Fallon’s luminous brown eyes beheld the shocked state of Jackon Hiller, not that she didn’t blame him. Normal people tended to have that reaction when it came to the news of their beloved having an estranged family, more than that, one that showed up on their doorstep.
“What? Alright..” Jackson’s eyes grew as round as dinner plates, his tone had lost the gentle quality and in its place was a confused growl.
“This is an abrupt visit, I know, but we suffered a loss, too, twice over it would seem.” She pulled out a worn picture of herself and Celia laughing with their arms around one another. Both looked so carefree, simple times, Fallon thought. Eventually, she relinquished her grip on it and pushed it across the table.
Jackson took up the photo and felt his eyes sting with the threat of tears, that was Celia in her younger years, years she never really spoke about except for in passing and there was Fallon, no mistaking that. Except she hadn’t even cracked a smile in his presence, nor did she have any semblance of that light in her gaze. “You’ll have to excuse me, but I… I’ve never heard about you before and I’m confused. How the hell did you find me?” His brows lifted and he did look utterly confused.
Fallon took a sip of the coffee, which to her surprise was rather delightful and strong. “No, I don’t doubt it. I… “ She paused and lowered the mug, her fingers splaying flat on the table as if she braced for what she said next. “Celia reached out to us once, when she first arrived here and she let us know she was alive and well, but it was your brother that reached out to us to let us know.” Silence filled the air, except for the sound up rustling clothes and a chair sliding back.
As Jackson pushed away from the chair Fallon followed his movements, watched as a frantic form of betrayal washed over his face. He didn’t hide his emotions very well, but he also didn’t seem to be ready to spew them in her direction either, well that was a bonus, at least.
“Matt? Matt called you? Matt knew about you?” Incredulous blue eyes began to blindly dart around the room, his hand wiped across his mouth. A thousand thoughts crossed his face but nothing passed over his lips, he just stood there with his hands on his hips and color flushing into his gold skin.
How could she explain that one without wounding him? Matt Hiller was the one who stumbled on Celia when she was a mess of tears, a postcard in her grasp as she pointed to Big Timber, a place she had always wanted to visit but never had the means or a reason why. Fallon nodded her head. “He did, on both accounts, but Jackson – “
“No. You come here months after she is laid to rest, not a phone call to me, not a letter, nothing to extend any sort of sympathy. I would have done that for you, but I had no idea you existed.” He didn’t need to raise his voice, it was a scathing low tone that allowed no room for argument. His face was full of color which leaked into his hairline, stained his ears and made his eyes seem all the bluer.
“Enjoy the coffee, Fallon, I have work to do.” Without another word, he walked out the door.
Jackson yanked his gloves from his back pocket and yanked them on roughly, to his credit he didn’t shout but he did storm across his property as if hellhounds were nipping at his heels. Well, perhaps one of them was at his heel, as the distinct sound of the storm door slammed against the house.
Fallon didn’t waste any time jumping to her feet and following Jackson out the door. She stumbled on the rocky drive and jogged up behind him. “Wait, can you just wait a minute? This isn’t easy for me either. I… we missed everything.” She rasped out.
“You did, but you didn’t have to, you could’ve come out here.” Jackson waved his hand and didn’t bother to pin her again with a glare.
“No, we didn’t, because Matt didn’t call us until after her funeral, we thought he might tell you.” Fallon quieted because he hadn’t phoned them until after, Fallon half wondered why he had even bothered to call at all. The entire ordeal was complex and heartbreaking on both sides, she could see that but Jackson didn’t know the other side of the story, didn’t know the grief on the Monroe side, she could, however, understand his grief, anger, and confusion.
A bitter laugh escaped Jackson and this time he looked at Fallon with those cool blue eyes. “No, he didn’t.” His attention was soon on the barn in the distance, it wasn’t the one he was in before this one was longer and a natural wood rather than painted red. His steps were heavy, set with a purpose and likely anger, too, and soon two large doors were pushed aside and in the barn were several corrals full of cows.
The aroma was one he was used to, but for those who were not it was a pungent one, sour and enough to make a weak stomach quiver in dismay. He could hear the distant sound of voices, there were a few other hands already in the barn on the opposite end, the urge to shoo Fallon away grew stronger and yet she was Celia’s sister.
Fallon miserably followed after, her shoes were not intended for traversing grass let alone traipse over an acre of rocky land to get to another barn, but when she moved into the barn behind him she let out a small gasp. A small smile lit up her face and she peered into a corral that held a fawn cow. “How adorable. Are these those miniature cows?” She crept forward toward the enclosure.
“What?” Jackson’s voice sounded confused and a little harsh from his temper still, he spun on his heel and regarded the pen that Fallon was pointing at. His blond brows furrowed and twitched before he snorted. “A miniature cow? That miniature cow is a three-month-old heifer and she will be just as big as her Ma.” He thumbed the cow munching away greedily at the hay.
She blinked, bit her lip and felt quite foolish for the mistake but she cast it aside and looked at the grown cow in the corner. The same fawn coloring with dark smudges around her muzzle, she looked quite pleasant and the calf which she had mistaken for a miniature ambled up to tentatively greet her.
“I don’t keep Jersey’s but Celia saw one at auction and had to have her. She said it spoke to her soul. Ma here was pregnant, right after Celia passed the calf was born. Of course, none of it was easy, Ma needed assistance, then Ma got sick and I forked out a good sum of money for that cow and her calf. I did what I did because of who that cow belonged to.” He leaned on the fence panel, his voice had softened and he stared at the cow who in turn looked back at him with rounded, soft eyes.
A moment ticked by before he turned to look at Fallon again. “Are you staying anywhere? There’s a spare room, at least until you leave, I’ll hardly be around. I have work to do and I can’t afford not working. So, either make yourself cozy for now or head on out. I can’t stand around much longer, the room is upstairs and the first on the left.” He pushed away from the coral and rubbed his chin, for a moment it looked as if he were going to say something else, but instead, he walked away.