The Lady and the Cowboy Ch. 08byMissKris14©
I hate him, I told myself. I hate him, I hate him, I hate him. Perhaps if I repeated it enough times in my head, it would suddenly become true. I tried to focus on all the bad things about the man who had robbed me of my sense for the past two weeks. He was overbearing, overconfident, and completely unnerving. How could I even consider being with someone like that, someone who was wholly able to reduce me to an illogical, quivering mess?
I ached. I didn't hate Tripp. What I did hate was being a slave to my emotions, which were telling me that I was in so far over my head at this point that there was no recovery in sight. I couldn't sleep...hell, I could barely breathe. The staggering words I had spoken...no...yelled at Tripp that night kept echoing through my thoughts. Lying in bed, I realized they weren't as warranted as I had believed they were when I harshly dealt them, especially that part about hating him. I couldn't hate him if I tried, no matter how much I wished I could.
But he wasn't trying. He wasn't even giving us a chance! He had said something about next summer. That was of course just a gentle way of telling me he didn't want to make it work, that he wasn't interested in continuing whatever amazing, wonderful thing this was. Was it only I who felt it? Was it simply the fact that I was in the throes of my first love and completely blinded by the man who had awakened me to passion? I had heard of this happening so many times -- a girl falling for a man who was only interested in one thing. Yet there had definitely been hurt all over his face when I told him I didn't love him, and that one glimpse of emotion he showed was what pushed me out of bed.
I shouldn't have been in that bed anyway. It was the most awful, uncomfortable bed I'd ever slept in. Lumpy, cold...even the covers felt scratchy and coarse. I compared it to Tripp's heavenly bed that I floated away in every time I lay on it, like I was sleeping on a cloud. That of course had nothing to do with the man who slept in the bed with me. It was just a damn nice bed... perhaps it was the mattress.
Quietly, as I was so used to doing by now, I snuck out of the cabin. What time was it, I wondered. I had been trying to sleep, grieving for God knows how long. Time wasn't something I was consciously aware of.
It must have been late though, I realized when I saw that most of the lights were out among the buildings in the main part of the ranch. The Lodge was silent and empty, and even the paper lanterns that usually lit up the night hung in shadow. It didn't deter me, I could still see well enough to find the creek in the back of the guest area. Hell, I had snuck off to Tripp's cabin so many times, I could probably find it with my eyes closed.
I don't know why I expected to see his lights on. Perhaps because I was used to it, but his cabin was certainly dark now since he was undoubtedly sleeping at this hour. That was all right, he would simply have to wake up and listen to what I had to say. He had to listen! The guilt of my actions from that night was quickly washing over me like icy water.
The steps to his porch creaked, piercing the quiet night, as I walked up to the door. I was nervous, but at this point, desperate to see him. I didn't want to leave things between us as we had left them earlier. My heart beat wildly as I banged harshly on the wooden entrance, trying to be noisy enough to wake him. Impatiently, I waited for some sign that he had heard me, and after a few moments I knocked again, louder this time. Why wasn't a light turning on? Why didn't I hear someone shuffling around inside?
"Tripp?" I called loudly as I banged some more. "Tripp I want to talk to you!" Did he not want to see me? Was he purposely ignoring me after what I had said? My stomach started to lurch even more than it already was. "Tripp! Please open up!"
I ran around to the side of the house where his bedroom window sat. It was still dark inside, and the curtains were drawn. Harshly, I rapped on the window. "I didn't mean it, Tripp! I didn't mean what I said!" I cried. My flat hand continued banging until it began to sting and tears trickled down my face. He wasn't in there; he would have come out if he was.
Slowly, I went back up to his porch and sat down on the wood in front of his door, bringing my knees up to my chest so I could rest my head on them. With one last tiny bit of hope, I reached up and tried the door handle, but it was locked. Where was he this late at night?
As I looked up at the sky I noticed I couldn't see the stars. Dark clouds billowed in clusters around the moon, and it looked like tomorrow it was going to rain.
Who was I kidding, it already was.
