‘…You have kittens?!’
Crouching down a little, Dylan grinned down at the tiny bundle of fluff that had just bumbled over to him. Sat a little way off in the shade, Ivy smiled at her son’s amazement.
‘Recent additions to the family! Well, I had to have something to fuss over now my two birds have flown the coop. I was going to tell you when I visited later today.’
Losing interest in Dylan, the tortoiseshell kitten wandered back onto the path where it sat and began to groom itself. The brown, smooth coated kitten was still playing with it’s foil ball, totally oblivious to the world around it.
‘What are their names?’
Ivy smiled maternally at her new charges. ‘The little tortie is named Vixen, and the brown is named Maria. After our Maria, of course.’
Walking over to sit next to his mother, Dylan frowned a little. ‘Why would you name a cat after Aunt Maria?’
Staring at Dylan for a few seconds, realisation gradually dawned in Ivy’s eyes. ‘Oh, love! I’m so sorry, I didn’t tell you. Maria passed away just over a year ago. I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you… By the time you woke up it was just common knowledge, if that makes sense.’
‘It’s fine…’ Feeling a little dumb, Dylan stared around the garden’s lush greenery. Wow. Aunty Maria was gone…
Just what else have I missed out on?
‘So, love, what brings you here to your old parents’ house? You knew I was visiting you later, what was so important it couldn’t wait?’
Clearly his throat, Dylan suddenly felt as if he were six years old again. ‘I, er, I had an argument with Robbie.’
‘Oh love, what about?’
‘Um… I yelled at her… And accused her of trying to run my life…’
‘Well that was daft, wasn’t it son?’ Ethan’s voice piped up from where he was tending to a grape vine; Dylan hadn’t even realised he was listening to the conversation. ‘She’s only trying to look after you. That girl’s had a tough time of it since your accident.’
‘But she’s so controlling!’
‘She’s just worried about you, you daft beggar!’
‘I know, but she doesn’t have to be so mean about it,’ Dylan pouted. Now he really felt like a child again…
‘Dylan, look. I understand that you must be finding all this a bit overbearing, but you’ve got to try and see it from Robyn’s perspective. She spent two and a half years of her life keeping an almost constant vigil by your bedside, leaving only to help out your father and I if we absolutely needed her. She thought she’d lost her brother; you know that girl thinks the world of you. She’s just trying her best to keep you safe. Cut her some slack, hey?’
Suddenly, Dylan didn’t feel quite like a child again any more. He felt like a worm. How could he have snapped so hard at his sister? How could he have disregarded her good intentions?
‘I’ve been an idiot, haven’t I?’ he mumbled, half to himself. Beside him, Ivy nodded sagely.
‘Yes, my dear. You have. Still, not to worry, this is easily fixable. Did you speak to Robbie this morning?’
Dylan shook his head. ‘Nope. She left before I got up. I tried ringing her as I walked up here, but no answer…’
* * *
‘Hey Donal, how’s it going?’ Grinning, Louise strolled up to her waving friend. Donal was a security guard who’s son took riding lessons with her Uncle; she’d see him about town on the doors of the various bars Appaloosa Plains had to offer. Today he was on the ropes of the saloon.
‘Not too bad Louise my dear, hope you’re keeping well yourself! Honestly, we’ve got a right on in here today,’ Donal replied, rolling his eyes and gesturing to the saloon’s doors.
‘Already? It’s only just lunch time, what the heck?!’
‘Tell me about it!’
The two jumped as the sound of a smashing glass, followed by a high pitched, drunken giggle emanated through the doors before bursting out laughing themselves.
‘Flapping flamingos Donal, you might have your hands full with her later! Hey, can I have a look? Just want to see who it is!’ Louise grinned, full of curiosity. After Donal’s consenting nod, she poked her head through the door before the thud of realisation hit her.
‘Thanksss for making me a new drink! I won’t drop this one probably, hahahahaaa!’ Robyn slurred as she took a deep gulp from her glass.
‘Do you not think you’ve had enough?’ the barmaid asked, her tone a mixture of concern and irritation.
‘Nope, not at all! What’s the point of stopping?’
