Scholastic Canada: Heartland

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Heartland #6: One Day You'll Know

The two sisters were rinsing the buckets by the water tap when the back door of the farmhouse opened and the tall figure of Jack Bartlett, their grandpa, appeared.

"Almost finished?" he yelled, his deep voice trailing across the yard. Suddenly his upright shoulders jerked forward and he coughed heavily.

Amy frowned. "Are you OK, Grandpa?"

Jack cleared his throat as he walked toward them. "It's just a bad cold," he said, nodding. "I guess I picked it up the other night when we were foaling Daybreak." He changed the subject. "Now, are you coming in? Dinner's ready."

"We're coming," Lou replied.

As Grandpa turned back into the house, Lou gently took the water bucket from Amy. "Come on, Amy," she said. "It's time to eat."

Amy took a deep breath and followed Lou down to the back door. It's going to be alright, she told herself. She looked at Lou. Her sister appeared so composed; it was almost as though she didn't care that this was their first Thanksgiving since Mom had died. But Amy knew her sister better than that. Lou cared as deeply as she did. It was just that she had a different way of coping. Lou channeled all her energy into being practical and sensible.

Reaching the porch, Amy pulled off her boots as Lou opened the door into the warm, brightly lit, cluttered kitchen. Grandpa was lifting a perfectly golden roasted turkey out of the oven.

"It smells delicious, Grandpa," Lou said, going over to the sink to wash her hands. "Can I do anything to help?"

Amy stopped in the doorway, her heart pounding. Everything looked so familiar - the white candles on the table, the huge pumpkin pie cooling on the counter, the dishes of homemade cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and chestnut stuffing. As her eyes fell on the place settings, she tried to hold back the tears. At the far end of the table, where Mom had always sat, the tablecloth was bare.

Lou and Grandpa turned around at the sound of her crying.

Grandpa, his face creased in concern, put down the turkey and hurried over.

As his arms folded around her, Amy felt the grief that she'd been controlling so well during the last few months overwhelm her. She didn't know how long she cried, but at last she became aware of the room again and of the rough wool of her grandpa's sweater prickling her face.

"I'm sorry," she muttered, pulling back and trying to regain some control over her feelings.

"It's OK, honey - it's natural," her grandpa said. "Times like these are never easy when we've lost someone we love."

Amy looked into his blue eyes and saw the understanding there. "I miss her, Grandpa. So much…" she whispered, her heart clenching with loss. "And it's not just today, it's every day."

Grandpa kissed her hair. "We all miss your mom. We always will. But we've got each other, and today of all days we need to give thanks for that. It's what your mom would have wanted. You know how much she believed in looking forward to the future, not back at that past."

Lou rubbed Amy's arm. "Grandpa's right, Amy."

Amy swallowed and nodded.

"Come on," Grandpa said, hugging her one more time. "Let's eat."

The atmosphere around the table was subdued as they sat down. "I wonder what Daddy's doing right now?" Lou said, breaking the silence as they began to pass around the hot vegetable dishes.

Amy glanced at Grandpa. His face had tightened. "Probably nothing special," she said quickly. "They don't have Thanksgiving in England, do they?"

"No," Lou admitted. "But he might be thinking of us."

"I'm sure he is, sweetheart," Grandpa said, only his taut mouth betraying his feelings. Amy knew Grandpa had never forgiven Tim, their father, for abandoning them and their mom after a riding accident had ended his international show-jumping career twelve years ago.

"I hope he got my last letter," Lou said, referring to the one she had put in the mail the previous week. "I asked him to call us today."

"Well, maybe he will," Grandpa said.

Sensing the awkwardness, Amy hurriedly looked at her grandpa. "We haven't said thank you for the horses yet," she said, blurting out the first thing she could think of to change the subject. "Mom always used to. We should, too."

Grandpa nodded. "You're right." He stood up and took down a thick, dusty photograph album from it's place on the top shelf of the chest. He offered it to Amy. "Would you like to?"

Amy hesitated for a moment. She hadn't really thought beyond the need to divert the conversation from Daddy. "Oh," she said slowly. She took the heavy leather book and opened it, swallowing a lump in her throat. Page after page was filled with photographs of horses they had treated at Heartland. Amy looked inside the front cover and saw her mom's familiar writing: By healing, we heal ourselves.

"If you don't want to…" Grandpa began, looking at her face in concern.

"No," Amy said. "I want to." And suddenly she meant it. "Mom often told me how privileged she was, being able to work with the horses, and well, I feel the same," Amy said thinking of all the horses she had helped in the five months since her mom had died - Sugarfoot, Spartan, Promise, Melody. Glancing up at Lou and Grandpa, she continued, "Every Thanksgiving, Mom said that by healing, we heal ourselves, and it's true. The horses I've helped have given me so much, and so I'd like to give thanks to them, just like Mom would have done."

Grandpa lifted his glass. "To the horses," he said. "To those in the past, the present and those still to come."

"To the horses," Amy and Lou echoed quietly.

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