Like Father ...
Assumptions for this story, include:
1) Heath arrived on the Barkley Ranch a little more than three years ago; in fact, he arrived just before the Spring Cattle Drives were to begin,
2) Jarrod (30 yrs), Nick (26 yrs), Heath (23 yrs) and Audra (21 yrs) live with Victoria,
3) As is the case in all of my stories, Eugene does not exist, and
4) This story is dedicated to Norma Jean Taylor (HS English).
XXXXX Chapter Fourteen XXXXX
As the Train began to ease out of Davis’ Station, Heath boarded looking ragged and terribly worn. They settled into the private area Jarrod had reserved, but Heath was in no mood for talking. Knowing his brother’s silences as well as he did, Jarrod relaxed back and was more than willing to give him all the time he needed.
As he watched, Heath closed his eyes, but he didn’t appear to be sleeping. Jarrod took advantage of the quiet to review his own thoughts and feeling. In many ways, it felt as if the answers to so many questions he had held back for months, regarding Heath’s land purchases and actions, had finally been answered in Davis.
At first, immediately after his injuries in Roseville Junction, Heath’s recovery had occurred at an astounding rate. But, after Molly’s murder, his younger brother had lost weight, stopped sleeping and generally seemed stuck in a terribly dark place.
There was no doubt, Heath continued to more than carry his weight around the ranch, and remained closely partnered with Nick on its day to day operations, but he no longer appeared to find any satisfaction in work he previously loved.
Nick and Jarrod had discussed their worries with each other, Victoria and the rest of their family, but they all decided Heath simply needed time to recover. At least, they all hoped time would help him to heal from the mental, physical and emotional assaults he had suffered during the previous year.
Obviously, their entire family remained worried about him, especially Victoria. But, they had noticed Heath’s work on the Davis project, along with the newly acquired Sutter’s Landing parcel, had slowly evolved into being the only things in his world that sustained him. So, they were doing everything they could to offer him assistance in making the projects a success.
As the months passes, they reminded each other that every human being handled grief in their own way, while agreeing Heath’s grief had a twist attached to it they weren’t been able to decipher. Now, with Jarrod’s knowledge of the broader history behind Heath’s projects, he finally understood the driving force behind his brother’s unrelenting desire to complete them.
“You asleep, Jarrod?”
“I suppose I did drift off, Brother Heath.”
“Sorry to bother you, but I wanted to go over a few things.”
“Thank you for helping me with ... Everything.”
“There’s nothing to thank me for Heath. We’re family.”
“Well, after having to speak to that ... That animal back there.”
Heath took a moment to calm himself.
“Jarrod, I hope my actions since Molly’s murder make a modicum of sense to you.”
“They do ... They definitely do.”
“To tell you the truth, I’ve felt whipped, utterly beat down, for such a long time. I’ve been attributing it to a combination of losing Molly and my injuries working on me but, more importantly, my hatred of that ... Of him ... The horror of Molly’s childhood has been like an anchor I’ve felt weighing down my soul.
“Many a night, I’ve stayed awake planning his demise. But, in the end, I decided he wasn’t worth lowering myself to that level ... To cold-blooded murder.”
“I’m glad, Heath.”
“Back when I was trying to decide what to do, how to make certain that Molly’s life ... You know, Jarrod,” Heath took a moment to force his mind to organize what he wanted to share, “Molly and I had a ton in common. It’s difficult to explain exactly how much.”
Heath dropped his head and had to regroup. Jarrod’s eyes remained steadfastly on his brother as he willed his strength across the void between them.
“I’m certain you’ve had the same sick feeling in your gut that most people get when seeing an animal who has been mistreated. Even noticing when a friendly dog pulls back as you reach to touch it sends an uncomfortable wave of concern into most human hearts.”
Jarrod nodded his agreement.
“Well, one of the things Molly and I had in common was our ‘dog that has been beat too much’ reflex reactions ... It was pounded into us by our childhood experiences. Most folks meeting someone like me aren’t able to see the scars down deep inside, but there is a tendency for me to recognize those same scars in other people.
