Things are heating up in Pine Springs and life is about to get more interesting for the Jannsen girls. Be sure to vote in the polls and let's see if we can get Josiah and Scarlett on speaking terms again. The poll will go through Tuesday (Feb.2) at 8pm CST. Videos will come up later this evening for this chapter and Chapter 3. And don't forget to check out my post about the Kindle giveaway going now!
~UPDATE 2-2-2016: video reading is now up and can be found at the end of the blog.
Scarlett fiddled nervously with Zander’s reins as we walked to the ring. I guess it hadn’t taken much arguing to get her to agree to the competition. Anytime Scarlett had extra time during the day she enjoyed riding the barrels at home. Doing it at the rodeo just caught her off guard. “You’re going to wear the leather out wringing it like that,” I teased.
“Shut up.” She grinned at me before glancing in the ring again. “It’s been so long since I actually competed.”
“You’re making it sound like five years is an eternity.”
“It is when you’re competitive,” she retorted. “It’s one thing to run for fun at home. There I’m just doing it to enjoy time with Zander. Out there, it’s a different animal completely. I have to be focused and take everything into consideration so I don’t lose time.”
“Quit thinking of it as a competition then,” I said. “It’s just you and Zander having fun.”
“In front of a thousand people,” Scarlett pointed out. “Yeah, real fun.”
“Come on, it’ll be just like old times.”
She nodded and turned to Zander. “What do you think, boy? Do we have another win in us?”
He tossed his head and snorted.
“That’s what I was thinking,” she replied. “Well, you’d best go find Mom and Teddy. They’ll have found seats by now.”
I knew she wanted to be on her own, so I went to the stands. Josiah stood so I could sneak past him to sit by Mom. We were in the front. Mom liked being able to see everything and claimed that front row had the best view. I think some of it to was wanting to be as close to that arena as she could get. I think part of her had hoped I would do rodeo too. I looked at her as we watched the first rider go. “Mom, does it disappoint you that I never competed?”
She gave me that look moms get when you ask something completely ridiculous. “What on earth kind of question is that?”
“I don’t know, you kind of went behind Scarlett’s back to get her out there again. And I know music was never really your thing. I just wondered if maybe you thought I should have done barrel racing too.”
Mom put her arm around me. “You listen good, Blizzard May. I have never wanted anything for you that you didn’t yourself want. As much as Scarlett may have your daddy’s looks, she’s got my drive. Paul loved the ranch and he loved the horses. But his heart was in the land and with the animals. He didn’t care much for competition and that suited the two of us just fine. He would come to the rodeos with me and cheer me on, but he never wanted to participate himself. We knew as soon as Scarlett could walk she’d be out there racing. If anything, I wish she had kept at it longer. But, she’s done what she thought she had to. Much as I might think she should have stayed at school, I’m glad she’s stayed true to her own course. As for being disappointed in you, I just can’t be. You remind me so much of Paul.”
“So, I am more like Dad?”
“From your eyes to your heart,” Mom said with a smile. “I’m proud of you chasing your dreams. And, you should know Tammy asked me last night if you’d be willing to play in the diner a few nights a month as their live entertainment.”
My jaw dropped into my lap. “What?”
“I told her that could probably be arranged and you would call after the fair was through to talk details.”
I about knocked Teddy’s hat off throwing my arms around Mom for a tight squeeze. “Sorry, Teddy.”
“Could be worse,” he chuckled as he straightened the brim.
We quieted as the announcer said, “And now after years out of the ring, a real treat today folks. Let’s hear it for Scarlett Jannsen. Zander seemed more jittery than normal, but then again that’s how a lot of barrel racers looked before their run. The buzzer sounded and he streaked into the ring. The next part came so fast it was hard to tell what exactly had happened. As Zander rounded the second barrel, his feet slid out from under him. The next thing we knew, he and Scarlett were down. Dust filled the air as they slid against the wall. My heart slipped into my shoes as gasps filled the stands. Zander soon pulled himself up, but Scarlett didn’t move.
“Ladies and gentlemen please remain calmly in your seats.”
I watched numbly as the rodeo clown took hold of Zander’s reins and led him out of the ring. At some point Josiah must have hopped the fence because he was at Scarlett’s side as the medics lifted her onto a stretcher.
“Blizzard, come on,” Mom said, gently touching my arm.
We moved out of the stands and down to the ambulance. They were loading Scarlett in as we arrived. “Is she all right?” Mom asked.
“Probably has a broken leg and a concussion, but we’ll need x-rays to know for sure. We’ve got her set with an IV and some pain killers for now. You want to ride with her, Mrs. Jannsen?”
“Let Blizzard go with her. She can’t drive the truck on her own.”
“She needs you, sweetheart. I’ll meet you there.” She saw Josiah standing awkwardly nearby. “Josiah, you better get your dad and follow me out. He’s not going to be easy unless he knows she’s okay.”
I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself. I held Scarlett’s hand and kept waiting for her to wake up. The drive seemed to take forever. I thought I saw her eyelids move and I smiled. “Hey, Scarlett, you know there are other ways of getting out of a rodeo.”
“Blizz?” Her voice was weak.
“Yeah, I’m here. Mom’s following.”
“Zander. Is Zander okay?”
“He walked out of the ring and seemed fine. Honestly, we were a little more concerned for you.”
“Darn rabbits.” Her eyes closed and I sat blinking at her.
One of the paramedics caught my eye and said, “It’s probably the meds. Keep talking to her though, if it makes you feel better.”
The day dragged as I was sitting in the waiting room with Teddy and Josiah. Mom came in and out between checking on Scarlett during surgery and pacing the room. I was glad Teddy was there to help Mom stay calm. In times that Mom was back with the doctors or checking on Scarlett, I could hear Teddy and Josiah talking in hushed tones. At first I thought they were talking about Scarlett until I heard Teddy say, “It doesn’t make any sense for someone to do that, Joey. What could anyone gain by making only a few of our cattle sick? And why stop pat just making them sick. They’d do more damage killing them outright. More than likely it’s just a virus going through the herd. We keep doing what we’ve been doing. Isolate the sick ones and monitor the herd. The vet already said most of the sick ones will probably recuperate just fine.”
“What about the chickens? I’ve fixed that coop four times now and something is still getting to them. We need to call the sheriff and get this investigated before it turns into something serious.”
“No, Joey. It’s probably just a coyote. They’re wily critters, after all.”
“Are you going to say that when someone breaks into the house?”
Mom came back to the room at that moment and Teddy gave Josiah a look ending the conversation. I watched Josiah stalk off to the hospitality table. I wanted to ask him what they had been talking about, but I didn’t think he’d be willing to talk to me about it. After the doctor came back to say Scarlett was clear to leave, Mom went back to bring Scarlett out. She’d twisted her knee pretty badly in the fall and broken the leg. The doctors said it could have been much worse and with some therapy and time to heal, she’d be back in the saddle in no time.
As Mom came out with Scarlett in a wheelchair, Teddy looked at her with tears in his eyes. “I should never have signed you up for that.”
“Teddy, it wasn’t your fault,” she said, reaching for his hand. “I don’t know how it got missed, but I swear there was a rabbit hole outside the barrels. Most of the riders wouldn’t have come near it, but I was too wide anyway. In trying to make sure Zander didn’t step in it, I overcorrected. And while that wasn’t the way I wanted to finish the rodeo, it felt good to be competing again. I’m glad you signed me up.” She saw Josiah and frowned. “Aren’t you supposed to be roping this afternoon?”
“I think I’ve missed it by now,” he replied. “But Dad needed to know that you’re okay. When will you be able to ride again?”
“Not for months,” Scarlett moaned. “This couldn’t have happened at a worse time. I’ve got too much to do…”
“And we’ll hire someone to take over what Blizzard and I can’t manage,” Mom interrupted. “You are going to rest and do everything the doctor says so we can get you healed up.”
“No buts, you won’t be any good to us permanently lame.”
“I can help,” Josiah said, a little too eagerly.
“Oh no you can’t,” Scarlett retorted. “You’ve got your own ranch to worry about and I’m not going to have you around messing things up.”
“Scarlett,” Mom snapped.
“Believe it or not,” Teddy interrupted, “Joey’s been doing a lot less of the managing, Lettie. I’m not one hundred percent yet, but I can handle the job. And horse ranching isn’t all that different from cattle ranching. Joey would be a good hand for you.”
“And it would be one less person to worry about paying,” Josiah added. “Until you’re back in the saddle, I’ll just do whatever chores you and your mom give me. I’ll be at your beck and call.” Something in the way he said that told me he was going to get a lot more satisfaction out of this than any normal person would.
