Getting to Me

Chapter Twenty

The next morning, both Zacky and Mandy woke up to hearing loud yells coming from downstairs. They looked at each other, wondering if Brian was upset that Zacky had stayed in Mandy’s room with her during the night, and then she groaned as soon as she heard Brent’s voice filtering through the heating vent on her floor. Brian was pissed as all get out, but it wasn’t over Zacky and Mandy’s relationship. From the sounds of it, their younger brother was getting the third degree, and he didn’t seem to be taking it too well.

“You will stay here for Christmas! I don’t give a good goddamn whether you want to or not!” Brian’s voice yelled loudly at Brent. Mandy could almost imagine the veins popping out of her older brother’s neck, and winced when she heard what sounded like a hand colliding with a face.

“I hope he never gets that pissed off about us,” Zacky murmured to her, pulling her back so that she was laying down next to him on the mattress, burrowing his face between her neck and her shoulder blade, making her giggle as she herself scooted closer to him, not wanting them to have to get out of bed just yet. She knew they’d have to soon, if not because they were hungry but because there were chores that needed attending to, but she wanted to spend some time with him for right now.

“He won’t,” she whispered back to him, kissing his exposed arm, smiling softly up at him. Then she thought about it for a moment, and frowned. “At least, I hope he doesn’t,” she continued. His chuckle filled her ears, and he sighed contentedly as he pulled her even tighter against his chest, the blanket warm around them as he held her.

The yelling only got louder, and then Mandy winced as soon as she heard her father’s voice join in the yelling, telling both of them to calm down because they were upsetting their mother. Mandy hated it when her family got like this. They got along for the most part, but just like every other family, they had their fair share of infighting and squabbles. It was bad enough that Brent had always resented the fact that their father looked upon Brian like he was the second in command in the family, even if he treated all four of his children as equals. It was an unspoken fact of life in the Haner household that, should something ever happen to Brian Sr., Brian would be the ‘man of the house,’ so to speak.

“I was thinking again,” Zacky muttered, breaking Mandy’s concentration away from the fight and bringing her focus back to him. His finger was tracing whimsical patterns into her back, making her shiver. She looked up at him, an amused smile on her face.

“Did it hurt?” She joked, giggling when he gave her a feign-hurt look. She tilted her face closer to his and pressed her lips softly against his, shaking her head. “I was only joking, baby,” she told him, biting her lip when she realized what she’d said.

It had been the first time she’d called him anything other than by his name. Starting to call each other pet names was always a big step in a relationship, and it could be tricky. If you said it too soon, it was cheesy. If you didn’t say it soon enough, you didn’t care as much as you should. She wondered if Zacky was put off by her use of the endearment, and then breathed a sigh of relief as a wide grin broke out on his face.

“I like the sound of that,” he murmured to her. She met his gaze, her eyes shining brightly as she looked up at him, and then sighed contentedly as he shifted her so that her head was nestled in the crook of his arm. “I was thinking, you and I haven’t been on a proper date yet, just the two of us. McKenna was with us that first time,” he told her. She smiled at his words, and bit her bottom lip as she nodded at his words. She hadn’t really thought about it that way, but he was right. They seemed to be doing everything out of context in their relationship, but at the same time, everything seemed to fit so well together the way they were going about things.

“You’re right, we haven’t,” she agreed with him.

“I think, maybe the day after Christmas I want to take you on a date,” he told her softly, meeting her gaze as he laced their fingers together on her hip. “I know it’s not going to be the world’s best date or anything, because it’s cold and we’re pretty much stuck in this area because of the snow, but…I want to,” he told her, bringing her hand to his lips and kissing her there. She smiled up at him, and then nodded once again.

“We can go over to Wibaux,” she told him, reaching up and brushing her hand through his hair for a few moments, smiling as he leaned into her touch. “The Shamrock has a cook that can make a mean steak,” she added with a giggle. She knew that most girls, even in this area, would turn their nose up at the thought of a date in which steak was eaten. Mandy, however, thought it was a romantic idea. The way to a man’s heart was through food, after all, and even though she knew she already had Zacky’s heart, food was always a good way to keep him around.

“We should probably get up,” he murmured to her. She nodded, and they stayed in the position they were in only for a few moments before they both got up. Zacky walked down the hall to the bathroom to get dressed, wanting to give his girlfriend some privacy to get herself ready, and shortly returned after she had pulled on some snug jeans and a turtleneck for the cold weather.

“Do you want to check the calves in the red barn while I check the horses?” She asked him as they walked down the stairs to the kitchen. She’d already taught him how to spot signs of colic in the calves if need be, and most other things that could be wrong with the baby animals could be spotted relatively easily and were self explanatory if he got confused. He nodded, and pressed his lips against hers as they walked in separate directions after getting on their outer gear to tend to the animals.

