Palomino Ch. 13byLadyRoscoe©
The next morning, when Wesley woke up, the sun had yet to come up but, its morning rays were gently starting to warm the night sky. The earth had been refreshed from the night rain, like a healing had come over the land. It seemed to fit all together so perfectly, his opening up, and the tears going hand in hand with the opening of the skies, and then the healing rain that seemed to refresh the surrounding country. As he turned in the bed to reach for Lacey, she was gone. All that was left, as a reminder that she had been there, was a fresh cut daisy from the garden out back, and a little note that simply said, "Out for a run. Meet you at the barn."
Wesley grunted softly in disappointment as he just found the empty bed beside him. His fingers wrapped around the daisy and he read the note and muttered, burying his face into the sheets. The woman was insane. Last night had been a long night. Getting out of bed was the last thing he wanted to do at the moment. After several minutes of arguing with himself, he finally disentangled from the bedclothes and went to the laundry basket to get clean clothes. It was obvious a woman hadn't lived in the house for some time. Wesley lived like a bachelor through and through. There was cereal in the pantry, and he kept his clothes in the laundry basket. At least this time he'd bothered to bring the basket upstairs, rather than leaving it down in the laundry room, like he normally did.
Not half an hour later, Wesley seemed semi awake as he wandered over toward the barn. The fact was he was still half asleep, but that's the way life was. Chores always came first.
Lance wandered into the barn from the opposing open doorway, a styrofoam cup of coffee in his hand, and a huge yawn on his face. Stretching upwards, he scratched at his face and yawned again, the sound echoing through the barn before he caught sight of Wesley coming in. Then suddenly he seemed to be wide awake as his eyes lit up and he yelled out, "So ... how'd it go last night?"
Wesley half looked up at his friend and just grunted in response. Last night would be difficult to explain. He rubbed his eyes then scratched the stubble on his chin. He knew Lance's wiley ways, and how sooner or later he'd get it out of him. "Get the keys and drive the feed truck in here. Need to get those cows hay and cake."
Lance looked at his friend for a moment and took a quick assessment of the look on his face. Okay, he wasn't unhappy but he WAS serious, so something big must have happened. Downing his coffee, he crumpled it up and grabbed the keys hanging on a peg just inside the small tack room, and wandered back out to get the truck. He could see Lacey jogging up the road, coming in from the mountain trail past the southern pasture. He grinned and wolf whistled, calling to her as she went by, admiring the way her little shorts and sports bra hugged in all the right places. "Hey sexy! Git yer fine ass over here and give me a morning hug!"
Lacey pulled up for a moment, jogging in place as she glanced around and then smiled, seeing Lance and simply waved before continuing on her way toward the main house. Lance frowned heavily and called after her, "Fine! Be that way," before he grumbled and slid into the work truck and backed in into the open doorway of the barn.
Wesley was ready with bales of hay, and he threw them up on the back. Then he threw three full gunny sacks of cattle cake up and crawled up to dump them into the feeder that would allow the driver to distribute it without having help. He sat down on one of the bales and patted the top of the truck to give the signal it was okay to go.
Lance grinned and gunned the truck for a moment, knowing it would catch Wesley off-guard and send him lurching back. It was a bit of a game they played every once in a while.
Pulling out of the barn, he turned and headed towards the pasture, drumming his fingers on the window frame as the morning breeze blew in, whistling softly to himself. The weekend was coming up quick, and he was looking forward to the rodeo. Wesley had decided to take up team roping again, and they had done pretty well with building up points in the last couple of months. He wondered vaguely if Lacey would come along this time, and then his thoughts turned to last night and he itched to know what happened. Wesley deserved happiness, and Lance, along with the rest of the ranch, was hoping that with the return of Lacey, so would Wesley's smile.
Wesley grunted as he was lurched back in the truck and he fell off the bale as it turned underneath him. He growled and smacked the back window. "Goddammit, Lance! Behave." He grumbled as he righted the bale again and sat down, pushing open the back window of the truck. "You tryin' to kill me 'er sumthin'?"
