Natalie watched her brother from a distance as he heaved a sigh. He hadn't moved from his spot by the pond for what was coming to two hours now, and as a result she had remained where she was for the same amount of time. She was his guardian angel, watching over him every waking hour. She would go to work with him and sit out in the hall whenever he had a meeting. At the hospital none of the nurses would question her for being there; they found her silent support endearing, and so grown up for a girl of her age. Instead they would bring biscuits with them to work for when she next came by, and she would accept them gratefully and share them with her brother when the two of them eventually went back to the pond. They didn't talk - they interacted with looks and smiles. She would occasionally hug him and he would gratefully accept it, clinging onto her almost as though his life depended on it. Their parents didn't understand - they thought it unhealthy - but they had long given up trying to stop her.
Too soon the weekend before Natalie would have to go back to school had come by. She started to refuse to go back, pleading for a little bit more time off, preferring to be there for her brother instead.
"Honey, you have to go back," her mother would sigh.
"But he needs me."
All her life Luke had been there for Natalie and their other siblings, looking after them when their parents were busy or if they were upset about something, no matter how little a matter it was. The multiple times that their parents' marriage was on the rocks – or if they actually did get divorced – Luke was always putting his siblings' feelings before his own. And now she felt it was up to her to look after him in his hour of need since Ethan was too young and Faith was too busy running around after Parker.
It had only been a total of four weeks and three days since the death of her Luke's boyfriend, Reid, so the grief was still very raw. Although the couple hadn't been together long, it had been evident to Natalie the first and last time she met Reid that there was a special connection present – a spark of understanding which hadn't been there when Luke had been with his first love. While Natalie adored Noah to no end, the eight-year-old couldn't help but be fascinated by Reid. She had found it funny that a world-class neurosurgeon could seem so uncomfortable and intimidated by herself and her younger brother, Ethan. She recalled how she had innocently asked him when the wedding was going to happen and how in a matter of seconds Reid had become such a stuttering, stammering, squeaking wreck. He had later made up for his terrible first impression by challenging Ethan to see who could eat the most cake in two minutes. She had giggled until she was pink in the face as the man seemed to get more cake and icing on his face than even the four-year-old. Of course they had agreed to keep the event a secret from Luke since he would most probably freak out.
She decided to approach him now and sat beside him on the bank. The silence between them was relaxed, and she could only hope that he found her presence comforting. She looked down at her fidgeting hands as she tried to find the words to tell him. She knew she was probably being silly, but she felt that if she did go back to school she would be letting her brother down. She felt it was her duty – as his sister – to be there for him whenever he was upset, and at the moment that was all day every day.
In the end he helped her voice her troubled thoughts. "Mom's right – you do need to go back to school."
She looked up into his brown eyes, searching their depths for the slightest hint of resentment regarding the inevitable. She shouldn't have been surprised to find only kindness and love present there.
"But what about you?" she asked quietly.
"I'll be fine," he smiled, actually genuinely smiled. He held his arms out to her in invitation and she didn't hesitate in snuggling into his side. His arms enveloped her in warmth against the first bites of the autumn weather, and she felt him rest his chin on her head. "You have been so much help," he whispered, "but you can't put your life on hold for me. I'll be waiting for you every day after school, okay?" He felt her nod and again he smiled.
"He seemed nice," Natalie said in a matter of fact manner. "I wish I got to know him better."
"I wish you did too," Luke sighed.
"Are you going to be okay?"
Luke smiled. "Thank you for being here for me. I doubt I would be dealing with this so well if it wasn't for you." He gave her a gentle kiss on the forehead and his heart melted when she beamed up at him. "Come on; let's go get some of Grandma's oatmeal cookies."
Brother and sister held hands as they walked together back to the farm, knowing that no matter what happened to one of them the other would always be there to catch them when they fall. Luke was content – he had finally found someone to look after him for a change.