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I looked over at Sven as he skillfully maneuvered the truck out of the parking spot and headed down the road. Boy, he was a big man. I felt dwarfed sitting next to his rugged muscular frame. As we left the small town, he settled in to the speed limit on the highway and then turned in my direction. I turned as I saw him look at me and felt myself mesmerized by those beautiful piercing blue eyes.
“So how old are you, Kid?” he asked as he blatantly looked me up and down. I liked that he was calling me “Kid”. Somehow, it seemed to fit. I found myself hoping this would be what he would always call me.
“I….I just turned 18 a little while ago,” I told him.
“18?” he asked as he looked me up and down questioningly. “You look pretty small for 18.”
“I…I’ve always been small,” I said as I looked away with a feeling of shame sweeping over me.
“Hey Kid….” He paused and I turned to see him looking at me intently. “Don’t worry about it,” he said as he gave me a warm comforting smile. “If that’s the way you are, then that’s the way you are. You’ll be fine.” I felt much better after he said that. “Maybe working on the ranch will make a man out of you by the end of the summer.” He gave me a wink and a little smile that made me feel everything was going to be alright.
“Do you think so, sir?” He hesitated for a second when I called him “Sir”. It was like he wasn’t used to being referred to that way. For me, it just seemed natural to call him that.
“Well, I can’t guarantee you’ll grow much but working outside will help with that pale skin of yours.” He mentioned my pale skin, just like Mr. Jarvis had when I first came back to Monroe. I was wondering if my vitamin deficiency was starting to show already. And I didn’t have Mr. Jarvis around to feed me my medicine anymore. As he turned onto a country side road from the highway, it snapped me out of my thoughts.
“What’s it like?” I asked.
“What? The ranch?” I nodded as he looked over at me. “Well, your aunt and uncle have suffered just like everybody else since the whole economy went for a shit. He used to have a number of hired hands that worked there regular. I’d kind of supervise those guys and make sure they did their work. But your uncle had to let them go. He had to sell off a lot of the stock too. So with what’s left, things can pretty much be managed by your uncle, his two sons, and myself.” When he mentioned my cousins, it got me to wondering what the whole family was like.
“What…what are they like?”
“Your aunt and uncle?”
“All of them.”
“You aunt Claire is a sweetheart. One of the nicest ladies I’ve ever met; the salt of the earth, as they say. And a damn good cook too,” he said with a smile. “Your uncle Ben, well, he’s a different story. He used to be a strong proud man. But hard times over the last few years seem to have really kicked the crap out of him. He’s surlier than he used to be. He may seem to you to be a little gruff sometimes, but don’t let it bother you. It’s like he’s mad at the world and doesn’t really know how to handle it.”
“What about my cousins?” He looked over at me and I could see he was thinking about what he was going to say next.
“So Kid, we’re getting along pretty good so far, right?” he said.
“Yes sir!” I blurted out excitedly. “I mean, yes, I think so.”
“So if I tell you something, it’ll just be between the two of us?”
“Yes sir. I promise!” This was sounding more and more like the trusting relationship I’d had with Mr. Jarvis.
“Well, those two are a couple of knuckleheads. Brett’s the oldest, he’s 23. Tyler’s a year younger. I think they share a brain between the two of them. They barely got through high school and neither one of them has any initiative to try and make it on their own. They work on the ranch and stay with their mom and dad because they’re too lazy to do anything else. I think your uncle knows how I feel about them so he usually sends them off on chores that need doing away from me. He knows how frustrating it would be for me to have work with those two clowns. I’ve got enough of my own work to do without having to worry about those idiots.”
“If things are so tough there, why haven’t you left?” I asked curiously.
“I’ve asked myself that a number of times. Your aunt and uncle knew my folks and your uncle gave me the job a few years ago when I got out of the marines.” He paused for a second as he gathered his thoughts. “You know, I like the work. I like being outdoors, working with the land, with the animals. A man can come to peace with himself and the world when he’s working with it all day long. Also, I know it’s been tough for them. Unless something changes, I’ll stay and help at least until things start to turn around. I owe them that much and I’m not one to walk away from people who need some help.”
