Unedited and subject to change – XOXO
A pile of ashes was all that was left of my home after the fire. It burned completely to the ground, all twenty-five hundred square foot of it. Looking at the fiery pit was like staring an angry bull in the face. It scared the shit out of me all the same.
The air was cool and still thick with the smell of charred wood. Just off the south end of the property where the woods were thick, I could hear the sound of howling wind through the trees. The sound used to settle me. It used to give me the comforting feeling of home.
The sound was almost empty and eerie. I felt lost in the one place I shouldn’t have.
I rolled my neck and craned it upwards, letting out a deep breath. I wondered why it happened. Why there was nothing left? It felt unreal, like I was in the middle of some crazy dream or nightmare and I couldn’t wake.
There was a sickening sensation in the pit of my stomach that wouldn’t go away. We lost everything inside the house. All the pictures and our clothes, it was all gone in the blink of an eye.
I tried telling myself that everything that burnt up in that house was just things, just objects that could be replaced. But I was lying to myself. Feelings were irreplaceable and so were photographs.
We were lucky to be alive. I knew that.
If we hadn’t gone to town that morning, we could’ve burnt up too. Now all that was left was some scorched memories and one half burnt pile of bricks that used to be our fireplace.
Momma and Pa had gone to live with my Aunt and Uncle until our house could be rebuilt. It just wasn’t agreeable for them to stay since they’d be forced to stay in a hotel. There was no way they could do that. It bothered me a great deal, angered me even, that I couldn’t take care of them the way I had been. Just the thought of all the time that it would take to get them back made me feel even more helpless and upset. It could be months or even a year.
There was one bright side to all the turmoil.
She was about five foot three inches tall with long dark hair. She was the prettiest thing this side of Texas and she was willing to let us start over. She was the light in all of this darkness that I couldn’t seem to wrap my head around.
I’d had my sights set on her since the first moment I saw her. I still remember the way she looked at me when I came down those steps in my house the night of Fox’s party. She had these big brown doe eyes that would stop you in your tracks. I remember wishing that she’d look at me the same way she looked at Josh.
And when she finally did…
Hot damn, I almost lost it.
Under unwanted circumstances and gloomy skies, she was the brightest light I’d ever saw. I was probably bat shit crazy for falling for someone so fast but I just couldn’t help it. I wanted her so desperately that I was willing to stand in the rain whenever she wanted, she need only ask.
Boy did that girl love the rain.
I smiled just thinking about her dancing around in it, like it was the greatest thing in the world. The way it fell onto her face and rolled down her skin. Now that would make a man jealous.
You heard right! I was jealous of the rain.
Trust me. It was a sight to see.
Kicking up the dirt under my boots, I contemplated my next move. With only eight weeks left in this semester at UTN, I had a lot on my plate. Once the insurance claim settled I’d have to start construction on the house. I had weeks to prepare for the rodeo. I had schoolwork and I somehow had to manage to pass my classes. It was going to take a miracle to get things done and besides that, I wanted to be with Paislee every chance I got.
She was important to me. I couldn’t screw things up and lose my shot with her.
Come hell or high water, I was going to figure it all out.
I had to.
Break time was over, and the sun was starting to rise up over the horizon. I’d been shoveling ashes since three a.m. using only the headlights from the jeep. The morning sunlight was just what the doctor ordered if I actually wanted to get some real work done.
I started the Jeep to give my battery a little break, and cranked up the radio. I had three hours to make some progress before I needed to feed the horses and get to class.
You’re only given what you can handle right?
Too bad there weren’t two of me.
Could you imagine?
Two of me, is probably a bad idea, a very bad idea.
The sudden vibration of my phone in my pocket scared the shit out of me. Who the hell would be calling so early?
“Hey. What’s up?” I answered.
“Just checking in,” was his response, though his speech was all over the place.
“Are you still drunk?”
“Nah,” he replied. “Just tired. That’s all.”
“How much sleep did you get? You do know it’s five in the morning, right?”
He laughed. “I haven’t been to bed yet. I’m heading there now.”
“Well. You won’t do me any good unless you’re ready to work.”
All I could do was shake my head. His heart was in the right place. “Call me when you’re sober, man.”
“Sure thing, buuuudy.” He slurred.
There was a loud thud, which I assumed was his big ass hitting the mattress. He’d be out for a good ten hours and useless as hell to me. “Goodnight, G,” I whispered into the phone before hanging it up.
The boy stayed sloshed more than sober. It was his way of coping with every day life. If he had too much going on at school or too much pressure with his parents, he’d just drink those problems away. It seemed to help. I’d never met a more loveable drunk in my life.
Me, I couldn’t function if I drank that much. There were always too many important things going on which left little time to drown myself in a booze fest.
I worried about him sometimes, worried that he’d get carried away or that he’d take it too far. He was my cousin and one of my best friends, but the last thing I needed was to add -babysit Garrett to my long list of things to do.
Maybe if I put his ass to work, it wouldn’t be so bad.
The thought of Garrett doing manual labor was pretty damn funny, and pretty damn smart.
I sent him a quick text telling him to rest up because we had work that needed to be done. That’ll teach him.
While I was at it I texted Paislee too. Told her good morning, and that I’d see her later in class. I couldn’t wait.
Hurry up class!