Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight.
A/N: Thanks to the bestie, Little Miss Masen, for helping me get back in the saddle ;)
I ain't here to do nothing half-way
don't give a damn what anyone might say
I just wanna free fall for a while
-Gloriana, Wild at Heart
[ Alice ]
I trudged up the stairs and into the bathroom, almost shrieking as I caught sight of myself in the mirror. I had mud in my hair and I looked like I'd be drug around behind a tractor or something! I turned on the shower and let it heat up some before I stepped inside, trying to wash the caked off dirt and crust. I must have scrubbed for hours, and my skin was more than pink by the time I stepped out. I wrapped up in a large towel and wiped off the fogged mirror. My hair was flat and stringy looking, in desperate need of some styling, and my skin was so pale I looked sickly.
Grabbing my brush, I started getting to work on fixing myself up again. About halfway through my make-up, I dropped the brush in the sink. Why was I getting so glammed up? For this guy, Kitty's ranch hand? Jasper?
"Oh, no, this is not acceptable," I said as I finished up a base coat of make-up and put the rest away. I was not going to start crushing on this boy. No. Texas was not going to suck me in with a Southern accented, tight jeans wearin, shaggy blonde-haired boy.
I walked back into my room and pulled on a jean skirt and a flowing tank top. The weather was so warm that I didn't want to wear anything that would stick to me. I slipped on some flip-flops and hustled down the stairs to see what Kitty was up to, my legs moving faster than they had in days. She was hunched over the sink and I let out a small noise of greeting.
"Mary Alice, honey, c'mon over here and let me show you how to do this," she said as she waved me over to her.
I walked up to see a big pot of green beans. This didn't look like fun.
"What you do is, you can just snap the ends off and put the bean in this pot here. Or, if your fingers get tired of snapping you can cut the ends with this paring knife," she explained, snapping a few beans in front of me to show me how it worked.
I grabbed one and snapped them, enjoying the crisp pop noise they would make as I snapped them. Kitty turned on the kitchen radio and began to sing along, dancing around the kitchen and banging on some pots that hung over top of us. I was laughing at her and smiling, and it felt really nice.
"So, Mary Alice, do you have any plans for today?"
I shook my head. "No, I thought maybe I'd take a blanket out to the field and read for a while or something," I said nonchalantly.
"Oh, alright," she said somewhat sadly.
I turned to her and set down the handful of beans I was working on. "Why? Did you need me to help you with something?"
She smiled. "Well, after lunch I was going to send Jasper into town to grab something for me, and I thought you might be dying to get off the property for a bit, and would want to go with him."
I was on to her. I knew what she was trying to do. And part of me wanted to let her. "Do you think Jasper would want me following him around?"
She waved her hand at me before shaking her head. "You wouldn't be following him around, honey, you'd be giving him some company. He could use a few friends in this town, and you're going stir crazy!"
"Well, I guess if he didn't mind…" I trailed off, going back to the beans.
"You just worry about them beans and let me do the rest," Kitty said as she opened the oven to check on whatever she was making. It smelled great.
We worked silently for a while, and when I got done with the beans, she showed me how to shuck corn, which we would be having with our dinner. I sat in one of the old wooden chairs with a paper bag between my legs and a stack of corn on the table. To say it kindly, I was not having a good time. And I was not that great at shucking corn. I had some of the silk all over the floor and in my shirt.
Kitty left the room, saying something about being right back and checking on chickens. I just nodded and went back to trying to get all the stringy silk out between the pieces of corn.
"Stupid corn—you couldn't just give in and let me win, could you? No, Alice can't be good at anything country."
I heard the front door creak and clenched my jaw. This corn was going down. I stood up and started banging it against the table, trying to air out my frustrations.
"You'll never get the silk out like that," he laughed, taking the ear out of my hands. Jasper walked over to the sink and opened the drawer, pulling out some sort of brush. With a swift motion, he had the corn over the bag and was brushing the silk out like a professional. When he was done he blew on it and then handed it back to me. "The brush helps," he said sheepishly.
I wanted to be angry. In fact, I felt my cheeks turning red. But part of me was so amazed that he could do that so easily…that I was jealous. "Th-thank you," I stammered.
He shrugged. "No problem; I can't believe Miss Brandon didn't tell you about that. Here, you got some in your hair," he laughed as his hand picked out some of the silk.
