It had been a long day at the office for John. The last thing he wanted to do to end his day was make a personal trip to the country home he was renting out.
He rolled down the gravel dirt road, leaving a trail of dust behind him. His head turned to the window and he surveyed the grounds. Fields of green stretched far and wide, barren of all but a few animals. If all went as planned and he had his way, all of that would be developed into industries and commercial buildings.
It was his father’s ambitious desire before he passed on. John was merely making sure that happened. The only thing standing in his way was the middle-aged couple currently residing in his home.
It would be easy enough for him to evict them from the property and simply carry out his plans. But they owned a good few hectares of land surrounding his property. If he were to forcibly remove them there would be nothing stopping them from rebuilding right beside. The value of their land combined was worth far more than his one country home.
So instead of risking an unnecessary court case over land, he allowed them to stay renting until he could find some sort of loophole to get them out of his hair.
His convertible bounced along the slowly narrowing road until he came to the clearing of his country home. He parked, stepped out and up the wooden steps to the open screen door. A smiling woman appeared just as he was about to knock on the frame. “Mrs Weston,” He nodded his head in greeting. “How are you this evening?”
“Just fine, John. Thank you for coming on such short notice. I know you must be about ready to turn down for the day,” She held the door open for him and stepped aside to let him pass.
He smiled at her politely despite the weariness he felt. “It’s not a problem at all, Mrs Weston.”
“How many times do I have to tell you? Please, call me Natalie.”
“Of course, Natalie. Now, what can I do for you today?”
“Oh, yes,” She swung her body around and gestured down the hall with one outstretched arm. “It’s the refrigerator. You see, the door won’t close properly and the light doesn’t turn on anymore. I’m afraid the food might spoil,” She explained to him and spoke with a slight country drawl.
“I’ll have to have a look at it first if you don’t mind,”
“Not at all,”
After examining the fridge, inside and out, he could see the problem. “The rubber seal on the door has lost its grip, that’s why it’s not closing properly. As for the light, I’d say it’s just a problem with the wiring. I can get one of my men to check it out for you if you’d like,”
She smiled and nodded her head. He noticed there were a few greying hairs amidst the walnut brown. He never thought about how long he had known the couple. It had been a good 5 years at least.
“That would be just lovely, thank you,” She said as she walked him to the door. “Do you have any plans for tonight? My husband and I are planning on having roast lamb. You should join us,”
“Thank you for the offer, Mrs Weston... I mean, Natalie,” He corrected himself. “But I really should get going. I’m expecting a call from someone at work,”
“I see,” She nodded her head in understanding. “Well, thank you for dropping by, once again.” They stood by the door. “Are you sure you don’t want to stay for dinner? As thanks for everything you’ve done for us?”
“I appreciate the thought, really, but I...” His words trailed off and his eyes wandered over to a frame on the shelf near where they were standing.
Her eyes followed in the direction of where his were directed and a soft smile appeared on her ageing face. “That’s my daughter, Maya. Pretty thing, isn’t she?”
His eyes were trained solely on the girl in the photo. Wavy almond hair that reached down to her mid-back. Black ankle gumboots and a blue plaid shirt were seen from behind the horse in front her. And those eyes, a bold hazel stared in his direction as she smiled at the camera clearly caught off guard.
John’s lips unconsciously curved up into a small smile. “Yes. Beautiful,” He answered without thinking.
“She’s just graduated from University. She came back home yesterday, but she’s out celebrating with her friends at the moment,” She told him as they continued to look at the photo. “I should introduce you to her sometime. I think the two of you would get along quite well,”
“I’m sure we would, Natalie,”
Worn out from a long night on the town Maya stumbled up the steps to her parents home.
To most people, a night on the town implied a night of drinking and wild partying. Contrary to what people believed, Maya preferred a quiet celebration.
She’d gone with a few of her friends to the local bar once they were back in their hometown. She had only had one drink before the crowd got too much for her and she decided to call it a night. Instead, she had taken off her heels and dangled them by her fingers as she wandered aimlessly through town.
After some time of enjoying the quiet solitude, she had hailed a taxi and returned home.
While trying her hardest not to wake her parents she managed to let herself in and crept down to her bedroom.
Not bothering to undress, she flopped down on her bed and lazily pulled a throw over her body and drifted off to sleep.
Maya woke in the morning with the sun streaming in through the blinds covering her window.
She considered rolling over and getting more sleep but thought better of it. She had been raised to be an early riser in order to make the most of the day. As it was she had slept in longer than usual and she wasn’t even hungover.
She yawned, stretched and dragged herself out of bed and into the shower. The hot water felt good running down her skin and when she finally stepped out into the steamed up bathroom she felt refreshed and ready for the day.
After throwing on a pair of jean shorts and a red plaid shirt she made her way to the kitchen where she found her parents. Her mother, who was standing at the oven looked up and smiled at her. “Good morning, honey. Have a good night?”
