Getting to Me

Chapter Three

The next few days were a blur. The snow storm had turned into a blizzard, and Mandy hadn’t been able to go to her college course on Monday night. School had been cancelled for McKenna as well, and they were all essentially snowbound in the house. The only time they left the house was to check on the animals outside and make sure they had fresh food and water, before coming back inside to warm up from the frigid cold temperatures. It had gotten to -35 degrees outside without the wind chill factor, and it was getting colder every day that the blizzard stayed.

Zacky made a small chuckle as his eyes drifted closed. Just knowing that someone else was with him in the darkness made him more comfortable. It didn’t matter that it was Mandy; he’d have felt the same if it was Brian or one of his other friends. At least, that’s what he told himself as he fell asleep, even if he wasn’t sure that was true.

Mandy was they typical farm girl. She didn’t have any plans to ever leave the country, and she truly loved the way she could see for miles and miles and not see any buildings blocking her view except for the occasional dilapidated barn and abandoned farmhouse. She loved the way the wind felt as it was blowing through her hair when she was on the back of one of the horses. And Zacky just wasn’t that type of guy. He’d lived his whole life in the city, and this was the first time he’d ever spent an extended amount of time in a place that wasn’t Fargo. He was actually surprised that Zacky was considering moving to the small town, but he didn’t think it would be a bad idea. He knew that the city had some bad memories for Zacky, and he wanted his friend to be happy. He just didn’t think that the sort of happiness the black-haired, green-eyed man was looking for could be found in Mandy. That was all.

Today, it was Thursday, and the blizzard was at its worst. Brian Sr. was sure the power was going to go out at any time, and he’d already brought the outside dog into the house and penned him in on the porch so that the poor animal wouldn’t freeze. He was putting some insulation over the bedroom windows now to stop the drafts a little better, and the reserve blankets had been pulled out. Suzy was making homemade chili on the stovetop, and it filled the house with the spicy scent that made everyone’s stomachs rumble even though they weren’t hungry yet.

“Dad, I’m going out to check on the horses again,” Mandy said as she pushed herself up off of the couch, walking towards the entryway to pull on the work jacket, boots, gloves, and facemask that would keep her warm in the subzero temperatures. She was worried about her horse in particular, Sheba. The horse was pregnant, and she wanted to see the foal’s birth. Brian Sr. nodded at his daughter’s words as she grabbed her cell phone and stuck it into her pocket in case she’d need help if Sheba did start foaling, and then turned around when she heard someone walk up behind her. It was Brian. She smiled at him as he started pulling on the winter clothes as well, and before long the two of them had walked out of the house and were heading into the horse barn to check on the large animals. They walked through the high snowdrifts and climbed over the fencing to get inside the corral that would take them to the inside of the barn because the snow was too high to open the gate, and when they’d gotten inside the barn they pulled their gloves off. It was warm inside the horse barn, from all the body heat that radiated off of the animals and the hay that covered the ground.

“So, you’re hanging with Zacky a lot,” her brother noticed as they neared Sheba’s stall. Mandy looked over at him with a confused expression before rolling her eyes and playfully shoving him.

“He’s just a friend, Brian. Relax, don’t get your panties in a bunch,” she teased him, stopping outside of her horse’s stall and opening the gate to step inside. The large bay animal was standing just as she always did, and her large, doe-brown eyes blinked when she saw Mandy before nuzzling her nose against Mandy’s chest, making her smile.

“I know,” Brian said. “To you, he’s just a friend. But he might get other ideas. I just wanted to make sure you’re not gonna try and…y’know, hook up with him or anything.”

“Brian, I’m sure he doesn’t have any desire to ‘hook up’ with me,” Mandy rolled her eyes, stroking the horse’s back. It didn’t appear that the animal was going in to labor yet, which meant that she could return back to the house.

“He’s a good guy, Mandy, don’t get me wrong,” Brian started, opening the stall door for her. “He’s just…I don’t think you guys should get together or anything. I think it’d be weird if my best friend and my baby sister got together.”