As I looked up at Sven, I felt my heart swell at his sense of loyalty and honor. This big man had impressed me with his down to earth attitude and his honesty. I felt safe bahis siteleri with him. We’d agreed to be trustworthy with each other and I knew already that he was someone I could count on and who would be on my side to look out for me and protect me. It was a good feeling. I only hoped I could prove myself worthy. I hoped at some point, he’d give me a chance to show my gratitude for giving me this feeling of security and comfort that I’d already gotten just by listening to him speak.
He asked me a few questions about life at Monroe and my upbringing over the years as we continued on to the ranch. Finally, we turned off the road onto a dusty driveway between two rusty gateways. After making his way up the long driveway, he pulled to a stop before a modest two-storey brick farmhouse surrounded by trees. A short distance away from the house I could see a large barn and a separate low one storey building with siding partially visible beyond one corner of the barn. There were low wood fences everywhere and I could see some horses and cattle grazing in the fields.
“I think they’ve been waiting supper for us,” Sven said as he threw the truck into park and scrambled out the side. I followed and as he grabbed my little suitcase and backpack from the rear of the truck, the door of the farmhouse opened and my aunt stepped out.
“Joey,” she said in a sing-song voice as she stepped off the porch and gave me a big hug. I wasn’t sure exactly what to do so I wrapped my arms around her and hugged her back uncomfortably. She stepped back and wrung her hands in the apron she was wearing. She was a wholesome looking woman in her mid-to-late forties with a sweet face and a gentle smile.
“I’m your Aunt Claire,” she said pleasantly and then a sad look came over her face. “We were so sad to hear about your mother and father. We always wondered what happened to you.” I guess not enough to try and find me before now.
“Thanks for saying that, mam. It was a long time ago now,” I replied with a shrug of my shoulders.
“Well, you’re here now. And we’re happy to have you.” Just then we heard the sound of the screen door on the house swinging open and an older man in overalls and two grown boys in jeans and work shirts walked up to us.
“You Joey?” the man said in a gruff voice. He didn’t exactly look too thrilled to see me.
“You look pretty scrawny,” he said as he looked me up and down like he was picking out a work-horse.
“He’ll be fine, Ben,” Sven said as she stepped forward. I was glad he spoke up on my behalf. “In a few weeks I’ll bet he’ll be able to tackle any job you give him.”
“Hmmpphh,” my uncle grunted, “we’ll see.” He reluctantly reached out and shook my hand. My hand was almost lost in his big rough mitt.
“Joey,” my aunt said as she motioned toward her sons, “these are you cousins. This is Brett,” she said pointing to the bigger one, “and this is Tyler. But we all call him Ty.” I looked over at the two boys standing side by side. Brett was about 6′ tall and Tyler just about an inch or two shorter. Both had medium builds and unruly thatches of brown hair. It looked like they’d both been wearing caps all day and had recently taken them off. They were both kind of just average looking, not ugly but nothing to write home about either. As their mother introduced them, they both just nodded and mumbled some kind of greeting in my direction. It appeared obvious that of the two of them, Brett was always the leader and Tyler followed his example.
“Hello,” I said politely as I nodded back to them.
“Well, I bet you’re starving after that long bus ride,” my aunt said as she motioned towards the house. “Let’s go get some nice hot food into you.”
“Thank you, mam,” I replied politely. As I stepped into the house and the comforting smell of the warm food hit my senses, I realized how hungry I was. Sven set my suitcase and backpack just inside the door and we all went to the simple long wood table they had in the eating area off the kitchen.
“You can sit here, dear,” Aunt Claire said as she pointed to the chair next to her. Uncle Ben sat at the head of the table with Aunt Claire to his right and my spot was beside her. Across from us sat Brett and Ty while Sven took the chair to my right at the other end of the table. The table was loaded with food; roast beef, mashed potatoes, warm biscuits, gravy, corn, carrots and a salad. It was more food than I’d ever seen on one table in my life. I watched as the boys loaded up their plates and I took as much as I thought I could eat.
Sven was right; my aunt was a great cook. The food was mouthwateringly delicious and I ate more than I had in a long time. There was just some general chit chat about the work on the ranch over dinner, mostly between my uncle and Sven. The boys asked me a couple of times about life at Monroe and I answered what I could. They joked with each other and poked each other a number of times which was similar behavior I was used to from some of the older canlı bahis siteleri boys at Monroe. As the meal ended, my aunt brought in a warm apple pie which she served with ice cream. It was fantastic and I even had a small second piece.