She sniffed the air and sat down at the table across from her father who was engrossed in the newspaper. “It was...enjoyable.”
“Did ya party hard?” Her father spoke up from behind the paper.
“Nope, I tried loosening up at the bar for a while but the noise got too much for me,”
“So what did you do instead? We heard you come in last night. Must’ve been at least one in the morning,” Her mother commented, sliding some eggs onto her plate.
“You know me, Mama. I enjoy being alone,”
“Don’t tell me you were out wandering the streets all those hours by yourself again?” After no reply, she had her answer. “Maya! You know how I feel about that. It’s not safe for a beautiful young lady like yourself to be out by herself at night,”
“I’m twenty-three, Mama. I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself. No one is going to hurt me,”
Her mother’s brows furrowed together in a frown. “I’m still not happy about it,”
“How about this? What if I was a guy instead, and not-” She gestured to herself. “-this. Not a vulnerable female. Would you still be worried about me?”
“Of course I would,”
“No you wouldn’t, sweetie,” Her father pitched in. “Because we both know if she were a guy she’d be the one causing the trouble.”
“Hey! That’s rude,”
“Not a lie, though, is it?”
“No,” Maya grumbled out and took a bite of her food. “Anyway, enough about me. Do you guys have any plans for the day?”
Her parents looked at one another as if they were communicating through telepathy. “No, nothing major. At least not that I know of,” Her father replied, finishing up his breakfast.
“Oh, actually,” Her mother said. “The landlord said he would send one of his men round to take a look at the fridge, see if he can’t get it fixed. What about you, honey? Anything special planned?”
“I’ll probably just chill for the day, relax a bit. Lord knows I need a break,”
“Well, don’t forget to say hello to Bri sometime today. She misses you, I think,”
Maya smiled to herself, now excited to see her beloved mare. “How could I forget about her?”
For the second time in one week, John was rolling down that dusty dirt road. Unlike yesterday he was feeling good about it. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it. Perhaps it was the amount of sleep he’d caught up on the previous night or the beautiful weather they were having.
“Natalie?” He called out from the porch after knocking lightly on the doorframe. There was no sign of anyone in the house aside from the smell of breakfast.
“Come on in,” She called from somewhere down the hall. “I’ll just be a minute,”
He took a seat on the sofa and waited, taking in the appearance of the place. It definitely had a cosy feel to it.
His eyes found their way back over to the bookshelf and landed on the girl in the frame. She looked full of life, and that was just what he could see from the photo.
“Oh, hello, John.” Natalie appeared in the living room. “I was expecting someone else. One of your men, I believe,”
“That was the plan. But the guy I had in mind was already preoccupied for the day, so I thought I would come myself.”
“Oh, you didn’t need to do that,”
They fell into a comfortable silence. The dog came padding into the room.
“I see you brought the rubber for the fridge,” She commented, looking down at the pack in his hands.
“Yes, I’m not actually sure how to attach it, though. Maybe your husband could see to it,”
She nodded. “It seems like something Mark could manage. Or maybe Maya could. She’s always had a knack for fixing things,”
His ears perked up upon hearing her name. He hadn’t met her yet or even seen her in person, but she sounded like quite an interesting woman. “She’s still celebrating, is she?” He asked casually.
“No, actually. She’s out riding at the moment. I would introduce you to her but she’ll probably be another good half hour.”
“That’s fine. I should be heading out pretty soon anyway. I need to get back to the office.” He told her, standing up and making their way to the door. “Big meeting,”
“Well, good luck then. Hope all goes well,”
“That makes two of us,” He chuckled and bowed his head in a quick goodbye.
He made his way down the steps and opened his car door.
“Oh, John, here she is now,” Natalie called from the front door, pointing off in the direction of the paddock.
He heard the sound of hooves clopping getting nearer and nearer to the boundary fence. The black horse, obviously built for strength sped through the long grass and began to slow down. He took notice of the girl sitting atop in the saddle, rising and falling in rhythm to the motion of the mare.
Chrome sunglasses rested on the bridge of her nose protecting her eyes from the sun and blocking him from seeing behind them. Her hair was loose and untamed as it flowed freely behind her in the wind.
John continued to watch the girl as they slowed to a stop and she jumped down from the horse, quite gracefully and lead her through the gates.
She plodded across the dirt in her cowboy style boots in the direction of the barn. Her head lifted and she waved to her mother with a small smile, not taking any notice of the man next to the convertible.
“Come with me, John. I’ll introduce you to her,” She pressed.
His eyes were hesitant to leave the country beauty as she swapped her riding boots for a pair of black gumboots. From where he was standing he had a good view of her in full form. From her toned tan legs to her slender arms as they stretched over her horse and to the waterfall of dark hair.
“Maybe another time. I really should be going” Natalie nodded her head in understanding. “I’ll be back with the light for the fridge later,”
With that, he climbed into his car and sped off down the dirt road.
Natalie smiled to herself as she watched John speed away. She knew he’d taken an interest in her daughter as soon as he’d seen her photo.
