To read the previous chapters or for more background
The Calloway Ranch
Tripp is just about to turn away from the window when he notices James Stevenson’s return from the airport. He parks the car in the shade, then gets out.
The window gives him an unhindered view of the back of the large, fenced area. Here he can keep track of the workers’ comings and goings without stepping out or them noticing him.
The enormous maple tree shows the first signs of autumn around the leafy edges. The peak of the Sapphire Mountains Range is visible through the thick leaves. He has been grounded more than once by its presences. He never tires of the view.
Years ago, when he bought the ranch, he tore down the old, depilated buildings and build the new house always with the surroundings in mind. No matter where you stand inside, the breath-taking views are visible all around. Each view differs from the other and on a good day, he can see even further.
“Call when lunch is ready, Maria.” The housekeeper nods and continues with the preparations. Her mind on all the chorus waiting for her.
“Si, senor.” She isn’t one for small talk, but he enjoys the woman’s company. At least she provides a presence in the otherwise empty house. She stayed behind when his wife decided ranch life wasn’t for her. She became Travis’s mother when he needed the presences of a woman the most.
He closes the front door and walks towards his son, bend over the hood of his newest purchase.
“Travis, how does the Chevy look?”
Travis gets up too fast and bumps his head against the lid with a soft explicit and rubs his forehead.
“Are you alright?”
“Yes, dad.” He says and pushes himself away from the truck. With an old rag, he wipes at his head. An angry red mark blemishes his skin, but he ignores it.
“The truck needs a few things, but I think I can fix it.” Tripp bends over the engine.
“It looks like it needs a new engine?”
“No, it’s running. But it needs a new radiator. I will phone around.” Tripp glances at his son, then back at the faded red paint and keeps his thoughts to himself. Travis likes the challenge and through the years has fixed a few oldies, then sold it for a profit. A hobby that keeps him busy and away from the bars.
“Alright. James should join the other men. I want the fences complete today.”
“Supper at six. Bring James with you.”
“I will tell him.” Tripp nods, then goes inside the barn to his office.
James has immersed from his shell since Simone had arrived, which was a good thing. He likes the younger man. He proved to be a hard worker that goes beyond what is expected and adjusted well within the ranch.
Immediately, her image comes to mind, and he smiles at the picture of the very feminine woman. She looked like she will break but proved to be more than capable around the place.
At his desk, he opens his diary, finds what he is looking for, and dials the number.
Simone Stevenson wasn’t just a pretty face. But the air of ‘don’t touch’ that surrounded her countered her appearance. Only when she spoke did his thoughts changed. He was enthralled by her accent. The r’s that rolled from her lips sounded unfamiliar but exquisite. Her intelligence simmered through each conversation. Self-assured and bold, her well-manicured hands spoke with every word.
Golden brown eyes had locked with his in comfortable familiarity, as if she had known him for years.
“My son has talked so much about you and this place, that it feels I know you, Mr Calloway.” she introduced herself as she reached for his hand. He watched her with a confused expression as the small hand disappeared into his. The image and voice didn’t match.
But as he got to know her, he recognised the loneliness and the self-protecting shield. But with time, she relaxed, and he enjoyed her company.
Simone became part of life on the ranch and quickly found her place. Her joy was contagious. Everyone was attracted to the South African woman. At least every second Saturday, there was a party at the ranch. He himself cared little for it, but she had brought everyone together and he knew she would be missed in the coming months. A few times she had made traditional South African food, and they enjoyed every morsel given to them.
Everything about her was of an untainted woman, silky soft curves in the right places and incredibly attractive. Her dedication to her husband and her son was noticeable.
There were times, especially after a phone call from her husband, that he was aware of the changes. A bitterness which touched every fibre, and she would draw back into her shell.
“I’m not ready to come back, John.” he heard her one day followed by a long silence before she spoke.
“No. James is staying.” Her voice had a pleading quality that he found troubling and flinched at the pain. Where he stood, he heard the man’s voice as he screamed at her and she fell silent. Her shoulders slumped over from an invisible weight.
He heard the conversation on his way to the kitchen. The coldness she spoke with or the fact that John screamed so loudly across the phone was shocking. When the call ended, she disappeared. James returned with her later, and she was her old self again. Soon her laughter filled the ranch house, and he relaxed.
The one thing that really touched him deeply was her unwavering faith in the Creator.
On day two, he spotted her on the hill underneath the old oak tree where she sat on the grass, read her Bible, and prayed. An idea slipped in his mind, and he scribbled next to today’s date. As a reminder of his plans.
“Tracy, Tripp here.” He begins when the call is answered.
I want to follow up on the work. Still interested?”
“Yes, definitely Tripp. When do you want me to begin?” Tripp scan the office, the table with piles of folders and medicine and he replies, “Tomorrow too soon?”
“Tomorrow is perfect.”
“You can begin at nine. I know you have chores to do at your dad’s.”
“That will help. Thanks Tripp.”
“See you tomorrow.” Once the call ends, he sits back and caught sight of the mending clothes basket. This basket travelled with her wherever they sat. He trying to read, she mending the cowhands’ clothes. Her voice soothing to his ears and he smile. Remembering their last conversation in the office.
“The accent is unique to the Malmesbury region in the Western Cape.” She explained.
“But James doesn’t sound like that.” He had remarked.
“James grew up in Cape Town with its own uniqueness. The Capetonians are more refined, more English. If you don’t know, then their standoffish attitude can leave you cold.” She explained, trying to mend a shirt that was past its salvage date.
“Tell me about the farm you grew up at.” Curious to learn more about the Stevenson family.
“My father inherited the farm from his father. Today my brother farms on it. I had a wonderful childhood and miss it every day. Living in the city has its advantages, but I miss the peace of the farm life.” The dreamy look misted over, and he steered away from the conversation.
With a last look at the rocking chair and basket, he steps out of the office and finds Travis with the Appaloosa.
“Travis, make sure the barn is tidy. I’m expecting a visitor later today.”
“Yes, dad.” Just then James joined them in the stables, and Tripp takes the saddle nearest to him to place it back on the saddle rack. His mind was still with the brunette.
Even Travis has changed since the South African woman’s visit. A welcome change from the morbid mood that surrounded him, the last couple of years, and he grins.