‘Robyn! What the hell, it’s barely past twelve?!’
Turning carefully so as not to spill a drop of her precious drink, Robyn tried to focus on the source of the new voice. ‘Oh, it’s you. Dylan’s friend.’
‘Right. What you want? Go back to my idiot brother.’
‘You don’t mean that, Robbie,’ Louise said softly. Eyeing Louise, Robyn put down her drink and slowly got up from her stool, clutching at the bar to steady herself, before unsteadily approaching Louise.
‘I do, Lou. I do mean it. He doesn’t care about me! All I’ve done is care about him and he doesn’t care about me! All I was doing was trying to look after him after he almost died -‘ Robyn’s drunken speech was interrupted by an almighty sob, and she clasped a gloved hand to her mouth. Tentatively, Louise reached out and put a hand on the young girl’s shoulder.
‘He… He almost died, Louise. We almost lost him,’ Robyn whispered, her voice choking with the tears she’d held in since she’d raced to the hospital after the call from the doctors. ‘I can’t let that happen again…’
‘But it won’t happen again, Robyn. He’s better now… He’s still a bit weak, but he’s better. You won’t lose him,’ Louise tried to reassure her, taking her by the shoulders.
‘But I have to-‘
‘It’s not your responsibility though! He needs your help, yes, but you don’t have to do it all by yourself. You can ask for help.’
Biting her lip, Robyn nodded tearfully at Louise. ‘Thank you,’ she whispered, barely audibly.
‘Would you like me to give Dylan a ring, Robyn? I think you two need to talk…’
As soon as Dylan stepped out the taxi, he was hit by a whirlwind that flung its arms around him and sobbed onto his shoulder. ‘Dylan I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…’
‘Robbie? What are you sorry for?’
Roughly wiping her face, Robyn hiccoughed back a fresh wave of sobs. ‘For being so horrible and harsh to you, and shouting. I just… I…’
His heart sinking, Dylan pulled his little sister into a tight hug. ‘Robyn, you have absolutely nothing whatsoever to apologise for. I’m the one who’s sorry.’
‘I should have been listening to you. I know that you only wanted what was best for me, and I should’ve listened. It.. It didn’t really sink in just how seriously ill I’d really been, to be honest. I mean, I missed most of it… I didn’t think about how it had affected you, or Mum and Dad, or anyone. I just woke up and wanted to carry on as normal, and when I couldn’t do that I got angry. I took it out on you. I didn’t mean what I said last night, Robbie. You have no idea how grateful I am to you for looking after me… Without you I’d probably have run myself straight back into hospital in no time.’
Sniffing, Robyn nodded. ‘You’re not wrong there!’
‘Oi you! I’m trying to have a sibling-bonding moment here, don’t spoil the magic!’ Dylan laughed, pulling Robyn back into a hug. ‘Shall we go home?’
‘Yes please… If you still want me there…’
‘Of course I do! Go wait in the taxi, I’ll just say bye to Louise.’
‘Okay.’ Smiling and rubbing her tear stained face, Robyn started to walk over to the waiting taxi before turning back and nodding to Louise. ‘Thanks, Louise,’ she called over.
‘Anytime,’ Louise beamed back. Dylan turned to her gratefully.
‘Thanks for calling me, Louise.’
‘Anytime! She’s a good kid is your sister.’
‘She really is,’ Dylan agreed thoughtfully. ‘I don’t deserve her.’
‘Of course you do! You’ve both been through some tremendous upheaval, there was bound to be some fall out. At least now you can both move on and get on with things.’
‘True! When did you get so wise, hey?’ Dylan teased.
‘I’ve always been wise, Dylan. Maybe if you’d paid any attention to me whatsoever you’d know this already!’ Louise retorted, her eyes sparkling with humour.
‘Are you saying I’m not paying you any attention, Louise? Well… How’s this for attention?’
Dylan could hardly believe what he’d done as he pulled away from Louise, his cheeks glowing pink. Louise smiled back at him, her heart flying.
‘It’s a start, Dylan,’ she grinned at the blushing boy stood opposite her. ‘It’s a start…’