We’d gotten out to the trucks and Scarlett was sitting with her arms across her chest. I could tell she was trying to think of any good reason why Josiah couldn’t be the one at the ranch and falling short. “Think of it, Scarlett, you can make him do the chores you don’t like doing anyway,” I added.
Mom and Teddy laughed while Scarlett turned to glower at me. Then I realized Mom was frowning at the pickup. “I think we might have to rent a car. It’s going to be awfully difficult for you to get in the truck.”
“I can manage it,” Scarlett said, trying to push herself out of the chair.
Suddenly Josiah had her in his arms while she smacked him. “Chill, cowgirl, I’m just getting you in your seat.”
“You put me down right now.”
“I plan to if you’d quit being such an…”
“Josiah, I hope you weren’t about to say what I think you were about to say,” Teddy said firmly. “I taught you better than to call a lady names.”
His ears turned pink and he finished, “Angel.”
“Nice cover,” I whispered.
“Well, our second surprise for the day will have gotten underway by now,” Teddy mused. “So it seems only fitting that Joey and I escort you ladies home and take care of dinner for you.”
“What was the surprise?” I asked. “Since we’re missing it, there’s no harm in telling us now.”
“The county’s first ever chuckwagon theatre.”
“Chuckwagon theatre?” I repeated.
Teddy laughed. “Yep. I had it all set up. There’d be wagon beds for everyone to sit in with their dinner and a big ol’ projector screen to watch classic Westerns on. Like a drive-in only better.”
Mom laughed. “We’ll have to plan one at Starwood sometime and invite people out. But for tonight, I happen to have quite a few Westerns at home. Since you’ve offered to provide dinner, I’ll provide the home theatre.”
That evening we enjoyed grilled burgers while watching Mom’s old John Wayne movies. We had stopped by the county fair long enough to let the officials know that Scarlett was going to be okay and to pick up Zander. The vet there had checked him over and other than some bruises, Scarlett's star was just fine. We were in the middle of The Sons of Katie Elder when I looked over at the couch. Josiah had managed to sit by Scarlett, though she had argued and tried to scoot herself as far from him as possible. I have to hand it to him, the Bear is nothing if not persistent. Now she was leaning against his shoulder fast asleep. I couldn’t blame her. She’d had a rough day and had to be exhausted mentally and physically. The funny part was Josiah’s head tipped over hers, his eyes closed.
I giggled and Mom glanced over with a smile. “Well, that’s encouraging.”
“Certainly better than the two of them fighting,” Teddy agreed.
“If I didn’t know better,” I said suspiciously, “I’d almost think you two planned this.”
“Well, minus the rodeo accident, we kind of did. Scarlett’s got to let go of her anger,” Mom said. “I know I said it was her story, but I’ll tell you a little of it. You probably don’t remember the last time Josiah came back to town. He’d gotten injured in a rodeo and while he would be able to go back and did, it sidelined him for a while.”
I frowned. “I don’t remember that.”
“It happened just after Paul died. We were all a little preoccupied and Scarlett was more than a little vulnerable. With Josiah back, they picked right back up where they’d been in high school. Folks around here always did say the two of them would make a wonderful couple.”
“If they didn’t kill each other first,” Teddy added.
Mom chuckled and continued, “Anyway, they were dating and it seemed like they were both happy. I was sure that for all of Scarlett’s insistence she’d stay at the ranch, I’d lose her to a wedding.”
“Then Josiah got stupid,” Teddy muttered.
“He let his guard down,” Mom corrected. “Josiah was pretty well known on the circuit and like most of those cowboys had a string of admirers. One of them came to town and they started getting a little friendly.”
“Too friendly for a guy who was dating someone else?” I guessed.
Nodding, Mom said, “I don’t know how, um, compromising a situation Scarlett found him in, but her heart was shattered. She came home and swore she would never see Josiah Meddleton again.”
“And now you’re trying to play matchmaker with them?”
“No, I’m trying to help Scarlett see that people make mistakes and people change. It’s been five years since that happened and she needs to give Josiah a chance to prove himself. Everyone needs strong friends and the two of them together are the strongest people I know.”
I considered what Mom had told me. “Well, for someone who swore never to see him again, she’s going to start seeing a whole lot of him.”
“It’s going to be an interesting summer, that’s for sure,” Teddy agreed.
This week is going to be a little different. Everyone liked --0the options for this chapter so much that I decided to use all of them. But that was an awful lot of information for one chapter and it was getting a bit too long. So, today I'm posting Chapter 3 and tomorrow you'll get Chapter 4! How's that for fast? Due to unforeseen time constraints I have not made the video reading yet, but hope to have that done sometime this afternoon, if my kiddos cooperate. Otherwise I'll get both video readings done tomorrow. Check out the poll at the end of this chapter for use in Chapter 5 and don't forget to visit my post about the Kindle giveaway and enter for your chance to win!
UPDATE 2-1-2016: The video has been posted on YouTube and is now at the end of the blog! Thanks for your patience!
About a week after the casserole fiasco, our summer really got underway. New foals were born it seemed every day and there was work to be done with the yearlings and older horses. One Saturday, Mom, Scarlett and I were enjoying cool lemonade out on the porch when we saw a pickup coming down the drive. Scarlett excused herself and disappeared to the barn before it arrived. I didn’t have long to wonder why she’d left. After parking, Josiah Meddleton exited the truck and came up to the front porch.
“Good afternoon, Josiah,” Mom said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you.”
“Yes, ma’am. Dad told me to bring this casserole dish back to you.”
“Well, I see you refilled it for me. That looks like brisket.”
“Dad said I couldn’t bring it back empty. I’m afraid that’s about the only thing I know how to make.”
I could see him looking around the porch. “Looking for something?” I asked.
“Huh? Oh, no. Well, no.” He started to turn back to his truck and then looked over his shoulder at Mom. “Is Scarlett here, by any chance?”
Mom hesitated. “She is, but she’s likely busy right now.”
“I’ll only be a moment.”
I could see an inner battle in Mom’s eyes. Finally she tipped her head toward the barn. “She’s in there.”
Josiah tipped his hat before walking to the barn. I stood to follow.
“Blizzard, aren’t you going to help me in here?” Mom asked pointedly.
“It’s a casserole dish, Mom. I’m sure you can handle it. Besides, someone’s got to make sure she doesn’t throw a shoe at him.”
Mom tried to look stern, but her smile kind of ruined it. “Eavesdropping is going to get you into trouble one of these days.”
I shrugged before skipping over to the barn. I stood just outside where I could hear without being seen. Mom was probably right that I’d get myself into trouble, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’d done it.
Josiah seemed to be in mid-sentence as I came up. “Just wondering if you’ve had any problems with your chickens lately.”
“Nope. Our coop is fine and none of them are missing. Maybe there’s a coyote by your place.”
“Maybe.” He sounded unsure.
“Was there something else?” I could tell Scarlett was trying to get rid of him without being rude. Mom had taught us to be polite, no matter what. Didn’t always happen that way, but Scarlett tried harder than I did.
“Dad wanted me to tell you he’s got something planned for you and Blizzard during the county fair. I’m not supposed to say what, but he wants to make sure you’re planning on attending.”
“We always go,” Scarlett replied slowly. “Even if we didn’t, I have to be there.”
I could hear in her voice she regretted saying that. “I just do. If you need extra help fixing your coop, Shorty has tomorrow off. He might be willing to drop by and help you out.”
“No, I got it taken care of. Thanks though.” There was a long pause. “If you’ve got tomorrow off, I’d enjoy a ride with you.”
“I’m busy tomorrow, sorry.”
“We’ve got a foal due tonight. Skipperdeen’s milk is down. And I think I’ve already made it plain I’m not interested.”
There was a scowl in Josiah’s voice as he said, “You haven’t changed much have you?”
“’Bout as much as you have.”
“You wouldn’t know if I have or haven’t, Scarlett Jannsen.” Loud footsteps started coming toward the barn door and I scurried around the side. I watched Josiah stomp to his truck and drive away.
Once he was gone I went into the barn. “So, is Skipperdeen really close to having her foal?” I asked, not thinking about the fact that I wasn’t supposed to have heard that conversation.
Scarlett’s eyes narrowed. “Next time you want to listen in, just come inside.” Before I could say anything she stalked to the house. Yep, Mom was right. Eavesdropping had gotten me in trouble again.
The weeks flew until the county fair. There was a lot to prepare for the whole event. We’d heard the diner was having an amateur night and I was anxious to debut my new guitar there. Scarlett had been asked to give a barrel racing demonstration at the 4-H show and talk about how the program had led her to ranching. She and I laughed about it. In reality, ranching had led her to 4-H. Skipperdeen had been Scarlett’s horse project back when she was in school. She’d raised her from a yearling and trained her, showing her almost yearly. The tables were turning now though. This time I would be showing Skipperdeen and her new filly, Winter’s Folly, in the mare/foal division.
