I’m starting something new on Fridays. This is the day where I share short stories, bits of things, or my writing from various prompts.
In this piece, I wrote in first person, something I don’t usually do. I was trying to explore a little bit more inner dialogue, moving between the mind and action, playing around with that technique.
I’d love to see what you come up with if you decide to write up something. Link your post in the comments and I’ll come read yours!
The prompt is: The mind replays what the heart can’t delete.
Being the youngest has its benefits, you know. Especially the youngest who was a surprise. Twelve years after the other youngest. And the only girl. Looking at the plus side, I got a house out of the deal. Of course, that means my parents had to die first. That part wasn’t the best. If we’re going stick at looking at the plus side, I don’t have any other 30 year old friends with their own house. And 27 acres. And a thriving business. None of which they had to pay for or build themselves. I suppose I don’t really have any 30 year old friends at all. But if I did.
I sweep my eyes around the living room, which is finally back to its original state.
I stand up and wipe my hands on my pants, walking over to the fireplace. Gently, I pick up the picture frame that I put his funeral program in. Three years already. It’s felt so long and so short at the same time.
I know, three years seems like a long time to take to put the room back together, but mom didn’t deal with the cancer well at all. After dad died, she stopped getting out of bed. I did my best to try to get her to eat or shower or anything, but she just wouldn’t. I thought about committing her to the hospital so she’d have to, but I didn’t have the heart.
Thankfully neither did James.
James is my biggest brother. It was his turn to be here after dad’s funeral. Pat and Derek and Charlie took their turns, but they just couldn’t take the time James could. Anyway, James was here so at least I didn’t have to watch her die alone. It went fast, just a week or so. I think. James says it took 12 days. I believe him. I can’t remember.
I set down the picture frame and run my fingers along the top of mom’s frame.
I couldn’t really do much for her anyway. It was summer, our busy season. I mean, we still had 8 horses that year and the mowing and the baling and the running and feeding and training and lessons. Someone had to do it and James hadn’t been around for years. He just retired from the Navy finally. 24 years. He was a Senior Chief Petty Officer. Was. He is. I remember one time we flew somewhere together. He wanted to take me on a trip to help me after all this happened. He took me to Guam where he’d been stationed for a while. I don’t remember much of the trip. It was hot. And beautiful. And the people were nice. I just kept thinking that mom and dad would have liked it.
Anyway, on our way to Guam, when we went to the airport, the security guard at the checkpoint was kind of a grouchy old guy sitting in a chair directing traffic based on their tickets and IDs. James handed the man his ticket and ID and that security guard nearly knocked over his chair standing up at attention. He personally checked James’ things, kept calling him Senior Chief, and basically escorted us through the security checkpoint. I was almost 28 then. James had just turned 50 a few weeks before. It’s weird having a 50 year old brother. I mean, he was 22 when I was born. He’d already been through his first four years in the Navy. He’d old enough to be my dad. It’s weird.
Speaking of, I remember when my dad bought an old fashioned film reel player, whatever you call that thing, with the two giant reels that hang out on top, like Mickey Mouse’s ears. We had just baled the grass that grew around the south side of the barn and my dad laid out a bunch of blankets and invited all our neighbors over and we watched a movie. Mom must have made ten pounds of popcorn for everyone and gone through just as much butter and salt. I don’t even remember the name of the movie. It was an old war movie, the first he could find that he could buy in those reels.
Dad told me he’d always wanted to be a camera operator at a movie theater. He finally got to live out his dream if only for that summer. I think every weekend we set up that thing and invited everyone we knew over. Mom just made popcorn over and over. We got pretty good at it. The next winter, dad’s cancer came. He was okay with it, actually. He just kept telling me ‘at least I got to be an operator for a summer’. I kept telling him he’d be around for a lot more summers to do that.
I think we stuck it in the basement. Or maybe Charlie took it. I know Charlie was really interested in learning about how to use it. He only came to a couple of the movie nights, but he always hung back with dad, learning how to use it. They were both like kids again. I was still a kid. It’s like they were like me again.
