Where My Heart Belongs

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Joshua Knows Best

: Joshua Knows Best:

Another morning arose with more questions than answers which made Jeannie doubt herself even more than ever before. She needed to get out, needed just one day by herself without any trouble or interference. Even the thought of having breakfast with anyone made her hairs stand up. Quietly she stole herself away from the house which was still in a silent slumber and wandered off along the stony track that lead up to the mountains. It was quite the hike but well worth it. The greatness of the mountain tops with its green blanket reaching out towards the sky had always helped Jeannie in the past to sort her stupid thoughts. There was just the perfect spot that would overlook the mountain range from a little plateau. The 10 miles might have felt a long way but she had all day and it was not even 7am yet. The welcomed break was needed and would surly recharge her batteries for all the daunting tasks that lay ahead of her. There was still enough time to worry about work and her dad and the fair on her return. The sole purpose of her visit had been neglected for far too long and for once she needed to be selfish.

She was in no hurry and strolled along the brook for a little less than a couple of hours and rested her feet in the cool stream. She sat down on an old tree stump, her shoes chucked in the grass next to her, and looked around. To her left the path winded further upwards towards the mountains of which she already could see the peaks. To her right the track lead down to the valley and was partly hidden between bushes and trees. The ranch had been out of sight for some time and Jeannie fairly enjoyed the solitude and peace the day was carrying. Up high, birds of prey were circling in the air and other than the soothing sounds of the brook nothing interrupted the morning. The sun had come back with force and warmed Jeannie as she sat with her eyes closed and tried to concentrate on the stillness of the moment. No worry, no anger, no deadline looming over her. Just her good old self and the calm of the forest - her home. How she would have loved to bottle this moment up and keep it forever with her. Maybe her mother had been right after all. On the day she had tried to persuade Jeannie to stay in Springwood Falls they talked about just that.
Jeannie thought of her mothers’ worried face when they had sat down at the same spot at the lake where she had met Alexander just the day before. She remembered how carelessly she broke the news to her mom. That she was offered a job in New York and was about to move. No questions, no what if’s. Jeannie had already made the decision without consulting her parents first. And why should she have done so? She was old enough to take care of her own business, and even if her parents would have had voiced their concerns, Jeannie just would not have listened to them. This opportunity was right up her adventurous streak.
Jillian, who had always encouraged her children’s dreams and ambitions, sat next to her daughter on the day with a frown upon her face. She did not like the thought of her youngest to move so far away from her sheltered life and did not hold back with her opinion in the first place. But most of all she worried about her husband. Jill knew that it would break Thomas’ heart if Jeannie would move to New York City. His hopes entirely lay on her young shoulders and Jillian felt as if she had to try to talk Jeannie out of this absurd idea.
The afternoon they walked across to the lake was burned in to Jeannie’s memory and after all this time she finally realized what her mother actually had tried to achieve.
The city had suffocated her to the maximum and had made her pretend to be someone she did not want to be. Yes, the parties and buzzing nightlife had been great fun and something Jeannie had never been able to experience. But there had always been something amiss. She could not explain it yet. But there was this notion within her that gave her the impression she might just found that missing piece. Nature took over and showed her how life could be if she just allowed to let go of the wheel and forget about the past. It couldn’t be changed. All that was needed was to embrace the now.
For the first time the memory of her mother filled her with a certain kind of happiness. She had missed it so much. The past few months had cast a dark shadow over her memories and made her blind to see behind the curtain. But as the memories of her mother trickled through her mind, amidst the trees she felt her presence so clearly. She could almost feel her motherly embrace. Jillian was with her and not judging her in the slightest.
Encouraged that she was on the right path, Jeannie got back up on her feet and followed the stony road that lead further away into the wild untouched grounds. With ease she climbed the steep woodlands and was soon reimbursed for her struggles when the mighty mountains came fully into sight.
