Dorothy stopped at the end of the driveway at 10:15. With her left foot down for balance, she looked up County Rd #2 to the west and saw what she expected, a ribbon of tar, flat yet undulating, bound for the horizon. To her right, nearly the exact same view. There was a difference, (minor to one, very, terribly significant to another), the green and white sign announcing, ‘Circe 23 Miles’. She’d have left earlier, but preferred to avoid unnecessary attention, and waited until Aunt Emily and Uncle Henry drove-off in the truck. Now, sitting on her bike, she looked at the small book bag in the wicker basket attached behind the seat, there, to provide her with a ‘reason’ for going into town, should the need for an explanation of her whereabouts become necessary. Dorothy didn’t expect to need the books. During breakfast, Auntie Em talked vaguely about, ‘seeing to some matters in Town, stopping at the Town Hall, after Henry loaded up on the supplies from the Feed and Grain’. Hunk was at the breakfast table, as always, but seemed more introspective than usual, enough so to cause Dorothy to think, ‘something’s bothering Hunk’. She said nothing, however, her own day’s plans demanded her full attention. She woke earlier than normal, that morning, with a single thought, ‘Get an answer from Mrs. Gulch.’
Nights had not, of late, been especially kind to Dorothy. The smothering embrace of July, with it’s hot-during-the-day, very-warm-through-the-night temperatures did nothing to help. She’d discovered that, if she found a way to exert herself in the course of the day, her nights would be more restful, or failing that, at least be mercifully dreamless.
It was the dreams, in-between the tossing and turning, that wore most heavily. And it wasn’t the content of the dreams that clung to her mind, like prickly vines in tall grass, pulling and pricking the skin with very small, seemingly insignificant thorns. Until, that is, they embedded themselves under the skin, then their seeming insignificance was transformed into something much more difficult to ignore. Stand perfectly still, in the middle of the thorn patch and you will be spared. Try to escape, that became a different affair entirely.
It wasn’t even her dreams of Oz, with friends left behind, and it wasn’t the dreams of New York with her friends who waited there, that kept Dorothy awake at night, and spending her day wanting to find a place to sleep.
What weighed on her was the mixing, and subtle distortion, of what she loved. Her memories of Oz were of triumph over adversity, through drawing together some odd, (actually very odd) characters, and sharing the feeling of being in a place where she belonged. Her thoughts about school, back in New York, would come out of the pre-dream quiet and she’d relive the challenge of finding her way in a very different environment, with some very different people. But, as she did in Oz, Dorothy prevailed. Her feelings grew stronger and stronger for her new life in a place where variety was desirable, and routine was a necessary evil. There, with her new friends, she knew that life was meant to be an adventure.
Dorothy would wake from these dreams, half-dreams and forgotten memories of dreams, feeling terribly lost. Worse, feeling alone. Even worse than that, feeling like she did not know which of the worlds that she traveled through each night, was meant to be her world. When, on those mornings she couldn’t wait for dawns’ light to offer a direction to run and escape the dreams, the question was always the same, ‘how could she know where she belonged, if she didn’t know who she was in the first place‘.
Dorothy Gale pushed off with her left foot, letting the bicycle’s front wheel wobble, daring it to cause her to fall to the road. ‘That,’ she thought as her speed rose, ‘would serve me right and at least it would be something I could do something about.’
She rode east on County Rd #2, determined to see a sleeping woman about her life.
Dorothy was not really surprised, at the sight of Nurse Griswold standing alone, (‘come to think of it’, Dorothy thought, ‘she’s always the only one in the Ward.’), at the windows at the far end of the row of beds in the Charity Ward of St Mary’s Hospital. She suspected that her own lack of surprise that Nurse Griswold would be in the Ward today, was because her visit was unplanned. ‘And, that’, thought Dorothy, ‘should make it very surprising’.
