Getting to Me

Chapter Two

When Mandy woke up the next morning, she was in her bed and changed into her pajamas. She didn’t have to work today, so she didn’t rush herself as she got changed into some comfortable clothes and brushed her hair. She opted to not put any makeup on today; she wasn’t going anywhere and wasn’t trying to impress anyone, so instead, she just walked straight downstairs to join her family for breakfast. She was surprised at how quiet the house was, but then she looked at the glowing clock above the oven and saw that it read only 6:34 AM. Her father was already out taking care of the cattle, and her mother was probably sleeping in a little bit since it was the weekend and she didn’t have to work at the high school today.

She nearly jumped out of her skin when she heard a loud snore come from the couch in the living room before she realized that it was Zacky. She smiled as she walked over into the living room, her feet making a soft pit pat sound on the hardwood floor as she made her way over to where Zacky lay sleeping, curled into a tight ball rather than laying on his stomach as he had the day before. She frowned when she saw that there wasn’t a blanket on him except for the small throw that was used on the couch, and she walked over to the closets that lined one wall of her parents’ bedroom before she reached in and pulled out a thick wool blanket quietly so that she wouldn’t wake up her mother before she returned to the living room. Zacky was still sleeping loudly in the same position he’d been in when she’d first walked downstairs, and she smiled as she opened up the blanket and draped it over him, grabbing one of the pillows he’d thrown off of the couch and tucking it under his head so that he’d have something there before she wandered towards the entryway of the house, pulling on a pair of boots and one of the working jackets before heading out of the house towards the barn to feed the horses, as she did every morning.

By the time she’d finished that, it had been an hour and a half since she’d woken up, and she’d already seen McKenna run out of the house to see if any baby calves had been born while she’d been asleep, even though she knew that calving wasn’t for another three or four months at least. If her little sister was up, she knew her older brothers were definitely awake, which probably meant Zacky was up by now as well. She told herself that she wasn’t concerned with whether or not he was awake as she walked towards the house, taking off the leather gloves she’d covered with her hands and putting them into the box by the door before she bent over to remove the muddy boots from her feet.

“You’re up early for the weekend, Mandy,” Zacky’s voice said from the other side of the entryway, giving her a friendly smile as he leaned against the doorframe, a coffee mug held in his hands, the steam rising up and wafting towards her. She shrugged, pulling the jacket off next before she made her way towards the kitchen to get her own mug of coffee.

“You learn to wake up early on a ranch,” she said politely as she poured the steaming brown liquid into the mug, mixing in some creamer and sugar as well before stirring it all together and adding some milk to it to cool it down enough to drink.

“So you’ve lived your whole life here then, huh?” He asked her, looking out the window that was positioned above the kitchen sink. In the distance, he could see a large snow-covered butte with some radio towers on top. The corral for the horse barn was only a few hundred feet from the front door of the house, the barn another two hundred or so feet beyond that. The red paint looked vivid against the bleak white landscape of the scene, and he turned around with a smile to face her.

“Yeah,” she sighed with a small smile. “But I love it here. It’s peaceful in a way that not many other places are,” she explained, taking a sip of the coffee and letting the ceramic mug warm her chilled hands as she leaned back against the countertop.

“Fargo’s not bad,” Zacky mentioned, a soft smile on his face. “I mean, the flooding sucks come spring, but…other than that, it’s nice.”

Mandy smiled at Zacky’s words. She guessed that he’d grown up in Fargo, the largest city that she’d ever been to and the place where her older brother had gone off to college. It was a full six and a half hour’s drive from the ranch when the driving conditions were good, but if it was snowing hard and the roads were icy in the winter or rainy in the spring and early summer, it could take upwards of eight hours to get there. The few times she’d been to the city, she’d been overwhelmed by how much traffic there was, and all of the buildings that made up the city. What had shocked her most though was the size of the college campus that her older brother had been going to, North Dakota State University. It had been like a miniature village within the city, with its own restaurants on campus and apartment complexes. She’d never wanted to go to such a large campus, and had opted instead to attend a smaller, state university in nearby Dickinson.

“I’ve only been there two or three times, when we were visiting Brian,” she said, meeting his gaze. “But it wasn’t horrible.”

