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Synopsis  Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4

James

New Experiences

“You are back, James. Did all go well?” Travis asks and removes the rag that hung from his pocket.

“Yeah. Mum wasn’t happy to return. I will miss her.” James replies with a tone of nostalgic and smiles wanly. He directed the conversation away from him and pointed to the engine. “How does it look?”

“It will be saved, eventually.” Travis grins. James grins back then went inside the stable, takes a glass then fills it with water and drinks greedily before he reaches for his gloves. Seeing his mum off took more from him. I can only trust that she will be safe, no matter the circumstances.

The men left to fix the northern fence. Take the truck. They have the rest of the supplies. Travis instructs and takes a sip directly out of the ladle. “Its warm outside. Make sure you have plenty of water.” James nods and fills a bottle of water, then puts it in his back pocket.

“Dad invited us for supper.”

“I will be there. I have to run.” Then rushes to the older truck, used for the work around the ranch.

Driving away, he waves at Mr Calloway, and turns his attention back on the road. His mind with his mother and the time they shared. He had to get used to having her around. But it meant a great deal to him. He never realised how much he had missed her until now.

He was ashamed to admit that he didn’t think how it affected her. Now that he was more aware, he realised he must check in regularly. Even though she tried to cover her emotional state, she needs to hear from him.

Her arrival triggered the old feelings of rejections, and he struggled to come to grips with it all. As always, her guidance was appreciated.

His father never agreed to his change of plans, and to this day, never contacted him.

“I’m proud of you, James. Never forget that.” She said on more than one occasion.

“It means a lot hearing it from you, mum.”

“As long as you are happy, I am happy,” she had said, and his chest swelled with pride. But the nagging thought of what it cost her never left him. Even now, he still feels anxious.

Simone was as beautiful as always, hands on, and everyone loved her. However, the sadness in the eyes, the shadows that lurked within her, she couldn’t hide from him. Although she seemed content, she was far from it. There were times that she was distant and quiet, especially after the phone calls from his father. His father’s control took the life out of her.

Still, she blossomed, was playful and relaxed.

Nothing has changed back home. And that is purely his father’s doing. Taking in the surroundings, he smiles as he thought about a happy memory.

The day he took her to her very first rodeo, she enjoyed the day. It was his first time in a competition and to have her there meant a lot. It was his time to show her what he had learned. He left her in the pavilion with Mr Calloway. They were comfortable with each other.

For months, he practiced calf roping whenever he got the chance. It involved tying three legs of a calf with a pegging string, remount, loosen the rope and wait for five seconds to see if the calf would escape. All in the fastest possible time. From the moment he had seen it done, he wanted to learn, and between Travis and Mr Calloway, he followed their instructions diligently.

They packed the trailers early that morning. Each horse was carefully loaded not to cause them any harm. At the rodeo grounds, he showed her around. The stalls with their different produce received much of her attention as he introduced her to the locals. She bought a lovely quilt for him, but it is too pretty for his bunker bed, and he convinced her to take it back home.

He never expected to win, but was proud of his accomplishment. It had impressed Mr Calloway, and he finally felt like one of the ranchers.

“That was brilliant, James.” Mom had said once he joined them.

“Great son. You did it just as you practised.” Mr Calloway said.

“Thanks mom, Mr Calloway.” Mom handed him a soda, and he enjoyed the rest of the day with her. They watched as Travis, too, did his event and won.

Dust settling over the crowd with each event.

“You boys are doing the ranch’s name well.” Mr Calloway had said when Travis joined them.

“Thanks Dad.” And took a spot next to his father. Once all the events were done, they left for the barn the organisers had set up.

That evening, he taught her to square dance. Her vibrancy and energy were contagious. There was no shortage of men asking her for a dance. Even Mr Calloway danced with her. She looked relaxed and comfortable in her dark blue denim skirt and white top. She bought boots, especially for the event after he warned her not to wear her normal shoes.

Even Mr Calloway had a smile on his face the entire time. It was something they didn’t see often.

He wished for his mother to be happy again; she offered so much, but happiness avoids her after all these years.

What had caused the change in his father’s behaviour towards his mother? He didn’t know. He doubts if they will. But John Stevenson was everything he didn’t want to be.

Father, I know it has been a while since I have spoken to you. Father, this is not for me but my mother, you know her. If it is in Your will, please give her the happiness that she deserves. Thank you, Father. Thank you for the time I could spend with her and, if possible, can I see her soon?

In his first eighteen years in South Africa, he only knew misery with his father’s constant nagging to study in the same field as him. He never could do anything right, no matter how hard he tried to win his approval.

He had to admit that he felt proud when his father showed him the acceptance letter from the prestigious Stellenbosch University. However, his mind was made up a long time ago, and he had no desire to return. The rejection is still very fresh in his mind.

Determined to rid himself of the negativity, he steps on the accelerator. The gravel road winding through the trees and up the hill.

This is where his life is. This is his choice. He thought as he stops at the top and enjoy the open space. The creek’s gentle flow is a reminder that his life is here.

A few minutes later, he stops at the fence where Jake and Butch were working. They were already digging and repairing the fence where a few cattle ran through it the previous day.

“Finally. We thought you forgot about us.” Jake calls and lifts his hat. Wipes his forehead and spit in the ground.

“Nope. The road was busy.”

“Take that shovel and dig, boy.” Butch instructs, and he nods. Then fell in step with them when he lifted the shovel for the first hole.

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