For being so much younger than my brothers, we do have good relationships. I’m thankful for that. I mean, I couldn’t have done all this on my own.
“Hey Kara.” I jump at the sound of Jordan’s voice.
“Oh, hey,” I say to her.
“I didn’t come into the house this morning, sorry,” she says to me. Her brown eyes stare into my soul and her brows wrinkle. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” I say, not actually looking at her. “Just thinking about mom and dad is all.”
“That’s coming up soon, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, next week for dad.”
Jordan looks at me for just a minute before grabbing a bucket. “You want to milk or should I? I’m surprised Lisbeth hasn’t busted down your door yet.”
I laugh a little. “I was just thinking that as I came outside. You do it. I’ll get those dang chickens and then get started on the horses. I suppose our first lesson will be here in an hour.”
“Yep. Gotta get to work,” she says.
I wander out to the coop and let the chickens out. A few years ago, I think about six or seven now, dad re-fenced the whole property with four foot livestock fencing. Big enough holes for the cats to get in and out but small enough to keep the chickens in. We’ve got 30 or 40 of ‘em. They just run around and eat bugs and whichever ones make it back into the coop at night survive. We kept the little run for the babies and their mamas. We sell the eggs and some of the chicks, too. I’ve thought about trying to get into the milk business, but I don’t know if I want more cows. Jordan thinks we should.
Jordan is my best friend and hired hand. She lives down the road. Grew up there. We’ve always been friends. She went off to college and got a business degree and worked a few years. After mom and dad died, she came back here and runs the business side of the farm. That’s good, because I never knew how to do that. Dad was going to teach me when I turned 30. He said I didn’t need to know any earlier than that. Guess he was wrong about that.
We’re going to build her a house out here, we think. I mean, she and Tyler are finally getting married and her parents are still young and doing the farm thing, but it doesn’t make sense for them to live in town. Besides, I’m sure Tyler will be here a little later. He works for Jordan’s dad on the farm. It’s nice having them here. It’s lonely for me. I haven’t dated anyone since Brandon.
I walk into the stable to a chorus of whinnies and snorts. I let all the horses out in the pasture except Tumbleweed. That’s my lesson’s horse. I’m teaching her how to ride. She’s not sure she wants to learn dressage, but she’s taking some riding lessons for now. She’s young. I don’t rush her because I want her to love riding first and understand the horse first. I’ve been riding since before I could walk, I think.
I was competitive for a while. I mean, up until mom and dad, you know. Whatever. That’s where I met Brandon, actually. Not the funeral. A competition. We both got first place and he took me out for a drink. It was a fairly easy relationship, actually. I mean, we were both really busy, but we found some time for each other.
But, you know, things happen. He started winning more and more and got famous. Well, famous in the horse world. No one else knew who he was. He kept messing around with other girls, so I gave him the boot. Whatever. Who needs that.
Tumbleweed snorts and throws her head, reminding me I’ve been standing in this spot and not letting her out. I put on her lead and walk her to the training ring. I should get her warmed up a bit first. I start putting Tumbleweed through her paces to get my head in the game, but my mind keeps wandering. I see Brandon riding Tumbleweed, with his stupid smile that we all fall for.
My mom was always on my back about finding another nice boy to marry and run the business. I don’t know. I think I’m fine with Jordan and Tyler. Mom and dad’s farmhouse is awfully big for just me, though. I mean, my farmhouse. It’s big for me. Maybe they’re right.
I hear the gravel drive crunching under tires and I pull off Tumbleweed’s lead and hang it up on the nail next to the plastic gate. Most of the ring is made of wood. Brandon and I painted it white, but we used a plastic door. Dad liked Brandon quite a bit. Mom hated him. I walk out to greet Miranda, but it’s not Miranda’s car. A black SUV pulls up into our makeshift parking lot by the stable.
Jordan appears at my side and pulls on one of my braids. I didn’t hear her come up behind me.
“I put the milk in the kitchen,” she says. “Who’s this?”