When we arrived at the fairgrounds, I had to take Skipperdeen and Folly to check-in. “Will you be all right with Mom’s help?” Scarlett asked as she unloaded her old barrel racer, Zander. He’s a stocky, gray horse with just a hint of chestnut in his mane and tail. Mom says he’s technically a rose gray, but anytime you say that to people who don’t know horses, they look at you funny. He tossed his head impatiently. “Hey, behave,” Scarlett chided. It didn’t make much difference though. Zander, like Skipperdeen, is Scarlett’s baby and can get away with just about anything.
“Don’t worry about us,” Mom replied. “We can get the girls where they need to be just fine on our own. You go ahead over to the show ring. Blizzard will meet you there soon.”
“Aren’t you coming over?” I asked.
“Someone’s got to stay with this sweet girl,” Mom said. “This is a new place to her, after all, and she’s bound to be a little nervous. Besides, it’s been a long time since you saw your sister in action.”
Scarlett waved as she walked the opposite direction as us. Mom and I took Skipperdeen and Winter’s Folly into the stable where we met Mrs. Callicut, one of the 4-H advisers. “Why Tabitha Jannsen, is that Skipperdeen?” she asked, standing from her table to stroke the mare’s neck.
“Yes, it is,” Mom replied.
Mrs. Callicut’s green eyes sparkled. “Oh my, it seems only last year Scarlett was showing her as a yearling. Such a pretty girl.”
“And a great mother,” I added. “She’s just had her first foal.”
Mrs. Callicut bent over Folly. “She’s a darling! It seems we’ve come fully circle, Tabitha. Well, come over to the table and we’ll get everything in order so you can see these lovely girls to a stall.”
“You go ahead to the show ring,” Mom said after we finished with the paperwork. “I know you’re anxious to see Scarlett perform.”
I grinned and kissed Mom’s cheek before skipping away. When I got there she was finishing up her speech. I stayed by the fence. The last time I’d seen Scarlett do a course had been when I was a kid. I’d heard people around town talk about what a shame it was when she stopped competing. “Real talent,” they always said. As she and Zander rounded the barrels, I could see what they meant. Suddenly a shadow passed next to me and I turned to see Josiah Meddleton stop by the fence, watching Scarlett.
“I can’t believe she’s still riding that old gelding,” he muttered.
I considered ignoring him, but there was something about him that sparked my curiosity. “Don’t let Zander hear you say that. He has no clue how old he is.”
“He’s got to be at least sixteen years old. She was riding him back when we were in high school.”
“Yeah, and he acts like a colt,” I retorted. “He knows he’s got Scarlett wrapped around his little finger, or hoof I guess.”
Josiah chuckled. “Yeah, Scarlett always did baby her horses.” He glanced over at me. “So, do you barrel race too?”
“Nah,” I said. “I ride for the fun of it and because that’s how you get around on the ranch. I love the horses, but I was never really interested in the rodeo side of it.”
“Take after your dad, huh?”
I shrugged. “Dunno.”
“Sorry, you probably don’t remember a whole lot seeing as you were a kid when he died.”
I didn’t say anything. I hated being reminded just how little time I got with him. Words like “unfair” and “abandoned” started creeping into my thoughts. “Will you be participating in the rodeo this .
year?” I asked, trying to steer the conversation in a new direction.
“Dad roped me into it. I hadn’t actually planned on it before.”
We were quiet for a while, watching as Scarlett dismounted and began answering questions. She looked over in our direction and I waved with a smile. Even from the distance I could sense her frown as she turned her back on us and walked away.
“I guess I should go before she pushes me into a horse trough or something,” Josiah murmured.
“There’s an amateur night at the diner tonight at six,” I blurted out. “I happen to know Scarlett will be there to hear me sing.”
He looked at me for a moment, a mischievous twinkle entering his eyes. I could see why so many girls had fallen for him. That twinkle could melt ice cream, let alone a girl’s heart. “Sharing information with the enemy?” he asked.
“It’s public knowledge,” I shrugged.
Laughing, Josiah tipped his hat as he turned. “Well, thanks for the PSA.”
He’d hardly left when Scarlett arrived next to me. “What did he want?” she demanded.
“I don’t know, he was just watching you ride.”
She sighed and looked away from the fair. This had become almost a habit if someone mentioned him or she saw him. She’d get this real distant look on her face like she was seeing a totally different world than we were. “I just can’t seem to escape him.”
“Well, let’s not worry too much about the Bear,” I said. “The first round of the mare and foal division starts in an hour. Let’s look around.”
As we wandered the booths and tried out some of the baked goods at the pastry competitions, Josiah soon left our thoughts. We found Mom at the quilting booth speaking with Amelia in hushed tones. Though she smiled when she saw us, I could tell something Amelia had said was bothering her. She checked her watch. “Gracious! Blizzard, we better get you to the stables. It’s almost time! Sorry to leave you so soon, Amelia.”
“I know I’ll see you in the shop. Good luck, Blizzard!”
At the end of the day, Skipperdeen and Winter’s Folly took third place. I grumbled a bit since one of the marks against the filly was she was too small. Scarlett and I were heading to the truck when we heard arguing. We turned to see a short, spindly-looking man pointing his finger in Josiah’s face. I slowed to see what was going on, but Scarlett jabbed me with her elbow. “Keep moving,” she hissed.
We hadn’t gotten far when we heard a voice shout, “You haven’t heard the last from me, Meddleton.”
Scarlett jabbed me again and we walked even faster.
“What’s your problem?” I snapped when we got to the pickup.
“Eavesdropping on an obvious argument is just plain dumb, Blizz.”
“Who was arguing?” Mom asked.
Scarlett described briefly what we’d seen. “I don’t know much and I don’t want to know.”
Mom frowned. “This doesn’t bode well. Anyway, let’s head to the diner. I’ve already fed the horses, so they’ll be fine overnight.” She started the engine and slowly drove out of the fairgrounds and into town. The diner was packed. We walked in during one of the performances and found Teddy and Josiah sitting at our favorite booth. Scarlett started looking for somewhere else to go but Teddy waved us over. “Come on in, there’s plenty of room,” he said.
“Thank you, we’d enjoy that.” Mom said and took a seat next to Teddy.
Scarlett motioned for me to go ahead of her.
I knew I was risking death refusing, but I didn’t have much option. “I can’t sit in the middle, Scarlett. I’ve got to be able to get up for my turn or I’ll miss it.”
Her gray eyes flashed at me and I knew I was going to hear about it later, but she finally slid in next to Josiah.
I set my guitar case next to Scarlett before sitting down at the end. Time was short until my time slot. When the waitress came by for our order, Teddy said, “This is on me tonight, Lydia.”
“Sure thing, Teddy.”
“Teddy, you don’t have to do that,” Mom argued, though it was half-hearted at best.
“I’ve got to do something to make up for all our missed weekends,” he replied. “Which reminds me. I’ve got a surprise for you ladies tomorrow.”
“What is it?”
“Well if I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise anymore. Actually, I have a couple surprises. The first is for Scarlett. You and Zander need to be ready for the barrel racing competition tomorrow. I took the liberty of entering for you.”
Scarlett choked on her water. “What? But, I can’t compete! Zander and I haven’t been practicing at a competitive level in years. He could get hurt and he’s not as young as he pretends to be.”
“He’ll be fine and so will you,” Mom reassured her. “Teddy talked to me about the idea months ago. Shorty’s been working Zander and I know you’ve been doing more with him than you let on.”
“What about me? Don’t I have any say at all?”
“No, you listen…”
“Let’s give a big hand to that wonderful performance. Next up is Blizzard Jannsen.”
If not for the fact that I wouldn’t be given another opportunity, I half-wanted to skip my turn to see how this played out. I grabbed my guitar and walked up to the stage.
“Watch out! It’s the ice queen!” some teen shouted amid laughter and snorts.
I rolled my eyes. Some people just never grow up, and I don’t mean that in a good way. I checked the strings to make sure they were tuned and took a deep breath. Nerves fluttered in my stomach and I glanced at the table. Mom and Scarlett stopped arguing long enough to smile at me. Scarlett gave me an encouraging thumb’s up. I started strumming chords as the song I’d written worked its way through the guitar and me. It was a slow ballad and I guess some might call it a love song, though I didn’t necessarily mean it that way. Memories of a sunset ride with Daddy colored the harmonies with that bittersweet twang that makes country so unique. I glanced up and saw several people dancing. Josiah somehow managed to drag Scarlett onto the floor. I would love to know how he did that. Soon the song pushed that and everything else from my mind. All that existed were the guitar and my memories. I forgot about the crowd, the diner and everything in it. I could smell the summer grass and pine of Starwood Acres. Daddy’s laughter filled my heart
As the song ended, the cheering began. “If that song didn’t touch your soul, I don’t think you have one. A beautiful performance tonight by Blizzard Jannsen.”
