Margaret had just spent another wonderful week at Southfork—and frankly, she was starting to feel a little bored. School was fine, but she had both the want and need to do something interesting, something a little bit different this weekend.
Miss Ellie had noticed that Margaret seemed a little less spirited over the last day or two, but she had a surprise. She and Clayton had been planning a short trip for this weekend, and since she was staying with them, it only made sense to bring Margaret along.
They had told her about it Thursday evening, but other than telling her it was only a daytrip they had revealed precious few details. They planned on leaving in the morning and returning at night, and as a result it would only take up a Saturday. She had to admit that she was intrigued by the idea, so she said yes to the offer.
It was Saturday morning now and they were in the jet, floating along in the sky. Margaret didn’t mind getting up early—she was usually up this early every weekend, out riding her horse. However, being in the air made her anxious to find out where exactly they were going.
“Grandma, I’ve waited long enough. Can I ask again where we’re headed?”
Miss Ellie looked up from her book. Clayton sat next to her, reading the newspaper. “What do you think, Clayton? Think she’s waited long enough?”
He peeked over the paper and smiled. “I think so.”
Miss Ellie began. “We were thinking we might buy a pair of thoroughbred horses, as a kind of welcome home present for your mother and father. They’re not expecting it.”
“Where do you get thoroughbred horses?”
“Well, from several places, but the best ones in the world come from Kentucky.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever been there. Actually, I take that back—I’ve been to the airport there during a layover.”
Clayton smiled. “You’ll like it. It’s a beautiful place with lots of friendly people. I’ve been there several times on business.”
Miss Ellie nodded in agreement. “I’ve been a few times, myself. I think you’ll really enjoy yourself.”
“I hope so.” Margaret thought about it and wondered what awaited her as she stared out the window at the wispy clouds.
Their plane had arrived in Lexington, and the limo they were riding in was now circling the perimeter of the city. After driving for several miles, they turned off the highway and the city began to give way to the rolling hills and farms. It was too chilly to roll down the window, so Margaret pressed her face to the glass and looked at the countryside beyond them. The roads were lined with miles and miles of fencing, some wood and some stone, and she spotted horses grazing peacefully, seemingly immune to the world around them. One left turn, and they pulled into the driveway of a farm. The house was thoroughly modern, seemingly dropped into the middle of several older barns and stables. The driver pulled up to the front door and stopped. Margaret got out first and held the door open for Miss Ellie and Clayton.
Miss Ellie smiled. “Margaret, you should’ve waited for the driver to do that.”
“I couldn’t wait—I was too excited.”
The front door of the house opened and a man walked out to greet them.
“Hello Mr. and Mrs. Farlow. I’m Ben Thompson, the owner of Long Pond Farm. We spoke on the phone.”
“Yes we did,” Clayton replied. “It’s a pleasure to be here.” They shook hands.
Miss Ellie looked at him. “It’s a nice to finally meet you. This is our granddaughter, Margaret.”
He held his hand out to her, and she shook it. “Hello there, little lady. Is this your first trip to a thoroughbred farm?”
“It is, sir.” She looked around impatiently. “So where are the horses?”
He laughed. “A woman who knows what she wants. I like that.” He pointed to the left with his thumb, away from the house. “They’re in the stables, over this way, so if you’ll just follow me, I can show you around.”
They walked among the stables, looking at each horse and its breeding information. Ben had twenty horses, and he articulated details about each horse, how long he had had them, which ones he had bred himself, where the others had come from. They stopped in front of the next-to-last stall.
“This is one of the horses I thought would be perfect for you,” Ben said. “Her name is Morning Star, and she’s two years old.” He pulled something off a hook and held it out to Margaret. “Young lady, how would you like to brush her mane? You look like you might know a thing or two about horses.”
“Thank you.” She smiled at him. “I know a little bit about them.” She took the brush and began to smooth out the horse’s mane as she whinnied. She finished and they walked over to the last stall.
“Okay, here’s the other horse I wanted to show you. His name’s Spirit of the West, and he’s a three-year-old.”
“He’s beautiful,” said Miss Ellie. “Reminds me of a horse we used to have many years ago.”
Clayton looked at him. “Ben, I think these two horses would be the perfect gift. I couldn’t have picked out two better ones myself.”
