Where My Heart Belongs

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The Church Bells summed the end of the sermon when Leeland Senior stood up from the front pew with his son right next to him and proudly walked towards the door. The turning heads from the usual subjects made Jeannie secretly glow with glee and couldn’t stop herself, when she passed them.
“Nice day, isn’t it?” Jeannie said loudly to make her heard. Outside she joined her family who were talking to Reverend Miller and Tanner.
Tom had just announced that Jeannie would be staying for good and had caused a right uproar amongst them.
The reverend was talking to her in his usual reserved way but Tanner enthusiastically grabbed Jeannie’s hand in both of his and almost dislocated her shoulder.
“Oh Jeannie, that is such wonderful, wonderful news! Ah, I just can’t tell you how fantastic that is. Your mother, bless her soul, would be so terribly proud of you! Welcome home my dear!” His words poured out quicker than a water out a kicked over bucket.
“Oh, Tom, we have to have a proper celebration. This needs to be announced in true Springwood Falls fashion!”
Tom had to laugh at his friend and patted his shoulders “Slow down your horses, Tanner! We will have more time to think about this soon. Let Jeannie settle her business first. But thank you. We most definitely will get back to you about this.”
They remained at the church until everyone had left before Tom headed back to the ranch with Lorna and Joe.
“Are you coming, too?” Tom asked as he climbed behind the wheel.
“Na, I’m good. I wanted to see Carrie.”
Tom nodded and waved her goodbye as Jeannie made her way across to the Diner.
The smell of fresh apple pie was crawling into her nose before she could even see the Diner.
It was busy as usual for a Sunday lunch time. With great expectation Jeannie took her regular seat and waited for Carrie to order her usual coffee and a slice of the promising pie.
Not before long stood the plate with piping hot deliciousness in front of her. The sweet smell of cinnamon made her even hungrier. There was just no better pie in the entire world. Even her mother had to admit that.
“There you go dear. Extra cream?” Jeannie waved disapprovingly.
“No thank you. I don’t want to spoil it.” Jeannie said already haven forked up a piece.
“So, what’s the news? You hear all kind of talk in town. I heard your dad and Josh are good again?”
Jeannie bobbed her head and wiped her mouth with a napkin.
“Yes, they are all good again. This is such a relieve, I can tell you!”
Carrie served a few customers still listening to Jeannie.
“Dad and I were discussing the ranch. I don’t know how much he told you?”
Jeannie waited for Carrie’s reply
“Oh he was yapping about the Guest House! I remember how excited your mum was about the idea when she was your age. Bless her. I think it’s a marvellous idea. Have you heard anything yet?”
Jeannie shook her head while she filled her mouth with more pie.
“No not yet. And I am getting a little nervous to be fair. But don’t tell dad. He is on edge as it is. If I start now I think he will go insane. We don’t need that. He is so happy. –OH did I tell you the other news?”
Carrie leaned onto the counter with one arm and questioned Jeannie with a simple look.
“Dad has got a successor should everything turn out the way we hope” Jeannie prolonged Carrie’s second guessing.
“Who is it?” Carrie asked excitedly when a massive beam spread across Jeannie’s face.
Carrie understood instantly what that meant and almost jumped across the counter.
“ARE YOU SERIOUS?!” she had to fight back tears of joy.
She came around the counter and hugged Jeannie dearly as she rocked her from side to side.
“Oh darling, Tom must be so proud. Look what you’ve done to the silly old me!” Carrie wiped away her tears with the corner of her apron and retired back to the counter.
“Well, the pie’s on me!” Carrie insisted as the doorbell chimed.
Carrie sporadically gave the new customers a look as they entered. The two were oddly clothed in merchandise t-shirts and looked a little lost around the room. From behind the group appeared a tall figure that Carrie instantly recognized.
“Ah look, the Town’s lost son has arrived!” Jeannie looked up and noticed Alexander standing amongst these two geeks as a smile spread across his face and pointed towards her.
Her face lit up as their eyes met and wanted nothing more than to fall into his arms but with these strangers in tow she did not want to impose herself upon him and simply smiled and waved him over.
To her surprise though Alex careered quickly through the room and pulled her in close into his arms as if it were the most natural thing to do.
“God, I’ve missed you” Alexander mumbled on her shoulder and almost wouldn’t let go of her. He had longed for that moment ever since they had parted ways the other day and wanted to inhale the moment.
Carrie was left open mouthed as she looked over Alex’s shoulder and lipped a question towards Jeannie while she pointed at his back.
Jeannie had to restrain herself not to laugh at Carrie and blushed a little and just nodded. The smile on Carries face said more than a thousand words.
“I’d like you to meet two of my colleagues from Nashville.”
A true gentleman, Alexander introduced his colleagues to a still bewildered Jeannie simply as Blake and Riley. She wondered what was going on and stared at the two men with their massive portfolio pouches on hand.
With a cry for help she turned to Alexander.
“Alex, would you mind explaining?”
“Oh sorry. We just want to take accurate measurements”
Jeannie was still none the wiser.
“Sorry, I cannot follow. Measurements?”
Alexander grabbed her by the hand and pulled her off her seat.
“I’ll explain to you on the way honey. Let’s go. See you later Carrie”
Alexander pulled Jeannie out the diner who tried to figure out what astonished her more. The sudden kid napping, or the fact that Alexander had just called her honey for the very first time.
Blake and Riley turned out to be very chatty kind men who enthusiastically asked questions about the ranch and the whole situation.
Jeannie was still not convinced about the on goings when Alexander stopped in the backyard of the homestead.
