A Second Chance -- Chapter 8


A Second Chance

By Dawn Natelle

Alert: I want to warn readers that this story goes back into dark places in the first half. If you have triggers related to suicide, then you might want to avoid this, or steel yourself a bit. It is essential to the story, though. (The trigger area is between asterisks, so you can skip it if you prefer). Dawn.

MONDAY, May 2, 2016

In the bus on Monday morning Rachael walked past her normal seat and sat down in the second last row, politely asking the boy sitting there if she could have the seats for this one day only. He seemed confused by the request, but got up and moved forward, unsure of what had just happened.

Rachael said ‘hi’ to the three girls in the back row, and when they questioned her about the change in seating, she said they should wait until Mikki arrived. At her stop, Mikki was confused not to find Rachael in their normal seats. Then she saw her waving from the back of the bus and headed there. Only then did Rachael turned around and tell Carly: “Mikki is having a sleepover on Friday, and we wanted to ask you three if you would like to come.”

Layla sneered: “A sleepover, with you? I think I have to wash my hair that night.”

Carly ignored the dig by her friend. “That could be cool, what will we be doing? Just movies and makeup and stuff?”

“No,” an excited Michaela said. “We are going to do a fashion model shoot. My Dad is a photographer, and has all kinds of pro equipment we can use. We have costumes, and wigs, and super high heels. Oh, Rachael, I brought you a copy of the picture Dad took of us on Sunday.” She opened an envelope to show an 8x10 of the girls in a BFF pose.

“That is really awesome,” Carly said, admiring the photo. “It really looks professional. Will the shots from the sleepover be this good? Will your Dad be there? ‘Cause that would be a major downer.”

“No,” Rachael said. “Mikki is a really good photographer too, and she will take the pictures. We will need to get someone to do makeup that is really good to help with that. I’m going to make pizzas and cookies and we will have a blast.”

“It sounds exciting,” Carly said, “Count me in.” Both her friends agreed, even Layla who now thought that she might wash her hair on another night. The five chatted together until the bus got to the school. “You guys should have lunch at our table today,” Carly said, causing Mikki’s eyes to widen.

“That would be cool, but I have to sit with the boys today. Maybe Janice Schlepper would take my spot. We haven’t asked her yet, but we hope she will come. You all can explain the deal to her. I have something to do at lunch, or I would join in.”

In the excitement of the planning, Rachael’s opting out of a lunch at the cool kids table was not commented on, although Mikki did quiz her about it as they walked to their first class. “I just have some research to do in the library after having a quick lunch,” Rachael said. “And it gives you a chance to shine with all your new friends.”

“Do you really think they want to be friends with … me? I mean, not just for the party?”

“Sure they do. Just remember me when you get up with the cool kids.”

“No way Rach,” Mikki said, her face turning somber. “You are my first friend, and you will be my last friend. You know what the second F means.”

“The what?”

“The second F in BFF. ‘Forever’,” Mikki said.

“Oh, that,” Rachael laughed. “Yes, BFF.”

At lunch the boys did comment on the absence of the other two girls. Robert seemed happy that Rachael did show up, but Tony was a little sad to see Mikki over at the cool kids table. “She will be back,” Rachael encouraged him.

She spent most of her short lunch chatting with Robert, asking him about his family.

“We live on a farm just outside of town, about 10 minutes away. It kinda sucks, because I have to take the bus all the time, and can’t stay for sports or other things after school.”

“What kind of farm?”

“Dairy. We have about 100 head, so there are a lot of chores I have to do. Do you like farms?”

Rachael smiled. She couldn’t tell him that she had lived on a farm for over 30 years, while Ron was a veterinarian. His was a hobby farm, with most of the land rented out to working farmers. He did have a few animals, usually given to him by the farmers in payment for vet bills. A calf or two every spring kept the freezer in the basement full of meat when he was butchered in the fall. “I love horses,” Rachael said. “Do you have any?”

“Oh yeah, all of us boys have horses, and little Lisa, she’s 8, has a pony.”

“Wow, I wish I could ride again. I really love it,” Rachael said.

“Maybe you can come out to the farm one day,” Rob said. “If you were there I could probably get out of some chores, due to having company.”

“Or I could help you with your chores. I am a pretty good cowgirl, you know. Look, I’d love to chat through the rest of lunch, but I’ve got something to do at the library. See you later?”

“Bye-bye,” Robert said and as she walked away she could hear the other boys teasing him ‘for having a girlfriend.’

