Katie was sitting crossed legged in the library, surrounded by piles of boxes whose only label was ‘Decorations’. She was singing Dashing Through the Snow quietly to herself when she heard footsteps coming towards the library.
‘God, I must have it bad if I can recognize Cash’s freaking footsteps,’ Katie thought fondly.
One of the double doors opened and a head with messy brown hair and bright hazel eyes slowly looked into the library, as if avoiding detection, which made Katie laugh.
“Your sneaking skills need work, cowboy.” Cash grinned and opened the door all the way, walking over to Katie’s unintentional box fort.
“Ruby thought you might need some help,” he said. “And since I know for a fact Rocky and I were the ones who packed up all the decorations, I’m guessing the boxes aren’t labeled.”
“Well, technically, they’re all labeled ‘Decorations’,” Katie said, laughing. “Not super specific, I’ll admit, but still mildly helpful.”
“Well, that’s what I’m here for. To be mildly helpful.” Cash settled himself on the floor as Katie laughed again.
“Well, I’ve started a Christmas pile over here, a Thanksgiving pile here in front, and a miscellaneous pile over here,” Katie gestured. “I’m not actually sure what holidays these are for. I found a giant rabbit in one box, but there was also red, white, and blue bunting and tiny American flags in the same box. And since I’m pretty sure Easter hasn’t turned patriotic, I’ll go through these later and reorganize everything.”
“Angel, you know you don’t have to do that. Rearranging my horrible packing skills is definitely not part of your job.”
“I don’t mind,” Katie said, shrugging. “Besides, it’s kind of neat to see all the decorations your parents used.” Katie suddenly stopped what she was doing and her head shot up to look at Cash. “Is-is it okay? That I’m going through this stuff? I can stop, we can put everything back, I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking-”. Cash gently cut her off by putting his large, calloused hands over her smaller ones.
“I like that you’re using them, angel. I was thinking... Well, maybe during the off-season we could go through my parents stuff and decide what to keep and what to get rid of. Then we could go to Billings and get new things for the house, furniture and decorations that reflect both of us.”
Katie didn’t say anything, just stared at Cash with her mouth hanging open. Tears filled her eyes and few spilled onto her cheeks before she was able to pull herself together.
“You want me to help decorate or furnish or whatever?” she asked. “You...you actually want my help?” Katie’s voice had grown softer and her lower lip was quivering, causing Cash to step over her box fort and gather her up in his arms. They sat together on the floor, Cash holding Katie close.
“This is your home now, angel, same as it’s mine. I’ve no intention of letting you go and I want our home to reflect both of us.”
“But what about-” Cash cut Katie off with a short, sweet kiss.
“We’ll figure out what to do about your ex. It’s not just you fighting him anymore, it’s all of us and we will win. Do you trust me?”
Even a few weeks ago, Katie wouldn’t have known how to answer that question. But now there was no doubt in her mind as she immediately answered-
“Yes. I’ll always trust you, Cash. Forever.” Katie leaned forward, resting her forehead on Cash’s. They stayed like that for a few minutes, tangled up in each other’s arms, sharing the same air as their breathing began to match each other. Reluctantly, Cash pulled away.
“We better find those decorations before Ruby comes after us with a ladle.” Both Katie and Cash laughed, the moment broken, but Katie could still feel the strength and resolve flowing through her.
‘Whatever happens,’ Katie thought, ‘Cash will be by my side. So will Ruby and Rocky. And the rest of the hands would help me if I needed them. This place, these people, they’re my home now.’
With that comforting thought, Katie joined Cash in his quest to find the Thanksgiving decorations,
Thanksgiving at Skyheart turned out to be a loud, chaotic, wonderful mess. Ruby started cooking at 4am and everyone knew not to bother him once he hit his Master Chef zone. Ruby had relented slightly with Katie, allowing her to set the tables, place all the decorations and fix pitchers of ice water and hot cider. The hands started slowly trickling into the house around 10am (since they could sleep late on Thanksgiving).
Ruby had set up a breakfast buffet on one of the counters, so everyone helped themselves, then found random places to sit and eat. Some went to the dining room, others stood around talking to their friends while they ate, and a large group settled onto the comfy couches in the living room to watch the parades and then, most importantly, the football games.
Katie learned there was a Skyheart Thanksgiving tradition, where most of the hands would brave the cold and play football outside until dinner was ready. She pretty quickly concluded that they were insane, but she couldn’t help herself from going outside every now and then to cheer from the porch. Inside, there was now a football game on TV, Ruby was playing ‘80s music (mostly Michael Jackson, George Michael, and Madonna), and some of the hands were sitting in the dining room, telling stories.
Since Katie had been banished from the kitchen, didn’t particularly care about the game on the television, and refused to continuously freeze just to watch the hands run around with a ball, she found herself joining the group in the dining room. The only hand she knew well was Josiah, but she was getting more and more comfortable around the men on the ranch, so she didn’t mind spending time with hands she didn’t really know.
They were the older, veteran hands (except Josiah, who got along with the older hands better than the ones his own age). They were swapping stories of Thanksgivings past: when they were children, when they had been working another ranch, or when they celebrated by themselves because they were between jobs. Katie loved hearing about the different lives each of the hands had led. It made her realize everyone lives complicated lives, but it’s your choice how you react to your situation.
‘I feel like this needs to be my personal motto: Survive the hard times and cherish the happy ones,’ Katie thought.
Ruby called everyone in to dinner by ringing a large, metal triangle. The food was fantastic (although that didn’t surprise anyone), and the hands all felt like this was a proper Thanksgiving. They couldn’t figure out what had changed, but then the realization spread across the room that the ranch had turned into a home again because of Katie. She had brought back that mysterious magic that turned not just the big house, but the entire ranch into a home and a (slightly dysfunctional) family. Katie, for her part, just enjoyed watching how happy everyone was.
“You look cheery, hon,” Rocky said. “I’m glad to see it.” Rocky was sitting beside Katie, Cash on her other side. Ruby, once they dragged him out of the kitchen, was also at the table, along with Hank and three hands Katie didn’t know particularly well.
“I’m happy,” Katie replied, smiling at Rocky. “Everything is just... I don’t know, I don’t even know how to describe it, but things finally feel better. I feel better.”
“That’s wonderful, hon!” Rocky exclaimed. “I’m glad you’re happy here. We all wouldn’t know what to do without you.” Katie laughed, shaking her head, but Cash leaned over and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.
“He’s right, you know,” said Cash. “We wouldn’t know what to do without you. I certainly can’t imagine it.”
Katie gave Cash a loving smile, blushing at his words. She gently caressed his cheek before the two of them remembered they were surrounded by people. Cash blushed, looking down at his plate as Katie laughed. Ruby was dramatically fanning himself.
“Oh lord have mercy, I had no idea just a look could be so hot!” he cried out jokingly. “Goodness! You two better cool it or I’ll surely faint from the vapors!”
Everyone laughed, going back to eating Ruby’s delicious dinner. Cash placed his hand on Katie’s leg under the table and gently squeezed, making her smile. She intertwined her fingers with his. They both continued eating one handed, holding onto each other under the table and enjoying spending time with the people they cared about.