Getting to Me

Chapter Five

The ride was a lot different than Zacky had been expecting it to be, and it was different in all the right ways. He’d been expecting to feel somewhat miserable because of the skin-numbing wind and the frigid temperatures, but he hadn’t paid any attention to the weather. In fact, he hadn’t paid any attention to anything that wasn’t Mandy or something she wanted him to look at. The scenery was beautiful in a way that a wintry day in Fargo could never be, with snow glistening on top of tree branches and catching the few rays of bright sunlight that poked through the mass of grey clouds, making them twinkle as if they were diamonds in the sky. The horses plowed through the snow as though it were nothing, lifting their feet easily and deftly as they moved along the trail that Mandy had decided to ride on.

And then there was Mandy. If he hadn’t already thought she was beautiful, she was breathtaking when she was riding her horse. The wind had made her tan face a little pale, but in a stunning sort of way. Her nose was tinted red from the harsh coldness, but she didn’t complain as she held the leather horse reins with one hand, her other arm dropped nonchalantly to her side as she led the horse. He couldn’t really bring himself to concentrate on the words that came from her lips—he was, after all, only a man. But she was drop dead gorgeous to him right now, and he couldn’t recall ever thinking that a girl was that beautiful no matter how good-looking she was. In fact, if Zacky were honest with himself, he had only ever used words like, “hot” or “sexy” to describe girls. And while they were appreciated by the girls he normally caroused around with, they didn’t fit Mandy. Though she was clearly a perfect definition of both words, they didn’t suit her style. She looked over at him with a smile, and then stopped her horse as she gave him a strange look.

“What’s wrong?” She asked him, her eyes crinkled and catching the light of the sun as she looked at him with that smile. He blinked once, trying to figure out what she’d said to him, and then blushed when he figured out that she’d asked him a question.

“Huh?” He asked her. He wasn’t sure what she’d asked, and he blushed deeper when he realized that he probably sounded like a blubbering idiot to her. Instead of rolling her eyes, she just let out one of those giggles he’d come to like so much, and then repeated her question.

“What’s wrong?” She laughed, looking at his face. “You had a weird look on your face.”

“Oh…Uh, it was…nothing,” he muttered, losing confidence in his voice as he reached back around his head to scratch at his scalp. “I uh—”

Before he could say anything else, he lost his balance on the horse, and fell over its side, falling into a large bank of snow. Mandy outright laughed as she led his horse away a few feet before dismounting from her horse, walking over to Zacky and smiling as she offered him her hand, pulling him up out of the snow.

“I thought you said you wouldn’t let me fall off,” he teased her, taking her hand as she pulled him up out of the snow. He wasn’t sure if the red that tinted her cheeks after his words was the wind or what he’d said, but he hoped that it was the first of the two.

“I didn’t know you could fall off of a horse that was standing still,” she giggled while they walked back over to their horses. She stopped and watched as he struggled to get himself into the saddle before she walked around to her own horse and mounted again before they began walking their horses along the path again.

“So, you go on horse rides like this often?” Zacky asked her as they rode. Mandy smiled, and nodded as she rode slightly ahead of Zacky, turning back to smile at him as the horses walked along the path slowly.

“Yeah, but I usually ride Sheba,” she told him, smiling as she thought of the horse. Sheba had been the horse she’d grown up with, and she’d been the horse who had really taught her how to ride. She always said it was the animal that taught the human, and not the other way around. Sheba had been patient as she’d been growing up, always letting Mandy take her time as she tried to figure out how to ride, and then keeping her safe when they went on trail rides together. Every time Mandy had ever come across a rattlesnake, which happened often, the horse had never bucked her or had a panic attack. Instead, she’d merely walked over the snake and continued on the trail ride. To this day, Sheba was her preferred horse; she was her horse soul mate.

“The pregnant one?” Zacky asked her. Mandy nodded, and then stopped the horse as they neared the dam that was about a mile away from the ranch. She smiled as she dismounted from the horse once more, tethering it to a low branch that was attached to the trunk of the tree before looking at Zacky, who smirked as he dismounted from his horse as well. As he was tethering his horse to the tree, she giggled and he turned to see what she was laughing at, but groaned as a snowball hit him on his face.

“Oh, you’re gonna pay for that,” he said in a playful voice as she squealed and started running over the snowdrifts as he chased her. She ran out onto the dam’s surface, safe because it was frozen solid for at least five feet below the surface, and grinned as Zacky stopped at the edge of the ice.

“What’s the matter, Zacky? Afraid you’ll fall through?” She asked him, giggling as she twirled on the ice. She was too caught up in spinning that she didn’t see Zacky start moving towards her again, and she let out a loud gasp when she saw how close he was getting before she started running again. The ice proved to be slippery, however, and she fell to her bottom, making a loud thunk sound with her butt. Zacky laughed as he tripped over her, falling on top of her, the only thing stopping his weight from squishing her being his hands that had been braced on either side of her.

