[Chapter Forty] Liam

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                A young girl's dream no longer hollow 
               It takes the shape of a place out west 
         But what it holds for her, she hasn't yet guessed 

           She needs wide open spaces 
                    Room to make her big mistakes 
             She needs new faces 
                   She knows the high stakes 

                               Wide Open Spaces: Dixie Chicks

Chapter Forty- Liam

When she came down those stairs what she said was the last words I expected her to stay. I can't believe she's really staying. She looked scared when she told us, and I think she may have mistook the silence for us not being happy about it.

I think we were all just shocked and weren't sure if we heard her right. For two and a half months it's been known that she was going back, that she needed to and that she had to, and now she was finally standing up for what she wanted and was staying.

I was beyond proud of her, in the past two and a half months she's grown more as a person than anyone else I've ever known.

I waited until everyone else had hugged her so I could be last and take up more of her time, and I couldn't resist kissing her. When I pulled back I looked down and she was smiling.

"Want to go to the pond?" I asked and she nodded before we sat down to eat breakfast.

"So, you're really staying?" Mom asked and she nodded again.

"I am. I sent them a message and I know they won't let it go without trying to yell at me to come home, but the best part about that is I don't have to actually talk to them, they think I'm still mute." she shrugged as she took a bite.

"You didn't tell them?" Taylor asked

"No, they don't need to know. So hopefully we can have this whole fight and threats thing through e-mail."

"Threats?" Lalan asked

"You know how they are." she nodded sadly.

"Unfortunately I do all too well. Don't let them bully you into coming back, if you need someone to step in then just let me know."

"I will" she promised and I hoped she kept that. It was a big step in getting her to do this, and I hoped she stuck with it.

They talked about her enrolling in college for the fall. She was so new around here I don't know if she really knew what she would be doing, but she would figure it out.

After breakfast we escaped to the pond. They all wanted to ask her more questions and she just seemed to want things to be more calm and quiet.

"Keisha and Connelly are going to love this new development." I teased her and this time she rode with me.

"Yeah, are they the only ones?" she asked

"No, Lalan and your family seem thrilled" I smiled and she smacked my arm

"I see how it is, a girl heard a boy tell her he wants her to stay and she does to find out he was just messing with her. I get it." she sighed and I rolled my eyes even though she couldn't see me. I had Hadley stop and I got off in the middle of the journey and she looked at me curiously

Then I grabbed her and pulled her off the horse and gently pushed her to the ground so I could tickle her and then came the burst of laughter

"Stop!" she squirmed

"Nope, that's what you get for saying that." I smiled as she kept wiggling and I got her sides and her leg and her neck.

"Okay, I'm sorry!" she said she I stopped and looked down at her

"Are you really?" I asked and she smiled and nodded before pushing me off her and straddling my waist and then the roles were reversed.

"This is what you get for tickling me first." She said as I tried to grab her hands to stop her, but every time I got close she moved them suddenly and I couldn't get a grip.

"Okay, even." I said and she stopped and smile

"Agreed." She said before I rolled her again so she was on her back in the grass, and this time instead of tickling her I just kissed her.

It felt good to kiss her knowing that she's staying, that maybe she would come around to the idea of being with me. it was nice knowing that we had more than a summer.

"You know what this means, don't you?" she asked once I pulled back for air and I shook my head

"What does this mean?" I asked her and she grinned

"That you owe me a song for Christmas" she said and I put my head against hers and groaned. I had forgotten about that already, and that was going to be so damn embarrassing.

But as i looked down at her I knew that no matter how embarrassing it would be, it would be worth it.

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