“Molly saw my past in me, and I sensed her past’s effect on her, which meant we didn’t have to explain certain things about ourselves to each other. Additionally, I think people like us have a tendency to expend a ton of energy trying to hide our scars from the world around us. With Molly, I had nothing to hide, plus I didn’t have to worry that she would define me by those scars ... Just as I didn’t define Molly by what had happened to her.
“But, when Molly was murdered ... One of the things I decided to do was to find a way to help prevent those scars from happening to other people in the first place. I’m not saying the unwed mothers that might show up on the doorstep of Molly’s House won’t be unscathed by their situations ... I’m saying, maybe their wounds don’t have to run so deep.
“Same with their kids. They’ll still be illegitimate but, maybe, with a safe, healthy and gentler start in this world ... Well, maybe; that’s all.
“I’m not certain this is making any sense, Jarrod? I just need to try and make a difference ... For Molly and, in truth, for myself.”
“I think what you are trying to do, both in Davis and at Sutter’s Landing, are highly respectful memorials to Molly. Of course, until today, I hadn’t a clue as to the vast motives behind your actions.”
“I can never thank you, or our family, for sticking by me since Molly’s death. I know I appeared rather insane when I started these projects. But, it was the only way I could figure ... The only path I found that felt right.
“Jarrod, I’m tired of being defined by my past; I’m ready to move on and take advantage of whatever years on this earth I’m Blessed to live. But, I also want these projects, these positive things, to someday be how people remember Molly.
“As for my memories of Molly, I don’t think I’ll ever stop being amazed by how brave she was ... She ran away from that monster at twelve, lived as best she could and risked everything to save my butt the night Molly got me to the Train Station. Then, until her very last moment ... She fought ...”
Jarrod reached across and patted Heath’s shoulder. He watched as his brother regained control of his breathing, then he rested back.
“I’ve been thinking about Molly, too. I had no idea ...”
“Not many people in this world did ... Molly saw to that.”
“You’re right, Heath ... She was an incredibly brave woman.”
Heath nodded, then offered Jarrod an unexpected smile.
“We need to change the subject and there is another thing I’ve been wanting to discuss with you.”
“Another brave woman.”
Jarrod shrugged his shoulders.
“What about Kate?”
“Your feelings for her.”
“Oh, com'on, Jarrod! For crying out loud, you two are wasting time ... It drives me crazy to witness it.”
“Wasting what time?”
“The time you should be spending together.”
“Face it, Jarrod ... The two of you are cut from the same cloth. Actually, I think Kate is a ton smarter than you, which amazes me since you are about the smartest human being I’ve ever met.”
“Thank you, I suppose.”
“But, Jarrod ... You can be incredible dumb, too.”
“I’m not certain how to take that Heath?”
“Take it any way you please, Jarrod. But, for Heaven sake, think about what I’ve said before writing off this conversation.”
“It would help if I understood what you are saying.”
“You and Kate ... Your letting all this ‘what’s proper’ and ‘what’s not proper’ stuff get in your way.”
“Pretty significant ‘stuff,’ Brother Heath. She’s my nephew’s mother, he is Nick’s illegitimate son, and they have a ton of history. Plus, neither Kate or I are exactly young anymore, and we both have histories ... Then, there’s logistics on top of everything else.”
“Your past, her past ... Why are you allowing that crap to ruin your chance at a future together? Hell, Jarrod, life is too short!”
Jarrod quieted to contemplate what Heath was sharing.
“Plus, logistics my a__ ... It’s ninety-five miles from Sacramento to San Francisco, but that hasn’t stopped you from working in San Francisco all these years. Right?”
“Well, it is only one hundred miles from Sacramento to Tahoe City ... Five misally miles difference and you make it seem like Kate is living on the other side of the planet.”
“Where’s Stockton in your equations, Heath?”
