: Cathy by Showboat
"How can I make you understand, Lainie? I'm afraid to go out alone with her. It's too eerie to explain to anyone else, but I thought you'd realize how I feel. I don't trust her, what else can I say? How can I follow a dog I don't trust across a street or down a flight of stairs?" Cathy Abbott rubbed her fingers together in a series of quick jerky movements and shuddered. She buried her face in her hands and began to cry in hoarse, dry little sobs.
"Ah, honey, please don't cry. I'm not trying to get on your case. I just worry about you staying holed up in the condo all the time. I'm not trying to force you to go out if you don't want to. You know me, always the cheerleader. I only want to see you get back as much of your old life as you can."
Nodding, Cathy raised her glasses, wiping her eyes with a handful of tissues. "I know that, Lainie. It's just that I can't believe in this dog the way I do Suzi." She stroked the sleek black head, the pointed, mobile ears. "You can't imagine what it's like to be blind, the helplessness, knowing that a moment can change your whole life. I'm so afraid sometimes, so scared I don't know what to do. I literally can't move. I really wish you'd take her away or something."
"You can't be scared of Kip? It's obvious from the look on her face that she's devoted to you, she adores you."
"Does she really look at me that way or are you just saying that to make me feel better?" Cathy rubbed her fingers over the short velvet coat.
"True story, Cath. She loves you."
"Then what's wrong with me? Why don't I believe in her? I feel like I can't trust her because she scares me."
"That's only old history and because of what's happened with Suzi. You feel guilty, like you're replacing your best friend, y'know, loyalty issues and stuff. If you'd just met Kip as a replacement, say, it would be different. I know it would. But this horror we have to go through with Suzi disappearing changes everything and I don't blame you for feeling terrified. Don't worry, though. She'll be home soon."
Cathy pulled the sleek head to her lap, feeling the tears start again. Gentle searching fingers worked their way up the long sloping shoulder and began to massage the thick black neck, taking courage from the bulk, the strength of the creature before her. She drew a deep, quivering breath and tried to relax.
'I'm just scared to death, Kip. Give me a little time to adjust and while I'm going through all this, please ignore me! I have no idea what I want except Suzi ... and you.'
Cathy tried hard to be courageous, but her fear for Suzi's safety undermined the strong facade and her face crumbled in sorrow and dread. Her fingers tightened around the leather harness like a life line attached to the big dog's body. She rested her forehead on the rigid handle and moaned. "I miss Suzi so much I can't stand it." Tears coursed down her cheeks, fogging her dark glasses.
Lainie Morgan regarded Cathy with mournful brown eyes and thanked God again for her eyesight. Sighing, she pursed quivering lips, slipped an arm across Cathy's shoulders and gave her a firm hug. "It's going to be alright, I just know it is. You need to give yourself some time to get used to Kip. Give her a chance, play with her, make friends, y'know? Like you did with Suzi? Kip's crazy about you; it's obvious from the way she watches you. And it's not being disloyal to Suzi that you guys are close. I bet you when she gets back, they'll be best friends."
Lainie pulled Cathy against her shoulder, murmuring, stroking the long honey brown hair. "I know you're scared right now so you're really not yourself. That's why you're having such a hard time with Kip. Just give it the rest of the week. If you still feel that way, I'll call Jim and have him take Kip back. Can you do that? Give it that long?"
A sigh that started in the pit of Cathy's stomach parted her lips in a bleat. "I guess, yes. I'm not being fair to her, but you know I don't particularly like Dobermans. Remember the one on our block when we were kids? He never did anything, never even barked. He just had this way of staring at me. Scared the crap outa me every time he did it. I can still see him in my mind's eye." She swallowed convulsively; tears seeped from under her dark glasses and splashed on her arm. "Mostly I'm scared for Suzi. Why hasn't anyone called yet?"
Kip watched both women intently, her gaze shifting from one face to the other. Hearing her name caused her short tail to twitch. Unable to contain herself, she rose unbidden and pressed into Cathy's side. Kip gave her hand a couple of quick swipes with a pink tongue and whined, hoping for a pat or a word of praise.
Cathy reached for the dog, stroking the short silky coat. With something akin to apology in her voice, she said, "You're a good girl, Kip. It's not personal and it's sure not your fault. You're a wonderful girl; you're just not my Suzi."
"They'll call us soon, you know they will. All they want is money." Lainie's voice quivered a moment, hanging on a whisper. "They won't hurt her, Cath. There's no reason to ... they just want money." Her voice ended in a groan. "Oh, God!"
Cathy started to cry once more. "I'm so afraid I'll never see her again."
Kip raised her long slender muzzle to the skies and cried along with Cathy, low, grumbling sighs mixed with high chirps.
* * *
Ever since the accident that took her sight, Cathy had created strict procedures for everything in her life. Developing and adhering to rigid patterns provided the foundation and security of her strange and frightening new world.
