It's Turn-off-your-TV week this week and since we all hate cards and board games, we've decided to share true stories with each other each evening after dinner. Last night, Milo told about his grandparents immigrating to America from Poland in 1937. The night before Junie told about being lost in Mesa Verde when she went camping with her family when she was nine. Tonight is my turn, and I think I'll tell my roommates about the ghost I saw ten summers ago in Aspen. I haven't told anyone about it since that summer. I'm very into repressing memories I don't much care for, but since it's my turn to tell a story, and I can't think of anything else to talk about---since my grandparents didn't escape from a Nazi regime and parents never let me out of their sight long enough to get lost---I have to share this story or confirm everyone's opinion of me as the biggest bore to walk the planet.
I had worked at a day care center through high school and during the summers and so I was very confident that I was up to the task of being a nanny for Rosamond Furnival when her parents, Todd and Marianne, asked me whether I would like the job for the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. The job was painfully easy. Rosamond was a sweetheart of a six-year-old. She should have been spoiled---her parents were filthy rich, literally. Todd had a prosperous business, mining moss rock for landscaping, and working on living within his trust fund---and Marianne was the queen of bat guano fertilizer, courtesy of her family's bat-filled caves in Texas---"better than oil," she told me once with her beauty pageant smile, "because it's easier to harvest."
Mid-way through June, Marianne dropped the bombshell. "We're having the house redecorated in July---Todd says it's trying enough living with me and Rosamond and her American Girl dolls, but he's drawing the line at living with Laura Ashley anymore."
I could see Todd's point---in fact, I had often wondered how he could choke down his Wheaties in the yellow-rose festooned "breakfast" room. Personally, I was feeling that my all-black wardrobe provided my charge with a much-needed relief from the flowers, ribbons, and pastels that filled her world. It was a small gesture, but I was happy to do my part.
"So, we were thinking this would be a great time for Todd and me to go on that Alaskan cruise he's wanted to do forever, and we were hoping that Rosamond could stay up at the ranch in Aspen, but with you."
My heart literally skipped a beat. A ranch in Aspen---oh, yes! Cowboys in Gucci and Porsches. Movie stars, swimming pools. I was all over the idea, but I couldn't let Marianne see that.
"I don't know, Marianne. My parents are counting on some family time with me before I go back to school in August." As if! My parents were counting on me earning enough money to pay for my books and board this year. Why else had my mother kept a record of every time Marianne had called in the spring trying to determine my availability to nanny for her this summer? My mother would just die if she knew I was playing fast and loose with my job.
"I know they'll miss you, honey, but Rosamond just adores you and there's a staff up there to take care of you both. You'll just need to keep my little angel amused, while James and Dorothy wait on you hand and foot. I'll up your salary by $50 a week."
"Well, maybe for a couple of weeks..."
"We were counting on being gone for at least four weeks. That will still give you three weeks in August before you head back to Berkeley."
I shrugged. I grimaced.
She offered me $100 a week more---on top of the $50 I'd already garnered---if I would spend the whole month of July at the Furnival Aspen ranch with Rosamond and her American doll girlfriends...and a staff!
I accepted, and Rosamond and I went shopping for cowboy boots that very afternoon. I used the Visa that Marianne had given me at the beginning of the summer to deck out lil Missy in pink boots with yellow flowers, a denim skirt and a pink and yellow blouse that any decent Rodeo Queen would give her tiara to own. She looked like Laura Ashley meets Calamity Jane. I tried on dozens of pairs of boots, hoping that I would find something that would transform me in a comparable, but different way, but nothing did the trick. Actually with my wardrobe, most of what I tried on made me look more like Johnny Cash than might be attractive to an Aspen cowboy. I decided to keep on looking.
By the last weekend in June, when Rosie---that's what she and I decided was her Aspen name---and I were headed up I-70 out of Denver for Aspen, I still hadn't updated my wardrobe, except for the red bandanna that my brother tied around my wrist when he said goodbye. I figured the addition of color to my basic black was a step in the right direction.
We stopped for lunch in Vail. Well, we stopped for ice cream. I'm not sure that Marianne would have considered ice cream as lunch but Rosie was too excited for even a hotdog. I was a little surprised at how excited Rosie was to be spending a month with me in the mountains, apart from her parents, her friends, her pool, and her Wii, but she was clearly looking forward to an adventure, at least one on par with a Disney movie.
While we were finishing up our rainbow sherbets and watching hang gliders soar down the valley, I quizzed Rosie about the ranch.
