“Wonderful! You must be very proud.”
“Yeah, I am. The mare is mine, I raised her from a foal.”
They stopped by the grassy area where the horses were grazing. They didn’t get out of the car, but Jasper showed off the three colts; two fillies and a stallion. After admiring the colts, they drove on, hitting the highway near noon. After that, they made much better time.
They chattered as if they had known one another for years instead of hours. Jasper wanted to know everything he could about Hana, matching her stories with those of her great aunt’s. In turn, he told her of the ridiculous antics he and his cousins and siblings pulled over the years.
“Oh, Ms. E. got me for that one,” he shook his head, laughing as he rubbed the back of his neck.
“Sounds like you deserved it.”
“No doubt I did, but it still hurt. Grip like a vice! I never did it again, I can tell you.”
“You know, Auntie used to tell me stories about you and your family. I just didn’t know who she was talking about.”
“Rarely by name. She’d say something like, A young man of my acquaintance or something like that. She talked about you all the time. I’m only just now figuring it out, hearing you tell tales on yourself. She’d laugh so hard at times, she’d get tears.”
“Did she tell you about the calf stampeded?”
“Then I won’t either. Forget I said anything.”
No matter what she said, he didn’t tell her about it. “It’s something for her to share, if she’s of a mind to. You hungry?” He glanced at the clock. It was nearly one.
“Yeah, I’m a little bit.”
“We’ll stop in the next town. There’s a restaurant there you’d like.”
A few minutes later, they pulled into the parking lot of a roadside restaurant. It had a quaint, Fifties look to it. Jasper helped her out of the SUV, steadying as she lost her balance.
“Not too used to sitting that long, I guess.”
“It’s the altitude. It’s a lot higher here than it is back home. Lean on me if you need to.”
“Thanks.” She took his arm, holding with both hands.
Jasper smiled, kissing her cheek. “We’ll sit down on something that’s not moving for a little bit. You’ll feel better soon, I promise.”
“I think all those days of driving are catching up with me. I didn’t feel it yesterday, but I sure do today!”
“It’s not much further, about another hour or so. You can take a nap after lunch.”
“I might have to.”
They walked into the restaurant. A pretty, dark haired young woman met them at the hostess stand. She smiled broadly, greeting Jasper by name.
“Your usual table, Jasper?”
“Yeah, Julia. That would be great.”
“Let me guess, another relative?”
“My sister, Julia. Jules, may I introduce Hana Sutherland.”
“Oh, you’re Enid’s niece! I’m so happy to meet you. I would have known you anywhere, she’s shown us pictures forever. You should have called, Jas. I’d have had a bungalow ready.”
“We can’t stay the night, Jules. Mitch bought some new Mustangs. We’re on the way up there to shoe them.”
“You’re not making this girl shoe horses.”
“No, I’m the only one working.”
“I get to watch.”
Julia’s eyes twinkled. “Now there’s a sight you’ll enjoy!”
“Are the horses beautiful?”
Julia’s eyes twinkled and she glanced at her brother. “It isn’t the horses I’d be watching if I were you. See, my husband used to assist Jasper before we opened this place. That’s how we met. I won’t spoil it, but it’s a treat.”
“What would you like to eat, Hana?” Jasper asked, trying to change the subject.
“Besides you?” Julia chuckled, walking off to get them drinks.
“My sister isn’t too subtle. I apologize.”
“What for? I’m anxious to see what she’s talking about.”
Jasper raised an eyebrow, enjoying her double entendre.
They ate quickly, feeling the push to get back on the road. Julia took an extended break, sitting down to chat with them. Hana liked her immediately, finding her as warm and welcoming as the rest of Jasper’s family.
Julia loved to pick on her brother. Jasper returned the treatment in kind. The two of them teased one another unmercifully.
“You two are so much alike, it’s uncanny,” Hana observed.
Julia’s melodic laugh filled the dining room. “You wouldn’t be surprised to find out we’re twins then, huh?”
© Dellani Oakes 2022