Decades ago Joseph had taken her and her siblings along these tracks during their vacations. Jeannie remembered well how her brother would always moan about the day trips as it meant to lose out on time with his friends and so was her sister. Back then, and even more so now, Jeannie questioned what her siblings had actually to moan about. The climbs up to these giants had always filled her with a certain kind of humbleness and adoration for her homeland. Up there all she had to think about was to breath; to take in the beauty and vastness of her families’ home. She felt small but part of one bigger, better great which was beyond compare.
Step by step Jeannie closed in to the plateau she was heading towards as she reminisced about the old days, when she and her brother would run after rabbits and chipmunks and her sister would scream at the sight of salamanders and snakes, and wondered when they had fallen so far apart. Time was a curious, unpredictable thing and out here, it mattered not. Time slowed down, maybe even ceased to exist. The trees may had grown and the brook had crawled deeper in to the stony ground but other than that nothing had changed. Only Jeannie was different. Older, yes, wiser maybe but the curious careless girl had stayed as a shadow of the past forever hidden amongst those trees.
The sun stood already high up when she took another break after she had finally managed to climb onto the plateau. It was small compared to what she was to see. There, down below stretched the valley and the mountains for miles upon miles and faded into the husky blue waves that became one with the pale blue sky.
Jeannie gazed across the countryside. Springwood Falls was nothing more than glistening shadows in the far away distance. The lake shimmered bright in the sunlight like a golden broach on a velveteen dress and she started to wonder what Alexander was up to at this very moment.
Her train of thought finally brought her to Joshua. Why ever he was so obsessed with the idea of strangers taking over the ranch baffled her. Their great-grandparents had walked along these paths, these fields. With broken backs and an unshakable faith they had made this their home. They had seen the same beauty each day and this was something he wanted to give away? Under no circumstances could she allow this to happen! She’d rather get fired than deserting her family like a damn coward! Her father needed her! Her family needed her!
She knew deep inside that her mother would bag her to stay until things were sorted. She still could leave afterwards. But first of all, she needed to talk to her brother! They had to put this stupid fight aside. She needed to see him later. If he would close the door on her, more fool him! She would enter his home anyway. Joshua was her brother, not some kind of stranger who was allowed to treat her in that manner. He had to listen, and maybe she could establish what on earth was actually going through his mind at the same time. There had to be another explanation for his distancing.
Just a while ago these prospects would have caused great distress and anxiety in Jeannie, but not this time. The calm and tranquility of these lands had finally revived her inner peace besides all the troublesome happenings that had unfolded ever since she had come back home.
Right now she felt as if she could take on the world with ease.
But before she would, she wanted to enjoy the warmth of the sun a little longer. The day still unfolded in front of her and there was no rush to take the long hike back down just yet.

It was after lunch time when Thomas checked on horses that were due their vaccinations. Albert McDoorin, the local vet was about to visit in the afternoon and Thomas wanted to prepare as much as he could so that there was no rush.
He was just about to close the meadow gate behind him when Alexander pulled up in his 4x4. Surprised over his un-expected visit, Tom strolled over to greet Alex.
“Have you lost something?” Thomas wondered as they shook hands.
“No, I was just passing by” Alex lied clumsily. Thomas knew him well enough as to believe him.
“Passing, eh? Aren’t we usually honest with one another?”
Befuddled, Alex stood opposite Tom and thought of a right way to start this already awkward conversation when Thomas took the burden of him.
“Let me guess, Lorna or Jeannie told you about yesterday?”
Alexander nodded unwillingly.
“I am sorry Tom, I really don’t want to intrude. I was down town earlier and you know what this place is like.”
“Let me guess”, Thomas altered while he lead the way back to the house “we are talk of the moment.”
“You can say that again!” Alex replied and scratched the back of his head nervously.
The two retired inside and took a seat at the kitchen table. With raised eyebrows Thomas waited for Alexander to continue to speak.
“So? What’s the deal? What is it you want to know?”
