“Hi,” said Katie, smiling. Katie's heart pounded in her chest. It really was Anne. The dogs wrapped themselves around Anne's feet like dancers at a maypole. The dog Katie was holding barked happily at the others, like long-lost friends. Katie looked at her sister, her face smiling, nervous, frightened, and something else.
“I have to go,” Anne said, stumbling over the dog leashes; she was trying to leave. “Iʼm late for work.”
“Anne,” Katie called. “Wait! I have to tell you something important!”
Katie looked anxiously at Anne, who had turned her back and seemed to be talking to the dogs while untangling the leashes. Katie tried again. "Anne, I really need to talk to you!"
Slowly, Anne turned around. “Katie?"
Katie reached out towards Anne. Maybe if I touch her, the distance will melt away. Instead, Anne backed up, almost falling over the dogs, not looking Katie in the eyes, just sort of skimming the ground. Katie noticed that Anne's hair actually seemed brushed and her clothes, while not the fashion-forward choices her sister used to make, looked clean, even if a little worn.
Katie tried again. "I can’t believe you're walking dogs. You always hated them, ever since Odie ate your favourite Chuck Taylors."
Anne smiled a smile of recognition and Katie’s heart leapt a little bit -- maybe thoughts of their uncle’s dog might be neutral enough to start a conversation?
Her heart pounding, Katie asked “Anne, um, do you want to talk? I mean go inside," she said, pointing to the gallery. "We can sit down for a bit."
Anne shook her head and Katie almost cried out in frustration. But then Anne, almost in a whisper, said, "Can I take the dogs back first?"
Katie, not sure if she heard correctly, decided that nodding might be the right way to go here. She quietly asked, "Do you want me to come with you?"
Anne looked at her, for the first time meeting her gaze, and said: "No. I will come back."
No way, Katie thought. She didn't want to lose Anne again. Instead she heard herself saying “Sure, I will go in and make us some tea.”
Anne nodded and then turned, murmuring something to the dogs as they disappeared around a corner.
Katie let out a deep breath, wondering if she had been breathing at all. She felt her heart racing, and turned to Charlie, Mr Ambrose's dog. "What did I do?" she wailed. "I just let her go like that? Do you think she’ll come back?”
Charlie woofed, and Katie decided that maybe Anne had developed dog-whisperer powers during her months on streets, and the dog was telling her not to worry. Sure, that's it, Katie, your sister talks to animals now, ha! And so do you...
Katie went inside the gallery and plugged in the kettle, thankful that Eoin's gallery-owner friend had trusted her with his space. Immediately she pulled out her cellphone, and turned to Charlie. "Should I call my mum or should I call Eoin?"
But Charlie just sat there silently this time, so Katie poked at her contact list, wavering between her options. Worrying her mum would be mad that she let Anne go, she called Eoin.
Eoin picked up on the second ring and Katie, barely letting him say hello, launched straight in. "Oh my god, Eoin. I found Anne! She was walking dogs and now I let her go and drop them off. I'm making a pot of tea and waiting for the kettle to boil and for Anne to come back. I'm so nervous she'll disappear again, but she seemed like she would come back, she really did, I just trusted my instincts...”
Eoin, grabbing the a moment, said, “Of course she will, Katie. She's your sister," and Katie realized she was glad she picked Eoin to call. Her mother really would have panicked.
“I'd better go, Eoin. I need to think about what I'm going to say before Anne gets back."
But Katie couldn’t really think, all she could do was pace back and forth, making patterns in the drywall dust on the floor. It really is like a watched pot, she laughed to herself, as she waited for the kettle to boil, as she waited for her sister's return.
After what seemed like forever, Anne peered in the window. Katie’s heart started beating furiously. She went to open the door.
Anne looked around and sat on one of the chairs pushed up against the wall. Katie’s lips were dry and her mouth felt like sandpaper. Suddenly sudden she didn’t know what to do or say. She just burst into tears. “ I missed you. I love you. I need you, Anne."
Anne swallowed, and to Katie it looked like she might cry too. Instead Anne said, "It isn’t that easy, Katie. I can’t just come back. There is so much more here than just me walking dogs and not living at home anymore."
Katie sat down on the floor next to her sister and took her hand. "Anne, you are sitting here with me and I don't care what else has happened. It doesn't matter, none of it matters."
Anne slid off the chair onto the floor and slowly leaned against Katie. "What have I done?" Anne pleaded, almost plaintively. "I have been walking all over this city, looking at you, and that cute boy who wears weird clothes, I see Jason and some floozy in the park with Jonah, and my heart breaks, I even saw mum knitting on the sofa talking to herself. Katie, I have been watching this whole time. I got clean about 3 months ago with an idea that I would make it back into your lives. I left you that note, remember - like we used to play in that spy game, leaving messages for each other? I wasn't sure I was ready but I wanted to do something. Last year when you and Bobby split up, I didn't know what to say. Everyone always thought I was perfect, with the perfect job and perfect life, but I was screaming inside, I felt so boring, so lifeless. I thought having Jonah would make me care about something more, but it didn't, it just made it harder to be perfect. Then I saw you giving up on your dreams too, so I thought that even though I had ruined my life, maybe you could get yours back-- you were going to be fantastic, Katie, you were- remember, we planned it. You were going to be an artist and I was going to be a famous lawyer fighting for justice. Instead I got stuck in the corporate game and lost any idea about who I was and now I lost everything, my son, my house, my sister, my mum…." Tears started rolling down Anne's cheeks and Katie put her arms around her sister, noting that Anne had left Jason off that list.
Maybe this could be fixed, thought Katie. Maybe I can get Anne back the pieces that mean something to her.
"It worked Anne -- your note reminded me of what I used to be and so I made that art project for you. All those paintings.... You were the one that believed in me so I did it for you, no one else. In the meantime, though, other people saw it all too, and now, I guess I get to say when people ask what I do, I get to say I am an artist, for real- well almost," she said, thinking with pride of her new project at work. "I couldn't have done it without you, Anne. Neither Melissa or Mum believed in me the way you always did."
Anne smiled, and wiped away the tears. "I'm glad Katie. You deserve to be a superstar." She slowly got up to leave, brushing the drywall dust from her jeans and tucking her hair behind he ears. "I better go. Joe will be waiting to share my takings for the day. "
"Wait Anne, you can't go -- I need to take you home. We can start again, with mum and with Jonah- they need you too."
Anne laughed a sad laugh. "Katie, Jason just wants to be free, I don't want to deal with the pain and the anguish or risk upsetting Jonah any more than he already is. It's been enough time already- it's better that they forget about me."
Katie stood tall and grabbed Anne's hand. "Anne, no! I won't have my nephew raised by that loser and his floosy- let's not give up. I'm calling mum and Aunt Angela and getting them to pick us up-- please don't go Anne!"
Charlie, who Katie had forgotten about in the corner, came over and rubbed up against Anne's leg. She bent down to stroke his nose and he gave a little whimper. "Ok," sighed Anne. "Ok, I'll give it a try-- just one conversation though, and it has to be at my place. "
1. Katie's mum and Aunt Angela come to pick them up and brings Jason
2. Katies's mum and Aunt Angela come to pick them up with Jonah