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Still Burning - Chapter Nine - Andrew's Story
 By Moose   •   28th Apr 2013   •   1,805 views   •   3 comments
Horse Story - Still Burning

Jane reached for the handle, ready to pull the flimsy screen door open when she heard a voice inside.

“Don’t make me regret letting you stay here, Andrew.” The voice belonged to her father. She distinguished the low growl instantly.

“I’m telling you, there is absolutely nothing between Jane and I. She cares more about those stupid horses-” Andrew stopped as he heard the door open.

Jane stood on the other end, daring not to believe what she had just heard and staring at Andrew in horror. She couldn't listen to another word. Luckily, she didn't have to. Her heart was beating so loudly, she could hardly hear. She shook her head gently and let the door slam shut. She felt her eyes fill with tears, blurring her vision. Her heart raced and her breaths quickened. She began to feel trapped and panicky. She ran. Jane ran as fast as her legs would take her. She didn't look back, she didn't think, she didn't stop, she just ran. She headed for the woods and began weaving through the trees, stepping over the mulch and branches with her bare feet and wincing in pain. But the pain could not stop her, she continued running.

Andrew quickly threw the door open and stepped outside. Jane had vanished like a ghost. He ran his hand through his dark hair with frustration. A guilty feeling churned in his stomach.

Andrew told Liam everything that happened, he had no other choice. He needed Liam.

“Let me make myself clear. I am not doing this for you. I’m doing this for my little sister. I hope she has the sense to realize she deserves better.” Liam said as he threw the tack room open.

Andrew sighed as the guilt in his stomach grew. “Liam, I didn't mean to hurt Jane. I had to. Your father was-”

Liam cut him off, “Wait, you said this to my father?”

“He was going to kick out.” Andrew quickly stammered out excuses.

Liam pulled a saddle from the rack and stopped to face Andrew. “Jane’s eyes light up every time she sees you, she can’t stand not being around you. Jane started painting again... because of you.” Liam sighed and took the saddle out into the aisle, Andrew followed with another. As he set it down, he continued, “I just don’t understand. Why would you go and break her heart like that?”

Andrew put the saddle down beside Dakota’s stall. “Liam, please believe me. I didn't mean it. I would never.”

The silence that followed made Andrew’s stomach churn. He watched Liam open a stall and throw a blanket over the gelding’s back. Andrew put the blanket on Dakota’s back, the only thing he knew how to do, and waited as Liam quickly saddled, Barron, his own horse, then Dakota.

They started their search by heading for the north pasture. Andrew had the feeling that Jane was smarter than to be out in the open. He began to think that he was never going to find her. Liam suggested they start searching the trails.

Suddenly, Andrew knew exactly where Jane had gone. How could he have not thought of it sooner? She was in Noah’s tree. It was her place. It was the place she went when she needed to think. It was the only other place she could be.

“I know where she is.” Andrew said out loud.

“Well if you knew where she was, why did you drag me all the way out here to look for her?” Liam asked angrily.

“Because I just realized it. Follow me!” Andrew said quickly.

As Andrew led the way to Jane, it started to get dark. Jane and Andrew had spent the whole afternoon swimming. His clothes were still wet and beginning to give him chills as night set in. He began thinking about every possible thing that could go wrong. What if Jane wasn't there? What if she had gotten lost? What if Andrew was never going to see her again and the last she heard was him telling her father he didn't care about her? Andrew’s heart began to beat faster and faster. He prayed that he would find her just around the bend of the trees. He prayed that she would some how forgive him and he could have time to explain everything to her. It was then that Andrew realized how much he cared for Jane. If he was to lose her, he wouldn't know what to do. She was the thing that filled the empty hole his parents left. If Andrew lost Jane, what would he have left?

Jane leaned against the trunk of the tree and let her fingers graze over their names. She closed her eyes. He was smiling, carving the letters so carefully and so perfectly. She remembered the feel of his shoulder under her chin, the content, happy feeling she got when she watched him. But now she couldn't even think about it. Now it made her chest hurt. She wondered, how did he act so honest and trustworthy when they were together? What happened to everything he told her? Was it all a lie?

Tears burned through her eyelids and pangs of emptiness ached in her chest. She couldn't hold it in. She wanted to claw their names out of the bark, piece by piece. She wanted to scream over every word he had ever said to her. She wanted to erase him from her life and regretted ever letting herself fall in love with him.

How could he sit there beside her and listen to her cry when she talked about her brother? How could he? The thought made Jane want to rip her hair out? How could he call those horses stupid after she showed him how beautiful and majestic creatures they could be? What was going through his head right now? She told herself she didn't care. She didn't want Andrew to come back. All Jane wanted was to be alone...

As soon as the tree appeared, Andrew held his breath. And there she sat on the lowest branch, swinging her bare feet, tears streaking her face like scars, and looking like a mess. Andrew vaulted from Dakota’s back and ran to her without thinking twice. He was not going to lose his chance.

But Jane wasn't going to just let him in again, not after what he did.

