Jesse and I left the barn, closing it up and began to walk towards the house as we took a seat on the chairs on the porch.
“Tell me about your family.”
“What do you want to know?”
I thought about it and made eye contact with him, “everything.”
He looked petrified at first then began to talk, “Well my mom and dad met when they were teenagers, they were high school sweethearts. They got married when they were young and had me. I was the first to actually go to university in my family. My brother was born five years later, he didn’t go to university. He works; he likes working with his hands better than his brain.”
When I didn’t respond he continued, “I miss it back home, a lot sometimes. Not the place but just seeing my family every day.”
“Do you ever go home to visit?” I asked.
“Sometimes,” he said, “Anyways that’s basically my family tree. Grandparents all died and apart from a couple cousins that’s it. I’m afraid it’s not very interesting.”
I looked out into the distant sky, “It doesn’t have to be interesting.”
“What about you?” he asked, “I know you don’t have siblings but…”
The question that still remained unanswered as I waited for him to say it.
“What about your mom?” he asked, “Are your parents divorced?”
I swallowed hard knowing I couldn’t keep putting it off any longer, “You haven’t asked anyone yet?”
“No,” he said, “I figured you would just tell me when you were ready to.”
“I don’t know if I am ready,” I admitted, “I’m never ready to talk about it.”
“You can trust me Jen.”
I nodded, “I know.”
“I know it can be hard when parents get divorced, I hear it all the time. It’s the children who get affected the most.”
I stood up and walked to lean against the railing, he assumed my parents were divorced.
He followed me, I could see his shadow, I could sense his body behind mine, “Did she leave you guys?”
I turned to face him, “I wish they got divorced. My mother died.”
He looked down at the floor, “I’m sorry.”
I nodded, “Yeah, I miss her every day and there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t wish I could be with her.”
“You don’t mean that,” he said.
“I mean that she could be here with me.”
“Maybe she is,” he said putting his hand behind my back for support, “in your heart.”
I nodded, “You’re right but sometimes that’s not enough. A girl needs her mother’s touch. My mom, she used to be good at everything.”
“Must be where you get it from,” he said seriously.
I tried to smile at him, “I can’t do half the things my mother did.”
“How did she die?”
I sighed, “Can we talk about it another time?”
He nodded without a thought, “Sure, sorry. I didn’t mean to bring back bad memories.”
“It’s okay; I should have told you before.”
“Well if you ever need anything,” he paused, “you know where to find me.”
“I appreciate that,” I said.
“I should get going though, it’s getting late.”
I nodded. Jesse was slowly drawing near when we heard a loud noise from inside. I immediately ran inside. I found my father lying on the floor next to the stairs. I threw myself at his side and shook his body, there was no movement. I started freaking out as I ran to the kitchen and grabbed the phone.
Jesse was standing in the kitchen with his cell phone already in his hands, “I got it; I’m calling the ambulance. Go to him.”
I rushed to his side again and I began to shake him, “Daddy, wake up.”
I could hear him groan but his eyes remained shut, “It’s okay daddy. Help is on its way.”
I began to shed a tear out of fear, I didn’t know what happened. I know my dad said he felt under the weather but usually that just meant a headache or a soar throat. It looked like he fell down the stairs but why wasn’t he moving? I tried to stop the silent tears the flooded my eyes but couldn’t as I held my daddy’s hand and prayed that he would be alright.
As we arrived at the hospital, I watched as the paramedics brought my dad into a room. They told me I couldn’t go in until they knew what was happening. Jesse stayed back at the house I assumed, I hadn’t been paying attention to anything. The minute the ambulance arrived I did not leave my fathers side, I got a ride in the ambulance.
I sat down on the bench in the hallway and put my head into my hands as I whispered, “Please God, just let him be okay.”
“Jen?” I lifted my head as I saw Sara.
I stood up and embraced her, “What are you doing here?”
“Jesse found my number and called me to tell me what happened. He thought you could use a friend.”
I smiled, “That was sweet. I don’t know what’s going on.”
