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Avon woke up with memories of the ride with Jesse Lee still on his mind. He smiled to himself. Yes, he was definitely interested in pursuing the relationship. She was not only beautiful but quite capable. He was still amazed at how she put that big cat down without hesitation.
As he got dressed he thought about here story. It was obvious she was quite distraught over the situation. He had avoided stressing her further with his own thoughts. At the barn dance he had been in the doorway when her family arrived. He saw her greeting them. There was definitely something off. Then, Micky had interrupted and he gave it no more thought until she told him about it all.
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But…. for now he better get busy. He had no riding to do today. It was — sort of — a day off. The boss had asked him to run some errands in Trotting and other than that, the rest of the day was his. He decided to skip breakfast down at the ranch house and grab a late one in town. Then, he wanted to go see his Grandmother and show her the picture he got from Jesse.
He felt very lucky to have got the job here at Star Fire. He could think of nothing he would rather do than work with horses and he didn’t mind pitching in around the ranch either. Nor could he ask for better folks to work for. They expected a days work and were appreciative of it. The hired help was treated well.
He glanced back at his little cabin as he jumped in the pickup. One of the other hands told him the old bunk house was torn down a few years back and the ranch put in three of these pre-built cabins. It gave the guys a bit more privacy than all bunking in together. Right now, Avon was the only one living out here. They had two other hands but both of them lived in town. Jim had a wife and two kids and Ryan just got married. But, it was a choice because the ranch had nothing against a hired man with family. The biggest cabin was well equipped to handle it.
He pulled up at the hardware store and headed inside. Cheryl Little Mouse was behind the counter and seemed very intent on something. “Good morning Cheryl.” he started. “Oh hey Avon. What ya needing today?” she answered with a big grin. “Got a list here from the boss. No hurry, I will be back to pick it up before you close.” he answered, handing her the list.
Cheryl looked over the list. “I think we have everything….. so, a day off?” She looked at Avon, still smiling a rather silly grin. “Well, yes and no… a few errands for the boss… Going to grab a bite and ………. ” .. Cheryl cut in.. “and maybe you will see Jesse Lee?” she giggled.
One thing about Cheryl. She was not shy and seemed to know all the gossip. Avon played along. “Maybe so, Cheryl… Maybe so..” he winked. “Probably not today thou. I need to get over and see my Nana.” They chatted a moment. Then she had another customer. Avon was sure she would have pressed him further if she had not been busy.. He smiled as he headed for the cafe.
Maryann picked up his plate. “How was breakfast?” she asked. “It was the best… Compliments to the chef.” he grinned at her. She refilled his coffee and scurried back to the kitchen.
Avon was looking at the Trotting newspaper when he heard the bell over the door. He looked up to see Jesse and Dee walk in. Dee spotted him and waved. He motioned for them to come over. His heart jumped up a beat when their eyes met. It was easy to get lost in Jesse’s dark, liquid eyes. He quickly regained his composure. “Can I buy you ladies a cup of coffee?” he smiled. “Thank you. That would be great.” Dee grinned as she pulled on Jesse’s sleeve.
Maryann brought more coffee as they chatted. “A day off?” Dee asked. “Kind of.. running a few errands for the boss and I am going to go visit my Grandmother.” he answered and gave Jesse a knowing look. She nodded and smiled. They continued for a few moments and then Avon excused himself. “You gals have a nice day now. I better get going….. I will give you a call later Jesse.” he said as he touched her shoulder. And then he was gone.
“Jesse Lee!” Dee whispered. “He has it bad for you.” She tossed her blond hair and laughed out loud. “Oh stop it Dee.” Jesse blushed. “Uh- Oh…. we are getting a ‘look’ from Ol’ Joe… ” Dee motioned the direction of the kitchen. Jesse looked over to see Joe standing in the doorway of the kitchen and sure enough.. He was looking right at them with a scowl on his face.
Jesse turned away. “Now it’s Joe! –– You know what? I have had it up to here with all this disapproving and warnings about Avon.” She could feel the heat of anger rising within her. Dee took heed. She knew that Jesse’s anger could, at times, get out of hand. She calmed her voice and measured her words. “It’s ok Jesse. We will figure this out.”
Jesse simmered down a little. “So, what are you thinking?” …… “Well.” Dee started while twisting her hair. “It seems to me that a lot of people seem to know something they don’t think you should know…… and it seems, these same people are the ones who disapprove of you seeing Avon.” She hesitated and continued……….. “I think the secret is connected to Avon somehow.” She finished.