Dorothy felt her anger return. Like an old friend, it beckoned her, an offer of the worn and tired toys of youthful indulgence, ragged dolls with eyes sewn back, almost in place. This anger was from a place inside her, where feelings and emotions that were meant to hurt another person, are stored against future need. Much like the care that must be taken with curare tipped darts, it’s a dangerous balance of readiness against the very real risk of self-inflicted damage. Righteous accusation is one of the poison-tipped weapons, that, unlike simple hate and anger, absolutely must be personal. Otherwise, like a cannonball with an insufficient charge of gunpowder, there’s noise and light, but little in the way of damaging punch. Dorothy felt a need to let this mysterious woman know that she was no longer surprised, (or impressed), by the way the tall, thin nurse would appear at just the right time. She’d decided that Nurse Griswold was not a threat, but hoped to dispel the sense of ‘otherness, mysterious power’. In this, Dorothy’s age betrayed her, the conviction that the power to make her feel off-balance lay in the inscrutable aura Nurse Griswold wore, as much as her starched white uniform. What nurtured her impatience, was the attitude that this woman presented every time they met, the air of nonchalance and total confidence. It made Dorothy Gale want to shout, ‘Just wake her up and let me get my answers!’
Since returning home for the Summer, Dorothy found impatience to be her dominant mental state. Impatience with the sluggish pace of life on the farm, impatient at the lack of interesting people in Town, impatient with her life…..
“Well, are you going to ask me?”
It sounded like Nurse Griswold was standing right behind her, however, Dorothy was determined not to be tricked and refused to turn around to answer. She was utterly certain that, were she to turn, Nurse Griswold would not be standing behind her. Instead, after the inevitable split-second of disorientation, she would be standing at the far end of the Ward, just as natural as could be. Dorothy decided to take matters into her own hands, and, smiling confidently, closed her eyes.
‘Lets see her trick me now!’ she thought, feeling a surge of welcomed aggressiveness.
“That doesn’t work more than once, you know,”
the voice seemed to approach her from far away, (farther away than should have been possible, the Charity Ward only had 2 rows of 5 beds on opposite sides of the room). Dorothy resolved to keep her eyes closed, but her face started to shift into a frown, as the thought that she was being trapped by the will of someone, someone who should be in no position to do so…
“You are a willful young lady. Which can be so very good a quality. I knew a girl, not that different from you, who had such Will. But her life was different from yours, she had to find her way to where she knew she belonged. You, my willful young Dorothy, have the opposite problem.
The Will is very often the most difficult of strengths. Until you learn to master that power, it almost always brings more trouble than good. It will make a normal life boring, and a peaceful, satisfying life seem like an un-attainable dream.”
“I don’t understand what you mean,”
Dorothy said, closed eyes looking towards the bed of the still-silent woman,
“All I want is to ask Miss…Mrs Gulch a harmless question or two. Yet every time I come here, she is asleep and you are keeping me from waking her up. If you’d get out of my way, I’ll get my answers and leave and you won’t have me bothering any more.”
Nurse Griswold’s voice was very, very close,
“You are still trapped by your Will. You know that it shouldn’t be so, that surely everyone is playing tricks on you. You know what you know and you know where you’ve been and as much as you tell everyone here about it, they do not listen. And even that wouldn’t bother you, that you don’t know. What hides in the night and tugs at your mind is that all you need to know is, where is your real home, who is your real family.”
Dorothy pushed through the swinging doors, one-step-short of running, and went down the corridor away from Ward C. She needed to find someone, a person, a child, any listener who, by listening, would allow her to believe that she knew where she was, and what she had to do with her life.
She stopped at every open door, sometimes just looking in, other times, if there was a person in a bed, and they noticed her, she offered a cheery hello. She tried, unsuccessfully to avoid thinking, ‘I wish you could escape this room and I could switch places, at least then I’d know where I belonged.’ Finally, she came to the Main Lobby. The high-ceilinged space also housed the Main Admitting Desk, which faced the Main Entrance and, off to the side, a suite of offices. Set off in a short corridor, really just an alcove, were three doors, frosted glass etched to identify the occupants. To the left, Finance and Accounting, to the right Medical Services and in the center,the Office of the Medical Director, which, of course, was the office of Dr. Thaddeus Morgan.
Dorothy walked towards the offices, but before she could knock on the closed door, she heard Dr. Morgan’s distinctive, over-enunciated voice. The transom window, tilted outwards on it’s chain, served as quite an effective amplifier of the conversation in the office,
“Mrs Gale, I assure you, the plans for the renovation are on track. But a project like this takes time.”
Dorothy jumped back, that her Aunt might be in the hospital was surprising, and not a little disturbing. She strained to hear her Aunt’s voice. All she could hear were short, consonant-laden phrases, in a hard-edged contralto, the thin, tight lips of Emily Gale gave her words as much warmth as the chrome on a new car’s bumpers. She knew her Aunt was sitting opposite the Medical Director, by the time of his responses. That she didn’t hear anything of her Uncle Henry served only to confirm his presence, the silent male at his wife’s side, in case there was ever a question of her authority to speak. There rarely ever was a challenge, at least not more than once.
