Where My Heart Belongs

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Together with two helping hands, Thomas tackled the water pump during the morning hours. The hard work helped a treat to forget about last night.
Sheltered, Jeannie sat in the shade of the old oak tree as she tried to write a business plan. It had been years since she had done that. Once, she had taken a course at University but she feared that her notes were obsolete. If only her brother had been on their side, he could have drafted that in his sleep. While her thoughts drifted off to her brother the shifting look on his face was burning in her heart. After Thomas had finished his stern speech there was something in his eyes that Jeannie could only describe as remorse and desperately hoped that she was right. That it finally gotten through to him and shook him hard.
Stop wandering off, Jeannie told herself as she tried to concentrate on these figures again. Yes, she hated this type of work, the reason why she didn’t do this for a living. But there was no reason to moan. She could do it. She only had to tell herself often enough to sound convinced.
“Jeannie!” Lorna shouted suddenly.
Confusion spread on Jeannie’s face.
“Bradley is on the phone. He said it’s urgent and…wait what was that…needs to talk to you prontassimi?”
Jeannie had to chuckle and paced inside.
“Prontissimo. He likes his Italian” she still chuckled as she patted Lorna on the shoulder.
“My Lord, what did you see in this wacko? I really don’t like him.” Lorna replied in passing.
Jeannie took the line in the office and closed the door behind her.
“Ciao Bella! How are things over there? Heard you had a bit of a commotion going on?” Bradley burst through the line.
Jeannie could hear by the background noise that he must have been in his office and could imagine how he casually had put his feet on his desk as he so often had done in the past.
“We are just fine. Why, what do you know?”
“Let’s say I have my informants. My irresistible charm you see.”
Jeannie just left it by that. She was too eager to know what news his call would bring.
“I see. So, why are you calling? Do you have any news? Please tell me, I really could do with some sort of good vibes today.”
“To spare you any further dispense, my friend was very keen to hear about your little place and talked to her boss yesterday.” He paused.
“Come on Bradley, don’t prolong my suffering” Jeannie said restless.
“Well,” he drew a suspending breath “they would like to talk to you and the old man. I explained how pressing things are with time and such and first were a little apprehensive, but guess what.”
Jeannie rolled her eyes.
“I don’t know! Stop teasing me!” replied Jeannie
“You’ll never believe this. Turns out that Solitaire Capita and Blue Star Corp are huge rivals. That runs in your favour sweetheart. They of course have their reservations and we cannot expect any wonders but they agreed to see you! Have you got the business plan done?”
“WHAT?!” Jeannie shouted down the line
“Brad that is fantastic! I cannot thank you enough! You are outstanding!”
“Steady your horses Missy. You have to see them first. Then you can thank me” he replied jokingly.
Jeannie composed herself and continued,
“Fine. The plan needs a little tweak but should be done shortly. When do they want to meet, and where?”
“Tomorrow, 3pm here in Manhattan.”
Jeannie’s face turned white as a sheet.
“You got to be kidding me!” Jeannie slummed on her chair. Her mind was empty with her heart racing wild in her chest which made it hard to breath.
“Are you still there?”
“Yes” Jeannie mumbled. How she was supposed to get to New York within 24 hours?
“I checked flights for you and your dad. I sort of figured that this might be a little tight to organise. Your flight is at 5 tonight. You can get to Lexington within four hours can’t you? The tickets are held for you at the desk.”
Jeannie’s head was spinning. After she had talked about the last formalities with Brad she ran through the house like a wild horse. Rummaging through her fathers’ closet, she packed what he needed, including the only suit he had ever owned and made her way across to the field. Why was it such a long way?
They met half way as he had just finished with the repairs. He was completely covered in dirt and was in desperate need of a bath. How he looked forward to this and a well-deserved rest. Feet up, beer in one hand and company. Bliss, that was all he needed tonight.
When he saw Jeannie running towards him he startled.
