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Chapter 29

In the house in the woods, Bill Lefkewicz feels an unaccustomed sense of peace

In the house in the woods, Bill Lefkewicz feels an unaccustomed sense of peace. It is morning, and he has lighted a fire in the woodstove, and Zoe and Jojo are sleeping in front of it.

He has lighted the Christmas tree, too, and he watches the tree, and drinks his coffee and watches the dogs sleep, and he thinks about his life.

He wishes he were still married, though not to his former wife. He loves being a father. And really, he liked being married. He liked coming home every night to someone who loved him – and she did, for a while – and to someone he could love back. There was comfort in that, and steadiness, and a sense of certainty that he misses. At that age, he knows, he squandered it. Marriage should not be for the young, he thinks.

He likes his accounting business, too. It is good work, and it can be accomplished. But now, especially with the dogs, he could use some help. That would make life a lot easier. Sure, having a partner, or hiring another accountant as a staffer would cut into his earnings, but suddenly, that seems like a small price to pay for more time.

Today, he will bring the dogs with him to his office in Montville. He'll take them out behind the building a couple times during the day, and they will be fine. He has a toy for Joe, and that should occupy him. And at any rate, business will be slow.

***

In a small house in Niantic, an old woman has risen early and turned on the TV news, not for the news, really, but just to hear another human voice.

She watches the big red dog, sleeping near the back door, and she is glad, so glad, she's not alone any more.

The old girl can't hear anything, the woman knows. The dog is slow, and it's clear that she has arthritis. In her sleep, her legs twitch, and the old woman believes that in her dreams, she is running, racing like the wind after a rabbit or a deer, the way the old woman is sure the big dog used to run.

These days are different, the old woman knows. Different for both of them. Life is slower, and far more careful, and far more filled with love. She spends no time on regret these days, and no time on the future. This moment is what she has, this morning, this sleeping friend, this chance.

She says a prayer of thanks, and watches the sun comes up on another gift of a day.

***

In Old Saybrook, Jake awakens to find Catharine sitting at the kitchen table, crying. She is holding a note in her hand. Buddy is sitting on the floor beside her, looking up at her, clearly worried.

"What is it, honey, what's wrong?" Jake says.

She hands him the note.

"Jake," it reads, "I want to thank you for everything, but I can't stay. I need to be moving. I am leaving Buddy with you. Please take care of him, I know you will. Wesley."

"Oh, Cath, it's OK. We can take care of the dog. And I can find someone to help me in the shop. It's fine."

"I know," she says, wailing. "I know it will be OK."

"So what's the matter?" Jake asks. "It's really not such a big deal."

"Oh, Jake, I am such an awful person," she wails. "Look what I've become!"

Jake is dumbfounded. He doesn't know where this is coming from and he can't imagine where it's going. Sure, she's not the person she was, but who is?

"It's OK," he says. "You're fine."

"My first thought was that we can't have that smelly old dog here because he would look so wrong!" she is crying so hard she can barely get the words out. "I can't believe that I thought that. What has happened to me? I don't want to be this way. Help me, Jake, please help me."

And so Jake folds her in his arms, and strokes her head and comforts her, and hopes a hope that he hasn't been able to admit for many years, that the woman Catharine has turned into will crumble, and he will find again the woman who took his heart, so many years ago.

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