“Yes, the architectural plans are finalized and submitted to the Planning Commission in Town Hall. Why? Because there’s a Process of Review. No, I don’t think they’re dragging their feet.”
“Yes, they do appreciate how much the Gale Wing will benefit all of Circe.”
“No, I don’t think you should go and get them straightened out. Well, no, that’s not how these kinds of projects are done. Well, I suppose, if you spoke to the Building and Planning Officials. Well, I’m not certain how appropriate this conversation is. No, I meant nothing by that, it’s simply that I am responsible to the Board of Directors… yes, I know you’re on the Board. And Chairwoman of the Endowment Committee. No, I did not forget that.”
“There are, in fact, still 5 patients in the Charity Ward. I hardly think that’s an appropriate thing to say. We have a Charter and a Mission to serve the community. Yes, the State government does have a say and most certainly an influence. I’m sure you do.”
“No, I assure you, I’m not being sarcastic. The people of Circe, all the people, rely on St Mary’s Hospital for care.”
“Certainly. I will continue to do my job, The full scope of my job. Yes, I do know that I serve at the pleasure of the Board.”
“Why sure, I’ll go with you to the Town Hall, if you want to review the applications. There have been no challenges to the Hospital Expansion Project.
Let me tell my secretary and we can walk right across the Square, get this matter straightened out, this very afternoon.”
Dorothy hit the brass panic bar of the Exit door with both hands, the double sound of the bar hitting the door, and the latch releasing, echoed behind her as she ran down the stairs. She extended her arms out to her sides as she descended the stairs. A passerby might think, ‘why, that girl is not running that fast, or maybe she’s older than she looks’. A more observant passerby might take notice that the running girl’s hands were turned, her palms, faced back, as if expecting to be grasped. And a very observant passerby, would watch as a flurry of emotion crossed her face, like shadows on a windy day. Determination stumbled into surprise, which was slowed and pulled down into disappointment, which, as the girl reached the sidewalk, still running, took hold as a frown of anger. Letting her arms fall to her sides, she ran towards the Town Square. She felt like crying, which only made her angry, the anger stirred feelings of loss and regret. She tried to outrun her feelings, leaving one behind, only to overtake another,
“Get me out of here!”
Tom Hardesty was sitting on the back of his stake-body truck, playing his guitar. Were someone to ask why he picked the back of his truck, in the Town Square, to play, he’d of said something like, “Why not?”
That answer would have told them everything important about Tom Hardesty.
Sliding off the end of the truck, just as an elderly couple made their way past, busy looking at the sidewalk two steps ahead to avoid any chance of tripping, Tom played a vamped G chord and sang,
“I‘m back in the saddle again
Out where a friend is a friend
Where the longhorn… Where the girls can be so good
… If the boys do what they should
Back in the saddle again”
Tom laughed at his lyrics, put his guitar behind the front seat and started the truck,
“Hey, Dorothy, what about your bike?”
Dorothy was turned in her seat, trying to get the truck door to stay shut. She pulled it closed, but when she let go of the torn-padded arm rest on the inside, the door swung outward. She pulled it shut again and holding it closed for an extra second, took her hand off the arm rest and watched, as it slowly swung out and open. She pulled it quite firmly, firmly enough to cause the half-open window to rattle from the impact of the door with the frame of the truck. Again, once she gave up her hold, it would swing ajar. Dorothy grabbed the arm rest with both hands and slammed it inwards, the tired-rubber gasket that lined the edge of the door barely blunting the metal smacking on metal sound. She started to slam the door closed, always allowing enough time, after the door was in shut position, to see if it stayed. It did not. As she began to slam the door faster and faster, a rhythmic punctuation formed. She turned her head towards Tom who, back against his own door, leaned towards her, his left forearm on the steering wheel,
In cadence, and with a tone, part savage and part despairing as counterpoint to the harsh sound that filled the cab with the sound of metal on metal,
“First of all, …it’s ….not ….my …bike,
second …of …all,
I …don’t …give …a ….good ….god!!damn!!”
