“Alex Venn, Rakesford Realty, how can I help you?”           

 “Honey, why don’t you ever use your full name? Alex makes you sound like a boy.”            

“Hi mom.” She stifled a groan; her mother only seemed to call when she had the town gossip or another “wonderful guy” to set her up with. She had yet to agree with her mothers taste for her in men and wasn’t in the mood today.           

 “Have I got news for you Alexis! Guess who is rumored to be coming back to our little town next month.” “Mom, I don’t have time for this today. I am ridiculously bu…”“Jackson Taylor!” her mother said before she could finish her sentence. And then, she realized the name that had come out of her mother’s mouth and almost dropped the phone. “Could it be true? Could he really be coming back?” After all these years just the thought of Jackson still made her stomach jump.          

  “…Alexis, hello? You still alive?”Her mom’s voice brought her back to reality.            

 “Oh yeah, sorry. So when is he coming back and why?” She was never a huge fan of gossip but when it came to Jackson, she always had time to listen.          

  “Well, if my sources are correct, he is getting transferred back to Texas to work. In Austin.” Austin was a mere 20 miles up the road, and living in Rakesford was a great way to get out of city living without a terrible commute.“But the biggest thing is he will need a place to live, it’s a perfect way to see him again. You two always had so much fun together.”           

“Mother, need I remind you, I haven’t heard from him in seven years; what makes you think he even remembers me?” He had promised to write, and he had, first it was once a month then once every two months, and after about two years, he just stopped writing. Her last letter to him had met with no response. 

“Well, I am sure he will remember you, but I must head to the salon. Come home for dinner sometime soon we miss you. With Brandon at Rice, we barely see him, I want to at least see the one child still in town.”

“Okay mom.” She didn’t see how it was possible for her mother to miss her, she talked to her at least four times a week; she never got the chance to miss her. She hung up the phone and leaned back in her chair. She let herself drift off in thought, remembering the last time that she saw him 9 years ago. When she closed her eyes she could almost feel the breeze off the lake and hear his deep laughter. Last time they were face to face she had been just a young girl, insecure in her looks and her personality. Now at 24, Alexis had become a beautiful woman. She had grown a couple inches and now stood at 5’6”, although she was rarely without some heel, even in her riding boots. Her brown hair was longer, falling at her mid back, and the time she spent in the sun had given her natural highlights. Her soft waves had turned into soft curls, and she most often wore it loose, with just enough styling to keep in from frizzing in the Texas humidity. Her green eyes still had the sparkle of a young girl, excited by everything they saw, but with a hint of experience and growth. She’d always hated the gym, but stayed in shape from riding and walking by the lake, and loved the fact that she had ‘curves’. So did all the men in town. She tended to capture attention everywhere she went, as she carried herself with poise and confidence that added to her natural beauty. Alexis didn’t know Jackson’s type, but she hoped that the woman she was now might capture his attention.

She wiggled her mouse, as her screen saver had come on while she was enveloped in her thoughts. She had a few new emails and browsed through the subject lines. One caught her eye. “JT countdown, meet at TLR at 3”. It was from her best friend Valerie (or Val as everyone referred to her) Brooks. Alexis knew that meant Val had heard about Jackson coming back into town and wanted to see how she was handling it. She hit reply, and entered “Be there, beer waiting plz” in the subject line and hit send. The girls had stopped writing actual emails years ago; they talked via subject lines and text messages. “TLR” was Valerie’s restaurant, rather her family restaurant, but her father had left it to her when he decided to retire and take her mom to travel the country. Valerie had turned it from a local dive bar to the local hot spot, where by 3pm Friday it was filling with an array of Rakefords best. That included everyone from lawyers and construction workers to nurses and teachers. Valerie always kept fun and attractive staff (both men and women) which meant that flirting was a common occurrence. The girls rarely went to flirt as they were both too busy to really date.