"So, do you go up to the ranch often?" I asked, biting the end off of my cone so that I could suck down the raspberry-orange frozen goodness most efficiently.
"I've never been there," Rosie gravely replied, watching my cone-sucking technique with frank admiration. "Mom doesn't like mountain driving, but Daddy takes me skiing in Vail. He showed me pictures of the ranch. They have horses. One is named ‘Blue'---he's Grandpa's horse and is really big and white, and not blue at all. Grandpa should've called him ‘White.'"
"Do your Grandparents go there?" The ranch was part of Todd's family, the Furnivals had been ranchers in the Aspen valley about a hundred years ago, but Todd was the only one still left in Colorado and he had stayed in Denver after his parents moved on to Texas.
"I guess so," was the only reply I got. They must go up there---Marianne had been very clear about the staff that was just waiting for us. You don't keep a staff on hand if you don't visit the place on a regular basis.
About four in the afternoon, I turned off the highway that runs from Glenwood Springs to Aspen, and followed a paved country road along the Roaring Fork for awhile. When the paved part became gravel, the road turned west and started climbing. After a couple of switchbacks, Rosie asked if she could loosen her seat belt as the jarring had cinched it up pretty tight. I assured her that we would be to the ranch soon. I was starting to be a little worried regarding the delicate shade of green that her face was taking on. Kids are often carsick, and despite the ski trips to Aspen, I could tell that this kid hadn't spent much time on rough, windy roads. I hadn't either in awhile, but driving kept my own carsickness at bay.
As we drove up through the trees, deeper into the mountains, I felt an oppression settle on us, the like of which I had never felt before in the mountains. The sky was darkening with the usual afternoon thunder clouds rolling in from the west, and the air felt taut with electricity. Rosie seemed to be shrinking into her seat, and the green hue of her face was becoming more pronounced. There was no hope for her to fall asleep---my best antidote to carsickness---the road was so bumpy, and I was expecting to arrive at the ranch any moment now anyway although I was a bit nervous as I hadn't seen any signs indicating that we were on the right road, and the lack of fences gave me pause as well. Must be some pretty well-behaved cattle and horses if a rancher doesn't feel the need for fencing to keep his livestock in and everything else out.
At the top of the ridge, we drove out of the trees and across the meadow we saw a tall, long, log house. It wasn't a cabin---it was far too big for such a label---nor was it a mansion. It reminded me of the Ponderosa where the Cartwright boys had won my heart during afternoon reruns when I was a kid. It had a spacious porch, with wide steps leading down to a well-trimmed, lush lawn that graced its front. Flower beds bordered the house and lawn, and several horses and cows were sharing a neighboring pasture. I breathed a sigh of relief. It looked like I had expected. Well-tended, prosperous, relaxing.
I smiled at Rosie, who managed a smile back.
"Well, honey, we made it. Shall we go and meet the staff?"
The staff consisted of a golden retriever, Lucky, who was also the welcoming committee, James and Dorothy, a middle-aged husband and wife set who were clearly part of the aging-hippie generation and had the clothes to prove it, and Aggie, the odd-job man and general all-round odd man. So much for dreams of Gucci-wearing cowboys.
James and Dorothy pretty much ran the place, and it was Dorothy with whom I had talked several times on the phone while getting Rosie ready for the big adventure. Todd had told me that James and Dorothy had been caretakers of his parents' ranch for more than twenty years. I think he said that James was a second cousin or some such distant relative, and that they both had just settled in and kept things cooking along with only infrequent visits from the owners. He had said that when he was in college, he used to like to go skiing in Aspen and stay at the ranch with friends, but he hadn't been there since he and Marianne had gotten married. Apparently, Marianne didn't "do" mountains, though she liked the way they looked on her Christmas cards.
It had been Marianne's idea that Rosie and I stay at the ranch while she and Todd were cruising during their home redecoration. Todd had suggested shipping their daughter off to his parents in Dallas or her parents in Houston, but Marianne said that the golf and social schedules of both sets of grandparents would mean that Miss Rosamond would be left in the hands of babysitters she hadn't screened so Rosamond might as well go and stay at the family ranch with me, nanny par excellence.