“Dad!” she shouted at the top of her voice.
“You need to come. We have to go” she grabbed him by the hand and tried to get him to run as well.
“What is going on? Is the house on fire?” he wasn’t joking. Adrenalin was pumping through his veins as he feared the worst.
“No, all is fine. We need to get ourselves to the airport”
Abruptly, he stopped. “What are you talking about?”
“Bradley, he found a possible investor! Come on we have no time! We need to get to New York.” Tom couldn’t hide his confusion but followed his daughter into the house and
Thomas stopped in the middle of the kitchen.
“Jeannie, are you sure I have to come as well? You know what to do. I don’t have to be there, do I?” Thomas asked uncomfortably.
He never really liked the hustle of the city. Even Lexington imposed a certain kind of anxiety in him if it was a busy Saturday. Besides, he had no idea what was expected of him. He felt strangely put on the spot and shied away from the thought of having to talk to another pair of vultures.
Jeannie did not stop picking up bits and pieces and bagged them while she was trying to reassure her father.
“Come dad,” she replied enthusiastically. “This is our chance! And of course, I need you at my side! You know the ranch better than any of us will ever do. They want to have a chat and see who we are and such. Nothing to worry about.”
“You say that. I am not used to talk to people like that.”
A worried expression spread across his face.
“Dad” Jeannie said softly and took his hands in hers.
“See these hands? You have built our life around here with them. You are the reason that I am who I am. You are stronger than you would ever acknowledge. I know that I am kind of used to board rooms, but this is new to me as well. I could never do this without you by my side. I need your strength. Please. All you need to do is be yourself.”
Thomas gazed bashful down before he address his daughter.
“You damn well are just like your mother you do know that, right?”
“I take that as a yes then.” Jeannie gave her father a quick hug.
“Only one problem. How do we get to Lexington? Joe is getting your car fixed and Lorna needs the truck.”

“Well, stay safe!” Alexander shook Thomas’ hand at the airport gate. While Tom picked up his bag and readjusted his jacket, Alex turned shyly towards Jeannie. They both were insecure how to act in front of Tom who noticed the tension and withdrew himself from the situation to give them some space.
“You got all you need?” Alex asked.
“I think so. Thank you again for your help.”
“Ah, that’s nothing” Alex waved “I, well, think you better get yourself in there now.” He swaggered his arms as he spoke and suddenly pulled her in for a hug.
“Blow them away” he whispered in her ear still holding on to her.
“I’ll do my best. See you tomorrow night” she whispered back and pressed a fleeting kiss on his cheek before she walked across to her father.
They briskly made their way across to the terminal when Thomas piped up
“That was painful” he pressed.
Jeannie startled
“I beg your pardon, Sir?”
“You two, I mean, you are treading around each other like you’re back in kindergarten!” Thomas joked. He liked the thought of his best friend and his daughter getting closer.
He had seen what had happened between them at the party but kept quiet ever since as neither of them had mentioned anything yet.
“Dad! This is so none of your business!” Jeannie protested back with glee as they prepared to board the small airplane.

Thanks to some tail winds the plane arrived almost 20 minutes before its scheduled time. The City did not disappoint as the plane circled around the Hudson aiming for JFK. The glistening lights beneath them looked as if the stars had decided to blanket the land with their spark.
Thomas couldn’t take his eyes away from the spectacle below and started to understand Jeannie’s fascination for New York. He had never experienced it from this point of few and wished his wife could share this with him.
But before he knew it, he was pushed out the plane and followed the track down to the luggage claim. Hastily he looked around when he saw Jeannie walking next to him as she checked her phone. Unlike Tom, she was relaxed amongst these masses of people and careered with ease around them. For what felt like an eternity they waited for their luggage with hundreds of other people. Most of them were impatiently pacing up and down checking if the conveyer belt finally would spit their bags out while others were glued to their phones. Even couples were more interested in their devices than rather talking to each other. Thomas started to feel at unease and already missed his home when Jeannie steered him through the maze. He would have been lost without her.
