There was both tension and excitement in the air at the Humboldt Horse Ranch. Brad would be home in three more days and Barbie and Tom were coming back, too. Both of them were going to stay at the ranch through the weekend, but Tom had to get back to work the following week. Barbie intended to stay until she was able to hire another woman to help her at home. She loved her little house and she knew it well which was a big advantage since she had been blinded by the fire twenty years before.
Brad had gotten to Ireland in time to look his mother in the eyes and tell her he loved her. He held her hand for two days while she slipped in and out of consciousness. Each time she woke up, she smiled at each of her three children. They would be forever grateful for that last bit of time with her. Though Barbie couldn’t see her smile, she could feel her mother squeeze her hand.
On the third day, Mrs. Humboldt slipped away peacefully.
Arf and Annie were having the early morning meeting they had planned by the squirrel window.
Annie: How did Katie do last night? I was worried about the poor little thing.
Arf: I thought she would be all teary-eyed and boo hooing, but she was more mad than anything. She kept saying she didn’t care what her parents did, she was going to stay at the ranch. She’s nine now, and sometimes she acts more like a grown-up than the grown-ups around here.
Annie: Well, the poor thing has been through a lot. She has come such a long way. You have both worked hard to get her there. I’m proud of you, Arf…Arf? Are you listening to me? Oh, I see. There’s a squirrel out there. Let’s watch him for a while and then we can decide what we can do about Dina and Steve. The tension between them is making me crazy. I whined in my sleep all night. Poor Clark kept asking me what was wrong.
Arf: There is something going on with Jamie, too. I sure wish Steve had taken me with him when he went to the farm to talk to her, yesterday. There are just too many humans to keep track of around here. I can’t even remember the last time someone threw a frisbee to me.
Arf and Annie eventually brainstormed and came up with an idea. They decided to concentrate on Steve and Dina, and wait until Brad got home to investigate that situation.
The squirrel finally went up into the tree and was hard to see, so they went to the kitchen to eat their breakfast and begin putting their plan into action.
Grandma Helen and Miss Bessie were both there and as luck would have it, they were discussing Steve and Dina.
“Considering how quiet they were at supper last night, I take it there are still some issues to be worked out between Dina and Steve.” Miss Bessie was a master at getting information out of people.
“I haven’t talked to Dina since last night, but as of then, she was leaning towards telling Steve she wanted to continue living at the ranch for a while. She realizes she has no hope of keeping Katie here full time. Steve has every right to take her with him and to be honest, he also has some good arguments as to why the move closer to town would be good for her. I’ve lived with that child ever since she was a baby. My life won’t be the same without being able to see her every day.” Helen took out her hankie and dabbed her eyes. “I sure am grateful for your friendship, Miss Bessie. I have a feeling this won’t be easy for anyone concerned.”
Dina went to Katie’s room to help her get ready for school. She anticipated her daughter would still be upset and she had prepared herself for that, but she hadn’t prepared herself for what happened next.
Katie was not in her room, in fact, she was nowhere to be found. Arf was in the kitchen. Because of his meeting with Annie, he hadn’t been in Katie’s room when she woke up.
Jamie woke up late and was in her room at the ranch rushing to get ready for work when her mother knocked on the door. Jamie invited her in, but continued to get ready.
“Is everything okay, honey?” Her mother asked. “You seem to have something on your mind.”
“Everything is fine, Mother. I’m struggling with a big decision, but I have to wait for Brad to get home to make it. Please don’t worry. It’s actually something you might approve of.”
“Well, you’ve been pretty mysterious about where you’ve been spending your time when you’re not at work. Mothers notice things like that, you know.”
“Yes, I know, Mom, and your intuitions have never been wrong as far as I know. You have been such a wonderful mother. Now give me a hug. I’ve got to get to work.”