The cheering continued and though my eyes pricked with unshed tears, I couldn’t help but feel pleased with the performance. I almost heard Daddy’s voice whisper, Way to go, cowgirl. I’m proud of you.
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That's a great question! Go to the raffecopter link and start adding entries! Some entries will be visiting author Facebook pages. While it's not required, you might want to consider giving them a like so you can keep up-to-date on their work and what they're up to. We authors need all the encouragement we can get. There will also be authors to follow on Twitter or newsletters to sign up for. For you avid readers, this is a one-shop stop for great fantasy writers!
But wait, there is more! We're also having a Meet and Greet party on Facebook Feb. 5-6. There will be several authors available to chat with you about their books and you just might win some awesome new prizes there too. I won't give them all away, but there's an absolutely adorable dragon just waiting for a new home.
So don't wait! Enter the contest, say you're going to our party and be ready to escape to a whole new world...or several.
I'm so excited to have Heidi on my blog today and even more fun, she's doing a giveaway! I had the great privilege of reading Cora and the Nurse Dragon as a beta reader. Let me just say, this book is awesome! The characters are fun, the story engaging and fun for the whole family. My kiddos were able to beta with me and they loved it every bit as much as I did! So if you like dragons, fantasy and free books, keep reading! Directions to her giveaway will be posted at the end of the blog.
Welcome, Heidi, to my blog! Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm an obsessive personality. I'm almost always obsessed with something, and while that changes from time to time (I have a couple of ongoing obsessions--Lord of the Rings and my husband, mainly) chances are there is something, a TV show, a book, my own writing, something … that I'm obsessing about at that moment. I also really love cats. I love every kind of cat. I just want to hug them, but I can't hug every cat … that is sad.
It is. When you're not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
I'm a casual gamer. I love puzzle games like Myst or the Nancy Drew series … and sometimes MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. I also crochet and I have a cat and two rambunctious daughters, so if I have free time, it's usually short. I wish I could fit in more reading, too. I've been trying to do better about that, but if my daughters' see me reading, they take that as a sign that I can read TO them and we end up reading “Go Dog Go” for the fifth time in an hour
We love Nancy Drew here! You've been given a Time-Turner (Harry Potter). When do you go back to and how many turns does it take?
This sounds suspiciously like it might involve math. Is there math involved? I'm just going to say 42 for the numbers part. That usually works. Honestly, though, I'm not particularly nostalgic and there is no historical event I'd want to go to for fear of causing some sort of paradox and accidentally saving rather than assassinating Hitler. I might go back and tell teenage me that happily ever after is just around the corner, but she managed to stumble through all right with only a vague faith that this was true, so it isn't an urgent message.
Yes, that sneaky math. Tell us a little about Cora and the Nurse Dragon.
In Cora's world, dragons have been “domesticated.” They're bred in factories to be pets, or racers, or used in other human pursuits. Cora's obsessed with them. She wants a pet dragon. She wants to be a dragon jockey, riding a racing dragon, when she grows up. However, her father believes dragons are meant to be free in the wild, not exploited by humans. One day Cora gets a hold of a dragon egg which hatches into something that changes everything for her. That something is a nurse dragon named Cricket.
I loved that about the story! What inspired you to write this story?
Cora kind of came out of no where. I was NOT planning to write it. I'd just finished the second book in my “Elemental Realms” series and was planning to spend November editing rather than writing … then right before NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) started, I got this idea that wouldn't leave my head about a little girl living in a world where kids could get dragon egg packs, and how usually the packs would be worthless, like lottery tickets or crackerjack prizes, but sometimes, very very rarely, there would be something exceptional. And the story just sort of wrote itself from there.
Every author's dream, and sometimes nightmare. What is your favorite dragon book (yes, your own count)?
Gosh … this is so so hard … like The Hobbit is amazing, but really the dragon is only in the very last bit (though he's awesome). And Farmer Giles of Ham is hilarious but it isn't in my top ten for books … and my own book Dragon's Curse (and the rest in the Dragon and the Scholar Series) is a very personal story because I drew very heavily on my own love story between myself and my sarcastic but awesome husband, Matt, to create the characters … I'm going to go ahead and go back to basics: The Reluctant Dragon was one of the first to show dragons in a different light, to show that sometimes knowledge and understanding trumps first impressions and brawn, and that sometimes dragons can be your best friends.
All good choices. If you were to get one of the pet dragons in your book, what type would you want?
Nurse dragons are cool, but they are a lot of responsibility. I'd probably go with a steamer. The strikers and sparkers are cool, but they cause a lot of accidental fires, and steamers are blue. Blue is my favorite color. Steamers shoot out hot water vapor which would also be helpful if I had a cold.
That would be helpful! You're having a giveaway with this release. Care to share any details?
I'm giving away a paperback copy of Cora and the Nurse Dragon. It's open to international entries because I'm excited to get this book into the hands of readers. You can enter by following me on social media accounts where I'm very active and post a lot of dragon pictures.
I love your dragon pictures. Where can readers go to learn more about you and your books? I have a website www.hlburkeauthor.com and am active on Facebook and Twitter.
Because I love and miss Alan Rickman, if you had been able to cast him in one of your books, which role would he have?
Hmm … this depends on whether or not I can pluck him from any decade of my choice. It's not a huge part, but Captain Goodly in Beggar Magic deserves a sensitive but strong portrayal. He's a man with a shattered past who triumphed over adversity and uses his position to help others.
Thank you for joining us today, Heidi. Good luck with your release!
Cora and the Nurse Dragon is a new middle grade fantasy adventure by author H. L. Burke. It follows the adventures of Cora Harrison in a world where Dragons no longer live in nature but are a resource exploited by humans.
Ages 9 and Up.
The book releases January 31st and is available for pre-order at the special price of 99 cents.
Cora's a young girl with two dreams: to be a dragon jockey when she grows up and to own a pet dragon now. She constantly buys "egg packs" at the dragon emporium in hopes that one will hatch into a rare pet-sized dragon, but only gets short-lived mayflies. However, when an unexpected egg does develop into something new, Cora may be over her head.
Born in a small town in north central Oregon, H. L. Burke spent most of her childhood around trees and farm animals and was always accompanied by a book. Growing up with epic heroes from Middle Earth and Narnia keeping her company, she also became an incurable romantic.
An addictive personality, she jumped from one fandom to another, being at times completely obsessed with various books, movies, or television series (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek all took their turns), but she has grown to be what she considers a well-rounded connoisseur of geek culture.
Married to her high school crush who is now a US Marine, she has moved multiple times in her adult life but believes that home is wherever her husband, two daughters, and pets are.
She is the author of a four part fantasy/romance series entitled "The Scholar and the Dragon", featuring the books Dragon's Curse, Dragon's Debt, Dragon's Rival, and Dragon's Bride as well as the YA/Fantasy Beggar Magic. Her current projects are a young adult steampunk fantasy and an epic fantasy trilogy.
Sign up for her monthly newsletter at www.hlburkeauthor.com
Author social media links
This is a subject that has been milling around in my brain for a while now. In fact, for several months. A couple years ago breast-feeding became a huge argument on my Facebook feed and I wrote a post with my views and told myself I'd said my peace and I was done.
The debate is heating up on my feed again and the "advocates" (and I use that term loosely) are becoming more and more rabid. So, I'm here to tell you my thoughts and to counter some of the more popular arguments out there. Understand, I absolutely support your right to breast-feed. But, before you hop on the bandwagon of angry voices, here are a few things to consider.
"We need to normalize breast-feeding."
Hate to break it to you, but this is already normal. I live in Kansas and here I have the right to breast-feed my baby anywhere I have a legal right to be. So pretty much anywhere. And Kansas is not the only state with such laws. There are ways to breast-feed in public without getting too much flak. It's called covering up. I'm not just talking about an actual cover, though in some situations that is appropriate. I'm talking about wearing your shirt in such a way that you are still mostly covered. Yes, I get it, your baby's head will cover the most private parts of your breast. But the rest of your breast doesn't need to be in everyone's face either. And before you jump on me about low-cut blouses, I would say the exact same thing to those women. There is absolutely no need to have your breasts on public display. None. Zero. Zip. If you are wearing a tank top while breast-feeding, instead of pulling the top down under the breast, pull the bottom up and over. This allows you to keep the breast covered while feeding your child. Pulling down merely exposes the entire breast which is unnecessary and will garner negative reactions from those around you.