Maya was a beautiful girl and men were often drawn to her for that very reason. But she had a wild heart and fiery personality that not a lot of men could handle so they soon lost interest.
John was a decent and respectable young man. She had thought about matchmaking the two of them for a while now. She was well aware of the chance that the two might be incompatible but it would be good for Maya to have a male companion much like him in her life.
She saw the way he couldn’t bring himself to take his eyes off of her as she rode in as well as the way he didn’t seem able to respond properly. Now all that needed to happen was for the two to meet.
Maya placed the grooming brush back on its shelf and ran her palm over the mare’s muzzle and she leaned into her touch. “That’s my girl,” She left once last kiss on her nose before she turned to leave. “I’ll be back tomorrow. Promise,”
She went inside and was welcomed by the smell of mashed potatoes and bacon. “I think I forgot what it feels like to have your mouth water. I’ve missed your food, Mama,” She sat down at the table and served herself a healthy portion of the food.
“It’s good to hear it, sweetie. Your father here must have gotten so used to my meals that he’s forgotten to thank me,” She sent a small glare to her husband who was already greedily digging into his food.
He looked up from his plate with his mouth full. “I’ll thank you tonight, sweetheart,” He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively and grinned at her.
“Mark!” She scolded him, blushing furiously. “Not at the table,”
She sighed in defeat and changed the topic. “Anyway, how was your day? Anything interesting?”
Maya watched and listened to the conversation as she ate her dinner. Her family was always very tight-knit. The past four years she had only had the odd visit from her parents so she grew to miss all the conversations they would share over dinner. She was quite happy to simply sit and listen to her parent’s bickering. It was home to her.
Their meal and light conversation was interrupted by a knock at the front door. “I’ll get it,” Maya offered and stood up. She may not have been in the middle of a story but she had been enjoying her dinner. Most people call in advance, otherwise, it was considered rude to show up unannounced.
She made her way over to the door and pulled it open as calmly as possible. “Yes?” Her eyebrows rose expectantly at the unknown guest.
John had known she was beautiful just by the photo on the shelf, but seeing her right in front of him in the flesh, he saw that she was nothing short of stunning. Her hair had been pulled up into a messy ponytail and her eyes held a hint of fury.
His lips quirked up into a small smile. “Hello." He paused for a moment and stared, entranced, speaking without thought. "I have your light bulb,”
Maya stood there unmoved and slightly confused. “Ok... So?”
“For your fridge,” He explained to her. He was also confused. He expected a reaction from her. A smile, A blush, even a handshake. “Sorry, You must be Maya,”
Her eyes narrowed at him suspiciously at how he knew her name considering they had never met before. “Yeah... And you are?”
He let out a small snort of disbelief. “You don’t know who I am?”
Her hair blew back after a small breeze drifted past John and through the doorway. She realized how chilly it was outside but refused to invite the stranger in until she knew who he was.
John felt the breeze and shoved his hands in his coat pocket. “It’s kinda cold out here. Do you think you could let me in?”
“No. I don’t know you,” Her remark brought an even bigger smile to his face. “So maybe you should tell me who you are and maybe I’ll let you in,”
He leaned down to her level and whispered, his breath fanning lightly over her face. “Why don’t you take a wild guess?”
She stepped back and he straightened himself up still grinning. She left him standing at the door and yelled out. “Mama? There’s some guy in a suit on our doorstep.” She called out, making her way back to the table, never taking her eyes off the stranger. “Says he has your light bulb,”
John stood at the door and waited patiently to be invited in.
When he first stepped up to the porch he had been expecting a warm greeting and introduction from the gorgeous woman. Perhaps a blush at the sight of a handsome man in a suit, or a smile simply out of politeness at the least. He hadn’t thought she would leave him out in the cold, least of all that she wouldn’t know who he was.
Natalie stood up hastily and rushed to the door. “John, I’m so sorry. Come on in, you must be freezing,” He stepped inside and cleaned his shoes on the mat. “I’m sorry about my daughter. She has, uh, how would you put it?”
“Spirit,” He finished for her, using the word he thought was most suitable for the girl.
“Yes, well. That’s definitely one way to describe her,” She agreed before leading him into the dining room.
“Spirit is my favourite trait in a woman,” He spoke under his breath to himself with a smile still on his lips.
When they arrived in the kitchen Maya was back in her seat and nibbling away happily at her dinner. Natalie cleared her throat and suddenly all eyes were on them.
“Good evening,” He greeted them.
Mark stood up and shook his hand. “Good to see you, John,”
He nodded in reply before his eyes wandered back to the woman who didn’t bother acknowledging his presence.
“Maya!” Her mother snapped in a hushed tone.
Maya dropped her fork onto her plate with a clatter and roughly pushed out her chair to stand.
Her mother scolded her with a discreet glare before smiling. “John, you’ve met Maya, sort of. Maya, this is John. The landlord.”