Falling in the Rain

byLuckie_Duckie©

Smiling to herself, she tried to come up with a mental picture of the woman. Frizzed out platinum hair, squinty eyes, and a chubby body. Laughing, Jess hadn't realized they entered the small ranch kitchen until she heard Lacy asked Jim, "Why is that girl laughing?"

Turning abruptly, Jess lost all the laughter from her voice. The woman was tall, not as tall as Jess, but nearly, with long red hair that fell in curly waves to the middle of her back. She stood quietly next to Jim and smiled at Jessica. Well, she wasn't what she had pictured, that was for darn sure.

Lacy wore a short black dress, that was entirely to revealing. Jess wanted to roll her eyes, but she knew that if she even tried, Pop would have her hide. Shaking her head, she figured, was a safer bet, so she did just that.

"Hi, Jess." Lacy said and stepped forward toward Jess. Jess took an involuntary step backward. The woman obviously thought she was deaf, not blind. She had shouted at her like she couldn't hear a thing. "My name is Lacy," she said, and used her hands to accentuate the action.

"Hello, Lacy." Jess said quietly. "My name is Jessica. Please call me such, and as much as I hate to inform you, I am not deaf. So quit shouting at me. You'll rupture my eardrums." Lacy looked startled at Jess's demands. She took a step back and blinked.

After a moment Lacy spoke loudly, "What a pretty color for your eyes. Where do you get your contacts? I should like to get some." Lacy said loudly. Jess sighed and shook her head. Well, at least she wasn't shouting. It was a start.

"They aren't contacts. They are my natural eye color. I'm physically blind." Jess told her looking back at the roast. "By the way, I think your dress is a little. . . hooker-ish, no I guess that's not the word I'm looking for. It's. . .Slutty. Yes. Slutty is definitely the word I am looking for." Jess repeated 'slutty' a few times quietly to herself, but quite loud enough for Lacy to hear.

"Jim! Aren't you going to say anything?"

"What do you want me to say? She's an adult. I can't tell her what not to say. Freedom of Speech, remember?" Jim said, chuckling to himself. He wasn't about to tell Lacy he thought the same thing.

"Well, humph." Lacy muttered more to herself than anyone else in the room. She turned to leave the kitchen, then spun around, her mouth gaping wide open, like a fish.

"But she's blind!" Lacy exclaimed.

"No duh. A little slow on the pick up there." Jess said sarcastically.

"So she can't see my dress. It's impossible!" Lacy sounded thrilled by the idea. She practically jumped up and down. Jess winced at the extra leg and cleavage that showed in the action.

"Not really." Jim said. Jess glanced at her father and wondered if he had winced as well.

"I said I was physically blind, but I can see you. You're about an inch or two shorter than me. Also, your dress is slinky and very slutty and two sizes too small. Your hair is red, and you wear too much make-up. Personally, I would rather die than wear that shade of... what would you call it? Trailer-park-blue eye shadow?" Leaning against the counter, she folded her arms and looked at Lacy. "And I can see your aura, and I don't like the color." Jess said with a smirk and a tilt of her head.

"I have never been so insulted in my entirely life!" Lacy screamed and turned to Jim. "I never want to see you or your daughter again!" After screaming that protest, she stomped out the door.

"Well, I knew you were brutally honest, Jess, but that takes the cake." Her father said. "Although, I must agree with my daughter about the dress." Jess shrugged, going back to pulling off the burnt sections of the roast. "It won't hurt you to love life, Jess. Love isn't a poison. I promise."

"Everything is poison in a sufficient dose." Jess mumbled to herself, as her father walked out of the room. He stopped at the sound of her voice and turned to see if she had said anything.

"Say something?"

"Naw. Sarcasm is one's best friend."

"Yeah." Jim said smiling over his daughter's words. "By the way, Jess, don't forget that my college buddy and his son are coming in a few days. So don't be rude to them, especially not as rude as you just were to Lacy, all right?"

"Look Dad, I didn't mean to send her away. I just don't want you with someone that is not good enough for you. Lacy wasn't. I mean the problem is in the answer. Lacy?" Jess shuddered over the memory. "That is not even a name."

Jim chuckled to himself. How could he have ever seen anything in her? It was obvious she thought that because she was going to be in his home, she was going to have "relations" with him tonight. Jim shook his head. Why hadn't he seen that part of her before? "I know Jess." He sighed to himself. "I know. Now, back to the topic you are trying to stray from.

