Where My Heart Belongs

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A new Hope

: A new Hope:

The strong smell of coffee filled the kitchen and slowly engulfed every corner of the house. Awoken by the promising smell Jeannie dragged herself down the steps. Her tired eyes were burning and dry from starring at her computer until the early morning hours. She felt awful for it. Getting up this late only meant she had lost out on vital hours to sort the other mess. It had been a while since she had worked through the night drafting on her computer and the terrible internet connection in the house had driven her almost insane. She clearly did not miss this burden in the slightest. What a holiday!
Exhausted Jeannie sipped on her cup. She was still in her dressing gown and hoped that the buzzing in her head would soon subside when her father came through the backdoor.
Happy to see her he filled his own cup and leaned against the counter.
“Saying you looked dreadful would be an understatement. Had a long night?” Tom asked as he took another sip.
Jeannie just nodded her head and drew a deep breath.
“Work. Seems my holiday got cut short a little. Should be done though. Fingers crossed” Jeannie smiled. She was proud with her efforts but her face was too tired to show this.
“At least I can relax now and concentrate on the ranch. Mind if I come out with you today?”
“Sure” Thomas replied in a flash. “I’ll wait outside while you get ready”
Jeannie didn’t mean for an abrupt start but didn’t want to sound rude for Tom was already on his way out. Her head was still buzzing when she got up the table and tumbled towards the bathroom. Surly a cold shower would do wonders.

Within a few minutes Jeannie marched alongside her father up the hill followed by the loyal Fred. Last night’s rain had left a cool breeze and the fresh smell of wet ground which brought the life back into Jeannie’s bones. The sun shone through a blanket of clouds which were chasing slowly along the sky. It promised to heat up again over the weekend which couldn’t have been more in their favour. The least Jeannie wanted to do was to lead visitors through the rain along the track they had chosen. It would be a slippery mud-track and far too dangerous for inexperienced riders. The plan was to ride along Lovers Lane which started at the bottom of the towns’ local park. Lovers Lane was a picturesque dirt track which offered stunning views across the Valley. Once they left the climb behind them and reached the cross road they’d be taking the right fork which would lead them past the ranch. Jeannie’s plan was to brief the volunteers to advertise the ranch to the visitors once they would get past it. She was hopeful that they would get at least some kind of feedback of it. Tom was still sceptical if this would lead to something but was so taken by his daughter’s zealousness that he gladly agreed to the idea.
Half way passed the paddock Jeannie turned around and let her eyes wander along the land.
The path behind them twisted and turned along the fenced fields and Dogwood Trees that were still in full bloom. The touched up white of the fences shone bright and reflected the sun and dancing shadows. Their home was nestled in between the stables and looked so peaceful in the mid-day sun. When her gaze wandered across to the plateau next to her house Jeannie remembered how she and her friends used to camp there during the summer. It was always a big deal amongst them as they were on their own and “so far away” from any parent. When the fond memories of campfire nights flickered in front Jeannie’s eye’s she instinctively formed an idea and turned to her father.
“You know,” she started and continued walking next to her father, “there is so much space down there we easily could get a camping site or something like this set up for tourists during the summer time.”
Thomas had to draw in a deep breath as he looked over to his daughter.
“You sound like your mother.” Tom said thoughtful and drew his attention to the path ahead.
“Did you know that your mum wanted to build a Guest House? Right over there at the south end” for a moment Thomas stopped and pointed in to the direction Jeannie had her inspiration from.
The flat area was ideal for a guest house, Jeannie thought and was intrigued for what her father had to say. She remembered how he had spoken to her mother at the grave but didn’t want to let him know how much she had heard that day. She feared it would be too much an intrusion into his privacy and would hurt his wounded heart unnecessarily.
“Did she?” she sounded convincing enough.
“Yeah, she had this great idea of a guest house. With about a dozen bedrooms. Had this idea to get a breakfast hall in the bottom with views out to the creek. She had it all planned out. Even wanted Carrie to help with breakfasts. As if Carrie didn’t have enough on her plate with the Diner.”
“So why did you never tackle that?” Thomas had to laugh at Jeannie’s childish incitement.
“Well, for one there was the money. Building a house is not done by chopping wood alone, never mind a guest house for up to 20 people! And your grandpa was another problem. I think he would have sent us both to an asylum if we had asked.”
Jeannie’s head was busy spinning her web. There was the perfect opportunity! Why hadn’t she thought about it herself before?!
Thomas noticed how withdrawn Jeannie gotten and nudged her on the shoulder which made her stumble up the path and had to steady herself holding onto the fence.
“Losing your foot again?!” her father teased with a twinkle in his eyes.
“Don’t worry there is no bar door anywhere near here so you should be fine” Tom sniggered. His eyes turned to small slits as he tried to contain himself from laughing. But the thought of how his daughter had encountered Alexander was too bemusing for his old soul.
“Who told you!” she was startled. Who would have told him, but could take a good guess.
Her father spared her with further embarrassing remarks and quietly continued climbing up the hill once he had calmed himself.
After a few more minutes of silence Jeannie continued her thoughts.
“You said mum had it all planned out? Did she make any notes or such?” Jeannie tried to get more information. She remembered about the drawing but had totally forgotten where it was.
Thomas nodded briefly.
“Yes and no. it was only a scribble on a napkin. She was just as excitable about new ideas like her daughter. - Ah, here we are.” Thomas waved along the field to Joseph who had already been busy with repairs.
Jeannie still thought hard about what her father had told her, and suddenly remembered something she had seen when she had been searching through her father’s desk the other day. She had to get back to the house! NOW!
Quickly she excused herself and to her father’s astonishment shot like an arrow down the path.
“Is Missy afraid of getting her hands dirty or just one of these women things?” Joseph proclaimed while he thrust another log into the ground.
“Christ, Joe, I gave up understanding women by the time I got married” Tom laughed. He turned his attention to Joe and left the wondering for another time. Girls!