In the library Rachael went to the computer and started searching. She was looking into transsexualism. Danny was on her mind, and she wanted to look up some resources to give to his (or her?) mother.

She was glad to see that there was no parental protection on the computers. She quickly found some resources, and started copying links to a memory stick she had borrowed from Mikki.

* * *

Ron, over 20 years ago, had a nephew named Earl. When Ron’s wife had succumbed to cancer, his sister Susan, Earl’s mom, had sent the then 11-year-old out to spend the summer on his uncles’ farm. Earl was not a boyish boy, preferring cooking and baking with his mom to working on cars with his dad. He detested sports, but loved taking long rides on his bike.

He took to the farm well. As Susan had predicted, the visit was good for both of them. Ron was still mourning his late wife, and Earl positively blossomed on the farm. He had longish hair for a boy, and tended to wear unisex clothes. Ron took him on many of his vet calls, and Earl had an affinity for animals, and by the end of the summer announced that he too would be a vet one day.

About half the time Ron’s farmer clients mistook the frail-looking boy for a girl, and Earl never complained, although Ron always corrected the mistake. It was in late August when Ron came back from a call that Earl hadn’t come to, since it involved a rather dangerous bull. The call had gone badly, and the animal had to be put down, so what was expected to be a five-hour call only took a half hour.

Ron walked into his house and found Earl wearing an old cotton dress, watching Gilmore Girls on TV, loud enough that he hadn’t heard Ron drive in. He immediately panicked, and ran to his room, sobbing. Ron couldn’t get in to talk to him, so instead went back to his old college Psychology textbook and tried to read up on what was then called Abnormal Sexual Practices. It talked about the differences between transsexual and transvestite behaviors.

It was several hours later when hunger overcame shame that Earl came out, now dressed in his boy clothes. After a quiet meal, the two had a long talk. That was when Ron learned about Emily, his ‘niece.’ Emily felt she had always been a girl, and had spoken to her mother about the problem on occasion. She knew that speaking with her father about it would drive him ballistic. Roger was a macho-man and would take girlish behavior by his son as a personal insult. And he dealt with insults with violence.

Ron told Emily that she could be whoever she wanted with him, and he was amazed to see the girl’s eyes light up. And they were girl eyes, Ron realized, trapped inside a boy’s body. For the rest of the summer, less than two weeks, Emily accompanied Ron on many of his rounds, and was no longer mistaken as a boy. She tended to wear dresses, and Ron gave her permission to wear anything of his petite late wife’s clothes that fit her.

September came, and Susan decided that it had been a success. Her son seemed happier than he had been in years, and looking after the child had helped Ron with his grief. Ron sat down with Susan, and for two hours discussed the past weeks, and why Earl seemed in better spirits. Susan felt for her son, but her empathy was clouded by fear of her husband, and what he might do if he found out. Emily met her mother for a few minutes, but agreed that she would have to pretend to be Earl for the rest of the year. If she did that, then she would be allowed to come back the following summer.

Ron received a letter about once a month. It was simply signed E, in a girlish hand. It told of the anguish and pain Emily felt, living a lie. Ron had to be careful writing back, always aware that Emily’s father might see the letter. But he was able to cloak his comments in a way that Emily understood what he was saying, without it being explicit. The following summer she told him that his letters, and the chance to come back to the farm, were the only things that kept her going at times.

Emily came to the farm for three more summers. The last one, when she was 15, was difficult. She was hitting puberty, and no longer passed so easily between the genders. When Susan picked her up that summer Ron begged his sister to get Emily on hormones. Susan reluctantly agreed to talk with her husband about it.

It was at Earl’s funeral that fall that Ron found out what had happened. Susan had approached Roger about the problem and, as predicted, he had gone ballistic. He had beat Earl, and he had beat Susan as well. He even threatened to beat Ron once he next saw him.

Roger had been in jail and Susan in the hospital when Earl’s older brother came home to find Emily, dressed in Susan’s clothing, hanging from a rafter in the garage. Her parents were both released to attend the funeral. Emily had left a long tear-stained note, begging that she be buried in the dress. But, the funeral director took Roger’s direction and instead she was buried in a cheap male suit.

Susan left Roger soon after. She had loved him once, but blamed him for the loss of her daughter/son. Now it was her turn to move to Ron’s farm. Her older son stayed with his dad, once his two months in jail were over. This time it was Ron’s turn to be grief counselor for his sister. It took five and a half years for Susan to mend her broken heart; thanks to the support Ron gave her, finally meeting a nice older man, and remarrying. She never sought to have any more children.