“That’s what our family would need to work out together. But, realistically ... Were you planning to commute home to Stockton your entire life?
“Didn’t it ever occur to you that you might meet someone, maybe in San Francisco? Then, on account of your new life with her, Stockton would no longer be your home base.”
Jarrod smiled, admitting, “Yes, Brother Heath, those thoughts have occurred to me.”
“Well then, give our family some credit. We’ve faced down a ton of ‘stuff’ in the past and we are more than capable of doing it again.”
Jarrod stared at his brother and, for once in his life, had absolutely nothing to say. His mind was flooded with thoughts of Kate. He saw images of her as a woman; as an incredibly beautiful, kind, intelligent and wonderful woman, who had found a way to survive a life he couldn’t even imagine.
“You know Jarrod, Molly said something to me once and, when I think of you and Kate, it always runs across my mind.”
“A scolding she gave me about life being too short and fate terribly ‘fickle.’ The fact we shouldn’t let our chances for happiness pass us by.
“Jarrod, let me ask you this ... Do you plan on spending the tomorrows you have left on this planet alone?”
Jarrod smiled and leaned back in his seat to give his brother a teasing glare.
“Pretty highfaluting wisdom from a ‘dumb bastard!’”
Heath laughed, and laughed hard, for the first time in far too long. Jarrod relaxed and laughed with him while thinking about what his brother had shared. In fact, he continued to think about it long after they arrived back at his apartment in Sacramento.
It only took two days to finish everything they needed to accomplish during Heath’s stay with Jarrod in Sacramento. They filed paperwork, met with advisors and were able to check numerous ‘to dos’ off their various lists regarding both of Heath’s projects.
This morning, Heath received another telegram from Nick scolding him for staying away too long while the ranch was ‘swamped.’ The brothers laughed while agreeing they could both hear Nick’s booming voice jump off the telegram’s page. As always, Heath took Nick’s bluster in stride while Jarrod, once again, decided it was a good thing their youngest brother was better at handling Nick’s rants than he ever had been.
When they arrived at the Station, Jarrod volunteered to check their bags while Heath stopped in to purchase reading materials for their ride to Stockton. Arriving back at the Platform, he was surprised that his older brother hadn’t already boarded the waiting Train.
“This is good-bye for now, Heath.”
Heath accepted the hand his brother extended and didn’t resist being pulled into Jarrod’s embrace.
“Yes, I have another Train to catch. Of course, I feel awful leaving you to deal with Nick by yourself.”
“I’m sure you do, Jarrod.”
Heath laughed along with his
“It won’t be easy without you, but I’ll do my best to handle him for both of us.”
“I know you will.”
“What should I tell Mother regarding your sudden change of plans?”
“Tell her ...”
Jarrod started to chuckle as the Conductor shouted out and Heath needed to quickly board his Train.
“Tell everyone ... 'Life is too short!'”
Heath nodded, gave his brother another brief embrace, then ran to jump on the Train as it began to move out of the Station. Jarrod watched as the Train moved away, but then hurried across the Station to an Eastbound Track.
Jarrod’s heart was nearly bounding out of his chest as he boarded his Train; it had been far too long since he felt this alive. If all went well, by late this evening, he would be in Tahoe City.
Despite having no idea where his life might lead when he arrived at his destination, Jarrod had no reservations. He felt confident in his feelings for Kate and of her feelings for him in return. And, if Kate accepted his proposal, he prayed they would become a strong and unbreakable team while allowing their love to guide them along the way.
After all, the fact life was too short not to take this chance had been expertly pointed out to him. And, Jarrod was eager to risk everything, absolutely everything, in order to reach out to Kate.
Of course, Jarrod was
anything but naive ... He knew theirs was going to be a rather unusual path through life together.
And, as he neared Tahoe City, he couldn’t help but think, ‘What an incredible journey this is going to be!’
XXXXX End Chapter Fourteen -- End Like Father XXXXX
Thank you for reading this Chapter and this Story.
Please forgive typos and/or Barkley errors.