And when his fingers touched my hair, my eyes closed involuntarily and I wanted to lean into him and inhale him. But I snapped myself back to reality and shied away, turning my head towards the door.
"Yea, she probably just wanted to see me suffer," I teased.
He rubbed his hands together and let out a low whistle. I looked back at him with a raised eyebrow. "So, are you likin' Texas so far?"
I chewed on the inside of my lower lip before I spoke. "Well, it's definitely warmer here. I like that."
He nodded and I sat back down by the corn. I picked up another ear and slowly peeled the shell away. I stared at it intently. I focused on picking out the bits of silk, listening to my breath as it went in and out. From the corner of my eye I could see Jasper pick up another ear and begin shucking. We worked silently together until Kitty walked back in when we were almost finished.
"Oh, great, I see Jasper's found you and kept you company! Sorry the chickens took so long. Nasty buggers they are sometimes," she rattled on and she opened the oven and let out a loud 'mmmm' at the smell. She walked over and took the pile of corn from us and tossed it in a pot and fluttered around the kitchen.
"So, Mary Alice, I was talking to Mrs. Hale and she said that Rosalie is looking forward to the two of you spending time together," Kitty started.
From the corner of my eye I saw Jasper flinch and promised myself I'd ask him about it later. I was always interested in a little town gossip, and since nothing else was going on around here, I might as well get in the know.
"Did she say that?" I asked.
She hummed in confirmation. "She's a nice girl, and you should get along famously. You've both got a sense for fashion and she's the go-to-girl for everything in Amarillo."
I chanced a glance at Jasper, but he was looking down at his hands, picking at his cuticles. I wanted to slap him and tell him not to do that, that he'd cause bleeding, but it wasn't my place.
Kitty poured Jasper a glass of her homemade Sun Tea and told him to go wash up before lunch. She was standing over the stove when she turned to look at me. "Be nice to him, Mary Alice. He's a nice boy, a hard worker, and has a heart the size of Texas."
I nodded as I poured myself a glass of lemonade and set it on the table. I took a handful of silverware and set it next to the plates, before grabbing some napkins and sliding them under the silverware. I didn't want to look tacky in front of Jasper. Not that I wanted to look anything special in front of him, either.
"Go wash up, dear," Kitty said, giving my shoulder a nudge. I went up to my bathroom and washed my hands, looking up at my face in the mirror. I was almost horrified when I saw a piece of corn silk standing out like a skunk stripe in my hair.
"I thought he—" I started to say before it all made sense. I growled in frustration and pulled it out of my hair, stomping downstairs and into the kitchen.
Jasper was seated at the table already, and Kitty was bringing over the bowl of corn. I let out a frustrated sigh and she looked over to me. "What's the matter?"
I huffed and sat down in my chair across from Jasper, eyeing him. "I just thought I was doing a pretty good job shucking corn, but it turns out I had more stuck in my hair than in the trash bag." I glared at Jasper. I knew when he'd pulled the silk from my hair that he'd put some in there. He thought he was funny. He thought he was cute.
I was onto him. If he wanted to fight, he picked the wrong partner to mess with. I was Mary Alice Brandon, scrapper extraordinaire.
[ Jasper ]
I swallowed thickly as she glared at me from across the table. For being so small, this girl was menacing. I felt a chill run through my body and I could see Mrs. Brandon giving me the side eye. I grabbed a roll and busied myself with buttering it. I could still feel the heat coming off Alice's face and suddenly my lunch became very interesting.
"Does someone wanna tell me what happened?" Mrs. Brandon asked.
"No, m'am," I said quietly, shoveling a forkful of food in my mouth.
I heard a clatter of silverware and then Alice cleared her throat. I looked up and she was…smiling?
"Everything's great. I was just a little embarrassed that I had corn in my hair, that's all."
"I didn't even notice! I'm so sorry!" Mrs. Brandon exclaimed.
"It's fine," she said quietly.
I wanted to be sick—I felt like a huge jerk. Of course earlier she'd had corn in her hair, and I pulled most of it out. But I didn't want to look like a monkey picking it all out. And I felt like it would be rude for me to tell her she had a whole bunch more in there. So I tried to ignore it, thinking Mrs. Brandon would say something to her. And now I looked like a tool.
Lunch was very quiet, and afterwards I excused myself to go putter around the property. I walked out along the fence and stopped to watch the horses running around in the paddock. It was a nice day outside and the horses were full of energy. I leaned over the fence and let myself get lost in watching them chase each other. It was such a freeing and relaxing feeling.
