Except for the first five years after the fire, when she was going through surgery after surgery and all of the painful rehab, Barbie had led a pretty tranquil life. She had never really talked about their parents or Tom. It seemed that his sister was perfectly content to live in her peaceful little cottage with Gloria who had been with her from the very beginning.
“How is your little clan doing, Brad?” Is the little girl you talked about last time learning to walk?”
Brad proceeded to update Barbie on everything that had been happening at the ranch. He noticed that all the while he was talking, Barbie kept her hand on Annie’s head and Annie didn’t move.
“You want to bring Tom here, don’t you? That is what you’re trying to talk to me about isn’t it?”
“Wow! You know me well,” he said. “You would think we were twins. He’s a good guy, Barbie, and considering what he went through at the young age of twelve, there is something to be said about the noble profession he has chosen. He saves people caught in fires, Barbie.”
“You don’t have to sell me on him. It’s just that we’ve gotten along without Tom in our lives for all these years and he’s gotten along without us. Why do things have to change now?”
Brad got up and sat in a chair closer to his sister.
“Because telling Tom that you are alive is the right thing to do. We never should have kept it from him, but everyone was so sure you wouldn’t recover from your injuries.”
Barbie turned toward her brother and though she couldn’t see him, he knew her big brown eyes were filled with sadness. “He would have had to grieve all over again. The poor kid had been through enough…and now? Now he would be terribly angry. Can you imagine what learning I have been alive all these years would do to him?”
Unlike Barbie, Brad had given the situation a lot of thought over the years.
“It wasn’t so important when we didn’t know where he was or what he was doing,” Brad said…”and that his life with Aunt Mildred had been so miserable. I’ve made decisions that only God should have made, Barbie, and I don’t know what to do next.”
“Nothing…you’ll do nothing. Now would you get Annie a bowl of water and ask Gloria to find some sort of a treat for her? My goodness sweetness,” Barbie said as she leaned over for a kiss from her new soulmate. You’ve had that long ride with my mean brother and we haven’t even offered you refreshments.”
“I hate living this lie, Barbie, but I have always told you that the secret is yours to tell. All I ask is that you search your heart. You would love my “clan” as you call them, and they would love you. Tom doesn’t really know them yet, either.”
Brad had intended to stay a few days, but he decided he would come back in a couple of weeks. Right now, he had some fences to mend at home.
When Jamie and Dina got back to the house, they were sure they would walk in and find Arf and Katie waiting for them. They would be safe and sound, and happy to be home… but they weren’t there, and no one had seen them. The storms had calmed, but the sky looked like there was more severe weather to come.
It was after nine o’clock when there was a knock at the door. Steve rushed to open it and standing there was an older man. He was holding Katie who appeared to be sound asleep. A sopping wet Arf was standing as close as he could to the man holding his Katie.
The man explained that he was fishing in the river when the storm suddenly struck. He found shelter in a little alcove and waited for the worst of it to pass. When the coast appeared to be clear, he made a run for it and had almost gotten to his car when he heard a dog barking.
Dina and Steve didn’t wait to hear the remainder of his story. Steve took Katie from the man’s arms and after thanking him profusely, he and Dina took Katie to get her out of wet clothes and put her into her warm bed.
“I can’t imagine why Arf wouldn’t bring Katie home when he saw the bad weather coming,” Dina said.
Katie opened her eyes wide. “It wasn’t Arf’s fault Mommy,” she pleaded. “Arf was bringing me my chair. He wanted us to leave. I scooched up too close to the edge because I was watching a turtle. I fell into the scary river, Mommy, and Arf saved me. My Arf saved my life.
***I guess no one was mad at me because I didn’t get Katie home before the storm came. I got one of those good bones and they put a nice warm blanket on my pallet beside Katie’s bed. I hope it’s okay for us to take tomorrow off. I’m dog tired and I bet my Katie is, too.