Vee was running. Up the street, past the grocer, the police station and Mrs. Abel’s Millinery-
Vee ran with the wind at her back, laughing and singing to the beautiful day.
“Vee!” her mother called, waving a dishrag from their fifth floor window.
“Vee! Home for lunch now!”
Vee nodded, ran back and started climbing the tenement steps two at a time but her feet hurt and as she looked down she saw her feet all red with blood, and then they were blood and hurting horribly.
“Veronica!” came her mother’s voice again, strangely angry.
Vee looked from her feet up to the window where the dishrag fell away from her mother’s limp hand. Her face burned and
“Veronica! Wake up!”
Nurse Margaret, hand raised to slap, stood next to the hospital bed, her hatchet face dark with anger.
“I don’t know why an ignorant beggar child who puts on airs should be such trouble! You complained about me to Dr. Aust again, didn’t you?”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but I only asked…”
“You asked to be moved next to the window. I decide the bed arrangements on this floor and you don’t need a view.”
“You need to quit whining and crying to get your way. You’re no princess to be waited on! Just trouble, an orphan who should keep her mouth shut!”
Nurse Margaret pulled back the blankets and pointed.
“There! You see? Your feet aren’t going to grow back- you WILL BE an invalid, a nuisance and worthless for the rest of your life!”
Vee shut her eyes and listened as Nurse Margaret stalked away, cursing the misfortune of having such a child on her ward.
Pulling the blankets back up to her chin, she wanted to cry but had no tears left.
Mother and father and Jack.
It was a picnic day, visiting where the Chicago World’s Fair, the Columbian Exposition had taken place a few years earlier.
Mother in her best, lunchbasket on her lap. Father looking dignified in his suit, Jack running up and down the train car as it sped across the sky.
Vee was excited to be riding the elevated train, watching the buildings whizz past the windows so close that at times it seemed that you could almost touch them.
Jack cheered as the Ferris Wheel came into view but then the train lurched sharply, grinding noises so loudly they couldn’t be heard, and then…it fell.
Jack ran and tried to brace, protect his little sister in the few seconds before it all went dark and she awoke in a hospital bed with bandages where there should have been feet.
Vee felt her cheek and wondered if it was red. Soon she was asleep, and no more dreams.
When she woke the next morning, her bed was next to the window and she could see it was a warm summer day.
A chocolate treat landed on her bed and she turned to see Dr. Aust smiling.
“Good morning, Veronica. Did you sleep well last night?”
“Good morning, Dr. Aust. I did, and thank you for moving me to the window. It’s beautiful out today!”
Dr. Aust reminded Vee of her Grandfather, except instead of a butcher’s apron he wore a nice suit.
He was smiling, but a frown clouded his face for a moment as he pulled a paper from his pocket.
“Vee, I know what happened last night, and I’m sorry that Miss Hampton acted so horribly towards you. She has been let go, and she won’t be mistreating you anymore.”
“Doctor! I’m sorry! I didn’t…”
“You have nothing to be sorry for, child. One of the other nurses witnessed what she did, and told me. I apologize to you on behalf of the hospital, and I must beg you forgiveness for something else.”
He handed her the paper, a postcard.
“Veronica, this card came for you some time ago, and Miss Hampton…kept it. It was in her locker and I’m sorry that I didn’t know about it until now.”
Vee read the card, postmarked two months earlier, four…no…five weeks after the accident.
I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to get back again to see you, but you have a home here with us as soon as the doctor releases you.
You will be like our own daughter, and my sister will be smiling down on us from Heaven as we are family. Have the hospital send word and Henry and I will come get you when you are ready. Love, Emily.
Dr. Aust pulled up a chair and sat.
“I met them, Vee, when they came to see you-you wouldn’t remember, as we had you medicated for the pain. They’re good people-have you been to their place before?”
“Once we went for a Christmas visit-snow was up higher than our heads, and they met us at the station with a sled and two horses! No buildings at all! Just empty prairies and a few trees all the way to their farm.”
“I grew up on a farm myself. Do they have cattle?”
“Just a couple of cows, some pigs, chickens and a garden. My aunt makes the best pies!”
Aust smiled. “I’m sure that she does, Vee. That postmark says Topeka-do they live close to there?”
“I think so, though Mom talked of growing up near Hays.”
“I’ve been there, and it’s a good town. Vee, I have something to say, and I want you to think about it.”
“Your life is…changed. We all have things happen that we didn’t expect, and the best way to keep moving forward and doing well is to not let your troubles hinder you.”
“Doctor, I think Nurse Margaret has been…hindered. She’s not very happy.”
“I think you’re right. You’re a bright girl, Vee, and I’m sure that you will do well in life. You’ll always have good memories of your family-you didn’t know it, but I delivered you when you were born, and I knew your father well.”
“I did know that-my mother pointed you out once and told me how nice you are.”
“She did? Well, bless her. You will be starting a new chapter in your life, and it’s important to make the most of a fresh start.”
“I’ve had a lot of time to think, here in this bed, and when I go to Kansas, I think I will use my middle name, which was my mother’s.
It will remind me of her and dad and Jack every time someone calls me Dorothy.”
“That sounds like a wonderful idea. Do you remember anything else about the farm?”
“Well, I slept in a big, big bed with lots of quilts, and on the wall facing there was a cross-stitch that Aunt Em had done: “BE IT EVER SO HUMBLE, THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME”.
That night, after watching the moon come up, she dreamt of Kansas.
Dorothy was running...