“Okay then, Mr. Farlow. I’ll contact your bank on Monday, take care of the transaction, and I’ll have them shipped out to you the next day.”
“Thank you, Ben. That would be great.”
He smiled at all of them. “You all weren’t planning on heading back straightaway, were you?” he asked.
Clayton looked at both Miss Ellie and Margaret. “No, we definitely have some time to spare.”
“Great,” he said, his face lighting up. “Because you haven’t lived until you’ve seen this country on horseback.”
Margaret drifted off to sleep that night, the stuffed horse Clayton had bought her at the airport clutched next to her. She was probably too old to sleep with a stuffed animal, she thought, but tonight she didn’t care. She dreamed about the day she had just spent, and looked forward to the days she had left to spend at Southfork.
What a cute update of Margaret with her grandparents.
Leave it to the millionaires to travel by airplane for a little outing over the day. If I go on an outing over the day you can count on that it's with car or train. So I never go that far.
Anyway it was a nice touch that they went to Kentucky since it's a place that you know. Also them buying horses as a surprise gift for Donna and Ray fits to a T.
The rain tapped out a rhythm on the rooftop, stranding all inside who might not have been there otherwise. It had been coming down steadily for the past two days, the clouds covering the sky and blocking the sun, casting their gray shadows on the sand. The water looked so foreboding, and yet so calm at the same time.
Ray sat in his bathrobe watching the rain drops bounce off the deck. He couldn’t say he was too disappointed by the weather. He had Donna all to himself, and she didn’t seem to mind being stuck inside, either. The rain drizzled onto the side of the house, beading up on the windows. Ray stole a glance at Donna, who was napping soundly in their bed. He made a mental note of her image, trying to freeze it forever in his mind. He looked back out at the water, watching the waves as they crashed and disappeared into the foam. He felt a slight chill as he watched the seagulls touch down on the beach. He took off his robe and crawled back into bed. He snuggled next to Donna and she stirred.
“Now why did you wake me up? I was having this wonderful dream that I was married to a cowboy and living on a ranch. Nothing like that ever happens in real life.”
He laughed. “I was cold, and you looked warm.” He put his arms around her. “Can you forgive me?”
She smiled. “I already have.”
“I think I could stay here with you, like this, all day long.”
She looked into his eyes. “The weather makes your offer even more tempting than usual.”
He stared intently at her face. “Did anyone ever tell you that you look the most beautiful when you’ve just woken up?”
“No, but keep talking. I like your compliments.”
He softly kissed her on the forehead. “I hope you never get tired of me.”
“I get tired from you, but I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of you.” She ran her hand over his thigh. He shivered, but not because he was still cold.
“You know, when it’s raining like this, there really is only one thing worth doing.”
Ray feigned confusion. “And what might that be?”
“I think you know.” She moved closer to him and pressed her lips to his.
She felt his hands caressing her back, working their magic over her skin. Their flesh began to radiate a heat as they converged, sending sparks up and down their bodies. Ray changed position so that he was on top of her, and she used her hands to massage his skin as he slipped inside of her. They moved together, loving each other in the way that only they knew how. Slowly they intensified their movements, each of them wanting to make the moment last as long as possible. There was a heightened sense of every touch, every kiss, and every sound. Ray began to accelerate his strokes, and in the moment they erupted together, it seemed as though they were frozen in time.
They were lying in bed afterward, lost in each other’s arms. While they had been too busy to notice, the rain finally cleared up and the sun began to
peek through the clouds.
Ray looked into her eyes and smiled. “Listen, how would you like to take a walk with me?”
“I’d like that, cowboy.” They kissed, and she pressed him close to her one last time before they got up to get dressed.
They walked down the beach, hand in hand, their feet marking a path in the wet sand. The sun seemed to follow them as they moved, shining a luster onto their lives as they made their way toward the horizon.
Ray sat up straight in his seat and thought silently to himself. The last time he had been on a plane coming into Dallas, his life seemed like a ball of confusion, an odd time of transition and loneliness. Finding his family again that day had given him a new focus, a reason to wake up in the morning, a reason to be. He thought about the expression, “God doesn’t close one door without opening another.” Thinking back to that day, he knew it must be true. He had spent a long time keeping his hopes and dreams to himself, but now he had someone to share them with, and it was someone who wanted the same things. Once again, they were going to build a life together.