Rosie and I settled into life at the ranch wonderfully. Dorothy loved having visitors to look after and an increased budget with which to do so. We were treated to French toast and wild strawberries with fresh whipped cream for breakfast, hearty meat stews and flaky biscuits for dinner, green chili enchiladas for lunch, and as much homemade pizza and pasta as we could handle. The kitchen garden, helped along in its short mountain growing season by a greenhouse, was running amok with ripe tomatoes, peppers, onions, every kind of squash imaginable, beans, lettuce, and peas.
James and Lucky took Rosie out every morning to look for eagles soaring above the Roaring Fork valley and for deer, elk, and bear. James looked the part of a mountain man and played it to the hilt. Teaching Rosie to fish, ride, and, with limited success, rope was a gas to watch. He started by giving her a lasso and showing her how to practice with a stump in the front yard. I doubted that she would get beyond the stump and move on to calves before our month in the mountains was over and she was back in Denver, horrifying her mother with just how dirty her fingernails could get.
For the first two weeks at the ranch we were blessed with incredibly mild weather---mid-80's most days, with a soft breeze rippling over the meadow, and sharply cool nights for star-gazing unmarred by clouds. Up in the mountains, far away from city lights, the stars blazed brilliantly and the Milky Way seemed like a swath of white silk across the heavens. Dorothy told me often that it was a blessing that we were missing the afternoon thunderstorms. I told her that I thought that a little rain would be welcome---the hills were rapidly turning brown, though the creeks were still high from late snow melt.
One afternoon I left Rosie with Dorothy and James and took a run into Aspen---about twenty minutes away---to pick up some more books from the public library. I found that, for the most part, life at the ranch provided all that Rosie and I needed---we were well looked after, had internet service and could download all the music, movies, and news we wanted, and generally wanted for nothing other than a little companionship with people our own age. Rosie, when she wasn't learning how to become a mountain man, James-style, hosted tea parties for her American Girl dolls. I read. I figured I would just have to wait until this nannying gig was over before I would be spending any time with people between seven and 50.
On the way back up the mountain, the air started closing in again, much as it had the first time I drove up to the ranch. I could see heavy clouds building to the west. A clap of thunder confirmed that our hiatus from summer storms was about to end. Big raindrops started to fall as I started across the meadow, and by the time I parked the jeep in the garage it was pouring. I was about to make a run for the house when a voice from the shadows startled me.
"You'll get drenched if you try. Best stay here awhile ‘til it blows through."
It was Aggie, the odd-job man. He stayed mostly in the stables, grooming the horses, cleaning the stalls, and generally caring for the animals and doing any chore that James or Dorothy threw his way. He never joined us at meals. He lived in a small outbuilding, though there really was plenty of room in the ranch house. Perhaps the Furnivals didn't want all of their hired help sleeping in their house, even though they rarely visited it themselves. I looked at Aggie---he was non-descript in his plaid shirt, faded jeans, and work boots. He was wearing a baseball cap so aged that I couldn't tell which team's insignia was now blackly soiled beyond recognition.
"I guess you're right," I shrugged, stifling a shudder at the thought of spending any time with Aggie. My mother has always told me to trust my intuition---lock your car door if you get a funny feeling, don't get on an elevator alone with a man if you get a funny feeling, basically do whatever your gut tells you. My gut was telling me to dash to the house how, drenching or no.
"Want a licorice?" he said, pulling a Red Vine out of a bag.
Never accept candy from strangers, funny feeling or not.
"Thanks." I never was one to hurt someone else's feelings. I shifted my library books to my left arm and took the proffered Red Vine.
Aggie went to the back of the garage and rummaged around for a minute and then came back to the door with a couple of lawn chairs. He unfolded them and offered me a seat. We sat and watched the rain and ate Red Vines. The rain was now coming down in sheets, waves of water poured out of the sky, and the thunder clapped and jarred and shook the garage. After about a half an hour, the rain started to ease up as the thunder and lightening rolled eastward. I handed Aggie my lawn chair and thanked him for the Red Vines, and picked up my books. It hadn't been so bad---we hadn't talked, we couldn't over the pounding of the rain and the roar of the thunder---but I felt that maybe I had misjudged him a bit.
"She'll be out back, I reckon," he said, taking the chair. "She always comes out after a good storm."
He chuckled at that and took the chair. "Dorothy hates summer storms," he said.
I ran across the yard, splashing through puddles and thoroughly ruining my red Converse sneakers.
"Rosie! Dorothy! James!" I called. "I'm back!"
"Oh, we missed you ever so much, but we saw you and Aggie sitting in the garage eating candy. Can I have some candy? I didn't have a snack this afternoon and I'm starved from all that thunder."