There are also times when wearing some kind of cover is the best option. I understand there are babies who don't like it. I've had two of them. But when we're in a public place, and I have no option of removing myself to somewhere private, they've had to deal with it. It's not just about covering myself, it's also about removing distractions for them. This past December I was participating in a craft show selling books. I had my baby with me and when he needed to nurse, I draped my jacket over my shoulder and let him feed. Guess what? No one at the fair so much as blinked. And believe me, my baby is a loud eater. Everyone in the room knew exactly what was going on under the jacket. But no one said a word to me about feeding him, I didn't get any nasty looks. They went about their business and Ben did his. He couldn't see all the people milling past and so ate without pausing to look at everyone. Yes, he pushed at the jacket and even fussed a little. But he got fed and I was able to stay at my table. It was win-win. I fed my baby in public and didn't get martyred. I also didn't get applauded, which was perfectly fine with me. Some of you "advocates" sound like you want a trophy for feeding your baby. Your trophy is healthy, growing baby. Congratulations!
"The media has oversexualized breasts which is why people have a problem with it."
Oh, honey, this reason is so laughable it's hardly worth mentioning. But since this is one of the more common arguments, here we go. The breast has been "sexualized" since the beginning of time. Don't believe me? Read Song of Solomon or The Odyssey or a myriad of other ancient texts. Men have always been fascinated by the breast and that's both normal and natural. Like other animals, we have distinct features to aide in attracting a mate. That would include the breast. While I agree that the media has done a lot of damage in regards to body image and how people treat the body, it is not just a media thing. There is something inherently beautiful about a mother feeding her baby. It is intimate, special and I'll go ahead and say it: it is sacred. No matter how a man tries, he can never quite emulate that bond. The tenderness and pure love exhibited by a breast-feeding mother is powerful and that can make some uncomfortable. It's not because your breasts are so sexy. It's because of how special and beautiful that moment is. And if you've got your entire breast, or both breasts, out of the shirt to feed your baby, who's really the one sexualizing your breast?
"My baby's needs are more important than your comfort."
Can we just admit right now this is a load of horse-hockey? There are plenty of times when you put societal norms and comfort before your baby's needs. For example, if you're out to eat and your baby needs changed, you don't set him up on the table amid the food and change him there, do you? Of course not! You take him to the restroom, find a changing table and take care of the diaper. Or you're driving down the road and your baby needs fed. You don't take him out and feed him while still driving. You either continue to your destination, if it's close enough, or you find a spot to pull over and then feed him. So using this argument against covering up just doesn't hold water. Like I mentioned before, I've had two babies who did not like to be covered. But if I was in a situation where I could not find a private place to nurse, they were out of luck. I dealt with holding the cover in place to feed them. I dealt with the whimpers and occasionally screams. Because in the end, the baby really just wants to be fed and will give up. If you argue that your baby truly won't give up, then use the two shirt method or just use your clothes as a cover. Also, how many of these issues are people drawing attention to themselves? I'm serious. I have never once had a problem when I breastfed in public, whether with a cover or not, and I think it is largely because I did so modestly and I didn't pull attention to myself. I just did what needed to be done and went on with my life.
"Expecting women to breast-feed in a bathroom is disgusting and wrong!"
Okay, I've nursed in plenty of bathrooms and my children are just fine. And in every case I chose to nurse my baby there. Why? Because my children are easily distracted. A restaurant, store, or really any public place is loud. There are people talking and laughing and walking past. The quietest spot in any of these places is the restroom. I don't sit on the toilet to nurse, but rather stand so I can gently rock my baby. I use the handicap-accessible stall so I have more room to move around. It's no more disgusting than using any other room to nurse. What about germs? Unless you're dipping your breast in the toilet water, you're not getting those germs anywhere near your baby. And if you're worried about airborne germs, guess what? They're outside the bathroom too. If germs worry you that much, just stay home.
The Reality is...
It doesn't really matter how you feed your baby, someone somewhere will say you're doing it wrong. I've been blessed with three children, two I've been able to breast-feed. The first was bottle-fed and I can tell you I got way more crap about how I was feeding him than I ever got for my other children. I avoided going to activities with other mothers because I was constantly berated for making such a selfish choice. It didn't matter to them that I wanted desperately to be able to breast-feed him. They didn't care that I spent days crying when my milk supply dried up and I couldn't even pump for my child. Some told me my child would be developmentally delayed or wouldn't feel that I loved him as much. To those mothers, I wish they could see him now. He is well ahead of his peers and he knows that I love him every bit as much as I love my other children. I still wish I had been able to breast-feed my son and at times I feel robbed of that precious bond. But that experience taught me a few things. First, it taught me to ignore and avoid the people telling me I was doing it wrong. Second, it taught me that there is no one way to be a good mother. There are many and just because it works for me doesn't mean it will work for someone else. And third, it taught me that there really is no way to please everyone. If you choose to breast-feed in public, there will always be someone who gets offended. It happens to mothers who bottle-feed too. And to the mothers with one and the mothers with many and the mothers who adopt and every other mother out there. Breast-feeding mothers don't have the corner on getting scorned and ridiculed for their choices. I wouldn't even say that mothers in general have that corner. There will always be the naysayers, so learn to ignore them. Quit beating the poor, dead horse. And most of all, if you are going to call yourself an advocate for breast-feeding, then understand and accept that you are not going to change everyone's viewpoint. And you won't change anyone by being rude, thoughtless or condescending.
I have two friends who were part of a photography series on breast-feeding. I saw the pictures of each of them and they were beautiful. I have also seen the picture of the woman with a towel over her head while she is breast-feeding her child with the sign, "If you are nursing, please cover up." I hate that picture. What's the difference? Each picture was made to advocate breast-feeding. The difference can be summed up in one word: attitude. The pictures of my friends show the beautiful love between a mother and a child. They are modest and their clothing covers as much of them as the babies' heads don't. It is clear that they are breast-feeding, but they are doing so in a beautiful and loving way. The pictures celebrate and capture that intimate and sacred nature of breast-feeding. In the other woman's picture, her full breast is out of the shirt and only what her baby's head hides is covered. The picture lacks the beauty that is breast-feeding and merely uses it to make a point. There is no love in that picture, no understanding of other people's consideration. That's not what breast-feeding is about. It's about loving and nurturing your baby. It doesn't mean using your feeding choice as a means to put down others.
Yes, I breast-feed my baby. Yes, I do so in public places. And this blog post isn't meant to tell you that you can't or shouldn't breast-feed in public. But I don't feed my baby as a political statement or to make a point. I feed him because he needs to be nurtured. I cover him not because I'm ashamed to breast-feed or because others expect it. I do it because I put his need to eat above his want to see everything going on. Sometimes, he gets covered even when we are in our own home because when I have guests over I want them to be comfortable. It is not my place to decide what makes them comfortable. Nor is it my place to belittle or demean them because what is comfortable for me is not for them.
Motherhood is a hard enough journey without turning every little thing into a fight. Is it really necessary to continue dragging this out? Is it really helping us or our children? If we truly want to advocate for breast-feeding, then we need to just quietly and consistently do it. No fanfare, no announcements, no harsh words, no whining. Just take care of your baby because in the end, that's really all that matters.
After the first chapter, you had to decide why the girls went to the Double Rocking B. In a landslide win (almost unanimous) Scarlett's mom made a casserole for the Meddletons as the neighborly thing to do. Now the wait is over and the second chapter is here and ready for you to read! Be sure to vote at the end of the chapter on a public event the sisters just can't miss. If you'd rather just listen to the story, follow thislink or look for the video below. Happy reading! Scarlett and Blizzard will be back again in two weeks!
On the last day of school, Scarlett came to pick me up. It became a tradition when she first came back home. We drove up to Jackson for an afternoon of shopping and girl-time. As we drove, we laughed about everything that had happened over the school year. I was glad for summer. Summer was one of our busiest times and I hoped it would pull Scarlett out of her shell a bit. She had grown more and more reluctant to leave the ranch and it was getting old. But the further from town we got, the more of the old Scarlett I started to see. Soon she was laughing and we were joking about like we usually did. We discussed plans for the ranch, next school year (because Scarlett insists on being practical), and plans in general. When we arrived, Scarlett went straight to our favorite salon.
“Scarlett, I’m thinking of doing something different with my hair. Is that okay with you?”
She laughed. “As long as Mom won’t have a conniption, you can do what you want. It’s your hair. What did you have in mind?”
“It’s a surprise.”