Dorothy stopped on the last slam, holding the door shut, un-willing to let go, as if to let it, would prove that she was powerless. Her shoulders slumped, worn down by the pounding noise and stared out the half-open window. The scent of Tom’s cigarette breath and sweat moved slowly around her neck as he reached towards her. She felt the slight wood-rough callous as his other hand reached around her left side and covered her hands holding onto the armrest. His scent was a spark to her memories of their time together, as mundane as the feel of sweaty sheets on a shared bed. Tom pulled the door frame with a sudden jerk, down near the door lock and she heard a metal-on-metal click, as somewhere inside the door the latch snapped free and seated itself into the locking mechanism. She felt the tension in her shoulders vibrate and dissolve and leaned back into his white tee-shirted shoulder, morning stubble grazing, barely pulling, on her ear lobe.
Dorothy took the hand that covered hers on the armrest, turned it over so his palm faced up, her much smaller fingers fitting between his, traced a scar along the bottom of his thumb, ran a finger over the smoothed over finger tips, raised her eyebrow, ‘guitar calluses’, he whispered, his breath moving her hair slightly. Taking both his hands, Dorothy held them to her and leaned back, tension flowing from her,
“This is nice,”
A murmur/vibration in her left ear,
“And, it’s 11:00 am in front of the Public Library. We need to go.”
Tom Hardesty looked sideways at her and smiled,
“You pick the place, I’ll take you there.”
Hunk stepped out on the porch hearing the first fly buzzing of sound out on County Rd #2. From the small, plain porch of the small cottage, he stood and watched as a dry gray cloud of dust raced along the road, coming from the direction of Town, headed in the direction of everywhere else.
“Hunh” was his comment at the sight of the cloud, barely losing any speed as it turned and raced up to the house. The wind was just right, a light breeze that blew in the direction of the car. The result was the car stayed in the middle of the cloud, barely visible, occasionally the noon day sun struck chrome and the effect was flashes of lightning in a distant thundercloud.
The car came to a stop in the middle of the dirt area that separated the house from the barn, (and Hunk’s cottage). The dust cloud kept moving and soon revealed a yellow Packard convertible, idling and finally, with a stuttering mechanical cough, the engine went quiet, as Hunk approached the driver’s side door.
“May I help you?”
The window, dust-caked into near opacity, rolled down and he saw a remarkable woman turn to look at him.
“Yeah, I’m looking for the Gale house, Dorothy Gale. Do I have the right place?”
“You must be Eliza”
Hunk amended ‘woman’ into ‘girl’ as she smiled at him,
“Damn it! Did someone call ahead? I wanted to surprise D. All that trouble to waste!”
Hunk, smiled to himself and thought, ‘lets make that ‘young woman’ for now’, and leaned towards the open window.
“No, sorry! no one called ahead. At least not that I know of,”
“Then how could you know who I am… I don’t know who you are, so how…”
“Well, it was just a lucky guess, I guess,” Hunk started to step back a step,
“I saw the California plates and your accent is not from around here and you’re attract…young and… ”
“So, none of the girls in Kansas are to your liking?” Eliza smiled innocently and watched for the defensive stumbling to begin.
“What? Well, up until now…”
Seeing the young woman was obviously about to get out of the car, Hunk leaned forward and grabbed the door handle. But didn’t open it, rather, he waited until she looked up and nodded permission for him to open the door.
Surprising himself, Hunk held the door open with his left hand and offered his right to the girl as she got out of the driver’s seat. She reached out without looking and moved without any effort to look and see if he was going to be there for her. It was a practiced, though natural grace and very much self-assured. The impression she gave as she stood was that the sun would have sooner risen in the West, than Hunk not be there to offer her a support. She was as much what he imagined a starlet would be like in real life, as the license plates claimed California as origin. Hunk was more surprised by his eagerness to remain standing, in a place that would make it likely that he would be very close to this girl. To his credit, he recognized the sudden leaning on him, as she closed the door, as a sensual gift to worthy staff, rather than a clumsiness or imbalance. He was certain without reason that this girl was rarely, if ever, off-balance.
‘To the manor born,’ popped into his head and he unsuccessfully stifled a burst of laughter.
For the first time, the young woman looked her probable age, as she turned and said, with a slight edge to her voice, the hint of a raised eyebrow,
“Sorry, Miss… a phrase came into my mind, quite un-invited, I might add. In my defense, I was laughing at how in-appropriate the sub-conscious can be…”
“It’s Miss Thornberg. But, hey, seeing how you’re packing a pretty sophisticated, and obviously affectionate sub-conscious, under the farmer jeans, you may address me as Eliza.”
