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Jackon’s Choice: Chapter two

Fallon’s luminous brown eyes beheld the shocked state of Jackon Hiller, not that she didn’t blame him. Normal people tended to have that reaction when it came to the news of their beloved having an estranged family, more than that, one that showed up on their doorstep.

“What? Alright..” Jackson’s eyes grew as round as dinner plates, his tone had lost the gentle quality and in its place was a confused growl.

“This is an abrupt visit, I know, but we suffered a loss, too, twice over it would seem.” She pulled out a worn picture of herself and Celia laughing with their arms around one another. Both looked so carefree, simple times, Fallon thought. Eventually, she relinquished her grip on it and pushed it across the table.

Jackson took up the photo and felt his eyes sting with the threat of tears, that was Celia in her younger years, years she never really spoke about except for in passing and there was Fallon, no mistaking that. Except she hadn’t even cracked a smile in his presence, nor did she have any semblance of that light in her gaze. “You’ll have to excuse me, but I… I’ve never heard about you before and I’m confused. How the hell did you find me?”  His brows lifted and he did look utterly confused.

Fallon took a sip of the coffee, which to her surprise was rather delightful and strong. “No, I don’t doubt it. I… “ She paused and lowered the mug, her fingers splaying flat on the table as if she braced for what she said next. “Celia reached out to us once, when she first arrived here and she let us know she was alive and well, but it was your brother that reached out to us to let us know.” Silence filled the air, except for the sound up rustling clothes and a chair sliding back.

As Jackson pushed away from the chair Fallon followed his movements, watched as a frantic form of betrayal washed over his face. He didn’t hide his emotions very well, but he also didn’t seem to be ready to spew them in her direction either, well that was a bonus, at least.

“Matt? Matt called you? Matt knew about you?” Incredulous blue eyes began to blindly dart around the room, his hand wiped across his mouth. A thousand thoughts crossed his face but nothing passed over his lips, he just stood there with his hands on his hips and color flushing into his gold skin.

How could she explain that one without wounding him? Matt Hiller was the one who stumbled on Celia when she was a mess of tears, a postcard in her grasp as she pointed to Big Timber, a place she had always wanted to visit but never had the means or a reason why. Fallon nodded her head. “He did, on both accounts, but Jackson – “

“No. You come here months after she is laid to rest, not a phone call to me, not a letter, nothing to extend any sort of sympathy. I would have done that for you, but I had no idea you existed.” He didn’t need to raise his voice, it was a scathing low tone that allowed no room for argument. His face was full of color which leaked into his hairline, stained his ears and made his eyes seem all the bluer.

“Enjoy the coffee, Fallon, I have work to do.” Without another word, he walked out the door.

 

****

 

Jackson yanked his gloves from his back pocket and yanked them on roughly, to his credit he didn’t shout but he did storm across his property as if hellhounds were nipping at his heels. Well, perhaps one of them was at his heel, as the distinct sound of the storm door slammed against the house. 

Fallon didn’t waste any time jumping to her feet and following Jackson out the door. She stumbled on the rocky drive and jogged up behind him. “Wait, can you just wait a minute? This isn’t easy for me either. I… we missed everything.” She rasped out.

“You did, but you didn’t have to, you could’ve come out here.” Jackson waved his hand and didn’t bother to pin her again with a glare.

“No, we didn’t, because Matt didn’t call us until after her funeral, we thought he might tell you.” Fallon quieted because he hadn’t phoned them until after, Fallon half wondered why he had even bothered to call at all. The entire ordeal was complex and heartbreaking on both sides, she could see that but Jackson didn’t know the other side of the story, didn’t know the grief on the Monroe side, she could, however, understand his grief, anger, and confusion.

A bitter laugh escaped Jackson and this time he looked at Fallon with those cool blue eyes. “No, he didn’t.” His attention was soon on the barn in the distance, it wasn’t the one he was in before this one was longer and a natural wood rather than painted red. His steps were heavy, set with a purpose and likely anger, too, and soon two large doors were pushed aside and in the barn were several corrals full of cows.

