Nothing had changed in Home Coming. Everything was still where it was, the same people, same shops, same houses. But Kim wasn’t the same person.
And when the front door opened to the farm house and Stella hugged her, she remembered everything of the past as if it was yesterday. Even though she was greeted kindly there was still a part of her that held her head down, ashamed.
Her father came out of the study to greet her. He looked unwell and she drew in a sharp breath. He hugged her tightly but she couldn’t help notice he was shaking. He was walking with a cane and when she asked why he laughed and said a few weeks ago he had an accident and fell. She looked towards Stella, who didn’t meet her gaze.
Soon she caught up with her father, telling him about how great her life was in the city. All lies that she spun regularly to please people. But she couldn’t tell the truth. How would it sound?
“No, actually I’m completely unhappy in my life and I wish I could just turn back the clock and change everything.”
She’d rather give the short answer of,
Her father didn’t pester her for more details and she said a silent thank you. She asked him about the farm, recalling how beautiful and healthy it looked on her drive through it.
“We’ve had a good year. All thanks to my new rancher.”
“You have a new rancher?” she asked. “Do I know him?”
“I don’t think you do. But then again, you always knew everyone in town,” he chuckled.
“Well, I’m glad the farm has been doing well,” she said.
That would help when she sold it. But it would also make it tough to persuade her father to let go of it. But seeing now how weak he was - he kept coughing and his breathing was strained - she knew it would be easier to convince him than she thought initially.
Kim felt guilty when she was in the kitchen with Stella. Soon she would be without a job. But she was near the age of retirement after all. She would survive on the money her father would give her. Kim didn’t have to worry about things like that. Everyone would be fine. Getting away from this awful town with its awful memories...that was the main thing.
“Remember Nellie?” her father asked.
“My old horse?”
“She’s still there in the barn?”
“As good as ever,” he said and grinned. “There’s a little surprise for you too.”
When she walked out the back door and across the grounds towards the barn, the smells of grass and fresh air hit her nose welcoming. It made her feel like a little kid again.
Inside the barn, the light streaming in through the cracks, she saw all the horses in the stall. She didn’t remember everyone, there were definitely some newcomers, but a few faces she could recall from years ago. They’d gotten old. Had she? She didn’t know about physically but emotionally and mentally she felt tired, broken down and ready to let out a final breath.
Kim soon found her beautiful but noticeably aged horse in one of the stalls and she greeted her softly.
“Hey there, little girl. I missed you.”
Then she heard a little one neighing. She leaned over the stall to take a look.
“Oh! You have a baby.”
She rested her arms on the stall door and admire the little one when she heard a male voice say,
“Do you want to feed them?”
She turned around quickly, her ponytail flying through the air. A man about early twenties stared at her. Soft brown eyes, furrowed brows yet an easy smiling mouth. His lips had a prominent curl. He had small lines at the side of his eyes that confirmed that he was an easy smiler. His hair was kind of messy, slightly long at the back and curly. His clothes were dirty from working on the farm but she couldn’t help notice the well built body it was hiding underneath. Broad shoulders, strong arms, tall legs.
For a moment she forgot she was staring, then she nodded quickly.
He gave her some feed and she fed the two horses that ate greedily.
Another one from the stall next door tried to grab some of the feed and she laughed and gave him some.
“So you’re Miss Sawyer, from the city?” he asked.
His voice sounded kind, soft and boyish.
“And you’re the new rancher I take?” she said.
“Yeah,” he said and grinned.
“So how’s it been,” she said and looked at him. “Working on the farm?”
“It’s been great.”
“My dad can be a bit strict, though.” she laughed.
He laughed too.
“Oh no, your dad has only been good to me.” his voice suddenly went serious. “I owe him a lot.”
“He’s helped me a lot in the past, that’s all.”
She could sense he didn’t want to go into it so she didn’t press it any longer.
She held out her hand to him.
“You can call me Kim.”
He took her hand gently. She inhaled slightly at his touch.
“Levi,” he said with a smile, his eyes focused on hers.
There was a pause. It was probably just a few seconds. But why did it feel so long?
He let go of her hand and she cleared her throat.
“I’m sorry about your dad’s health,” he said. “It hit us all hard.”
Kim could feel he meant it.
“Thank you. i’m worried about him.”
“The doctor says he’s been recovering well,” he said.
“Yes, but he still needs better care,” she said. “That’s why I’m taking him with me.”
“I’m taking him back to the city,” she said.
Levi shook his head in disbelief.
“But what about the farm?”
“I’m going to sell it. You don’t have to worry. I’ll get good owners for this place.”
“Your dad won’t allow it.”
“He knows how serious his condition is,” Kim said feeling done with the conversation.
He crossed his arms, his eyes suddenly going from friendly to something else.
Something completely different...
“Then I won’t allow it.”
“Excuse me?” She said irritated.
“This farm might not mean anything to you since you haven’t been here in years,” he said. “But to us it’s our home.”
“I’ll make sure the new owners keep you all on board,” I said. “You won’t lose your jobs.”
“I don’t care about that,” he said.
“If it’s money you’re worried about I can arrange your salary as well.”
“I don’t care about the money,” he said frustrated. “I care about your father’s dream. This farm means everything to him.”
“I get that you’re attached to the farm,” I said, trying not to sound as angry as I felt. “but honestly this has nothing to do with you,” she said.
He didn’t say anything. Instead he just stared at her. His stare made her feel ashamed, as if he could see into her soul. How could one look unarm a person like that?
She looked away.
“I hope you’ll remember your place because just as quickly as you got this job you can lose it.”
With that she turned around, her hair flipping swiftly and marched off towards the house. She still felt his eyes on her back though even though she knew it was impossible.
She didn’t go down for dinner that night, not wanting to face him.
For the first time since she arrived she dreaded not the people of the town that she knew, not the memories that were there all along, but this...this man that suddenly walked right into her life and threatened to ruin all her plans. Even her mind.