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"I just need to sit for a minute," croaked Jane. Her voice was almost gone now, something she attributed to the previous day, spent at a nut farm (a place up north where pumpkins and nuts were being sold, though if you had drawn other conclusions, I'd be the last to blame you). Nearly the whole family went to the nut farm -- Heather and Sean, their two boys, Jenny, Mom, and Jane and Bella. I forget what I was doing that day, but I'm sure it was very important.

I added Splenda to my gingerbread herbal tea, and Jane sat across from me at the dining table. "Thank you so much. I know you're busy and I didn't want to bother you, but I really appreciate...what are you writing?" A note of hysteria entered Jane's voice.

"Nothing," I assured her. "If anything like this ever happens again, Jane, I don't mind coming to help. I don't live that far from you, so feel free to call me first."

"What do you mean, 'if anything like this happens again?' Nothing like this is going to happen again." Her eyes were darting back and forth between my notebook and her daughter.

"I'm just saying. If . I'm just a phone call away. All right, it's time for us to get some sleep." As is our custom, Jane and I kissed each other on each cheek and hugged. I held out my arms and Bella trotted toward me. As I squeezed my niece in an embrace, I whispered in her scraped ear, "Keep up the good work, Bella Boo."

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