Donna studied his face, the way she often did. He didn’t seem to notice her doing so, and she found herself wondering, when he was so deep in thought, what exactly he was thinking about. Sometimes she felt like she could read his mind, but at other times he was a mystery. It amazed her that there could be any mystery left, anything unknown after all this time, but every day was a new day for them. She looked away from him and toward the window, smiling to herself.
Their plane entered the Dallas skyline, and it began to make its descent from amongst the clouds. They held hands, their fingers intertwined much as their lives were now. Donna stared out the window, looking at the landmarks of the city.
Ray looked over at her with a toothy grin. “Does it look any different?”
She laughed. “No, it looks about the same. The sun seems to shine a little brighter, though.” She looked back toward him and winked.
“I think I should’ve kept you on that island all to myself,” he said.
“I would’ve liked that, but I know there would be at least one person who would miss us—and we would miss her, too.”
“Oh yeah, the kid.” He laughed. “I didn’t forget about her.”
“Of course she has school all day long, so you and I will still have plenty of alone time.”
“That’s good—I need someone to help me feed the horses.”
“Talk like that again and you’ll be sleeping with the horses.”
He got a sheepish look on his face. “Does this mean the honeymoon is officially over?”
She laughed again and gave him a kiss to show that it wasn’t.
Their plane landed while Margaret waited anxiously in the terminal. She’d enjoyed the past two weeks, but it was also the longest she had ever gone without having at least one parent around. She stood there, watching the passengers as they made their way out of the jet way and in search of their luggage. When she saw her parents coming toward her, she ran over and hugged both of them.
Ray smiled. “And here I was thinking that you wouldn’t miss us.”
Margaret shook her head. “No, I didn’t miss you,” she tried to fib convincingly. “You just looked like you needed a hug.”
“Well we missed you,” Donna said. “We’ll all have to go somewhere as a family next summer.”
“I’d like that,” she replied.
Donna went over to hug Miss Ellie. “So how was she?”
“She was a perfect angel” Miss Ellie replied. “I’d be glad to have her stay with me any time.”
Clayton nodded his head. “Even though she’s beaten me at every board game and card game known to man, I was glad to be with her.” He put his arm around Margaret.
Miss Ellie looked at the both of them. “Did you have a nice time?” she asked knowingly.
Donna glanced over at Ray and smiled. “We did. We were all alone for two weeks, and I didn’t even get tired of him once.”
Miss Ellie and Clayton both laughed. “I think I know what you mean,” she said.
“I guess we should all head home, then,” Ray said, “Unless they lost our luggage or something.”
“Yes, I think there’s some chili at Southfork that’s calling my name,” Clayton said.
Miss Ellie gave him a look of mock incredulity. “Clayton Farlow, I’m going to have to stop spoiling you!”
“I won’t let you,” he replied.
They made their way to the baggage claim, and then finally out to the limo.
The now-united family arrived back home, having dropped Miss Ellie and Clayton off at Southfork. They walked up onto the porch and Ray unlocked the door. He pushed it open and Margaret ran inside and up the stairs, ready to lie down in her own bed again.
He held the door open and looked at Donna.
“Welcome home, Mrs. Krebbs. At long last, you’re right where you belong.”
She smiled at him. “You’re darn right I am,” she replied.
They walked upstairs together. They’d missed their bed, too.
At last, we have reached the final entry to this particular story Thanks to everyone who read, replied, and gave feedback. Watch the Writer's Room next week for another story from the good old days
Christmas Day 1998
The snow fell lightly as Donna stared out the window. Snow wasn’t unheard of in Texas, but this was the first white Christmas she could remember here at the ranch. She turned around and looked behind her. Ray was sitting in his chair, next to the Christmas tree, while Margaret sat on the floor, inspecting the new saddle they’d bought for her. Clayton and Miss Ellie, having just come in the day before, were sitting on the couch and drinking eggnog. Donna caught Ray’s eye and they smiled at each other. She walked back across the room and sat down next to him on the arm of the chair. He put his arm around her.
Ray looked at Margaret. “You think you got that saddle figured out yet?”