Once outside, Tom drew in a deep breath. The air was still hot and sticky and a wave of tiredness clashed over him. Soon, they called a cab and after about a twenty minute drive were dropped off at a huge apartment block.
Thomas’ gaze wandered up the building in awe. He couldn’t even see the roof!
A man opened the entrance for them and greeted Jeannie with a smile as he busily rushed past them with a push bike under his arms.
“Miss Leeland, nice to see you home” said the man with a foreign dialect.
Thomas followed his daughter through the glass door.
“What’s the deal with him?” Tom asked bewildered.
“That’s Robert, he is on the same floor as I am. He usually goes to work around this time. That was lucky. He is from South Africa.”
Not before long Jeannie switched on the light which exposed her apartment. It was spacious enough for a single person, furnished with only a few things, her desk being the one object that stood out the most. It took her a while to recognize this place as her own. It felt even more alien than she would have anticipated. Tired she walked along to the kitchen counter and boiled water. She needed a hot drink. Her father stood a little lost in the middle of the room with his bag still in his hand and observed her apartment thoroughly.
It felt strange that he had never visited her before here and could not see any of his daughters’ personality within. Where was all the colour and nick nags she loved so much? The apartment was kept in greys whites which Tom couldn’t warm up to it. If she liked it, okay, but to him, a home needed a little more than grey furniture and sterile white walls. It was almost like one of these arranged magazine pictures but not a home.
“The bathroom is to your right dad.” Thomas bobbed his head carefully arranged his bag in a corner and freshened up. He immediately noticed the missing window in the bathroom and sighed.
“Want the tour?” Jeannie beamed and was excited to show her father around. She had wanted him around for such a long time and felt a little embarrassed that she hadn’t insisted for him to come earlier. When she pointed out the guest room, that years ago she had especially arranged for her parents, Tom felt relieved that at least he had one place to feel a bit more at home. He really needed some rest soon. His legs were aching and he was hungry. As he stepped in to the little room he straight away noticed the quilt Jillian had made for her. On the opposite wall to the bed stood a dresser neatly propped against it with family pictures arranged on them. Tom’s heart warmed up and felt awful that he had only pointed out the negative aspects of Jeannie’s home of choice. To his exhausted delight there was not much else to see but the view she had from her window. It was amazing as he proclaimed to Jeannie, but kept his thoughts to himself. He wasn’t particularly keen on staring towards illuminated concrete. Sure, somehow it was nice for a moment, yes. But Tom could not imagine having to stare at buildings all day long. In the distance he saw the only green spot breaking through beneath the skyscrapers which he assumed to be Central Park. Years ago Jeannie had mentioned that she had a great view towards it. If that was a great view he hated to see a place with restricted view. How could she have ever given up Springwood Falls for this?
Seeing these prospects he was more determined than ever to make tomorrow count and get Jeannie out here.
He still hadn’t talked with her about this but after all that had happened to them he hoped dearly that she would consider his proposal. But he wanted to wait. He needed to know for certain what happened next. Otherwise Jeannie would only feel obliged to look after him should all go down the drain.
“Nice” Tom lied, trying to sound convincing enough. He did not want to hurt her feelings.
“It is spectacular. If you imagine how much labour went into building this city. I wonder how the water systems work?” Tom couldn’t help it. With a raised eyebrow, Jeannie leaned against the window frame.
“You seriously tell me that you look out the window and the only thing you can come up with is a plumbing remark?”
Tom shrugged his shoulders and pulled a face.
“I don’t know. It’s a relevant question.”
Jeannie rubbed his shoulder and made them some tea when they both startled by the loud knock on the door.
Jeannie rushed over. Bradley exposed his teeth when Jeannie opened the door and welcomed them loudly.
