As she turned to see Brad standing there, Jamie’s heart skipped a beat. Seeing him was surprise enough, but when she saw who was with him, she was both ecstatic and confused.
“I think you’re speechless,” Brad teased. “I was hoping we would see you and Arf today. It’s a very special day for me, and I wanted you to be here.”
“I know,” Jamie said. “I heard that it’s your birthday.”
***Annie! Annie is back! Who wants to stick around and listen to Brad and Jamie talk when Annie is here to play. We took off to run and chase each other around. I don’t think they even noticed. Oh, what a happy day! Do you want to go to the river, Annie? Shall we chase squirrels?
“It is indeed my birthday,” Brad said, “and I have so much to celebrate. Can you believe all that has happened these past few months? My world has certainly changed. It’s changed for all of us…especially little Katie.”
Brad leaned against the fence and looked out over the pasture. He turned to smile at Jamie and she wondered if he had gotten over being angry with her.
“How is it that you have Annie? are you the one who adopted her? It’s wonderful to see her again, but I don’t get it.” Jamie was watching Arf and Annie. They were certainly the best of friends and so happy to see each other again.
“I’ll explain how I got Annie, later, but first I want to say something to you, Jamie. I owe you an apology.”
“I don’t understand,” Jamie said. “I thought you were angry with me because I waited to tell you I had found Tom until after I had talked with him.”
“I was…and that’s why I owe you an apology. I realize now that you were only trying to keep me from being hurt. Besides, how can I question your integrity when I have done so many things I have come to regret…like convincing a twelve year old boy to lie about who started the fire. He lived that lie for years and I can see now that it harmed him a great deal. I don’t know if our relationship will ever heal.”
Jamie was a little overwhelmed.
“I can’t speak for Tom, but as far as I’m concerned, there is nothing to forgive. I shouldn’t have been so intrusive. You should know, Brad, that I didn’t like the way I felt knowing that you were so disappointed in me.”
Brad looked at Jamie’s smiling face. He was beginning to understand just how special she was.
They both turned to watch Annie and Arf playing in the field.
“I should warn you, Jamie. Prepare yourself, because as they say, more is going to be revealed.”
Inside the sprawling ranch house, everyone was bustling around preparing for the big birthday party. When Tom walked in and saw all of those people in his brother’s home, he began to feel something he hadn’t experienced in a long time. Was it a feeling of belonging to a family? He wasn’t sure, but whatever it was, it felt good.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” He asked.
Grandma Helen went rushing over to him, but Miss Bessie was a little faster. “Why yes,” she said. “How are you at peeling potatoes?
Grandma Helen got to the other side of Tom and linked her arm in his. “Just wait until you taste my banana pudding. It’s to die for.”
The sight of the two of them dragging poor Tom to the kitchen was comical to everyone else in the room.
“He’ll learn not to ask that question,” Steve said. “Is it true that Brad doesn’t know Tom is here for his birthday?”
“It’s going to be quite a night, “Dina said. “Katie has been practicing with Arf all week. Steve and I helped them choreograph a little recital in honor of Brad’s birthday.”
Earlier that day…
“Happy Birthday, Sis,” Brad said. “I came to ask a favor.”
“The answer is no.” I will not come to your ranch for the big birthday bash. Gloria made us a nice brunch and a birthday cake. We can celebrate together like we always do and get you on your way in time for your party tonight.”
“It’s time you left this house for a while, Barbie. You can come and spend the night and I’ll bring you back the first thing tomorrow. It would really mean a lot to me. There is someone special I want you to meet.”
Gloria entered the room with a tray holding two cups of coffee.
“Let her be Brad. You know how sensitive she is to being around a lot of people. We’ll have a nice evening right here at home, won’t we Barbie?”
“I have asked very little of you over the years, Sis,” he said. “I know you can’t see, but that doesn’t mean you can’t live. Gloria…please convince her to come. A car will be here to pick you both up at two o’clock. I don’t have time for brunch, but thank you anyway. I’ll take Annie with me. She looks bored.”
On his way out, Brad walked by a very surprised sister and a very stern looking Gloria. Was he imagining things, or was Gloria getting a little too controlling of his sister. Maybe she had always been.