose twitched as she sniffed the air sensing Cookie’s presence. Cookie came bounding over to see what was going on. Anna expected Biscuit to show some interest, but she was playing hard to get.
‘Give her time,’ Fiona said softly, ‘I’m sure she won’t be able to resist for long.’

They sipped their coffee and watched as the guinea pigs began squeaking and warbling at each other.
‘She’s been so quiet lately,’ Anna admitted. ‘It’s lovely to hear her communicating again.’
‘They seem to be getting on all right,’ Fiona said. ‘Shall we chance them in the same cage?’
‘When I last took her on a date, she started hissing straight away and I could tell she didn’t like Panda, but I think she’s taken quite a fancy to Cookie.’

Anna gently picked up Biscuit, and placed her in Cookie’s cage. At first Biscuit seemed more interested in Cookie’s playthings than in him, but gradually he approached her and before long they’d sniffed each other and made cooing sounds before running around together as though they’d known each other for years.

‘It seems we have a success,’ Anna said as she finished her drink.
‘I knew we would, as soon as I heard Biscuit’s name. If you’re happy to leave her here, I’ll keep an eye on them, and separate them, if they start fighting. You can give me a call later to see how they’re getting on.’

Anna spent the rest of the day making phone calls and doing research. At teatime she called Fiona. It seemed the two guinea pigs were getting along very well.

Anna told Fiona about her idea. ‘There must be other people in our position, with one lonely guinea pig in need of a friend. I’m thinking of starting a dating agency for lonely pets?’
‘First we have to decide whether you let Biscuit stay with Cookie, or whether you want to adopt him?’

Anna had anticipated the question. It had been on her mind ever since she’d lost Ginger. She knew she had to do what’s right for her pet.
‘I do miss Biscuit,’ Anna said, ‘but I guess she’d be better off with you.’

The following day Anna returned to the animal rescue centre to show Fiona the website she’d created.
‘Just like humans, animals thrive better when they have company.’ Fiona told her. ‘If you’re looking for a job; I’m advertising for an assistant. My main criteria is that the person puts the animal first. You’ve already shown me how willing you are to do that, and I’m impressed by your website. Are you interested?’

Fiona explained the role in more detail. Anna listened carefully and soon realised it could be her ideal job.
‘Would I still be able to work on my Pet Dating idea?’ Anna asked. ‘The more I think about it, the more there seems to be a need.’
‘I don’t like the idea of a lonely animal; they do need company. I think your idea can only be of benefit, so yes, continue with it. I don’t see it as a conflict of interests. You may even find an animal-loving guy for yourself!’

‘Now, that would be a bonus,’ Anna laughed as she thought how well suited Fiona and her brother would be, and how long she ought to leave it, before she introduced the two of them. 


About the Author

Sarah Swatridge writes short stories for magazines worldwide, as well as novellas. She has nine Large Print books available from your local library, most of which are historicals.

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