Lisette clung to her mother, suddenly feeling very much like a five-year-old and certainly not twenty. “Mama, I don’t want to go!”
“This journey will be the first of many wonderful ones, Lisette.” Her mama’s voice was tender. “This is the beginning of your freedom.”
Freedom! The word rang in Lisette’s ears and it gave her courage to let go of her mother’s arm. “Good bye. I love you.”
“God go with you,” her mama’s voice mingled with the sounds of the train station. “Bon voyage!” Lisette smiled. It was a family joke, this French phrase, and was likely to be heard even before a simple trip to the grocer’s.
Lisette grimaced as she scooted her white cane down the narrow aisle of the train. What anticipation she felt at exchanging the clumsy thing for a dog, a live companion! As if sensing her displeasure, the cane caught and she gave it a frustrated jerk. It unstuck suddenly, swinging wildly. “Ouch!” someone cried.
“Sorry,” Lisette cringed. Stowing her bag under a seat, Lisette sat rigidly. She willed herself to lean back and enjoy the moment, after all, she had been waiting for this for a long time! There had been so much paperwork, money, and scheduling to worry about, but finally she had gotten the call that the training school had a dog for her.
Her little brother had whooped, “Now you can see the world, Lisette!” And then she had laughed at his attempts to correct his faux pas.
“I will see the world! I will travel all over with my trusty dog guide and faithful painter.”
“Painter?” His little nose had wrinkled.
“Yes. You!” she had bopped him playfully on the nose. “You describe things so well it’s like getting a painting in my mind.”
Lisette smiled even now, remembering how delighted he had been to be involved in her life-long dream. Now it was becoming reality. But Lisette’s smile faded. Reality, she was discovering, was scary.
Something brushed against Lisette’s arm. She jerked away and froze. What if a big spider was sitting on her arm? Or what if the man next to her was trying to pick-pocket her? Lisette took a deep breath. It was the not knowing that drove her crazy. Not knowing if there was a thug lurking on the street corner, or a sign in the middle of the sidewalk, or even the little things, like not knowing if there was gum on the park bench or jam on her cheek.
That was why she wanted a dog. Maybe he wouldn’t be able to tell her if her hair was messy, but at least he would keep her away from thugs and signs on the sidewalk. And most of all, he would be company.
Then the train was slowing, and Lisette suddenly wanted to panic. She couldn’t go out there to a strange city, trying to find some strange man from the training school! What if the wrong man took her away? “God, help me.”
She stood up when the train stopped, making her way gingerly forward, jostling against the shoulders of the crowd. And then she was standing in the free air, praying, worrying.
“Lisette Monte?” A man’s voice came from right by her elbow and she jumped. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to startle you. I am John Tolly from the training center.”
She recognized his voice. “I spoke with you on the phone.” Thank you, Lord.
The time it took to drive to the center, to register, settle in her room, it all seemed like a waste of time. She only wanted one thing--to meet her companion. Would the dog be the friend she hoped for? Or would he be all work, just doing his duty and a pain to take care of?
But finally it was time. She heard the trainer come in with the dog, could hear his nails on the floor, his light panting. And then she felt his cold nose and warm tongue, wet on her hand. She found his silky neck and he leaned against her. “Well hello, there.” She wanted to laugh out loud, but a tear crept down her cheek instead.
“What is his name?” Already she was in love with him, and felt his own love in the steady beat of his tail against her leg.
“His name is rather odd.” The trainer had a smile in her voice. “It’s Bon Voyage.”
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