Valerie and Alexis became friends their freshman year in high school when they met at an intramural soccer game. The day of their first practice it was pouring down rain, and the team was about to cancel the first practice. Valerie had been running late and as she ran up to the group, she slipped and slid through a huge mud puddle. She stood up, dripping wet and laughing. The mood switched right away, and the team immediately started playing, slipping and sliding over the soaked and muddy field. At the end of the practice, Alexis came up to Valerie and asked if she wanted to grab dinner with her and a few of the other players. Val agreed and she and Alex spent the entire night learning about each other, by the end of the night it was as if they’d know each other for ages. They spent the next 4 years as best friends, confidants, study buddies and party partners. And the end of High School, they decided to head off to University of Texas together, Alexis heading into Real Estate Law and Valerie into Restaurant Management. They stayed best friends and became roommates.
Through their four years at UT they grew up, but not apart. They both had their share of male adorers but only Alexis fell subject to heartbreak. They often spent weekends at Val’s restaurant – The Long Ride, and during their sophomore year, a new bartender had started working there. Alexis and he immediately hit it off. His name was Tony; he was everything that fit ‘tall, dark and handsome’. Unfortunately it turned out that his temper was just as dark. Their relationship had started like a fairytale. They went riding together, out to dinner, romantic beach trips to south Texas; he spoiled her in every aspect of the word. They saw each other almost every day, and fell deeply in love, or so she thought. After about a year together, Tony became more protective, demanding and needy. He would call 5 or more times a day, and heaven forbid she didn’t answer. When she did get to call him back he was questioning, untrusting and dramatic. She soon realized that the man she thought she was in love with wasn’t there anymore. She ended things, but as it is often hard to do, she never forgot the good times that they had. Since then, she had not opened her heart for fear that her partner would change, much like Tony did. She still dated, and loved the accompaniment of an attractive man, but refused more than a couple dates, never risking getting to close.

        Valerie loved men as much as Alexis, but she had never gotten her heart broken, she refused more than 5 dates with any man, that was enough time to enjoy a few great meals, a good movie, and depending on the guy, a nice gift. Now, Valerie wasn’t greedy, or selfish, but she knew how to date, and enjoyed playing the game. If guys wanted to spoil her, she was happy to receive the perks. It was nothing she ever asked for, it was just what she usually received. The fact of the matter was that if she found a guy that didn’t use any of the ‘expected’ dating tactics, she might stick around for more than a handful of dates.

Alexis glanced at her computer screen. She had received a few emails in the last couple minutes, none that she really wanted to answer. Glancing at the clock, she saw that it was 2:45. She was only 5 minutes walking distance from ‘The Long Ride’, but she figured with everyone in town on Fridays, it would take her 15 minutes to get there.

She clicked off her monitor and decided to call it a day. Unfurling her feet from under her, she slid her feet back into her black Christian Louboutin pumps. Her one weakness was beautiful shoes: Choo, Blahnik, Louboutin, Weitzman, Dior, her closet was filled with designers from all over the world. She planned her outfit around the pair of shoes she was craving that morning. Valerie always teased her that if it weren’t for her shoe collection, she would have no vices. Alex didn’t drink too much, had only ever tried a cigarette once (it made her choke) and didn’t gamble.

She finished tidying up her desk and walked out of her office.  It was a beautiful spring day, and she couldn’t wait to see who was out and about.

“Hey Sarah, send the rest of my calls to my cell please? I’m heading to ‘The Long Ride’. You’re welcome to head out too.” Alexis called to her personal assistant as she walked out the front door and into the sun. She had just hired Sarah last week, and hadn’t had much of a chance to get to know her yet. Normally, she would have invited her along to get to know her better, but she didn’t really want anyone else to hear the Jackson discussion. She shaded her eyes as she opened her purse to hunt down her sunglasses. Of course they had fallen to the bottom of her bag…whatever she needed at that moment always seemed to. She located her favorite silver ray-ban aviators. They reminder her of ‘Top Gun’, one of her favorite movies. Plus, they were great for sun protection.

“Hey Alex! What’s up chica?!”

Alexis turned to see Becky, the local coffee shop owner, walking towards her. Becky was in her late 20’s and always looked like she rolled out of bed and headed to work Today, her red hair was in a knot at the top of her head, she was wearing a flowing flowery skirt in shades of pink, red and orange, a white tank, and cowboy boots. She had completed the look with a long turquoise beaded necklaces.  She rarely wore make-up, and today was no different. Despite her disheveled look, everyone loved her. She was fun, creative and just a little kooky.

“Hey Becky. How are you? How’s business”, Alex asked?

“It’s going great, although I wish I could figure out a way to keep it packed during the day. The morning and the evening, we can barely brew fast enough. But between about 11am and 4 pm…it’s pretty dull. WE have a few people that come in to grab a pick-me-up during lunch, but other than that…” she trailed off, lost in a thought…”Oh, um anyway..how are you”?

