Where My Heart Belongs

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father, Secrets and a Friend

: Father, Secrets and a Friend:

It was already early afternoon when Jeannie pulled up the drive way and was cheerfully greeted by Fred as she stepped out onto the gravel. Joseph was busy sorting out the flower garden in front of the house when he noticed her and was thankful for the break her arrival promised. With cracking knees, he pushed himself up and stretched his back before walking across to Jeannie, who was already busy unloading the truck.
“Thank God that you came along! I’m not as young as I used to be. These flowers are way too demanding if you ask me”, Joseph joked as he loaded the potatoes on his shoulder leading the way in to the house.
“How was town?”
“Great”, Jeannie answered cheerfully as she filled the kitchen table with bags.
“You’ve been gone for quite a bit. Did you get lost?” Joseph looked quizzing at her as he helped unpacking.
“NO” Jeannie sniggered.
“I went across to Carrie’s and stopped for a waffle and a chat. It was lovely”
Joseph looked at her with a feeling that she was withholding something he ought to know but did not want to patronize her.
Noticing the doubt in Joseph’s eyes she added “The truck was a little temperamental, I can tell you. The door wouldn’t want to open at all.”
“Did you park it in the sun by any chance? Always does it for me. You need to kick the bottom of the door frame while you pull otherwise you don’t stand a chance.”
Jeannie remembered how knowingly Alexander had helped her before and was wondering if Joseph knew how he could have known, but was unsure how to ask without sounding too inquisitive.
“Did you climb through the window then?” Joseph continued to Jeannie’s delight as he had given her the perfect excuse to ask.
“No, actually, it was rather comical. I tried to force it open and slipped of the handle. A guy called Alexander something came and kindly offered his help”, Jeannie lied so she would not have to explain the whole embarrassing story that had unfolded around them.
“Alexander something?” Joseph quizzed further, fine well knowing who she was on about.
“A pretty tall guy, about 6”3-6”4, dark hair? He apparently is an architect?”
With a close look Joseph waited for a moment, trying to read Jeannie but could not get past her as easily as he used to.
“Alexander Gauthier”, he finally said casually while putting tins on to the pantry shelves.
“You know him?” Jeannie blabbered far too excited for her liking. She had no idea what came over her and regretted deeply to have mentioned his name at all.
“I do. He’s a nice guy. Pretty much keeps himself to himself.”
“I see.” Packed with sugar and coffee, Jeannie disappeared in to the pantry and couldn’t stop going over the morning. She hated how clumsy she had been and what Alexander must have thought of her and then again, why did she worry about this anyway? Her visit had always been planned to be a short one and once she would go back to New York none of this would matter anyway. So why did it bother her so much?
After everything had been stored away, Jeannie followed her original plan and sneaked into her father’s empty office. His desk had been tidied up and only the computer and a picture of her mother were left guarding the old furniture. Making sure that the coast was clear, Jeannie sat down on the chair and started to look for clues. To her disappointment were most of the drawers locked and other than a telephone bill and a weird looking napkin nothing interesting was to be seen. Thomas had been very thorough hiding any kind of evidence if there was any.
Feeling bad for snooping around, Jeannie felt like giving up when she noticed the little white light on the computer screen flashing. Could it really have been that Thomas had forgotten to run down the computer? Not thinking twice, she grabbed the mouse and swiveled it along the mouse pad. Staring at the black screen in anticipation and carefully listening for any noise, Jeannie was presented with the main screen which awaited a password.
“Damn,” she whispered, thinking hard.
“Let’s see dad what your password might be.” The first try was noisily declined, which made her jump. Quickly she turned the volume down and took another try. Again, declined.
Her last shot. Outside a car had noisily pulled up and Jeannie knew that there wasn’t much time left. Her father would go mental if he would find her.
With shivering hands Jeannie tipped her mother’s maiden name and Est Voila, within seconds she was presented with the main window.
“That was far too easy dad. We need to have a conversation about online safety,” she reminded herself as her eyes flashed from window to window, trying to find any kind of information that would proof or fault Joshua.
After a few seconds she found copies of bank statements and emails from her father’s health insurance. As she read through both of them her blood froze and instantaneously drew all the color from her face.
“Oh my God, Dad. Why did you not say anything?”
