Driving down the lane to their ranch, Joy Ann saw Larry climb into his old Chevy farm truck in the barnyard. She roared up, parked next to him and yelled through the window, “Do you have to go back? So soon?”
Larry was wearing bright, yellow, heavy coveralls, meant for forest fires, not the heavily padded, dull yellow ones he wore for structural fires. The truck’s engine was reviving.
“Need anything to eat?”
“Base camps setting up at Jones Ranch. They’ll be bringing in plenty.”
“Larry, “she pled.
“Just get yourself and the animals to safety. Someone from Base Camp should come by soon with information. Take care of yourself. Ask Lance to help. Got to go.”
“But, when will you be back?”
“Twenty-four . . . thirty-six hours. Who knows? Depends where and how long it take to get these fires under control.” His truck pulled off.
“Larry,” she called after him. She jumped out of her truck and watched as he roared up the lane. “Take care,” she sighed.
Time hung heavy, strange and as intense as the sun’s rays. “This is not an ordinary day,” she said out loud, briskly walking toward Lance’s white lodge calling, “Lance, its Joy Ann. Larry has something important that I have to ask you. Oh, Lance, are you in there?”
He stepped out the lodge, barefoot, wearing a long-sleeve blue shirt and jeans. Alexis came behind him in a long sleeve, yellow dress, her hair ablaze in the sun.
They met across from each other at the small picnic table he’d placed near the lodge under the shade of aspen trees, a place where the sun ray’s had not yet reached.
“This is a pretty spot,” sighed Joy Ann, “I hope it stays this way and won’t be burned up. It’s so hot today, but it feels a little cooler here under these trees.” She smiled at him and he returned her smile. Alexis looked deep into the woods, her back to them, giving the appearance that whatever the conversation was going to be, it wouldn’t concern her.
Joy Ann looked directly at Lance who seemed to be a little disjointed himself, his eyes strangely unfocused. “You’ve probably heard the fire trucks and equipment going by up on the road. Larry just left for the fire base camp at the Jones Ranch five miles up the road.” She saw his look of not knowing and added, “Jones, he’s a fire volunteer in Larry’s fire district.
“Larry wants you to move the animals to safety when the time comes. We may, you, too, be required to leave, depending on what happens with these fires. You’ll have to think about whether or not you’ll take your lodge down now or later. I’ve just learned we may be on evacuation notice.”
Lance had his arm around Alexis. “My lady is doing fine right now. We’ll need a little time to figure out what we’re going to do. I’ll come up to the house in a while to let you know.”
Joy Ann got up. “By then, I should have more information. Please come soon. This is terribly important. I don’t know who else to ask.”
She started back to the house wondering what it meant when he said his lady was doing fine now. How would that influence his decision to stay on and help her now that she needed him? What did he mean when he called Alexis, “My Lady?” Yes, she did feel a tension, as well as an indefinable strong attraction, between the two of them.
A code of understanding, too, which possibly could mean love. He hadn’t called Ferris ’My Lady.” If a man calls a woman, his lady, it smacked of commitment. Was he engaged to this woman? How is Stormy going to feel when she finds out? Well, I’m not going to tell her. It would break her heart.