Chapter 1: Moving In

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The dust settled around me and I took a deep breath. Silence. Something I wasn’t used to. Birds chirped and bugs buzzed in the air around me, just out of sight. Behind me the truck beeped, telling me I left the keys in the ignition. The heat stuck to me like a blanket that I couldn’t untangle from; my shorts and t shirt doing nothing to alleviate it. I walk in front of the moving truck to get a better look at my property.

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“My property.” I roll off my tongue. I was twenty-four, just out of college, and I had property. Cheap property, but property none the less. I let out a small laugh. Big city girl me owns property in small town Appaloosa plains.

Through the trees to my right I could barely make out an open field, a house a little further. I look to my left at my little house. I dig the key from my pocket and walk up the steps to the front door.

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The first thing I notice is that it’s clean. I was expecting dusty, maybe some bugs or creatures. For the price I assumed it was run down and dilapidated. Instead, it was in surprisingly good shape. Not one to question good fortune I made my short way across the living room, glancing at the kitchen as I did so, and stopped at the door to the bedroom.  I pushed the door open and took a quick look in there. Not a bad size. Bigger than some of the apartments I looked at in Bridgeport before I moved out here. I moved to check the bathroom then looked around the house again. It was small, but it would work.

From outside I heard a soft bark and smiled. It seemed Jax had woken up. I walked back out the front door to find him sitting on the porch, staring out at the driveway. Coming down it was a young girl.

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“Hellooo!” She called, waving.

I waved back and stepped down, telling Jax to stay. In Bridgeport no one ever went up anyone else’s driveway. People barely knew their neighbors. But Appaloosa was a small town. I’m sure everyone knew everyone here, except me.

“Hey.” I said as she got closer. She smiled at me as her gray eyes scanned the area.

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“Hey, don’t mean to be a bother, but I just came ta see if ya needed some help? My brother and I were drivin by and saw your movin truck. I can pull him out here if ya need some muscle.” She said. Her smile went all the way to her eyes and I noticed she had a splash of freckles across her tanned face.

“Sure, I guess it wouldn’t hurt.” I said.

“Alright. My name is Tabatha, I live next door with my brother Malakai and my mom and dad. We own the best horse ranch in Appaloosa.” She beamed.

“Nice to meet you. My name is Amelia.” I replied, moving to the back to open the truck.

“That’s a pretty name,” Tabatha remarked, “Right, I’ll go get my brother.” She skipped back down the driveway and Jax padded over to my side.

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“Well boy, I think this is definitely going to be a different place than we’re used to.” I said to him, scratching behind his ear. The door to the truck rolled up and my meager furnishings were revealed. All I had brought with me was some cheap furniture I’d had since college, my bike, clothes, books, and book cases.

I heard the crunch of dirt and gravel behind me and Jax’s tail starts thumping into my leg. I look over my shoulder and give a small wave. Tabatha was back, followed by a large blond headed man. He was nice to look at.

“Amelia, do ya mind if I call ya Amy?” Tabatha asked. “Ya can call me Tabby.”

I shrugged and slid a box to the edge of the truck. “Sure, I don’t mind.”

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“Awesome. Anyway, Amy, this is my brother Malakai. He’s kinda quiet, so don’tcha expect him to talk as much as I do.” She gave a little laugh and looked into the truck.

“Oh, woah! You have a motorcycle!” She exclaimed, reaching out to my bike. “That is so cool! Annabelle’s brother has a dirt bike; he let me ride it once. But it doesn’t look anything like this.”

“Yea, it was cheaper to own a bike in the city than it was a car.” I said, smiling at her excitement.

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She seemed like a sweet girl. I glance to Malakai who was just standing there quietly. Jax had gone up to him and was happily getting some attention.

“I guess if you could pull that bike out Malakai, that’d be great help.” I said. His eyes, grey as his sister’s, like the color of clouds just before a storm, met mine.

“Yes ma’am.” He said, his accent even thicker than his sister’s.

Tabatha hopped out of his way and picked up a box.

“Oh! What do ya got in this thing?” She asked, hefting it off the lip of the truck and making her way slowly to the house. I picked up another box and followed behind her.

