The next morning Gracie was bouncing off the walls with excitement for her very busy day. She dressed in her favorite skirt, leggings and shirt so she could wear her blue boots with sequin on them. Sammy was shocked when she did her hair that she was able to sit still for the 15 minutes it took to complete the fishtail braid.
Sammy dropped her off at 11 then came back home to work in the ranch office to take care of some business and figure out the car situation. She was working diligently on her bank accounts for over an hour, playing with numbers trying to figure out the best way to get the car she wanted and still not go over her monthly budget and not go into her savings. Her frustration level was high as she crumpled up another piece of paper and threw it across the room.
“Damn it!!” She yelled, not expecting to see the handsome face that was leaning against her door jamb with a smirk on his face and his arms crossed.
“Well, Samantha, your temper has really been getting the better of you lately,” he said, trying to hold back a laugh.
She looked at him, trying to recover in some sort of a dignified manner from the way her heart was pounding out of her chest at the very sight of him. She was convinced he could hear it beating when he came in the room.
She thought of nothing that would help and simply went with, “What are you doing here Jake?”
“Well I wanted to talk to you…”
“No, why are you here in Colorado? Don’t you live in Texas?”
“Yes, but I had an injury and am here doing some rehab. I wanted to make things right with my dad. And I wanted to make things right with you too.”
“Why are you listening to your conscience all of a sudden?”
He sighed and walked farther in the room. He pulled one of the other chairs out and set it close to hers, sitting down to face her. She looked in his eyes and she saw the remorse and pain in them. With him sitting so close, she could smell his cologne, the same rugged scent that he wore all through high school and college. She loved it and would take his clothes home with her when they were together just so she could smell it when she was alone. It was driving her crazy and she wanted nothing more than to leap into his arms and never leave.
He sat watching her examine him. He saw the pain and uncertainty in her eyes. He wanted to make that go away and see the love back in them that he used to see. He could smell the shampoo that she loved still on her hair. That coconut smell always reminded him of a beach and how he would love to be alone with her on one.
“Sammy, I am sorry. I know I hurt you when I ran. I am not proud of myself or my actions that day and after. I am sorry that I never returned your phone call. I can see now how important it was. I have no one but myself to blame and will do everything I can to make it up to you.”
“Jake, why? Why did you leave?”
He looked at her with tears in his eyes; she was a little shocked to see it.
“I was scared. I saw you at the airport-” he started.
“YOU WERE THERE?!” She asked, interrupting his story.
He shook his head, “For once I was on time- I actually beat you there! I went to the bathroom while I waited and when I came back you were sitting in those chairs, playing on your phone, smiling to yourself. You looked so beautiful in that skirt and your brown boots and I froze. I thought about getting married and didn’t know if I could be the man that you needed and deserved...And I know you wanted kids and I knew that I could never be like your dad or my dad and I just got scared. So I went to a bar on the main concourse and sat there until our flight to Vegas was supposed to leave. I came back just in time to see you walking away. I was so ashamed that I bought a ticket to New York and stayed at some fleabag motel by the airport until the draft a few days later.”
He stopped the story to take a breath and realized how thirsty he was. He saw there was a little fridge in the corner of the room and went and grabbed a bottle of water. He took a long drink then sat back down to continue. He noticed that she had tears in her eyes and a few had spilled over as he talked.
“After the draft I caught a plane to Texas and found an apartment. I finished my classes online, after explaining to my professors and flew back in for finals. You know I never went to graduation; I was so scared and ashamed that I couldn’t bear to see you. I have been in Texas ever since…”
They both sat silent for a minute. She wiped the tears from her face.
“Did you ever love me?” she asked quietly.
“Oh Sammy, I did so much that it hurt!” He paused, took a deep breath and finished, “I still do…”
She looked at him with a shocked expression on her face, “You do?”
“I do, more than I did before! My love for you grew every day. I look at the pictures on my phone of us all the time. I had several photo albums put together so they are around. I hate myself for hurting you, because I know that I hurt you, badly. The punch said so much more than you know…”
“You did hurt me Jake. I was like a zombie for weeks. I laid in bed and cried. My mom and Kate tried everything to get me to snap out of it. It wasn’t until I realized that I had to go back to school to finish what I started that I got out of bed. I’m not a quitter. I wasn’t better, but at least I was upright. I went back to school, finished my classes, took finals and waited for graduation. After graduation my outlook changed and I had to get my life in order. I had someone else to look after. So my focus shifted.”