"Starved from thunder?" I laughed, and hugged the sweet little girl with her dimples and ponytail and unadulterated affection.
Dorothy gave us some chocolate chip cookies that she had made before the storm, while James went out to make sure the livestock was okay. Rosie thumbed through some of the new books I had picked up for her at the library, and then selected one that she wanted me to read to her. We took it and another plate of cookies and were about to go to the back porch, which was our favorite reading place in the whole house as it was screened and furnished with a big flowery couch, the kind you can sink into for an afternoon, and a couple of comfortable rocking chairs.
"Oh, you can't use the back porch today," Dorothy exclaimed. "It leaks something awful in the rain. Everything will be soaked. You can read in the living room---it's cool outside from the storm anyway."
Rosie and I both wailed our disappointment, but Dorothy was adamant. She almost seemed to be blocking our way to the back porch, so we withdrew to the gloom of the living room, with its animal head trophies and antique skis forming the primary decorating motif, and settled for the leather couch.
We hadn't gotten far into the latest Junie B. Jones before I put the book down and listened. I thought I could hear someone playing a guitar, just faintly.
"Is that a CD?" I asked Rosie, not remembering having seen a guitar anywhere on the premises.
She shrugged. "Maybe it's Dorothy, or James playing."
"Dorothy wouldn't leave her post in the kitchen to do anything as frivolous as play guitar," I said. "And I don't think James is back yet."
"Maybe it's Aggie. I think the music is coming from outside."
"Come on." I took her hand and we went out the front door. On the porch, I could hear the music much more distinctly. We walked down the steps and out onto the still sodden lawn. We looked at each other quizzically, and then started walking around to the back of the house, enticed by the simple, plaintive tune that grew louder as we reached the back porch. We climbed the steps, mesmerized. The porch was glowing warm yellow and guitar music was pouring forth from one of the rocking chairs. The chair itself was undulating as if in time to the music. Rosie clutched my hand, and I looked down into her face. Her eyes were enormous and shimmering with joy at the lovely sound.
We must have stood there two or three minutes before the light and the music died away, leaving the chair to slowly creak to a stop.
"What was that?" Rosie whispered.
"I don't know. Storms sometimes produce weird electrical effects, but that doesn't explain the music. And it wasn't just noise. That was a song, right, Rosie?"
"I know that song. My daddy sings it to me at night sometimes."
"What are the words?"
"'Down yonder green valley where steamlets meander,'" Rosie sang. "'I first met my true love, the joy of my heart...' That's all I remember, but it's real pretty."
"It is pretty, sweetie," I said reassuringly. I bit my lip. I didn't know what to do. I no more believed the weird electrical effects theory than I believed in ghosts, but this was downright spooky. Rosie was in my charge and we had just witnessed a paranormal occurrence.
"You-who!" Dorothy was calling us from the front porch.
We high-tailed it around the house at top speed. I was expecting an explanation, but Dorothy only picked up the plate of cookie crumbs we had left with our books, and gave me a look that said she was not sharing any information in front of the child. She continued wearing that look until I had Rosie absorbed in looking through an American Girl catalog that had yet memorized.
I cornered Dorothy in the kitchen as she was starting to prepare our supper. She said that she hadn't warned me about the occurrence of guitar music and the weird light because she and James had been hoping that the weather would hold during the whole month we were up at the ranch. She said that the ghost---that's what she called it---the ghost, only visited after bad thunderstorms. She said that she and James and Aggie were the only ones who knew about it. None of the Furnivals had ever been up to the ranch since the ghost started appearing.
"But whose ghost is it?"
She paused for a moment and I could tell that she was struggling with herself as to whether to tell me or not. Her eyes grew dark and sad.
"Her name was Grace, and she was the prettiest, sweetest little thing you could ever imagine. She was from down valley, in Glenwood, but got a job up in Aspen, waiting tables. She used to sing at the open mik nights at some of the clubs. Really pretty voice---folk songs mostly. Looked like she stepped right out of the 60's. An original flower child, just thirty years too late. But everyone just loved her. She made good money too."
"Well, Rosie's daddy, Todd, took a shine to her. That's when he was in college, coming up here all the time, skiing in the winter and hanging out with friends and enjoying the night life. He used to bring her up here all the time, and they had such a time, swimming in the water hole up by the Falls, riding horses, sometimes even going on two and three-day trips with Aggie. Aggie just adored her. He'd known her all her life, being from a down valley family himself. Well, pretty soon Grace was pregnant. We all kept expecting Todd to pop the question and ask her to marry him, but he didn't. I guess he figured a down valley girl was not part of the big picture and so, far as I can tell, he never told his parents."