* * * * *
Desert. That's what I saw as we drove through the ranch back to the cabin the next afternoon, returning from the police station in town. There was nothing even remotely attractive about it. A light rain trickled down upon the windshield as I sat there dead in the back of our van, staring out at the place that had in one night transformed from an open western paradise, into a dry, barren prison that would forever jail my heart.
I couldn't even find happiness in the fact that Willy in all likelihood was going to be convicted for his crimes last night. The Watermans were a big name in this part of the state, and good friends with the district attorney, who had said there shouldn't be a problem with the prosecution. With as numb as I was, I realized I didn't care anymore what happened to the man... well, maybe I cared a little. I was still furious with him, and part of me wished Tripp hadn't beat him so badly, only because he left nothing for me to have. I stiffened thinking about the way Tripp had torn into Willy last night. Thank goodness he wasn't going to get in trouble for the thrashing he delivered. Prosecutors had said he'd acted in my defense, which was true. Personally, I thought he might have gone a little overboard, but I certainly wasn't complaining.
There was no way though that I could be more miserable than I was at that moment. As we drove through the ranch, it took me back to that first night when we arrived here, when I had seen him on that horse in the corral, bucking about like a wild man on a mission to prove something. Had I said I couldn't be more miserable? I soon found out I could by reliving the memories of the past two weeks.
I was more rational today, but I was also more dejected, probably because as the time quickly passed, the more it sank in, the fact that it was over. It was also heartbreaking because I started to realize Tripp had been right. The only thing I could be mad at now was the horrible situation we were in. There was no way to make it work, and the awful part was I had known it from the beginning. Still, I had run to his cabin that night, and begged him to make love to me.
The main question running through my foggy brain was whether or not I was going to see him again before we left. I still needed to apologize...but that could always be done through a cordial letter or something of the sort. Oh god, how could I even think of doing something so awful? Besides, I knew I needed to see him out of a purely selfish desire to one last time indulge myself with his image. I'd go to him again tonight, and if he wasn't in the cabin, well then maybe it wasn't meant to be.
Last night I had wanted to apologize, but more importantly, I had wanted to hear how he felt, even if his declaration was as horrible as him telling me he didn't feel the way I did. At least then I would have closure. After finding the darkened cabin empty, I had sat there by his door for an hour. I hadn't been waiting for him, but I felt closer to him, sitting there on his porch. It sure was better than lying in that awful bed back at my cabin, which I eventually returned to.
There was still a good amount of the afternoon left when my parents and I returned to the cabin. The family spent most of the day packing and relaxing, as we would be leaving early the next morning. No one was really in the mood to do anything fun. It was raining, and the events of last night had quickly put a damper on the enthusiasm my family usually showed. Everyone around me was being sickeningly nice, and I hated it. They knew how miserable I was, both from the trials of yesterday and the fact that I was going to be leaving something behind, a part of me I would never get back.
When my father had offered for us to leave this afternoon, I had told him no. Immediately after I said it, I asked myself why, but I didn't change my answer. Perhaps I was a masochist, wanting to draw out the torment this place continued to inflict upon me. I didn't even pack, like the rest of the family did. Packing seemed so final. I suppose part of me clung to some small strand of hope that I was going to wake up from this nightmare. I could always do the packing later... Yes, I'd do it later...
A few hours into the afternoon, as rain continued to trickle over the land outside, Luke's voice came from the entrance to the bedroom. "Kira?"
I lay in bed reading, facing the door, but quickly turned around so my back was to him. I wasn't talking to Luke. Last night, I had been too upset to do much of anything except go right to bed and miserably lay there, trying to sleep. I'd done enough yelling with Tripp, and didn't want to get into another screaming match with my brother. Today, I found I was so drained, though still quite furious, that it was easiest to simply work with the silent treatment in order to express my anger.
This was the third time Luke had tried talking to me that day. I still wasn't interested. He had been good about leaving me to myself, but now, I heard him shut the door and walk toward my turned back. Lucy and my parents were in the other room playing a board game, but their voices cut out when the door closed. Groaning inside my head, I made a point of continuing to ignore him, even though we were the only two people in the room.