Losing herself in the emails she opened one after the other. The bank requesting meetings, money, discussions about declined loans, final notices. Jeannie could not believe how deep the waters already reached his neck. But it made sense now why he had to sell so many of the horses for so little profit. Jeannie felt ashamed and deeply saddened. He should have come to her. And why on earth did Josh not help? As she read further on, she stumbled over an email whose composer happened to be her own brother.
An investor from California had shown interest in the land and had offered a substantial amount of money, but from what Jeannie could gather, it was still an insult! Just enough to pay up the bank debt and would leave her father with nothing to live on. She could not understand how Josh in his honest mind could have even considered such a preposterous offer. Something did not sit right. Suddenly she heard voices from outside closing in. Startled, she quickly printed off the latest email. The printer, which was right next to the desk, was loud and slow to Jeannie’s horror as the voices came closer to the door.
“Come on I need to shut everything down again as well, you stupid thing.”

With another loud mechanical grunt, the machine spat the paper out and Jeannie was able to shut the computer properly down just in time. Tiptoeing through the office she hid behind the door just in time as her father and Joshua heatedly stomped through the hallway.
“I have nothing of this anymore Josh!” Thomas shouted at the top of his voice which gave even Jeannie a good fright. She hadn’t heard her father shout like that since they had been Teenagers. Once they made their way through to the living room Jeannie saw her chance to steal herself to the front door, but her brothers irrational voice made her stop in her tracks.
“You are a fool Dad. A FOOL! The Ranch won’t ever get back to what it once was. No one is going to take it over. You better act now or ruin us all. Is that what you want?”
Red faced Thomas closed up to his oldest child, his eyes glaring with fury
“How dare you talk to me like this Joshua?! I am your father!”
Joshua just grinned. “You are an old man Dad who clearly has closed his eyes in front of the truth. You HAVE to close that deal. I might work at the bank, but I can’t hold them back forever. Think about it.”
“I HAVE!” Thomas’voice thundered and engulfed the homestead with terror.

Aghast, Jeannie stood frozen in the hallway not knowing what to do as a shadow appeared behind her. Joseph had heard the commotion from outside and like Jeannie was bitterly angered.
Proudly he walked into the living room, Jeannie following with safe distance.
“Enough, Joshua! You will regret this later.”
Surprised the two men turned their heads after Joe had spoken and noticed Jeannie peaking over his shoulder. Her wide eyes still gazed in shock and lay heavy on Thomas’ heart and with cascading eyes, he turned away from her.
“Then you talk sense in this man Joseph! He is crazy!” yelled Josh desperately to be heard.
“That’s it, Josh, GET OUT!” Jeannie erupted to her own surprise.
“Please,” she started again. This time much calmer but still determined, “I think we all have heard you and now is your time to leave.”
Being trapped in a corner by the three of them Joshua felt he had no other choice than to grab his jacket and leave. With an evil stare he passed his sister hissing in her direction:
“Never here but knowing it all.”
Within a few steps Joshua had managed to leave the hall behind him and drove back to Town kicking up dust as his wheels turned to fast down the drive.
Shame crippled Thomas’ face who looked desperately for an escape route past Jeannie without her having to see his mortified eyes. He stole himself through the back door and disappeared.
Joe took a few steps forward but Jeannie held him back.
“I should go see him.” She felt so helpless and never more had wished her mother would still be alive. But it was her duty not Joseph’s. With a deep breath she plugged up her courage and followed her father outside.
Thomas was nowhere to be seen when Jeannie scanned the backyard for a sign of him. She decided to check the stables first, but other than two hired hands no one around.
Jeannie was puzzled where he could have gone and stood for a while in the middle of the ranch gazing at the surroundings when she saw his tall figure climbing up the little hill behind the paddock. An electrified shock heated her heart as she knew where he was heading to. With a bowed head she sighed sorrowful before she followed Thomas to the family grave up the hill.
The sun tried to break through the trees which were guarding the dozen gravestones, some so old and withered by time that the writing was hardly identifiable, but they knew all their names. Jeannie found it hard to walk on but she had to face it one day or the other. Since the funeral she had avoided to come anywhere near this part of the woods, the pain still sat too deep, never mind to mention the guilt she had to deal with.