Alexis giggled, she couldn’t help it when she listened to her friend change subjects so easily, “I’m doing wonderfully. Business is good, people love buying homes in the spring. So, I can’t really complain. Plus, I just hired a personal assistant that is really making my life easier”.

“Make sure to bring her by and introduce her to our fabulous coffee!” And with that, Becky turned and headed off. Alexis could hear her humming under her breath to her own melody. Becky never stayed and chatted long. It always seemed that she was heading somewhere, but had no idea where.

Alexis continued walking towards ‘The Long Ride’, wondering who else was out and about this afternoon. As she fell back into her stride, her thoughts came back to Jackson. Wondering where he was this very moment, if he still looked as good, and if he even remebered her. Realistically, she knew that he probably did, but also knew that he probably still thought she was 15.

She could still remember every word of the letters that she had written to him while he was gone. They were all full of hidden messages, which he obviously never got. She would tell him that things were busy, but that she always had time to dream and think about the future. What she meant was that things were busy but that she was always dreaming about him and the future when he would come back to Texas. She talked about riding her horse out to the lake, hoping he would remember riding with her so long ago and think of returning. She thought about every word that she chose carefully, trying to sound as mature as possible. She hoped that as he read her words, he would see her maturing as a woman, rather than the ‘friend’ he left behind. All she knew was it had been a long time since they’d written, let alone seen each other. Her heart half hoped that his good looks and charm had been lost in California. If that were the case, it would be easier to forget her old feelings when he returned. The other part of her hoped that he remembered every bit about her and had been looking forward to coming back to Texas. But she knew that neither was bound to be true.

She was jolted out of her thoughts as he foot caught on the sidewalk. She stumbled, but was able to maintain her balance. She looked at the gound and caught sight of nothing that should have tripped her up. Although, it didn’t take much for her to miss-step, as she was fairly accident prone. She shrugged it off as her normal clumsiness. And, for the first time since she had left her office, she actually looked around. She loved her little town. It really was a sterotypical Texas town, with tree-lined streets, colorful storefronts and more colorful people. But, there were things about the town that made it all their own.

Off to the North-East was their town park. The first weekend of December was set aside for the town holiday celebration. All the trees would be covered in white lights, with the large pine in the town park glittering with multi colored lights and a Texas star. On the Friday night, Santa came through on horseback and lit their town Christmas tree. Everyone came into town that night to wander through the stores and catch up with everyone. The stores always had hot apple cider, cookies, and treats for the town to enjoy. It was one weekend that everything just seemed to stop. Fighting among neighbors, homework for the kids, and stress from work disappeared.

Once the night had fallen, the kids headed home and the rest of the town was ready to party. The stores closed, and so did the street. All of the ‘adults’ stayed out and mingled. ‘The Long Ride’ pulled out tables and chairs, and created a bar in the streets. It was a great night, full of dancing, drinking and music.

To the South of Rakesford was their lake, which she still rode to almost every weekend. Around the lake were beautiful trees, flowers, and the perfect areas for picnicking. During the summer, the lake was filled with the sounds of splashing kids; groups of teens enjoying being away from the schools and families, trying to capture every bit of time they could. During the fall and winter, it was much less occupied. There were still the couples enjoying a Sunday date, and the other horse riders like her. But no matter the season, the lake held a beauty rivaled by nothing.

When she went riding to the lake, she felt like nothing could touch her. She was free to day dream about anything she wanted. Years ago, she would ride, imagining herself in Jackson’s strong arms. Sitting at the bank of the lake she would imagine herself traveling the country not stuck in a small town. As she grew older, she began to fall more in love with the town and began to think less of traveling and more of finding someone that she could enjoy the lake with. When she found Tony, she thought she had found that man. They would ride to the lake together and be one of those cute couples, picnicking, kissing and cuddling on a blanket. She cherished their moments around the lake together, but when it ended, she lost her love for him, but never for the lake. It had always been her rejuvenation when days were tough or emotions were high. No man would ever ruin the lake for her.

