Chapter 35

Each person living in the Bray household looked at the presence of their unexpected guest with different eyes.

After the initial uneasiness that there was already another young woman with Sully, Maude accepted this fact. Although she had been very relieved when Dr. Quinn began taking care of Hannah, the concerned grandmother thought it much better when somebody was around who didn't work but was able to keep an eye on their little girl all day. After all, the triple stress of running the household, helping her husband with the store and raising a child was taking its toll on her. Although the new medicine had improved her health she still wasn't getting any younger. Having a reliable help at hand sounded good to her.

Olive, however, was rather suspicious. She had seen how this so-called friend looked at Sully – and the house. Apart from that Catherine, as Sully had introduced her, tried too hard to make a good impression, which in Olive's opinion hinted at a weak personality. She tried to be kind though – for Hannah's sake. She didn't want for her grandniece to live in a strained atmosphere.

Loren, on the other hand, was openly disgruntled. He liked the idea of having a doctor handy whenever one was needed. Thanks to Dr. Mike his wife was doing much better with the new pills and his granddaughter had finally found someone she could ask all her odd questions. In addition, the young physician was a hard-working woman, and Loren was the last one who wouldn't acknowledge and appreciate that. Of course it didn't hurt that she obviously had money. This way he wouldn't have to worry about Hannah: He and Maude would be able to retire sooner than they had planned and still the child would always be well provided for. If his son-in-law with his loony ideas about which job was worth being accepted would get hitched with this new person, things didn't look good for the girl's future. He'd have to work until he was eighty so his little sunshine would have something to eat on her plate every day.

And there was still Hannah. Her dad had told her his friend was new in town and didn't know anyone except for Daniel, but Daniel had to work at his office. Everyone else was busy as well so dad had asked her to make Catherine feel welcome. He'd even practiced with her speaking the name correctly since, as he'd said, Catty didn't sound very lovable.

Hannah was somewhat puzzled about that. He'd never minded her using her own versions of people's names nor had he ever told her to be nice. Had she done something wrong? Her joy about seeing him before he left town was tainted by this question.

Truth be told, she was always happy when she met someone new. It was interesting to learn about where they came from and what they did. When they had time for her she liked them right from the start, and Catherine did. They spent all morning together after nana had asked her to give dad's friend a tour through the house. She was soon exhausted though from climbing all the stairs.

Apart from that, Catherine asked a lot of questions, first about what games she liked and her favorite food but soon it was more about her dad. When they reached her dad's room, Catherine didn't want to leave it again. She looked around and after examining his book shelf and his carvings she settled in his wing chair and began to tell stories from the time when they lived together at the group home.

In the beginning the little girl thought it exciting to hear old stories about her daddy, but soon she became sleepy. She climbed onto the bed and snuggled into the pillow, quickly drifting off.

When she woke up she was alone. For a short moment she wondered why she was in her dad's room, but then she remembered. And there was something else: all the time she had wanted to ask Catherine a question but never made it. Determined to get her answer now, she got up and went into the hallway. Holding tightly onto the banisters she eased her way down the staircase. Since she heard voices from the kitchen she made a beeline there, then stretched her body for the door handle and the moment she entered the kitchen she posed her query, "Why have ants six legs?"

While Maude sighed in exasperation Olive chuckled but neither replied since the child's eyes were on Catherine. Insecurely, the young woman glanced at them, mouthing, "Is she serious?"

Olive grinned and nodded, "You can bet."

"Why do you wanna know that?" Catherine asked as she turned to Hannah, stalling for time.

The child, however, knew this tactic from her grandpa and so she didn't give in, "Why have they only six?"

"Only six?" Totally lost now, Catherine shrugged. "Well, they were made this way," she said matter-of-factly, thinking that this solved the problem.

But it didn't.

"Why?" Hannah insisted. First she hadn't thought anything about it, but knowing that people and birds had two legs, dogs and cats four and spiders eight, as Dr. Mike had pointed out to her after they watched the movie at Uncle Daniel's, the number six simply sounded odd to her.

Helplessly, Catherine looked at Maude. Taking the hint, the old woman changed the subject. "Ain't ya hungry, dear?" she asked, and Hannah knew that she wouldn't get an answer.

Seeing the disappointment on Hannah's face Olive suggested, "Ya can always ask Dr. Mike. Ain't ya go swimmin' with her later?"

The little girl's eyes lit up. "Uh huh."

Knowing without any doubt that Dr. Mike wouldn't let her down she was satisfied for the moment and her thoughts began focusing on more practical things. "Can I have pancakes?" she pleaded, turning to her grandma.

"You had them for breakfast," Maude reminded her, shaking her head in disapproval. "You need more vegetables for a healthy heart."

Since Hannah had expected this reply she wasn't disturbed too much. She could have pancakes for breakfast tomorrow again. That reminded her of another important issue. Her dad was not here and wouldn't sleep with her and that was why she wanted to spend the night with Dr. Mike again.