“Jane, I am so sorry.” Andrew said, resting his hand on her knee. “Please Jane, come down.”

Jane moved her knee and looked away with a deep breath, collecting her anger and rage. “I am not falling for this again, Andrew. I am not playing your little game.” Her tone was sharp and firm, surprising him. “I honestly thought you were different...”

“This is different, I’m telling you.”

“That’s not what you told my father.” Jane shot back. “Please... Just go away.” She said softly leaning her head against the tree.

Andrew stepped back and looked to Liam, who was waiting patiently. He sauntered over to him and sighed. “She’s not going to come down anytime soon.” Liam told him.

“But I’m not leaving until she does.” Andrew admitted softly

Liam smiled a soft, friendly smile that caught Andrew off guard. “I know. You do what you have to do. I’ll leave Dakota here with you…” Andrew nodded and took the reins from Liam. “And one more thing,” Liam added before getting back on. “Good luck. I could never get through to her... But maybe you can.”

Andrew slid to the ground against the tree and let Dakota graze beside him. As he sat below her, he couldn't help but wonder what Jane was thinking. He listened to the steady hum of the critters all around him. The sound would have been calming to him if he didn't have so many things on his mind. The sky was clear. It was familiar, like the night Jane and Andrew spent the whole night on the roof, staring at the stars. That memory usually made him smile.

Andrew gathered his bravery. There was still one thing left he wasn't telling Jane. The one thing he had never openly shared with any other human being. He kept it hidden, deep inside himself. Like if he ignored it, it might go away. Andrew decided it was time he told Jane his story. The whole story. With a long sigh, he began. “I was 9 years old.” Jane glanced down at him and with a long, reluctant sigh, she let herself listen. “I was a typical, normal 9 year old. I loved baseball.” There was a pause.

“I didn't know you played,” Jane said softly.

“Everyday after school I would play baseball with my friends,” Andrew went on.

“My mom would pick me up at 4:00. She was never late until that day. I waited outside the school for 2 hours. 2 whole hours I sat there and stared at the street, praying that my mom hadn't forgotten about me. I was just about to lose hope when she pulled up. When I got in the car and saw her face... I saw something I had never seen in my mom’s face before. Fear. She was scared. She had been crying, she looked ready to fall apart, she looked weaker than I’d ever seen her. And at that second I knew there was something wrong, I knew my life was about to turn upside down... And I was right.”

“Andrew, you don’t have to tell me this...” Jane whispered.

“No, I want you to know this.” Andrew answered and continued again. “Seeing my dad in the hospital, the man I looked up to, the strongest man I knew, the man who raised me and taught me to play baseball. It was heartbreaking. It was enough to make anyone cry. But I told myself I wouldn't cry. Dad told me to be strong for mom. He said that she needed me.” Andrew took a long, deep breath and let it out with a sigh. “So I believed him. I listened to her cry herself to sleep every night and I told myself, be strong. I convinced myself that he would get better. I thought God would never let this happen to me and Mom, we never did anything wrong. I got down on my knees every single night and I prayed for my dad. While my friends were out playing, getting into trouble, having fun, and being kids, I was in that hospital from the second I got out of school to the time I had to go home for bed. Let me tell you, Jane, hospitals are sad, gloomy, depressing places. Every where I looked it was like I saw death. Sometimes people escaped it, but sometimes they weren't quick enough... But I told myself it wasn't going to get my dad. He was getting better.

After school one day, I was running a little late while I was putting my books in my locker. For the first time since my dad went into the hospital, I noticed my baseball glove at the top of my locker. It had been untouched for months. Right then I thought, today is the day. Maybe today my dad will feel good enough to play with me. Maybe today he can be a real dad and play catch for a little bit, like all the other dads did for their kids. So being the hopeful, clueless 9 year old boy that I was, I took the glove under my arm and ran to the car. When I got in and looked to my mom, something had changed. I remember exactly the way she held her arms straight out in front of her and gripped the wheel so tight her knuckles turned white. In her face, all of the happiness was gone. Something snapped inside of her and she broke into tears and hugged me for a very long time. That was when I knew... She didn't have to say a word. I knew.

Jane held back tears as she looked down at Andrew, feeling the pain that he felt but was too afraid to show. “Andrew, I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be.” He said bluntly as he stood to her level, “I learned something that day. I learned a lesson that no one could ever teach me but I had to learn on my own. I learned that you can’t dwell on what’s in the past. I could have spent the rest of my life wondering what it would be like to have a father, wondering what it would be like to have a mother or where I would be if they were still here. But I moved on. I didn't forget them, I still think about my parents all the time, I simply moved forward. Because it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

Jane wiped the tears out of her eyes and looked down at Andrew. He swallowed and met her eyes. There was a shine over his blue eyes from the tears that tried to push through, but Andrew was strong. Instead, he smiled back at her.

“Thank you,” she said, looking away quickly. “For telling me.”

