Wednesday, December 7, 2011
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Even today, two years and nine months since the rape, she couldn't stand to be in the dark. Emily Malone stood over Andrew's bed in disbelief that he was two years old already. Where had the time gone? She shook her head in wonder as she gazed lovingly at her little boy. Being a single mother was hard, but she wouldn't have missed it for the world. As always, it amazed her that such a wonderful blessing could come out of such a horrible attack. She pulled the blanket up to her son's chin and turned to leave making sure the night light was on.
Emily stopped and stared back at her son's crib, everything would be different tomorrow night at this time. They would be on the family ranch in Texas. She'd missed her Uncle Arty and Abigail a lot over the past few years. The time had come to go back home with her son. Emily knew that she wanted him raised around family. Andrew would love the ranch. It was full of cows, horses and it had the perfect little creek that had always been fun to play in. She would miss her friends here in New York, especially Michael. Although never romantically involved, Michael was the rock she leaned on and would never have made it through that terrible night and the time after if it hadn’t been for him.
Emily opened the door to Michael. “Michael, what are you going to do without me?” She said with a smile on her face.
“I’ll be alright. I still have Rick to spend my nights with.” Michael said.
Knowing that Michael would not be alone made it easier for Emily to leave.
Michael drove them to the airport, leaving the movers to finish packing the rest of their things. At the gate, Michael turned to her and said, “I’m going to miss you two, but I'll be out there in two months. Call me when you land.”
“I'll miss you too. I love you, and I couldn't have done this without you.” Emily said with tears in her eyes.
She hugged him close and he leaned over and kissed Andrew. As she walked through the tunnel to the planes, she looked back one more time as Michael waved and nodded to her. Then she and her son headed home to Texas.
Austin Mathews paced back in forth in the airport lobby, looked at his watch, and then he sighed because the plane was running late. He had already wasted his morning driving out here to pick up his boss's niece and her son. Now the plane was delayed, which meant his afternoon would be shot too. Finally, the plane landed and as he watched the passengers come through the waiting area, he watched for the one who matched the pictures back at the ranch. Finally, he saw her coming through the gate carrying her son, who was wide eyed and looking at everything.
Emily, who had been sent pictures from Abigail, knew exactly what Austin looked like, and walked right up to him. Emily held her hand out to Austin. “Hi, I’m Emily. Thank you very much for coming out here to pick us up. I told Uncle Arty that I would be fine taking a cab, but you know how he is.”
Austin smiled, “It’s no problem at all.” Austin stood there starring back at the gate.
Emily confused, she asked him, “What are you looking at?”
Austin looked at her and said, “I thought you were traveling with someone else, a man named Michael?”
Emily said, “No, Michael isn't with me; he won't be here for two months. I told Abigail that, but she must have misunderstood me.
Austin couldn't imagine letting the woman he loved, especially somebody as beautiful as Emily, and their child move by themselves and not see them for two months. He didn't know that Michael guy, but he knew already that he wouldn't like him.
“It's about an hour and a half to the ranch; how about we stop and get something to eat?” Austin asked.
“Oh. I don't want to be more of an inconvenience, than I have already been.” She glanced at her son.
Austin realized she was torn between wanting to get some lunch and not wanting to burden him even further. “If you don't mind, I'm a bit hungry”
Emily smiled. “Okay then, that would be great.”
When Austin pulled into a parking spot, Emily unbuckled Andrew and they went inside. Austin wanted to take that time to get to know Emily a little better. She seemed nice and was very beautiful. She was not too tall and not too short with her long black hair hanging down her back in a braid. She had a nice even tan that gave her a beautiful complexion. She couldn't be more than a size six.
They walked in and found a table to sit at in the back of the cafe. After a minute of looking at the menu, they ordered their food. Andrew got chicken nuggets and fries, Emily ordered a grilled chicken salad with ranch dressing, and Austin wanted a double cheeseburger with fries. The waitress said she would have their food in about fifteen minutes. Emily was really hungry since she had skipped breakfast to finish last minute packing.
