Friday came on went with no news from the City and Thomas started to feel deflated. It was hard to keep the faith when so much was at stake.
He kept busy on the ranch and went on his usual business. Some of the new kids had started their first lessons and he had his hands full with the youngsters which pleased him.
He loved seeing the kids so excited and eager to learn new skills. Their cheerful faces made him almost forget about his sorrows.
On Saturday they packed up the truck with drinks and Lorna’s famous potato salad and drove down to Joshua’s house.
As they parked up the car in the drive way all Leeland grand children were chasing around the grass and announced their grandfather and auntie’s arrival with joyful screams.
Darleen straight away jumped into his arms and hugged him tight.
They walked through the garden gate and said their hellos to everyone. Suzy and Martin were already sitting under the canape having a drink with Alice.
Alice had decorated the garden with garlands the kids had prepared especially for this joyous occasion the day before and a string of lights was put up along the fence and the trees.
Joshua had already fired up the grill which was smoking in the corner. Jeannie couldn’t think of the last time they all had sat together as cheerful like that as she popped the basket onto the picnic table that served as a buffet.
If only her mother would have been there to witness it. The Leelands, all together having a great old time.
The drinks were frequently topped up. Jeannie was sipping on an ice cold Jack and coke amidst Alice and Suzy while the men were busy around the BBQ, exchanging tips how to make the perfect burger.
“Man, what a week that has been!” Alice announced as she willingly let the sun beat down on her.
“You are not kidding!” Suzy agreed. “I’m glad that things seem to settle a little. By the way,” Suzy pulled a funny face as she looked first at Alice and then at Jeannie.
“We had no time to talk about this yet as Josh went crazy,” she grabbed Alice’s attention instantly, “but what in the name of the Lord was that with you and Alexander last weekend?”
Alice imitated a swaying movement with her arms as she laughed at Jeannie.
“Come on, spill the beans!” both demanded eagerly.
Jeannie could feel her cheeks blush and bashful took a far too ambitious sip of her Jack ‘n’ Coke and almost choked.
“What about it” she said unwittingly.
“Oh, stop it sis!” Alice protested
“There was definitely LUVE in the room”
“I haven’t seen him for a while,” Susan threw out in the open.
“Oh, he’s just away on business for a few days.” Jeannie noticed how quickly she had replied and was already regretting it as both her sister and Alice leaned in closer.
“Aw, how interesting” Alice mocked her lovingly
“Well, we are good” Jeannie blushed even more and thought about the day they kissed and not only missed the feeling of his lips.
“Ah, she is thinking of him” Suzy mocked her even more and pulled her sister in. She was already a little tipsy and pressed Jeannie a big fat kiss on her face.
“I’m so happy for you. I like Alex. He’s such a handsome man” she said putting a finger to her lips and nodded towards the men.
“I agree” Alice concluded. “There’s just something about him. You two make a great couple”
Jeannie just kept sipping on her drink. She did not want to encourage them any further.
“Uh, Alice, can you imagine their babies. His green eyes and Jeannie’s smile!”
“Oh please, can you stop it!” Jeannie bagged them and got of her seat.
With big strides Jeannie marched over to her dad while Alice and Suzy broke out in to loud laughter. She was not offended but also did not want to think too much about the future. Their future. If there was one. She wanted to take one step at a time and not make plans for their retirement already.
“Ah here she comes!” Tom exclaimed. He was equally as tipsy as his older daughter and pulled Jeannie in.
After a while they all sat down at the big garden table. The smell of the promising delights made Jeannie realize how hungry she was.
But before they started, Josh signalled to them all to join hands.
“If I may” Josh looked for his father’s approval.
With bowed down heads the small congregation sat peacefully at the table and joined in to Joshua’s prayer.
It was already dark. Her sisters’ family had called it a night when Jeannie and her brother sat watching the flickering flames of the camp fire her brother had lit.
Tom was inside telling Darleen and Parker a good night story.
It was the first time the two of them were on their own ever since Jeannie had arrived in Town.