* * *

Rachael teared up remembering her laughing, joyful niece from those summer days on the farm. Emily had so much to live for, a life as a vet, squashed by the rage and hatred her father had spewed. It was different now, but would Danny’s father react the way that Roger had? The Internet made finding resources much easier than using a 12-year-old textbook had been, and the topic was treated much more sensitively these days.

Rachael wiped her eyes and tucked away the memory stick. She intended to give it to Mrs. Stoner sometime: probably not until after the excitement of the sleepover. And she wanted to talk to Danny alone some time, if she could. Perhaps it was just his physical appearance that was leading her to think he might be trans. She needed to talk to him, to see if he felt the same way as Emily had.

Rachael was called to the office before the last class. She wondered what trouble she might be in. Mrs. Deboer called her in quickly.

“You were on the Internet during lunch today?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am. We don’t have a computer at home,” Rachael said.

“You may not know it, but we have a setup that does not restrict students from any sites. But it does track the usage of all computers, and the librarian found that you were on some adult sites. She could see that you seemed to be seeking textual information, and not photographs, so she didn’t approach you. But she did alert me about the content you were searching. Is there anything you would like to tell me?”

“No ma’am.”

“I understand quite a bit about transsexualism: it was something covered in my Master’s program. To put it bluntly, do you feel gender dysphoria? That means feeling that your body does not match your personal identity. That seems to fit in with some of your recent actions.”

Rachael finally got it. The principal thought she was transsexual, and that was why she had attempted suicide. Actually, it was quite the other way around. The Ron in her had adapted to her new, younger female body quite smoothly, even though one might had thought some gender dysphoria would be natural. But somehow, when he was inserted into Rachael, none of those problems occurred, thankfully. It was the change in height, not sex, that Ron/Rachael had been bothered by the most.

“No, Mrs. Deboer. It is nothing like that. One of my friends, has a brother, or sister perhaps, that might have that problem. I had a cousin who … died after suffering through the same thing. I was hoping that I could find some information I knew of that I could pass on to his mother, so that she could seek out help for him.”

“This child. Is he or she in this school?”

“No ma’am. She is in Grade 1.”

“That is rather young for dealing with gender identity issues.”

“Yes, but my cousin went through many years of pain before … the end. I am hoping to save this person from the same thing.”

“Well, you seem to be going about it in the right way, providing accurate information to the carer. That is all. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help. In fact, if you discover that this might be an issue, let me know anyway. I will offer my help to the principal over in the elementary school. Look, class is almost over, so I will write a covering note to your teacher to cover your absence. There is no sense going in with only 10 minutes remaining.”

Mikki caught her at her locker after the last bell, announcing that she wanted to take the bus home, so she could gossip with the girls. Rachael encouraged her, telling her that she had Bobby to take, so they would be walking.

Bobby was in a good mood as they walked to the stores. They had to make a call into the library, where he returned his books and there he planted himself in the children’s section to find new books to take home.

“I really like your library,” Rachael said to the elderly librarian.

“Yes, it is nice, with mostly new stuff. A lot of the books are cycled in from the main branch downtown, but all the computers and fixtures are new. There was a movement by the staff downtown to get the new gear, and leave us with their recycled older bits, but when they worked it out that would have meant closing the main branch down for a week to do a changeover. It was easier just to bring the new things here.”

“Well I like the setup. The children’s area is perfect for the youngsters, and I know I will want to use the reference area if I need a computer to do my homework. Are you open late ever?”

“We open until 9 p.m. on Thursday nights. As well as downstairs we have meeting rooms upstairs, and an office. Most of the other units in this building have apartments, but the city made different use of the space for us. So far the meeting rooms haven’t gotten much use, but we have only been open for less than a year.”

“Can I see upstairs?” Rachael asked.

“Certainly. It isn’t busy down here. I’ll take you us while Heather watches the desk.”

The three rooms upstairs ranged from a small one that would hold four people, perfect for a few kids working together on a project. A larger room would hold 10 to 14 people around a board table. The largest room would hold 24 people when set up as it was in an auditorium type of setting, facing a large screen fed by a multimedia computer. Rachael immediately had an idea.

“Does the library have movies on CD or DVD?” she asked.