"After she had her baby---and it was a girl, Sibella, she named her---he arranged for her to live up here full time. He was the only one in the family who ever visited the ranch so it was no big deal. James told me that Todd asked him not to mention Grace or Sibella to his parents. That made me mad. I loved that sweet young girl and her little baby and I didn't think it was right that Todd was hiding them like they were something to be ashamed of. Well, the visits from Todd started getting longer and longer, and then one day, when Sibella was about two, we got a notice from his folks announcing his marriage to Rosie's mom. We tried to keep the news from Grace, but Aggie told her. Said he couldn't lie to her when she asked him when Todd was coming up again. She said that she couldn't stay at the ranch anymore, but before she moved out, Todd came up. He looked pretty sheepish around me and James, and he avoided Aggie something fierce, but Grace took him back and he convinced her to stay on with us. She said that he told her that she and Sibella would always be first in his heart and that he would look after them always. So she stayed."
"She raised that little girl here in the mountains, only going down to see her parents in Glenwood and never going into Aspen anymore. She used to sit on the back porch and play her guitar and sing all her songs to Sibella. She earned her keep too. She helped Aggie and James with the chores, and was right good company for me. And then one day we got the notice of Rosie's birth---Sibella was about her age, five or six---it was a hot summer day, like this, and we'd been having terrible thunderstorms every afternoon for a week."
"The announcement came in the mail, from Todd's folks again, not from him. She opened the letter this time, though it was addressed to me and James, and her face went white. Without a word, she took her guitar and Sibella and walked up the mountain. We figured she just needed time to absorb this fresh news. We hoped that the news would set her free---that she would leave the ranch, much as we would miss her, and would rejoin the world and give Sibella a proper chance at growing up, and would send her to school, and let her have friends, and play and maybe she would meet some man who would deserve her and would return her love."
"Well, we watched all afternoon as the clouds built on that mountain, and when the light went out and the thunder clapped, we prayed that she and Sibella had found shelter from the storm. We knew that she knew every inch of that mountain, and there were plenty of shallow caves for them to hide out in. After the storm, we set out to meet them, me and James and Aggie, for we were starting to worry when she didn't come down right away. We climbed up that trail through the trees, up along the north fork of Furnival creek, and the higher we got, the more worried we got. When we got to the Falls and found her guitar, then we knew what she had done. Sure enough, we found their bodies in the swimming pool and the guitar at the base of the Falls where they had jumped, one of them, at least, knowing it was their last jump. Ever since that day, Grace's ghost visits us after thunderstorms, singing her sweet songs, filling our afternoons with her warm, sunny presence. We miss her, and the ghost is a comfort to us, believe it or not. We worried so about Rosie coming up here. We weren't sure whether she would come with Rosie here."
Dorothy's voice trailed off. She seemed torn between her love and loyalty to the dead girl and her child and her new affection for Rosie. Rosie would be going down the mountain soon, back to Denver and her parents and her dolls and friends and school and life; Dorothy, James, and Aggie would remain at the ranch with the memory of a sweet presence that occasionally still rained down on them.
I was speechless for a few moments, digesting the story that Dorothy had related. I was angry with Todd for deserting Grace and Sibella, and frustrated that Grace had chosen to let his callous insensitivity and selfishness ruin her life and take that of her daughter. I wondered how I could ever face him again, knowing about the story. And then I realized that I didn't know the full story.
"How did Todd take the news of Grace's death?"
"James called him, and Todd just hung up the phone without saying a word after he heard the news. James wanted to tell the Furnivals and Aggie wanted to murder Todd, but then Grace's ghost came and visited us soon after the funeral, and she seemed so peaceful and radiant that we decided to just stay here with her, especially since none of the Furnivals ever came up here. It was like it was our place. It was a mighty shock when Marianne emailed us and told us that you and Rosie were coming up for July. We three talked and decided to just hope for the best."