"Can I sleep at the house?" More than once the child had heard this expression from her grandma and auntie. Now that she finally knew what they were talking about she loved using the same words.

Olive wished she had a say in this for she knew what her sister-in-law would reply. Maude hadn't made a secret of how pleased she was that she could pass on part of her burden to the young woman.

Yet before Maude was able to deny her granddaughter's wish Catherine asked Hannah, somewhat confused, "Didn't you show me your room upstairs?"

"She means Sully's house," Maude quickly explained.

"Sully has a house?" Catherine wondered, her bafflement increasing. "I thought he lives here?"

"He does," Olive chimed in, shooting Maude a warning gaze. "Dr. Mike lives at the house and she doesn't mind for Hannah to stay with her." Winking at the little girl she said, "Ya just ask her when she picks you up here. I know that she likes to have ya."

Catherine's thoughts were racing. It was obvious that Sully's daughter adored the doctor who already had found a way to get into his house as well. Did he have feelings for Dr. Quinn? He hadn't mentioned a woman in his life; that much she knew with certainty. All he had been talking about on their short drive was his daughter, that she needed her bedtime story and had a heart condition that was on the mend though. He had also assured that there was no reason to be afraid of Mrs. Bray or Miss Olive but warned her about Mr. Bray, saying she shouldn't take his sarcastic comments personally. He hadn't mentioned Dr. Quinn; actually he had avoided speaking her name at Daniel's. Maybe he wasn't as close to her as it sounded. Maybe it was only the child admiring her doctor and Sully was grateful.

Having found an explanation for the facts Catherine squared her shoulders, determined now to win Hannah's heart. She knew from the sign at the clinic that Dr. Quinn would be there till the late afternoon. Recognizing her chance she offered to Mrs. Bray, very well knowing that it was she who would make the decision, "There is no need to wait till Dr. Quinn will close her practice. I can take Hannah to a pool right after her she had her lunch."

"That's very nice of you," Maude immediately accepted. This way she would have time to prepare the room for their guest. She didn't know in what shape it was since Sully insisted to clean there himself. The last thing she wanted was to give Catherine a bad impression of the family.

Hannah, however, wasn't pleased at all, but no one paid attention to her as she sat on her small chair at the children's table in the far corner of the kitchen, waiting patiently for her lunch. She always ate there when the adults had already had their meal while she was sleeping.

The little girl tried to catch Auntie Olive's eyes yet that proved to be difficult from her perspective. Then auntie even left, saying she would look for the sheets on the line in the yard, and Hannah knew she had missed her chance. She loved her grandma dearly and knew nana would fulfill her every wish – but only as long as she agreed that it was a reasonable one. This time Catherine had won; the child knew every nuance of her nana's voice, and right now it said she would go swim earlier than planned.

Trying to hide her disappointment Hannah picked up her fork. She knew Dr. Mike would be sad, too. She had said that she was happy that the two of them could exercise together. The child's throat restricted with sorrow; she wasn't able to eat and began to push the peas around on her plate.

"Don't play with your food, sweetie." Grandma's voice was gentle but reprimanding, too and tears began to brim in Hannah's eyes. She didn't want them to be seen though because that could make nana sick, and so the little girl slowly began to eat although all her appetite was gone by now.

xxx

All day, Michaela had been able to push private thoughts and worries to the back of her mind. For the first time there hadn't been any breaks between patients, and lunch time she had spent with Dr. Bernard, who had brought along Charlotte Cooper, and Cloud Dancing. They'd had an animated talk at Grace's, and she had asked her colleagues and the midwife if they could help her find an assistant for the afternoon hours. Of course she could easily put an advert in the Gazette, but she thought it better to first look around in the neighborhood. As it turned out she had been right about that because Charlotte immediately applied for the post, explaining that there wasn't enough work for a midwife these days and she could use the extra money.

So it came that Michaela was in high spirits when she entered the mercantile after work, ready to pick up Hannah for her swimming lesson.

"Aw, Dr. Mike," Loren grumbled. "Haven't ya heard? Sully has brought this woman here and she's takin' over with my granddaughter now. They are out for hours already."

Despite the pang she felt for being left behind Michaela was more concerned for Hannah. "I hope they don't overdo it. Does Hannah have her hat? The sun is burning again today and…"

"Don't ya worry, Dr. Mike," Olive called from behind a shelf. "She'll be fine. I'll tell her that ya were here. She will love to hear that."

"Thank you," Michaela said and fell silent before she quietly stated, "I guess that means she also won't spend the night with me."

"I'm sure she will once Sully is back," Olive said, peeking her head around the shelf. As she raised an eyebrow at her, Michaela couldn't help but smile.

"I'll be back in a bit," she said as suddenly an idea hit her. Before the others could react to that, she was out of the door.

That night, Hannah slumbered in her small bed at her grandparents' house – hugging the stuffed wolf tightly in her sleep.