I found a nurse and asked if they could tell me anything, “Right now your father is alright, they are doing a few tests so I am sure the doctor will come and talk to you as soon as he can.”
I nodded as I sat back on the bench with Sara, “I don’t know what happened. I was outside and I heard a loud noise so I rushed inside and he was on the floor. I think he fell down the stairs but I don’t know…”
“Don’t worry,” she rubbed my back, “He will be okay. I am sure they are going to come out and tell you some good news.”
I nodded hoping she was right.
If I ever lost my father, I don’t know what I would do. It got me thinking about training. My father was scared to lose me and now I was in the same position. How could I keep doing something against my fathers will and worse, behind his back? It was wrong no matter how much I love it. I didn’t know what to do. If I lost my dad, I would be alone in this world, with no family left. I would never be able to accept that.
I shook my head trying to push the negative thoughts away as the doctor came out of the room.
“Jennifer?” he asked, “You are Joe’s daughter correct?”
I nodded, “Yes, is he alright?”
“You’re father had a heart attack, a mild one.”
I inhaled sharply wanting him to tell me it was a joke as he went on, “His arteries seem to be clogged. You said you found him near the bottom of stairs so I assume that he must have had it as he was using the stairs and must have fell so he also has a minor concussion. He’s alright right now but we would like to operate on him.”
It was all too much, “Operate?”
“Yes, we want to clear out his arteries, it’s a very common procedure.”
“So he will be fine?”
“Well no operation is one hundred percent guaranteed but we do it often and most of the time there are no complications. Your father is also in shape and does not seem to have any other problems based on his records so that increases the chances of success significantly.”
“When will this take place?”
“Tomorrow morning. I already discussed it with you’re father. You can go in and see him when you are ready.”
I nodded, “Okay.”
“If you have any questions feel free to ask a nurse to find me. Everything will be okay.”
I nodded biting my lip before walking into the room.
I went by my father’s side, “Hi daddy.”
“Hi beautiful, I’m sorry if I scared you.”
I placed my head on the side of the bed, “I thought I lost you.”
“Don’t worry sweetheart, I’m not going to leave you.”
“They told me you’re going to have an operation tomorrow morning.”
He nodded, “Yeah, they said I should be home in a couple days. Recovery is only a day. I will be back on my feet in no time.”
“Don’t worry about anything daddy, I will take care of everything.”
“I know you will, you’ve been running the ranch pretty much on your own since you turned seventeen. I am only worried about you staying alone.”
I shook my head, “I won’t because I will be here with you.”
He shook his head, “No honey, I will be fine. You go home and get some rest.”
I shook my head, “Dad, don’t argue with me because I am not changing my mind.”
He looked at Sara, “See what you can do Sara, maybe she will listen to you.”
“I doubt it,” Sara smiled.
“Can I get you anything daddy?” I asked.
He shook his head, “No, I am just tired. I think I am going to rest.”
I nodded, “Okay well I will go out for a little bit so you can fall asleep. I will be close by if you need me.”
He nodded as he closed his eyes. Sara and I tipped toed out of the room.
“You might as well go home Jen, you heard your dad, there is really nothing you can do here. Go home, get some sleep and come back tomorrow early.”
I shook my head, “I won’t be able to sleep in that house all alone.”
“Then come to my place.”
“I’m going to stay here.”
Just then a nurse walked by, “I’m sorry but only one person is allowed to usually stay. I didn’t tell you girls right away because this all happened suddenly but only family members can stay.”
We nodded as she walked away, “Don’t worry Sara. I will be okay.”
“Okay, do you need anything?”
I looked at my watch; it was one in the morning, “No. Did you say Jesse was at the house?”
She nodded as I went on, “Here, take my keys if you don’t mind. Lock up the place, and tell Jesse to go home. I’ll get my keys tomorrow or I’ll use my dad’s.”
She nodded, “No problem. Call me if you need anything. Don’t worry if it’s late.”
I grabbed her in a hug, “Thank you for coming, it means a lot.”
“Of course I would come. I will see you tomorrow.”