“Brian, you think it’s weird if I date any guy,” she pointed out with a frown, pulling her gloves back on as she and her brother walked towards the house. They could see their father getting on the snowmobile to go to one of the pastures to check on some cattle in the distance. Brian didn’t answer her as he pulled her in for a sideways hug, just glad that he was home so that he could spend more time with his family. He’d missed them a lot when he’d been in Fargo, even if he did have friends there that he’d miss too.

When they got inside, the dog was sleeping beside the wall of closets that their father used for tools, and she quickly woke up to trot over to Brian and Mandy as they began sliding out of the winter clothes and putting them away on the right hooks and boxes. Mandy smiled and kneeled to pet the dog, giving her a warm hug before standing up again and walking into the main part of the house, smiling when she saw that her mother was setting the table for dinner.

Mandy walked upstairs after she talked to her mother for a few minutes and smiled when she heard Zacky talking on his cell phone in Brian’s bedroom. From the sound of it, he was talking to his mother, which was definitely something that she liked in a guy. Not that she liked Zacky, she told herself with a small frown. She just thought it was an attractive trait in guys if they called their parents and weren’t afraid to tell them that they loved them, that was all. It meant they were somewhat open with their emotions, and that was always a good thing in a relationship. She closed her bedroom door so that she could change in privacy, and when she’d finished with that, Zacky was still talking on the phone. She walked over to the door of Brian’s bedroom and leaned against the doorway, waiting for him to get off the phone as she watched him with a smile. He nodded as he said a few more words to his mother before hanging up, blushing in an embarrassed manner as he hung up the phone and pushed it into his pocket.

“That was my Mom,” he said in a quiet voice as he looked at the floor. She chuckled as she shrugged, walking into her brother’s bedroom and sitting on the edge of the bed while looking at Zacky.

“It’s okay,” she smiled up at him. “At least you’re not afraid to tell her you love her, right? I think it’s kinda cute.”

She hadn’t realized that her last sentence could be considered flirting, and blushed as Zacky’s eyes widened just slightly before his blush deepened yet again, shuffling his feet awkwardly. “So did your horse have her baby yet?” He asked her, changing the discussion so that the air wouldn’t be tense between them anymore. Mandy smiled as she thought about her horse, and then shook her head.

“No, but she’s getting close,” she told Zacky with an excited smile. “I think it’s gonna be sometime around Christmas, probably. I just have a feeling about it.”

“A Christmas baby,” Zacky said as he sat down on the other end of the bed with a smile on his face. “I’ve never seen a horse give birth before. Is it gross and stuff?”

Mandy laughed at his question, shrugging and then meeting his gaze. “Not if you grew up with it, I guess. It’s normal for me, but that’s just because I was always there when the horses were foaling when I was little. Brian thinks it’s gross though. It’s no different than a human woman having a baby, really.”

The air settled into another silence between them before Mandy cleared her throat and stood up a few minutes later, looking over at him as she nodded her head in the direction of the hallway that would lead them to the staircase to go downstairs. “C’mon, dinner’s almost ready,” she told him as she walked out of the bedroom and headed down to the dining room for dinner.


The power went out shortly after dark that night, leaving the entire house without power or heat. Mandy and her siblings were used to this, it was a regular occurrence in winter blizzards on the ranch, but Zacky wasn’t so used to it. Everyone went to bed at the same time as normal, using flashlights or cell-phones to find their way to their beds, and Zacky was left alone to himself in the living room. He couldn’t deny that he was just a little scared of how dark it was, and the way the wind was howling outside and making the windows shake in their frames didn’t help him any. He laid on the couch with the blankets pulled up to his neck, but he couldn’t sleep at all. Instead, he just laid there, listening to the wind and the snow outside, telling himself how silly he was for being scared of the solid blackness that had fallen over the North Dakota countryside.

Mandy wasn’t able to sleep that night either. It wasn’t because she was afraid of the dark, or because of the wind howling. She just couldn’t sleep, for reasons she couldn’t figure out. She sighed as she pushed the blankets that were covering her body off and slid her feet into some slippers before making her way out of her bedroom, careful not to wake her brothers and sister up as she moved downstairs. She thought Zacky was asleep as well, so she gasped in surprise when she felt someone’s hand touch her shoulder as she walked over to the fridge to pull out a bottle of water.