Laughing again, we walked in. The owner looked up and smiled. “School’s out already?”
“That’s right, Sharon,” Scarlett replied with a grin.
“Well, pull up a seat and we’ll be right with you.”
“No rush,” I said. We sat down. Scarlett grabbed a magazine, looking for style ideas. I already knew what I wanted. A rumor had gone around school that the stingy dye rules were about to be loosened up a bit. The administration confirmed that there would be small changes, but that was all I needed. I glanced at Scarlett. Her strawberry blonde hair shimmered in the light. Scarlett had never been one to dye her hair. But with hair as naturally beautiful as hers, I couldn’t blame her. Mine didn’t have the red in it and tended to bleach out in the summers. And it may have been helped out by our regular salon trips.
Before long my favorite stylist, Dean, led me to his chair. He had a pleasant rumbling voice and a great eye. “School’s out for summer, huh? Have something fun in mind?”
“Well, our school is making some changes to its dress code in regards to hair color...”
He laughed. “I wondered when you’d want to try something a little more daring. What were thinking of doing?” I explained my idea and he smiled. “You’re going to fit your name, that’s for sure. All right, darlin’, get yourself set up over here and we’ll get started.”
“Make sure Scarlett can’t see me.”
“Oooh, haven’t told Mom and Big Sister yet, huh?”
Dean chuckled and got to work. He chatted with me and I could hear Scarlett laughing with Sharon. The couple owned the salon and it was one of our favorite places to go.
As the dye set in my hair, Scarlett and I enjoyed manicures next to each other. “So, what are you doing with your hair?” she asked.
“Not telling. It’s our secret, right Dean?”
Scarlett shook her head and laughed. “You’re going to get me into trouble, you know that?”
“Isn’t that what little sisters are for?” I retorted.
“Probably. So, what do you think of mine?” She shook out the freshly cut waves. I have to admit for a moment I was jealous. Scarlett’s got those perfect loose curls that only seem to exist in movies and romance novels. Her hair bounced around her shoulders, glinting red-gold in the sunlight filtered through the blinds.
“Gorgeous as always,” I replied.
“All right, cowgirl, time to rinse,” Dean said. It didn’t take long for him to have me back in my chair. When he finished, he turned me toward the mirror. “What do you think?”
I looked at my hair and beamed. “Perfect. Hey, Scarlett, come check it out!”
She came and I watched in satisfaction as her eyes widened. Then she gave me a rueful smile. “Purple streaks?”
“Do you like them?”
Laughing, she shook her head, “Definitely going to get me in trouble, but you look great Blizzard. I think that’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.”
I grinned. “What do you think Mom will say?”
“I’m afraid to think of it. Come on, let’s do some window shopping and head home. There will still be chores to do when we get back.”
We walked around the various artists’ shops and vendor’s booths. It was clear Jackson was getting ready for the summer tourists. When Scarlett spotted a booth of painted guitars, she insisted we look around.
“Come on, Scarlett, you know I can’t get one right now,” I said as I glanced at price tags. “My summer job doesn’t start for another two weeks.”
“Hey, every girl needs a dream,” she replied. She stopped by one with horses and let her fingers brush the smooth wood. Then she moved on. Suddenly her eyes got wide. “Go wait by the truck.”
“Just do it,” she replied, her smile huge.
“What are you up to?”
“Would you just go?”
Knowing I wouldn’t be able to win an argument, I did as I was told. It seemed forever before she showed up carrying a guitar case in one hand and a drink tray and food sack in the other. “What did you do?”
“Get the tailgate opened up and we’ll have a quick snack before we go home.”
I glared at her. “You’re really enjoying this aren’t you?”
“Oh you better believe it. A little revenge for your hair surprise. Go on.”
I hopped into the bed of the pickup and took the drink tray from her before then taking the food. Scarlett sat down and set the guitar case next to her. I knew she was going to draw this out as long as she could, so I sipped from the cup she handed me and sat staring at the guitar case. I figured she had found something for me and I was dying to find out what it looked like…and how much I owed her. Based on the ones I’d looked at it was going to take a month at least to work off the guitar.
Scarlett slowly lingered over her fries, occasionally sipping from her soda. Her gray eyes sparkled and I could tell she was eagerly waiting the right moment to spring her surprise on me. “Well, should we head home?”
“Are you kidding me? Seriously, Scarlett, what’s in the case?”
She laughed and passed it over to me. “Happy birthday, a few months early.”
I opened the case and sat staring at it. Finally, dumbstruck, I pulled the guitar out. Snowflakes swirled over a purple and blue body around the word Blizzard. I almost wanted to pinch myself because it couldn’t possibly be real. “Did you set this up?”
“No, it was like that when I saw it. Isn’t it perfect?”
“How much do I owe you?”
“Not a penny. My lips are sealed. And before you think about digging through my purse for a receipt, I tore it up and threw it away at the diner. All you owe me is a promise to keep chasing your dreams and don’t ever give up. And maybe mention your totally amazing sister during your acceptance speech,” she added with a wink.
I tried to ignore the lump in my throat as I strummed the strings. They definitely need tuned, but that could be done at home. “Thanks, Scarlett,” I said as I put the guitar in its case. “I definitely have an amazing sister.”
“And don’t you forget it. Let’s go home.”
The first thing I noticed when we walked inside was the tantalizing aroma of fresh baked chive rolls and Mom’s famous macaroni and cheese. The second was Mom walking towards the door with one of her covered casserole dishes and a grocery bag. “I expected you girls to get home sooner.” She stopped short, her eyes fixed on me. “What have you done to your hair?”
I suddenly didn’t feel as confident as I had earlier. “Well, I…”
“They’re just a few purple streaks, Mom,” Scarlett interrupted.
“I suppose you encouraged her?”
“She caught me by surprise too,” Scarlett shrugged. “But, Mom, she looks adorable.”
Mom gave me a reluctant grin, “That’s part of the problem. Anyway, we’ll discuss your hair later. Right now I need you girls to take this over to the Double Rocking B.”
“What?” Scarlett choked.
“Why?” I asked.
“I called Teddy this afternoon to learn he’s just been allowed to go home from the care center he was in. It’s no more than neighborly to take them something homemade for dinner. I daresay Josiah’s been living off the diner on Main since he arrived.”
“I don’t think it will hurt either of them,” Scarlett muttered.
“Scarlett India, you know the only reason we’re still in operation is Teddy Meddleton. It won’t kill you to go over. Besides, you have a great relationship with Teddy.”
“I like Teddy just fine. It’s his son…”
Mom stopped her after placing the dish on a nearby coffee table. “Scarlett, honey, you’re going to have to face him sooner or later,” she said, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“Why can’t you take it?” It was the nearest to whining I’d ever heard from my sister.
“My new glasses haven’t come in yet, so I really shouldn’t drive. You’ll be fine.”
Scarlett glared at her before grabbing the casserole dish and stomping toward the door.
Mom sighed as she handed me the grocery bag. Inside were a bag of rolls and a plastic container with salad. “Make sure no one gets hurt.”
“Wait, what?” I heard the truck engine roar and knew I didn’t have time to ask more questions. I ran out to the truck and got in. Scarlett didn’t say a word the entire drive over. Luckily it wasn’t a long drive.
When we arrived she handed me the casserole dish. “It would be better if my hands are free.”
She didn’t answer. We walked up to the front door with Scarlett muttering under her breath, “Please don’t be home. Please don’t be home.” She took a steadying breath before knocking.
It wasn’t long before the door opened, revealing the one person Scarlett didn’t want to see. “Well, well. Scarlett Jannsen,” Josiah said, his gaze slowly taking her in. “It’s been a long time.”
I’d never seen her fidget so much, and it certainly wasn’t the first time I’d seen someone eye her that way. Scarlett is gorgeous and she knows it. “We brought dinner for you and Teddy.”
“We?” He glanced over. His eyes barely skimmed over me, though they paused on the purple in my hair. “Ah, the kid sister. Snowflake, isn’t it?”
“Blizzard,” I corrected with a glare. I was beginning to see why Scarlett didn’t like him.
“Right, Blizzard, I knew it was something wintry. Well, do you girls want to come in?”
“Actually, we’ve got a lot to do,” Scarlett said quickly. “We’re just dropping this off and heading out. Sorry we don’t have more time.”
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t…”
He didn’t finish the line before Scarlett hit him. I mean she just flat-out slapped him across the face. I stood in shock as she growled, “That wasn’t funny in middle school and it sure as spittin’ ain’t funny now.”
Rubbing the red spot on his cheek, Josiah glared at her. “Still haven’t joined the modern world yet?”
“My mother taught me ladies don’t swear. It’s vulgar.”
