Still Burning - Chapter Eight - Noah's Tree
 By Moose   •   24th Apr 2013   •   2,442 views   •   3 comments
Horse Story - Still Burning

Jane stepped on the edge of her jeans and slipped down a stair. She gasped and quickly reached for the railing to save herself but Andrew had already caught her. They froze for a moment and Jane very slowly and very carefully grabbed his arms and pulled herself back up as quietly as possible. Andrew stifled his laughter and waited for Jane to make it down the stairs before he followed her.

“Shhh!” Jane hissed when she heard Andrew’s laughter. She tiptoed down the last two stairs, carrying her boots with Andrew close behind her. She carefully glanced around the corner into the kitchen then hurried to the door. Jane felt the cool breeze against her skin as the door opened. She felt a chill down her spine, along with a small hint of rebellion. Andrew shut the door behind them ever so slowly.

Once they heard the soft click of the door, they both let their breath out with a loud sigh. Andrew let the screen door hit the house door with a loud crash, making Jane cringe. “Andrew!” she hissed. Andrew grabbed her shoulders and spun her around, then ran off the porch. The house light flicked on as they passed the steps and made a mad-dash for the barn. Jane didn't bother to look back she kept her eyes fixed on the barn.

Andrew threw open the door and shut it behind Jane. He looked back at her, catching his breath and laughing between gasps for air. Jane reached for the light switch and flicked it on. She swept her blonde curls from her face and peered up at him with an exhausted smile.

Jane slipped her boots on and rolled her ripped jeans down over top of them. Andrew headed for the tack stall, but Jane grabbed his arm and pulled him to a halt. He looked back, a bit confused.

“No,” she said with a soft smile, “We won’t need a saddle.”

Andrew looked into Jane’s mysterious blue eyes. He felt his heart beat a little faster.

Jane took a bridle from the hook outside the tack room and slipped into Flora’s stall. Andrew watched nervously as she slid the bridle over the mare’s head and fed the bit into her mouth. The mare licked and chewed, adjusting to the taste of the cold metal. Jane ran her slender fingers over the bridge of her nose. She looked into the eyes of her adventurous partner and smiled. Flora seemed to love these midnight runs. That mare knew the second she heard the soft clinking of the bridle that it was Jane.

Jane led her out of her stall and into the dimly lit aisle.

“You first,” she instructed Andrew as she pulled a bucket under Flora and smiled. He looked back at her and laughed.

“You’re pretty funny,” he said as he eyed the bucket and the horse.

“And you’re pretty chicken.” Jane shot back, raising a brow.

Andrew looked back at Jane with a look of determination. “I told you I don’t turn down a challenge.”

“Really?” Jane whispered back with a sly smile. “Because to me, it sounded like you did. Step right up, cowboy.”

Andrew turned to the horse. He grabbed a good chunk of Flora’s mane and held it tightly in his hand. Then he stepped onto the bucket and in one, quick move he had lifted himself up and swung his leg over her back. Jane was impressed. Andrew held his hand out to Jane and she took it, pulling herself onto the horse in front of him.

“You ready?” Jane asked, tipping her head back.

“I’m ready.” He said confidently.

Jane let Flora walk forward out back entrance towards the trails. Andrew adjusted quickly to the feel of riding without a saddle. Once they were outside, Jane noticed the moon. It was perfectly round and looked closer and bigger than normal. It was exceptionally bright, lighting up entire yard, aside from the few areas shaded by trees. The air was crisp and cool, but there was no wind.

Jane stopped Flora and listened. The sounds of night filled the air around them. The stirring of critters, the chirping of crickets in the grass, the croaking of frogs in the river, the distant hooting of owls it all became one steady hum. Like all the sounds had blended into one, perfect, harmonious sound.

Jane took the fainter, less traveled trails. She was surprised as to how well she knew the directions it was like it was only yesterday. This sort of thing seemed to stay in Jane’s thoughts as she aged, like the alphabet.

They reached the open field and Jane felt a surge of adrenaline go through her veins. She glanced back at Andrew. "Why did we stop?" he asked curiously. Then he saw the mischievous look in her eye that he had so quickly come to love.

"Do you trust me?" she asked him.

Andrew let out his breath with a soft sigh. "I guess I'll have to." he admitted.