Still feeling out of place Alex turned on his seat. Was it really wise to intrude in his friend’s life in such a way?
“I only would like to help you if I may. All I actually know is what you have already told me and about church. He shouldn’t have made it so publicly for all to see.”
Thomas sighed and leaned back on his chair. His arms up in the air to emphasize his words.
“And what exactly are you thinking to do against it Alex? Hm? Exactly, nothing! We had worse conflicts than that in our house. Or do you think Joshua would listen to a thing you have to say?” Thomas smirked sarcastically at the thought of Alexander having to interact for more than just five seconds with his son. They were like fire and ice. Every time they had met in the bar and tried to get involved they ended up disagreeing and parted ways for the rest of the time. So how Alexander wanted to help was out of Thomas’ reach.
“At least I could try, couldn’t I?” Alexander said hopeful. Tom laughed out loud.
“You could also try to win the Grand National boy!”
“Stranger things have happened Tom.”
Thomas studied Alexander’s hopeful face and felt flattered that this man was so concerned about him. A few years ago, he had been nothing but a stranger, all alone at the bar and tried to fit in to the community. Now Thomas wouldn’t want to miss his friend for the world. He was more to him than a friend in fact. Alexander undoubtedly was like a second son to him.
“Well, I can’t hold you back, can I. But don’t you say that I haven’t warned you, Alex” with a pointing finger Tom grinned in his direction and got up to grab a drink for them.
“By the way”, Thomas threw in to the conversation as not to so sound too concerned, “you haven’t passed Jeannie along the way?”
An uncontrolled wave swallowed Alex when he heard Jeannie’s name.
“No, why?” he wanted to know and tried to keep a calm voice. Why would Tom ask him otherwise?
“Oh, I was just wondering. Haven’t seen her the whole day and her backpack is not in the hallway either. She might just be walking around the woods.”
Alex avoided saying anything further as he feared that his alertness would only stir up unwanted questions which he couldn’t answer himself. He restricted his interest with a simple hum and shrugged his shoulders.
“When you leave, could you keep an eye out for her? That would make me feel a little more at ease.”
“Sure” Alex mumbled in to his glass. He took a sip of the lemonade and observed Tom who looked cautiously out the window. Thomas’ concern made him restless. His instinct told him to get up and look for her, yet it sounded laughable. She knew the woods better than he might ever would. If he would act too suspicious now then there would be no turning back. He could not afford that.
“Did Jeannie tell you about last night yet” Alex asked more for changing the subject.
“No, as I said, I haven’t seen her the whole day. Last night she just stormed up to her room when she returned. Was very much unlike her. She looked a little upset if you ask me”
Both men sat quietly at the table, deeply in thought when their eyes met. A sudden alertness had put them both on their feet but neither of them was willing to confess their worry for Jeannie. Haphazardly Thomas grabbed his working gloves and hat from the table and tip toed towards the back door.
“I’m just,… I could do with Jean’s help later, I think I just go look for her” Tom faltered.
Alexander nodded sharply.
“Yeah, might be an idea. I’ll just get back. If I should see her, I’ll give her a ride back.”
They both marched out the backdoor with each step getting a little firmer than the last. Jeannie’s introvert behavior and her sudden disappearance were out of character and had alarmed Thomas. They didn’t know that she was only on a hike through known territory.
Before Alexander reached the truck, he scanned the fields at the edge of the woods one more time and waited for a moment and climbed in to his 4x4. Just as he was about to turn the key, he noticed someone walking down the hill. It didn’t take him long to realize that it was Jeannie who trotted happily through the grass. Relived, he let out a sigh before he got out the car again and shouted across to Thomas who was already walking in to the opposite direction.
“Hi Alex! Wonderful day isn’t it?” Jeannie chirped without a worry in the world as she got closer.
“It sure is” he shouted back. He was still taken aback how worried he had been just moments before for no reason and there she was, cheerful and smiling as ever as she approached him.