Zacky nodded and the two of them settled into a comfortable silence before Brian walked into the kitchen, his hair rumpled from having just woke up and flannel pajamas clinging to his body. He glared at Zacky but then softened his gaze and reached to get a mug of coffee and a box of cereal out of the cabinet above the counter, pouring some milk into a bowl before adding the cereal into it as he walked over to the dining room table.

“You feel up to going to Dickeyville today, Mandy?” Brian asked her from the table, bringing her mind out of her thoughts as she walked around the half-wall and sat across the table from him, meeting his gaze over his shoulder. Dickeyville was one of the slang terms that everyone used for Dickinson, so she knew what he was talking about.

“Sure, what do you need to pick up?” She asked him, crossing her arms over the table and laying her head down on them before she closed her eyes in a few moments’ state of relaxation as she waited for her brother to reply to her.

“Some horse feed, and then I was gonna hit up Wal-Mart to get some new flannel sheets for my bed. Stuff like that. I’ll see if Mom has any groceries she needs me to pick up,” he shrugged. “McKenna already said she doesn’t want to go.”

“Yeah, I’ll come,” she smiled at her older brother, nodding as she finished off her mug of coffee before walking back into the kitchen and running some water in it so that it wouldn’t be hard to wash later on. “Let me just go put some makeup on or something.”

“You don’t need it,” Zacky smiled at her in a polite manner. Mandy expected her older brother to bark angrily at him for his comment, but she was surprised when Brian nodded, agreeing with Zacky.

“Yeah, the idiot’s right for once,” he told her, clapping her shoulder before hugging her and then ruffling her hair. “You’re a Haner, you look good naturally.”

Mandy blushed, not saying a word as she smiled and walked up the stairs towards her room to put some makeup on even though they’d both told her she didn’t need it. She was a female, after all, and girls liked to wear makeup even when they didn’t need to.


When she got back downstairs, Brian had somehow managed to change into clothes as well, and Zacky was dressed in the same clothes he’d worn the day before. Brian got a list of things their mother was going to be as they walked out to the Suburban, and Mandy crawled into the backseat with her wallet and iPod in hand while Brian and Zacky got into the front seat. Brian cranked the heater onto full blast to kill the cold air that had settled in the large vehicle overnight, and then pushed the defrost button so that it would clear the thick frost that had settled over the window shield. When he’d finished with that, he drove out of the snow-covered gravel driveway and made his way towards nearby Sentinel Butte, where he could get onto the Interstate that would take them to Dickinson.

The three of them made small chit chat during the hour-long drive to the small city. Brian and Mandy got caught up on what she’d been doing with her life since he’d started college, and she and Zacky got to know each other a little better. She learned that he was the middle child of three siblings, and that he liked to play guitar and play baseball. He didn’t know what he was going to do with his life, but he did know that he wanted to do something with one of those two hobbies.

“So, how’s Roy?” Brian asked from the front seat, making her growl. He was asking about her ex-boyfriend, Roy Dupree. She’d thought he was amazing when they’d gotten together, but it turned out that he wasn’t much more than a flake. He’d gotten semi-abusive after they’d been together for almost a year, and she’d broken up with him on the spot.

“I have no clue,” she shrugged, trying to keep the bitterness out of her tone. Brian didn’t know that Roy had gotten abusive, and if he did, she was sure that he’d hunt the boy down. He’d always had what she called OPOBS – Overly Protective Older Brother Syndrome, in longer terms. Everyone else thought that she was making a joke when she used that term, but she was very serious. When he’d lived at home, there had been very few boys at school that he’d allowed to date her, and the ones that he had agreed to, he quickly decided they weren’t good enough for his ‘little’ sister. It had used to piss her off, but now she realized that he just had her best interests at heart.

“You break up with him or something?” Brian asked her, keeping his eyes on the road as he shifted the gear into one that was better suited for the icy conditions. Zacky seemed to be listening to the conversation, but he didn’t say anything as he looked out at the snow-covered landscape of the Badlands.

“Yeah, about four or five months ago,” she shrugged, as if it wasn’t a big deal. And it wasn’t, really. She hadn’t expected much out of the relationship, anyway. Shortly after she’d dumped him, he’d gone off to California somewhere to get away from the cold climate of the Midwest, and no one had heard from him since.