“Well, I was taught intention matters as much as the words, so just how clean are you Miss Priss?”
“Josiah Meddleton I swear…”
“I thought ladies didn’t swear.”
Scarlett started to reach for the dish in my hands, but then we heard a quiet voice behind Josiah. “Joey? Is that my little Lettie in the doorway?”
Josiah stepped aside and my heart lurched. Before his stroke, we did a lot with Teddy. He was built like a bear, but sweeter than honey. Josiah looked a lot like his father, tall and broad with warm brown eyes and dark hair. Not that you could see the similarities now. Teddy was leaning heavily on a cane, his skin pale and eyes tired. I’d never seen him look so fragile and it just about killed me. I could tell Scarlett was shocked too as she stammered, “How are you Mr. Meddleton?”
“Mr. Meddleton?” he repeated with a weak grin. “Has Joey here been bothering you? Just smack him good and hard for me.”
“She already did,” I said without thinking.
Scarlett glared at me, but Teddy laughed. “He probably deserved it. And Blizz, is that purple in your hair?”
Why didn’t I just stick with blonde? I thought as I said, “Yes, sir. Do you like it?”
“Like it? I love it! It’s as pretty and vibrant as you are, dear.” I grinned, glad that at least one adult in my life approved of my new style. Well, two counting Scarlett. “What brings you two lovely ladies over anyhow?”
“Mom made dinner for you,” Scarlett replied. “She figured you’d enjoy something homemade to celebrate being home.”
He laughed again. “I thought I smelled her cooking. I think I missed our weekly dinners most when I was away. Let’s get that set up on the table.” Scarlett and I followed him into the house. As we set the food on the large dining table, Teddy asked, “Will you be joining us?”
Scarlett hesitated. “I’m sorry, Teddy, we still have chores to do. We had a girls’ day, so we’ve got a lot to catch up on.”
“But we’ll set something up soon,” I added when he looked a little disappointed.
He brightened and said, “Well, don’t stay away too long. Joey, show the girls out and mind your manners.”
“That really isn’t necessary…” Scarlett began.
“I’d be happy to.” Josiah offered each of us an arm. Scarlett glared at him, but tentatively placed her hand on his arm. I could tell she was doing it more for Teddy than for his son. As soon as we were out in the hall she let go and moved ahead. We got out to the front porch and Josiah reached out to touch Scarlett’s shoulder. She tried to avoid it, but he was faster than she was. “Listen, Scarlett, I’m sorry about what I said earlier. Getting a rise out of you probably wasn’t the best way to say hi.”
“You think?” she retorted, still not bothering to look at him.
“Hey, I said sorry. I’ve missed you, you know.” His voice was quiet and even a little tender.
She turned towards him, her gray eyes swirling dangerously. “That’s not going to work, Josiah. I’m not falling for it again.”
Again? I followed after Scarlett as she strode to the truck. I normally don’t have a hard time keeping up with her, but I felt like we were sprinting. Just as we reached the truck, I heard Josiah’s voice from the porch.
“Well, fiddle-dee-dee,” he said, his hands on his hips.
Have you ever seen a tornado? We don’t get them where we live, but my mom’s sister has a small farm in southwest Kansas and we saw one once while visiting. The sky started gray and then turned greenish. Then the hail and the winds started. It was terrifying. Scarlett’s eyes do the same thing when she’s mad. She turned to Josiah again, that sickly green creeping into her eyes and I was sure an F5 was about to drop on his head. I waited for her to shout, to throw something or maybe even to run back and hit him. Instead, she just glared and then got in the truck. I didn’t dare say anything as we drove home. The entire way Scarlett’s breathing was sharp and almost sounded timed. When we arrived at home, she had barely parked before she was undoing her seatbelt. As I glanced over, I realized she was crying. Without a word to me, she went straight to the barn.
For a moment I hesitated, unsure what I should do. Finally, I walked inside where Mom was waiting. “Why did you do that?” I demanded.
“I take it things didn’t go well.”
“She hit him.”
“Hit him? Why?”
“He said the line. Well, he started it anyway.”
“Oh. He should know better than that.” She looked at me. “I suppose you think I did that on purpose.”
I glared at her. “Scarlett’s out in the barn crying, Mom. Why would she have told Josiah she wasn’t going to fall for it again?”
She sighed. “I’m sorry, Blizzard. That’s not my story to tell.” We were quiet for a moment and she said, “Come on, let’s have dinner and you can tell me what all happened.”
“What about Scarlett?”
“She’ll come in when she’s ready. She doesn’t like to appear weak, especially not in front of you.”
I followed Mom to the dining room, though I didn’t have much of an appetite anyway. I hoped for Scarlett’s sake we wouldn’t see the Bear again anytime soon. Though I still wondered why she had said “again” and why it mattered if I saw her weak.
You ever have one of those days where you just wonder? Wonder if what you're doing is worthwhile? If your dreams are attainable? If all the headaches and troubles are really worth it? I'm sure you have. It's okay, I have those days too. But I can tell you this, you never know the influence you have had, do have and will have. What you see as being small and insignificant may have had a profound influence on someone.
I'm the oldest of six children and while I have a good relationship with all of them, I'e always been very close to my brother James. We're two of a kind, James and I. At this stage we're often mistaken for twins though there are six years between us. We share our father's face (and goofy smile), though I've got more of Mom's coloring. Even though we live far apart, we talk on the phone often and, despite his New Year's resolution, the conversation always lasts at least an hour. I love talking to him because I can always just be me. We vent frustrations, share triumphs and joys, laugh together and he listens patiently as my kiddos scream through the house. There's not a whole lot unsaid between us.
But every now and again, James surprises me. He called today to tell me about his new job (still so excited for you, bro!) and his classes. He told me that in one of his art classes he needed to introduce himself and list three people who had inspired and influenced him to be an artist.
Now let me first point out that my brother is an absolutely fabulous artist. His art far surpasses my own in quality. At some point during this semester he will be part of an art show at BYU and if you're in the area, you should definitely go check it out (and James you'll need to tell me the dates for that because I still want to see if I can find a way to make it out there!). He is incredibly talented and I'm so proud of how far he's gone to chase his dreams.
Anyway, back to our story. He said, "Guess who made the top of my list?"
Since we had recently spoken of how much he enjoys the art of Andy Warhol, I made that my first guess.
"No, silly, you."
I was flabbergasted. "Me?"
He talked about when I was in high school and how I always showed such a love for art. It's true, I loved (and still love) art and making something beautiful. It's served me well as I've begun my writing journey. But as he talked about how inspired he was by something so seemingly small, I was greatly touched. Those sketchbooks full of half-finished drawings meant something to someone other than me. The time and effort put into my own artwork had inspired another person to become an artist. I had never known that me drawing everything I saw, spending all my babysitting money on pencils and paper, and taking all those art classes in high school and a few in college had influenced anyone. Honestly, I'd always thought it was one of my more selfish pursuits.
James, thanks for calling me today and telling me that. It may not have been a big deal to you, but those words came on a day I really needed them. I couldn't even begin to describe how I was feeling when you called, but I am seriously so touched and so humbled by your words. I'm glad my hobbies had a positive influence on you. Keep making great art! Someday, I just know there will be an artist who lists you as one of his/her greatest influences. And you should know that you are always an inspiration to me.
To all you dreamers and artists out there whether you paint, write, sing, draw, sew or whatever your art is. You never know how great an influence you have on those around you. But I promise you, you are making an impact. On those days it's hard to create, or that you start to wonder, I hope you'll remember that. Even if you don't see it, you are making an impact on the world. Even if it's in a small way, influencing one person can make a difference in this world.
I knew it was a mistake to tell you that my 2016 focus word was "patience." I knew I shouldn't have told you that I was going to try to yell less and smile more, that I would be more easy-going and less panicky. And I definitely should have hidden that big art box from GG in my closet with a padlock and come up with some excuse why you didn't have it. I'm an author, I could have come up with several. Some of them may have even been believable.
But I did tell you I was focusing on patience. I did say I would yell less and smile more. And I still wrapped that big art box up and put it under the tree for you. And then today happened. I came to check on you after washing some dishes and remind you to finish your chores. I didn't find you cleaning up. Instead I found this.
Now I could have yelled, and believe me I wanted to. I wanted to really, really badly. I could have frowned at you and told you how bad your choices were. I could have. Part of me wanted to.
But that word patience came to mind and I smiled and grabbed the camera. Now before you go thinking this is okay, no it's not. You do know better and I know you know the rules. You're very good at telling me what they are. But I didn't get mad at you because once upon a time, a long time ago, I was a mini-artist.