Her thoughts stopped as she arrived at “The Long Ride”. The bar could always make her smile. The front looked like it was ripped right out of an old western, complete with swinging bar doors out front. There were horse tie up’s out front, which there were usually at least a couple waiting for their owners to come claim them again. Inside, the tables were already packed with the people who, like her, had decided that 3pm was a perfect time to stop working for the day. All the tables and chairs were real wood, worn from the years of use. It was a place for meeting, drinking and forgetting about the day. The walls were covered in pictures from when Rakesford was just a wide open range, full of wild horses, and wilder cowboys. The only thing that looked ‘modern day’ was the full bar, always packed with the most attractive bartenders, both male and female.

She lifted her shades and saw Valerie waving at her from a corner of the bar. The waving was really unnecessary. Valerie was hard to miss, as she attracted attention everywhere she was. Standing at only 5’2”, most would assume it was easy for her to get lost in the crowd. But her stunning looks made sure that wasn’t possible. Valerie was a petite blue-eyed blonde that looked like she just walked off the beach in Hawaii, but with the attitude of a true Texan. Her straight blonde hair was shoulder length and flattered her face shape perfectly. And, unlike Alex, Val worked out every day; she always said it was the best place to meet guys, and she always did.

Alexis weaved her way through the tables, smiling and waving at the some of the others that she knew. Looking around, she couldn’t help but smile. Everyone seemed so relaxed when they were here; laughs were louder, smiles more honest and stories more interesting.

Despite the chairs being wood, they were undeniably comforting after a long day. She could feel the stress melting away as she sat down at the table. She took off her blazer and hung it over the back of the chair. Once the bar got packed, it tended to get a little warm

“Hey Val, where’s my beer”, Alex asked as she got settled? Normally, she wouldn’t be drinking, as she never liked to feel like she was out of control. She had such a low tolerance, that even one beer could impair her judgment. But, she figured that if they were going to be dredging up old stories and trying to figure out what to do when Jackson came back into town, a drink was in order.

“Don’t worry, hun, I already ordered it”. Just as Val finished her sentence, their server sidled up next to them and placed a frosty mug in front of Alex. “See, I told you!”

“Thanks Val and thanks,” she paused to read the girls nametag, “Jessie”. She was a stereotypical female ‘Long Ride’ bartender. Pretty, petite, bubbly and attention grabbing. The male bartenders weren’t much different. They were all attractive, muscular and could hold attention for hours. When Valerie had taken over the management of the bar, that was one of the first things she focused on, she wanted to make sure that the men and women that visited the bar had equal amounts of eye candy in the servers. People love going to drink; they love to drink even more when sexy bartenders are serving.

The first sip helped calm her stress levels instantly. It was bound to be a long night. “Ok, so what’s new with you”, Alex asked Val, hoping to avoid the J word for as long as possible. She knew they would have to talk about him, and that the conversation was bound to be intense, but it didn’t need to start yet.

Valerie giggled, “Avoiding something are we? Ok, well I guess I can give you a break for a bit. Everything’s doing well. As you can see, the bar is packed and you know as well as I do, that it’s like this almost every night”, she glanced around the bar to prove her point. “I just went on another date with that guy Matthew, that I met the other week at the grocery store” She paused to see if Alex remembered hearing about him.

Alex nodded, “yeah, I remember you telling me about him. I thought he was kind of boring though?”

“Oh he is! But he has great taste and took me out into Austin to that great new steak house that just opened. I really wanted to go, so I said yes, but I won’t be going again”, Valerie smiled. She knew it drove Alex crazy that she would go out for dinner with someone she wasn’t interested in, just because the place sounded good. At the end of the day, Valerie didn’t feel like she was using the guys, she felt like she just giving them what they wanted. If they were willing to pay for great dinners, she didn’t mind being the object of affection.

“Oh Val, you crack me up. Does he know that you only agreed because of the restaurant?” Alex laughed, sometimes she wished she could be as carefree with men as Valerie was, but she’d never tell her that.

“Of course not, Alex! I would never crush his ego like that. I want him to think I went for him. I’ll just make up some excuse for why I can’t date him again. Just because I go for the food, not the guy, doesn’t mean that I am not a fun, entertaining and sweet date”.

“Ok, ok, fair enough Val. I just was checking. I would hate for these guys to leave with hurt feelings and an emptier wallet”. She finished laughing just as their server Jessie walked back over with a couple of shots in hand.

“Sorry to interrupt girls, but these are from the guys up at the bar. I guess they thought you were to intent on your conversation and needed a drink. Either that, or they were just hoping to get your attention”. At that, all three girls laughed. The bartenders knew as much as the girls did about getting hit on. It was a common occurrence at ‘The Long Ride’.

