Step by step, they made their way down the stairs just as they’d gone up.
“So,” Jack said, as they neared the bottom.
Beth hopped down another step. “So what?” she asked.
“This nonsense about me not being able to help you. What’s all that about?”
Beth stopped, three steps from the bottom. She looked down at Jack, and her expression went from quizzical to guarded. A deeper layer of clouds may as well have rolled past the morning sun, for the effect it seemed to have on Jack.
She eased herself down to sit on the stairs, extending her bad leg.
“You remember how I sometimes dream of things, right?”
“Well, the things that were coming up while we were playing…” She sucked in a deep breath, straightened her back a bit. “They are all things that I’ve seen, in my dreams, things that I just… know.”
“No… But.. The big things. Hannah is going to have kids. She’ll be a very good mom some day. Charlotte will get a lot of money somehow. Maybe the lottery, but I don’t think that’s quite it.”
Jack leaned back against the wall, then slid down it, to sit on the bottom step.
“I was going to say ‘amazing.’”
Beth shook her head. “Until I moved here, I didn’t know who those two girls were.”
Jack sat forward. “Wait, you dreamed this before you even met them?”
Beth nodded. “It’s in one of my journals somewhere. In a box.” She waved a hand towards the office.
“Okay. That is amazing,” he said. “It’s too bad you didn’t dream the lottery numbers Charlotte used.”
“It doesn’t work that way, Jack.”
“So… what else?”
“Well, the flood and the fire already happened. Nobody was hurt,” she said when Jack’s eyes widened.
“Wow,” he said.
“And I’m going to marry.”
“The poor guy,” Jack said.
Beth just glared.
“So… no little blue or pink pegs?” Jack asked.
Beth sighed. “No.”
“But… you want to? Be a mom?”
Beth nodded. “One of these days, I thought. But not any more.”
“It’s just the way it is, Jack. I can’t do anything to change it.”
“But, what about the doctors and—”
“Jack, who do you think told me I’ll never be a mom?”
Jack sat, staring.
“I… just thought maybe it was something you dreamed, that could change,” he said quietly.
“I did dream it. It’s written down somewhere. And the doctors have it written down, too.” She sniffled.
Jack stood up, taking Beth’s hands, helping her to her feet and down the rest of the stairs.
“Well, you’re right about something else then,” he said.
Beth wiped at her eyes. “What?”
“I’m not going to help you with that being-a-mom thing.”
Off balance though she was, she still hit pretty hard.
* * * * *
“So, what do we tell them?” Jack asked, as he and Beth made their way across the yard. He supported her, arm around her waist as she leaned heavily on his shoulder. She didn’t exactly hop, but she didn’t exactly walk. She still refused to let Jack carry her.
“Nothing,” Beth said. “I shouldn’t have even told you.”
“Not even— C’mon, Beth, I’m your best friend. You can tell me anything.”
“If I dreamed that I saw you die, would you want to know about it?”
“Suppose I dream that you were hit by a car, and I told you about it. What would that do to you, every time you crossed the street?”
“Well, I guess I’d be… careful.”
“It would make you more and more afraid every time you crossed a street, that’s what it would do. Wow, you were safe this time. It must happen the next one.”
“Beth, how can you—”
“Until eventually, you don’t want to cross any streets.”
“That’s just ridiculous. I wouldn’t—”
“Is it, Jack? Is it silly?”
Jack wanted to tell her ‘yes,’ but he caught himself. He couldn’t remember ever crossing a street with Beth.
“I’m going to wait to answer that,” he said.
Beth looked at him for a long moment, cocking her head, as if deciding something. The serious set of her shoulders shifted a bit, and a smile quirked her lips. She bumped her hip against Jack’s as they started through the hedgerow.
“Maybe you aren’t so dense after all,” she said with a giggle.
* * * * *
“Told you I’d bring her back,” Jack said, helping the girl through the door.
“Mom, better get out the medical kit,” Hannah called, as she got up from her spot on the living room floor.
Jack helped Beth out of her coat, and the girl hopped the few steps to her chair at the dining room table.
“Where’d all your green go?” Ellie asked.
“I tripped and fell down in the snow. So I had to change.”
“And did Jack help with that, too?” Charlotte asked looking up from the magazine she was leafing through.
“Foot up, Beth. Let me take a look at it.” Jack’s mother set her medical kit down on the floor next to Beth’s chair with a solid ‘thunk.’
She eased the boot slowly off the girl’s foot, and worked the bright pink sock down. She turned and pressed and flexed with a minimum of complaint from Beth.
“Not as bad as last time,” Jack’s mother said. “It looks like you got something on it to catch the beginnings of the swelling.
“Now, I want this one back,” Jack’s mother said, as she wound a bandage in a figure 8 around the girl’s ankle.
“I’m sorry about the other one.”
“Just don’t go disappearing on us again,” Jack’s mother said, with a smile.
Beth glanced over at the game board, which was still set up.
“Who’s turn was it?” she asked.