“It’s just me,” he said from behind her. Mandy turned around with a smile, not able to really make out the features of his face or body, and nodded even though he couldn’t see it in the dark room.

“What are you doing awake?” She asked him as she started walking towards the dining room table, using her cell phone so that she didn’t trip on the chair legs. “It’s only two o’clock in the morning.”

“Uh…” He started, pushing a hand back through his hair, not wanting to sound like a coward to her. He’d already lied once to impress her though, and it hadn’t really worked to his advantage, so he decided to just tell the truth this time. “The darkness kind of freaked me out a little, and the wind is kind of scary,” he said in a soft voice.

Mandy chuckled, but didn’t think that it was strange. He wasn’t used to the ranch and the way it was out here, so she really didn’t blame him. “It’s fine,” she told him, grabbing his hand and giving it a reassuring squeeze over the tabletop before letting her hand rest there. “I used to be afraid of it too. Brian would have to stay in my room with me sometimes because I thought the Abominable Snowman was going to come in my window and take me.”

“He sounds like he was a pretty good older brother,” Zacky smirked at her from over the table, his facial features only partly visible because of the minimal light coming from the cell phone. “He’s lucky to have such a good little sister, too.”

Mandy blushed at Zacky’s compliment, thankful that the darkness kept her blush hidden, and then shivered as the coldness in the room began to get to her. Even in her fleece pajamas, she was still cold. “I don’t know about you,” she said with a small smile as she stood up. “But I’m going to go grab one of those blankets you’re not using. It’s freezing in here.”

Zacky stood up and followed her, nearly tripping over her before he stopped himself by grabbing the chair so he wouldn’t fall over. Once she had one of the blankets wrapped around her body, he did the same and cocooned his body with the other blanket before he sat down next to her on the couch. He didn’t say anything as she scooted closer, still cold. She shivered slightly as she laid her head on his shoulder, not thinking anything of it. She often did the same thing with her brothers as well, and since she and Zacky had become fairly good friends since he’d arrived home with Brian on Friday, she didn’t think he’d mind. She was glad when he didn’t protest, and smiled as he leaned his head onto hers as well.

“It’s so different here than it is in Fargo,” he told her, both of them looking out the large picture window that took up the majority of the wall on the opposite side of the room. Though nothing was visible in the darkness, they could both see hear the wind beating against the glass.

“You don’t have blackouts like this up there, do you?” She asked him, her voice quiet so that she wouldn’t wake her parents up. He chuckled slightly under his breath, shaking his head before he answered her.

“Nah,” he said in a light tone. “I mean, we get power outages and stuff, but I don’t think we’ve ever had the heat and stuff go out. I’m surprised the stuff in your fridge is still good, to be honest.”

She chuckled and then shrugged. “Dad put the meat and stuff outside already. The milk will probably go bad, but that’s about it. All we need to do to keep the cold stuff cold is put it in an ice box outside and fill it with snow.”

“Well that makes sense,” Zacky thought after a moment, nodding his head and then letting out a small chuckle before he yawned. Mandy’s presence downstairs had made him feel a little less intimidated by the darkness, and now that he wasn’t spooked, he was getting sleepy again. Mandy took notice and scooted away from him so that he could lay down, and then sat beside the couch as she looked at his face, meeting his gaze in the darkness and giving him a small smile.

“Go to bed, Baker,” she told him, pulling the blanket up so that it covered his face in a joking manner. “I’ll stay here to make sure the boogeyman doesn’t get to you.”

Everyone in the family was used to it, as was Zacky. Fargo got a fair amount of cold winters as well, and he didn’t complain any more than the rest of them did. Because there was nothing else for any of them to do, Zacky and Mandy had gotten to know each other even better, and they had become friends as well. Brian, ever the watchful older brother, watched his friend and sister carefully, but he hadn’t seen a reason to interfere yet. Actually, if he were honest, he didn’t think Zacky was a bad guy. He had a work ethic, and as soon as he decided if he was going to stay in Golden Valley or go back to Fargo for good, he was planning on getting a job. He just didn’t think that his friend was a good match for Mandy.