Hunk stared in silence and, to her credit, the young woman started giggling, a split second before Hunk
“Aunt Em and Uncle Henry are meeting with that Dr Morgan. He’s always strutting around like he needs to make noise or people will ignore him. There’ll be no one home.”
Tom slid back into driver position, and headed the truck towards Main St. He had to reach over the steering wheel to shift gears with his left hand, as Dorothy still had possession of his right. Just as they pulled up to the Stop sign, at the corner where the blacksmith shop used to be, Dorothy seemed to notice the hand she held in her lap, looked over at him and said,
“Can I give you a hand?”
“It’s your’s for now, I will be needing it back at some point, say when a guitar needs playing or a cigarette needs smoking. Deal?”
Dorothy Gale made no move to let go of his hand and looked out the window as the houses began to turn, as they always did in Circe, Kansas, back into limitless fields and distant horizons.
I stayed where I was, next to the tiny, very battered, but suddenly quite attentive girl on the couch, as Officer Herlihy spread his presence through the room. Naturally, he was focused on Annie, but his hands were at his side and his attention was growing in intensity, like the blackening curl of newspaper, about to burst into obvious flame. Not that I didn’t like cops. Actually, I didn’t like cops. But I kept in mind, that my experience had always been about me, now, here in the Union Hall, it wasn’t as simple as a problem between me and authority.
“I’ll be needing a statement, Miss LoPizzo, from you and, er… your friends. If it had been a mere nuisance call, I could wish you a good evening and Merry Christmas. But, Saints preserve me, the lass here is awfully hurt looking and, the lad next to her, well, I don’t believe we’ve made acquaintance. You understand, don’cha?”
Herlihy continued into the room as he spoke, a trick I’d learned long ago. I sat and watched as Annie smiled,
“Why, of course, Officer Herlihy, or is it Sergeant, surely it’s now Sergeant?”
He actually started to blush and bent slightly at the waist and, for the millionth time, I felt awe and despair. Awe for the power of a strong, sexy woman, and despair for the avid vanity of my gender, when confronted with the evolutionary imperative.
“Thank you Miss LoPizzo, it was just recently I was promoted.”
“Surely it was in recognition of a criminal capture or a mystery un-ravelled,” Annie moved to between the cop and the couch,
“Let me take your coat and I’ll see if we don’t have something hot to warm you against the bitter cold outside. I just can’t imagine how you do what you do, in such dangerous and difficult conditions, and still have time to be kind to a woman working late at night.”
As Annie stepped between where Almira lay and I sat, on the edge of the couch, I felt something move under my overcoat. I started to get up but, instead, looked down at the girl, who was staring at me with an odd expression. Relaxing, I realized that what I felt was Almira’s left hand, under the folds of my overcoat. Without showing any sign of anything but being a badly injured girl, she took my revolver, and keeping it out of sight, moved it from my back pocket to under the blanket, and nestled the gun next to her thigh. Out of easy sight of anyone but an amazing girl and an increasingly pissed-off young man.
Putting the cop’s coat on the desk in the middle of the room, Annie said,
“Oh! where are my manners!! You must forgive me! All the excitement of a guest this late, and a Police Sergeant at that!”
I watched in amazement, as she actually took the cop by the arm and walked him over to where we sat. I could see the war in Herlihy’s face. Suspicion of me, concern for a hurt little girl and obvious infatuation with the woman who lead him around like a prized bull.
“Sargent Herlihy, this is Sterling Gulch, Sterling, this is Sergeant Herlihy.”
I stared at him and he stared back, the natural tension re-establishing itself, like a dog pack on the scent of an injured rabbit. Annie stepped over to the couch, and sat on the edge, butting me down further down to the farther end, and took a handkerchief from her blouse, dabbed gently at Almira’s forehead. To his credit, it took Herlihy only 45 seconds to stop staring at Annie’s cleavage and to look at the girl.
“Aye and you say, she slipped and fell?”
“Outside, on the sidewalk, terrible luck, she had her arms full of dry goods that we were bringing here. For the out-of-work children, you know.”
Herlihy leaned in, to get a closer look at the ice pack, precariously perched on Almira’s forehead above the bridge of her nose. He didn’t grab another peak at Annie until he straightened up and pronounced,
“Well, a terrible accident it is, but there’s nothing criminal about the misfortunes of young, well-meaning girls.” He stood and looked around the room again, ending with me, now sitting at the far end of the couch.