They sat quiet for a few minutes. Jesse finished her coffee and turned back to Dee. “Could be, but I believe he would have told me the other day if he knew anything. He was genuine in his offer to help”…. Then she continued “First it was Joe getting all nervous and now, today, the scowl as we were sitting with Avon….. Peter telling me to stay away from him because I should not know everything….. Micky’s warning and my Mom was on a serious mission to convince me to avoid him.” She stopped. She could feel the heat rising again. “What makes me so mad……. no one gives me a reason. From what I can tell, so far……. he is a nice guy. Polite…. and a gentleman.” She paused while trying to run it all thru her mind.
The girls added to the money Avon had left on the table. “Should cover everything plus a nice tip.” Dee smiled as they got up to leave. Once outside, Dee spoke again. “I am going down to the hardware store. If there is something you should know about Avon, Cheryl might know. Don’t worry, I will be very tactful.” she finished. “Fine.” Jesse answered. “And I am going around back. I will wait for Joe to come out for his smoke and have another run at him.” “Tamp your anger down Jesse. ol’ Joe won’t take any guff.” Dee replied as she headed for her car. She turned back. “Call me after you hear from Avon.” She waved and was gone.
Jesse took a couple of deep breaths and tried to calm herself. Dee was right. Joe would be of no help if she got angry with him. She made her way around the back of the cafe and took a seat on a big crate. It shouldn’t be long as the cafe was clearing out. A couple minutes later and she heard the door open.
Joe stepped out and was lighting up before he noticed her. Jesse stood and spoke friendly. She asked him about some idea on bits and told him she was thinking of trying something different on Easy. It was like old times…. her back here talking horses with Joe. He relaxed and gave her his thoughts. He always liked when the youngsters asked his advice about horses.
She eased into the question. “Joe, what was the look for earlier?…. have I done something to upset you?” She made a genuine plea with a sad face. “Oh Jesse girl…. not meaning to make you feel bad…. Just… um… well.. I guess most folks kinda figured you and Micky……. you know?… I was just kinda surprised, you sitting with that guy.”
Jesse knew he was skirting the truth but she stayed calm. “No Joe… Micky is not interested in being more than friends. He has made that clear.” She pushed a little. “I like Avon. He seems like a very nice guy.” …….. Joe took a long drag off his cigarette. “I guess your a grown woman Jesse. And who am I to tell ya what to do. Was a time when you listened to ol’ Joe…. He just does not seem right for ya…. and that is just my thinking is all.” he finished..
“Mama told me the same thing Joe.. but what I want to know is why?……. is there something I should know about him?… Do you know something? If you do, please tell me.” “I don’t know him Jesse but I know he comes from a messed up family. His Dad is in prison. His Mom is a drunk……….. ” he stopped. Jesse could tell he had said far more than he wanted to. She could see he was regretting it already. “Gotta get back in to work now.. I suggest you listen to your mama.” he stamped out his cigarette and was back thru the door before Jesse could say another word.
Avon enjoyed the scenery as he drove the highway down to the reservation. It never got old. Actually none of the views anywhere around this country got old. He loved it and could not imagine living anywhere other than Montana.
Nana was so happy to see him and insisted on feeding him. In spite of just having breakfast he indulged her. It would be rude to do otherwise. She questioned him at great lengths about his job and the horses. She was very pleased that he seemed to be doing well and that he was happy.
He told her he had met a girl and about the barn dance. He knew he had to lead into it before showing her the photo. He also knew that now she would question him extensively. She did. He was careful to avoid mention of Jesse’s plight to learn who she really was, but he knew, there was very little anyone could hide from her. She was a very wise old woman. She often knew things before he even told her and he suspected so now.
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He finally got around to showing her the photo Jesse had sent to his phone. “Do you know who this woman is Nana?” he started. She put her glasses on and looked at the photo then looked at Avon… then back at the photo again. “Why you want to know Avonaco??”
He knew that question would come and he was honest with his answer…. to a point. “Jesse has been helping her father with the books. She ran across this photo in his desk.” He stopped. He wanted to avoid elaborating how she was actually .. snooping. “She did not want to embarrass him by asking. She assumed it was just an old girl friend… but.. well.. she is a curious person.” He smiled .. “Anyway.. I told her I would ask you because, if she was from around here, you would know.”
His Grandmother was very quiet for several minutes. She peered at the photo again. “Yes……… I do know who this woman is. You bring this Jesse to see me.” she handed the phone back to Avon. He knew the conversation was over.
To be continued……………..
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Does Dee learn anything new from Cheryl Little Mouse? What does Avon’s Grandmother know? Will Jesse go to see her? Leave your guess in the comments.