Excerpt: Ryan stood from his seat at the desk and gave what he hoped passed for an encouraging smile. “I don’t know, buddy. We can look into it. You know you have limitations though. So don’t be too disappointed, if it doesn’t work out.”
“Yes, sir.” The light in Jesse’s eyes dimmed and he dropped his chin toward his chest. Turning as if to go, Jesse shuffled his feet loosely, like he expected them to stop working because of his father’s words.
Screwing up his face and silently cursing himself, Ryan rounded the desk-island and rushed to stop his son. He pulled him close and bent some to put himself more on eye level with the ten-year-old. “I’m sorry, Jesse. I didn’t mean that the way it came out. If we can figure out how to do it, we can at least try, okay?”
A slow nod with a half-hearted smile would have to be enough for Ryan and he took it.
“Come on, buddy. Let’s go check on the new calf.” He grabbed his hat hooked to the wall by the door and matched Jesse’s slower gait.
“Did Shelby finally have one?” Jesse’s soft-spoken concern melted Ryan’s irritation at the continued naming of the bison. They were for sale, not to be pets.
He bit back his reprimand and pushed open the front door. “She had the baby this morning. Come on, we might be able to give the mama a brush down.”
Walking across the drive to the barn, Ryan glanced again at Jesse’s gait. “Hey, you’re doing pretty good with that thing. Still like it?”
The wheelchair had been Jesse’s norm for so long, Ryan hadn’t been prepared when Jesse’s new pediatrician had suggested a physical therapist to train him how to walk, even if it’d been assisted.
Jesse bounced with sudden excitement. “Yes, sir. It’s so much fun. I can actually go places because of my legs moving and not because of my hands.” He peered down at his sideways tripping feet. “Even if it doesn’t look right, I’m still on them, you know?” He glanced sideways at his dad, a half-smile filled more with sadness than hope.
“Oh man.” Ryan pulled Jesse to a stop. He knelt down and met his gaze straight on. His hat’s shadow protected his eyes from the startling sunlight but not from the tears on Jesse’s cheeks. “Hey, it doesn’t matter what you do to get around. I promise. It looks right – no matter how you do it. You’re getting better and better. These things take time.”
Doubt in the tilt of Jesse’s head nearly broke Ryan’s heart. The boy bit his lip and screwed up the left side of his face as he fought tears. “Do you think if I walk good enough, Mom will come back?”
And Ryan’s heart did crack, right over the spot where it felt like a thousand buffaloes had ripped it to shreds. He cleared his throat, but didn’t hide his reaction from Jesse. His son deserved honesty, no matter how painful.