“And, you Mr. Sterling, you I don’t recognize and I take great pride in knowing the people in my neighborhoods.”
“He’s…” Annie was standing now.
“He’s not a mute. Are you, boyo?”
Herlihy was clearly bored with the situation and hoping to stir something up, make it worth his while coming down here in the cold night. Or, at very least, give him a story to tell the other cops, as they changed their uniforms in the morning for overalls or other clothes for the part-time jobs at the Mills.
“No, sir. I’m, not. I’m down here from Dartmouth. The college, you know. Here as part of a project to study the amazing transformation achieved by the Essex Company here in Lawrence. I’m supposed to apprentice to the Management, in one of the Mills, all under the direction of Mr. Prendergast. My Sociology Professor and he went to college together and they thought it would be an interesting experiment. You know, seeing the great City with all it’s parts, working together like an efficient machine.”
I could see Herlihy’s eyes sharpen at my mention of Prendergast, which didn’t surprise me, and then glaze over as I started heaping the bullshit on about scholarship and study, which also did not surprise me.
“Well, it’s getting late. See that you get this lassie some proper care and,” staring at me again, “try and not cause any trouble.”
Annie somehow had gone and gotten the cop’s coat and helped him into it, all while walking him to the door.
“Thank you again, Sargent Herlihy.”
Leaning against the door, Annie sighed,
“Too much excitement for one night. Time to pack it in.”
I stood next to the couch and looked at Annie and then down at Almira. Annie LoPizzo gave off a sense of energy and life that, even now, 12:45 am on a December Sunday morning, filled the room. I smiled to myself and thought, ‘the cop didn’t stand a chance’. The girl on the couch, now she was another matter entirely. Where Annie radiated energy, Almira was simply intense. Nothing you would necessarily notice, especially from a girl covered in bandages and blood traces, but there was a strength and power within her that made Annie’s natural brightness seem to dim to nearly nothing. Even with her eyes swollen, beginning to show the inevitable bruising, there was an intensity that made me want to let myself fall into them,
She tried to sit up. Annie was next to me in a flash.
“ah deed ta go nome,” as she got an elbow on the arm rest.
“You, my young friend, are coming to my house and I won’t hear any talk otherwise. Even if you do recover the ability to speak in English!” Annie looked at me,
“My apartment is on the first floor, not two blocks from here. She lives in a third floor walk-up. I won’t have her trying to go up and down that many stairs, at least until she heals some.”
“Don’t look at me, I agree! She’s the one you have to convince.”
I was speaking to Annie while looking Almira in the eyes. She had a look of uncertainty, but the exhaustion was winning out. Finally, she slumped back on the couch.
“O day, nust a while”
“There! It’s settled!” Annie smiled at a problem solved. She looked at me and said,
“Pick her up and bring her to my apartment,” and walked towards the back room to get their coats.
I looked at the girl on the couch. She looked back up to me. I’m 6 feet 2 inches tall and in pretty good condition. The girl on the couch looked to be 5 feet 6 inches, had light brown hair and a young girl’s version of the body of a woman. I looked this girl in the eyes and did not, could not, move.
“Well, come on, Sterling! It’s late! Hop to it, pick Almira up and lets go!” Annie had her coat on and held Almira’s coat, intending to wrap her in it, once I had her off the couch.
“Nope,” I said to Annie, never taking my eyes off Almira, whose eyes had become pools of fear and pain and, …something that I could not name. I stood and watched, as a part of me edged closer and closer to the depths in her eyes.
“Not until she asks me to,” still not turning away, with an effort, I added what I hoped was a lightness to my voice, “I’ve seen what this little girl is capable of and I will not do anything without her permission.”
“Oh, come on!” Annie sounded impatient, but there was a new look in her eyes, as if seeing Almira differently, because of me standing over her.
“Besides, she has my gun,”
I laughed and the tension spread more evenly among the three of us. When I looked back at Almira, there was a look that I hadn’t seen before… in anyone. It was a look that I hoped never to be without,
“Here we go,”
I picked Almira Ristani up in my arms, turned to let Annie wrap her warmly and walked towards the door. I could see Almira’s eyes close into a peaceful sleep by the time I stepped out into the cold December morning.