“Were you able to talk to dad?” Jeannie whispered when she saw her father rushing over.
“All in hand, as promised” Alexander smiled back at her. He had to fight the urge to hug her as he was so relieved to see her unharmed. Tom was a bit out of breath when he pulled Jeannie in for a long hug who was rather confused over her fathers’ sudden show of affection. She had only been away for a few hours, not days!
Almost envious had Alex to gaze the other way when he saw them both. It was such foolish business! He would have loved to kick himself.
“What’s gotten in to you dad? I’ve only been away for a few hours” Jeannie wondered and freed herself out of Tom’s tight grip.
“Does a father have to have a reason to give his daughter a hug nowadays?” Thomas snubbed back before he turned his attention to Alexander.
“Well, let me know how you get on.”
“I will” Alex promised as they shook hands. Tom made his way back to the stables and waved one final goodbye before he disappeared when Alex got ready to leave.
“Where are you going?” Jean was curious and leaned through the open window.
“I’ll go and try to speak to your brother. Something needs to be said” Alex declared proudly in fighting spirits.
“Yes”, Jeannie interrupted quickly “and I doubt it would be a great idea if you try to do this on your own. I’ll come with you,” Jeannie sternly bobbed her head and climbed onto the passenger seat before Alexander had even a chance to talk her out of it.
“Let your father at least know that you are coming with me” Alexander sounded harsh but Tom had been concerned enough for one day. One spontaneous adventure per week should be enough for a father to deal with.
On their way down town they tried to come up with the best strategy to approach Joshua. First, they thought of going straight to the bank and confronting him in his office, but that idea seemed to drastic and would most certainly only stir up more negativity than needed. Also, the idea of going straight to his house didn’t sound wise either. They were unsure if he’d be going home. He sometimes met friends after work. After discussing all options they finally decided to get a coffee and waited outside the bank in the car. It felt as if they were undercover cops on a secret mission. While they sat in the car, Jeannie saw an opportunity to ask Alexander about his time in New York as she had been rather curious to hear more about it.
“New York then”, Jeannie said out of the blue.
“What about it?” Alex pondered while he blew into the takeaway cup.
“Just, how did you get there? How long did you stay there and why?”
“Steady” Alexander laughed the questions off that she bombarded him with.
Carefully he took a sip of the boiling beverage and still managed to burn the tip of his tongue.
“Well, miss nosey, here it comes. After I graduated from University, I made my way to the big City and lived in New York for less than a year. I had just turned 28. Short after I got there, was offered a job with the construction firm I am still with. Was sent through all departments to get to know their way of working and met someone I thought was worth staying for but she turned out to be rather caring towards other people. Was a little too crowded for my liking so I asked to be transferred and ended up with projects all over the country which finally brought me here. The best thing that happened to me as it turned out. Besides, I never really liked the busyness of a City. I much prefer it here. How about you? Are you enjoying New York? I mean, is it what you were expecting at all?” Alexander observed Jeannie carefully as she tried to digest his quick bio before she answered.
“It most definitely is not what I was expecting that is for sure. Is it bad though? I don’t know to be honest. I have days when just want to pinch myself that I am really there amongst all those people and feel great. But then there are days when I hate the crowded streets and loud shops. There never seems to be a complete quiet place where you can retreat to other than your flat or the libraries. The loneliness sometimes gets at me the most though. During the day you are busy and everyone wants to be around you, to the point that it gets hard for you to think, but at night you just feel as if you are the only person on this planet. Even in a room full of people it often feels that way. I simply don’t seem to fit in.”
With his eyebrows in a frown Alex shook vigorously his head.
“How? Excuse me asking, why ever would you not fit in? You are an intelligent, kind and thoughtful woman.”
Jeannie blushed when she heard Alex gushing out these words.
“That is nice of you to say, but my friends are all rather, well, they know that I just studied in Lexington. They have been to Harvard or Yale. Makes you simply doubt yourself.”