For a moment Jeannie stood in safe distance and watched her father as he carefully cleaned her mother’s grave from petals of the dogwood tree and dried up leaves before he knelt down and softly traced the engraving with his fingertips. From her hiding spot, Jeannie only saw his back, which shook, crippled by grief as he pulled down his hat. With the back of his palm he wiped away some tears before he started to speak quietly in the softest voice, he only had fashioned for his late wife.
“Jillian, my darling, I am so sorry. I have failed in all ways possible. I am so glad that you didn’t have to witness this today. I have left the ranch in such a mess. You would be right outraged with me. I have tried so hard; I swear I tried as hard as I could. But, God, why did you have to leave me? I cannot do this without you. I might still be here, but a part of me is with you my darling, and God only knows what will happen next. How am I supposed to get the ranch back to its feet, never mind to realize your dream? You know how much I wanted to make it a reality. Your own little Guest House. I still have the drawings you sketched when we were in Louisville in the bar. What a laugh that night was! Do you remember? It was our first night away after Jeannie was born. It was pelting down with rain so badly and the food was dreadful, but you were laughing it away. I felt so bad for you, all shivering in that bar, your hair a mess, but you never looked more beautiful to me than in that moment. Your eyes told me with every blink that you loved me and I tried so hard to tell you how much I loved you but miserably failed. You know how clumsy I was with words.
The drawing is still in my drawer. How excited you were and talked all night of the plans and how we would convince Pop to let us go ahead with this crazy idea. But we never did. We never had the courage to tell my old Dad. I wish we had. I wish we had taken more chances in life. Grab it by the horns – remember, how Jeannie said this when she had to start kindergarten? She was just a little kid and never afraid of new challenges. I still see her braided tails jumping up and down when we dropped her off, not even turning around to wave. You were such a mess that day and I tried to calm you down. But you would surely tell me now that I got it all wrong, I was the weeping mess. But, no darling. That was you. Your baby started to conquer the world. You should see her now. You would burst with pride.
I know she hates to hear it, but she takes after you so much. It feels so good to have her around. It reminds me of how it used to be. I just hope that it will take a while until she flies out of here again. Since she came back the house feels much warmer. I can’t describe it properly Jilly. If only I had the power to stop time and right all the wrongs I have done. If only I could hold you one last time and tell you all this. If only I could hear your whisper one more time.” Thomas lowered his head into his hands and cried. All the loneliness, all the pain, all grief streamed out in one big overwhelming heartache he had no control over. Jillian had been his life, his purpose to be alive. After she had gone, what was left of him?
Jeannie felt helpless. She had witnessed her father in the most intimate of moments, a moment that should have been kept between him and her mother. She couldn’t leave him alone like this and against all she knew traipsed to her father who was still unaware of her presence.
Quietly she got down on her knees beside him and carefully stroked his shoulders which were still trembling with grief. Startled, Thomas lifted his head. He tried not to cry and for a moment they both were able to hold on, before they clenched each other in a long tight embrace and shared the tears and agony for the first time since Jillian had left them.
“You are not alone Dad.” Jeannie mumbled whose head was still nestled at her father’s shoulder. “I love you Daddy”
Reservedly, Thomas loosened the embrace and wiped tears from her face with a hushed smile.
“I love you, too pumpkin. We are a pair, aren’t we just? Come, let’s leave mum in peace for today and get some coffee.” Thomas got up and cleaned his trousers while Jeannie was still kneeling in the grass.
“Dad, I have done something you won’t like.” Without a word Jeannie produced the folded email out of her trouser pocket and handed him the copy she had printed earlier, which he skimmed before handing it back.
“I am so sorry; I shouldn’t have done that dad.”
“I can’t lie; I am disappointed that you felt you have to snoop around in my private stuff. But I cannot change it, can I.”
“Daddy, please, let me help. You don’t have to figure this out on your own.”
“No, Jeannie, I cannot ask you for help.” he pressed determinedly before taking a few steps towards the gate.
“But why?”
“Jeannie, I am your father. I brought the ranch in this mess, I will have to find a way out of it.”
“Dad, now is not the time to be stubborn. If there is not a miracle happening, we will lose the ranch. Please, let me help.” Jeannie tried to keep up with Thomas who was pacing down the hill.
“Dad, this is my home, too!”
