Outside, I take the path to my car where the nippy air cools my hot face. I shouldn’t have blurted like that. She’ll hate me if I don’t explain it properly. I rummage around the interior for my suitcase, purse, and then, the hatbox. She’ll understand, she will. I just need to explain it properly, like she suggested, from the beginning.
I’m struggling back up the path toward the house ladened like a packhorse when, whom I assume is Darby, comes around the house, startling me. In a flash, the hat box falls to the ground and everything spills out.
“Whoa, sorry about that.” Both of us bend to retrieve the contents of the box before the wind scatters the dozen or so photos, cards, and…
“My diary!” I exclaim, amazed, picking it up, then stand.
“Hi, I’m Paige,” I say, almost absentmindedly, leaving Darby to put everything back in the box on his own because I’m so transfixed on the diary, running my hand over the still glittery cover. It only takes Darby a moment to finish the task before he too is standing, box in hand and staring at me while I flick quickly through the contents of my book.
“And I’m Darby,” he introduces.
“Ha! I thought I lost this years ago,” I chuff, meeting his gaze, his dark brown eyes smiling at me with a mixture of amusement and warmth.
Sheree wasn’t kidding when she said Darby was gorgeous. He appears to be a mixture of what I think is Native American and Mexican. His long black hair is tied, and his wide mouth breaks into an even bigger smile when I crane my head around him to see how long the ponytail is that trails down his back.
“Whoa that’s long,” I state the obvious, making Darby chuckle.
“My pride and joy. After Sheree that is.” He smiles. “Got anything else to bring in?”
“Nope, that’s it,” I say, moving forward to take the box from him, but he shakes his head.
“I’ve got it, you grab the rest of your things. Sorry to hear about your mother.”
“Thanks. Sorry to barge in on you guys like this. I hope you don’t mind me staying. You’ve got an amazing place. I can see why Sheree is so happy.”
“You bet. It’s my real pride and joy. After Sheree of course,” he repeats his joke again. “My Grandfather worked here years ago,” he tells me as we walk the length of the veranda. “I came to visit often. Loved it so much, I swore one day to own this special place.”
“Wow, and here you are.”
“Yes. There are still some things to improve. Sheree’s helpful where she can be. Right now, see over there?” he points to a steel frame some six hundred metres to the left of the stables that looks massive. “That will be our new arena. I plan on breeding soon,” Darby smiles proudly.
“Oh, and does Sheree know she’s soon to be a mare,” I giggle.
“Ha, funny, I mean horses.”
“Figured that. Well, I’m sure Sheree will be in heaven. Growing up, all she ever wanted was horses.”
Darby holds the door open for me then leads me down the hall to the guest room where I will be sleeping.
“My God, what a view.” Dropping my belongings on the bed, I marvel out the large bay window that overlooks the yards and valley of pine trees.
“Oh good. Thanks for helping Paige, D.” Sheree startles us coming into the room. “Think you’ll be okay in here?” Sheree asks.
“Are you kidding? It’s gorgeous,” I reply, looking around the room appreciatively.
“Just turn off the oil heater off if you get too hot,” Sheree suggests, checking the dial of the heater to one side of the queens-size bed, covered in what looks to be an heirloom patchwork quilt. I brush my hand over it, taking in the rest of the space. A large pine wardrobe sits to one side of the room, and two chairs face the bay window with the view. Heavy sage green drapes have been tied back with rope, giving the room a rustic look.
Kissing Sheree, Darby excuses himself to go get cleaned up.
“He’s nice, Sheree.”
She smiles then catches sight of the pile of things on the bed.
“What’s this?” she asks, taking a seat on the bed and touching the hat box. I join her on the bed then pull then box onto my lap.
“Some of my mom’s stuff I wanted to go through, but I wanted to return this to you.” Peeling back the lid, I pull out the Bronco jersey.
“Hey! It’s my jersey. My dad said he threw it out by mistake. Where’d you get it?” she says, excited and holding it out in front of herself. “Gosh look how small it is. Do you remember I used to wear this everywhere? How uncool,” she giggles, burying her nose into the fabric.
“No, you were cool, believe me.”
“How come you have it?”
For a moment, I think about lying, telling her my mom must have found it somewhere, but I’m so tired of the lies, and I’m not about to tell new ones.
“You remember earlier when you said I was acting weird around the time your Dad left?”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean weird, you just went all quiet. You remember, you got your nose out of joint because of Lisbeth and me hanging out, but she was Dan’s buddy’s girlfriend, you know, and we sort of clicked?” Sheree glances in at the contents of the box, curious. “Oh wow! Is that your diary? I still have mine too,” she reaches in to take it out, but I stop her, shoving the box quickly off my lap and to the right and out of her reach. “How—crazy—we both still have them,” she intones, frowning at my reluctance to let her look at it.
“Sheree, it wasn’t because of Lisbeth I went all weird, and the reason I have your jersey is because… Do you remember the day I wanted to stay behind at the bike park because Peter Moriarty was finally paying attention to me?” I twist myself to face her better, and when she nods, confirming she remembers the day, I go on to tell her about the incident.
“Please tell me they didn’t do something horrid to you,” she begs, looking distraught when I’m done.
“No. But I’m pretty sure they would have if your dad hadn’t turned up.”
“My Dad? What was my dad doing at the park?”
“I don’t know. I thought you might have told him I was still there?” I widen my eyes.
“I don’t remember, but maybe? He liked keeping an eye on you.” There’s a slight bitterness in her tone, making me painfully aware how difficult this conversation will be.
I nod in agreement. “Well, anyway, he stopped them. He gave Peter a warning. My shirt was all ripped, and he told me to put your jersey on, so I did. I was going to give it back, I promise.”
Sheree screws up her face and shakes her head, “Gosh, who gives a crap about the stupid sweatshirt. Why haven’t you ever told me this?”
“I didn’t feel like I could. Argh, there’s so much you don’t know. I’ve made a mess out of everything, Sheree, my whole life is a lie.”
“Your whole life? That’s a tad melodramatic isn’t it?”
“Maybe.” I look around the cozy room, and suddenly I feel overwhelmingly tired. “Would you mind if I took a couple of Tylenols and laid down for a while?” I ask, needing to collect my thoughts.
“Not at all,” she pats my leg and rises. “I need to get meals ready for the men anyway, maybe we’ll talk later.”
When I look confused, she offers more. Telling me about the stable hands who live on site, then leaves me to get started on their meals.
When she closes the door, I shift my belongings off the bed, kick off my boots, and unzip my jeans to make myself more comfortable. Thinking how strange it was that as soon as the doctor mentioned I was pregnant I felt my stomach bloat. It worries me now that the other clothes I’d bought will also be too tight.
Opening the hatbox, I grab the book with a unicorn embossed on the front, then prop up against the pillows, stretching my legs out in front of me.
Taking a deep breath, I open my diary.
Today is my 11th birthday, and dad gave me this book. He got me a cake as well. He has gone to work again so he will be away for ten days. My Mom didn’t get me anything, as usual. My best friend is Sheree, and she lives two blocks away on Sycamore Cres. I live on Redcliff street. I’m in middle school. I don’t have any pets, but sometimes I play with the neighbor’s cat when it comes looking for food. I’ll write more tomorrow. Good night.
I re-read the first entry over and over, uncertain I want to go on because there is a nauseating feeling brewing. I lay the book downs and rest my eyes. Thinking about my mother and the photo I…
Copyright © 2018 – 2020 Ariana Keddie – All Rights Reserved.