“You can just set it in that corner. Thanks.” I said.

She set the box down and looked around some more.

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“So, why’d ya move here? You said ya lived in the city. Why would ya leave there? There must be so much to do. There ain’t nothin to do here ‘sides watch crops grow and raise animals. There’s a bar in town, but if you’re under 21 then it’s pointless.” She spoke on.

“Don’t be pryin Cat.” Malakai said, his voice husky. He set some boxes down beside ours.

“No, it’s okay. I just graduated college and needed to get away from Bridgeport. There was just too much to do there, and too many things I needed to get away from.” I said.

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“Oh. My. Gosh. Are you a runaway junkie looking to escape the big city mob and hide out in little ‘ole Appaloosa?!” Tabby exclaimed. Malakai shot her a look and shook his head.

“Ma’am, I’m sorry ’bout her.” He apologized.

I laughed. “She’s fine. I promise. And please, just call me Amy.” I said to Malakai, then looked to Tabby. “No, nothing like that. No drugs, no mob, no runaway. I’m a writer and I just needed somewhere with less distractions.”

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Tabatha nodded as we all made our way to get more boxes. Another dog had appeared and was sniffing around with Jax out in the yard. Malakai saw me watching the newcomer and nodded towards it.

“That’s our dog, Molly. She ain’t nothing to worry ‘bout.” He said in his quiet husky voice. I was about to say something when Tabatha exclaimed again.

“You have a guitar! You just get cooler by the second! What can you play?” Tabby asked, pulling the case out.

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“Yea, anything really. I just need to hear it or have sheet music in front of me.” I said. “There’s a keyboard in there somewhere too.”

“You are so cool.” Tabby said, lugging the case past Malakai and I and into the house. Malakai shook his head again, but at least didn’t apologize. I smiled slightly and pulled out more stuff from the truck.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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The sun was turning the sky red as we stood in my living room and looked at the pile of stuff. The heat was thankfully kept at bay by the AC that Malakai had turned on for us. Living with my parents, and then in apartments I had no idea how to get it going. He was nice enough to turn on the water for me too.

“Thanks for the help guys. I think I’ve got it from here.” I said.

“Okay…” Tabby said, looking at the guitar case. “Uhm, can I see it?” She asked.

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“Sure.” I said, beginning to move my clothes boxes and bags into my room. When I came back Tabby was holding a picture. She looked at Jax who was curled on the couch and then to me.

“Who’s the guy? And check out that ring!” She said with a smile, flipping the picture for me to see.

I was kneeling down, holding a small Jax, a bright ring on my finger. Next to me knelt a man, both of us were beaming up to the camera. That had been a good day. I had forgotten about it. Remembering it made my stomach churn.

“No one important. I didn’t even know I still had that picture.” I lied as my stomach grumbled. Malakai lucky rescued me.

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“We’re goin now. I’m sure momma made enough food if you’d like to come and have dinner. I’m sure she’d skin us when she found out we left ya here with no food.” He said. Tabatha dropped the picture back in the guitar case.

“Yea, you have to come! Momma cooks some mean food!” She exclaimed.

“Are you sure? I don’t want to impose. You guys have already helped me so much.” I said.

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“C’mon, we insist. Malakai was right; momma would skin us if we show up without ya!” Tabby took my hand and pulled me with her. “We got some food for Jax too! I’ll drive us. That’s how we saw ya this morning. Malakai is teaching me to drive. I’m 16 so I can get my license as soon as I know how. Don’t worry I’m a good driver already.” She rambled on.

I smiled and just gave up, following her to the truck out on the road, Malakai walking quietly behind us.

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“Oh, I forgot to lock up.” I said, “Hang on.”

“No, you don’t gotta lock anything! This ain’t the city. Ain’t no one here that’ll take your stuff.” Tabby said, opening the door to the truck cab so I could get in.

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No locking your door, neighbors helping you move in and then inviting you to dinner. This was a lot different than Bridgeport, I thought as Malakai shut the dogs into the truck bed and climbed in. The trucked coughed to life as Tabby started it up and we went slowly down the road to their ranch.

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