Lance chuckled, ducking naturally as the back window slid open and he glanced back at his friend with a lopsided grin. "So, come on, spill it ... how'd it go last night?"
Wesley crossed his arms over the back and leaned in to avoid the wet wind whipping him in the face as he rode the back of the truck to be sure they didn't lose any of the bales as they went over the rocky, bumpy ground. "It went alright. Showed 'er the house. Went alright fer awhile. Woke up with a bad dream."
Lance glanced back at him as he expertly avoided the potholes and puddles in the ground as they made their way toward the cattle pasture. "I thought you were over those?" he questioned before turning back to the path.
"I thought I was too, but seems not. I scared 'er bad. She left awhile. I musta fell asleep, but she came back. We hadda long talk." As Lance brought the truck to a halt, Wesley jumped down and walked around to unlatch the gate to let the truck through into the upper pasture and waved him through. Behind him Wes latched the gate again and crawled back into the truck to take his seat again.
Lance slowly started down the worn tire path towards the herd that was grazing further down, taking back up the conversation. "What'dya mean you scared her? She left where? The house?" He glanced at his friend through the rearview mirror.
"She just wen' to the bathroom. Was in there awhile. Could hear 'er cryin'. Then I musta fell asleep 'cause I didn't hear anythin' else 'till she came back."
Lance glanced at his friend through the rearview mirror as the herd came into view. "So everything's cool? I know you don't talk much about everything that's going on inside, but if you ask me, she came back for more than just the ranch."
"We hadda long talk. I told 'er everythin'." He said it quietly. It didn't carry the painful connotations it had even a week ago. It was like that huge painful weight had been lifted, or at least been changed into something else. Acceptance.
Lance could see the change in his buddy's face as the truck came to a stop and he turned around to face Wesley as the cows started to amble over, knowing it was breakfast time, but Lance knew that Wesley had made a huge shift last night, and he grinned, clasping his friend's arm. "Good ... you needed to get it out. You been carrying that guilt around for way too long."
Wesley smiled and grasped his friend's hand and squeezed it firmly. Lance had gotten over the guilt a lot sooner than Wesley had. Why, there wasn't any answer. Anne was very dear to both of them, and Lance had watched it all happen right in front of him. Why the healing process was so much different between the two of them was unexplainable. Wes just nodded his silent thanks and chuckled as he felt a cow prodding his butt to get him up off the bale he was sitting on. He stood up and pulled his pocket knife and cut the strings, wrapping them around his hand. "Alright fellas... alright. C'mon. Hey! Hey..." He swatted a bossy one smartly, glaring at him. "Ya'll get your share. Patience." He shoved the bale off the side of the truck to let it break over the ground and hopped down after it to break it apart and spread it out as the cows crowded around him.
Lacey came down the stairs of the main house, finishing up with pulling her now clean hair into a ponytail, dressed in blue jeans and a t-shirt, appropriate boots this time on her feet. She had bought them back in New York, and had committed to wearing them every day to break them in. People at the office had thought she had lost her mind. She had always been Miss. Style, the appropriate role-model for the girls coming in and out for fashion shoots. But in her last month there, she had come to work in jeans and boots on a daily basis, and more radiant than she had ever been. She came into the kitchen with a bright smile and moved to Caroline to press a soft kiss to the older woman's cheek. "Got coffee ready? I just need a cup and I'm good to go," she said as she pulled down a bottle of sun block from the cabinet.
Caroline dusted her hands off and looked at Lacey with a big smile. "Where you off to in sucha hurry? The boys are out feedin' stock and checkin' the alfalfa. You want breakfast?"
Lacey glanced to the woman that she loved as much as her own mother, slathering sun block on her exposed arms and the back of her neck; the light make-up that she did have on had sufficient amounts of sun block to protect her face. "Actually, I want to get out to the barn and see if I can find a decent mount before Wesley sticks me back on that old nag that couldn't find a trot if her life depended on it."
