Contemporary Fiction. Contemporary Romance. Photo by Ryan Graybill at Unsplash.
I pull up to the house with five minutes to spare, but as I park the truck, I see that Miss Weiss is already outside, knees tucked under her chin, shoes cast-off, a backpack beside her as though she’s been waiting on me for a while. I grin. I guess my early morning check-in had irritated her quite a bit.
As the gravel crunches beneath my new cowboy boots (I’d come straight from Nebraska City where I’d had my first and hopefully last, shopping experience at an outlet mall), I’m rewarded for my early morning efforts by a pair of fine green eyes that look ready to pop out of their sockets. Nodding my head in greeting, I pick-up her bag and deposit it on the wicker chair nearest the swing and take its place, my shoulder brushing lightly against hers. When I tilt my head toward her, she responds by scooting her back against the arm of the swing, placing her bare feet between us.
“You do realize that simply dressing the part won’t make you or your ideas fit-in here, don’t you?”
I chuckle, hunching over to place my elbows on my knees. I was really in for it today. But then, I had practically forced her into this field trip. I had to admit, I’d be pretty disappointed if she were anything but feisty with me after last night.
‘I won’t see any of my new friends after today, so I want to leave a good impression. The only thing I’m not sure about are these boots. I’m going to have to find a dog to chew on them for a while to get them to look more the way I’d want.”
“Like someone who’s done some real manual labor in their lifetime?”
“And not like someone playing a cowboy on TV? Exactly.”
“Guess it’s too much to expect you’d eventually scuff them up yourself by doing some real work.”
“Hey,” I say, as though I’ve just had a great idea. “Why don’t you go ahead and lower all of your expectations now? The rest of your day will be far less disappointing?”
Olivia’s eyes get all wide and innocent, and I know I’ve stepped right into it. “Oh, but I already did that the first day I met you.”
I throw a hand over my heart and stagger until my shoulders hit the back of the swing. “Why, you are just overwhelming me with your kind words.”
She lets out a short burst of laughter. “Why do you suddenly sound like an old southern lady?”
I chuckle at the observation, enjoying the way a flush is creeping up her cheeks and brightening her eyes. “Wheel, I think sittin’ here on the verandah has unlocked somethin’ deep and mysterious within mah heart…”
“Somethin’ callin’ out for some sweet iced tea and cold fried chicken?”
“Ooh…I think I could arrange that fuh us fuh lunch?”
We both laugh, and I have a feeling Olivia could carry this charade on longer.
The front door opens, and Therese walks out, elegant as always. I stand immediately and walk over to greet her with a hug. The way she squeezes me, rests for a moment in my arms, makes my heart hurt. It’s far too easy to imagine my mother being in Therese’s shoes.
“This ensemble suits you,” Therese says, stepping back and looking me over from my army green t-shirt and blue jeans to my new cowboy boots. “But you’ll get blisters in those.” She walks back inside for a moment, and I can hear a door open and close. When she walks back out, she’s holding a pair of well-worn brown cowboy boots with silver tips and heels. “You look like you’re a size 12. Am I right?”
I’m speechless. I love the boots on sight but instinctively glance at Olivia, feeling that she might not be too happy about it. I can’t tell what she thinks because her hair has fallen over her face as she bends to tie her shoes. I turn back to Therese. “I’d love to wear them today, thank you. I’ll bring them back to you tonight.”
Therese shakes her head. “I don’t know many men around here with size 12 feet. They’re yours if you’d like them. They’ll survive you, if you treat them right.”
I take the boots and kiss her on the cheek. “It’s the perfect thing to remember you and Tomahawk Hill by,” I say. “Thank you.”
If Olivia is upset by her grandmother’s gift, she doesn’t show it when she stands, draping the backpack over her shoulders. “So, are you ready to make some more memories? You’ve only got access to my wealth of knowledge about Tomahawk Hill and its inhabitants for the next—” she glances at her watch, “eight hours and forty minutes, you know.”
“Guess I’d better change my boots then,” I say, setting my stiff, new boots to the side and sliding into Nathan Weiss’s.
Standing, I’m a little thrown to see Olivia watching me. “They look good on you.” And with that, she kisses Therese on the cheek and practically skips down the stairs to my truck.