Breathlessly Jeannie arrived back at the house after running most of the way and rummaged through the drawers in her father’s office. She was certain to have seen it before, but could not remember where. Lorna who had heard the commotion stood with a questioning look across the room.
“What on earth are you doing?” she wanted to know when Jeannie gleefully produced the napkin out of one draw.
“FOUND IT!” Like a treasure trove Jeannie held the old fragile piece up in the air and stormed out the room. She halted to grab Lorna by the shoulders and pressed a big kiss on her cheek.
“I got an idea! I will be back later. Don’t wait for me with dinner. And not a word to daddy!” Jeannie shouted down the hallway as she grabbed her car keys and jumped out the front door.
“I give up” Lorna announced to Fred who was panting next to her as she watched Jeannie zooming down the drive way.

The radio was quietly playing in the he background when Alex sat down to have a cup of soup for his lunch break as he noticed the car stopping in front of the house. He rose from his seat when Jeannie unexpectedly fell through the front door. Excitement was written all over her face as she held up what he could only identify as an old piece of paper.
“I’ve got it Alex” filled with joy her voice stumbled as she gasped for breath.
How adorable she looked, Alex thought and despite his inner conflict wanted to be involved no matter what it was.
“Excuse my question, but why did you come all the way to show me an old napkin?” Alex asked slightly confused.
Quickly Jeannie passed through to his office. Alex followed her tracks with a frown upon his face as she laid the napkin down on his desk.
“That’s a drawing” he righteously pointed out but was left none the wiser.
“My mum did this. She wanted to open a Guest House on the property!”
Still, Alex couldn’t follow.
“That’s it. We need to build that!”
For a moment Alex thought Jeannie had gone insane and laughed until he noticed the stern look on her face.
“Oh, you are not joking” he said and took a seat at his desk. His gaze fixed upon her.
“Yes, I’m dead serious.”
A little discontent Alex rubbed his forehead and scratched his beard. He did not want to sound rude or lecture Jeannie.
“I understand your excitement Jean, but how would this be possible? I don’t want to burst any bubbles but you don’t have the money for this. You’d need investors, a bank loan, and excuse me saying this, but we both know that the bank is a damn right no-go zone at the moment. If you would try talking to them they’d call the Sheriff to escort you off the premises.”
She knew that he was right, but in her mind she had planted the seeds for this and was determined to do whatever it would take to make this a reality. She still had a few savings. Of course she didn’t make herself any illusions. The money she had left was just a drop into the ocean, otherwise her father wouldn’t have to worry any longer. But surely she could somehow get investors aboard. Maybe her idea seemed too farfetched, but it wouldn’t harm anyone trying.
“But”, she husked with a pouting lip “at least we could try? I mean, there’s not much else, is there?”
Alex saw the desperation glowing within her which crushed his rational thinking and blew it right out the window. How could he sit here bursting her hopes, no matter how crazy they seemed. She needed him and that weight more besides, what could possibly go wrong?
“Alright”, he flexed his hands and started up his computer. “Let’s see what we’ve got. Grab a chair, this might take some time. I might be extremely talented but working by napkin sketches is unknown territory to me”. Jokingly he nudged Jeannie with his elbow as she sat down next to him who couldn’t have been more excited.