“Welcome back sweetheart and welcome, Sir Leeland of the mountain!” Bradley bowed theatrical in front of Tom. He couldn’t stand his over the top behaviour but had to bite his tongue. He knew that he was indebted to his efforts.
“I came to escort you to The Green. I booked a late table. You both haven’t eaten?”
Tom would have been happier to stay but did not want to be impolite.

The restaurant was still buzzing with people. One of the best kept secrets of the City, Bradley had pulled a few strings, as he explained to treat them both before the big day.
Samantha had already been waiting for them for quite some time and was already on her second glass of wine when they arrived.
White table clothes and too much cutlery, as Tom remarked, were neatly placed in accurate spaces.
Tom felt alien in this place with his denim shirt amongst suits and ties but noticed how Jeannie behaved as if it were the most casual place on this planet. His tiredness was getting at him and hoped that this evening wouldn’t take too long. He wanted a shower, a comfy seat and most of all he wanted to sleep. He had been up since the early morning hours and it was already his bed time.
“Is this your first time in the City Tom?” Samantha asked. She had tried for a while to get a word in between Brad and Jeannie who enthusiastically discussed work and had noticed Tom’s wandering gaze.
“I spent a few hours here in the past. Yes, but never stayed.” Tom answered shortly. He took another sip of his beer and observed the fancy glass. Why make it look like a wine glass and only be able to serve half the amount?
“You must be missing the peace and quiet of your home” Samantha said with a smile.
“Well, it truly is not quiet here.” Tom tried to fake a smile. Jeannie had been busy talking with Bradley the whole night. Most of the things they said were gibberish to Tom so he concentrated on his steak. He had to admit that this steak must have been the most delicious piece of meat he had ever had. At least his tummy was satisfied.
It was past midnight when he finally was allowed to rest his feet and plummeted on the sofa. His legs felt like stone and he couldn’t remember when he last felt that tired. The buzzing in his head had turned in to a full blown headache and all he wanted was to have a good night rest.
“I’m sorry dad” Jeannie yawned and rubbed her eyes.
“You must be absolutely shattered.”
Closely, she nestled in to her dad’s shoulder and was overwhelmed by another big yawn.
“The bedroom is too far away” Thomas complaint. With an aching back he pushed himself of the soft sofa and gave Jeannie a helping hand. She as well was aching all over.
“I’m getting to old for this dad.” Gently, she kissed him good night.
“Eggs for breakfast?”
Tom turned and gave an approving nod. “Sounds great pumpkin”
With a sigh of relieve he closed the door behind him and fell on to the bed. But to his distress he couldn’t get to sleep for another good hour. The strange noises that lingered in the air stopped him from sleeping. Sirens, air conditions, a constant buzz hummed, bleeped or buzzed around the place.
Restless he turned from side to side and thought of his bed back home. The quiet. The patter of the creek.
Just when he was dozing off he could hear Jeannie pondering around in the living room.

The smell of coffee had woken his senses when Tom climbed out the shower and quickly got ready. The miniature bathroom made him claustrophobic and he was glad when he got out.
“Not even a window” Tom mumbled unheard by Jeannie as he went to the kitchen counter.
Cheerful, she turned around to him and handed him a big cup.
“Eggs are almost done”
She looked different today Tom thought when he noticed the curlers in her hair and a layer of make up on her face.
Eating their breakfast, Tom studied the newspaper while Jeannie was going over the business plan again.
“So,” Tom looked over his reading glasses, “how does that actually work. What do I have to say?”
Jeannie had just taken a bite of her avocado bread. Quickly she tried to swallow and pulled a face.
“Well, it would be helpful if you could remember the main figures. The net profit, tax return etc. But it is fine, I can do most of the talking about this. Just be yourself and answer their questions. If you feel stuck just try to prolong the answer and I can jump in. That’s how Bradley and I would go along with situations like this if we were stuck. Quite a good trick.”
Tom inclined his head.
