“I don’t undertand why you’re doing this,” Lauren said. She picked up her butter knife and dabbed at a pat of butter, a look of intense concentration pinching her features. Lauren took a bite of the warm, buttered bread and chewed slowly.

Faith closed her eyes and suppressed a sigh. “I’ve explained why this is important to me,” she said. “I’m not sure there’s anything left to discuss.”

Lauren placed the bread on her plate, carefully before saying, “This feels like an act of rebellion.”

Faith ducked her head so her sister wouldn’t see the look on her face. “This is not an act of rebellion,” she said. "This is an act of independence."

“You’re leaving your home, your family, your friends…everything familiar.”

“I’m taking a leap of faith,” Faith said, meeting her sister’s eyes and careful to keep her tone and words soft. “It’s a fresh start.”

“It’s potentially dangerous,” Lauren countered. “What do you know about working with animals, stray dogs of all things. What if you get attacked? Mauled? You know nothing about the people who run the place and it doesn’t take a genius to run a search. The place is out in the middle of nowhere.”

“I’ll have a job, a place to live and a chance for me to do something important with my life.”

“You can’t find something fulfilling here, among family and friends?”

“I am going to do this,” Faith said simply.

“You’ll be all alone and far from home,” Lauren said.

“There is a full-time staff of four, and there are actual towns all around the property,” Faith said. “I’ll get to know people. I’ll make friends. I’ll be fine.”

“What if you get sick or hurt?”

“I’ll manage.”

“Is this about Roy?” Lauren asked.

“Roy walked out of my life months ago, he has nothing to do with my decision,” Faith said.

“No one would blame you for feeling abandoned,” Lauren said.

“I’d rather not talk about Roy,” Faith said.

“That’s your problem, “Lauren said.

“I wasn’t aware that I had a ‘problem’,” Faith said. “Or that you were qualified to diagnose one.”

Lauren frowned but didn’t take the bait. She reached across the table and gave her sister’s hand a quick squeeze. “I’m here for you,” Lauren said. “So is Richard.”

Faith forced a smile. “I appreciate that, sis. You and Richard have been wonderful through all of this, and I appreciate all you’ve done for me.”

Lauren’s expression tightened and she pulled her hand back as if she’d been stung. “Family does for family,” she said, quoting their late mother. “If things had worked out differently…”

“You mean, if Roy hadn’t left me standing at the alter looking,” Faith cut in.

Lauren cleared her throat and continued, “If things had worked out differently the idea of moving half-way across the country to live in a tin shack with a bunch of strangers who think they’re saving the world would not have occurred to you.”

“Don’t hold back, Lauren,” Faith said quietly. “Tell me how you really feel about my plans for the future.”

“Now you’ve taken offense,” Lauren said, shaking her head. “There really is no need to; I’m not saying anything that isn’t true.”

“Has it occurred to you that I’m doing this because I believe in the cause. I think the rescue work they do is noble and…”

“Noble?” Lauren snorted. “Honestly, Faith. You’re not proposing saving abused children. You’re giving up your life here to go and play at saving dogs.”

“Play? You think rescue work is a joke?” Faith asked, incredulous.

Lauren shrugged. “There are plenty of animals right here in need of saving. If you’re so interested incaring for the unfortunate creatures, why can’t you do it here, at home?”

“This is where I live,” Faith said. “This isn’t home.”

Lauren’s head jerked back with one hand pressed against her chest. “Richard and I have done everything possible to make you feel our home is your home,” she protested. “You had no problem accepting our hospitality when Roy left you stone broke and homeless.”

“And I appreciated…appreciate all you’ve done for me,” Faith said. “But I’ve imposed on both of you long enough. This move will give me a chance to start rebuilding my life.”

“You can’t do that here, with us?” Lauren asked.

Faith shook her head. “I can’t. This place is full of memories, and not all of them good ones. I need a fresh start in a place where no one knows me…no one knows what happened with Roy.”

“Being left at the alter isn’t the worst thing that can happen,” Lauren said wistfully.

“Maybe not,” Faith said. “But it’s the worst thing that happened to me. If I’m going to move on from

the experience, I need to go someplace new, do something new.”

“But do you have to move to New Mexico to work in an animal rescue center?”

Faith shrugged. “The place called to me,” she said simply. “I like the location. I like the idea of helping the helpless. I believe healing requires a leap of faith.”

“You’ve never been so far from me,” Lauren said.

“I have not,” Faith agreed.

“What if you hate it there?” Lauren asked.

“I’ll come back.”

“What if you love it there?” Lauren asked, her voice cracking in a way that told Faith the truth about her sister’s fears.

“What if you decide you want to join me?” Faith asked.

Lauren laughed and held up her manicured hands. “Not likely, little sister.”

Faith shrugged and said, “You never know when the spirit will move you.”

Lauren held her sister’s gaze for a moment and then turned her attention to her food. “Some of us lack the kind of courage it takes to make so radical a move.”

Faith’s eyes filled with tears. Her sister could be abrupt, judgmental, and annoying but seldom, in their years together had she seen her sister display vulnerability. This was new and unexpected. She  wondered, for a moment, if her sister had recognized the futility of continuing to try get her way

through reason and was trying out a new tactic. But no, she realized. This was no trick. Her stone-cold big sister was allowing her genuine feelings to shine though.

“I’ll text and call and e-mail,” she offered. “And, once I’m settled, we can make plans for you to visit.

Sound good?”

Lauren took a deep breath. “You’re not going to change your mind, are you?”

“I’m not,” Faith said.

“Okay, little sis. Leap away.”

April 15, 2021 19:00

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