Mandy found that the horses had already been fed, and that Sheba was still in that state of almost-labor that had her stomach tied in knots. The beautiful animal was a little older than most mares were when they had foals, and since this would be the horse’s first, Mandy was a little more than nervous about the idea of the foal being born. She wanted to keep as constant a watch over her animal as she possibly could, and everyone in the family seemed to be watching out for the horse, too.

She saw McKenna building a snowman outside of the house and smiled at her younger sister. She remembered what it was like to be like that when she was little, making snow angels in the drifts that piled up outside the house and then having Brian help her place the head on top of any snowmen she made. She’d never dressed them, not because there weren’t scarves and hats that she could use, but because of a horror movie she’d seen when she’d been little, when it had just been herself and Brian instead of the four of them. She couldn’t have been any more than two or three, and Brian had been around thirteen. He had let her sit up with him in his bedroom, and there had been a movie on that she couldn’t even remember the name of. The basic plot was a demented version of the song, Frosty The Snowman, and when she’d been a little girl, she’d been terrified that if she dressed any snowmen she made, they would come to life like they had in the horror movie. Brian had always found it funny, and now as she thought about it, she did too. She giggled when she saw Brian walk outside to McKenna to help her lift the head on her snowman, and for an instant, she was back in McKenna’s shoes, when it had been just her and Brian.

It didn’t seem like that long ago, but it had been. She smiled at the thought of how much she’d grown up since then. She had three siblings she both loved and hated, and she had both of her parents as well as both sets of grandparents, though she didn’t see them too often. She had good friends, she was enrolled in college and on the track to graduating, and she had a steady-paying job that she couldn’t complain too much about. And perhaps the most amazing thing of all was that she’d found that one person out of a million that she could fall in love with and know that she had his heart just as much as he had hers. When she’d been little; when she’d been McKenna’s age, she’d always dreamed of growing up to find her true love, and now it seemed that she had. She couldn’t possibly be any happier than she was at this moment in time.

“Hey,” Zacky’s voice broke through the silence as he wrapped his arms around her from behind, making her gasp slightly and fall into his touch as soon as she realized it was him. He chuckled, and then pressed a soft kiss to the corner of her mouth. “I didn’t mean to scare you,” he murmured into her neck, hugging her even tighter.

“You didn’t,” she lied, knowing that he realized it was a lie, but knowing he’d also be amused by it. He just chuckled and turned her around so that she was facing him. The look in his eyes was so intense that it nearly made her knees buckle, and for a second, she was thankful that he was holding onto her elbows for fear that she would actually fall to the ground. It was like one of those moments in those Kay’s Jeweler’s commercials that always ended with, ‘Every kiss begins with Kay.” Before she’d met Zacky, she’d thought those commercials were just a cheesy rendition of love, but now that she had Zacky in her life, she realized that love really could be that magical.

“What were you thinking about? You looked kinda lost for a moment,” he asked her, reaching up to tuck some strands of her dark hair behind her earmuffed ear. She blushed as his fingers trailed across her skin, and reached down to grab his free hand while she continued to look at him.

“When I was little, Brian used to help me with snowmen like he’s helping Kenna,” she giggled, turning her head to look at her younger sister and older brother. They had now resorted to having a mock snowball fight with one another. “They’re good memories. I’m glad she has an opportunity to have the same kinds of memories with him.”

“Did you ever think about having kids?” He asked her suddenly, breaking her concentration and making her look at him, a confused look on her face. She wasn’t put off by his words, he could tell that. She was simply wondering what direction he was taking this conversation in.

“Maybe someday it would be nice,” she smiled at him. “Why? What about you? Did you ever see yourself as a father?”

“I think I could, with the right girl,” he smirked down at her, the words meant only for her as she felt her knees buckle again. The color drained from her face, but it was in the best way possible, and once again, she was glad that he was holding on to her. He chuckled at her response, and then leaned his face in to brush his lips across hers again.

There was no need for words as they held one another in the barn, surrounded by horses and cold snow. The words and feelings hung in the air between them, binding them in a way that neither one of them even realized yet. She had known that he loved her but this…This was something she’d never in a million years thought he’d even bring up this soon after he’d asked her out, much less when Brian was only a few yards away. She was happy for it, though. Maybe someday, they would have what her parents had. She could definitely see little brown-haired, green eyed and black-haired, brown-eyed kids running around a yard somewhere, with a little dog and a little house. As she looked up at Zacky’s face once again, she was glad to see that he could see the same thing.