A HUGE thank you to SunflowerFran who made this readable for all of you! Any and all mistakes are mine.
As soon as she passed the sign welcoming her to town, every person behind the trail of dust her truck left in its wake would be gossiping, just like the telephone game you played as a child. She knew her appearance would cause a stir after the way she left.
Straitening her spine, she reminded herself that she was above the town's petty judgment. The looks from the old biddies at church wouldn't affect her, and the stares, and hushed whispers from prior classmates would bounce off her shoulders. She let out a sigh; who was she trying to fool?
The town itself was small, passing through it in a total of ten minutes, anyone who was on the sidewalk stopping to stare. The buildings were still old and in dire need of paint. The one diner and barber shop still going strong, the library and school beside one another with the police station across the street. And, of course, she got caught by the one stop light in town, stuck on red with no oncoming traffic. A sleek black car came from her left, screeching to a halt in the middle of the road, the man staring at her in wide-eyed amazement, before he sharply turned right and peeled out on the dirt road.
"Shit." She muttered to herself.
The light turned green, and she followed the car's path at a slower pace. The bravery she had conjured up by showing up unannounced slowly seeped from her body, leaving her anxious about what awaited her. She was unprepared. As long as he was the one ambushed she could hold her own.
"Suck it up Swan, those brothers are already jabbin' their jaws with the rest of the town."
Fifteen minutes of rolling hills later, the air filled her truck with the smell of blue grass and dried hay, the dust of the road tickling her nose.
All the small things she had forgotten about.
Like how rolling around in said grass was much more enjoyable than the sharp sticks of hay in your backside.
She passed the pond that had high rocks surrounding it giving a natural barrier from prying eyes, a shirt thrown over one was enough to let others know it was occupied.
The rocks and sun always kept the water warm enough to skinny dip no matter how late, or early for that matter, it was.
It also meant she had about five more minutes till she faced what had kept her away for the past five years. She had planned on going straight to her new home but now had to make a pit stop, one that she would hopefully leave from unscathed.
The iron gates welcoming her to Meadow Ranch were open and deceivingly welcoming. The tiger lilies she planted years ago still blooming. She drove up the dirt drive, barely breathing as the house came into view. It was badly in need of new white paint, the yard mostly dirt and overgrown weeds, no longer lush the way she remembered. What was the same was the porch swing that swayed slightly. The person occupying it was not. When she left, he had been a boy, and there was nothing boyish about him now.
"You gunna get outta that truck Girl or do I gotta drag you out?"
"Ever hear of opening the door for a lady?" I smiled widely, opening the door and hopping out.
"We used to skinny dip when we were five, you ain't no lady." He winked, walking over and wrapping me in his warm arms.
"It's so good to see you, Jasper," I said quietly, closing my eyes and breathing in the unique scent of the man who held me in his arms.
"You, too, Bella, so good." He returned. "He may have a difference of opinion." He whispered, letting me go and making a grimacing face before turning back around to face his brother.
"Look who's here! Ain't that something?"
"Yee Haw! Look at that filly!"
"What happened the last time you referred to me as a barn animal, James McGallen?" I demanded, turning around with my hands on my hips and a playful scowl on my face.
"You keep those claws to yourself woman, it took weeks for my nose to heal last time!" He grabbed me and twirled me till I screeched for him to stop, unable to stop giggling.
"You know I hate being called James!"
"Put me down, Jimmy!"
"Is there a reason you're on my property?" A cold, unrecognizable voice asked.
"I saw Jasper driving this way, so I followed after him. I need my keys." I took a deep breath before answering, still unable to look at him. James had his hands shoved in his pockets kicking at the dirt beneath his boots before hightailing it back to the barn, and Jasper was shaking his head.
"Well then, get your keys and get on with you, you're trespassing."
"Technically she's not. Daddy gave her a third of the ranch."
"I don't give a shit was the will states. Her third doesn't have anything to do with my ranch! The majority of the property is mine, and she best stay off it."
"Only because I sold you my third!"
"No one twisted your damn arm. Give her the keys, Jasper."
"Mama B?" The little voice asked from the open window of the backseat.
"Right here, Buddy." I turned to give him a smile. "We're almost done."
There was a thud and I turned to find Edward on his feet, his eyes dark and dangerous looking.
"Give her the fucking keys." He pointed at his brother before pointing to me. "And you, get the hell off my land." He spit out a wad of tobacco over the porch railing before entering the house, letting the screen door slam behind him.
"Just give him some time, maybe stay away till he gets use to the idea of you being back." Jasper spoke with an apologetic tone, holding out a set of keys.
"I don't think there will ever be enough time for him to forgive me."
"You were kids, once his wounded pride heals, he'll get over it."
"I wouldn't hold your breath."
"Well, you know where to find me and Alice works at the school."
"What about Emmett and Rose, they still around?"
"Rose is still waitressing at the dinner, just like in high school." Jasper smiled with a slight head shake. "Emmett's the sheriff nowadays. They have three boys, built just like him, too."
"Wow, three boys." I smiled softly, pushing back the dull ache in my chest.
"Looks like you got yourself one too?" He asked with raised brows and a nod to my truck and the little boy who was watching us with wide, curious eyes.
"I gots ta pee!" He exclaimed as if sensing we were talking about him.
"That's my que and a story for another day. Thanks for everything Jazz."
He gave me a kiss on the cheek and started walking to his car with a wave.
The cabin had been cleaned up, the weeds pulled, and the expansive lawn recently mowed. I was guessing that was Jasper's doing.
"Come on JJ, let's explore our new home." I tried to sound encouraging as I lifted him out of his car seat, doing my best to push Edward's harsh words out of my mind.
It was hard to do when the cabin held just as many memories as the house did. It had been our hideaway; playing house on the weekends till it was officially our home for two weeks beforeit allhappened and our lives drastically changed. His father had gifted it to us and apparently wanted me to have it in the event of his death, at least that's all the will had said. I was now one-third owner of the Meadow Ranch, which included the cabin and two acres of land that wasn't used for ranch profits.
Jasper may have had it cleaned, but it was all still the same. So much so that I almost had to run back outside from the way my chest constricted. The same, small round table with four, miss-matched chairs. The olive-green couch no one had liked but didn't have the heart to tell Papa C. The coffee table still held the scuff marks caused by Edward's boots when he used to carelessly throw his feet up on it. Then the picture. This time a gift from Rose. A blown-up photo of Edward and me, the last one taken. We were sitting in the field just outside the door, the tall grass hiding all but our faces, his forehead pressed to my temple with a smile as big as Texas while my eyes were scrunched and my mouth smiling wide and open in mid-laughter.
No one could have known what was to come.
In a few short weeks, the happy, carefree people in the photo disappeared forever.
Again, no time frame. Updates will happen when I have a chapter written. It could be a week or a month. Leukemia, my husband being deployed, two doctor appointments a week, and two out of three children in tutoring take up much of my time. In March I will be helping with a Mobward contest. Please feel free to enter your own stories, don't be fearful to try! It's going to be tons of fun!
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