“That is nonsense,” Alexander protested “it doesn’t matter where you are from, it matters who you are! And from what I can gather these snobs are not even worthy to breath the same air as you.” With another sip Alexander ended his rather pressing reply and continued to stare across to the main door of the bank.
Astounded, Jeannie sat in her seat and tried to read the expression on Alex’s face. She really did not know what to make of him. He said all these kind words, yet didn’t show any affection towards her. Maybe she just over interpreted his kindness with a wish that had started to grow in her against her will.
The clock had just turned five when a black car pulled up and parked outside the building obviously waiting on someone. Jeannie and Alexander didn’t have to wait long to discover for whom it was waiting for. Joshua appeared almost instantaneously, armed with his briefcase and disappeared in to the limousine that took off as soon as the door was shut behind him.
Jeannie looked bewildered at Alexander who turned the ignition key.
“Hold on” Alex warned as he steered his truck forcefully out the parking lot and followed the limousine out of Town.
“They are heading up to our fields!” Jeannie cried out when the black car turned off the main road on to the country lane which connected to the ranch.
Alexander growled into his beard and struggled to fix his eyes on the track for the sun was already low on the horizon. It was almost sheer impossible for him to see where the car was heading next and cursed for leaving his sunglasses at home.
“To the right, they have stopped at the clearing!” Jeannie warned him when she noticed his struggles against the bright sun light. Alexander slowed his car down and parked behind the black limousine. Joshua and three very fancily dressed men were already half way up the hill whilst being engrossed in deep discussion. Jeannie could hear their excited sniggers and laughter crawling down the hill which stirred her anger. They stopped at the top with blueprints in their hands and scanned the area in all directions as they pointed with enthusiasm towards the ranch. The picturesque homestead lay sheltered between the stables and trees in the distance, oblivious to the intruders that were lead on by one of their own.
Joshua was busy pointing in to the air. His words were nothing more than muffled hums. Jeannie burst out the truck and halted for a moment open-mouthed with her hand holding on to the car door as she waited for Alexander. Her entire body was shaking with anger.
“What on earth is he playing at?” Jeannie whispered. She feared the worst. With a beating heart she took deep breaths to compose her trembling legs and feared to let go of the car.
Encouragingly Alex put his hand on her shoulder and gently pushed her forwards.
“We’ll find out, let’s go” Alex grumbled. His gaze was focused on the group of busybodies that snooped around as he lead the way.
They had almost closed in on them when Joshua noticed his sister and Gauthier approaching for the first time. Josh had been so busy that he even had failed to notice Alexander’s truck following them and was now more than stunned to see his younger sister and the architect. Pale faced Josh leaned over to one of the men, before he hurried towards Jeannie. Cold pearls of sweat formed on his forehead which he shakily wiped away with the back of his hand. His thin lips twitched as they tried to produce a scared smile. Jeannie instantaneously was reminded of Bradley who had often greeted her on just the same way. This was the face of someone who done wrong, who knew that betrayal had been uncovered and who hurriedly looked for a plausible excuse, a way out of the homemade trap. But Jeannie was prepared for any kind of sweet sounding story why he was here. She was determined not to let him away with a fairy-tale, no! she would accept nothing but the truth. She was fed up with men thinking they could push her around like a pawn on a chess board. For too long had she allowed this to happen.
Her determination and willingness to fight was engraved on her face with fire glowing in her dark eyes which wasn’t unnoticed by her brother. He took a step back, alarmed by her expression but found his strength rather quickly when his and Alexander’s eyes met. Everything about his opponent awoke such deep rooted anger that he almost forgot that Jeannie stood right in front of him. She tried her hardest to appear taller than she was. She only reached to her brothers’ chin at the best of times. Her hands pressed against her hips, she was ready to confront Joshua.