“Huh,” was all Brian said as he continued driving. Nothing else was said for the rest of the drive, and when they reached the exit for Dickinson, she smiled as Brian took her favorite route towards Runnings, where they’d get the horse feed from.

“Wow,” Zacky said as he looked out at the plowed streets. “It’s so much…smaller…than Fargo is,” he murmured, keeping his eyes out of the window.

Mandy chuckled as Brian pulled into the parking lot of Runnings, getting out of the car and plopping her feet down onto the snow-covered curb as she looked over at his confused green eyes as he walked around the vehicle.

“Well, it’s the country version of a city,” she shrugged as the three of them started walking quickly but carefully towards the doors, not wanting to slip on the slippery black ice that was lurking underneath the thin covering of wet snow.

Brian wandered around the large store for longer than he needed to, and he also grabbed more than just horse feed. He’d always been the one to spoil the horses along with Mandy, and he decided to pick up some sweet oats for them as well as a couple of new halters to replace some older ones that he’d meant to get the last time he’d been at the ranch.

Zacky was lost about everything. When Brian had asked for help in choosing one of the halters for his horse, she’d had to explain to Zacky what the difference between a halter and a bridle was. He still hadn’t understood fully until she told him that a halter didn’t have reins like a bridle did, and that it didn’t have a bit to go into the horse’s mouth to give it directions on where to go.

Later, as they left the ranch store and put everything into the back end of the SUV, he’d gotten into the backseat with her so that she could further explain the different types of tack used on horses. Brian hadn’t seemed to notice, too concentrated on getting everything that their mother needed from Wal-Mart before another snow storm hit. Though Zacky couldn’t tell it, Mandy and Brian could feel that one was coming, and they thought it was going to be a fairly big one.

Mandy hadn’t ever spent so much time with one of her brother’s friends, and she was surprised to realize that Zacky wasn’t a stupid, blubbering idiot like most of Brian and Brent’s friends had been in high school. Zacky was smart, and other than not knowing basic farm things that Mandy and her siblings had known since birth, he seemed to know a lot of other things. He’d graduated from high school, unlike some of Brian’s other friends, and he had attended a few months of college before deciding that it wasn’t for him.

He also knew a lot about music, which was something that Mandy could relate to. Having grown up with her father and Brian as her older brother, she listened to a lot of different types of music, and it seemed that Zacky knew a lot about the stuff she loved. He, like her, agreed that it wasn’t what it used to be, that music was lacking something it had in the ‘80s. He, like her, agreed that some of the best music was the heaviest stuff, and he, like her, agreed that the guitar was the best instrument, though the others were important to a band as well. They had a lot more in common than she’d initially thought they would, and it made her smile to realize that.

Brian seemed to be glad that Zacky and his sister were getting along, despite his attitude the night before. Mandy assumed that he’d had the ‘older brother’ talk with Zacky, and that that was the reason that Brian seemed to be in a better mood. By the time they got back to the ranch, a snow storm had set in, and they got everything put away before the wind could start howling too badly.

“Why don’t you kids pick a movie and we’ll have a family movie night? You’re invited too, Zack,” their father said to them once they’d gotten warmed up inside the house, making a light joke to Zacky and causing everyone to laugh light heartedly. McKenna agreed, and for the second night in a row, she chose the movie. This time, she chose something the entire family could stomach, and everyone settled around the living room with the lights dimmed and bowls of oven-popped popcorn while the movie started playing on the TV screen.

Like the night before, Mandy ended up sitting beside Zacky. And like the night before, he laid his head on her shoulder. The only difference was that, unlike the night before, Mandy wasn’t sure if he was asleep or if he was just using her head as a pillow.
♠ ♠ ♠
Hello, there. =) I have figured out when I will be updating this. Since it's prewritten, there will always be updates on the following days, unless I'm sick and can't get to the computer, my computer is taken away, or something else happens that's unavoidable. I will update on Sunday, Wednesday, and Saturday every week. ::cute: Hopefully it'll all be posted by the end of December, but since I haven't finished writing it yet, I'm not sure if it's not going to span into the first part of January as well. Also, I'd like to reccommend a couple of other stories to you guys. ^_^ They are Shadows Creed by the mice endure. and Letters To Heaven by heartagrams. They are both Matt stories, and they're both amazing in their own right. Until the next time...^_^