Neither of them noticed that they were in an awkward position, and neither of them noticed that it was freezing cold as they laid there on the ice. Instead, the only thing they were noticing about one another was the way their eyes didn’t seem to be able to stray from one another. All Zacky seemed to be able to look at was her chocolate-colored eyes; the way the brown swirled into a lighter hazel color where the sunlight hit them, and then darkened to near-black by her pupils. Likewise, Mandy’s gaze was focused solely on Zacky’s eyes. They were a beautiful green shade that she compared to the way grass looked when it was fresh, and near his pupils, the beautiful green color washed out into a light hazel, like caramel swirled with mint.

They laid there on the dam’s surface just like that for several minutes before Zacky finally felt the cold start getting to his cheeks once more, and he blushed as he stood up off of her, offering her his hand and pulling her to his feet.

“We should probably get back to the house,” Mandy said quietly as they walked back towards the horses. Zacky nodded, keeping his hand on her upper arm so that she wouldn’t slip on the ice again as they slid their feet across it. When they reached the horses, he gave her a boost up even though she didn’t need one, and then struggled yet again to get himself into the saddle.

“That was fun,” he told her as they turned their horses back towards the ranch. She let out another one of those giggles that he loved hearing, and nodded as she turned to look at him. She was still smiling, and he was glad to see it.

“Maybe we should do it again some time,” she suggested. He nodded, and then turned his attention to look out at the horizon. The sun was starting to set, even though it was only four thirty, and the sun was casting warm orange and red shadows on the crisp white snow. It never looked like this in Fargo, for some reason, and he found that the more he thought about it, the more it seemed like living here was a better fit for him.

They spent the rest of the ride back to the ranch in silence, just taking in the scenery and enjoying one another’s company. The only sounds that could be heard were the sound of the horse’s hooves plowing through the deep snow and their heavy breath, the leather creaking as the horse’s hips moved, and the occasional jingle of the metal on the bridles.

The house was empty when they got back, although Mandy noticed that the power was back on, much to her surprise. The lights were on once again, and the sound of McKenna’s radio could be heard upstairs. “I wonder where everyone went,” she asked as she reached into the fridge and pulled out a bottle of water, handing one to Zacky.

Zacky didn’t say anything in response as he moved to sit in the living room, crossing his legs underneath of him as Mandy followed him, sitting in a chair across the room and giving him one of those bright smiles. Finally, the silence started bothering Zacky, even though it was a good sort of silence, and he spoke.

“So who is this Roy that Brian was talking about the other day?” He asked her, unable to think of anything else to ask her. Of course, if he were honest, he simply wanted to know if there was any possibility she was still interested in him.

“Just an ex,” she said with a small frown on her face. “One I don’t particularly care to see again or talk about.”

Zacky nodded his head, getting the hint, and decided to drop the topic. If she didn’t want to talk about him, then he’d either fucked up royally, or she was seriously over him. Either way, it was a good thing in Zacky’s opinion. He had no idea why he felt like that, but he did, and he was glad that there was nothing going on between this Roy person and Mandy.

“What about you?” She asked him, looking up from the window and giving him a small smile. “Any girlfriends?”

Zacky would have been an idiot to have not heard the curiosity in her voice, and he smiled in spite of himself as he shook his head, looking at the rough cedar coffee table as he thought about her words for a minute before answering. “Nah, I’m not really the type to do serious dating. I’m more of a…here for a night, gone the next morning, type of guy,” he told her honestly.

“Oh,” Mandy said, her voice somewhat disappointed as she turned her gaze so that she was looking out at the white expanse of snow once more. When Zacky realized how what he’d said had come out, he quickly recanted his words.

“That’s not to say I never would date,” he told her, causing her head to turn around and face him. He sent a small smile her way as he took a drink out of the water bottle before continuing. “I just haven’t been with the right girl yet, that’s all.”

Mandy’s face seemed to brighten as he told her that, but she didn’t say anything as she turned away and looked out the window again. Across the red dirt road that led up to the ranch, a coyote could be seen trotting through the snow, darting faster when it heard one of the dogs outside barking at it to chase it from the property. She appeared to be deep in thought.

Suddenly, the house became alive with noise again. The front door slammed open, and Brian and Brent walked into the living room, turning on the TV to play the same video game they’d played before the power had gone off. McKenna came down from upstairs to make a snack in the kitchen, and Suzy was sitting in the office working on the finance books.

But when Mandy turned her head over to look at Zacky as he sat on the couch and saw him looking back at her, it was as if no one else was in the house with them. It was as if the two of them were alone again, and Mandy blushed as he gave her a small smirk.

If things continued progressing this way, she was going to start seeing him as a lot more than just her older brother’s best friend.
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Happy Thanksgiving, to all of you that are celebrating today's holiday. I hope everyone had a good time with their families, ate well, and had a good day in general. I started writing chapter eighteen for this, and I really hope that you guys enjoy the way this story is going. I'm thinking it should be about thirty-forty chapters long, maybe a little bit more than that. :) The comments are lovely, as well.