Andrew nodded gently, “It felt good to tell someone who understands...” his voice trailed. “Jane, please listen to me.” Andrew said softly. “Please, just look at me,” he said, tipping her chin towards him. Jane looked him in the eyes and saw something had changed in Andrew’s gaze. He was different. He wasn't hiding something anymore, it felt like she could trust him now. “It was very stupid, what I said and I didn't mean one word of it. I’m so sorry. I promise you, I will always be here for you.”

Jane felt a tugging at her heart, bringing new tears to her eyes. She could see it in his eyes too, he meant what he said. Jane couldn't take another second of looking in his eyes and seeing such pain. She opened her arms and slid down from the tree. Andrew caught her in his arms and held her tight. Finally. It felt so good to hold her, completely forgiven.

Jane held the back of Andrew’s neck and let out a mixture of laughter and crying. She felt everything was right again. This was where she belonged, in his arms, where she fit just right.

“Andrew,” Jane whispered as she pulled away and he set her down. “I love you.”

Andrew smiled and hugged her again. “I love you too, Jane.”

Jane hooked her pinky with his and led her to the house. Jane looked down at their hands. Hers looked so small and fragile next to his. His hand was masculine and sturdy. Jane’s finger hooked perfectly with his, like a lock to a key. She couldn't help but smile as she swung his hand ever so gently, like a swing.

He stopped as they stepped onto the porch and looked to the guitar on the porch swing. Jane felt little butterflies hit the sides of her stomach as he let her hand go and started towards the guitar. She tried to hide the growing smile on her lips as he picked it up and sat down. Jane slowly sank down beside him, her knees against her chest. Andrew held the guitar in his lap and ran his fingers over the strings.

The feel of the frets on his fingertips made him smile. The soft squeaking sound as he brushed over the steel strings was like music. He glanced at Jane. She had such a gentle gaze as she looked back at him, like a child waiting for a story. Andrew looked down at the guitar and began to play.

Soft notes and a slow rhythm flowed out of the instrument. The sounds became a sweet melody. Andrew’s fingers moved so easily and freely without thought or hesitation. Music seemed to simply dance off his fingers effortlessly. Jane melted at the sound. She watched him carefully. This side of Andrew she had never seen had surprised her. The way he could be so focused and determined, like the music was speaking words, telling a story. She was intrigued by his hidden talent.

When Andrew held the last note it rang out and hung in the still air. Andrew’s eyes met Jane’s as he looked up from the guitar and smiled. She leaned forward and kissed him. “That was beautiful,” she said as he swept his short hair behind his ear. “You never told me you were so talented. How long have you played?”

“Too long to remember,” Andrew chuckled and lifted the guitar from his lap, setting it against the house. “About 5 or 6 years.” He answered.

Jane shook her head and smiled a wide, satisfied grin, “Amazing.” Andrew sighed and looked away shyly. “Can you sing too?”

“A bit,” Andrew replied.

Jane leaned forward, “Promise me you’ll sing for me someday.”

Andrew thought about it and nodded with a laugh, “Sure, someday,”

Just as Jane opened her mouth, so did the screen door. Her father stepped out and silenced her. Her heart began to pound and she began to look guilty. “Do you two know it’s past midnight?”

Jane lifted her legs off Andrew’s lap and stood quickly. “I’m so sorry, we just- we lost track of time.” She blurted out.

Andrew ran his hand down the back of his neck and avoided eye contact with Will. “Sir.”

Her father sighed and stepped back inside as if forfeiting the fight. Jane and Andrew stared back at each other in a mix of confusion and relief. Andrew held the door open for her as she walked inside. He went straight up to his room without a word to Jane or her father. Jane was close behind him when Will called her back.

“Jane,” he said, stopping her in her tracks. “I want to talk to you.”

She cringed and slowly backed down the stairs, one step at a time. She stood at the bottom and leaned on the railing. “Yes, dad?”

He slowly approached her, every second before he spoke was agony. “I’m concerned...” he began, “About the amount of time you spend with that boy.”

“Daddy, I’m just-”

“You’re just acting like a child.” He cut her off and continued, “You go off with him at sunrise and I don’t see you again until midnight. It needs to stop. All I’m asking is that you stay here where I can see you, help out around the ranch, and stay away from Andrew.”

Jane’s heart sank as she watched her father’s mouth form his name. She started to regret ever coming back. She wanted to run away. She would take Andrew with her and they could start a new life, live on their own without anyone telling them what not to do. Wouldn't it be great? She thought that if only she could escape her father then she and Andrew could be happy.

“Goodnight,” he said firmly as he turned and disappeared.

Jane let her whole body rest against the railing and sighed. “Goodnight Daddy,” she whispered back.
Maiandra  
I love ur writing. this chapter is great! accept dad keeps getting in the way!!!
  39 days ago  •  2,063 views
 
Sapphire Flames  
Yes!! Great next chapter..can't wait to read more as usual! :)
  38 days ago  •  2,334 views
 
Copper711  
Can I please have one little clue about the next chapter... I have one question I need to ask... Will she run away??
  38 days ago  •  2,549 views
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