Friday, January 31, 2014

Chapter 7: A Beautiful Mess



Chapter 7: A Beautiful Mess


I wake before my alarm and jump in the shower. I want to get breakfast done and get both of my rooms painted today. After getting ready for the day, I pick up a still sleeping Lleu and carry him downstairs. Spoiled little monster.

Eggs, hash browns, and sausage are already on the table by the time everyone entered the dining room. Thanking me for breakfast, they fix their plates then pour themselves coffee or juice before sitting down to eat.

"What's on the agenda today?" my father asks, breaking the silence.

"Once Rose and I get back from takin' Cassie to school, I'm gonna start on her bedroom," Bella explains. "I've got a horse to start training tomorrow, so I'm hopin' to get most of it done today."

"I need to plow up that garden y'all stripped," Billy comments. "The boys have a few things to fix, and then they can help paint and move furniture."

"I guess we're gonna paint and decorate today," Bella states. "Jake, did you check that back fence?"

"Yeah," Jake answers while still shoving food in his mouth. "It was cut again. Seth set up his game cam last night. We're gonna check it this morning."

"I wanna know immediately if it shows anything," Bella states, her tone dripping with anger. Billy's face turns red while he shakes his head.

"You boys don't go out there alone and make sure you carry a gun with you," Billy states in a rough voice. "Take Emmett along, too."

"I want all those old hunting blinds tore down," Bella says with authority. "Daddy never wanted them up to begin with."

"No, he didn't," Billy agrees. "He knew it was a bad idea when your grandpa agreed to let old man Call set 'em up."

"This is a horse ranch," Sarah cuts in, "not a huntin' lease. They wanna hunt, go somewhere else like our boys do."

"Damn," my dad blurts out. "The Calls were nothing but trouble. They still around?"

"Elan's son is," Billy answers. "Nothin' but trouble, that boy. Blames his family's mess on Charlie. Elan died years ago; drank himself into the grave.

"Yeah, Embry was at Crossroads Friday," Jessica states with distaste. "Thought Jake and Sam were gonna pound him for mouthin' off 'bout Bella being a spoiled, rich bitch."

"Don't want none of you gettin' in trouble 'cause of that boy," Sarah states in a motherly tone. "Just watch yourselves."

"Yes, ma'am," Jake replies with a frown.

"OK," Bella remarks, rising from her chair. "Rose and I are takin' this li'l thing to school. We'll be back soon." Rose follows, giving Emmett a kiss on his cheek as she passes.

"I'm gonna go check on the chicken house," Jasper comments. "I'll be back to help move furniture and paint."

I clean the kitchen quickly with Angela and Alice's help before heading upstairs to start painting my sitting room. It doesn't take long for me to tape over the trim. I move the few pieces of furniture to the center of the room and cover them with a spare sheet, then lay paint tarps down to cover the floor to protect it from any accidental paint splashes or drips. Just as I'm about to open the can of paint, Jasper walks in with a sheet of plastic and a ladder.

"Help me cover your fan," he directs as he climbs the ladder. "Paint the ceiling with this first, so if any of it splatters on the walls, you can paint over it."

"Thanks, man," I tell him appreciatively.

It doesn't take long for me to paint the first coat on the ceiling, but when I look down at myself, I'm covered in paint splatters. The worst part is that I see Lleu rolling on the tarp, which also means that he is totally covered in paint.

"Oh, little man," I state, distressed. "You're a mess."

A soft voice behind me states, "A beautiful mess." I turn around to see Bella leaning against the doorway looking dazed.

"What?" I ask to make sure I heard her correctly.

She clears her throat, "I said you're both a mess."

"Uh huh," I smirk at her. Maybe she's interested, too.

"I was coming to see if you needed any help, but I'm not sure I wanna wear the paint that belongs on the walls," she laughs out. "Lleu, did daddy get you all messy?" A small whimper and a quiet woof is his reply as if he was speaking to her. This sends Bella off into a fit of giggles that I can hear as she walks out of the room and down the hall. She returns a couple of seconds later with an old towel. She bends down and coos to my dog, who is just eating it up. "Come on, baby. Let's take you to Sarah and see if she can get you all unpainted." I hear another round of soft giggles and the murmurs of more cooing as she makes her way back down the hall.

By the time I have a second coat on the ceiling, Bella is back. She is wearing old clothes and her hair is pulled up into a ball cap.

"All the walls gonna be the blue color?" she asks, getting another roller and paint pan ready.

"Um, yeah," I answer, staring at her bent over the paint. "I'm gonna leave the trim white."She nods in understanding and starts to paint on one of the walls. We joke and banter easily while painting the walls. Our conversations flow seamlessly and I find myself so comfortable around her that I feel as if I can share anything with her. It's as if we have known each other forever.

"So, you and Emmett went to different colleges, what about Jasper?" she inquires.

