Jesse Lee spent the afternoon helping her brothers put the finishing touches on the new addition to the calving pens. Dad did some pretty good one armed help as well. Jesse had missed spending time with her brothers and it had been a good afternoon.
“Her Brothers”.. But were they? These days, it seemed she felt connected and disconnected at the same time. Not just with her brothers but Mom and Dad too. Now and then she thought of just asking her mother straight out. But, she also knew that if she was wrong it would be like cutting her mother with a knife to ask such a thing. And, there was the very sad thought that she would get a lie from her. After all, if they had been lying all these years then………
It was near supper time and they all headed up to the house. Jesse was excited to hear from Dee and Avon later. They said they would call. She wondered if Avon’s Gram knew the woman in the photo and she hoped Dee had been tactful with Cheryl Little Mouse. She was over zealous at times.
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She also had some anxiety that her mother may have heard about her having coffee with Avon at the cafe in Trotting. Most likely she had. Gossip traveled fast in a small community. As she came thru the door into the kitchen her anxiety level rose. Her mother gave her “that look” again. Jesse knew that after supper she was going to hear about it.
Dad and the boys discussed the next project and Jesse kept her eyes on her plate to avoid her mother. But why was she nervous? She had done nothing wrong. She had coffee with friends, so big deal.
Jesse thought she might escape by excusing herself before the rest but it did not work. “Hold up Jesse Lee.. I can use your help clearing the table.” Her Mom spoke. It was also a sign to the guys — and they moved their discussion out to the front porch.
“Ronnie Peterson stopped by this morning Jesse.” Her mom started. “Oh, what did he want?” Jesse asked. “He was looking for you. I did not ask why…. Nice young man. Hard working and the Peterson’s are good folks.” she finished.
She knew what her mother was hinting at. Ronnie was a nice guy. She had went to a school dance with him last year and he had called her a few times but Jesse was not interested.
Jesse worked fast and the dishes were cleared in moments. She thought she might escape further discussion when her Mom spoke again and her words were measured. “Did my talk with you about this Avon have no impact?” Jesse didn’t answer but looked at her mother quizzically. Again, hoping this would end – but it didn’t. “Do you know anything about his family?” Jesse could tell that her mother was working hard to keep a measure of control and picking her words.
“If your talking about – that his Dad is in prison, then yes I heard that. But I don’t know the reason or even if it is true or not.” Jesse replied and she was struggling to maintain her own control as she felt the heat rising.
Her Mothers ire rose along with her voice. “It’s true Jesse and it’s also true his Mother has lived a very sordid life. You know, your a beautiful and smart young woman. There are several very nice young men who would be happy to ………… “” Jesse broke in….. “First off, coffee with friends is far from a date and besides that, why are you so fixed on this Mom? Is there something else I should know?” She caught her breath and stopped short of saying more than she should.
Jesse saw a flicker of fear in her mothers eyes that lasted only a moment and then her words came strong. “I can see there is more to this than mere friendship Jesse Lee…. I know he went with you to the high pasture the other day………… she trailed off and her demeanor changed. Her eyes became sad. “I believe your only going to find pain and sadness if you continue to see him. Please Jesse, will you just leave it alone before it goes any farther?”
Jesse tamped down her own anger. She could tell her mother was genuinely concerned. She answered quietly but firmly. “I think there is something your not telling me……… and ….. no, I won’t stay away from him.”…… This time it was Jesse who left the room.
She went upstairs a bit un-nerved, but — her mothers words were no surprise. Very little happened in this family that escaped her. The worst of it was she knew now, without a doubt, that she was keeping something from her and it was more than Avon’s parents questionable lives. All it was doing was making Jesse’s quest even more important.
She just got out of the shower when her cell rang. It was Dee. Cheryl Little Mouse had told Dee, pretty much, the same thing that ol’ Joe had said. The only thing she had added was that Avon had not been in any trouble with the law. At least not up until he joined the Army. Cheryl said she had not heard anything after that until he showed up and went to work for the Star Fire.
Dee had more thou. She told Jesse that Micky heard about them sitting with Avon at the cafe and he went off on her. “Really Jesse, you should have heard him.. he actually yelled at me… You and Jesse stay away from Avon. He is a bad seed and nothing but trouble.“… I wanted to press him for more but he had been drinking again and it kind of scared me. “Wow.” Jesse answered. “That doesn’t sound like Micky.” “I know. And it’s upsetting to see him drinking so much.” Dee sniffed and Jesse knew she was near tears.
She no sooner hung up and the phone rang again…. It was Avon. He told her what his grandmother had to say. “But, she would not tell you who it was?” She asked. “No…… she wants me to bring you to see her, and that was that. I knew better than to say anymore.”… Jesse was quiet for a moment. “Ok.. but when?” “Boss has some family get together going on Sunday, and we all get the day off. Do you think you can get away?” Avon replied. “Yes, that will work for me. I can meet you in town… what time?” They agreed on a place and time and Avon finished the conversation. “Ok then….. it’s a date.”