Running down-hill she managed to catch up and walked the rest of the pebbled path beside her father. The crunching sound of the pebbles underneath their feet.
“Jeannie Leeland, you really don’t take no for an answer, do you?” Thomas smiled and opened the back door for her.
“Well, I guess I take after my old man when it comes to stubbornness,” Jeannie declared boldly as she passed her father in to the kitchen.
“I’ll make coffee, you get all the papers. There will be something we can do, dad.”
Jeannie just entered the house when her cell phone caught signal again and went crazy in her back pocket. With a glance on the screen she acknowledged the missed call and, unshaken by the caller, switched it off. New York was far away, and with her family home at steak the least of her worries. There was plenty time later to reply should her curiosity get the better of her.
It took a few hours, and a few more cups of ambition, for her to get through the amount of neglected paperwork. Jeannie studied each and every sheet carefully, with the occasional moan and grunt escaping her as she scribbled notes in a notebook.
Thomas did not dare to interrupt her with questions. He was aware that he should have asked those years ago when his wife had tried to teach him. Back then he saw no point in listening and had used Lilli’s expertise as an excuse to shuffle this boring task away from himself.
Just like his parents, Thomas thought it easier to split tasks and after all he was nothing than a cowboy. Not a banker.
Eventually, Jeannie plunged back into her seat. She was exhausted and rubbed her tired eyes.
“So”, she started “would you like the bad or the good news first?”
“There is good news?” Thomas wondered.
“The figures are not as bad as I first thought. Yes, there are very many unpaid bills” Jeannie said with a reproving look and continued “but the only worry is the bank loan. You shouldn’t have taken out another loan against the ranch dad.”
“Don’t I know that” Thomas huffed.
“Anyway dad, the credit cards need sorted first. You haven’t paid them for months. We can sort that with a phone call.”
Jeannie looked for the right words to continue.
“Actually, I was wondering if I could take care of that”
“How do you mean?” Thomas wondered.
“Don’t get angry just yet and hear me out. I have some savings and before you say no, I would love to do that for you. Well, for the Ranch. This would clear the credit cards and lifts a huge weight of your shoulders.”
“Jeannie”, Thomas protested in the kindest way possible.
“The last thing I need is my daughter blowing her savings to save her father’s neck. No. I will find another way.”
Jeannie shook her head determinedly.
“It is not like that dad. I am not wasting; I am investing it. As I said before, this is my home, too. Like it or not, I got the number and your details right here in my hand.” Jeannie waved the paper in the air as she got up from the table. Tom was anything but exuberant about it and followed Jeannie through the house and asked her to stop as she trotted in to the office.
“Dad, if I could I would do more. You and mom had always been there for all of us, no matter how pathetic our dreams were. Once this is out the way, we can tackle the bank.”
Thomas had to give in. With his hands on his hip he stood in the doorway.
“You know I am not happy about this and will pay it back.”
Thomas made clear.
“Yes, I fine well know” Jeannie hummed and gave her father a hug.
“Come stop this hugging and call these scavengers before I change my mind” he said uncomfortably.
“On it”.
Thomas left his daughter alone. It was embarrassing enough for him, although he couldn’t deny feeling a certain pride for his youngest child. All the spiteful accusations that Joshua had raised against her stood now in question. Thomas wondered who actually turned out to be the black sheep in the family. Jeannie had shown such determination and interest in the ranch since she came back Thomas dared to speculate if his dream could become a reality.
He wanted to keep the ranch, desperately, it had been their ancestral home for generations and not even the bank with boulders and shotguns pointing at his chest would be able to move him from his grounds.
Ever since Jeannie had been able to sit unaided on a horseback, he had hoped that, one day, she would take over.
Joshua had never shown interest in the family business. It was too restricting for him. He had liked to spend time with his friends on the football field rather than on the homestead. Susan had never been on Thomas mind. But Jeannie was different. She had spent every waking moment on the farm and practically had been glued to Tom’s side. She was just 13 when she had been allowed to instruct horseback riding classes. It had been deeply hurtful, predominantly for Leeland Senior when Jeannie decided to study graphic design. Even more so when she announced that she had taken on a job in New York.