“Thank you for the day. I truly enjoyed it” Jeannie started the conversation off.
“’twas my pleasure sis. Been a while since we were able to do that.”
“You’re not kidding!” Jeannie agreed.
“I’m sorry Jean. I was a grumpy bastard. Think things just got the better of me.”
Jeannie picked up a drink and tilted her head to the side.
“Glad you said it” she replied. “But, hey, that’s in the past. Let’s leave it like that”
Jeannie lifted her glass to toast.
“Cheers Jeannie. That means a lot.” He gazed into the flames deep in thought.
“You know, there’s just. Why did you not come to see us last Christmas? I’m sorry to bring this up yet again. I just try to understand.”
Jeannie swallowed her pride. For a moment she considered to avoid the answer but after all, Josh had started his path of remorse why shouldn’t she.
With a deep breath she took another swig of her whiskey.
“I couldn’t stand the thought of seeing you all. Sitting around the fire, the Christmas tree in the corner next to the sofa while we all pretend happy family? No, I couldn’t. On top of it all had my “boyfriend” confessed to have been seeing someone else. He told me then that if I’d leave, he would see it as confession that I’d leave him for good. I was so damn stupid. I was so angry with myself that I just didn’t give him the boot. That I allowed him to treat me like some pair of old boots. I was afraid you’d find out and be disappointed with me.
But most of all, I could not imagine Christmas without mum. I really struggled with her passing. And I still do. I haven’t told anyone but I had to see a doctor about it. I was on medication for a while and seriously thought you’d all hate me and wouldn’t want me around” Jeannie paused for a moment.
“But, ever since I came back home, I feel so much closer to her. More at peace with it all. I needed time to breath. If that makes sense to you.”
Jeannie waited for her brothers usual discrediting comments but waited in vain.
Brotherly he laid his arm around her shoulder and pulled her in.
“Tell you that. If you would have told me, I would have kicked the hell out of that guy.”
Jeannie laughed “Like you tried on Sunday?! Na, I’d have asked Parker” Jeannie sniggered.
“Ah, that hurt sis.” He grabbed another drink.
“Talking about Alex,” he continued noticing Jeannie rolling her eyes back into her head.
“Don’t worry, we are good now. He is actually nicer than I would have liked to admit. When we had the chance to talk the other day I noticed how similar we are in some ways. He was pretty straight forward with me, I can tell you.”
Josh looked thoughtful over to his father and took another sip of his beer before he continued.
“Told me straight out how deeply I had hurt dad with acting like an arse and said ‘If you were my brother I’d have grounded you on Sunday’. Guess I needed that. Isn’t it weird that I needed him to get a good view on what I already have?” Josh pointed towards the house. “Everything I need is inside these walls. And out here.” For a fleeting moment he looked at his little sister.
“Alex actually said it right. My families love is the only thing a man cannot buy but the only thing a man will ever need. He praised dad in the highest.”
Josh paused when he saw Jeannie’s lost look and continued “But on that account, what is getting on between the two of you. Alex mentioned something?”
Jeannie felt weird discussing her love life with her brother, especially if there was hardly anything to talk about.
“There’s not much to say. We like each other” Joshua looked at her in disbelieve
“Okay a bit more than like. We got a closer.”
“Okay. So, do I have to have a brotherly talk with Mr Gauthier, or…” Josh grinned mischievously.
“Stop it!” Jeannie moaned
“Hey, just saying. Looks like I won’t get rid of him that easily, uh?”
Jeannie smiled in excitement and shook her head vigorously.
“I hope not!”
Josh nodded approvingly and sipped again on his bottle.
“Good for you. He is a real good guy. I am glad I can see that now”
Just as Jeannie was leaning against her brothers’ shoulder her father came outside again. When he saw his children like that he instantaneously stopped. He wanted to take this moment in for a little while. He needed to preserve as many of these moments. God only knew how many of those were left for him.
The wait was not over yet and he feared the worst.
Shaking his sudden anxiety away he joined his kids at the fire and made sure that they were having the greatest night of them all.