“Well, I think I can manage that. Give me those papers. Be prepared for questions though. Trying to teach an old dog new tricks is never without trouble!” Tom sniggered as he adjusted his reading glasses.

Tie straight, check.
Shirt neat, check.
Shoes, - oh damn where were his shoes? Frantically, Tom looked everywhere for his black boots when he found them polished next to the dresser. Relieve. He slipped them on and stepped into the living room where Jeannie was already waiting for him.
Tom was baffled when he saw her standing there. She was dressed in a silky two piece taupe coloured costume with matching heels, which he did not notice. Her hair was carefully arranged.
She looked like a complete different person.
“Now look at my little girl. All grown up to swim with the big fish” Tom complimented her.
“Thank you. You look smart dad.” Jeannie smiled as she readjusted Tom’s tie a little.
“Don’t get used to this” Tom joked “I didn’t even remember that I had this in my closet!”
They both had to laugh at each other.
“You know that I really feel awkward?” Jeannie sniggered.
“A week and a half on the ranch and I can’t walk in them any longer. Go figure!” She pointed at her heels.
“Well,” Tom held out his arm, “let me be of your assistance. You ready, kiddo?”
“All my life!” she said in fighting spirt as they left.
Bradley had kindly sent for a car to pick them up. Slowly the limousine made its way through the congested streets of New York. Everything looked so much alike and Tom observed from behind his window how hurriedly everyone seemed to go from one place to the next. He didn’t blame them for the head phones though. What else could they hear?
As they passed Central Park his heart lit up for a little. The huge trees stood in stark contrast to the concrete of the city but gave him this little bit of home he needed. On the park roads he spotted the mounted police trotting along and many runners and bikers having fun. He felt so homesick and could not wait to put his foot onto home soil again.
After a further ten minutes, the car stopped afoot a magnificent architectural gem. As they walked through the revolving doors Tom felt overwhelmed by the vastness of the entrance hall. The ceiling was so high up it made him dizzy to look up.
Jeannie walked across to the main reception to check which floor they had to be at and lead Tom across to the elevators.
The ride up was smoother and faster than he’d expected. When the elevator softly came to a halt and the doors opened, a long corridor led them down to an even bigger reception room.
“I feel like walking on the Enterprise” Tom remarked, who was getting a little nervous.
Jeannie squeezed his hand before she opened the door to the reception room.
“Here we go, Captain” she quipped and stepped in.
The young man behind the desk greeted them cheerful and asked them to wait for Mr Stark and Ms Chambers.
Minutes felt like hours and Toms hands started to sweat. He rubbed them for a moment against his trousers before grabbing a business magazine and mindlessly flicked through it.
How did Jeannie manage to stay so calm, Tom thought and tried to follow her example when a strict looking woman appeared form one of the offices. Her thin figure almost disappeared against the furnishings.
“Mr and Miss Leeland? They are waiting for you. If you would like to follow me” she acted so fast that Tom could not even great her. He just followed Jeannie’s lead who without uttering a word got up on her heals and confidently strode into the board room.
This was it, Tom thought. The next few minutes could mean live or die. He could feel his throat getting dry when the doors were shut behind them.
At a huge oddly shaped table an older man and a woman sat prominently and looked at them when they entered. They got up and greeted Jeannie with a handshake before they greeted him. Suddenly Tom was dizzy. Not only because of the daunting situation, but more so because of the window. The entire south wall had been made of tinted glass that was hovering 20 stories above the city. It took a bit adjusting to look outside but this was something else! He hardly could take his gaze of the view and for the first time was able to understand his daughters’ obsession with this city.

After unexpected small talk about the weather and their travel Ms Chambers started to ask question.
“So, tell us a little about yourself and your business idea. What do you want to achieve and what kind of cliental do you have in mind?”
Tom would have been lost without Jeannie. She had prepared everything so well, the answers just gushed out of her as if it was second nature to her.