A little while later I walked back into my father’s room. I sat on the small bench for a little while before I tried to lie down on it. It was long enough but it was as hard as a rock. I got up and went by my father’s bed, I turned to see the door open and saw Jesse standing by the door way.
Surprised as I was it was good to see his face. I got up, forgetting about how tired I was and made my way out the door. I noticed the time was 4:00 am.
Without warning Jesse grabbed me in a hug. At first I stood still but slowly I accepted his touch as I lay my head on his shoulder. He felt warm and I couldn’t help but wish that I could spend more moments in his arms, under a different circumstance.
Finally we took a step back, “How are you?”
I sighed, “I am okay, what are you doing here?”
“Sara locked up and told me what happened. I just wanted to come see how you were doing. I guess I didn’t think you should be left alone.”
I appreciated his concern, “I am okay.”
“I don’t believe you.”
I huffed, “They said the operation is almost always successful.”
“That’s a good thing.”
“What if he is part of the percentage that isn’t successful?”
“Don’t think like that, your dad is strong, think positive.”
I nodded, “I’m trying but what if I lose him?”
“You won’t,” he put his hand on my arm.
Just then I saw a nurse coming our way, “The nurse is going to kick you out, only family members are allowed to stay and usually only one.”
He nodded, “Do you want to go for a coffee or something?”
I shook my head, “I don’t want to leave,” but I didn’t want him to leave either.
“I’m sorry, you are going to have to leave,” the nurse said.
“We’re engaged,” I exploded, “He’s family.”
She nodded, “Okay but only tonight.”
I nodded as I looked up at Jesse, “Sorry, I just, I didn’t want you to leave yet.”
He nodded putting his arm around my shoulder, “It’s okay.”
“Do you want to come in there with me?” I asked.
He grabbed my hand as he followed me into the room. We took a seat on the bench and I lay my head on his shoulder.
“He’s going to be okay Jen,” Jesse whispered when he sensed I needed to hear comforting words.
“I keep telling myself that.”
“Trust me, and more importantly trust God!”
I smiled, “Thanks for calling Sara.”
“I figured you would need someone here, just for support and I would have come sooner but I didn’t want to leave the place without locking it up.”
“Thank you,” I said lifting my head, “for everything. You should go though, it’s late.”
“I’ll stay with you.”
“No, you need to get some sleep too. You can go in later tomorrow, don’t even worry about getting all the work done, it’s not going to happen.”
“Don’t worry about me; I can get a couple hours here with you.”
I shook my head, “No really, you should go. You can tell Luca and Mary what happened tomorrow morning. I’m going to stay here and I’ll come home a little after the operation ends if he is okay.”
“Look, I am your fiancé for the night,” he joked, “so I am staying with you.”
I had to smile at his words as I watched him take off his sweater, make a pillow out of it and place it on his lap, “Come here.”
I placed my head in his lap and looked up at him, “Well since you are my fiancé tonight, I guess I could tell you how grateful I am that you are staying.”
He nodded, “Yes you could. I could also tell you that I think you are amazing for everything you do.”
I slightly blushed, “I could tell you that I really like your eyes.”
He smiled, “Get some sleep.”
I nodded as I closed my eyes!
At some point in the early morning I heard my father wake up, “Jesse?”
I kept my eyes closed and my head firmly in Jesse’s lap as he spoke, “Yeah, how are you feeling?”
“I’m okay, what are you doing here?”
“I stayed with your daughter last night,” he responded, “She’s worried about you.”
“I know, thank you for staying with her,” he sounded tired.
“The nurses were here a few minutes ago, you were still asleep. They are going to take you into the operation room shortly.”
“You care about my daughter, don’t you?” my father asked changing the subject.
“Yeah, I do,” Jesse spoke truth the added, “I really do.”
“Then don’t break her heart.”
“Oh,” Jesse began, “You meant like that? Jennifer and I are just friends.”
“Friends?” my father repeated, “Is that why you stayed the night and let her sleep on your lap?”
“Yes,” Jesse sounded unsure.