Austin looked at Emily and said, “Tell me a little bit about yourself. We will be seeing a lot of each other around the ranch. I feel like I already know you since Arty talks about you all the time.” Emily smiled. “Okay, here is the short version. I have lived at the ranch since I was ten. My parents were killed in an accident and my Uncle Arty raised me with the help of Abigail. Abigail is like a mother to me. I love the ranch, and I couldn't wait to bring Andrew here. Now listen to me. You probably didn't really want to know my whole life story. You will learn fast that when I get to talking I don't always know when to shut up.”
Austin didn't mind at all. “No, it's fine. I have heard a lot about you from your uncle. He sure loves you; he talks about you all the time.”
Their food got there and they all ate. When they were finished eating, Emily took Andrew to the bathroom. It was going to be a long drive and she was trying to get him potty trained.
When they got out, Austin had already paid the bill. He said, “We should probably get going.” Emily agreed, “Yes, you are right, but let me pay for our lunch. I didn't mean for you to pay for me and Andrew.”
Austin said, “No, really, it's fine. Don't worry about it.”
They got Andrew all buckled in his car seat and started their long drive. Emily could remember so much as they drove down the road. She grew up here, and was so happy to be back. Emily sat there looking out of the truck window thinking. She knew Andrew would have a much better life here than he would have had in the city. The city had more crime than she wanted around her son. She would not even leave her house after dark alone anymore. It was hard to get completely over all of her fears, but Emily had been to therapy, and that had helped. The thing that always made it hard was the fact that she knew that the guy who raped her was walking free. She could have seen him in the store or a gas station and not even known it. It had been awhile since she had thought about it; the ride was so long and quiet that it left plenty of time to do nothing but think.
Emily must have had a sad look on her face because Austin said, “Are you okay? You just went somewhere for a minute. Do you want to talk about it?”
Emily looked over at him, not ready to tell him her whole sad story. She didn't know him yet and honestly she may never tell him. She said, “Oh, I'm sorry. I guess I am tired from the long flight.”
Austin felt like there was something she wasn't telling him, but he didn't want to pry. “We will be there soon. I know Arty can't wait to see you. Abigail has been cooking and baking all day.”
Emily laughed, “That sounds like Abigail. She has worked for my Uncle Arty for thirty years, and she practically raised me. I know they love each other. I have always felt that they were more than just friends and always wondered why they never got married, or at least admitted to being a couple.”
Austin said, “I don't know, some people are happier if they stay separate. For some reason some people don't like the idea of making it legal. My parents did nothing but fight when they were married, but when they got divorced everything was great. There was only one thing that I disagreed with that my mother did; she never let my father in on anything that was going on in my life. I got hurt one time and went to the hospital. I broke my arm, and she never even called my father. I think even if you don't live together the father has a right to know what is going on in his kid's life. I am sorry. You didn't need to hear my boring life story.”
Emily was glad to get her thoughts off her own sad story, “No, I loved hearing about you. Abigail talks about you all the time. I feel like I have known you forever.”
Emily couldn't help but think about how great Austin was. She wished she could be with him, but she didn't even know him. How could she feel that way about somebody that she only met moments ago? It just felt like she had known him her whole life. He was so easy to talk to. Emily'd never felt like that before, and she didn't even know if he had a wife or a girlfriend. He wasn't wearing a wedding ring, but a lot of guys didn't when they did ranch work; the ring could get caught on something. She had not even made it to the ranch yet and she was already thinking about a man. She knew that she better stop thinking like that. Austin was probably being nice and making small talk. He didn't even know her, how could she possibly think he would be interested in her?
Austin turned to Emily and said, “If you need anything, you let me know. I am at the ranch every day.”
Emily liked hearing that. “Thank you very much. I might just take you up on that.” The closer they got to the ranch the more excited Emily got. Driving down the road she saw different farmers with produce stands set up. Emily missed these in New York; she loved going up to a table and having a farmer that had been farming for many years tell a story about his crops. She felt like people cared around here. Back in New York nobody ever talked to anyone else; people never took a minute to say hello to one another. That was one of the main reasons Emily wanted to move back home with Andrew. She wanted him to have family, and learn how to talk to people, and respect people and things in life. She was afraid that he would miss out on those lessons living in the big city.