And the tables seemed to turn again! Thomas’ heart felt light and everything in him wanted to ask Jeannie if she would like to come back home but he abandoned this urge as good as he could until the time was right. He didn’t want to put too many expectations on her shoulders. What she did was already more than a father could have asked for. Besides, there was still this doubt, not knowing why Jeannie had come back home. All he could do now was to wait and see.
Thomas tidied up the kitchen when he heard a car pull up in the backyard. Startled, he gazed at the clock when he recognized the black 4x4 and bounced out the door to greet his friend.
“I have completely lost track of time! Good to see you.”
The two men shook hands as they briskly slapped each other on the shoulder.
“You said about 5 and here I am – with tools and all. And who could say no to Lorna’s home cooked pie?”
Thomas lifted plywood from the truck and helped carry it across to the old barn.
Lorna, who had gotten the washing off the lines stood against the sun with a hand on her forehead to protect her eyes and shouted in their direction.
“Hey Alex! Trying to get a free meal again?”
Alexander proceeded to walk on as he answered Lorna with a humble affliction on his face.
“Always Lorna! Fixing leaking roofs is just an excuse.”
The two men disappeared in to the barn and got to work while Lorna waddled back to the kitchen to get started on the dreaded ironing.
The smell of meat pie lingered in the air and made not only Freddy hungry. The poor old chap was sitting in front of the oven, drooling at the promising goods that were hidden behind the glass door and left little puddles on the kitchen floor.
Cheerfully Jeannie entered the kitchen. She had been too busy to notice Alexander’s arrival.
“Dad, that’s sorted. Oh,” Jeannie looked at Lorna with wide eyes
“You look as if you’ve seen a ghost sweetie.” Lorna held out a sheet.
“Make yourself useful.”
Jeannie put down the papers and helped to fold up the laundry.
“Have you seen dad?”
Lorna nodded with a sheepish smile.
“Yep. He’s in the barn. A friend came to help fix the roof. The storm last week left a huge mess.”
“Oh good, I quickly need to see him. Won’t take a minute. You can manage?” hurriedly, Jeannie flung the folded bed sheet on the kitchen table and ran off and left Lorna standing lost in the kitchen; her lips turned in to a smirk.
“Never fails Freddy, I will always be left to do this on my own.”
The Basset did not even twitch an ear when Lorna spoke, as his sole purpose had turned in to spying on the pie that was sizzling quietly within the oven.
Light footed, Jeannie ran across the yard, pleased with herself and the prospects for her father.
Just when she entered the barn a hug piece of rotten wood fell unexpectedly from up high right in front of her feet with a loud clash and spread across the floor. It had only missed her by inches and left her shaking.
“DAMN!” shouted a familiar voice from above with concern.
Pale like the sheet she had just folded, Jeannie stood frozen on the spot, her heart pounding like an old diesel motor.
“Are you okay?” Jeannie heard the concern swinging heavy in her father’s voice now. Did she imagine things? Was it the adrenaline that had caused her to hear voices now?
“I-I’m fine” Jeannie stuttered still in shock.
“Just didn’t imagine the roof to come down on me, that’s all.”
In one smooth move, Alexander jumped off the ladder to check on her.
Jeannie could not believe her eyes when he ascended from the dark in front of her. Of all people in Springwood Falls it had to be Alexander helping her dad with the roof.
“You sure okay? You look a little pale,” Alexander noticed as he handed her his water bottle that was stripped around his belt. He felt awful and couldn’t stop thinking what could have happened.
“What are you doing here?” bubbled out of her mouth while she nestled for the water bottle.
Thomas stood and watched the both of them with a wondering complexion.
“Do you know each other?” Thomas wondered.
““Briefly”” said both in unison. Before Thomas could ask further questions, Jen added to the conversation
“Alexander was so kind helping me earlier with the car.”
Alex’s half-suppressed chuckle had only been noticed by Jeannie who blushed instantly. Poor Thomas stood with his hands crossed in front his chest not entirely sure why Jeannie got so serious all of a sudden.
“I actually came to see you Dad.” Thomas stood unmoved in his spot as he observed his daughter with small eyes.
“Yeah, what is it?”
With a piercing look and twitching eyebrow Jeannie tried to make Alexander understand that they needed some space. Alex picked his hammer and a box of nails up apologetically and mounted the ladder with ease.