“We have older movies on DVD,” the librarian said. “Nothing too recent, I guess. We didn’t want to compete with the video stores when the program was set up 10 years ago, and now mostly people have Netflicks. What are you thinking of?”

“Old classics, like Casablanca, West Side Story, Sound of Music,” Rachael said.

“Oh yes, there is a large collection of that type of thing. What are you thinking about?”

“Well, at 13 we kids are too young to date, and most of the movies at the theatre are rated restricted. But if we could have a movie night once a week, it would be a little like dating-lite. We’d be in a big group, in a safe place. I mean, what parent would object to their child going to a library. And with a 9 p.m. end time, it isn’t too late for a school night. And it would give us kids somewhere social to go each week.”

“I think that is a wonderful idea,” the librarian said. “It fits right into our service mandate goals. Let me know when you want the room. As I said, right now they aren’t being used much.”

“What about popcorn or snacks?” Rachael asked.

The librarian frowned. “Because we are giving you the room for free, then we can’t spend a lot of money setting it up, or cleaning up after you.”

“Is there a vacuum cleaner? We could clean up after we finish, and put the chairs back the way they are now.”

The librarian agreed to try popcorn and snacks once, and showed Rachael where the cleaning closet was located. The vacuum was a large, industrial model, but seemed simple to use.

They headed back downstairs, to find Bobby still picking books. Already he had a stack of at least 12 piled next to him. “Come on Tiger,” she said. “Pick five and let’s go. You can get the others another time.”

“Oooh, I didn’t think of that. That makes picking them easier.” He quickly picked five and took them carefully up to the counter to have the librarian scan them out. They went into his book bag, as Rachael would be using hers for groceries.

They stopped into Dasilva’s, where Bobby got his apple, and Rachel picked up some cold cuts and salad fixings. Then they were off to the Bread Baron, when Rachael bought two loaves of the nice bread.

For the walk to their new Grandfather’s Bobby was skipping and dancing about, a far cry from last week when he could barely trudge along. Just a few days of exercise and healthy eating had already had an effect on his stamina.

M. Verdun was on the porch, and saw them coming a half block away. Rachael was sure she could see the smile on his face even from that distance. When they got close enough, she let Bobby loose to run up to the old man and give him a hug.

“You two chat out here for a bit,” Rachael said as she went into the house. She went to the kitchen and opened one loaf of bread, and took half the loaf out, 10 slices. She then opened the sliced meat, and made up five sandwiches, wrapping them individually in plastic wrap, and popped them into the fridge. Now the old man would have a ready meal each evening. She would check on them each day, and see when he needed a new batch. She wrapped the remaining half loaf, and put it in the fridge as well. It would keep until the next batch of sandwiches was needed.

She took the remaining cold cuts, and put them back into her bag. Each package had only one or two slices gone, and the remaining meat would spoil if she left it here. But at her house it could be used for lunches. She went back out to the porch, where Bobby was racing around the yard in the old helmet, reliving the story the old man had just told him.

“I made you some sandwiches for dinner,” she said. “They are in the fridge. Just put one on a plate, and pop it in the microwave for five seconds to take off the chill. There are enough there for a few days, and then I will stock you up again.”

“But, but … I must give you some money,” he said. “You needn’t buy me groceries.”

“You are my grandpa now,” Rachael said. “I have the right to spoil you. It is in the contract. On Saturday I will go shopping at the store, and before then I want you to make a list of the things you need. You can pay me for that stuff. Sandwiches are free, made with love.”

“You are too kind to me,” he sputtered.

“Look out there,” she said, pointing at Bobby holding an imaginary machine gun. “Do you know how much you mean to him? He is so proud to be able to tell his friends that he has a War Hero as a grandpa. And I am just as proud. But we have kept you from your nap long enough, we should leave.”

Just then they saw a woman walking down the street, trailing behind two mixed breed dogs. One was part German Shepherd, the other part golden lab. Rachael saw, from her Ron experience, that the lab was injured, and was limping badly from a rear paw. The lady turned into the sidewalk for the house next to M. Verdun, and smiled at him.

“Visitors, monsieur?” she asked.

“These are my new grandchildren, Miss Lajoie” he said proudly.

“Doggies,” Bobby squealed. “Can I pet them?”

“You can certainly pet Rudolph,” she said. “He loves children. But Goldie is a little skittish lately, and has even been snapping at me.”

“I think she is injured,” Rachael said, kneeling down next to the lab, who did seem as if she was going to snap when the girl put her hand out to its shoulder. As soon as she made contact though, Rachael felt energy pass through her hand and arm, and the dog immediately calmed down.