"You're to be nice to Roger and Josh. All right Jessica Marie?" Jim tried to make his voice sound stern. He wasn't sure he accomplished that goal when his daughter leaned up to kiss his cheek and smiled.

"Sure." Jess said just to appease her father. "I promise not to send them packing." When Jim left the room, Jess smiled. "Not right away anyway."

* * * * *

Chapter 2

Three days later

Jess rode Velvet, her favorite stallion, into the west pasture with the ranch foreman. Fences needed to be mended, and she couldn't do it by herself, so she'd brought Jed along. A long narrow road leading to the ranch lay to the south east of the pasture, leading only to town.

"So when are my Dad's friends supposed to be here?" Jess asked, trying to entice conversation. Her theory was that with out interesting conversation, ranch work was as boring as book work.

"Reckon that's them now, Miss Jess." Jed said, gesturing his completely white haired head toward the small road. Jess looked up from the older man's head to see a forest green F-350 pick-up driving down the road, kicking up dust and gravel as it sped past. A loud screeching of rock-and-roll music followed the pick-up.

"I suppose you're right, Jed. Only teenagers with bad taste listen to that rock-and-roll crap." Jess stood from her crouching position at the fence and walked to her stallion. "And before you can say it, I will be a good little daughter and go help Pop play host, and I won't be rude. I promise." Jess mounted her horse with the agility of an Olympic gymnast.

Turning Velvet away from Jed, she trotted slowly back toward the ranch house and barn. As she trotted, she tried to remember what her father had said about the man and what that meant in normal terms.

Dad said he was responsible, meaning boring.

He was funny, meaning immature.

He was a man's man, meaning he was chauvinistic.

She smiled in anticipation. Jess couldn't wait to sink her teeth into this one. Then, there was the boy. Her father had said the boy was a junior at the University of Montana, studying underdeveloped countries and some sort of history. Jess snickered. Guys like that weren't cut out for Rocking M. He was probably a tofu eating, poetry reading, homosexual man with masochistic tendencies. Jess smiled. Definitely.

~~~~

Josh Bennett climbed out of the thirty day old pick-up and looked around at his surroundings. A dilapidated barn sat to his left and a ranch style house to his right

surrounded by a few tall oak trees. Josh shook his head. He wasn't going to let his dad work here. Conditions were just too bad, way too bad, especially for a guy who had a heart attack recently.

Well, two years ago, was recent, wasn't it?

No matter, Dad couldn't stay in this place, and that was the end of it.

Looking behind him, Josh saw a lone rider on a horse in the distance coming toward the house. He couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman because the sun framed their back, and a Stetson rode low on their forehead. He shook his head. Probably an aimless drifting cowboy. Lord knew he had seen many of them in the town twenty miles away.

"Besides, Josh," Roger Bennett's voice broke his son's concentration. "you might get killed by some drunk driver or something, son. I couldn't let you do that."

"No, Dad. Poor, polluted, exploited, resource-depleted, population-pressured, deforested, and decertified countries, yes. Drunk drivers, no." Josh shook his head at his father's antics. "I still want to go."

Roger shook his balding head at his son. "No matter. What I say goes. Understood?" He gave his son a dare-to-defy-me look.

"No, not understood. I am a full grown man, and I will do what I like when I like." Josh slammed the door to the truck signaling the end of the conversation and headed toward the house. Roger followed behind him, muttering about what a damn fool his boy was, while smirking about it. "Not a damn fool, Dad. Just plain stubborn, is all."

Jim Mills walked out on to the porch and spotted his friend and a young man walking toward the house. "Roger! It's good to see you. It's been, what, almost twenty years?" Jim shouted his welcome to the men as he stepped down the stairs of the porch. "You must be Josh." Jim held his hand out and shook Josh's hand. "You've got your mother's eyes." Jim said almost absent mindedly.

Josh nodded. "Mom's green eyes and my father's stubbornness."

The three stood talking for a few minutes before Jim began to brag about his newest horses. "You should see them, Rog. They are damn fine cuttin' horses. I'm thinking of letting Jess ride one in the barrel racing event at the county rodeo."

"Well, let's see them." Roger said, almost as excited to see the horses as Jim was just talking about them. Together, they all shuffled toward the barn. Josh thought for sure it would fall down around them.

