The smile that was plastered to Pa’s face made his cheeks even more wrinkly. And even though his bushy eyebrows hung over his eyes, Emily could still see a sparkle in the old man’s gray eyes. He gave the girl’s hand one last squeeze before taking the tea kettle off the stove. Pa poured water into both mugs and placed a tea bag in each. Emily grabbed her mug and headed towards the front porch. The three men were still sitting out there, whispering about the girl. As soon as she stepped outside, all conversations ceased. Pa shuffled outside, as well, trying not to spill the hot liquid that was splashing around in his mug. Even though it wasn’t officially break time for the workers, everyone was sitting around instead of working. Even the dogs were being lazy. It was just that sort of day.
Emily sat down on one of the porch steps, sipping her tea. She could see several horses grazing in the field, and a few colts were dancing around their mothers. The breeze felt good as it brushed through Em’s hair. The sun was bright, of course, so she had to squint as she looked over the ranch. Maybe a life here wasn’t so bad after all. But then again, she didn’t really have a choice. As Emily drank some more of her tea, Jackson made his way over to her and sat down next to the girl.
“Hey,” Jackson nudged the girl.
“Hey,” Em responded, setting aside her tea.
“I like the hair.”
Emily took off her cowgirl hat and ran her fingers through her short strawberry blonde hair. “Thanks. I’m still getting used to it.”
“It looks good,” the boy smiled. Emily smiled back but didn’t know what to say. The two sat in an awkward silence – the rest of the men watching them – before Jackson spoke up. “I’m glad to see you’re alright. I can’t imagine how you must feel right now.”
They sat next to each other in silence and looked out towards the horizon. They had already said everything they needed to. Of course, there were a few words resting on the tip of Emily’s tongue that she was afraid to say, but she kept her mouth shut. Jackson was a friend and was one of Pa’s helpers. He was kind, and sweet, and cute, but he was just a friend. The only reason they talked more than the other guys was because they were similar ages. It wasn’t because they felt anything for each other; at least, that’s what Emily told herself.