Rachael was amazed. She could see into the dog. It was clearer than an x-ray. More like an autopsy, but the animal had not been cut open. She could see blood flowing, nerves pulsing, and especially the bone structure. The lab had a nasty split on her left rear leg bones, causing her pain and the limp that Rachael had noticed.

“Goldie has a small break in her rear leg,” Rachael said. “She needs to see a vet.”

“Grandpa is a vet,” Bobby said helpfully.

“Not that kind of vet. He is a veteran. Goldie needs a veterinarian.”

“Oh dear,” the lady said. “I haven’t finished paying for the last visit. Rudolph ate something that made him sick.”

Apparently the woman was as hard up for money as the Cartrights. Piano lessons must not pay well. Plus two large dogs would eat a lot.

“Maybe we can do something here,” Rachael said. “Do you have some kind of plaster?”

“I think I have some left over from when my brother patched up my kitchen wall where the mirror was. Poly-something?”

“Poly-filla,” Rachael said. “The problem is she will probably want to chew any cast off. Do you have much pepper in the house?”

“Oh yes, I love pepper,” the lady said. She turned and went into the house. Rachael held and comforted Goldie, while Bobby was having a riot playing with Rudolph.

The woman came out with an old plastic tub of Poly-filla, which Rachael found just a bit stiff, perfect for her purposes. She dumped the entire package of pepper into it, and then started to mix it with her hands, getting the pepper mixed well into it.

“She will try to chew it off,” she told the woman, Miss Lajoie. “The pepper will prevent her from doing that. She might try, and sneeze once or twice, and then will give it up. She needs a cast for at least a week, perhaps two.”

Rachael wished she had a full set of equipment. The dog’s leg really should be shaved first. But she would have to make do. She slathered the plaster onto the dog, and it was the perfect consistency to stick and allow her to mold a cast, leaving the paw out. Normally this would have been difficult, even in a clinic, since she first had to set the bone together again, and this was painful. But Goldie took it bravely without anesthetic. That was when Rachael realized that the dog was under a local anesthetic. She was feeding that power into the dog, and numbing the nerves around the break, effectively eliminating the pain. It certainly made the process of putting the cast on easier. When she added in her new ability to see inside the dog, ensuring that the bone was set perfectly, it actually made the operation much easier than it would have been for Ron.

After a few minutes, the plaster was starting to set. “Where does she sleep?” Rachael asked. “I need to put her down for a while.”

Miss Lajoie took her inside, and there were two large crates for the dogs. Rachael gently placed Goldie into hers, and then rested her hand on the dog’s head. After a few minutes, Goldie fell asleep. Rachael had been wishing for a shot to put the dog out for a few hours, and the power coming from her hand effectively did the same thing.

“She will sleep for at least two hours, I hope,” Rachael said. “It might be as much as six. At any rate the cast will be rock solid by then. She will still limp as she walks, but the pain will be gone. Here is my phone number.” She wrote her name and number on a slip of paper. “Call me if she isn’t awake in six hours. We come by here every school day that is not rainy to visit our new Grandpa. If you don’t mind, I would like to check in on her.”

“I don’t know what to say … Rachael”, the lady read the name on the paper. “I really can’t afford a vet right now, and if this helps. Can I do a trade? Some piano lessons?”

Rachael thought about it. She really didn’t have the time for lessons with her new life. But …

“Do you teach guitar as well? Bobby might like to learn.” Piano would do nothing towards making Bobby one of the cool kids, but a guitar would.

“Actually I do. But I would recommend at least a few months of piano first, just to master the fundamentals of music. People who learn piano first are often better players of other instruments, and much more likely to learn how to write music when they are older.”

“Do you teach on Saturday’s?”

“That is one of my busier days, but I could squeeze in an hour lesson for a few months. That should cover the vet bill you just saved me.”

It would also work well for Rachael, giving her an hour to go grocery shopping for her family and M. Verdun. In fact …

“I could use that time to go shopping,” she said. “I could pick up a few things for you as well, if you like.”

“Oh my, that would be wonderful,” the music teacher said. “It would mean that I don’t waste valuable time when I could be teaching.”

“Make me a list by Friday,” the girl said. “I’ll pick it up when I get Grandpa’s. Now, we need to surgically separate your other dog from my brother. He really loves dogs.”

“So do I,” Miss Lajoie said.