“So Joey,” my uncle said as he finished up and pushed his empty dessert plate forward, “as you can see, we have kind of a small house here. I’ve been thinking about putting an addition on the back but until that’s done, we’re gonna have to put you up with Sven in the bunkhouse.” He nodded towards the front of the house and I realized he was talking about that one storey building I’d seen beyond the barn. The look on my uncle’s face when he told me was that he thought I’d be upset with this arrangement. When I heard that I’d be staying with Sven, I felt my heart start to race with excitement. But I knew that I couldn’t let on, so I took a deep breath and calmed myself down before I spoke.
“Oh,” I said with just the right note of disappointment in my voice, “I…I guess that would be okay; if Sven doesn’t mind.” I looked at him anxiously.
“No, that’ll be fine,” he said as he gave me a conspiratorial wink. I knew that Sven was aware that this was going to be the state of my living arrangements. Even as grumpy as Uncle Ben was, I knew he wouldn’t have just sprung this on Sven out of the blue. Even so, I was glad her responded as he did. It gave me a nice warm feeling of being wanted.
“Well, it’s been a long day for you, Joey. I’ll let Sven show you where you’ll sleep and we’ll see you in the morning.” Satisfied that everything had gone as he hoped, my uncle pushed his chair back and started to stand up.
“Yes sir,” I replied as everybody else started to get up from the table as well.
“C’mere Joey,” Aunt Claire said as she got up from the table. She leaned forward and gave me another big hug and a kiss on the forehead. As she pulled back, I saw her eyes shimmering with tears. “We’re so glad you’re here, Joey. I hope you’ll be happy.” I looked over her shoulder at her husband and two sons and from the looks on their faces; it didn’t look like they exactly shared her feelings.
“Thanks, Aunt Claire,” I said and then turned to follow Sven. He easily scooped up my battered old suitcase while I slung my knapsack over my shoulder and followed him down the porch and towards the bunkhouse. It was later than I thought and the sun was starting to settle on the horizon.
“That addition your uncle said he’s planning for the back of the house,” Sven said as he looked over at me trying to keep up with his long strides.
“Well, he’s been planning that addition for the past fifteen years.” He looked back over his shoulder to make sure no one was following us. “So I wouldn’t be waiting on that too much if I were you.” He winked at me again and I smiled and nodded in understanding.
As we came around the corner of the barn, I saw the door to the bunkhouse and a row of windows facing us. Sven held the door open for me and we stepped into an area where there was a storage room with some closets and cupboards and then you turned into one big long room. I looked down the long narrow room and it made me think of old army movies I’d seen. There were five bunks along one wall and three along the other. Each one had a big storage trunk for your gear at the end of it and a small side table with a lamp between each bunk. At the end of the side that had only three bunks, where the other two bunks would have normally gone, there was a separate small enclosed room with a door. Beyond that room, I could see into another room similar in size to the entranceway we’d just come through.
“Down here, Kid,” Sven said as he strolled down between the bunks until he reached the furthest one on the side that held five. “This one’s yours.” He sat my suitcase on the end of the bed and I slipped my knapsack off my shoulder and set it down next to the suitcase.
“C’mere, I’ll show you the rest.” She stepped over towards the small enclosed room opposite my bunk. “This is my room. We’ve got no TV here but I’ve got a computer that can access the internet by satellite. You’re welcome to use it.” I poked me head into his room and he had a bigger bed than the rest of the bunks and a small desk with a computer on it, a dresser with a mirror over it and a small built-in closet.
“And over here’s the bathroom.” He was standing in the open doorway just past his room. I stepped by him into the tiled room and saw that most of the end wall of the building was covered with shower heads. There were five of them in a row. Across from the showers were two sinks, a urinal, and one toilet stall. As I turned and looked the other way, there were storage shelves with towels, sheets, blankets and pillows, and some other cupboards for storage as well. I looked over at the stacked piles of folded towels; all of them were brown. My aunt and uncle must have gotten them at a clearance sale at a liquidation center or something. I took one more look at canlı bahis the gang-shower area and the shared bathroom facilities and now it really reminded me of an army movie! I felt totally intimidated about the idea of showering with strangers. The idea was totally foreign to me. Sven drifted back into the main room and I followed like a little puppy.