I colored on things I shouldn't have, just look under Grammy and PaPa's table sometime. I colored on walls and I colored on myself too. I was convinced if I colored my eyelids long enough I could change my eyes from green to blue. Never worked. So don't try that one, I can already tell you it is ineffective. I colored on toys, I colored on furniture and when Grammy got lucky, I actually colored on paper.
Someday you'll grow out of this stage, just like I did. Though hopefully you'll still color on paper. Creativity is a very good thing. And perhaps that's the other reason I didn't yell today. Creativity is good and it's important. I want you to develop your creativity, find your strengths and your passions. Just, can we leave the furniture and the floors out of it?
We've had a bath and you're all clean again. Well, reasonably clean again. The floor will be washed. And you will be the ones to do it. It's not hard, and I bet you'll think twice about coloring on it again. It's good to be creative, but it's also good to follow the rules.
I'm sure some reading this will think I've gone too easy on you. They probably think I've reinforced bad behavior by taking your pictures. I don't think so. I think you know what you did wrong. I think you also know that Mommy loves you a lot. Even when you color on floors, walls, furniture and yourselves. It's important for you to know that. It's also important to be patient. Learn to laugh at yourself and when things get tough, learn to relax a little. That's why today I chose patience. That's why I didn't yell.
And, that's why I hope someday you have little artists just like you.
P.S. Crayola, you might want to work on that "Ultra-washable" formula. Just sayin'.
Hello there. I’m Blizzard. And before you ask:
Yes, that is my real name.
Yes, it is on my birth certificate.
No, my mother does not hate me.
No, my mother wasn’t “incapacitated.”
Yes, I got made fun of in school. Still do sometimes.
No, I don’t plan on changing my name when I turn eighteen.
And yes, there is a story behind the name. See, I was due on the very first day of spring and Mom decided that I was going to be the most gloriously beautiful, springtime baby the world had ever seen. So she decided my name would be May, because that’s her favorite month of the year. Don’t know that she even picked out a boy’s name. She was just certain I was a girl and she was right. What she didn’t take into consideration is the fact that babies almost never come on their due date and spring in Wyoming is always, always late. I came a whopping twenty-seven hours early in the middle of the worst blizzard our area had seen in a long time. Bad enough that on the way to the hospital my parents got stuck and I was born on the side of the road in my daddy’s pickup truck. Ambulance got there in time for paramedics to cut the cord and whisk the three of us to the hospital. Since my mother has a warped sense of humor, or justice (you be the judge), she pushed May to the middle and named me Blizzard. Blizzard May Jannsen, if you must know. Why didn’t Daddy stop her? Well, let’s just say he probably hadn’t forgiven me yet for the mess I helped make in his pickup. Men are sensitive about those things you know.
Anyhow, I’m the baby of the family. My older sister, and only sibling, is Scarlett India. Yeah, there’s a story there too. The way Mom tells it there are some women who crave weird foods when pregnant. You know, pickles with peanut butter, ice cream and hot sauce, that sort of thing. Some women become superhuman and can keep their houses spotless while creating every new baby craft under the sun and then some without so much as a wink of sleep. But some women crave activities and stories. Mom craved Gone With the Wind. She read the book at least a dozen times, watched the movie until her old VHS tapes stopped working and she could recite it from beginning to end. Mom even built a scale model of Tara which now resides in my sister’s room with the thirteen dolls in Civil War Era gowns Mom also made while pregnant. Daddy teased her that they must be expecting a boy named Rhett. Mom retorted that they were probably having Scarlett, since she was so in love with all the ball gowns, but if the baby turned out to be a boy he’d be Ashley Rhett. Scarlett’s glad she’s a girl. I did ask Mom once why she felt the need to use rival names for her. Mom shrugged. “Why not? They’re pretty together.” But Scarlett’s every bit as sassy as her namesakes, so I guess it works out.
There are ten years between Scarlett and me. Despite that, I’ve always felt close to her. She never left me out or got annoyed when I copied her. Well, if she did get annoyed she didn’t show it. We grew up on Starwood Acres, Daddy’s ranch. I remember lots of days riding horses through the pastures, watching the sun set over the hills, chasing butterflies through the yard and general country fun. Wherever Scarlett went, I did too, usually. Sometimes she went out with her friends and I stayed home, but always with the promise that we’d stay up late and she’d tell me all about her adventures. But things got tough as she got older. I was eight when she went off to college. While she visited as often as she could, it wasn’t the same as when she lived there. Instead of weeks together, it was just days and sometimes she couldn’t play because she had homework to finish. It didn’t last long though. Just before my tenth birthday Daddy had a heart attack during the night. He was gone before the paramedics arrived. Scarlett came home and announced her intentions to quit school and help Mom with the ranch. This created a monstrous fight which lasted nearly a week. Scarlett threatened to purposely flunk out of all her classes and Mom cried that Scarlett was throwing her future away. In the end, Scarlett agreed to finish the semester to get her associate’s degree if Mom agreed to letting her come home after that.
But that pretty much brings you up to speed on the Jannsen girls. Mom reminded the world why she was nicknamed the Iron Cowgirl during her rodeo days by sticking it out through all the difficulties after Daddy’s passing. She handled business with her head high and never let on that she was hurting. Not when people could see, anyway. The years passed and life continued on as normally as could be under the circumstances. Starwood Acres is still the prettiest spread in Wyoming. It’s set near the Grand Teton National Forest and it is a glorious sight. Mountains and trees melting into open rangeland. The air smells of pine and tall grass. There’s a little pond we go fishing in and a stream that sparkles through the pastures. At night you can see the stars dancing and twinkling and even in winter you can make out the Milky Way. It’s paradise on earth. Nearest city is Jackson, but for most of our everyday things we just travel to Pine Springs, a dinky little town. But even dinky towns have their celebrities. And ours is in the form of Josiah “the Bear” Meddleton. He was the star at all the school rodeos and when he left after high school to do the professional circuit, he left a slew of broken hearts behind him, including my sister’s. Needless to say, he’s not exactly on Scarlett’s list of favorite people. Why bring him up then? Well, because it’s his fault I have a story to tell anyway. If he hadn’t, well, I’m getting ahead of myself.
It all started this past spring when Josiah’s father had a stroke. He survived, but he was in pretty bad shape. Josiah left the rodeo circuit and came home to start running their ranch, the Double Rocking B. Pine Springs gave him a hero’s welcome and Scarlett started finding every excuse possible to avoid going to town. At first I couldn’t understand why. I mean, I knew she had dated him and all, but it didn’t seem very likely that she’d run into him there. Then I saw what happened when she went to the local quilting boutique to get a birthday present for our mom. “Isn’t it wonderful? Josiah Meddleton is back in town.” the proprietress gushed.
Scarlett stiffened. “I’d heard the Bear was back.”
She twittered, “Oh, Scarlett, it’s so odd to hear you use that name for him. Aren’t you excited?”
“Should I be?”
“Everyone knows you two were an item…”
“Yeah, he and every other girl my age were too, Amelia,” Scarlett retorted.
“Oh, honey, that was just high school. We all knew he only had eyes for you.”
I could hear Scarlett’s teeth grind as she plastered a smile on her face. “He did a good job hiding that from me, I guess. After all, it was just high school.”
“Well, perhaps now you can reacquaint yourselves.”
“I doubt it. He’ll be far too busy with his daddy’s ranch. How much for the fat quarters and yarn?”
Amelia rang up the purchase and began chirping about how wonderful it was to see children indulge their mothers’ hobbies.
“Actually, it’s purely mercenary,” I said. “If we get her fabric, she’ll make us quilts.”
Amelia laughed and waved us from the store. “Give Josiah a call, Scarlett. I’m sure he’d appreciate hearing from you.”
When we got out to the truck Scarlett tossed her purchase in the backseat, muttering under her breath. I watched her as she sat down and turned the ignition. “I know you’re going to ask,” she growled, “so just get it out of your system now.”
“Maybe I won’t, just to annoy you,” I said.
She glared at me, though she was smiling. Then she sighed. “Yes, this is why I’ve been avoiding coming to town. Everyone’s making such a big deal about him being back. Yeah, it’s all well and good that he’s come to take care of the ranch. But that should be expected, not celebrated. It’s what any responsible child would do. It’s what I did, and no one made a big deal out of it.” Her eyes looked out the windshield, but I could tell she wasn’t seeing the storefronts. I don’t know what she was seeing, but her expression was so sad I wanted desperately to make her feel better.
“Are you going to call the Bear?” I asked, holding my hands up as paws in front of me.
“Ha! When snow falls on the Fourth of July,” Scarlett muttered, before pulling out of the parking lot and heading down the familiar road to home.
Jessica L. Elliott
Author, artist, mom and super-genius