| It was the end of the day, and Rowena felt she had friends. Melody held her hand as they walked into Ashlyn Heights after school. A group of girls gathered in the dorm snack room. Rowena wasn't watching where she was going, and she tripped over a big foot. She started to fall, but the figure reached out to steady her. She looked up into the face of a tall man, sure she would find anger there.
"Sorry," she whispered, shrinking back.
"That's fine. I'm just glad you didn't fall. Say, would you like to share my candy bar?" Brennan knelt down to face the Native girl. While Rowena and Brennan ate his candy, Melody smiled conspiratorially at Brynn, Brennan's sister. The twins were now seventeen, and Brennan was an emergency medical technician. While he was busy learning first aid and CPR, Brynn focussed her attention on art therapy. Melody knew of her plan to help Rowena emerge. Melody scanned the room. All the girls were there.
Ten-year-old Patricia sat at the table with ice cream before her. As usual, she strove to be the center of attention, but that wasn't the way things worked out. Fourteen-year-old Liyana stared contemplatively at her book as she nibbled on pretzels. Kalila and Jada, both black students who were fifteen, poured over music scores as they ate apples. Five-year-old Janae passed a rubber play ball back and forth with seven-year-old Camille. Little Emmalee, two; and Sarie, eighteen months, sat in high chairs playing with their cheese. Finally, six-month-old Anna was safely tucked in her crib for a nap.
Jamillah, a high school volunteer from the nearby public school came in to help during the busiest times of the day--afternoon and evening hours.
Brennan was in Ashlyn this afternoon to help Brynn carry some of her art supplies from her car. Jada smiled at him as she took the box of supplies.
"Since you can't go any farther than the sitting room, I will take these to Rowena's room.
"What?" Rowena jumped up and looked at the older girl.
"We have a surprise for you, but finish eating with Brennan, and then we can show you." But Brennan didn't have the time he wanted to get to know the new little girl. He left her with the half-eaten candy and exited the room when he heard the sure sign of someone in trouble. Miss Canterbury, the elementary school teacher had just entered Ashlyn with a screaming nine-year-old, Louisa.
"What happened?" he asked, looking the girl over. She was sobbing, so the teacher explained.
"We were walking back here together, and she slipped on the wet floor...darn snow!" Miss Canterbury muttered her last words. By this time, Louisa had plopped onto the floor, extending her legs out in front of her. She was screaming full force, and Brennan could tell that she was now starting to have trouble with her asthma. She was a girl whose asthma could flare during extreme laughing or crying spells. He had to help her calm down before things got worse.
Melody, Jada and Brynn tried to get Rowena out of the room before she got a chance to really observe the scene. Then Jamillah and Kalila exited with the two youngest girls, Emmalee and Sarie. The dormitory director, Amy, quickly closed the door so as to prevent the other girls from watching the commotion. They sure didn't need more stress.
Brennan ignored the activity around him. As he calmly talked to Louisa, he examined her foot and discovered a badly sprained ankle.
"I need you to breathe for me, okay? I'm going to get something to help you start to feel better. I need you to really work on breathing...can you do that?" Louisa sniffled and nodded as Brennan quickly left for Baker Hall. By the time he returned, Makenzie, the nurse, had arrived. She smiled approvingly as she took the inflatable splint from Brennan. This was a man who knew what he was doing. Makenzie sure appreciated the extra help.
"What pain meds should she take?" she asked the young man.
"Tylinol, because of the dangers of giving Aspirin to children."
"Very good. I'd feel quite comfortable with allowing you to treat minor injuries. You have learned so quickly, and you're precise. You clearly love what you're doing, and you respond in a timely manner. You have picked up on everything so quickly. I'm very pleased." Brennan looked into the snack room to make sure the girls got all the art supplies. As he left, he smiled, quite pleased with makenzie's praise. She felt he was competent, and he appreciated that. Her words gave him confidence in integrating his knowledge.
Back in Ashlyn Heights, the four girls gathered in Rowena's room. Jada left to see how she could help the staff with the other girls, but Melody and Brynn remained behind. Melody knew that Brynn and Rowena would work better together if she was present. Melody seemed to be the only one Rowena really trusted, and Melody was glad of this. However, it was clear that most of the girls would love to interact with her. She would just have to learn that she could trust them, and Brynn was clearly on the right track.
"Oh no! That bug is crawling toward me...no, don't eat me!" Brynn said expressively, clearly joining in Rowena's game. The little girl giggled as she made the clay bug move toward Brynn. She had made the bug out of play dough at Brynn's prompting. Now rowena picked up a tiny rolling pin and smashed the bug.
"Splat!" she said loudly in her high-pitched voice. Then she frowned.
"What's wrong?" Melody asked.
"Hungry!" Rowena said.
"Would you like a banana, little bug?" Brynn asked, winking at the girl.
Brennan scanned the hall and didn't see any girls. He had asked the director, Amy, for permission to pass the boundary line. She granted the request, and Brennan quickly, gently picked Louisa up and carried her to her room.
"You did a great job today. I'm very proud of you." Brennan was always so nice, and he helped Louisa to know she would be all right. And for this, Louisa rewarded Brennan with the semblance of a smile.
All this was the beginning of Rowena's new home, a place where she'd be surrounded by love. She could be transformed as she learned that people cared for her, just because she was God's child.
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