“I….I hope you don’t mind me being here,” I said nervously. Based on what he’d told me and the way most of the stuff in the room looked like it hadn’t been used in awhile, I figured he must have gotten used to having this place to himself. I was really worried that he’d find my intrusion bothersome.
“No, I don’t mind at all,” he said as he stopped near the foot of my bed. “It’ll be nice to have somebody else around for a change; especially somebody as cute as you.” He reached out and tousled my hair affectionately. I felt my heart swell at his words and his playful touch. I felt myself blushing and I couldn’t keep the smile of happiness off my face. He looked down at me with a warm smile and I felt comfortable just basking in the presence of this rugged handsome man.
“Well, you’re probably tired after a full day of traveling,” he said as he looked at me standing there awkwardly before him. All of a sudden I felt the stress of the entire experience coming down on me and I realized how tired I actually was. It had only taken a few words from this man and just the power of suggestion had me looking at my bed with thoughts of just crawling into it and going to sleep.
“I think you’re right. I do feel pretty whipped. Sittin’ on a bus all day isn’t much fun.” I stepped over to my bunk and pulled open my knapsack.
“Sittin’ on a bus all day is a pain in the ass…..literally,” he said and we both chuckled. “Look, why don’t you put your stuff away and then take a shower before you go to bed. It’ll feel good to wash all that road dust off you.”
“Okay, that sounds like a good idea.” As Sven disappeared into his room, I opened the storage locker at the foot of the bed and stored away the few pieces of clothing I owned. I hung my jacket up in the closet near the entrance and put a few personal items, including a couple of books I’d brought with me, on the little bedside table. I kicked off my sneakers and put them under my bed and then grabbed my pajamas. The door to his room was open but I knocked tentatively, unsure of what to do.
“Yeah?” he asked questioningly from inside the room. I poked my head around the doorframe and saw him sitting in front of his computer. He’d taken his shirt off and I almost opened my mouth in awe as I stared at his muscular arms and chest. Wow! I’d never seen anything like it. His upper body seemed perfectly sculpted. I looked at the smooth skin following the strong curves of his firm biceps and broad shoulders and as he turned in his chair to face me, my gaze drifted down to the pronounced pectoral muscles on his chest. My eyes followed the curves of those firm pecs inward where they followed a fine dusting of dark hairs in the middle of his chest leading in an inviting narrowing trail towards his stomach.
“Uh…yeah,” I stammered as I tried to remember what I’d come to ask. “Should I…uh…should I just take a towel off the shelf in there or….”
“Yeah, just grab any of the clean towels off those shelves I showed you. There’s soap and shampoo on the little shelves in the wall near the showers. Pick any one you want.” He paused as he looked down at the pajamas in my hand. “What are those? Pajamas?”
“You might not need those. It gets pretty warm in here; there’s no air conditioning. We just try and get whatever cross-breeze we can.”
“Oh…okay, thanks.” As he turned back to his computer, I took one last look at his thick barrel chest and muscular biceps; then stepped into the washroom area a little flustered from looking at him and thinking about the idea of sleeping without my pajamas, which was something I’d never done either.
I grabbed a clean towel off the shelf in the storage area then set it down with my pajamas on a bench near the shower area. I used the toilet and then turned on the shower furthest from the open doorway to the rest of the bunkhouse. I was a little nervous about showering in a big open room like that but figured I’d better get used to it. I peeled off my jeans and t-shirt and threw them on the bench before stepping onto the big tiled floor. It felt so good to have the hot steaming water cascading down over me. I grabbed the soap and thoroughly washed myself. I found myself constantly looking at the open doorway as if I expected someone to come in. I think subconsciously, I was hoping Sven would come in, and I felt ashamed of myself for thinking such a thing.
I finished my shower, dried off and then as I was accustomed to, I put on my pajamas anyway. I put my towel to dry on one of the racks and then went back to my bed where I slipped beneath the sheets and turned on the light beside my bed. I stacked up my two pillows and grabbed a book I’d brought with me. I could barely concentrate on what I was reading; I kept picturing Sven’s strong masculine body before my eyes. I found myself re-reading the first few lines time and time again.
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