She didn't want Uncle Arty to be paying for everything that she wanted. It was going to be a while before her trust fund came in, and she wanted to make something of herself. Emily could now say that she had a very successful career, a beautiful baby, and a wonderful best friend. Emily did not regret her decision to move to New York. Yes, some bad things happened, but so did a lot of good things. Now it was time to go back home to her family. It wasn't much further to the ranch and she couldn't wait. She asked Austin, “How long have you worked for Uncle Arty?”
Austin said, “I have worked for him for a little over a year, but it feels like I have known them my whole life. They are so easy to talk to. I really love Arty and Abigail.”
Emily knew exactly how he felt. “Do you live on the ranch?”
Austin laughed at that. “I might as well since I am there all of the time, but I actually have a house about ten minutes down the road; it's actually a house that Arty built for me on his land. I owe a lot to him. He has been like a second father to me. Most of the time I am working at the ranch.”
They would be at the ranch in about twenty more minutes, and Emily could not wait. She was getting more excited by the minute. She turned around and started waking Andrew up. Andrew sat up in his seat and looked out the window. He could already see Uncle Arty's cows in the field. He sat in the back seat of the truck and made moo noises. That made Emily and Austin both laugh. Austin joined in making noises too. Emily smiled at the two of them. She couldn't believe how good he was with Andrew. Most men wouldn't take the time to make her son laugh. That was the difference in the big city people and the ranch folk. The country life was like another world. The people were different and they seemed nicer somehow. Emily was very happy to be getting there. This day seemed like it was never going to come. The flight was so long, but the truck ride had been pretty nice. Austin seemed really great, and she couldn't wait to spend some more time with him.
Finally Emily saw the long dirt road leading up to the beautiful two story ranch house. She couldn't wait to see Uncle Arty and Abigail. Dust was flying up from the road, and Andrew was laughing at all of the dust clouds. This was the first time he had been to the ranch. They finally reached the house; Abigail came running out, and Emily ran up and threw her arms around her.
Emily said, “I have missed you.” Austin was getting Andrew out of his car seat when Uncle Arty came running over to him. He picked him up and swung him around in a big circle. Andrew was laughing the whole time.
Uncle Arty was very excited. He said, “I have so much to show you; your new house that Austin built, the playground, and everything else.”
Emily said, “I have missed you so much Uncle Arty. I am glad to be home.”
Austin said, “I am going to give you guys some time alone. Just call me if you need me.”
Emily looked at him and said, “Thank you for the ride.”
Uncle Arty started showing Emily everything. He started with the huge playground he had built for Andrew. Andrew's eyes lit up. Next he showed her the house. Emily fell in love with it instantly; it was the most beautiful cabin that she had ever seen. It was perfect with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a huge kitchen because she loved to cook. Emily ran right over to Uncle Arty and gave him a big hug.
She said, “I love you, and I love this house. I have to tell Austin what a great job he did the next time I see him. Thank you very much for everything.”
Emily could not wait until tomorrow when all of her furniture and other things would be there. Tonight she and Andrew would stay at Uncle Arty's house.
The next day the big moving truck got there, and Emily was full of excitement. Abigail offered to watch Andrew for the day so that Emily could get some stuff done. When the truck finally left, there were boxes everywhere. It was going to take a long time to get this all put away. Just then Emily heard a knock at the door; it was Austin.
“Hi”, he said. “Uncle Arty thought you could use my help today.”
Emily looked at him and said, “Yes, that would be great, if you don't mind.”
Austin said, “I don't mind at all.” They didn't waste any time before they got started emptying boxes.