The bed sank a little as I felt him sit down on the edge behind me. "Kira, c'mon, I'm your brother," he said softly. I snorted and went right on reading the same damned paragraph that I was starting over for the third time now. Some brother, I thought, remembering his behavior from the previous night.
He continued even after I made it clear I wasn't interested, but this time with regret in his tone. "You know, when Mom and Dad came in the Lodge last night and told me what happened, I don't think I've ever been that freaked out before. I saw red...I was worried," his voice became slightly broken. "I was so worried for you, Kira. I've been worried about you this entire vacation, and that moment was it for me, the last straw, I couldn't contain it anymore."
I listened, though I pretended not to. To further sell the act, I turned an unread page in my book. Luke didn't understand I was no longer a little kid. Growing up, he'd been there for me, and it was wonderful. But now...
I decided to talk. Maybe I could end this quickly. "Luke, that's your problem. You worry too much. I'm not in braces and pigtails anymore, and Tripp is not Bobby Thompson from the third grade who you can push in the mud after he pours applesauce all over my dress." My voice was cold, and I might have felt bad if my depression as well as my anger for his actions last night hadn't prevented it.
"You're right, this is much more serious..."
"You can't just step in whenever you feel like it and act like you own me!" I started to get angry. I knew I was taking out my pain and frustration on my brother, although he did deserve it. "I know you worry, but that doesn't give you the right...you have to let me live my own life!"
"I didn't want you to get hurt like I did! I didn't want to see you have to go through that!" He raised his voice, trying to get his point across.
I knew he was talking about Susan, his old girlfriend, and I now I knew how he had felt, and where all that angry grief came from that summer she had broken it off. I turned and faced him now.
"Well...it looks like even you weren't able to prevent that, Luke," I said without any trace of emotion in my voice before I turned back around, dismissing him with my body language.
He stood up off the bed and walked to the door, but paused before opening it. His voice was soft and apologetic. "The only thing I can tell you, Kira, is that with time, I got over it. The pain doesn't last forever." With that, he opened the door and exited the room, unable to see the tears that began to wet my pillow.
* * * * *
That evening, I walked to the barn in the dark, damp weather, listening to guests outside as they roamed the pastures, making their way to the Lodge for the usual festivities. It seemed odd that everyone was acting so normally, but I reminded myself that there was no reason why they shouldn't be. It was only I who felt anything but typical.
Originally, I was going to try Tripp's cabin once more, but I changed my mind at the last minute, especially after realizing that it was still quite early in the evening. There was one thing I wanted to do before I left this place. The sun was setting, although you couldn't really tell because of the rain clouds that cluttered the sky. At least the weather today matched my mood.
Like most nights, the barn was empty, just as I knew it would be. For a moment, I simply walked through the dim, vaulted building, brushing my fingers along the wooded stable doors as I went. I tried not to become heavy with emotion as I noticed the small things in this place which held so many recollections from the past two weeks. There was the saddle hanging on the wall -- the large one Tripp would use to take us riding on. There was the jet black mustang with the funny name down the way. There was the empty stall with the broken door...where he'd kissed me for the first time. It was odd how as I walked through this place, I didn't even think about what had gone on here last night. There were too many wonderful memories for that.
Slowly, I walked down the narrow part of the barn that held the stables, and noticed one of the gates was slightly ajar. I hesitated. Funny it should be that one, the one I tended to visit whenever I happened to come to this place with Tripp...and it was the one I intended to visit now.
I couldn't leave, not without saying goodbye to her. Quietly, I walked in and went over to where the foal lay. She seemed to recognize me when she glanced up, shuffling a bit. I sat beside her and gently started stroking her head, tracing the white spot that began just before the mane. How beautiful she is, I thought to myself. Before I knew it, I began to softly hum, staring aimlessly at a soft patch of hay on the ground.
"I'm sitting here feeling sorry for myself," I whispered after a moment, talking to the little filly. "But I suppose that's selfish of me, isn't it? I'm not the one with a broken leg that is threatening my very existence," I paused in contemplation. "We're actually quite similar, you and I. I wonder which of us is worse off. I'm broken too, and right now I'd welcome a broken leg if it meant that my heart could somehow mend. I feel like my existence is threatened, that's what it seems like."