The aroma was one he was used to, but for those who were not it was a pungent one, sour and enough to make a weak stomach quiver in dismay. He could hear the distant sound of voices, there were a few other hands already in the barn on the opposite end, the urge to shoo Fallon away grew stronger and yet she was Celia’s sister.

 

Fallon miserably followed after, her shoes were not intended for traversing grass let alone traipse over an acre of rocky land to get to another barn, but when she moved into the barn behind him she let out a small gasp. A small smile lit up her face and she peered into a corral that held a fawn cow. “How adorable. Are these those miniature cows?” She crept forward toward the enclosure.

“What?” Jackson’s voice sounded confused and a little harsh from his temper still, he spun on his heel and regarded the pen that Fallon was pointing at. His blond brows furrowed and twitched before he snorted. “A miniature cow? That miniature cow is a three-month-old heifer and she will be just as big as her Ma.” He thumbed the cow munching away greedily at the hay.

She blinked, bit her lip and felt quite foolish for the mistake but she cast it aside and looked at the grown cow in the corner. The same fawn coloring with dark smudges around her muzzle, she looked quite pleasant and the calf which she had mistaken for a miniature ambled up to tentatively greet her.

“I don’t keep Jersey’s but Celia saw one at auction and had to have her. She said it spoke to her soul. Ma here was pregnant, right after Celia passed the calf was born. Of course, none of it was easy, Ma needed assistance, then Ma got sick and I forked out a good sum of money for that cow and her calf. I did what I did because of who that cow belonged to.” He leaned on the fence panel, his voice had softened and he stared at the cow who in turn looked back at him with rounded, soft eyes.

A moment ticked by before he turned to look at Fallon again. “Are you staying anywhere? There’s a spare room, at least until you leave, I’ll hardly be around. I have work to do and I can’t afford not working. So, either make yourself cozy for now or head on out. I can’t stand around much longer, the room is upstairs and the first on the left.” He pushed away from the coral and rubbed his chin, for a moment it looked as if he were going to say something else, but instead, he walked away.

 

Jackson’s Choice: Chapter 1

    Jackson was up before the sun, as per usual. He couldn’t afford the luxury of sleeping in like some did. There was a barn full of animals and acres of land that depended on him, none of which would take care of themselves. The stalls would not be mucked without him, and the chore list didn’t stop there. His crystal blue eyes flicked up as he heard the roar of an engine, then the tell-tale sound of rubber churning up the dirt road. Someone was either in a hurry or mad. Slowly, he placed the pitchfork down and stepped out of the barn’s entrance.

A horn blared.

“I’m coming.” He called out.

A car door slammed.

“I’m coming!” He rumbled as he emerged from the shrubs next to the barn. The individual that had sped down the drive had his eyes widening.

The woman in his driveway was tall, she had legs that went on forever. Slender yet curvy and was wearing a knee length dress to showcase it all. A perfect chignon held her brown locks up, which made her sharp angles look all the more prominent. She looked just like Celia, except this woman was scowling at him.

Celia was dead. He knew that she had died doing what she loved; jumping horses. Six months ago, Jackson had been baling hay on the farm, Celia was riding her thoroughbred, Chance. They had done this routine a thousand times, she had been a Grand Prix rider. One misstep was all it took, though. Chance fell and so did Celia. In the end, it was the end for the both. Jackson always recalled when Celia would joke about dying in such a fashion. Jackson wasn’t laughing now. Not since the bed became bigger, emptier and the smell of her began to fade.

Now, before him stood a woman that could have been her twin.

“Jackson Hiller?” The woman shielded her eyes as she called out, impatiently.

“That’s me.” He managed to say, he willed his eyes to not flow along her form which he was hard pressed to do given her misplaced attire here. He wiped his hands on a dirty rag which didn’t seem overly productive on his sullied hands.

“I’m Fallon Monroe. Your sister-in-law.”

“Um… Celia’s sister?” It didn’t surprise him, not with how much they looked alike, but she had never once uttered a word about a sister or family. She would skim over topics that surrounded her life prior to Montana but never once did she mention a family, never once a sister.

She rolled her eyes and sighed. “Yes, Celia’s sister.” There was no snarky retort that followed, just a tightening of her lips against her teeth. “Are we going to do this out here or are you going to invite me in the house?” A tweezed brow shot up in question, agitation clear in her tone.

