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Mardi Gras is a season in the bayou, not just a day, and Bridget Esprit was into it big-time, more than Christmas. An enormous box containing strings of green and purple lights had arrived the day before and all she could think about was stringing them around the front of the house, along the fence, and around the pool.

She’d worked that morning at the surgical center in Saint John’s Parish. The plastic surgeon who had worked on the burn scars on her neck had offered her a job and she jumped at the chance to work in the OR again. At first, her presence was a sort of novelty; everyone was proud that a veteran had landed a job at their facility. Before long, they didn’t see her injuries and unless a patient was observant, they didn’t notice either, at first.

Then after a patient tipped off the local Saint John’s Parish paper, they learned that a wounded veteran, a nurse who had been in a bombing in Afghanistan worked at the Surgi-Center. They did a story on Bridget. It spread to the New OrleansTimes Picayuneand then nationally to nursing magazines and veterans’ publications, and then finally television. The experience only reinforced how lucky she was to be in Cypress Cove with Luke and Emily where she could hide out.

She arrived home after noon and after playing with Emily, decided she needed a run for sanity. Then she was going to decorate for Mardi Gras.

“Do you want to run with Mama?”

“Run? Yes,” Emily answered, popping up from the floor and sprinting for the elevator.

“Wait! We need to potty and pack up our supplies. Mama has to put on the blade.”

“Hurry, Mama!”

The child ran for the bathroom and took care of business while Bridget put on the prosthesis.

“Margaret, I’m taking the kid for a run,” she called from the mezzanine, down into the new, enormous kitchen.

“Okay! I’ll pack snacks.”

They took the elevator down together, the little girl hanging on to her mother’s leg, singing the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” song. When the door opened, she took off.

“Wait, Emily!”

“I’m getting my shoes!”

In the kitchen, Margaret had a bag with water bottles and applesauce snacks ready.

“Take your phone, please.”

“Got it right here,” Bridget said, patting her hip.

The child scampered in with her little running shoes. She loved jogging alongside her mother, one hand on the stroller, her little legs going fast.

“You’re going to ride today. You’ve had enough exercise this week.”

“Can I run a little bit?”

“When we get to the park,” Bridget said. “Okay?”


They got the stroller out of the shed and Emily climbed in, her mother buckling her in for safety.

“Just in case we tip over.”

Emily laughed out loud. “Don’t tip!”

Sending her location to Luke gave her a little added security; he’d know where they were at all times.

“You ready?” She peeked around the side of the stroller.

“Yes,” Emily said, waving when she saw Bridget’s face.

“Pretty soon you might be too big for this stroller, baby. We’ll have to get you a bike like Daddy’s.”

Bridget took off toward Main Street, not bothering to warm up. That morning in the OR kicked her butt; over seven thousand steps recorded on her phone was more than enough.

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