“I don’t know,” I say back to her. We both watch as the door opens and a man steps out. He must be about our age, I think. He slides a cowboy hat onto his head and shuts the door, tucking his hands into the pockets of his pants. Miranda hops down from the passenger seat side and hurries to his side, her red hair flying everywhere.
“One of you Kara?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I say. “What do you need?”
“I’ve got a couple horses and Miranda here says you board ‘em?”
My heart skips a beat as he gets closer, revealing an endearingly crooked smile and shaggy black hair under the hat. Dang it, he’s got green eyes. I love green eyes.
“Yeah,” I say, forcing myself to remain business-like.
“Well,” he continues, his velvety baritone voice rumbling around in his chest a little before finally coming out of his mouth, “maybe we can talk about it during Miranda’s lesson?”
“You’ll have to talk to Jordan about the business side of it – cost and benefits and all that. I won’t be able to talk during the lesson, sorry.” I find myself talking very fast and try to force myself to slow down.
He smiles at me. No, don’t do that. Then he tips his hat at me. “I understand completely. Don’t want to be distracted during the lesson. I can respect that.”
“Miranda,” I say. “Shall we?”
She follows as we get into the ring. “That’s my uncle,” she says.
“Oh?” I try to act normal.
“Yeah. He’s moving here from Texas.”
“My grandma’s sick.”
“Oh Miranda, I’m sorry,” I say, feeling the twinge of pain, but she just shrugs, clearly not understanding the situation. Uncles don’t move home because of sickness. Uncles move home for death. Death and no one else to take care of business. I glance over to see Jordan talking to Uncle… whatever his name is. He’s looking directly at Jordan. “Go get your tack and we’ll get Tumbleweed ready.”
“Okay.” I watch as Miranda scampers away. Looking back over, I see Jordan has left and it’s just Uncle No Name, leaning up against the fence, arms on the top fence board. He smiles at me again and my stomach jumps up into my throat. I nod and turn my back to him and try to focus on the lesson at hand. Soon, though, I get into my groove and finally all the movies of the morning melt away as I get into teaching mode, watching Miranda, instructing and correcting. I even forget about Uncle No Name for a bit.
The lesson is over almost as quickly as it began. Miranda puts away the tack as I get the brushes. We quickly brush her down and Miranda leads her to the pasture with the rest of the horses and turns her out. I walk her back to Uncle No Name.
“Quite the operation you have here,” he says.
“Yep, my parents built it,” I say, looking around at all the buildings. I remember when dad renovated the barn. That was just before Charlie moved out for college.
“Think I could come back for a tour to decide if this is a good place for my horses?” he interrupts the movie in my head.
“Uh, yeah, of course,” I reply, turning my attention back to his face. My heart starts palpitating in my chest and my hands seem to have sprung a leak. I wipe them on my pants.
“Jordan gave me the number here. I’m Travis, by the way.” He holds out his hand to me and I shake it, forcing myself to keep eye contact. Now is not the time to act like an idiot, Kara. “Firm handshake. I like that in a girl.”
I smile and chuckle. “You can’t take someone seriously with a limp rag handshake.”
“Darn straight,” Travis replies. He tips his hat again at me and nods. “I’ll be in touch.”
Oh, I do hope so. Kara, no. “That sounds just fine. I’m not going anywhere,” I hear myself say. He turns to Miranda and they walk off, back to his car.
“Daaaaaang,” Jordan says, walking up behind me.
“What?” I say, trying to feign ignorance.
“Texas? Horses? Did you see how he was looking at you?”
I look over and Jordan and roll my eyes. “Jordan, seriously? He was here for like, five minutes.”
“Yep. And never left that fence for five minutes and never took his eyes off you except when he was talking to me.”
“Jordan, stop being ridiculous.”
“I’m just saying,” she says and tugs on one of my braids.
I turn and look at Jordan. Her one eye crinkles like it always does when she wants to say more but doesn’t. I don’t pry. I know what she’s thinking.
I turn and watch them drive away. Maybe there is a chance this won’t be just my old farmhouse forever.