With the notebook still tightly clutched in her hand, Jeannie lowered her voice as she explained about her phone call earlier which her father acknowledged.
“Thank you, Jen.”
“It’s alright. Honestly. I will leave you to it” Jeannie said as she turned on the spot to walk back to the house.
“We’ll see you at dinner” Jeannie turned her head around suddenly when she heard her father’s voice piping up, but did not stop her brisk walk which left her unaware of the hay bale that was right ahead. Still shocked about the fact that Alex was joining them for dinner, she looked over and failed to stop in time. In one swift swipe the hay bale had won and Jeannie fell head first to the ground. Again! All she could hear were their bemused muffled giggles that emerged from within. This day could not get any worse if she tried to. Quickly, she pushed herself back up on her feet and could see her father with a hand pressed against his face, his eyes small glazed slits that quivered under his breath. From above, Alexander’s voice rose and equally tried to restrain a serious tone.
“Better keep your eyes straight ahead” Tom quipped.
“Oh you two are hilarious” Jeannie piped as she swaggered across to the house, hearing an infamous roar of laughter following her.
The backdoor slammed loudly behind Jeannie. She still held the door knob firmly in her hands as she leaned against the door with closed eyes cursing quietly. Why on Earth did she constantly have to make such a fool of herself when Alexander was around?
Jeannie’s thoughts were loudly interrupted by Lorna who burst out into a roar of laughter when she saw Jeannie standing at the door.
“You as well?” Jeannie huffed. She was unable to understand why Lorna had to cry tears.
“Oh my, Jeannie, your hair. Let me fix that”
Lorna produced a massive bunch of hay out from Jeannie’s hair that had been stuck there ever since her fall.
When Jeannie saw the bundle in Lorna’s hand, she didn’t know if she wanted to cry or if she should join in with Lorna.
“I truly made a fool of myself today.” Jeannie said soberly.
“You better get cleaned before dinner tonight. Alexander will join us as well.”
“Dad mentioned something like that”, Jeannie sighed and blushed a little again. May the foolishness continue! Jeannie thought and followed her friends’ advice she really needed a shower and clean up the mess – or what was left to be rescued. Her dirty clothes had lost any battle of being revitalized so she had no option than to get changed.
As she looked to her side table she noticed her abandoned cell phone and instantly felt at unease for shutting it down earlier and grabbed it.
It took a few minutes for it to start up and to find signal – in these woods signal was rather scares- but once in full reception it would not stop bleeping. 4 missed calls about a dozen text messages and uncountable emails.
Heavy heartedly she opened the emails, which were all from work, most of them from Bradley.
He was urging her to get in touch with the office. The new clients were rather pushing for sample designs for their new commercial campaign. She dreaded the answer phone messages. Why was it so impossible to have a few days off? She had never taken any holiday and now that she was off for a fortnight everyone seemed to get overexcited.
She sat down on her bed when she listened to Bradley’s voice which sounded unfamiliar high pitched- had it always sounded like that? The first one, nice enough, made her nearly feel guilty for ignoring him. The second one was rather short lived.
“Just to let you know that I’m going out tonight so, no need to call. Ciao.”
A shiver of aversion ran down her back when she heard his fake Italian accent he used to fashion when using remotely foreign words, even if they were French and remembered why she was back home.
The final message was just a reminder from Bradley’s PA Samantha that she urgently needed to check her emails.
For a while Jeannie sat on her bed and starred at her phone weighing out if she should call now or just email back when excited voices climbed up from the kitchen and brought her back from deep thoughts. Getting on her feet Jeannie decided to do neither, switched the phone off one last time and stuffed it in between thick blankets that were stacked in the cupboard, before she walked down in to the kitchen. Alexander and her father stood in the conservatory washing the dirt and grime off their hands whilst they were chatting away.
Joseph had already sat down at the table and looked rather exhausted from a long day’s grind and waited for a cool drink his wife was about to fetch for all of them.
Despite this strange feeling she felt when Alex was around Jeannie knew that this dinner would be much more pleasant than the one the poor bugger had to endure in New York right now with Bradley. At least here were real people who did not feel the urge to portrait something they were not.
With a smile on her lips she sat down, no slips, no falls, no fake hellos’, and a feeling of content shrouded her like a blanket.
