The knocking sound of the diesel engine roared as he took Main St. out of town and towards the run down shack about 15 miles out. Colton thought about the girl and wondered what he would say when he got there. All at the same time he couldn’t get there fast enough and yet arrived all to quickly. He turned onto the muddy driveway and followed it through the pasture past all the run down and falling fence while easing through the drive’s washed out areas. Wooden slats hung off the fence posts in some places while other places had entire sections leaning backward or forward where they once stood erect. Posts and boards alike were rotting after years of being up in harsh weather with no one to tend to them.
The surrounding five acres were in need of a good bush hog to cut down the overgrown grass. At the end of the mile long driveway stood (or rather leaned) the little shack. The shack was once a charming little house where the old Sheddleton couple lived their whole lives together. Mr. Sheddleton had built it himself after they married at the age of 19. Now, the house was no more than a weather beaten shack. Heavy with age, the shack leaned slightly against the thick trunk of the old black willow tree that shaded it. Colton drove up under the low hanging branches of the willow and parked his truck. He could see the bed of her truck sticking out from its hiding place behind the shack.
Colton stepped out of his truck and approached the door of the shack. As he stood in front of it, he could see where new hinges had been put in place to keep the door up. New boards had been nailed up along the outside of the walls to cover holes and a small tarp was nailed over a hole in the roof. He knocked and could see movement on the other side of the door through a few rotten spots.
The door scrapped across the floorboards as it opened inward slightly. Those large, familiar eyes peeked out at him. They were beautiful and he couldn’t help but feel captured by them. He suddenly remembered he needed to say something. He looked down at his feet and dug the toe of his boot into the muddy ground then looked back up at the deep green gaze still locked onto him.
“I uh… you forgot your pipe glue at the parts store ma’am.” He said and quickly held up the container to prove his statement. The girl cautiously moved her stare from him to the container and back again. “Oh.” She whispered. “I didn’t realize you worked there…” she said slowly, seemingly unsure of her reply. “Oh I don’t. I just noticed that you had left one of your items. I had heard where you were living and thought I’d run it by here for you. No since in letting a lady go back out in the rain after something that can be delivered.” He said quickly, hopefully not too quickly.
“Thank you sir that’s… very kind of you. You didn’t have to drive all this way to deliver glue to a stranger.” She said meekly. Colton couldn’t help but smile at the sound of her delicate little voice. “I’m Buck Stonewell, I go by my middle name Colton.” He introduced himself while holding out the container of glue to her. The deep green of her eyes mingled with the dark blue as she analyzed him again before carefully reaching out from behind the door to take the item. She grasped the container and quickly withdrew her arm back inside. “I’m Anabelle, Anabelle Bouday.” She replied.
Anabelle! What a precious name. Colton hung on her last words as their sound faded into silence. He had delivered the item and should probably leave but he couldn’t. He didn’t want to return to the silence that he was so accustomed to. He wanted to hear more of her hushed voice. He wanted to listen to her for hours, study her expressions, learn her life story and be close to her.
“Well, Anabelle the Southern Belle, I can tell you’ve been hard at work fixing up your new… house. Would you like some help? I can’t imagine this place being an easy project for someone to work on alone.” He offered hopefully.
“Oh no….” she rushed to reply as her eyes widened, “I don’t want to be a bother! I’m perfectly fine working on this alone. I’m handy around a house and know how to fix many things. No help necessary. Thank you for your offer and for bringing my glue. Have a nice day!” she pulled back and moved to shut the door. Colton’s hand shot up and stopped the door. “You’re not a bother at all.” He replied. Suddenly, the sound of water dripping into a bucket caught his attention.
“I bet the pipe you bought earlier was for a leaky sink. I’m very familiar with fixin’ sinks. Sinks, roofs, flooring and even a little bit of electrical work are some things I can help with.” He insisted. A scraping sound could be heard inside as if her boots were slipping in the floor in an attempted to push the door closed. Colton grinned. The more he decided he wanted her, the more his stubborn and cocky side started to surface. A short shove opened the door more and slid her farther back. Colton ducked down to walk through the doorway and stepped over the threshold. A muffled clang echoed and a sharp pain jolted through the top of his skull making his ears ring.