“… as explained before, our main targets are young families with children who would profit from a country environment. The close contact with horses and the responsibilities the children would experience are only beneficial for their social skills and overall mental development…” Tom listened carefully and occasionally agreed with his daughter.
He already thought to get of lightly when Mr Stark raised his voice.
“Thomas, I understand that you are in charge. That must be quite some stressful task.” He joked and Tom agreed with a nervous laugh.
“Please excuse my bluntness, but I assume we are both of the same age. I personally cannot wait to hand over my keys to my successor and lead a life of leisure, playing golf and travelling.” He looked at his partner who laughed
“Oh, please, he is talking retirement again! For four years he put our hopes up high and promised to hang up his coat and we are still waiting” Jeannie put on a fake laugh. She was really good in acting, Tom thought.
“Getting back to my original question, Tom, I have to be honest. Should we invest we would have to put a substantial amount of time, effort and money to get you on the map. That alone is not easy. It will be a tough time. We need to know what actions you have taken in regards to this. Do you have someone in mind who would take over?”
There was the question of questions. Yes, he had someone on his mind but had no idea how to address this when he suddenly he heard Jeannie clearing her throat.
“Mr Stark, if I may.” She waited for a reassuring bob of his head.
“Please, go ahead” he replied
“I haven’t addressed this as much as I should have. I have decided to help my father building up the business and once it is time, I will take over. This ranch means the world to me. It has always belonged to my family and I sure won’t allow anything to change that.”
Absolution! Tom wanted to jump to his knees and burst into a cheer. Praised be the Lord! She couldn’t have stirred a deeper more honest reaction in Tom if she had tried and it was hard for him to keep his poker face.
“Is that so?” Ms Chambers glared at her. “But, as I understand, you are working together with Mr Hoffman? He never mentioned your resignation.”
Jeannie took a deep breath.
“He couldn’t as I just handed in my resignation this morning.”
“That is a very bold move Miss Leeland. What if we decide against your proposal?” Stark asked with honest interest.
“Well, should that happen then I am at least where I belong. My family weighs so much more than my ties here. A job and an apartment with a view are replaceable. My family aren’t and I know that, even it is not working out as we hoped for, I am where I am needed and wanted. I made it here, I can make it anywhere – remember?” as soon as Jeannie had made the Frank Sinatra remark she wanted to kick herself. What on earth had her made to bubble out these silly words?! Please, where is the next hole to jump in?! But she had to remain her strong and determined voice.
“Tom, is there anything you would like to add?” Ms Chambers asked wide eyed. Clearly she must have thought Jeannie gotten mad.
Moved by Jeannie’s little speech, Tom tried to do her justice.
“All I can say is that I am more than thankful that you took our request in to consideration. I am not a business man, I will tell you so much. Otherwise I would not have ended up in this mess. But I know one thing, and that is that my daughter is a fighter. She is smart and knows her stuff. You have heard that over the past hour. No matter what life throws at her, no matter if she falls or stumbles, she always finds her balance. You couldn’t find a better partner to ride along, I can tell you that. Should you agree you would gain a worthy partner and a family home. And it would be a pleasure if we could share the beauty and tranquillity of it with others.”
Tom had said what he had to say.
He knew that it was now up to them to decide.
They said their goodbyes, Stark and Chambers promised to get in touch as soon as they possibly could and thanked them again for their time.
It was already time for them to consider travelling back when Jeannie checked her cell phone.
They waited for their ride outside the building when Tom finally was able to show Jeannie what her confession had meant to him.
Tightly, Tom embraced his daughter and didn’t want to let go of her. As they rocked on top of the steps, New York didn’t seem so gloomy any more. He had his daughter back. That was all that mattered! Moved, he looked up to the sky and lipped a thank you up towards his angel while he still held on tight to his daughter. He knew that she was looking down on them now.

Tom drew a deep breath through his nose when they stepped outside the airport and halted for a moment.
“Do you hear that?” he asked Jeannie.
“No, what is it?”
