A thick layer of mist rose quietly from the lake in the early morning hours as a cool gust of wind woke Jeannie from her deep sleep. As she slowly opened her eyes she needed some time to understand where she was. When her eyes finally got accustomed to the bright sunlight, which was creeping along the meadow she felt the warmth from the chest she was nestled against. It took her a few moments to realize that it was Alexander who was still sleeping in his chair and held on tight to Jeannie.
Did she really fall asleep here last night? Her head was spinning and tried to remember what had happened during the night.
They had been talking a long time, she remembered that much. Two empty glasses sat on the balustrade together with an almost empty bottle of whiskey.
As she carefully freed herself from Alexander’s grip a sharp stinging pain shot without any warning through her head which forced her to press her fingertips against her temple.
Damn, she whispered and got herself to her feed when she heard Alex’s grunting voice.
His neck felt stiff as he tried to move, and was equally shocked that they had fallen asleep on the decking. The awkwardness of the moment had spiraled out of proportion. Surely nothing bad had happened but the thought posed no comfort for neither of them. Stumbling over her words she grabbed her jacket and tried to walk past Alexander who also had no idea which way to turn. Should he offer to drive her home or should they just part ways? Before he even could say a simple word, Jeanine had already climbed down the few steps towards the footpath which would lead her down to the ranch.
“Well,” she muttered, “I’ll see you around. Thank you for yesterday and...” she stopped in her tracks and had no idea how to finish the sentence. Instead she just raised her hand and waved.
Alex nodded quickly which made his head spin a little. With an unintended frown he waved back.
“No problem. I hope your father will be okay.” His voice sounded rusty and broke off mid-sentence. He waited on the decking until Jeannie was out of sight before he tidied up the empty glasses.
He could have kicked himself. The last thing he wanted was to cause Jeannie to feel at unease around him and she more than clearly must have felt that way as she was leaving. The way she had tried to avoid him and shied away from any eye contact had made that perfectly clear. The more he thought about it the more he worked himself up about it. Why on earth did he get the drinks out? He should have driven her home instead then none of this would matter now. As he looked along the meadow a cold shiver ran down his spine and for a fleeting moment he remembered the feeling of her so close to him, her warmth surrounding him with an unknown comfort and content he did not want to let go. What would he not have given to make this faint memory a constant lasting affair? Why could he not forget about her? What was it about this woman that drew him closer with each time they met? He needed to withstand the urge being around her or he would only get hurt. Soon, he knew, she would remember the life and the people that were waiting for her in the city. Dreaming up castles in the sky that only would be destroyed by the next storm was the least he could handle and neither was the thought of another man being allowed to take his place. An unbearable lightning struck him right deep in his guts and for a moment he knew that nothing would be the same again.
Why, oh why did he not drew the line last night and ended the inevitable before he allowed for it to settle and plant its seed?
Distraction was the only way to find ground again, so he swung himself behind his desk reading his emails. He hoped that this road he was heading on soon would find another turn to safe him from getting lost.
By the time Jeannie arrived at the house her father had already started his daily chores and was hard at work in the barn.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw her rushing past the back gate and wondered where she had been.
With a gesture of his hand he gave one of the hired hands to understand to take over and walked across to the house.
As he entered he called for Jeannie a few times and climbed upstairs before he knocked on the bathroom door.
“Jean are you alright?” Tom asked with concern for his youngest daughter.
He could hear water running and waited a moment before he knocked once more.
From inside she called back “I’ll be right there dad. Do you have a moment? We need to talk.”
Thomas did not like the sound of her voice. Jillian used the same tone when something pressing had to be discussed and with the looming sword above his head he could only imagine it were bad news Jeannie had to share.
“Alright”, he replied “I will be downstairs. Speak when you’re ready.”
Tom poured himself a cup of coffee and took a seat at the kitchen table. In his head all kinds of scenarios played on repeat like an old movie and prepared him for the worst.
After a short wait Jeannie trotted in to the room with a towel in her hands that she thoughtfully rubbed against her wet hair. The shower had calmed her a little
and helped her to focus on how to approach her father. She had to push the mussiness she had gotten herself into aside and had to concentrate. The last thing she wanted to do was to bulldoze the news upon her father and she needed to find the right way of approaching this delicately. Maybe she was too emotional about it all and her dad would take it better than she imagined.
With a sigh she sat down opposite him. Tension built between them with every passing second she dragged the unavoidable out.
“Yes?” Thomas sat staring at her with a quizzing face.
“Well, Alex and I followed Josh yesterday.”
She paused and scanned her father’s expression in hope that it would help to find the right approach. But as so often it was near impossible to read him. That gift had only been given to her mother. To her he had been an open book. Every glare, every raised eyebrow, every sigh had been open confessions to her.
“And?! Were you able to speak?”
Glad about this question she continued,
“Not immediately. He had company as well. The investors he had been talking about were with him.”
“Okay. So, what’s the deal?”
Jeanine found it hard to talk bluntly with Thomas but knew that she had to.
“Stop trying to protect me darling. Please, I’m still your father and more than capable of dealing with bad news.”
Encouraged she told him about what they discovered. Not going too much in to detail about the fight they had. There was no need to overdramatize the situation. It was bad enough as it was.
Thomas listened carefully to what Jeannie had to say and nodded every now and then to acknowledge her findings. He could hear by the tone of her voice how upset she must have been about the whole situation, but to be fair he kind of expected something like this to happen rather sooner than later.
At the moment they were still here. Nothing had been set in stone, and as far as he was concerned anyone could walk along the fields and look around. What sanded him though was the betrayal. His own son was dealing with these people.
Why he hadn’t been able to ask one of his colleagues to take over was beyond Tom. How much did Josh have to hate him and his family home to go ahead and show strangers about?
His eyes mirrored his thoughts in a sad glaze which Jeannie noticed and thought that it had been her fault as she was to blunt about it all.
Sorrowful she lowered her head and apologized to her father.
“I should have never followed him like this. I’m really sorry dad.”
“Jean, come, it’s all not that bad” he tried to sound convincing to himself as he spoke and reassured Jeannie with a warm smile and a pat on her hand.
“All we have to do is to keep up our faith! If it is meant to be there will be a way out. We only have to look for it. As long as we stick together. Can you do that for me?”
Jeannie looked back with content and smiled.
She was rather relived that the news were finally off her chest. At least one thing she had been able to deal with. It was strange to think but, when she had arrived just a few days ago, she was convinced there was only one problem to sort.
“Is there something else’s bothering you?” befuddled to hear her father’s voice she uttered a reply
“What should be bothering me?”
Calling defeat, Tom raised an eyebrow and pushed himself from the table. As a father he knew when his children had something to hide but also understood when to withdraw from a discussion. If she wanted to confide in him she would do so on her own terms. Girls, he thought. They got all flustered if we wouldn’t talk and lay all cards on the table but it was totally fine if they kept silent.