"Hold on." she said as she picked up the reins. Flora's fuzzy ears swiveled and flicked back and forth. Andrew held Flora's mane. Jane squeezed at Flora's sides, cuing her into a soft canter. Flora picked up speed, her hooves floated over the ground with ease. Jane steadied herself and put her hands out from her sides, "We're flying!" she shouted. "Do you feel it?" she asked him. Jane reached for his hand and made him let go slowly. He balanced himself. "Close you eyes." she told him. And he did. "Feel the wind." she whispered. Shivers shot up and down his spine. With his eyes closed, he could focus. He felt Jane's hair ticking his face, the steady rhythm of Flora's gallop, the tall grass against his jeans. Then he felt the wind. If he didn't know better, he wouldn't be able to tell if it was water or air washing over him. It felt so... calm.

Jane had showed Andrew the feeling of complete freedom as he watched her tip her head back and smile to the star-filled sky. For that brief moment in time the world had stopped turning and they were floating on air. Now he could understand Jane and everything about this place. She had surprised him once again.

As they reached the edge of the field, Flora slowed into a walk and they entered back into the real world. It truly had felt like they had escaped for a brief moment. Andrew didn't know it was possible and Jane didn't have to say a word.
Flora sauntered into the trees. For a long time, they just walked. Then Jane stopped when they reached a small clearing and took a deep breath. “This is the place I go...” her voice trailed as she took a moment to look around, “When I need to think or be alone. No matter what’s going on in my life, no matter how much I change, it seems like this place never does.”

Andrew looked at the back of Jane’s head. He stared at her messy curls and let her words sink into his mind. She made him curious, what was she thinking?

“I haven’t seen this place since...” Jane stopped herself and swung her leg over Flora’s neck then slid off to take a few steps towards the tree in the center of the clearing. “Noah took me here right before he left for the marines.” Jane explained. “He told me that if I ever needed to talk about things, this was the place to go. He told me that even miles and miles away he would hear me.” Andrew heard Jane laugh to herself. “I was so young then... I actually believed him.”
Andrew slid down from Flora’s back and followed her, listening carefully without saying a word.

"When we get older we stop believing in magic like that. It's a shame really... Everything is so much duller. Sometimes...” Jane’s voice faded as she looked closer at the tree, specifically at the one, low branch that hung just high enough to reach. “Sometimes, I like to picture Noah sitting there, teasing me because I couldn't reach him.” Jane closed her eyes and saw Noah’s face just the way it was before he left. He was smiling. It fascinated her, how he always seemed so carefree and brave. Noah was never afraid. He didn't worry about what might happen, he did what he could with the time that he was given. Jane adored that about him.

“Jane,” Andrew’s voice startled her.

She opened her eyes and spun around. Andrew stood a few feet behind her, holding Flora’s reins in one hand and reaching out with the other. Jane looked down at his hand. “Come on, I’ll help you up there.” Andrew said, dropping Flora’s reins so that she could graze. “Get on my back,” Andrew said, taking her hand and leaning over as Jane jumped onto his back and wrapped her legs around his shoulders. She reached up and pulled herself onto the branch. As she situated herself on the branch and looked down, she realized why this place was so special to Noah. She could see above all the trees. Noah’s tree was at the very top of everything. Tucked away like a child in its bed, their ranch was just barely visible. She could see some of the trails that led to the tree, they peeked out in places where no trees grew. There was a clearing where the river dove back into the woods and meandered lazily through the valley. It was absolutely beautiful. The view took her breath away... but yet another part of her stung. Years ago, Noah sat in this same place and looked at this same view and thought this same thing... it’s beautiful.

Andrew wrapped both arms around the branch and climbed up using the trunk of the tree. He caught his breath and sat next to Jane as she enjoyed the view. He couldn't help but notice there were tears at the edges of her eyes.

“Jane,” he began, grabbing her attention. “I know how hard this is for you. Believe me, I know.” Jane looked at Andrew, wondering if he really knew how she was feeling. He continued, “Noah was family. He meant a lot to you.”

Jane closed her eyes and let her breath out slowly. It was quite clear that Jane was holding back.

“But Jane,” Andrew went on, “he’s always going to be here, okay? He never left you. He’s always going to live on in your thoughts and in your heart. And, I bet that if he could see you now he would be proud of you for moving on and being strong. I know he wouldn't want you to be sad.” Andrew paused and sighed, “He would want you to be happy.”

Jane bit her lip, swallowed hard, and looked up at Andrew. She paused for a long time, just staring at him with curiosity. What had Andrew been through to give him such wisdom, far beyond his years? She looked down at the ground, “I know.” She whispered.

She noticed something behind Andrew’s head carved in the bark of Noah’s tree. She pointed and Andrew turned to see it. It was his name. Noah James Kennedy. Clear and perfect, like it had taken him hours to complete. Jane smiled and touched it with care. As Jane touched it, it was like she could feel him. Just knowing that he had carved it, made her feel like he was with her. No one else knew of this tree but her and Noah and now Andrew. Noah must have known that she would have found it someday.