She shook her head at him. “Daddy, I had it figured out as soon as I unwrapped it.”
“Okay, okay—I was just checking.”
“Donna, you did a lovely job decorating the house. You know, we’ve never been that good at preparing for Christmas around here,” Miss Ellie said.
“Thank you, Miss Ellie. I haven’t gotten to plan a Christmas by myself in years.”
Clayton smiled at her. “It seems like you forgot something, though.”
She gave him a puzzled look. “What’s that, Clayton?”
She laughed. “I didn’t forget it—it’s out in the front hall.”
“Come on, Ellie—when was the last time you kissed someone under the mistletoe?”
She placed her hand in his. “You’re a hopeless romantic, Clayton.” They got up and went out to the hall.
Margaret glanced around behind her. “So Mama, what did you give Daddy for Christmas?”
She looked at him, then back to Margaret. “I gave your father his present this morning. It’s upstairs.”
“Oh, okay,” she said. “What about you, Daddy?”
“Oh, it’s a surprise,” he replied. “I’m gonna give it to her later.”
Donna sat there looking at the two of them, reveling in how happy they were with each other. Things had gone so well for all of them these past few months. She and Ray were still like two newlyweds, and he was happier than she’d ever seen him. She was having personal success, too. Her novel, Andrew Dowling: Politics as Usual, had already become the best-selling non-fiction book in the country. The publishers wanted her to go on a book tour, and when Ray offered to join her, she said yes to the trip. They were leaving right after the first of the year. Miss Ellie and Clayton returned to housesit for them, since Margaret still had school.
That afternoon after they had eaten Christmas dinner, Ray had Donna meet him in the kitchen. He was standing next to the door, his hat and coat already on. “Come out to the stables with me?” he requested.
She gazed into his eyes. “Ray, I think it’s a little cold to be doing anything in the stable.”
“Just trust me.”
She smiled at him. “I always do.” She put on her coat and scarf while he stood there almost enigmatically.
He closed the door behind them and they stepped out into the yard. The ground was lightly covered with snow but the dormant grass still poked through. As they walked toward the horse stable a few flurries dampened their faces. When they got there, she stood off to the side as he pulled open the doors. He motioned to her. “Come look at this.”
She smiled at him and looked inside. He had snuck outside a few minutes earlier, for there in the middle of stable stood the two thoroughbred horses Clayton and Miss Ellie had given them as a wedding gift, saddled and ready for a ride.
“Ray, what is this?”
“It’s my present to you. I was hoping you would go riding with me, so we could be by ourselves for a while.”
She gave him a soft, warm kiss, one that cut through the cold around them. “You know I could never say no to a cowboy, at least not when he’s got your smile.”
Ray helped Donna onto her horse before mounting his own, and together they rode out of the barn. The horses walked slowly across the white powder, carefully but not fearfully. The newly fallen snow sparkled and shimmered in the sunlight, even though the sky was mostly overcast. They rode side by side, their breath visible as they spoke with each other, all the way up to the closest ridge behind the house.
“Let’s stop here,” Ray said. They could see the house, the snow clinging to its roof, its lights shining like a beacon across the plain.
Donna looked at him, tracing his face with her eyes. “I love you, Mr. Krebbs.”
His eyes glistened, full of emotion, as he answered her. “I love you, Mrs. Krebbs."
“You’ll be the last person I ever love, Ray. My place will never be anywhere but by your side.”
He looked deep into her eyes. “Remember when I told you all I wanted was a happy ending?”
“I remember that.”
“Well,” he said as he smiled at her, “I think I’ve found it.”
He leaned over on his horse and kissed her long and deep. They both knew that despite how hard they fought it and the years they were apart, they had finally accepted their destiny, each other.
They rode home, the wind at their backs, and the rest of their lives in front of them.
Aww that was so cute. I love how you referred back to what he'd told her on one of their first meetings how all he wanted was a happy ending. Then them riding off together into the horizon sort of. Such a sweet ending.
Also gotta love that it was Christmas and how Miss Ellie and Clayton talked about kissing underneath the mistletoe.
I guess you are never too old to be romantic.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us Tommie. You really are a talented writer.
And thank you to whoever had saved it so it wasn't lost. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we are grateful you did.