“Come on Bobby, we are late. We need to get home to make dinner for Momma.”

By the time they did get home it was too late to do much. Rachael made a quick salad (Bobby helped) and then decided to make sandwiches with the cold cuts. They had a meal ready for supper, and Bobby announced that Bologna sandwiches were his new favorite, and asked for the same for lunches.

After the dishes were done, Bobby objected when he was told he had to take a bath. “You smell like dog,” Rachael said.

“I like dog smell,” Bobby retorted as the telephone rang. Maria went to pick it up, while Rachael used her usual bribe of Harry Potter reading time to get Bobby into the tub.

Maria set down the phone with a strange look on her face. “What is it, Momma?” Rachael asked.

“I think I have a date,” she said softly. “That was Steve Winslow, the policeman who lives down the street. We went to his yard sale, remember? He just called and asked me out tomorrow night.”

“Just like that? Are you going?”

“Well, he must have found out where I worked, because he was there for meals while on duty both days on the weekend, and I guess I did flirt with him a bit. He is quite handsome, you know. So yes, I am going. Can you look after Bobby for me? I might not be back until late.”

“Or early,” Rachael said with a grin.

“Rachael.” Maria said in a shocked voice. “It is only a first date. I will not be out until early.”

“I know Momma. I was just teasing you. What will you wear?”

“Goodness, I don’t know. There is that red skirt we got last week, but that was something his ex wore. Do you think he would notice.”

“First of all, that skirt was practically brand new, so she couldn’t have worn it more than once or twice. And he is a man, so he probably wouldn’t notice clothes at all. And if he does, then he will just notice how much better you look in it than she ever did. But what about work? You won’t want to go out after a whole day at the restaurant.”

“I have Tuesday and Wednesday off because I worked the weekend,” Maria said. Steve will be working on Tuesday, but a shift that ends at 2 p.m. so he will be good to go.”

Just then Bobby popped his head around the corner of the upstairs, and called for Rachael to bring the Harry Potter book.

“You hop into bed, and I’ll be there in one minute,” Rachael called out, and then hugged her mother. “I really hope this works out for you. He is such a nice guy.”

“Me too. God, what was I thinking? I haven’t been on a date since I was in high school.”

After Bobby listened through two chapters of the book, he fell asleep, exhausted from all the running around he had done during the day. He had started with his war games at Grandpa’s, and then played with Rudolph the dog for over an hour, and a big dog like that can use a lot of energy. And she didn’t know how much running around he had been doing at school. He was certainly going to be losing weight, or more likely losing fat, since he was a growing boy and would probably not lose pounds, just inches around the waist.

Rachael spent an hour doing homework, including some more catchup assignments in various subjects that she had asked for after telling her other teachers what Mrs. Cathcart had offered. All had agreed, since her new work ethic and classroom behavior was so improved.

Dear Lord

I can only thank you again for everything you have done for me. Mikki is becoming a star at the school, with everyone excited about her modeling sleepover. Bobby is getting thinner, I think, and maybe I am a bit as well. Momma is going on a date. I really hope it works well for her, because Steve is super nice, and I think I would like him as a dad. And I made a new friend today with Miss Lajoie, who is going to teach guitar to Bobby now. I don’t understand why I could do all that stuff with Goldie, but I’m glad I could help. I guess if it continues I am going to be a vet again: with those abilities I would be a good one.


That night Rachael dreamed. St. John the angel was in the dream, and she suddenly realized that it was more than a simple dream.

“Welcome,” she said to the angel as she saw him approaching her on what appeared to be a cloud. “I want to thank you for giving me this new life. I really like helping people, and I think I am doing a good job. Am I?”

“No need to thank me,” St. John said. “Your thanks go to a higher source, and I’m sure He has been receiving them in your prayers. As to how you are doing, that is why I am here. You have done so well, you have been given a boon: the ability to see inside of animals. It won’t work with people, but we feel it will be useful to you in your career, if you again decide to help ease the suffering of animals.”

“It certainly will,” Rachael agreed.

“And there was a second boon,” St. John said. “This was most unusual. It comes from a resident here, not management. Marie Verdun was so impressed at how you are looking after her husband that she wanted to do something for you. I think the fact that you encouraged him to meet up with her in his dreams was a big factor. At any rate, she has given you the ability to calm animals with a touch. That too will not work with people, only animals.”

“It was very useful today,” Rachael said. “Thank her as well.” With that the dream faded away, and Rachael slept deeply.

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