Emily was really beginning to like Austin even though she didn't even know him. She knew that she had just met him, but she couldn't stop thinking about him. He was extremely nice and he was spending his day helping her unpack and organize her house. He was probably only doing it because Uncle Arty asked him to. Why would this great looking and super nice guy want to get mixed up with a single mother? He probably wasn't interested in an instant family. Emily decided that it would be best if she just concentrated on the job of unpacking. After hours of working nonstop, Emily told Austin, “ Let's take a little break. I will make some iced tea for us.” Uncle Arty had gone shopping and fully stocked all of the cabinets, the freezer, and the refrigerator. Emily could not believe that he had gone to all of that trouble. They went out on the porch swing to take a break.
Emily asked Austin, “So, tell me a little bit about yourself; I told you my life story.”
Austin said, “Okay. I will go first then you have to tell me more about you. I am thirty-five and pretty much a loner. My parents have both passed away and I don't have any other family; Arty and Abigail are the only family I have. That is about it for my life story.”
Emily smiled and said, “You won't find better people than Uncle Arty and Abigail. I love them more than anyone in the world. Well except Andrew of course.”
Austin thought that it was kind of strange for her to say; she hadn't mentioned Michael. Every story that Arty and Abigail had told him about Emily started with Emily and Michael. All of the stories were happy ones. Now Emily was here and Michael wasn't. What was he missing? Things didn't add up for him. She said that Michael would not be here for two months. Austin couldn't help but wonder if maybe they weren't as happy as he thought they were. All Austin kept thinking was that he had to know. He would never think of coming between two happy people, but if they were not happy he wanted to be the one to make her happy.
Emily said, “Well, Are you ready to get back to unpacking these boxes. I need to go get Andrew soon.”
Austin snapped out of his thoughts and said, “Oh, yeah, let's get to it.” Emily knew that it would take a few days to get everything the way that she wanted it, but it was really starting to look good. She couldn't wait to show Abigail. They worked for a few more hours and then decided to take a break for the night; Emily could do the rest by herself. She couldn't wait any longer to show Andrew his room. Just as they got back to Uncle Arty's house, Abigail was standing at the door holding the cordless phone; Michael was on the phone she told Emily. Emily ran for the house. She had to tell Michael about the house. It had only been two days since she saw him, but she already missed him. He told her about his new boyfriend, Tracey. Emily laughed that his boyfriend had a girl's name; that made Michael laugh too. Then she had to tell him about Austin.
Finally Michael laughed and said, “You have got it bad for this guy. I have never heard you talk about any guy like this before.”
Emily laughed and said, “I better go before you spend all of your money on this call and then you can't come and see me. I love you and I will see you soon.”
Austin was sitting outside waiting on her to finish on the phone. He didn't know why, but he hated the fact that she was talking to another man. He could see the smile on her face as she came out of the house.
Austin asked Emily, “Do you want to do anymore tonight?”
Emily could see how tired Austin looked so she said, “No, I think I will call it a night, but I would like to thank you for all of your help. How about you come over tomorrow night and I will cook you dinner.”
Austin, very happy with that idea, said, “Yeah, sure that sounds good to me.” Emily was very happy. She couldn't wait until tomorrow.
Emily woke up early and got out of bed. Andrew was still sleeping when she started putting away more things. She was being very careful not to make too much noise so she didn't wake up Andrew. She was getting more excited about tonight every minute. Austin would be coming over for dinner. She had already decided that she would make a homemade beef stew, with a salad and bread. She worked on it all day. Emily realized that she hadn't heard from Austin at all today. She hoped that he hadn't forgotten. Then she started feeling a little bad. Why would he want to hang out with her and her son, when he could be out there finding a woman with less drama in her life?
Austin was getting ready to go to Emily's house for dinner. Then he realized that this was not a date. She was only being nice to him for helping her out. That made him a little sad. Austin finally got there and Emily told him to come right in. They sat down and had a very nice dinner. They talked for hours after Andrew was put to bed. Austin was so glad that Emily hadn't spent the night talking about her and Michael, but he was surprised that she hadn't mentioned him at least once. It was not yet midnight and Austin thought he should probably go. He didn't want to, but he knew that he should. “I should go. It is late and we have a lot to do on the ranch tomorrow.”