The horse seemed almost like she understood, and gently nuzzled my hand as I spoke to her, as if trying to comfort me. My voice lowered to a whisper. "I love him, you know, I'm sure of that now." The intense realization came upon me quickly. I of course had known I loved him, but actually admitting it to myself was something different.
I continued talking, slowly growing deeper in sorrow. "I don't know how to be me anymore. I can't be Kira, the old Kira, the way I used to be. That's love isn't it? When someone changes you, and you realize you can't go back? ...And when you lose them and you realize you can't go on?"
I broke, and began to sob quietly. "I wish I knew how to fall out of whatever this is! Falling in is so easy, especially with him...it was so easy, easier than anything I've ever done. Why can't leaving be just as simple? I wish I knew how to be something else, how to define myself as anything but his! How pathetic is that?"
Perhaps not as pathetic as spilling your heart out to a crippled horse, yet I didn't care. I tried to steady my voice, looking down at the small injured animal. "But look at you," I bowed my head, almost as if I were praying, and turned to the young foal, who was gazing up at me with sad eyes. "You seem weak..." I murmured as tears silently rolled down my cheeks. "I wonder if you will ever run again, or feel the sun on your mane. Will you ever have something worth living for?"
I didn't hear anything, perhaps the ringing in my head prevented it, but I saw a flicker of shadow across the floor, cast from the dim lighting that lined the stable walls. My vision was foggy from the tears, but I glanced up to see what had cast it.
He stood there, leaning against the open stable door, the man who I was weeping over. At first, I thought him a fantasy my mind projected, but I became nervous after a few moments, when he didn't disappear. How much had he heard? I had dealt with enough shame last night when we argued, when I practically begged for his love, begged for him to want me through my angry words.
Now, he looked pretty bad. There was a day's growth of whiskers, and his clothes were disheveled and unkempt, as was the dark hair I could see poking out from under his Stetson. His face was tired, as if he hadn't been to sleep in a long time, and a small brown mark lay on his cheek below his eye where Luke had struck him yesterday. Every bit of him was hard and rugged, and I still found the sight of him enchanting.
He didn't say anything, but just stood there, staring at me. What was he thinking? I couldn't tell, which was unusual for us. He didn't look sad, and there was no misery on his face, as there was with mine. It hurt me even more to see that.
"Have you come to say goodbye?" I asked softly, trying to keep my voice steady. If only I could will myself to look away from him, but I couldn't. No, I wanted to torture myself awhile longer.
"Goodbye..." he said it, not to me, but more to himself, as if contemplating what the word meant. "I've been looking for you," his soft voice caressed me gently.
"Well here I am." A moment passed and he still made no move.
"She's not weak, Kira, she's strong," he said at last, passion igniting in his voice.
"Oh god, how much did you hear?" I looked away now to stare at the floor with tears running down my face again, this time in shame.
"No, Kira, no!" he whispered harshly as he quickly walked over and got down on his knees in front of me. He was telling me not to be ashamed as his hands grasped my face and forced me to look at him. The feeling in his eyes was indescribable.
Wasn't there something I had wanted to tell him? Oh yes...best to get that off my chest. "I didn't mean what I said last night," I whispered, still embarrassed. "I don't hate you..."
"I know," he said softly. "I heard everything you just said, I've been sitting in one of the stalls since you came in." The way he said it, you would think he was telling me what he ate for lunch, as if there was nothing wrong with what he just admitted to.
"You...you..." I stuttered with a mix of anger and intense mortification. My face was turning red, I could feel it. Unfortunately at that moment, I was having trouble forming words, so I could neither berate him nor try and explain my earlier confessions.
"Kira, it's all right, I know you were angry last night. Hell, I was angry too..."
Did he honestly think I was still feeling sorry for my poor choice of words last evening? "It doesn't matter!" I spat out, still humiliated, before I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself. "I've realized that you were right. I do care for you, Tripp, but you were right. There's no way to make it work." I attempted to be strong in order to redeem myself for my moment of weakness he had overheard.