“Sammy, I am so sorry. I just don’t know what to say other than that. I want to make it up to you and to our daughter. She is beautiful!”
Sammy smiled, “That she is and she is so special!”
“I could tell just by talking with her at the store. I want to get to know her, Sammy. Please will you let me?”
“She just asked about you for the first time the other day…”
“Really? What did she say?”
“She asked why her daddy didn’t ever see her. She explained that some of her friends have daddies that live with them and some lived somewhere else but they got to see them. She asked why her daddy didn’t want to see her.”
Jake felt his heart clench and Sammy saw him visibly cringe, “What did you say?” almost dreading what she had told their daughter.
She saw the pain all over his face. She placed a hand on his knee and felt the electrical current flow between them as she said, “I told her that he worked in a different state and that I would work on it. I wasn’t going to bad mouth you. As much as I was hurt by what you did, I wasn’t going to hurt our daughter by telling her horrible things about you.”
He nodded at her as she finished talking, whispering, “Thank you...I know I don’t deserve it, but thank you.”
They sat looking at each other for a moment, feeling the heat and pull between them. She knew that she would have done whatever he asked right there at that moment. That wasn’t good and she got up to walk around a bit. He felt the pull too and sat back in the chair as she got up. He didn’t want to rush it and scare her away when he was so close to making things right. He had to change the subject.
“So what’s this I hear about you getting a new car? What’s wrong with the jeep?”
She explained how it had reached the end of its rope and needed to be replaced. She was sad, but it was time, she said.
“What is the hold up? I know you hate driving the big ranch trucks, you always did.”
“Well, I don’t want to spend the money per month on a car payment. I don’t want to use my savings, I don’t want to dip in my trust fund, but I don’t want Gracie to suffer by making her stop taking ballet or her little sports classes.”
“Why don’t you want to use your savings? Isn’t that what it’s there for?”
“Well, normally yes, but I almost have enough for a very large deposit on buying my own home. I really want to move this summer. Derek and Lynn deserve to have the house to themselves to raise their family in and with Lynn due in a few months, so I have a time table.”
“Dad told me that Derek and Lynn got married a few years ago; Good for them and a baby too.”
“They are really excited. They have no idea that I am planning on moving, but oh well.”
“Let me help you. I need to pay child support.”
“No that’s ok. I can do it by myself. I will figure it out. I am a math whiz, remember?” She said with a sad smile.
He let it go, not wanting to cause any ripples, but he knew he was going to do something. And as he looked on her desk, he knew exactly what that was going to be.
“So not to be pushy, but when can I see Gracie? I really want to be around her and get to know her.”
“Well...What about tomorrow? We are going on a ride and you could meet us and get to know her some.”
“I would really like that! She said you are going to the meadow, right?”
“Yeah, we are going to leave about 11...Why don’t you come out about 1? That will give us a chance to get out and eat and I can talk to her, and prepare her.”
“I will be there. Can you reserve me a horse?”
“Can you ride with your knee?” SHe asked.
He nodded, “I will have to let it dangle and not put it in a stir-up, but I will be fine.”
“I will make sure that Jetson is ready, then. You have ridden him before and he is gentle. You remember how to get out to the meadow?”
“Oh I remember lots of things about the meadow; how to get out there, that one tree that we laid under the first time we made-”
“Ok! That’s enough. I get it!”
He started laughing and she was so thankful that her phone rang at that point. She saw it was Kate and picked up.
“Hey Kate, how did the party go?”
“Well like any other five year olds party, very loud and full of sugar and princesses.”
“Sounds about right! Is everything ok?”
“Oh yes, Gracie and Emma want to know if Gracie can spend the night here tonight?”
“Yes, that’s fine. I will owe you and Joey a night out. Just remind her that we have our ride tomorrow and I will pick her up about 10:40.”
“Oh she reminded me of that already, but I will have Joey drop her off on his way to the gym. Don’t worry about it. Don’t mess with clothes either. I will just have her wear some of Emma’s.”
“Ok, I hope you have fun tonight. Tell her I love her.”
“I will...So Gracie told me about a new friend she made at the grocery store…She told me about your little greeting to him, which I would have paid money to see. But, when did he get back into town?”
“Oh a few days ago. It was rather good, if I do say so myself!”
“Oh he is there isn’t he?!”
“Just keep your clothes on this time! See you later!” and she hung up before Sammy could say another word.
She loved that woman, after knowing her for almost 20 years, but she could be so damn annoying! Right a lot of the time, but annoying.