I jumped when I heard her voice behind me. "I'm sorry," she said softly.
I turned around to look at her. "For what?"
"For accusing you of putting something in my hair." She took a deep breath. "I'm just not used to this place yet."
I stood there watching her. She was a tiny thing, with dark hair and deep eyes. Her skin looked creamy and oh so soft. I had the urge to touch her arm just to see, but kept myself apart from her. Something was happening to me, and I didn't know what it was.
"This is where you forgive me," she said, butting into my daydreams.
I coughed. "Oh, right. I forgive you."
She scoffed. "Well don't say it if you don't mean it."
"Are we gonna fight the whole time you're here?" I asked.
Her mouth dropped. "What makes you think that I'm going to talk to you?"
And my blood started boiling. "Oh, that's right, I forgot. You're going to be best friends with Rosalie Hale; you'll join her little group of minions and hang out with Amarillo's finest. I hope you enjoy your time at the top; but just remember, what comes up must always come down."
I left her standing there with her mouth still open as I walked away back towards the house. My boots were kicking up sand and my mind was running a mile a minute. I was just trying to be nice to the girl—why did she have to be so childish?
My phone started ringing and I pulled it from my back pocket. It was Liss. I answered. "Hello?"
"Jasper, hey, I'm sorry to be calling you while you're at work, but there's a problem."
"A problem? What's wrong?" I said as my head started to come up with all the different things that could be wrong.
"Well, I came home real quick on my lunch break to grab some of my lessons and I found the toilet had overflowed while we were gone. I went ahead and mopped it up, but it'll definitely need to be checked out."
"Alright, I'll put in a call and look it over when I get done at the ranch."
She was silent for a few moments before she whispered, "I love you," and hung up before I could say it back.
I slammed the phone shut in aggravation and shoved it back in my pocket. At least now I had an excuse to leave early and get away from everything here today. I walked up to the house and knocked on the screen door. Mrs. Brandon came out and laughed at me.
"Jasper, you don't really need to knock, you know that."
"I know, Mrs. Brandon, but I wasn't sure if you were decent or not."
She blushed. "Well Jasper Whitlock, ain't you a smooth talker?"
I kicked at the wooden planks of the porch and saw one was loose. I mentally reminded myself to fix that next time I was here. "I just got off the phone with Liss and she said that there's a plumbing issue back at our house but she had to get back to work. So I was wondering, if it was alright with you, if I took off early to go check it out?"
She waved her hand at me. "That's fine. Do you want me to call Andrew Murray and have him meet you there? You know he's the best plumber in town."
I smiled. "That would be great—but only if it isn't too much an inconvenience for him. I wouldn't wanna be takin' him from someone with an emergency."
"Nonsense, Jasper, you worry too much. Just head on home and I'll be seein' you soon."
I thanked her again before turning back towards my truck. I saw Alice walking towards me and willed my eyes to look anywhere but at her. I didn't want to somehow offend her again. I rushed down the few steps and brushed past her, almost leaping into my truck as soon as the door was open. I reversed and caught a glimpse of her face and she looked sad, but I was too angry to even think about any of that.
Why was I letting this girl get to me? And why was she so insistent on pushing my buttons?
I drove home in silence and true to her word Andrew Murray was waiting in my driveway. He followed me in, and for the next few hours I helped him fix the pipes in our plumbing. As he was leaving I told him to send me a bill and he just waved his hand as he walked on. I wasn't sure what that was about, but I figured I'd find out soon enough.
Liss came home a while later and we had chicken for dinner. After clean up, we sat out on the back porch as the sun set. She had a set of papers in her hand that she was grading and I lazily widdled a scrap of wood. It was dark before I knew it, and I looked down to see that I had carved a small horse. Liss looked over at it and smiled when I set it on the table.
We went up to bed that night and as I held her body against mine, my mind went into a million different places. I couldn't rest because the melody of that song I'd been working on kept coming to me. Eventually I drowned it out by counting backwards in my head, but I knew tomorrow was going to be a long day. I just wasn't sure what was going to happen when I got back to Mrs. Brandon's ranch.
LMW: hello to everyone who hung in there and waited around for me to update! Thanks for the PMs and all your concerns. Story is back on track and I can't thank you enough for your love and support!