"Oh... he putcha on Biddy, did he?" she chuckled and offered over a big cup of coffee with sugar and cream. "Biddy's a good ol' horse. Jus' not cut out for ranch work anymore. Get Gunthar... that's the buckskin you've seen Wes on now and then."
Lacey took the cup of coffee and smiled to Caroline with a twinkle in her eye. "Yeah, I'll do that. I'd like to get some riding in this morning before it gets too hot." She sipped the coffee thoughtfully, her fingers holding the cup close before she asked, "Caroline? Do you believe in ghosts or spirits?"
Caroline had turned back to making more coffee for the boys for when they got back after chores. "I dunno... depends, I guess. Yea... I'd say so. Why ya ask darlin'?"
Lacey leaned against the countertop and looked to Caroline over the rim of her coffee cup. This was going to sound insane but she had to talk to someone about it. "I ... I think Anne came to me last night."
"Oh?" she turned back after making her own cup of coffee and smiled. "C'mon... let's go out on the back porch and you can tell me all 'bout it." She hooked her arm into Lacey's and guided her to the back door and onto the deck where she liked to spend her mornings.
Lacey smiled gently and took the older lady's arm, carrying her coffee as they walked to the back deck. "Wesley had a nightmare ... he's still living in the past, I think." She sighed gently and sank down onto one of the deck chairs, taking a long sip of her coffee as she gazed out over the pasture and then to the mountains in the distance.
Caroline frowned a bit at that and nodded. "I wouldn't doubt that. The man hasn't done anything except lock her memory away someplace where nobody can help him with the pain. Did the same with all her things. It's all still in that house. Now what 'bout Anne visiting you?"
Lacey glanced to Caroline and then lowered her coffee, her fingers thoughtfully rubbing the sides of her cup as she spoke. "Well, I had to just step away. It was tearing me up inside. I mean, I almost feel like I'm intruding, and she's not even here, you know?" She sighed gently, reaching up with one hand to rub at her forehead. "Anyway, I was in the bathroom, succumbing to my fears I suppose, and then this, this apparition appeared in the mirror." She looked over at Caroline to see if she thought she was crazy. "It scared the shit out of me at first. I mean, that's the kind of thing you only see in movies, or on those stupid reality bullshit t .v. shows. But there she was, just smiling at me."
Caroline just smiled and nodded as if to tell her to go on, quietly listening as she sipped her coffee.
Lacey shook her head and then stirred her coffee a bit with her fingernail, watching it swirl around for a long moment before she continued. "She told me that I shouldn't give up on him, that I should just love him, and she would do the rest." She glanced over at Caroline before adding with a wry, small grin, "Oh, and that he was stubborn ... like I hadn't figured that part out on my own!"
"Well... she's right. You can't do more than love him at this point. The rest is up to him. Anne is everywhere in that house, but she's nowhere. He kept all her things after she died; all her clothes, all her trophies, boxed them away someplace and hasn't touched them since. If you want my opinion on Anne's ghost, seems to me like you have some ghosts in your own past to get over too."
Lacey froze a moment, her fingers stilling on her coffee cup. "Wh-what do you mean? I don't have any ghosts in my past."
Caroline met her gaze evenly. "Oh yes you do. Everybody does. Like... why didn't you come back to the ranch until after your daddy died? You and your daddy were close... until your mama took you away. Maybe an old flame. Maybe just the confusion of growing up." She sipped her coffee again, regarding the girl in silence, leaving her to work through things on her own.
Lacey sighed gently, turning her gaze back out towards the pasture and the mountains beyond. There was a question she wasn't prepared to answer. Caroline always had a knack of digging into places where people didn't want anything dug up. She lifted the cup and took another sip of coffee before setting it down. "It's getting late ... if I want to get a ride in before it gets too hot, I should go."