Steve and Arf had stopped by the General Store on their way back from the research hospital in Jamestown. After talking with Steve, Sam and Katie’s doctors had decided to assign her to a counselor. Since Katie knew that her mother had left her father and her shortly after she learned her baby daughter would never be able to walk, they were concerned Katie had blamed herself. Was that the reason she and Arf had not made more progress since Katie’s surgery?
Steve felt compelled to find Katie’s mother, Dina, whose parents had owned the General Store. Dina’s father,had passed away several years before, and Helen, their mother had come to live with Steve and Katie.
Mrs. Garner, who had worked there for years, was at the store as was Steph, Dina’s younger sister.
“I can’t help resenting the fact that you’re here attempting to get information about Dina’s whereabouts,” Steph said. “You haven’t had anything to do with me since she left. My own mother keeps me at a distance. I’m Katie’s family, too but that isn’t important to you is it, Steve?”
“I was rather busy trying to raise my daughter, with the help of your mother, Helen, of course. I always got the feeling you blamed me for Dina’s leaving. I guess there was enough blame to go around.”
“What are you doing with Arf?” Mrs. Garner asked. “Doesn’t he belong to Miss Bessie?”
“Turns out Arf belongs to a lot of people.” Steve knelt down to pat Arf on the head. “He has trained to be Katie’s therapy dog. He’s doing a great job, but he needs our help. He needs to know why she isn’t doing her part.”
***I wish I could tell Steve that Katie pulled herself up and stood for a minute before easing herself back into her wheelchair. She doesn’t want anyone to know. I’m a dog so I can’t tell them, anyway, but why won’t Katie? She needs to talk. I wish this girl would be nicer to Steve. I wish she would give me a bone. Mrs. Garner always gives me a good bone when I come with Miss Bessie. Maybe you have to have eggs to get a bone. Do they sell frisbees here?
“You said you needed Dina to help Katie,” Steph said. “Is something wrong?”
“She had some surgery recently, and there is a good chance she will be able to walk again. She needs her mother to tell her she deserves to walk. She needs her mother to tell her she didn’t leave because she didn’t want to be saddled with a little girl who would never walk.”
***I don’t know for sure what Steve said, but the pretty girl got big tears in her eyes and so did Mrs. Garner. I hoped that meant they could help him.
“Wait here,” Steph said. “I’ll be right back.”
***While Steve and I waited, Mrs. Garner gave me one of those good bones. I was almost finished with it when the pretty girl came back, She was holding an envelope in her hands.
“I did blame you, Steve. I was so angry I couldn’t see the truth. I received this letter in the mail about a year after Dina left. She asked me not to share it with anyone, especially Katie. I guess she thought she was doing the right thing, but she was wrong, and so was I.”
“Do you mind if I take this with me?” Steve asked. “I have a feeling I will need to be sitting down when I read it. I promise I will return it to you.”
“I never want to see that letter again,” Steph answered. “Please take it with you.”
Jamie got up early the next morning and rushed to get her coffee before heading up to the attic to explore. Alice was there and insisted she have some breakfast first.
“I know you,” Alice said. “You’ll get distracted and won’t have breakfast or lunch.”
“Whose things are up there, Alice? I thought Brad lost his parents and sister in a fire when he was only sixteen. Didn’t he build this ranch up on his own?
“The house and a few acres were owned by Brad’s Grandparents at one time. I believe they leased it out before moving to a retirement community. When Brad came of age, he learned the house was empty and with a lot of perserverence, he was able to obtain ownership. I think he basically had to pay a lot of back taxes. Since then, He has gradually made a significant amount of improvements to the house, and built quite a sizeable and profitable horse ranch.”
“Miss Bessie says he has a younger brother somewhere.” Jamie commented.
“That’s what I heard,” Alice said. “Now let’s get you some breakfast so you can be on your way to the attic.”
***Steve was outside, and I could tell he wanted to be alone, so I went to the kitchen to see if Alice was going to feed me. Jamie was there! I was so happy to see her, I ran up to her and licked her face. I know I shouldn’t do that, but sometimes I forget.
“Arf,” she said. “It’s so good to see you. I have an idea…how would you like to explore the attic with me?”
***After we both ate breakfast, Jamie took me up some really steep stairs to a huge room that went on forever. It smelled old and I could see a bunch of cobwebbs. It was dusty and musty.
I found a ball and laid down on the floor while Jamie looked and looked and looked. After a while, I wanted to go outside, so I went to find her. While I was looking for her I saw a packet of letters. Since Steve had seemed pretty excited to get a letter, I decided Jamie might want me to bring these to her. Letters, letters, letters. When I gave them to Jamie, she looked through them and her eyes got really big. I’m just a dog, but I sure wish I knew why everyone likes letters so much.
“Where did you find these, Arf?
***Jamie was holding a picture frame.