~~~~~~~

Jess saw the three men head toward the barn and disappear inside. She kicked her mount into a gallop and rode to the barn. She dismounted before Velvet came to a stop. Patting her horse's nose before taking the reins and heading toward the barn. Hearing voices from inside she slowed down.

"Real nice, Mr. Mills."

"Josh, call me Jim. Mr. Mills makes me feel old."

Deciding to put Velvet away in a minute, she gave him another affectionate pat before tying his reins to the side fence and entering the barn.

Immediately, her nose was assaulted with smells of animal dung and hay. Stepping inside the door, she spotted the mysterious two men talking with her father in Velvet's stall. "I gave him to Jess because she absolutely loves him. Velvet has to be her best friend." Jim smiled as he spoke about her and her pet.

Moving forward, Jess moved to stand outside the stall and leaned against the wall. She heard the foot steps of the three coming toward her and folded her arms over her chest. Her father and the boy's father moved past her with out realizing she was against the stall behind them. When Josh tried to walk past her, he got two steps from her before she suddenly had the urge to pull him back.

Whipping her right arm out, she grabbed the back of his flannel shirt and pulled him back, unintentionally pulling him close to her. A second later, a large hay bail fell from its spot in the hay loft.

Josh stared at the young woman before him. She had chocolate brown hair and the most exquisite blue eyes he had ever seen. Josh shook himself mentally and looked away from her to the hay that had fallen. "Thanks. I think you saved me, but I'm not sure." Josh said slowly moving away from her. "Thank God," he mumbled

under his breath.

Jess shrugged. "Did you ever think that God really didn't save you but was out to get you and missed?" Josh whipped his eyes to hers, staring at her he really didn't understanding what she had said.

"Huh?" He asked dumbly.

"Never mind." Jess said rolling her eyes.

Josh continued to stare at her as she moved away from the stall and traveled toward where her father and Roger stood staring at the two of them. Josh shook his head and followed her. "You must be Jessica." He said, aware of how completely dumb he sounded. "I heard you were. . .different." He tried to sound as polite as he possibly could, but knew he failed the task miserably.

"Yes, I'm Jess, and yes, I am different." She turned to give him a small glance over her shoulder as she walked. "I'm physically blind."

Josh stopped in his tracks and stared after her. She continued to walk on, walking around another bail of hay that lay for some reason or another in the middle of the walk way and followed after her father, who was now leading his toward the opposite end.

He was startled spitless. If she couldn't see, how did she maneuver around the hay bails? As if sensing his question, she turned around and placed her hands on her hips. "I said I am physically blind, but I can see psychically. I can see your blondish brown hair, your very green eyes, and your color."

"My color? You mean my race?"

"Your aura field. It's nice." Jess clarified. "It's a mix of color. Green, blue, purple and a little yellow and orange. Very well mixed." Jess stopped suddenly. Realizing she was rambling she closed her mouth quickly. Dear Lord, was she actually rambling?

"I shoulda let the hay bail hit him."

"What?"

"Nothing," Jess said, and turned away.

Embarrassment stained her cheeks, and she suddenly felt very awkward, and turned away from the boy who in less than five minutes, had made her so confused and very unsure of herself, walking toward the exit. Never once, in all the time she could remember, could she ever recall feeling this way. Now, this. . . this. . boy comes in and messes her all up. Breaking into a dead sprint when she saw the two older men leave the barn, Jess fled even more quickly. There was no way in Hell she was going to be left alone with this kid. No way in Hell.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Your daughter looks a lot like Pamela." Roger said quietly to his friend as they rounded the corner of the barn and headed toward the house. "All except those eyes. She would have been a picture of Pam if she had those chocolate brown eyes Pam did." Jim dropped his gaze to the dirt and rock strewn about the path and nodded sorrowfully.

"Every time I see her, I think of her mother. It's too bad she can't remember her. She was a wonderful woman." Jim looked up, a pained expression on his face. "Damn, I miss that woman." Roger looked over at his friend and patted his back in a gesture of sympathy.

"I know, Jim." Roger said quietly. "I know." They walked to the house with out speaking toward the house.

"I don't think I've ever seen my son speechless. Your daughter really got his goat." Roger chuckled trying to turn the topic. Roger knew he had successfully completed his goal. Opening the back door into the house, through the kitchen, Roger held it open for his friend, and entered after him.

"And I have never seen my Jess get so flustered before." Jim said smiling as he pulled out food from the refrigerator. "You and Josh are in for a treat. I'm cooking tonight." Jim thought to add.

