Dancing Bear could hear bags dropping to the floor, doors opening, bottles in the fridge rattling. New Jen was home! “In here,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper. She cleared her throat and tried again: “In here.”
“Where ARE you? I’ve so much to tell you!” Before Dancing Bear could try to speak again, New Jen appeared at the bedroom door. Dancing Bear was delighted to see New Jen was wearing the red shoes. She must not be mad at her for scuffing them up.
“What on earth are you doing in bed at this hour?” Without waiting for an answer, she rushed on. “Oh, I’ve had a great time! I had lunch with a Saudi Sultan and a Turkish Princess…I sang with a Syrian…I’m taking a belly dancing class…and I met Sting! What a weekend…”
“Why didn’t you call and let me know you’d be gone so long, New Jen? I didn’t think you’d be away four whole days.” Dancing Bear shifted in the bed and involuntarily, an “Owwww” slipped out.
Instantly, New Jen dropped to DB’s side. “What’s wrong? Has your back gone out again?” She tsk-tsked. “What were you doing? Come on, ’fess up.” When Dancing Bear wouldn’t look at her, she said, “Don’t tell me you finished that paper.”
Dancing Bear wouldn’t look at her. “Well, you had already done so much of it, it seemed a shame to leave it unfinished…and then when you didn’t call to let me know you wouldn’t be there to take your final…”
“Oh, NO! Please don’t tell me you took that final exam for me. I told you not to worry about it! I begged you not to do my work for me!” She saw the crushed look on DB’s face, and the tears sneaking from under DB’s lashes, and her voice softened. “I didn’t want you to do them because I knew you’d end up like this.” She tried to give her a hug, but Dancing Bear yelped with pain when she did. “You silly old Bear…if I’m willing to let something go, you need to let it go, too. Otherwise, we’re back where we started.” She smiled. “I’m living without fixed plans these days, DB. I know it’s hard for you, but we won’t be healthy if we can’t let go of old habits.”
New Jen picked it up. “Wow! It’s a lot heavier than it looks! What have you got in here?” She brought out handful after handful of smallish papers. She looked at one that had fluttered to the floor. “Why, it’s a Martyr Point Coupon!” She started turning over the slips of paper. “And another one…and a Rationalization Voucher…and two return Guilt Trip tickets! This one’s dated June 1st, 1963…and this one’s from 1972…” She stopped, shaking her head. “I had forgotten all about these, Dancing Bear. What on earth are you going to do with them?”
“That’s what I need you to help me with, New Jen.” She started ripping the papers in halves, then quarters. “You see, I thought I might need them some day, but I was wrong. Let’s get rid of them!”
New Jen’s face was thoughtful. “What made you change your mind, DB? You’ve always hung on to everything.”
“Let’s just say a little Cabana Boy told me I didn’t need to.” She giggled. “And while you’re here, make us a couple of margaritas, okay?”