Emily said, “Okay. I understand. I hope to do this again sometime.”
A couple of weeks went by before Emily saw Austin again. It was time to start gathering the heard on the ranch. He was doing very long days. Finally she saw him coming out of Uncle Arty's house when she was about to go in.
She said, “Hi, I haven't seen much of you lately.”
Austin said, “Yeah, I'm sorry I haven't stopped by. I have been meaning to; it has just been very busy around here.”
Emily said, “Abigail is going to keep Andrew for a few hours so that I can check out the ranch. It has been so long since I have seen it. Would you like to go riding with me?”
Without taking a minute to think about it, Austin said, “Yes.” They went to the stables, put saddles on two horses and started out on their ride.
Emily couldn't wait to find out more about Austin, “Are you married? If that is too personal, then don't answer. I sometimes talk before I think.”
Austin said, “Don't worry about it. You can ask me anything. No, I am not married. I never found the right woman.” Austin looked at Emily. “What about you?”
Emily said, “I never found the right person either. It is just me and Andrew.”
Austin thought it was strange that she didn't follow that up with something like, now she had found the right person in Michael. He couldn't figure out why she said that it was only her and Andrew. They went riding some more. Emily said that she remembered a small creek with a spring running through it.
Austin said, “Yes, I know where that is, I will show you.”
When they got there, Emily was amazed at how beautiful it was. They got off their horses for a little while. Emily loved this ranch with all of her heart. It brought back many childhood memories. She used to come and play in this creek when she was younger. She would spend her summers outside been every day until dark. She loved riding horses and playing in the creek. Then she would help Abigail in the kitchen. She had so much fun there. That was what she wanted for Andrew. She wanted his life filled with great memories.
Austin looked up and saw some rain clouds coming in. He said, “We should get back before it rains on us.”
Emily said, “Yes, you’re right. I don't want to leave Andrew too long either.”
Austin hated the fact that it was going to rain. He was really enjoying spending time with Emily. He wanted to spend some more time with her so he asked, “Are you doing anything tomorrow?”
Emily said, “Well, actually I need to buy a truck. I hate having to borrow Uncle Arty's every time I need to go somewhere. If Uncle Arty is feeling up to it, then I am going to see if he wants to take me into town.” Austin just found a way to spend some more time with Emily.
He said, “Don't worry about it, I will take you. I will pick you up at 8:00 in the morning.” Emily was glad to hear that he wanted to take her. She really enjoyed spending time with him.
They got back to the stables and put the horses away. Austin said, “I had a really good time. We should do it again.”
Emily agreed with him and they walked to the house. Andrew came running. He had a big cookie in his hands and an even bigger smile on his face. Emily looked at Abigail with a smile. “I can see you two are having fun.”
Abigail said, “Andrew is a very good helper. He helps me make the cookies and then he helps me eat them.”
Emily took Andrew and headed to her house.
Austin said, “Hop in the truck; I will give you a ride.” Emily and Andrew got in the truck just as it started to rain; they made it just in the nick of time got. When they got to Emily's house she asked, “Would you like to stay for dinner?”
He said, “Yes, that would be great.”
Just then the phone rang and it was Michael. Emily talked for a while and then told him that she would call him back later, that Austin was there.
Austin said, “You didn't have to hang up on my account. I know that you miss him.”
Emily said, “Yes, I miss him, but he was calling to tell me that he will be here in two days. He finished things sooner than expected.”
Austin's heart sank to the floor. He had wished that Michael would never come back. He was slowly falling in love with Emily. They finished dinner and decided to call it a night since they would see each other in the morning.
Emily called Michael back after Austin left. “So Michael, how is your boyfriend Tracey doing?”
Michael laughed, “He is fine, but I am more interested in how your boyfriend Austin is doing.” Emily laughed and said, “I really wish he was my boyfriend, but I am taking things very slow.” Michael said, “Well, I better go; I will see you in two days.”