At 26 I was expecting to plan my graduation, instead, I sat at the kitchen table planning a funeral. God only knew where my Mom was, she was running the gamut of emotions from anger to soul-deep sadness. She had loved my dad, but not the ranch, and just this morning found out that, while she had a huge life insurance policy and a little stock in the ranch, I was to inherit.
She’d planned on selling, I knew this because she screamed it at me. I had started the paperwork to buy her shares. That had at least stopped her screaming.
It killed me inside to have my dad gone just 4 days, with the funeral tomorrow, and she’s already screaming about who got what and what was hers.
I felt the hand on my shoulder and looked over at Jack. The tears came then, slowly, rolling down my cheeks as I sat in silence. The newspaper article was beside my left hand. The headline was only partially obscured by the envelope the will had been in.

                                  “Community Pillar Killed by Drunk Driver”

“Noodle’s asleep,” Michael said as he sat down beside her. “Here,” he said and pushed a glass of wine into her hand. “Barefoot Rose,” he said.

“I shouldn’t” Kivi mumbled, trying so hard to stay contained that she trembled slightly. She couldn’t let go yet, not yet. After the funeral, after she’d bought the ranch from her mom, after…
“You should,” Both he and Jack said in unison.
“Fine.” She sighed and took the glass.
“You’re as stubborn as a mule. Take a goddamned drink and relax before you explode.” Someone said it, she wasn’t sure who.
“My mother is a cunt” I said, and then sucked down half the glass. “There, I said it. I hope it’s grief making her act this way and she’ll come around. I Hope for Noodle’s sake she doesn’t turn into the person she’s been for the last few days”

“Caoihme!” Jack exclaimed “Your mouth, do you kiss your mother with it?”
“Not anymore” I quipped and sniffed. The tears had dried up with the edge of anger that boiled under the surface.
“Don’t say that” Michael said softly and Kivi looked at him. He’d lost his mom a long time ago, but the lack was still there in his eyes. My mom had stepped in and he loved her.

“No, you’re right. I shouldn’t say shit like that. I beg your pardon” I was mostly talking to Jack but glanced at Michael. He nodded softly, he knew it was for him too.

We three sat there at the table in companionable silence. We didn’t need words, family didn’t need words. 

I picked up the article to read it again and Michael took it away from me with a small shake of his head. 

So, I sipped the wine and stared into the dead fireplace. It was dead dark outside.
“I’m gonna go down to the barn,” I said, standing up. “Maybe take a midnight ride”
Michael got up to go with me.
“I’m fine by myself.” I shot at the pair, “I just need the comfort of the saddle under my ass and the view between the ears of a horse.”

“I’m sure you are fine by yourself, but everyone is grieving” Michael spoke as he handed me my hat and gloves. I stopped and looked at him. He was my oldest friend. We’d been through our whole lives side by side. His dad had been the foreman on the ranch for as long as I’d been alive. Jack was such a fixture that I really had no idea how he even came to be here, though I’d always suspected it had to do with Michael’s mom.

“She’ll come around, Kivi,” he said as they walked down the hill “This place was never her place, but she loves you and Noodle and she’s filled with grief too. She loved your father very much.”
“I know, just hurts” I replied jerkily “Can we just not talk for a while. Let’s ride up to the cabin”
Michael looked up at the gibbous moon and didn’t say anything else.

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