“Okay well, either way, don’t break her heart.”
“I won’t,” he said.
I tried not to smile; my father was so over protective. I felt sorry for Jesse who was being interrogated. Finally I began to stir in his lap; I slowly fluttered my eyes open not expecting Jesse to be staring directly at me.
“Good morning,” he said.
I slowly got up, “Sorry.”
“For keeping you here all night,” I said, “I probably put your legs to sleep.”
“I didn’t feel a thing; I slept a few hours too.”
I looked at my dad who was watching us, “Hi dad,” I went over to him and grabbed his hand, “Are you okay?”
He nodded then looked at Jesse, “Take her home.”
I shook my head, “No. I will go home after the operation.”
I nodded, “I’ll call Sara and she will pick me up.”
My father then looked at Jesse, “Why don’t you take the day off today. You could use the sleep.”
I nodded agreeing with my dad, “He’s right.”
“I’ll go and sleep a bit but I’ll put in a half day.”
“Honestly, don’t. We will be fine. You already did a lot,” I said looking deep into his green eyes.
“Okay, well I will leave you guys, get better okay.”
I followed him out thanking him again, “I really appreciate it.”
“Don’t worry about it, you would have done the same,” he said as if he knew I would.
I nodded, “I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Yeah,” he said before grabbing me in a hug, “Be strong for your dad. He will be fine okay. Once he’s out, you better go home and rest a few hours.”
The three hour operation felt like twenty four. I paced the hallways, had four coffees and chewed a pack of gum. Eventually a nurse came and told me the operation was successful and my father was back in his room. He was a little sedated but he was more or less himself.
“Hey daddy, they told me everything went well. How do you feel?”
“I feel great; I still don’t feel a thing.”
“You’re not supposed to. They said you could come home tomorrow morning.”
He nodded, “Yes but right now you have to go home and get some rest. You heard yourself; I am fine so you do not have to worry about me. I am just going to take a nap anyways.”
I nodded, “Alright, I will be back for tonight okay?”
“Okay, oh and bring me something to eat, they are making me starve with the food they bring me.”
“We are going to start eating healthier; I don’t need your arteries to clog up again. One time is more than enough.”
“Okay go or you are never going to leave.”
I made my way outside where Sara had her car parked. As I got in and put my seatbelt on I told her what the doctors said. I wasn’t sure whether or not I should tell her about Jesse but I couldn’t keep it from her.
“Jesse stayed with me last night,” I blurted out.
“Oh really?” she glared at me, “Spill.”
“There is nothing to spill, he came by and well he ended up staying.”
“I thought only family members.”
I looked out the window, “We may have lied to the nurse. I said he was my fiancé.”
“Wow, you went from being friends to being engaged, skipped the whole dating part. You guys move fast,” she joked.
“Oh stop it, we are only friends. Trust me I overheard him talking to my dad. We are strictly friends.”
“Yeah, because he works for you right? So fire his ass and then you can date him, perfect resolution.”
“You always have the answers, don’t you?”
“Yup, not like you ever listen to me.”
We pulled up shortly after and as I got out I spotted Jesse talking to Luca.
“What is he doing here; he is supposed to be at home.”
“I don’t know,” Sara said as we both walked towards the guys.
“Hey Jennifer,” Luca said, “Jesse told me what happened, how is your dad.”
“He’s fine, he can come home tomorrow,” I looked at Jesse, “Why are you here?”
“I just wanted to come do some work,” he said, “I needed to tell someone what happened right.”
“Fine, but you’re going on what? Twenty hours without sleep now? Go home and get some rest.”
He nodded, “Look, I am almost done, just have a few more stalls to do, I skipped a few grooms though, they looked like they could skip a day and Mary helped me out as well.”
“I will do the rest,” I said.
“You go to sleep; I promise I will go as soon as I am done.”
As I watched him walk into the barn I faced Luca and Sara, “He’s too much.”
I began to follow him to the barn as I heard, “Reminds me of someone else I know.”
“I heard you,” I said over my shoulder.