Jesse knew she would not sleep well tonight. So, his grandmother knew who the woman in the photo was. Why didn’t she tell Avon? Why did she want to see her and would she tell her?
She spent most of Saturday staying busy down at the barn. She preferred not to have another run in with her mother. The guys were working on equipment. It would not be long before they would be cutting hay. Jesse did a barn cleaning for the books. She nearly spit shined the place, then she brought in one horse at a time and gave them a good brushing, picked feet and checked shoes. She slept well that night.
Sunday morning she skipped breakfast with the family and left early. She told Thomas she would be gone most of the day and left it at that. It was a beautiful June day to say the least and she drove to town with excitement. Both to see Avon and to meet his Grandmother.
They met at the cafe and had a quick bite to eat, then they both jumped in Avon’s pickup. Just as they were pulling out Jesse spotted Ol’ Joe in the alley and she noted the scowl on his face. Right now she didn’t care. No one wanted to give her a good reason to go with their warnings so to heck with them all. She smiled at Avon as they wheeled out onto the street and left town.
As they drove, Avon told her about his Grandmother. He explained how she had raised him for much of his youth. How she was a very respected elder in the community and how she taught him a lot about the old ways. Not many followed them anymore but she was still very traditional.
“Do you think she is going to tell me who the woman in the photo is?” Jesse asked. “I don’t know. But I think she is going to tell you something.” He answered…. then continued. “It is her way. She knows a lot about a person when she meets them. She says our face tells a story……… She does not like second hand talk and prefers to speak about things face to face…. Oh and one more thing. She will want to feed us something. Do not argue or refuse.” he laughed.
They drove along in silence for awhile. Jesse noted his strong hands on the steering wheel. She also noticed the muscles that rippled under his T shirt, his dark hair and his liquid eyes. She felt a warmth creep over her. And then a blush as she realized he caught her looking. He smiled and reached across the seat to put his hand on hers.
Soon they rolled into a driveway in front of an older cabin. “She never moved into the newer housing. She said she likes it right here in the old cabin.” Avon said as they got out of the truck.
Before they got to the door she opened it. “Come in.” she started “I have made bread and it’s hot.” She led the way to the tiny kitchen and waved them to take a seat. On the table was freshly sliced bread that was still warm. Along side was a jar of homemade plum jam. Jesse remembered what Avon had said and she had a slice with jelly. “It’s delicious.” She smiled at his Grandmother.
They had small talk for a few minutes and Jesse felt very at ease. Her nerves seemed to have calmed. His grandmother asked her about her family and her ranch. She seemed particularly interested in hearing about Jesse’s horse – Easy.
“So…….. my Grandson has shown me a picture of a women. He tells me you wish to find out who she is.” — “Yes…” Jesse replied. “You want to know if this woman might be someone your father had known in his past…. before your Mother?” She asked as her eyes looked deep into Jesse’s. ” Um.. yes, I guess I would like to know that.” Jesse answered. She glanced at Avon. He smiled.
His grandmother was quite for several minutes. Jesse thought she might be done talking at all. It seemed a long time. Then…. “Why is this so important?” Jesse was uncomfortable now and she glanced at Avon again. “You may as well tell her Jesse. ” he spoke quietly.
Jesse paused. And then…… “Whatever you have to say will go no where outside this house.” The woman said, as if reading Jesse’s mind.
For some reason, the entire story came tumbling out, including the warnings to stay away from Avon. She looked his way and he was openly surprised by that… but he didn’t speak. Jesse was just as surprised by all she had said. She felt like she had no choice while she had been talking. It was almost like she could not —- not tell her.
“It sounds like some people have been keeping something from you. They do it because they love you…but, that does not make it right.” She paused….. and continued. “They warn you about Avon because they think he might know this secret … but he does not.” another long pause. Jesse was starting to fidget.
His Grandmother continued. “I do know this woman. You need to find her and talk to her face to face just as we are now.” Jesse was surprised by this. “Do you know where I can find her?” she asked. “I am not sure. I have not seen her in a few years. Awhile back I was told by someone I trust that she was living in Bowman. I was told she was working in a restaurant in the old downtown.” she paused again and then… “Her name is Rita Bad Horse. Unless she is married,… then.. I would not know her last name.”
They all sat silent a moment before the woman spoke once more. “I hope that you will find her and that she will be honest with you…. And…. Avon, you go with Jesse. Don’t let her go alone.” She got up from the table and Avon knew that was all she was going to say. He glanced at Jesse and she understood — that was the end of the conversation.
They thanked her for the bread and Avon gave the old woman a hug at the door. “You two are right for each other.” were her last words when they left.
Back on the road, they were both quiet until Jesse broke the silence. “She said we were right for each other.” “Yes, and my grandmother is never wrong.” Avon answered with a big grin on his face.
To be continued……………..
Will they go on a search for Rita? Avon’s grandmother warned .. not to let Jesse go alone.. Will there be danger? Will things heat up between Jesse Lee and Avon?
Linda S. Carlson copyright 2020. All rights reserved. No portion may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except as permitted by U.S. copyright law.