The three men were talking and laughing at the dinner table and to Jeannie’s relieve did they not mention any of her mishaps. She still didn’t feel totally at ease around him though. There was still this electrifying feeling she felt in her belly when he looked over to her or tried to engage her in the conversation. Jeannie really struggled to sound her normal self, but then, what was her normal self in situations like theses? Sit, smile bob your head. Look cute and say nothing wrong. That did not work here. Her father would have sent for the Doc if she’d slipped into these habits.
Out of the corner of her eye she glimpsed a hushed looked of Alexander. The little wrinkles that formed around his eyes when he laughed created a warmth in his look Jeannie was drawn too, which she at first could not explain. A stone fell from her heart that her father had friends like Joe and Alex who so easily were able to cheer him up. And the embarrassing their first encounters were, she’d preferred Alexanders company above her own brothers, that was without a doubt settled by the end of the night.
Yes, she might not had engaged half as much as she had wanted to, but she enjoyed the night so much just sitting and watching everyone.
After dinner the three men had retreated outside for a drink whilst Jeannie helped in the kitchen.
As soon as the quiet of the kitchen had gripped her, the thoughts swamped over her again. How could she stop this from happening? She had almost forgotten about work, about Brad. Why couldn’t it last longer than just an hour or two?
“You are rather quiet tonight Jeannie. Is anything the matter?” Lorna wanted to know as her concerned eyes waited for an answer.
“Nothing really. Just work. They are getting lonely without me” Jeannie answered with a forced smile.
“That does not surprise me, you clever little thing” Lorna joked and notched Jeannie in the side before she poured two glasses of wine and put one in front of Jen, they clearly had earned it.
After a few moments of just listening to the radio the glasses emptied quickly.
“Lorna, I was wondering,” Jeannie started while Lorna topped up their drinks “why did Dad ask Alexander to fix the roof? I mean, couldn’t one of the hired men do that?”
“Alexander, hm” Lorna sipped on her drink and did not dare to take her eyes of Jeannie as she carried on
“Your father doesn’t need to ask. He and Alex meet once a week down in Town for a few drinks with some other folks. They must have discussed the storm and once Alex knows he can help he’s out here. Comes in pretty handy. He’s been a good friend to your father. You know how useless Josh is when it comes to tools – he more likely is one” Lorna muffled the last part of her sentence almost unheard into her wine glass to avoid any judgments.
“I see.”
Lorna waited a while for more than just these two words from Jen but her efforts were fruitless.
“I think Alex gets rather lonely at times out there at the lake. He enjoys that he is needed around. You know that he’s an architect, right?”
“Oh yes, Carrie told me.” Jeannie acknowledged while she was still sipping on her wine.
“He works mostly from home as he said. I don’t know how that works. But you can’t sit all day every day locked up in an old log cabin at the lake. That would drive the sanest of men crazy. Your father is really rather fond of Alexander. He often just comes around and looks for something he could help with. Even if it is just clearing out the pie dishes” Lorna winked at Jeannie. “But yeah, he’s a good one. He’s pretty involved in town meetings as well, which reminds me – you are coming Sunday afternoon as well aren’t you? I mean while you are here you can help with the spring faire!”
Taken aback Jeannie felt like protesting against that idea
“Lorna, I’m only here for a fortnight, maximum three weeks if I must”
“Perfect!” Lorna piped up and poured the rest of the wine in to their glasses.
“The faire is supposed to be in 9 days, there are just some last-minute updates and rules that Tanner has to explain. He also heard that you are back in town and was hoping…”
“Oh no, no, no, no I am not willing to dress up in this hideous costume again! I said that years ago!”
Lorna smirked sarcastically at her god-daughter’s protest.
“Don’t worry, I’ll protect you if he tries Sweetie! It will be fun.”
Another starry night unfolded and sparkled gently above the beautiful mountains of Kentucky outside Jeannie’s bedroom window. The stillness, calm and tranquility of the past nights had felt like little treasures Jeannie had unearthed and enabled her for the first time in months to breath. New York was never that private and calm and as she now sat at her window sill she noticed how alien the thought of a New York night suddenly had become. She saw the stars lightening up the dark and heard the brook that crossed one of the fields which filled her stillness with peace and whispered before going to bed as she remembered a song she had heard earlier on the radio - “How Great Thou Art”.

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