“Hello Thomas. This is your Aunt Mildred. I just want to let you know that a young lady by the name of Jamie White was here looking for you. She said she’s a friend of Brad’s. I threw her off the trail a little to buy you some time. Please call us sometime dear. It’s the least you could do.”
“Good old Aunt Mildred,” Tom said to the phone as he put it down. “Always trying to put her own spin on things.”
Tom already knew that someone named Jamie was looking for him. He’d gotten three messages from her. “I suppose I should give her a call. It’s the least I could do.” Tom grinned to himself as he reached into his shirt pocket for the number.
Luckily, Jamie was at the farm which is the number she had left in her messages to Tom.
“Hello, this is Tom Humbolt. I’m returning a call from a Miss Jamie White.”
“Yes…that’s me. It’s so good of you to call me back.”
“I’ve been told you’re a friend of Brad’s. Is he all right?”
“Oh, yes…he’s fine. I know you must be terribly busy, Tom, but I was hoping we could meet in person.” Jamie was crossing her fingers and hoping that he would say yes.
“I have to report at noon tomorrow, so you would have to come here,” he said. “Where do you live?”
“I’m about two hours away. I can be there around 8:00 tomorrow morning.”
“Okay…there is a little cafe on the corner of 4th and Grove. It’s called Harvey’s. I’ll be there at 8:00. I’m assuming you aren’t bringing anyone with you.”
“No Tom…It’s just me coming. Thank you for agreeing to meet. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Jamie barely slept. She was nervous about how her conversation with Tom would go and also feeling a little guilty because she was involving herself in Brad’s life without his knowledge. She didn’t have to be at the clinic the next day, so no worries there.
***Katie and I have been working really hard. We exercise every day and practice standing for longer and longer periods of time. I knew it was time for her to begin taking steps, but I didn’t want to rush her.
“We only have one more week before I have my check-up at the research clinic,” Katie told Arf. “I want to be able to take six steps by then.”
***I barked an okay, but I didn’t understand what she meant. I know what six is… one, two, three, four, five, six. We do a lot of exercises to ten, but I didn’t know why she wanted to take six steps.
“I’ll tell you later why I have to…I mean have to take six steps before I go back to the hospital. I remember how we were trained to take steps. Do you Arf?”
***Bark, Bark, Bark, Bark, Bark, Bark…I did remember and there was no time like now to get started. We were at our usual flat spot away from the house and overlooking the garden. This time I got two walking sticks out of the pocket in the back of her chair and gave them to her. I also got two tennis balls and worked to get them on the bottom of each stick. They’re to keep Katie from slipping if we hit a bad spot.
“Okay Arf. I will stand up and look both directions for a minute and then look forward and watch you. You will be walking backwards in front of me.”
***I walk backwards so that Katie keeps an even pace and doesn’t hurry. Her body might try to go faster than her feet and that wouldn’t be good. When she says she’s ready, I will put my paw up so she knows that I am too.
“We’ll go one step and then stand,” Katie said, “and then another step and stand, and then we’ll go another step…
“Okay bossy Arf. We’ll only go two steps.”
Katie stood easily. She was strong. She and Arf had practiced her standing routine many times by now and Katie had become more confidant.
She had both walking sticks in position, Arf was carefully watching her from three feet ahead of her.
At first she didn’t move and Arf began to think her fear had returned. If it looked like she might falter, he was ready.
Then she did it! She raised her right foot, and still looking directly at Arf, She stepped ahead exactly the right distance. She then brought her other foot forward and stood watching Arf. He could tell she was really concentrating and trying to remember all she had learned.
Once she was in position again, she repeated the same sequence for the next step. When she had successfully walked forward two steps, Arf could see her knees begin to shake and he quickly pushed the wheelchair so that it was directly behind her. Arf thought she would fall into it, but she didn’t. She slowly lowered herself down onto the seat. Arf took each walking stick and with his paws and mouth, he folded each one and put them back into the pocket. He made sure to put the tennis balls back, too.
It wasn’t until they were on their way back to the house that Katie began to sob. She cried so hard, Arf was afraid she wouldn’t be able to breathe. She wrapped her arms around her friend and sobbed some more. Finally, she wipped her tears away and replaced them with a huge smile.
“We did it Arf,” she said. “I walked…and you taught me how. Lets go to the garden for a few minutes, Okay? I don’t want anyone to see that I’ve been crying,”
Back at the house, Grandma Helen and Miss Bessie were out on the porch in their rocking chairs and enjoying the beautiful day.
“Does it seem to you that Arf and Katie have been gone an awfully long time?” Miss Bessie asked.
“I was just thinking the same thing, Bessie. It’s a good thing we trust Arf. We don’t even know where they go off to. Do you think Arf is really going to be able to help Katie? I pray every night that I see a change in my granddaughter, but she doesn’t seem to want to get out of that wheelchair.”
Dina had brought a glass of ice tea out to the porch and was about to join Miss Bessie and Helen.
“I agree Helen. I’ve been told she doesn’t think she deserves to walk. I have to find a way to convince her that I didn’t leave because I was told she would never be able to walk. How do you make a child understand that sometimes adults do terrible things for what they think are the right reasons. I thought I was doing it because I loved Jack and my baby so much?”
“Indeed,” Helen said. “Indeed.” Then reached up and took her daughters hand in hers.