“Exactly, Jeannie. Nothing” he poked Jean in the side and pointed towards the door. Words could not describe how light he felt.
As they moved closer towards to door, Tom noticed a familiar face staring back at them, but it was not Alexander.
Tom stopped in his tracks and made Jeannie bump into his back.
“What is it?” Jeannie wondered when she followed her fathers’ stare and saw her brother standing at the exit.
“What in the name of the Lord?” she uttered as she followed her fathers’ slow stride.
Joshua nervously raised his hand as they neared in. A hundred questions shot through Tom’s head and for a split second he even wanted to shout at him but when he stood in front of his eldest son he could see his broken, guilt-ridden complexion.
“Dad, I’m …” Josh’s voice broke off. At the drop of his hat Tom let go of his bag and welcomed his son with open arms. He did not have to listen to his apology, his presence was all that was needed.
When they finally let go of each other both treaded on the spot not knowing what to say. Tom picked up his bag again and with a motion of his head indicated to go ahead to the car.
Josh, who was still motionless standing in front of his sister took Jeannie’s luggage and started the short walk across the car park.
Wondering how he knew about their whereabouts Jeannie addressed her brother,
“How did you know?”
Josh looked over his shoulder
“The… Alex. I met him in town today.”
Jeannie’s bewilderment shone bright on her face as Josh continued.
“Don’t worry, it was all very civil. He is a decent guy. I wish I’d seen that earlier.”
“What happened?” Jeannie looked ahead to her father who was looking out for his son’s car.
Josh hesitated for a moment before he answered.
“I was looking for dad this morning and Lorna said that you went to New York. Slammed the door right into my face. Guess, I deserved that. So, I went back down town when I saw Alex coming out Carrie’s.
I apologized for the other night and he invited me to a coffee. We sat there for almost an hour. It was he who suggested picking you all up. I’m glad he did.”
They had reached Joshua’s car and loaded the bags in to the boot.
Jeannie was curious and wanted to know more but understood that her brother had told her what he had been willing to share and it was already more than she could have expected. She took a seat in the back. As the car rolled down the country lane Jeannie gazed up into the starry night. The radio was playing while they all sat in silence.
Jeannie was so tired but at the same time hyper from all the happenings of the past 24 hours. She was bursting with excitement and could not wait to talk to Alexander the next day. She needed to see him, longed for him so desperately and finally felt that she was allowed to feel that way without any guilt or second guessing.
When they headed up the drive way, Jeannie noticed the lights that were waiting for them in the dark.
Everything about her ached when she managed to peal herself of the car seat and wanted nothing more than her bed. Joshua helped unloading the car and stepped up the front porch when Thomas turned around to him.
“Do you have time for a drink?” a glimmer of hope spreading across his face.
“I’m glad you asked” Josh replied with relieve.
Suddenly the front door opened and Lorna’s face poked out to the front porch. She had heard the car and was now standing confused in front of Joshua.
“Well if that isn’t the lost son.” Her voice trembled a little but was quickly pulled away from the door by Joe.
“Come, let them in!” he demanded.
“We head over now and talk tomorrow Tom.” Joe said firmly. He knew that they didn’t need an audience.
Lorna wanted to protest but gave in to her husband and wandered off.
“Let me at least give the stupid boy a hug!” Lorna sniffed in to a handkerchief.
“Don’t be an old foolish woman! You’ll get the time”
Joe gently pushed his wife along to the house at the bottom of the drive and was equally thankful that Joshua reached out to his father! Someone WAS watching over them all. That must have been a sign.
Tom lead the way to the kitchen while Jeannie tumbled upstairs to leave them both alone. She was too tired and needed her bed.
Never before had she been so delighted to see her little sanctuary. It was strange to think that just 10 years ago she wanted nothing more than to get away from these 4 walls and now she saw herself gleefully staring at her old dresser.
