Welcome! You can read the first part here.
Mary would play the next five minutes over in her mind for days to come. There she was traipsing through the snow, singing, and the next minute she was sprawled on the sidewalk, having forgotten that the faulty gutters on the shelter often created a mini-pond on the sidewalk, which had, with the dropping temperatures, turned to ice. Baxter’s leash slipped through her fingers and he was off, sensing freedom.
“Baxter!” she yelled as she righted herself and struggled to stand. Instantly she was chasing after him, knowing that busy Merkle Street was just yards away.
As she rounded the corner, she heard the squeal of brakes, a thud, and the heart-wrenching yelp. Baxter lay in the street, not moving, the car that had hit him gone.
Mary knelt down next to him, placed her palm on his neck. He whimpered as he tried to lift his head. She jabbed at her cell, fingers clumsy on the keypad.
“Tammy, Baxter’s been hit by a car on Merkle,” she cried. “We need help.”
Cars whizzed around her, horns blaring. She stroked Baxter, trying to calm him as well as herself.
She looked up to see Tammy’s brother, Adam, hurrying toward her, his face pale with concern. “Can you help me get Baxter to the exam room?”
Her voice shook. Most of her shook. She knew that getting Baxter treatment and stopping him from going into shock would mean his life or death.
Adam gently lifted Baxter and they hurried back toward the shelter. Tammy and Ethan Donahue were running down the sidewalk toward them, snow scattering with their footfalls. Wordlessly they all scrambled toward the exam room.
Mary’s eyes blurred with tears as she watched Ethan, his assistant, Margo, and Tammy follow Adam into the exam room, closing the door behind them. Moments later, Adam emerged, his eyes scanning her face.
She swiped at her tears and tried to steady herself. She wrapped her arms around her middle and stared at the closed door to the exam room.
“Hey, there’s a really good chance he’s going to be okay,” Adam said in that way he always had of offering comfort and support.
Mary nodded, but didn’t meet his eyes. She kept running over the scene in her head. She should have been in the moment and remembered that stupid ice patch. She should have been paying attention. She should have wrapped the handle of the leash around her wrist like she always did. Maybe the incidents from today were a compass trying to point her in the direction of growing up, being responsible, and serious. Of finally being an adult.
Adam placed his arm around her shoulders. It felt warm, comforting. He pulled her gently against him. He smelled of outdoors and wood smoke and something she thought of as “Adam.” “I know you,” he said. “I’m sure that it wasn’t your fault.”
“I slipped on the ice.”
“Where the gutter drains onto the sidewalk?”
“Yes. I knew it was there.”
“Covered with snow.”
“Yes, but still.”
“No still. Could have happened to anyone.”
Tammy came out of the exam room. She gave a sympathetic look to Mary and stroked her arm before walking toward the front. “We’re transporting Baxter to Donahue’s clinic. Evidently his fiancé is one of the best surgeons around. I think he’s going to make it. Donahue has him stabilized and sedated. He didn’t go into shock. That’s the very best news.”
Mary knew it was good news. The best news. But she still felt like she had failed. She had committed the worst sin in her eyes. She had made it possible for one of her angels to get hurt.
She watched as they carried Baxter from the building on a stretcher and placed him in back of a van that would transport him the two miles to the Westbury Animal Clinic. She had never felt more useless in her life.
Tammy glanced at Mary’s knees. “You’re bleeding.”
Mary glanced down at her pants that were shredded at the knees where she had fallen. She hadn’t felt the pain, hadn’t noticed the blood. Her palms were lacerated as well. Minor injuries. The big one was the ache in her heart.