Sometimes Love Means Letting Go – Part 8

Posted by on Jan 26, 2019 in Roots and Branches, Short Stories, Sometimes Love Means Letting Go | 0 comments

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“Where’s Rose?” Sandy asked at lunch the next day. “Haven’t seen her all morning.”

Kat frowned thoughtfully as she finished cutting Robin’s sandwich and placed it in front of her. “I haven’t seen her either, but then again, I’ve been working on our financial records most of the morning.”

There was whispering from the other end of the table. “Um, Mama?” Jackson spoke up, “Me and Robin—”

“Robin and I,” Kat corrected automatically.

“Robin and I haven’t seen Rose since before breakfast.”

From down the hall came the unmistakable sound of Jon walking, that odd, hesitant gait he’d had for nearly eighteen years now.

“Jon, have you seen Rose today?” Sandy asked as soon he entered the dining room.

His brother in law pulled out a chair and sat down with a grunt before answering. “No,” he said slowly. “Why? Is she missing?”

“Maybe?”

Jon sat up a little more alertly. “She was acting strangely last night. I thought something might be bothering her, but she just said she felt a little peculiar and was going to go to bed.” Then he added, “Now that I think on it, she wasn’t there when Lew and Logan left earlier either.”

Something’s not right, Sandy realized. It wasn’t like Rose to hide from her family, nor was it like her to miss farewells, or meals. He stood up, excused himself from the table, and headed to the stable.

He was nearly done saddling Pete when Jon’s voice asked from behind him, “The twins are probably still over visiting the Bryants—should I send a message after them?”

Sandy gave Pete’s girth strap a quick tug and took another look at the tracks he could see shimmering on the stable floor.

“Not necessary. I can track her. I’m heading out now.”

Jon didn’t question his certainty. He just moved aside to let Sandy ride out into the chill spring afternoon.

Even before he had left the house, Sandy was pretty sure he knew where Rose might have headed. Sure enough, her trail led straight for one of the dugouts. Jon had built them years ago for the Bryant kids to shelter in if necessary, and while none of the kids had needed to make the trek to Kat’s schoolroom in years, Jon still kept the tiny huts clean and provisioned. Perfect place to hunker down for a while and think in safety and solitude, he thought. She’s a smart girl, my Rose is.

He knocked on the heavy wooden door. At first there was no answer, then the door scraped open a smidge and Rose’s woebegone face appeared in the crack. There were tear tracks on her dirty cheeks and her eyes were red-rimmed; Sandy’s heart squeezed tight. Rose wasn’t the crying type. He couldn’t imagine what she was dealing with right now that would bring her to tears like this.

She grimaced as soon as she saw him. “They got worried already? I figured I’d have until after supper at least.”

“Probably would have had longer, but your dad said something was bothering you?” He ended on a querying note, hoping she’d tell him what the problem was.

She didn’t. All she said was, “Guess I’m as ready as I’m going to be,” as she exited the dugout. Closing the door securely behind her, she reached up for him to lift her into the saddle before him.

“Want to talk about it?” he offered quietly as they headed back to the house.

She shook her head. “No.”

He didn’t push. “Okay. But I’m here whenever you need an ear.”

She twisted about and flashed him a quick, shaky smile. “Thanks, Hawk. I appreciate that.”

They rode in silence for a while, Rose snuggled up against his chest as if very tired. Finally she asked, “How did you know I was out that way? I told the ground to erase my tracks.”

He chuckled. “I didn’t need physical tracks to follow you, sweetheart. Sometimes what it takes to find a Talent is another Talent.”

“I didn’t know you were a Finder like Uncle Lew and Logan.” She sounded faintly accusing.

“I’m not. What I am is a fair decent Tracker.”

“What’s a Tracker?”

“Mostly like a Finder, except I can see where you’ve walked instead of sensing you from far away.”

“I never knew there was such a Talent. Fascinating.” For a moment, she seemed more curious than upset.”

Good. Keep her mind occupied. “Yup. I’ve got two of those more obscure Talents. Tracking and Taming, which is like being a Charmer, only I can’t actually talk to the animals. Kinda annoying sometimes. But anyway, I’m pretty good at finding people. Before I came back here, I spent a few years up in Canada, working for the North-West Mounted Police.”

“Tracking down bad guys?”

“A lot of bad guys, and also missing people, and runaways,” he teased lightly, giving her a gentle poke in the back. “Just like you.”

That was a misstep.

“I wasn’t running away,” she said and fell silent once more.

He dropped her off at the front porch. Before he could ride away, Rose caught at his stirrup. “Hawk?”

He looked down at her. “Yes, Chickadee?”

Her hazel eyes were swimming with tears and her voice trembled as she asked, “Would you still love me even if you weren’t my uncle?”

It took a moment for her question to register in his mind, and then he was out of the saddle, his arms wrapped around her in a fierce embrace. “Oh, Rose.” Pulling away, he grabbed her by the shoulders and looked her square in the eye. “I will love you, no matter what, for as long as I live,” he declared. Please, please, see the truth I’m speaking. “Don’t you ever doubt that.”

She sniffed hard, then wiped her tears with the back of her hand, a gesture so like Kat, and himself. “I . . . I won’t.” A tremulous smile lifted her lips. “Your words were glowing golden.” She gave him a quick hug back. “Thank you. You don’t know how much that means to me.”

With that she squared her shoulders and marched into the house as if about to do battle.

 

To be continued . . .

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