I went to get a rake and entered the stall next to Jesse, “What are you doing?”
“I am helping you so you can go home.”
He shook his head, “Why are you so stubborn?”
“I am not the stubborn one.”
“Yes you are,” he said.
“Last time I checked, you work for me which entitles you to listen to me.”
Jesse shook his head and dropped the rake, “Are you really complaining because I am actually working?”
It sounded stupid when he put it like that, “No, I am complaining because you are going to wear yourself out pretty soon and you won’t be able to work tomorrow.”
“I will be fine tomorrow,” he said, “I think you are the one who needs the sleep the most since you are making a big deal out of nothing.”
“Maybe you are right,” I yelled, “Since you are fine, you can finish up these stalls and I will go take a nap.”
As I began to walk out of the barn Jesse spoke up, “What happened to the girl who slept on my lap last night?”
“She doesn’t exist,” I said, “This is me, I am a control freak and it is too bad if you don’t like it.”
Jesse walked towards me, “Go to sleep.”
As I found Sara to get my keys I went inside. Sara followed me into the living room.
“I’m going to go,” she said, “You get some rest okay?”
I closed my eyes, “Thank you for everything.”
I barely heard when she left as I already dozed off into a deep sleep. I woke up later that afternoon. I went into the barn and found Mary.
“How are the wedding plans going?” I asked.
“They are going, we’re hoping to have nice weather but we’re going to have white tents in case it rains with white lights.”
“It all sounds so beautiful.”
“I was wondering if you would be a bride’s maid?”
My eyes lit up as I gave her a hug, “I would love to.”
“Good, we’ll have a fitting next week sometime, I’ll do weekend so you can make it.”
“Thanks,” I smiled, “I can hardly wait.”
“Are you going back to the hospital?”
I nodded, “Yeah.”
“Tell your dad I say hi okay?”
“I will. Hey what time did Jesse leave?”
“A couple hours ago. He said he was coming to say bye to you but then he said he found you sleeping on the couch.”
I nodded, “Yeah, I was out like a light.”
“You needed it,” she smiled, “Is something going on with you guys?”
I shook my head, “No way. He is not my type.”
“I didn’t think so but I suddenly got the notion that you guys would make a cute couple.”
“He’s too stubborn for me,” I admitted.
“I bet he could say the same about you.”
“Did he?” I asked.
“Maybe,” she winked, “I better get back to work.”
I was a little curious but I let it go, I got into my dad’s truck and went to see my father. He was sleeping when I arrived but woke up shortly after.
“Did you get some sleep?” he asked.
“I did,” I said, “The horses are all good and Mary and Luca send you their best.”
“You would do just fine without me Jen,” he whispered.
“Dad,” I said, “Don’t say that.”
“I am not saying that to worry you, I am just saying that I am proud of you.”
I lay next to my dad on the bed, “Thanks dad. I am proud of you too.”
“Proud of me? For what?”
“You did a good job raising me without mom.”
“Oh honey, I love you so much.”
“I love you too dad.”
We spent some time lying next to each other as my father held me in his arms. After a couple hours my dad told me I should go home.
“You are going to be uncomfortable here, you can come back to pick me up in the morning.”
I got off the bed and agreed, “Okay. I will be here early morning to pick you up.”
“You could always call Jesse,” he winked, “I am sure he would come over and keep you company.”
“Dad we are friends.”
“Yeah, that’s what he said.”
“Really?” I said pretending I didn’t hear their conversation earlier today.
“Yeah but we’ll see.”
“He works for us.”
“So you should not mix pleasure with business.”
“So you admit that you like him?”
I shook my head, “No.”
“That’s okay, I will see you tomorrow.”
“Good night,” I said as I kissed him on the cheek.
That night I couldn’t sleep. Every creek in the house made me hide beneath my blanket. I always heard noises at night but when I knew my father was in the next room, I knew everything was okay. I opened the light on my bed stand and looked at the picture that sat there of my mother and I.
“What do you think of Jesse mom?” I said, “I wish I knew.”
I turned out the light and tried to get some sleep.