The doctors told her there would be several months of rehabilitation required before she could resume anything like a normal life, and with Lainie's help, she found a place that suited her needs. Located in the hills above Del Mar, Shadow Valley's first-rate facilities and state-of-the-art techniques promised rapid recovery, both mentally and physically.
The mood swings were vicious, throwing her from shrieking, barely contained fury at the injustice of it all, to fear so deep and profound it immobilized her, leaving her unable to do anything but sob with terror.
At first, Cathy resisted all attempts at therapy, preferring to wallow in anger and self-pity, but that didn't last long. Being the kind of person she was, she soon realized the importance of independence and mobility. After all, she was only twenty-three, and sitting on a sofa somewhere listening to the radio for the rest of her life did not appeal.
With Lainie's support and encouragement, she connected with a counselor who specialized in rapid onset traumatic blindness, and began to come to terms with her anger, the single consistent feeling she experienced since the accident.
Dr. Grayson urged Cathy to talk about her feelings, withholding nothing, including the fury she felt regarding her accident. She talked until she was hoarse, pounding her fists on the table, stamping her feet, at one point tearing her hair. It was the blackest time in her life; more than once she seriously contemplated suicide.
It took Cathy almost a year to come out the other end of that dark tunnel. She determined she'd never look back. Thanks to the huge settlement she won from the department store, money would never be a problem, even if she could no longer work, but she knew she would, and itched to get back into her old routines.
With youth and otherwise excellent health spurring her on, Cathy gave in to Lainie's nagging insistence that she take another step toward independence and get a guide dog.
The big yellow Lab gave Cathy courage, confidence and much-needed support. Learning to rely on the dog, to believe in her, required the biggest leap of faith Cathy had ever taken. In return, Suzi never let her down, never left her side and gave her unconditional love. After three months of intensive, on-site training, Cathy and Suzi were ready to take on the world; it was time to find a new home.
After conducting an extensive search for just the right place, they found a penthouse condo in Del Mar, a block from the beach and just minutes from Lainie's office. It was early spring and the large rooftop patio with its ocean view sealed the deal. The elevator made getting around easy and the exercise room had all the equipment the girls ever used.
The price was outrageous, of course, but so was everything else in the area. Here, they were at least guaranteed a garage parking space, a safe secure home and for Lainie, a short commute to work.
It took Cathy several months of moving freely around the huge condo before she built up the confidence and comfort level that finally allowed her to go outside with Suzi.
At first Lainie accompanied them on their daily beach walks, but as soon as Cathy felt at ease going alone, Lainie excused herself. "My hair just freaks out in the morning wind. It's so humid it just hangs on my head like limp spaghetti. Takes me forever just to get ready for work."
Mornings, except for the most inclement weather, consisted of a jog along the beach with Suzi. Two miles up, two miles back; every day. Their walk always ended at the Starbucks next to her condo complex.
The weather was usually so pleasant they'd often stroll to the other end of the block to visit the green grocer for fresh fruit and salad makings for lunch or to pick up eggs or milk. Next door, Le Petite Croissant announced itself with the sweet aroma of baking sugar and butter. The girls bought all their baked goods there, including sinfully delicious key lime tarts that gave their teeth fits.
When they passed her favorite restaurant, Touch of Italy, hints of tomato sauce, thyme and garlic danced on the wind before giving way to the sea breeze.
Errands run, they would return to the condo, and after a quick shower and a snack bar, Cathy set to work, creating. Unique, free-form plaster sculptures were her specialty, but her copper renderings provided the biggest continuous revenue.
Although the accident had robbed Cathy of her sight, her memory remained fresh and alive, affording her endless scenes, both real and imagined. Birds of all types and sizes flew above her, floating on the updrafts, wings expanded to their fullest. Horses galloped, tails aloft in the wind; majestic mountains, sailing ships, whales breeching the waves, children flying kites; all those scenes and so many more lived in her memory, real to her mind's eye whose vision remained unimpaired.
From those memories she created exquisite, original, one-of-a-kind designs that kept her bank accounts flush and her need for creativity fulfilled.
The sprawling condo, located behind locked security gates, afforded Cathy the
exact amount of freedom she could handle and no more. Adventurous by nature, she'd lost her free wheeling confidence to try anything once. Vulnerable now, she confined herself to things with which she had history and a personal knowledge. Her biggest fear was separation from Suzi.
Both girls felt safe in their new home, reassured by on-site security and the sophisticated surveillance devices that the management installed to keep their residents protected. The tall wrought iron fences gave them an additional level of protection from outside intruders.
Access to the shore lay directly across the street. The blacktopped beach paths provided a smooth surface, amply peopled and yet quiet, sedate and gentle in its slope.
For almost a decade she lived there in peace, safe in her cocoon.
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