That night I tossed and turned. I didn't know what to do. Marianne and Todd were paying me to look after their daughter while they were on vacation. This was their family ranch. They would laugh at me if I called them to ask whether I should let Rosie stay at in a haunted house, and I was pretty sure that Todd would not appreciate my opening the can of worms he had kept a pretty tight lid on. And yet, I couldn't help thinking that he must've known that Dorothy would fill me in on his past, with a whole month of talking between us and not a lot of extra company to distract us. Maybe he had a self-destructive bent himself, and this was his way of bringing the story out in the open? Maybe he had simply forgotten about Grace and Sibella? Could anyone be that self-centered and shallow as to forget a dead girlfriend and child? By midnight I had decided that I would leave for Denver the next morning. By two am, I had decided that I would call the Ghost Busters. By four am, I was asleep. I woke up resolved not to let a little friendly ghost end the best nannying job in Colorado. If James and Dorothy and Aggie were so okay with the ghost that they had lived with it for six years, then Rosie and I could live with it for two more weeks.
Rosie never asked what the light and music were all about. I suppose for a six year who was still encountering the world, pretty music coming from an empty, glowing rocking chair wasn't the weirdest thing she could imagine. After all, I had heard her have pretty animated discussions with her dolls when they weren't behaving up to her standards.
A few days after the Grace ghost visited the ranch, I found myself headed back down the mountain into Aspen yet again. This time an email from Todd's mother, who had apparently just discovered that her precious granddaughter was spending a month at the Furnival ranch and couldn't possibly go another day without a special treat from Grandma's favorite Aspen chocolatier, had sent me on my errand of mercy into town. I had felt fine leaving Rosie with James and Dorothy for the morning, partly because she hated mountain driving so much but mostly because the sky was cloudless and the day warm but not the stifling heat that breeds thunderstorms.
But a punctured tire and a disagreeable mechanic changed everything. It was four in the afternoon by the time I was headed back to the ranch, and the storm clouds were brewing rapidly over the valley. I was hoping to get back before any storm hit the ranch. I felt I was a neglectful nanny, leaving my charge in the care of elderly hippies who fraternized with ghosts, and, let's face it, my curiosity demanded that I be present if Grace visited again.
I parked in the garage and sprinted across the drive to the house. The house was dark and quiet. I went into the kitchen, where I expected Dorothy to be cooking dinner and Rosie to be holding court with her dolls. But it was quiet and dark, like the rest of the house. I called out for Rosie and Dorothy. No answer. I went to the back porch and called for James. No answer. I went upstairs, two steps at a time and found Dorothy sleeping in her and James's bedroom. She sat up groggily. She had taken a nap, she said apologetically, having had a rare headache come on midday. She said that James and Aggie had offered to take Rosie on a circuit of the ranch to check the fences. Weren't they back yet? My face told her that they weren't.
She called James on his cell. He had dropped Rosie off at the house about an hour ago. She was to come in and wake up Dorothy, and play quietly until I got home.
We searched every room in that enormous house, as well as the cellar and the attic. We searched the garage and the barns. Aggie and James saddled up and started up the trails that they had taken Rosie on, with the thought she might have set out to find them.
"Might the child have gone for a walk and fallen asleep?" Dorothy asked.
"Rosie is too timid to go off by herself." I replied glumly. My whole body was shaking and my heart was racing. That sweet, beautiful, bright little girl was lost, lost in the mountains on my watch! I thought of Aggie. I remembered how my gut had done a summersault when I met him. Could he have lured her away and hidden her under James's nose? Could James be in on it too? How well did I really know these people---these people who lived in someone else's house for years on end? I felt the hysteria rising and I clenched my fists in order to stay in control of my faculties and think, think what to do, who to ask for help. I would have to call the county sheriff. I would have to get search and rescue up here. I would have to call Todd and Marianne.
I was in the kitchen, flipping through the yellow pages for the sheriff's number when I heard a shout from Dorothy. I ran to the front porch and there was Aggie coming down the trail from the Falls, carrying my sweet little Rosie, drenched to the skin, on his horse in front of him.
"She's got hypothermia," he said. "Get her inside and warmed up."
Explanations could come later. He leaned down and placed her white, limp body in my shaking arms. Dorothy had a stack of blankets on the couch before I had her undressed, and then we started the long process of warming her core temperature. I had wanted to put her in a warm bath, but Dorothy said no, blankets and hot honey tea were best. I wanted to call the doctor, but Dorothy said that we couldn't wait for a doctor to get up that road.
"Aggie got to her in time," Dorothy said confidently.
By evening, Rosie seemed well again, and even had a bit of an appetite. As I sat by her bed and saw to it that she drank down spoonfuls of tomato soup between bites of grilled cheese, I slowly coaxed out of her what had happened.
© 2009 Copyright held by the author.