"Ah, but you're lucky! Since Angela died I've become quite the chef for Josh and myself." Jim lowered his gaze to the kitchen sink and sighed. "Don't, Jim. I know how hard it is, now."

"Rog, I am so sorry. I. . .I never told you how sorry I was when Angela passed."

"Don't worry about it. It's been almost a year now." Roger was quiet for a moment, his face drawn. Slowly, he let out the breath he hadn't realized he held and turned to smile at his friend.

"Come on, Roger. My specialties are Mac and cheese, and if your lucky and give me a little brown nosing, I can even boil a few hot dogs." Smiling, Roger nodded.

"As long as I don't have to cook."

* * * * *

Chapter Three

Placing the delicate china plate on tip of the previously towel dried three, Jess reached for the last one on the rack. Gently Jess wiped the china that her mother had picked out before her wedding, silently admiring the gentle floral paint. Her father sat at the kitchen table behind her telling his guests a story she had heard a thousand times. Shaking her head she gave the plate one last gentle picked up the small stack and placed them in the china cabinet adjacent from the kitchen table.

"Then your father did the stupidest thing I have ever seen. . ." Her father's voice blurred into background noise again, when suddenly the noise level elevated when peels of laughter erupted from the men behind her. Jess smiled as she listened to her father's voice blurring into the night background noise. He never did get tired of story telling.

"We went fifty miles down the Amazon in three and a half hours, traveling not quite fast enough to water-ski, but fast enough to dangle a hand over the side and not get eaten by piranhas." Jim said almost giggling. Roger nodded along with Jim, and sipped at the coffee Jess made a few minutes earlier.

"Actually," Josh said "piranhas prefer dead, sick or injured prey. They're attracted to rotting meat, if memory serves me correctly."

"They'd spit you out anyway, Dad. No one likes a tough skinned rancher. They taste funny." Jess said teased her father as she placed the last plate in the cabinet.

Josh laughed at Jess's unexpected joke. Jess felt surprise creep up her spine. He had a sweet laugh, deep and strong. She was taken back by the heartiness in it. She couldn't help but laugh along with him. Abrupty realizing she was laughing like a loon, Jess closed her mouth quickly, and forced herself to look stern.

"I've gotta get to bed," she stated quickly. The sooner she could get away from this boy, the better her piece of mind would be. She turned toward the living room and got two steps away before Josh announced he had the same intention.

"I better hit the sack, too. Dad, don't be up too late. You're still recovering."

"Jess, would you show Josh to his room? I'd appreciate it." Jess nodded to her father and listened to Roger wave off his son's concern. "I have an idea," Jim said, interrupting Roger's speech to his son. "Jess why don't you take Josh out riding tomorrow? I have a feeling, he'll be good at it." Jim said with a wink Roger's way.

"Dad, I don't think..." Jess began.

"That's a wonderful idea! Josh would love a few rides with Jess. Wouldn't you, Josh?" Roger smiled broadly and turned to Jess. "I think Josh would love to go." He said, ignoring the fact that his son was shaking his head adamantly.

"Okay, you two. Off to bed." Jim said, waving them off to bed from the table. Jess shook her head and sighed. Great, now she was stuck all day taking this green-horn all over the ranch on horse back. Jess paused briefly in her thoughts. Maybe this wouldn't be too bad after all. She grinned, thinking about the pleasure of watching him tomorrow, walking like a bowlegged hooker after she was done with him. Oh yes, she would absolutely enjoy that.

"This way." Jess said, heading through the door. She wasn't able to keep her amusement out of her voice. Walking quickly through the living room Jess turned to climb the stairs.

"What's got you so amused?" Josh asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Nothing," Jess answered a little too quickly.

"Wait, let me help you up the stairs." Josh said, catching up with her, he held his hand out to her.

"Did you not hear me this afternoon, or was I talking to one of the cows?" Jess wanted to shout at the top of her lungs but settled instead for an outraged look on her face as she told him, in no polite terms, where to shove it. "I can see perfectly fine, so take your good intentions and shove them up your tail pipe, because I don't need them."

Josh looked stunned at her for a moment, then nodded, and let her lead the way. Climbing the stairs, she could almost feel his questioning eyes on her back boring holes into her.

She didn't say anything to him as she led him to the bedroom where she had been told to put his luggage. It was the room across from hers. "This is it," she said opening the door, and leaving it open. "Sleep tight." She said and started across the hall to her room.

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