“Right, of course. How rude of me…” His voice trailed off, agitation creeping into his tone as well, as if he were the one to be inconveniencing her, but he motioned toward the stone path at the edge of the grass which led to the old farmhouse and was ready to play the part of a gentleman.

“You do have coffee, right?” Fallon’s words were clipped and she shot a sharp glance at Jackson.

“Uh, yeah, I live in the country, not in no man’s land.” There was no laugh that accompanied his words, she was turning him sour as the moments ticked by. She was annoyed with him? How the hell did she think he felt?

With a grunt, he opened the door to the house and inside he escorted her to the kitchen and pulled out a chair for her. “So, I have one big question,” he paused as he began to scoop coffee into a filter. “Why the hell didn’t Celia ever tell me she had a sister? I’d say you were lyin’ but…” he cocked his head to the side and shook his head. Fallon looked like she could be her twin, except those sharper edges to her face and the way her eyes held hardness instead of a gentle quality reminded him that she wasn’t Celia in the least.

“Not twins, I’m older by two years.” She drummed her manicured nails impatiently. “Look, I’m not here for small talk, I’m here find some things out and in the process enlighten you.”

Jackson blinked and turned his head just as the coffee began to brew.  “Okay, how do you want your coffee?” He reached for a cup and kept his back to her, the corner of his lips quivering as his mind called out black to match her eyes, shoes and…

“Black is fine.” Fallon crossed her legs and reached up behind her to let loose her dark hair from the tidy chignon. She scraped at the back of her head and stared blankly at Jackson.

Jackson realized as he spun around with the two black coffees that he was gawking, the morning light was bathing Fallon and with her face shadowed she made his heart stutter. “I’m sorry, you just look so much like…” he swallowed the rest of his words and slid the mug across the table, his blue eyes shutting as he fought to absorb the knowledge Celia had a family he never knew about. “Is it just you, or is there more to the Monroe family?” He didn’t bother to wait for his coffee to cool before sipping it.

Please don’t be the entire family. He thought miserably.

“There are a lot of us, not just me or Celia. She had a family, whatever she told you before it was just a history she wanted to be buried. I’ll be here for a few days and then head back, but contrary to what you think, Jackson, I’m not here to hurt you. ” Fallon’s gaze dropped to the black steaming liquid.

Jackson’s gaze hardened a fraction as he considered her words, whatever his wife had been running from had to have been for a good reason. He wasn’t one to judge but the crisp tones, the air of superiority, if the Monroe family were an extension of Fallon, he could see why Celia would run. Celia, who nursed calves, who soothed dying sheep, she was gentle and kind. “Why did she run?” He pinned her with his firm gaze and asked point blank. “All the way from Massachusetts, at least I assume that was part of the truth, why run?”
“That’s going to take a lot more coffee than what I have in me right now,” Fallon spoke over the rim of her cup before taking a long draw.

The Origin of Jackson’s Choice

Everyone has an origin to a story, right? Well, I’m no different and I have a thousand plus one nuggets rolling around in this brain of mine. This one struck me a few years back while I was cleaning out my horses’ stalls and thinking about the simple life. I grew up down the street from a farm, I even had a hobby farm of my own and as I thought about it this story or fantasy began to take shape in my mind.

A rancher. A new widower. Modern times. Hurt on both sides. These were my notes!

Jackson Hiller, the young widow that formed in my mind was created as a rancher, his story formed as I began to jot down notes which is when I discovered he had a brother, Matt Hiller. The brothers are alike – yet different. Jackson is more black and white, he lives in reality and is tasked with the brunt of the work on the ranch via stress, management and the like, while his brother Matt is a little more carefree and almost seems free of the stress.

This story is told from two perspectives – Jackson first and secondly Fallon, his sister in law he didn’t know existed pops up onto his property with questions and elicits questions from Jackson, too.

Really, it focuses on moving past grief, moving on and where to go from here as a spouse and family member.

I’m not sure how long this will be as I asked the characters to just give me what they had, so we will see!

So, thanks for stopping in and stay tuned for my first post of Jackson & Fallon’s story.