Thomas had noticed the 4x4 from afar and was walking down the field to meet the congregation half way.
“You are back!” Tom affirmed. He was as surprised to see yet another team of total strangers but stopped wondering further. This seemed to be the new normal he pondered.
After another short introduction Alex started to explain their sudden invasion.
“I had a phone call a few days ago in regards to the investors from Bradley” Jeannie remembered the day when he all of a sudden had to disappear.
“As it is. The investors need accurate figures. I know you have already written an estimate in to the business plan. But you need more accurate figures. I know that you need someone to build this Guest house. But my expertise are Bridges not houses. So I got in touch with my boss and these two beasts” Alexander pointed at his friends who lifted their thumbs up.
“They are the best architects I know. They want to do what they can and help you. Fingers crossed.” Alex concluded.
Tom tried to contemplate what was just happening.
“But we don’t know yet if we have them aboard. And I’m sorry Alex, I fear you are wasting your time. We need to know by tomorrow 12pm or that’s us.”
Tom waved with his hand and wanted to leave them.
“Dad, please.” Jeannie bagged when Riley cleared his throat.
“Mr Leeland, if I may. Alex is a good friend and if we can help, we will. He has pulled our necks out of many a sling. We know the conditions. That’s what Alex has been in Nashville for the past few days. And to be fair, should it be for nothing, which we doubt, then we had a few nice sunny days with a good friend.”
Tom just made a dismissive gesture and turned on his heels.
“Oh do measure to your hearts content. No one seems to listen to me anyway these days.” He marched off with Fred pacing after him, leaving the party alone. Riley and Blake walked back to the car to get their gear out while Alexander stood with Jeannie in the sun as he took her in his arms.
“I finally can give you a proper welcome then” he snubbed and kissed her without any care.
“I take it you don’t have any plans for tonight, do you?” he asked cheekily.
“Don’t you have to look after those two?” Jeannie bobbed her head into their direction.
“I thought you could join us. Play pool down in the bar, have a few drinks. If you can manage to stay on your feet, that is” Alexander edited sarcastically.
“Ah, you are super funny.” Jeannie teased before they kissed each other again.
“The much I would love to stay with you here for a bit longer, I better go and see your dad. I think I raided him a little too bluntly.”
Without any further ado Alexander looked for Thomas.
It took him a while but finally found him on his way to the family grave.
His former light heart suddenly sunk and could hardly imagine what was going through his friends mind. The last few months must have been so distressing for him and there they were, acting like children and all excited as if this was all a great big game. But it was more, much more. His whole life was at stake.
Carefully, Alex closed in and waited for a signal from Tom that it was okay to enter.
“I needed to check the flowers. They have all withered in the sun. Damn sun” Tom uttered and stared into the distance, gazing at the mountains and down to the homestead, which was nothing more than a doll house in the distance below them.
“Funny isn’t it” Tom continued his train of thought.
“One day you wake up and you are an old man. Everything you took for granted could be gone in an instant. Everything you have worked for, everything you have lived for, caves in in front of your own eyes and there is nothing, NOTHING, to stop it from crumbling apart. What am I doing Alex? Why am I hunting an illusion?”
Alexander stepped next to Tom and stared into the same direction.
“We are in this together Tom. I’m beside you ’til the end and further. We all are. No matter what tomorrow brings we will fight.”
Tom scuffed. “I wish I had your zealousness.” Tom pointed towards the stables.
“See that rose bush. Jillian planted that the year Susan was born. And over there, the camp between the bushes she built together with Josh and Jeannie when Jeannie was just able to waddle along the path. How can I let these vultures allow taking over MY home? Every stone, every nail in this place holds a memory. How could I leave my wife here behind Alex? How could I do this to her? I’m just so afraid.”
His voice broke and Tom felt embarrassed that he could not pull himself together in front of his friend.
Alex wished he knew how to comfort Tom. But the harder he thought about it the lesser he was convinced by the sound of his own voice.
Alex reassuringly put his hand on Thomas’ shoulder. No man should ever have to go through this alone, yet alone leave in defeat.
“Let’s make tonight count.” Alexander said quietly.
“Come, we’ll show this old house what a good time we can have.”

Within a few hours night had drawn in. Lights were lit in the backyard and from Jeannie’s old cd player blared music which could be heard echoing through the valley for miles. Alex had managed to get the whole family together and with a few of their friends, they were singing, laughing and dancing through the night.
The sight of his children standing in a line jumping up and down like lunatics to the beat of their favourite country tunes made Thomas burst with pride when Lorna suddenly grabbed him by the hand to join in. From a corner, Alexander observed the scenery and took a sip on his beer. This was what life is about. Family, friends. The love that these people had for each other engulfed the back yard and mad Alex proud that he was allowed to be part of it.
His heart belonged right here amongst these people.
And for a fleeting moment he understood Thomas anxiety. What if? Alex shook the though aside when he caught Jeannie’s smiling face as she sang along to the song. Alex put his bottle on a table and walked across to her and pulled her close. He’d dance through the night with her and further if she’d let him. He knew that no matter what was thrown in to their path, together they would find a way. Here in her arms, amongst his family everything seemed possible and he believed that all would be fine in the end.

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