“Thanks Jessie, I guess we better tell them thanks too.” Valerie waved at the guys and mouthed ‘Thanks’. She turned back to Alex, “Bottoms up!” They both took the shots and it sent shivers down Alex’ spine.

“Ugh, tequila! This stuff is brutal.” She made a face at Valerie, “it’s your fault, if it had just been me, I would have sent the shots back!”

“Yeah, Alex, I know. Which is why I made you drink it. The only way I’m going to get you to be honest about the whole Jackson situation is if you get your tongue a little loosened.”

“Fine, whatever, I guess you’re right.”Alex could feel the heat of the tequila rising up, she was already feeling more relaxed.

“Ok, so we have two options: one, you can keep avoiding the topic and I will tell you more about the boring details you already know of my life. Or two, we can get this Jackson talk underway.” Valerie smiled, knowing that if she just called Alex out, she might get somewhere.

“Whatever Val, I guess we can start”, Alex lightly shoved her friend and laughed. “Ok, so all I really know is that he is coming back in town in the beginning of April, so a couple weeks?” She paused to count, “Yeah, like 10 days.”

“Ok, well then we have 10 days to brainstorm how to make sure that you are at the front of his attention when he does get back. You know that the minute he sees you, he’s going to want you. How can he resist?” Valerie raised her eyebrow and grinned, her signature ‘trouble’ smile.

“Yeah, right. More than likely he won’t even recognize me. Even if he does, the last time we talked was 7 years ago, we probably have nothing in common now!” Alex hoped this wasn’t true, as she could still remember everything about him. She could remember how he looked when he rode his horse, how his eyes lit up when he smiled and the deep drawl of his voice.

“Ok, Alex, I know that you don’t think he’ll remember you, but I guarantee that he will. Who could ever forget you?” Valerie smiled, and stood up from the table. “I’m getting you another drink. If you’re going to be getting depressed about the whole thing, you might as well get drunk at the same time.

6 hours later, the girls were laughing hysterically, 4 empty beer glasses and a couple empty shot glasses in front of each of them.

Alexis laughed. “I guess we should probably get out of here. I can’t believe we’ve been talking for so long!”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Valerie looked around the bar. It was only about 11pm, so the bar was still packed, “I can’t believe we drank so much!”

They both stood up from their table and hooked arms. They were swaying and giggling the whole way to the street. Alexis waved goodbye to Valerie, hopped into a cab waiting outside and headed home. It was time for sleep.

 

 

 

 

9 Responses to “Chapter 1”

  1. Mom Says:

    love you

  2. Sheldon Says:

    I am impressed. You have a very engaging writing style. I look forward to your additional pages and your eventual finished product.
    Love,
    Dad

  3. Muffy Says:

    I can’t wait for more chapters. It is great that you are finally getting all of this together since you have had this idea for a long time. You’re awesome, keep writing!

    Miss you.

  4. Jen Says:

    It’s coming together great. Looking forward to more :o}

  5. Adriana Says:

    haha your parents comments are so funny – your dad is so formal! Lookin good missy, I like the direction you took it after the prologue. A couple things – you never talk about what Alex looks like. How about adding something? I imagine that she’s now “grown into” her natural beauty and is the talk of all the males in the town – that she’s the “unattainable” one. Is this right? Describe her!

  6. Adriana Says:

    ps – it’s funny you chose the last name venn – that’s the name of the street my parents live on!


  7. […] what Alex looked like now, or what valerie looked like. So, I added to the actual chapter (click here to read the entire chapter with the new additions) and am putting the description of the girls here too. […]

  8. Valerie Says:

    Kirsten,

    I love it so far. I am sorry it has taken me so long to set aside time to read this. I have almost completed chapter one. Hopefully I will finish all of it and chapter 2 in the very near future. I’m so proud of you for all your accomplishing and love the characters…Valerie…who could have thought of a better name ; ) Miss you!

    ~Valerie

  9. Valerie Says:

    She was jolted out of her thoughts as he foot caught on the sidewalk. She stumbled, but was able to maintain her balance. She looked at the gound and caught sight of nothing that should have tripped her up.

    Hope you can find this paragraph in chapter one on her way to the restaurant. Found a couple of typos. her foot and ground 🙂 sorry just noticed thought you would like to know

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