“Jen”, Joshua yapped loudly. He wanted to demonstrate that all was perfectly in order and pushed Jeannie roughly out of ear shot but her newly found confidence fought back and she managed to twist her arm out of Joshua’s tight grip.
“Don’t you Jen me mister! What is this all about?!” Jeannie shouted enraged in to her brothers’ face. The trio up the hill was too busy to take note of what was happening between the siblings.
“Calm your voice you stupid thing or they’ll hear you!” Joshua barked. He was right up close in her face with a warning finger pointed under her nose. A cold electric shock ran through her as she stood dumbfounded in front of Josh but before she could think of replying, Alexander pushed himself between the two and glared angrily down into Joshua’s eyes. No one was talking to Jeannie like that! Although Josh stood uphill he remained shorter than Alexander, who towered over him with his brad shoulders like an angry bear.
“You better watch your tongue, Joshua. I’m warning you only once.” His dark voice vibrated through the air while his nostrils flared in anger.
“Brought your own bodyguard, how nice. Not even able to talk to your own brother.” Joshua smugly replied as he kept staring over to his sister. With the smirking smile he turned his attention to Alexander,
“This is a family matter, Gauthier. The only one who has to watch his tongue is you.” His sour voice cracked as he tried to keep his calm, but Alexander intimidated him more than he would have admitted.
“Alex is dads and my friend. He is allowed to say and hear as much as he likes. Do not test me, BROTHER.” Out from the shelter of Alexander’s presence, Jeannie felt more confident to speak up and continued.
“Could you please explain now who these people are and why they are here?”
Anxiously Josh treaded on the spot. His hands were stuffed deep in to his trouser pockets and nervously glanced over his shoulders to check the three men who were luckily still oblivious to the dispute.
“Oh man” he uttered while he loosened his tie with a shaking hand. The tight grip made him feel uncomfortable and breathless. At least was he able to untie this string unlike the invisible one Jeannie had forced around his neck. Why did she have to ruin this moment? And above all why did Gauthier had to be here? Mr. Perfect, Mr. can do everything around the ranch. Mr. I help where ever I can. Raise a toast! Here stands the picture perfect son! It was clear for most, but not to Joshua that he was nothing but jealous when it came to Alexander. The attention and compliments his father had granted him over the past few months had left its marks. Joshua hated handyman’s work and should have been thankful that someone else had taken on this job. For one he had to left hands and for the other, the ranch had never interested him! Well, this was only partly true.
As a teenager he had tried his hardest to help his father on the ranch. But Josh had slowly resigned over time for everything he ever done was criticized by Thomas. Nothing was well done, son or good work boy. The one and only time he reaped compliments was on the football field. And the older he got the more he struggled to meet Tom’s high expectations. The constant hard work after school made him realize that this was not the way he wanted to spend the rest of his life.
The constant struggles his parents faced on a daily basis scared him. There was never enough money for the simple things in life and he envied his friends who zoomed of on vacations. By the time Josh reached his senior year he had decided to pursue a career at the local bank when the possibility arose. It had caused a right uproar in their home. But Joshua had to be honest. He wanted a family of his own and the least he was prepared to do was putting them through the same struggles and pressure he had to grow up with.
Driven by his ambitions born out of selfishness and regret he had failed to notice how bitter and hardened his heart had become. All he could see were the things he missed out on. But the carefree childhood, fed by the courage and love of his parents remained hidden underneath the strain and ugliness of jealousy.
Jeannie was still waiting on an explanation. Within she knew the answer but hoped that her brother would not disappoint her to this extent.
“Joshua, please, be honest”, Jeannie requested after she had calmed herself. More anger would have caused a deeper rift between them. As she looked at the cold facts of the present moment, she could not afford this if she really wanted to help her father.
“These are the investors from California. They wanted to have a look at the land in person to clarify their plans.”
Jeannie was failed for words. Her father hadn’t even the chance to sort matters with the bank and Joshua led traitorously the strangers’ right in to the fight.
