Chapter 21

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Brooke walks through her front door and closes it very softly behind her. Her mind swirls with thousands of thoughts and it is as though her head won't stay held up. She tries to slip into her room without Jeremiah seeing her, but just as she is to her door he calls her name. Taking two steps back she looks at him with the brightest most curious eyes she can muster.

"That's an awful low looking head to have just come from seeing your boyfriend," he says raising his eyebrows at her and holding her gaze.

She quickly looks at the floor. "He's not my boyfriend."

Jeremiah lowers the volume on the TV and cocks his head to one side. "Close enough isn't he?"

Throwing her hand down by her side like a little kid she can't hold it in anymore. "Apparently not!" Tears begin to steam down her cheeks and her head feels as though it will explode at any moment.

Never having liked it or known what to do when his sister cries Jeremiah stares wide eyed at her for a moment before jumping up and wrapping her in a silent hug. "What happened, Sis?" His voice is quiet and steady.

It takes her a minute before she can gather herself together. When she has wiped the tears from her eyes she settles on the couch beside her big brother and dives into the story. "In Midland he had asked me if I would wait for him since he wouldn't be around a ton with taking care of the ranch and stuff. I told him yes."

"And then?" Jeremiah pushes lightly. She has already gotten too far into the story for her to stop now, those are his thoughts anyway.

"And then today he said he doesn't want me to put my life on some sort of hold just because of him. That the ranch is probably going to be a pretty permanent thing and he doesn't want me to throw down my life here to be with him. He said it like what I want doesn't even matter!"

Jeremiah laughs at himself on the inside. Even though he should probably be mad at Gary he just can't make it happen. Nothing in him will let him feel even the least bit upset with him. "Did you tell him that?"

She looks at him as if he just asked her to jump in an alligator pond. "No! Guys don't listen worth a flip."

"Ouch," he mutters with a slight grin on his lips. She glares at him so he drops the smile. "I'm serious though. He thinks he's looking out for you and probably doesn't know that he is hurting you so bad. You need to tell him how you feel. We don't read minds, especially not a woman's."

Brooke doesn't say anything for a long moment. "Are you sure that would really work?"

He looks at her and narrows his eyes. "Do you think I just like hearing myself talk or something?"

"Okay smart butt," she mumbles rolling her eyes and trying to hide her grin.
***

Gary guides his pickup through the drive through of Dairy Queen to order a bowl of ice cream. He isn't ready to see all his family just yet. Not so soon after saying words that felt like coughing up grass burs. Once the ice cream is in his possession he heads towards the ever busy rodeo grounds on the out skirts of town. 

He shifts his pickup to park just in front of the red pipe fence of the arena. Several pickup and trailer are parked not far away. Inside the arena he spots, what appears to be, a family of four all riding side by side around the outside. The sight makes him smile and remember the days that his own family had all gone riding together. The older they all got the less and less it occurred, but that had only made it all the more precious.

For a brief moment he can almost see he and Brooke riding together, but before that thought has time to fully take off he shakes his head. Right now is hardly the time for thoughts like that.

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