“Argh!” he bellowed and stumbled off to the right. He leaned against the wall and rubbed the top of his head. Looking up he could see Anabelle standing by the door in wide-eyed terror with a cast iron skillet in her hand. “That was a warning!” she squeaked. A thunderous laugh burst from Colton. “You hit hard for a tiny little lady!” he continued laughing. “I said that was a warning! I don’t want any trouble!” she said as her hands began to shake a little. “I’m glad you don’t want trouble Miss Anabelle because I don’t mean any. I’m offering to help fix a leak, you don’t have to cave my head in with cookware.” He said smiling. He stopped rubbing his head and stood up as much as he could in the short house. Anabelle reached behind her and Colton saw her grasp a black handle under her shirt.
“Whoa!” He shouted and leaned forward, grabbing her by the wrist as she pulled out a pistol. “No need to shoot the place up sweet heart, this shack has enough holes in it as is!” It was becoming clear to him that she was a gutsy little home defender. He pried the pistol out of her little hand and looked it over. It was a 9mm Ruger LC9s. That would have been a pretty good sting if she had hit him.
“Do you always greet your help like this?” he chuckled and set the pistol down on the counter as he pushed past Anabelle and walked into the kitchen. The cupboards were fastened well to the walls but the doors were hanging off of them. The sink was a rusty old thing that was piped to drain through the floor directly onto the ground under the house and the refrigerator was practically just a step up from an antique ice chest. The microwave had exposed wires hanging out the back. Colton glanced back at Anabelle who still stood by the open door staring at him wide eyed. The pistol had disappeared from its place on the counter. He grinned and stepped past the refrigerator through the bedroom door.
A twin size mattress lay on the floor with an unmade blanket bunched up on top of it and at least five pillows. The small mattress took up most of the room space so that you had to shuffle past it to go to the little bathroom on the other side. There was no door to separate the bathroom from the bedroom. Colton walked back into the kitchen and moved to the living room where Anabelle was still standing by the open door. As he passed the stove he stepped through the floorboard and the oven door fell open.
He pulled his foot out of the floor and glanced at the broken recliner chair and coffee table in the living room. The entire place smelt of a thick mold. “I can fix that new hole in your floor…” he said. Anabelle smirked a little and shifted her weight but still refused to move away from the door.
A couple of hours later, Colton had patched the hole he made in the floor, fixed the leaky kitchen sink pipe, taped up the exposed microwave wires and patched the roof leak that was dripping into the bucket in the living room. “I told you I was pretty handy around the house myself.” He joked with Anabelle. The entire time he was there she barely said a word and never took her eyes off of him. The last part he didn’t mind. “Thank you.” She said, “You’re very kind.”
Colton had already made mental notes of other things to repair for her around the house. Honestly though, it would probably be less work to just knock it down a build a new one. “It’s a real fixer-upper but at least your acreage is nice. With plenty of TLC this will be a lovely homestead you have here.” He complimented, trying to help her feel good in what must have been an incomprehensibly drear situation.
“I agree that the land is nice but I was only sold the… “House”.” She replied. Colton was shocked and it must have been clearly expressed on his face because she looked away bashfully. He was right; those who had everything they could ever need and want had taken advantage of her. He could give her a much better life but it was going to take time to win her over. She was timid and reserved, Colton was sure she had amazing secrets to uncover. He would win her.
Anabelle stood at the little kitchen window and watched him through the broken windowpane. He stepped into his lifted King Ranch edition Ford pick-up truck, backed out from under the willow branches and started up the muddy drive. He was intimidating. She’d never been good at interacting with men outside of a work environment and suddenly this one shows up on her doorstep. He let himself in without permission. He fixed things for her. He joked around while he worked as if they were old friends. He was cocky and proud but not in an overbearing way. He was… charming. She thought about how he had effortlessly patched the hole in her floor. He slid under the sink to fix the leaky pipe and she couldn’t help but notice his biceps flexing in his tight sleeved, form fitting black t-shirt as he twisted the fitting and let the glue set. His truck disappeared and the only thing she could bring herself to say slipped off her lips. “That is a big man.”