It takes a few months to complete CPR and First Aid training, put references in order, fill out the application and have it processed, and get licensed for Foster Care, but it only takes a few hours for to bond. By the time they step off the bus from San Myshuno, after a two-hour ride spent telling stories, eating snacks, watching for horses and cows out the window, and talking about home, with its new cozy canopy bed, fridge full of apple slices, raisins, cake, and peanut butter, and garden thrumming with bees and scented with flowers, Kiana has become fast friends with Cay–or as she sometimes likes to call him, “Cay-Cay.”
But instead of picking her up, Case kneels down and wraps his arms around her. He wants her, even at such a tiny size, to feel that she can see him eye-to-eye, that she can stand on her own feet, supported by him.
“This home, Cay?” she asks.
“Yup, Kiana. We’re home.”
And as those words leave him, Case feels butterflies. Happiness shouldn’t be this strong, and for a minute, he wobbles as he stands. And just as quick as the happiness, a dash of fear–what if he can’t keep her?
“Kiki coming, Cay-Cay!” she says, and Case pushes aside the worry, swallows the happiness, and steadies himself. He’s gotta be strong now. She’s counting on him.
“Snack, Kiana?” he asks when they’re inside.
She’s grabbed the tablet and all her attention is focused.
“You like to read, eh, Kiana?” he says.
“Kiki done reading!” and she jumps up and begins to dance, no music, just the little song she sings without words in a sol-mi tune.
Eventually, she asks for food, and Case makes her a peanut butter and banana sandwich, cut in little triangles. She gets the peanut butter all over her face and fingers, and Case finds a soft towel that he runs under the warm water. So gently, he wipes her cheeks, and wraps each tiny finger in the warm moist cloth.
While Case washes the dishes, she wanders out the door. Case watches her through the window above the sink as she wobbles across the yard to where Ira stands in the dusk, finishing a small painting.
“Who you?” asks Kiana.
“I’m Ira. Who are you?”
“I know Ira!” Kiana says. “Ira Cay-Cay friend. Kiki. Kiki friend Cay-Cay, too. Friend Ira.”