“Look, this has nothing to do with dad. This is my work. I didn’t even have to tell you anything, Jen” he pressed.
Still unable to find the right words Jeannie looked against the sun that was lowering and tried to make out where they stood. A sudden wave of sickness overcame Jeannie. Her safe haven was in danger! These were real people, not only an image she had formed in her head before. They had come to take away the only place on earth she felt connected to. During the past few days she had come to the sobering knowledge that a part of her had never left these fields, these mountains. A part of her was the rolling hills; the brook that would turn in to the wild creature in the winter time; the grass that gently swayed in a summer breeze and even the endless sky of fall held a piece of her!
Pale faced Jeannie stumbled in to Alexander who caught her just in time. Worried he gazed at her as he helped Jeannie back on steady feet.
“How could you” her voice was a fading shadow “This is our home Joshua. We have to protect it.”
Joshua stayed sternly by his opinion “That is exactly what I am doing Jeannie. Their ideas and plans will do just that, and this is more than I can tell you.”
“But”, Jeannie replied while she tried with all her might to fight back tears, “what about Dad? Have you ever thought about him in all of this? Mum’s grave is just up the other side of the valley!”
Unable to give a plausible reply, Joshua looked hurriedly over his shoulder and was thankful that one of the suited shadows was waving and called his name.
“I got to go Jean. It would be kind if you could leave now” Joshua was done and had no further interest in any kind of interaction with the two. Quickly he strode up the hill and turned in to one of them as he faded against the burning sky.
Alex, who still had a protecting hold of Jeannie guided her carefully back to the car. She still felt unsteady on her own feet and was thankful that Alex gave her hold. Her thoughts ran wild and created all kinds of scenarios. How was she to rescue the farm if these Vultures were already here circling above their heads and waited for the perfect moment to strike? Maybe she hadn’t taken the situation seriously enough. How could a graphic designer like her beat investors from the West who not only were more experienced but also had more funds to just buy their way in?
“I’ll take you home”, Alexander’s concerned voice was distant and only a mumble in her ears. Somehow, she was able to let him know that she did not want to go home. She could not face her father and act as if nothing had happened.
Despite the mechanical roar of the motor silence ruled their short journey across to Alex’s log cabin. Blurred fractions of the world around rushed past the window as Jeannie leaned against it and thought of her home. An overwhelming sadness weighed heavy on her and she had no idea what steps to take next. All she could think of was how her childhood haven started to crack and fall apart and nothing in her little world seemed to be able to rescue it from falling in to the depths of a deep dark hole.
Alexander hated his helplessness and wished he’d be more forthcoming with encouraging words, but failed to reason with his own mind.
After they arrived at the house Zander jumped right out the front door as it opened and ran around to the lake side while they both trotted in. Alexander routinely crossed the living room and opened the sliding doors to allow his little friend a safe return.
Jeannie, who had never been in his house before stood at the opening to the kitchen. She was surprised by the loving warmth of the room which unfolded in front of her. She instantaneously was able to relax and took a deep breath while a cool breeze entered through the open door but Jeannie did not mind, as it carried the fresh smell of the forest across. It was easy to understand why Alexander preferred the solitude of his home over the village. The silence and beauty of nature made Jeannie believe they had entered a different world, with no one around and no one to answer for. The Village was only a ten-minute drive from here yet they seemed cast away in a different dimension. From afar the wind whispered through the leaves, which swayed gently against a cascading sun. For a while Jeannie stood at the door and inhaled the calm of the moment without noticing anything else but the wind playing in the trees and the gentle movement of the waves covering pebbles around the shore line before retreating to the golden mirror.
Touched for only a moment, the pebbles stained wet surface dried slowly in the cool night and before they had the chance to return to their light grey color another wave embedded them with the cold water and the cycle began anew.
Jeannie watched the constant battle against the waves carefully, focused on one spot in particular. Maybe, if she would look for long enough, the pebbles would stand a chance and win. How unfair was this entire constant struggle, withstanding the force of someone else’ sardonic pleasure?