Her cell was blinking in the dark. As she checked her notifications she saw that Bradley had sent her a message. “ARE YOU INSANE…”
She smiled down at the message and simply switched it off.
“No, I’m home” she mumbled into the darkness and climbed into her bed. She could call him in the morning.
By the time Jeannie was walking upstairs Tom had picked up cold drinks from the fridge and handed one to his son.
As it was still mild outside, they both trotted to the back yard and sat down under the old tree. Stars were glimmering through the branches that were gently swaying in a soft breeze and watched the two men.
“Cheers” Tom toasted.
Josh took a swig and leaned forward rested his arms on his legs and took good look around. The playground of his childhood hadn’t changed a single bit and somewhat looked not as gloomy any longer.
Unsure of how to start the conversation, he took another sip and drew in some air.
Reassuringly, Tom put a hand on his sons shoulder and firmly squeezed it a few times.
“Nice of you that you’d stayed.” Tom said in his quiet voice he hadn’t fashioned for a long time around his son.
“It is a great night.” He pointed at the stars “Your mum would have loved this.”
Josh nodded “She sure would. She was always out sitting over there with her blanket and a hot drink, no matter how cold it was.”
Thomas fell into one of his happiest memories as he looked over to Jillian’s chair and could see her all wrapped up in her cardigan and a blanket, a cup of tea in her hand and smiling back at them.
“She was one of a kind” Tom reminisced further as her silhouette slowly faded in the darkness.
“I am so sorry dad.” Overcome with emotion Joshua tried to keep a steady voice.
“I royally screwed up.” He stopped and thought of his conversation he had with Alexander.
“I did not know what I was doing. Everything was just a bit…”
“Too much?” Tom concluded.
“Yes, you can say so. The job. My responsibilities. Seeing how you wouldn’t take advice. I should have talked to you much earlier. Instead I withdrew more and more.”
“But that is not all is it? Josh, I know how hard it must have been for you loosing mum, too. I miss her every day so terribly. It broke my heart when you turned your back on the ranch, but I never gave up hope. You have your own family to worry about. All I was hoping for was, comfort.” Tom had troubles admitting this but he was glad that it was out in the open.
Josh nodded his head and took another sip.
“I did not know how to act around you. And when I tried there was always Alexander that you confided in.
I guess, I was jealous that you felt closer to him than to your own son.” Joshua stared down on the ground. He couldn’t look his father in the eye.
In disbelieve Tom turned around.
“Why would you ever think that? Alex is a very good friend but you are my son!” Tom pressed.
With a gesture of his hand, Joshua continued
“I know that now, pops. I feel like a God damn fool.
All those times I worked myself up about it. It is unreal. Then, on top of it all, Jeannie waltzes back to the house as if nothing had happened, welcomed with open arms. I guess, my anger blinded me so much that I couldn’t see how much damage I actually caused. But I put that right.”
Tom listened carefully and waited for Josh to continue.
“I first of all apologized to Alex for the weekend and I told my boss that I am not dealing with this case any longer. I can’t let this happen to you.”
“Hallelujah!” Tom lifted his hands to the sky.
“He wasn’t best please I can tell you that.” Josh took the last sip of his beer and put the bottle down.
“Will you be alright?” Tom sounded concerned.
Joshua shrugged his shoulders.
“No clue. Say it that way, we exchanged rather stern words. Anyway, what is all this about you and Jeannie doing business together?”
Tom walked back to the kitchen to fetch two more bottles before he explained the idea Jeannie had come up with. Josh listened with great care to his old man and could hardly believe how his sister had poured her everything into this venture.
“I tell you what, but I think this could actually work.”
Tom couldn’t believe his ears.
“Have you just admitted that your little sister done something right?” Tom joked as he nudged his son.
“Stranger things have happened” he replied shortly.
“Tell you what, if that takes off you’ll need an accountant and I know just the guy.”
“Is that so?” Tom nodded.
Both of them had to snigger and continued talking ’til the early morning hours.

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