Andrew began digging through his pockets and smiled as his fingers touched the familiar metal object. “What’s your middle name?” he asked as he revealed the hoof pick from the pocket of his jeans.

Jane let out a laugh as she looked at the hoof pick in his hands. It felt good to laugh. Her tears blurred her vision as her eyes squinted into a smile.

“Anne,” she replied, wiping her eyes

Andrew smiled and repeated it, “Jane Anne Kennedy,” he paused, “It’s very nice.” He turned to the tree and ran his fingers over the bark next to Noah’s name. He began carving carefully. Jane rested her chin on Andrew’s shoulder and watched him as each letter appeared, J.A.K. and A.A.R.

“What it is?” Jane asked as he finished the carving.

“It’s our names, silly.”

“No, no,” Jane giggled, “What is your middle name?”

Andrew grew a childish smile, “Guess.”

Jane tipped her head back and sighed, “A... A...” she repeated in her head, “Aaron?” Andrew shook his head, “Austin?” Again, he shook his head, his smile grew with each guess. Jane paused for a long time, “Alexander!” she shouted with confidence.

Andrew laughed, “Yes.”

“Andrew Alexander Russell,” she said out loud. Jane looked at their initials next to each other and smiled. “It’s perfect,” she sighed.

For the first time since Noah’s death, Jane felt the courage to paint again. She had first started painting because of Noah. He had given her the confidence to paint, he made her look at things in a different perspective. Noah was also the reason she had stopped painting. After his death she couldn't touch a brush and not until last night did she realize that it was a stupid decision to stop painting because of him. Andrew helped Jane let go of the last of her regrets and bottled up feelings towards Noah. She could finally smile when she thought about him. And now she could finally paint again, because of Andrew.

Jane heard a tap on her door. She didn't bother to turn around and called out, “Come in!”

Andrew peeked through the crack of the door and then stepped inside. To his surprise, Jane sat in the center of the room on a dainty wooden stool. She faced an easel which held a large canvas. It was a beautiful sight. Her delicate wrist swayed with such grace. It was like her hand had a mind of its own it moved so easily and free. Her strokes reminded him of the way the breeze rippled through the grass. It didn't disturb the grass, it danced with it. The way that she focused on the canvas, it was like she saw something in it. The brush continued to graze the canvas, creating beautiful colors.

Andrew continued to watch, interested in what the colors and blurry figures would become. It was becoming clear that the center of attention was a small horse, a buckskin. He ran alongside other horses which had not yet been distinguished.

Jane paused and glanced back. Andrew stepped behind her. Jane giggled and squirmed as Andrew kissed her neck. Jane spun around and painted his forehead in self defense.

Andrew took a tube of paint off her desk. She smiled deviously and painted his cheek. He opened the tube and loaded his finger with paint, then smeared yellow paint all over her chin and neck. Jane squealed and ran to the other side of the room. She dropped her paintbrush on the easel and ran her hand through the paint on her palate. Andrew came up behind her and was instantly covered in the paint from Jane’s hands. He grabbed her arms to stop her, covering both of her arms in paint. She giggled uncontrollably and wriggled free. Andrew caught her around the waist. He threw her over her shoulder and spun her, coating her bare legs with paint.

Jane laughed and shouted, “Put me down! Andrew!” her words could barely be heard through her laughter.

Andrew spun her again and set her down in the center of the room. He sighed and stared at her.

“You wanna go swimming?” Andrew blurted out.

Jane stopped and pushed hair away from her face using the back of her arm. She looked at him with a smile and shrugged.

“It’s like 100 degrees in here.” Andrew said, looking to curtains, moving in the gentle breeze. “Come on, let’s get out of here.” He said, reaching out and taking her hand.

Jane loved the feeling that washed over her when Andrew was doing something random and spontaneous not knowing what would happen next. She followed him out the door and down the stairs.

In the living room, her mom and dad were reading quietly. When Elise saw Andrew and Jane running out the back door, she smiled and shook her head. Will seemed to get tenser, but Elise simply placed her hand over his and said, “Let them go.”
Sapphire Flames  
AMAZING! So glad to read this story..thank you Moose! :D
  Apr 24, 2013  •  3,603 views
“It’s like 100 degrees in here.” Andrew said, looking to curtains, moving in the gentle breeze. “Come on, let’s get out of here.” He said, reaching out and taking her hand.

Reminds me of Flicka 1.
Thanks Moose!!
  Apr 25, 2013  •  3,503 views
Lovely, as always. :)
  Apr 26, 2013  •  3,357 views
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