A strong chill grabbed hold of Jeannie which made her grab her arms as Alexander stepped out next to her. Thoughtfully he handed Jeannie a hot drink and a blanket as he had noticed her shivering.
With a bashful smile Jeannie glimpsed at Alex before they both watched the sun go down in the most spectacular array of colors, leaving them both behind in the cold shade of an early evening.
As the darkness started to spread, Alexander lit the outdoor lights which bedded the porch in a pale golden light. The shimmer reached across to the pebbles that Jeannie had observed so thoroughly before. The lake was now nothing more than a dark hole of vast nothingness, frightening and warning her not to step out of the safety and shelter of the light.
Alexander dusted off another chair that was leaning against the house wall and offered Jeannie the more comfortable rocking chair.
They hadn’t spoken ever since they had left Joshua and words still failed Alexander. He simply did not know how to start the conversation and deeply hoped that Jeannie would break the silence rather sooner than later. Small talk was not his strength. All he was capable to do was to sip his almost cold coffee and hoped for the right words to find him. There he was the bookworm, who loved nothing more than escaping with Hemingway or Salinger and remained empty of any kind of encouragement or hopeful encounter. Before he could beat himself further up about his incompetence, Jeannie sighed softly as she put her cup down on the floor between them.
“Are you not cold?” Jeannie finally broke the quiet of the night as she noticed Alexander sitting next to her in his jumper, the sleeves rolled up, which had exposed his goose pimple covered arms.
“No, I’m fine” and he believed this, for his mind had been preoccupied finding a solution to his undesirable silence.
Maybe the silence between them was what Jeannie needed to clear this troubled day out of her mind and above all find a solution how to approach her father in the morning. Yet she still felt that it was her brothers’ responsibility to talk to him not her. Unfortunately, common sense and factual thinking was out of the picture and she had no other choice then to break the news to him on her own account. Why this burden had to be passed on to her seemed still unfair.
“Thank you for your help Alex. I am really sorry that you got dragged in to all of this mess” Jeannie husked, as she continued to stare thoughtful at the pebbles at the shoreline.
“You don’t need to be sorry Jeannie. Your father is more than just a friend to me. I just wish there was more I could do.” As he turned his head, he could catch the sorrowful smile that had taken hold of Jeannie and wished he would be allowed to comfort her with more than just with words and a place to hide.
“I just hope,” Jeannie started anew “that it is not too late for us to find a way out. It would break dad’s heart if he had to leave his home – and mine. Why do I feel so guilty? I should have never left and stayed right here. Then maybe none of this would have happened. Dad needed me and I failed to see it.”
Tears welled up in her eyes but tried with all her might to fight them back. The least thing she wanted was to cry in front of Alexander and look like a weak self-pitying cow. She had to stay strong for all their sakes.
Carefully, Alexander pushed his chair closer to hers and took her hand reassuringly in his. The warmth of his palm and his firm grip startled Jeannie at first but gladly held on to it.
“Please, don’t ever think that. It is not your fault that things have turned out the way they are now. Yes, your father needs you, but you are here now. We will sort this out together. You won’t have to do this on your own Jean.”
His calm yet enforcing voice had given Jeannie more than reassurance. Knowing that someone else had her back was more than she could have ever hoped for and for a split moment the pain and fear of what was to come had faded in to the darkness and a glimmer of hope sparked within it.
As they looked each other in the eye another truth unfolded. There in front of her was a man who deeply cared for her family and selflessly tried to help although he had no gain from any of it. Never before had she met someone like Alexander and wondered how she could ever go back to her superficial life in New York and for the first time she knew that she did not want to.
No matter how daunting the future may seemed that lay in front of her, this was her home. This was where she belonged. And whatever it was, whoever it would be, she was ready for the fight. She knew that she was not on her own.

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