Forget the moon. My cow couldn’t jump the fence. But that didn’t stop her from trying—Every Friday afternoon.
Same spot, too.
I strode to the edge of my ranch, where the neighbor’s oak grazed my elm, and slapped my Stetson against my Levi’s. “Bessie, why do you keep doing this?” I plunked my hat on my head, climbed over the wood railing, and wrestled her shoulders, chest, legs, trying to unhitch them from the top two-by-four. No good. She wedged herself good this time. “Grumpy Graham hates us enough already.”
“Madison, you named your cow Bessie?”
I flinched. Speak of the Grouch. I swung around, wishing my cheeks would remain cool.
His blue eyes stared me down.
I blew my bangs out of my eyes and wiped sweat off my forehead. Too late, I realized Bessie’s legs were covered in mud. Transferred to my arms and now, covering my face.
I couldn’t win.
“Bessie’s a perfectly good name for a cow. What do you call yours?”
“Cow.” His right jaw twitched. He nodded toward Bessie. “Looks like your pet takes after your stubbornness. What is it about my fence that keeps calling her?”
I ran my palm over her haunches. “No idea.” But why did it always have to be on the weekends when Graham came home from the city?
I compared my grass to his and pointed back and forth. “Doesn’t look greener.” Come on, tall, blond, and handsome. Smile.
He just lifted an eyebrow.
I sighed. “If you get under her chest, I’ll push.”
He heaved, I shoved, but all we got were hernias.
I couldn’t meet his eyes. I rubbed mud off my temple, but his smirk told me I just smeared the grime. “I give up. What made me think I could run Grandma’s ranch?” I plopped on the ground and slumped against the fence. “Can’t even handle one dairy cow. I should go back to dress designing in New York.”
An odd aroma tickled my nose. Apples? Carrots? I sniffed. “Do you smell turnips?”
Graham shrugged, then dropped down beside me.
Now all I smelled was his Old Spice.
He tugged a piece of grass from my ponytail. “Can’t believe you’re trying to make a go of the land when I’m about to leave.” The blade floated down between us, landing on his leg.
I mulled his statement. “Why are you?”
His silence lasted so long, I thought he’d ignore that question, too.
He bumped his hand against mine. “I don’t know anymore.”
I shot him a glance and found him watching me, his face inches away.
The staring game didn’t last long. He picked up the blade again, placed it taut between his thumbs, lifted it to his lips, and duck-call whistled it—just like he tried to teach me all those summers ago.
He offered it to me, but I waved him off. “I never learned.”
His Adam’s apple jumped. “Do you remember that August?”
“Kind of hard to forget.” I chuckled. “We spent every waking minute together until my grandmother and your mom figured they should draft a wedding guest list.” I shifted on the hard ground.
“Okay, girl.” Graham stood. “I’ll grab a crowbar to remove that top plank and set you free.”
As he strode to his barn, I tried to ignore his comment which sounded all too final. And directed at me more than Bessie. But that didn’t make sense. He and I finished eight years ago when he refused to answer my letters from college.
I picked at twigs and clovers and a cylindrical aeration plug lying next to my knee. Bessie mooed louder.
I patted her neck. “Graham’s coming.”
She stretched her neck long and gobbled the plug from my hand. “Hey, that’s not food.” I picked up another, but she wolfed that one down, too. “You’ll make yourself sick.”
Graham trotted back. “Let’s jimmy her out.”
“Good, because the silly girl is eating dirt.”
Graham gulped like he’d swallowed a laugh. He braced to pry the board, and another strong whiff of apples and turnips inundated me. Bizarre.
Several masculine heaves later, and the board clattered to the ground. Bessie jumped free and skipped off.
“Thank you.” I grasped Graham’s hand, then pulled back. His wasn’t mine to hold.
But he didn’t let go.
Instead, he pulled me into his arms. “Stay. Don’t run again.”
Run? “That fall, you told me to go.” I angled to read his face. “I wanted to stay.”
He locked eyes with me. “I couldn’t hamper your dreams. I thought I—this farm—would tie you down.”
“So, you ignored my letters, like you didn’t care.”
“Oh, I cared. Did everything possible to follow you.”
“Your city job?”
He nodded. “I’ve almost saved enough to move to New York. Was ready to sell the farm. But then you took over your grandma’s place.” He ran his fingers along my cheekbones.
Tingles followed his touch, compounded by clanging metal behind Graham’s oak tree.
“Now what?” I stepped back and pivoted toward the noise. Graham reached out, but I evaded his hand and hurried around the tree. Bessie munched a bucket of oats and dirt plugs. “What in the world?”
I swung around, inspected the yard, sniffed the fence slat, then stomped to Graham. “Explain, mister.” I pointed at the trail of grain and apple chunks.
It was his turn for scarlet cheeks. “I never thought you’d come back. When you did, I couldn’t let you slip away.”
“So, on Fridays, you tempt Bessie with treats and rub juice on my fence?” I picked up a dirt core. “What are these?”
“Cattle cubes. A cow’s granola bar.”
I sighed. What was I going to do with this man? Bessie trotted over and bumped my backside, knocking me into Graham’s chest.
Graham laughed, his arms wrapping me tight. “Bessie says you should forgive me.”
“You think so?”
“Yep.” He kissed me, then winked at her. “Good cow.”
However, when she takes a breath from writing and teaching, this mother of five and wife to “Tall-dark-and-handsome” also loves reading, singing, playing with her golden retrievers, wearing flip-flops, and just trying to stay ahead of the ideas in her brain.
You can find her online at her website, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.