Hours passed by in seconds and the progress they were making was outstanding. They exchanged ideas and step by step her mothers’ scribble became a reality which filled Jeannie with hope and excitement at the same time. It was impressive to see how Alexander interpreted the vaguest of ideas with ease. His determination was infectious and helped Jeannie to stay focused herself. Every now and then she leaned back in her seat and looked over his shoulder, studying him as he meticulously worked through her instructions. The tilt of his head forced a strain of his dark hair to fall over his eye which he absentmindedly brushed behind his right ear, but it would never stay in place. She also noticed how he would bite the bottom right side of his lip when he sunk deep into thought and could not help her adoration for him to grow fonder. As his unruly hair decide again to brush against his cheek she had to fight the urge to sort it out and caught herself just in the right moment as he turned around to her.
With a satisfied smile on his face Alex pointed towards the screen and presented her with a stunning plan of the Guest House.
“Not bad for a start, don’t you think?” pleased with his work Alex dropped the stylo next to the keyboard, leaned back in his chair and waited patiently for Jeannie’s reaction.
A revelation! Yes, it was just a first draft, but by God, it was amazing! Pleased Jeannie clapped her hands and gave Alex an overwhelming hug.
“That is outstanding Alex! Thank you so much! Who would not queue up to invest in it?!”
Alex’s perplexity made him startle and waited a moment for her to let go of him before he nodded pleased at his work.
“Thank you. But steady your horses. We still have to figure out how to go ahead with this!”
Jeannie couldn’t contain her childish outburst of glee. She made herself no illusions. But where would it leave them to resign and ignore all possibilities? No, she wouldn’t give up the fight and if it meant to knock on each door from the East to West Coast. In front of her was her mothers’ dream. A perfect solution. Only when she’d given up hope it would be over. She knew that much. She had been ready to fight for so long and at this moment in time everything seemed to fall into place.
Alexander might have thought her crazy, her father would maybe even consider giving up the ranch, but Jeannie had just begun. As she looked up she saw right in to Alex’s eyes which were glowing with content and for a fleeting moment she wondered how she could ever live without his smile, his strength and support he so willingly laid down in front of her and made her so fearless and strong.
“I’ll get the rest sorted. Shouldn’t take too long. We have made quite some progress tonight” Alex broke the sudden silence that had grown between them. Jeannie thanked him with a smile before she got to her feet. She had already taken up so much of his time and felt guilty for it. She also needed to leave before her silly mind would make her do something she would later regret.
Alex had to hide his disappointment when she made her way to the door but did not want to sound like a desperate fool asking her to stay. Especially not after Monday night. There was nothing endearing about a desperate man and Alex did not want to jeopardize anything at this moment. After his distant response at the Hall he felt he had been awfully unfair towards Jeannie and feared that he had driven her away. So it was no wonder how surprised he had been when she so carefree had walked through his door.
Just as he thought that things were starting to look up Jeannie’s cell phone rang. As she produced it out of her back pocket Alex was able to see Bradley’s name flashing up on the large screen and without warning was hit again by this dreadful stabbing pain that kept him from sleeping.
Jeannie apologized with blushed cheeks and a gesture to proclaim that she had to answer the call. All Alex could do was to see her off. When she stepped into the car he saw her excitedly speaking to Brad. Alex could not know that it was purely business they were talking for Jeannie had already closed the car door behind her. He was only left to second guessing and for the sturdiest of minds this was proven to be fatal. Jealousy fed the most innocent of actions with menacing illusions and spiralled them into dark thoughts and despair.
After she had driven off into the dark, Alex switched on the TV and poured himself a huge glass of whiskey. He truly needed a break!

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