During their flight home Kate fretted about her upcoming deployment. She made a mental list of things to do. She needed to write out a plan for Sarah’s routine and leave contact information, etc for Spencer. It hadn’t been that long ago she went on her last TDY when she went to Germany, so she had all her shots, but had to update her will (now Spencer was named legal guardian) if anything happened to her. Spencer would keep Buttons for her and would check on Sarah on weekends when he could.
That night, Timothy and Judy joined them for dinner. It was good to see Judy again, and Sarah remembered her when she and Lauren cleared out John’s apartment. Sarah chatted away about her first time playing in the snow, talking about the snowman she and her grandpa and Spencer made together.
Later that afternoon, Spencer and Dale took Sarah outside to play in the snow and Lauren offered Kate some hot tea. She had accepted and they had a nice visit in the formal living room by themselves. Lauren right away told Kate not to feel awkward under the circumstances.
Kate gave her a half smile. “I feel bad—”
The next afternoon, after attending church with Spencer and Mrs. P, Kate and Sarah ate lunch and while they ate, Kate told Sarah about their outing to get a Christmas tree.
“You have to help us pick out the prettiest four-foot tree we can find, okay?”
“We have tree…in the house?” Sarah had a look of amazement.
Kate drove to the mall glad for a few hours by herself. Decorations hung from street lights throughout the area, different themes for the various towns on her route. The mall was also decked out, with huge displays inside, including a Santa for parents to get pictures with their kids while sharing what they wanted for Christmas, if they weren’t too shy. Kate stood watching a few minutes, thinking the parents were more embarrassing than the kids.
After picking up Sarah from Mrs. Pettigrew’s, they picked up dinner from Subway. Kate wasn’t in the mood for using her culinary skills. Though she felt less tense, she was still angry and upset she had to leave Sarah in a few weeks. They were still getting to know one another and the ‘rules’ of their relationship, and all that, which made her unhappy at the prospect of leaving and having to start over when she returned. But with so many troops stationed all around the world, she had to. After all, this is what she signed all those papers for.
Unfortunately the eased tension from the day before increased when Kate arrived at work. She was informed she had to leave over the holidays for two months. Kate’s stomach felt like a fighting match going on inside. Even though it was a short deployment, it was still too long for her. What in the world would she tell Sarah and how was she going to take it? It was a good thing she was young and didn’t really know how her daddy died. The last thing she needed was for the little girl to worry about Kate dying, not just being away.
“At least not yet,” Spencer whispered. He turned back to Sarah. “What kind of pancakes, blueberry or chocolate chip?” Spencer asked, changing the subject. Kate acknowledged she had the ingredients needed.
“Chocwat chip! No daddy?” Sarah, as if on a mission, marched toward the dining room. Spencer and Kate followed.
The next morning, Kate woke up to find herself in Spencer’s embrace. She started to stretch out the kinks. A voice interrupted her movements.
“Good morning, Kate.”
She turned to Spencer. “Good morning. Sleep well?”
After a solemn dinner, Kate dropped Lauren and Judy off at their hotel, and shortly after put Sarah to bed and thought seriously about signing her papers to get out of the Air Force. She decided to go for it. With her mind made up to take the early out, she slept peacefully.