“Is Ethel going to be alright?” Teddy gaped at his father with huge, watery eyes. Standing there like that, arms flailing by his sides, pale and worried, the young man might as well have been a little boy again.
Tom shifted in his jacket, adjusted the lump that sat next to his heart. His eyes slid from Teddy’s and found a spot on the barn siding.
“Well, son,” the older man began, “whatever got hold of her hurt her real bad. Real bad.”
He licked his lips and angled his head toward Teddy but still stared at the barn.
“Oh no!” the boy wailed. “Was it a wolf? A fox?”
“Can’t be sure, not really.” Tom felt his son’s gaze, imploring him for good news, for some sort of salvation from the dark moment. He had no choice but the lock onto those pleading eyes. “I don’t think she suffered much, Teddy.” His voice was soft.
Teddy inhaled sharply and bit his lip. “Is she … gone?”
“I’m sorry, son,” Tom said, gripping his son’s shoulder with a strong hand.
“I have to see her,” Teddy said and pulled way from his father’s grip. He turned toward the creek bank, legs wobbling under him.
“Don’t go down there, son,” Tom said. “Nothing good can come of it.” He knew there was no stopping the boy.
“I have to, Pa.” Teddy pushed his words through sobs now.
Tom nodded and opened his jacket, reached inside. “Well, then, you might want to take this with you. Agnes left if for you.”
Teddy turned to face his father, confusion washing over him.
Tom held out the tiny puppy, eyes still closed, but squirming and chirping for his new boy.
Teddy smiled, just a little.