"Jasper decided after graduating high school that college wasn't for him, so he got a job right away with a construction company," I explain proudly. "He learned everything he could through hands-on experiences, and when the owner decided to retire, Jasper bought him out."

"How did he meet Alice?" she asks.

"Her parents' house burned down, and they hired Jasper's company to do the rebuild," I remark. "They were married two months later."

"Wow," she states in awe. "That's awesome. They're perfect together."

"They are," I agree, smiling at the memory of first meeting Alice. "She bounced right into our lives and it hasn't been the same since. Just wish I had listened to her and Rose when they tried to warn me about the she-devil."

"Hey," she comforts. "Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes we're blinded by the things we think we want."

"Have you ever been blinded? Regretted something?" I ask, wanting to get to know more about her.

"Yeah," she answers sadly. "I wish Mike and I would've gotten married here so my dad could've walked me down the aisle."

"You were young," I state. "I'm sure he knew you didn't do it to exclude him."

We continue painting until all the walls are done. Once the paint is dry enough, we work the perimeter of the room, removing the tape gently. After throwing the last of the tape balls in the center of the room, we both stand back, shoulder to shoulder, admiring our work.

"Beautiful," I whisper, glancing at Bella.

"I'm sure the guys are through moving Cassie's furniture," she states out of the blue. "Now you can help me paint her room." She says with a smirk as she turns her attention towards me.

"That I can do," I answer. "Once this is dry and I have it decorated, I'll start on my bedroom and bathroom."

We clean the brushes and rollers in the utility room before starting on Cassie's room. My mother and Rose join us, wanting to get it painted before she gets home from school. The green and mauve look really good together. We only stop to eat the lunch Sarah made before diving back in. By the time we're done with painting, Jessica pops her head in to tell us she's going to pick up Cassie from school.

"Bella," my mother starts hesitantly. "Where is Cassie gonna sleep tonight?"

"Oh," Bella giggles at our wide eyes. "She sleeps with me. I hope re-doing her room will encourage her to sleep in it."

We all let out a breath of relief. I really didn't want to see baby girl have a meltdown because her room is torn apart.

"Has she always slept with you?" Rose inquires.

"When she first came home from the hospital," she explains, taking a seat on Cassie's plastic covered bed, "she was on an Apnea Monitor and oxygen, so she slept in a crib in my room. It had an alarm, so if she quit breathing I would know."

"Oh dear," my mother states, bring her hands to her chest. "You two have been through so much."

"We have," Bella agrees. "But it's made us both stronger. She's a fighter, stubborn since the day she was born. Thank God she is or I don't think she would've survived."

Just as my mother is about to speak, we hear a beeping. Bella pulls out one of those walkie talkie-type cell phones from her back pocket. "Go ahead," she barks out.

There's a little static, but we clearly hear Billy. "Y'all need to come down to the office. Seth found something on the game cam."

"We'll be right there," she states before closing it and putting it back in her pocket. Walking over to the speaker box on the wall, she pushes the button. "Everyone to the ranch office, now."

You could hear the others rumbling down the stairs as we walk down the hall. We all follow Bella to the ranch office where Billy and Seth are looking at a laptop.

"Three people," Billy states, looking up as we walk in. "Can't make out who they are though."

"Lemme see," Bella demands, walking over to the laptop. "Play it again."

She studies the footage as we look over her shoulder.

"Is that a letterman jacket?" she asks, looking closer at the screen. "Can we blow this up? Where's Jess when I need her?"

"Let me try," Rose states, wiggling closer to the table. "Scoot over," she tells Billy as she playfully bumps his hip. She pulls the computer toward her and freezes the screen. Then she zooms in on the three guys.

"That is a letterman jacket," Bella blurts out, clearly pissed off. She jumps up from the chair and marches over to her desk, yanking up the phone.

"Garrett, it's Bella," she shrieks into the receiver. "Can you come out to the ranch? No, this is official business. See you then." She then grabs the rolodex off the desk and starts flipping through it before dialing again. "I need to speak to Coach Clapp please. No I can't leave a message so I suggest you have him paged immediately. I'll hold," she barks into the receiver, tapping her foot as she waits. It takes about five minutes before she is talking again. "Coach Clapp, it's Isabella Swan. No, sir, I'm not all right. Can you come out to the ranch immediately? I've already contacted the sheriff's office, but I think you might want to see this before I decide to press charges. No sir, that's fine. I'll see you soon," she states before slamming the receiver down.

After taking a few deep breathes she turns back to Seth, "Does it show them leaving?"

"Um, yeah," Seth stutters out. "They're carry something but I can't make it out."

Bella is still fuming by the time Garrett arrives. He walks in with an older man who's as big as Emmett with greying hair.

"What's this about?" Garrett asks. "And why is Coach here?"

Billy decides to jump in before Bella explodes. "The back fence kept being cut open so Seth set up a game cam last night so we could see what was goin' on," Billy explains showing them the footage. "Looks like one of 'em is a football player."

"What are they carrying out of there?" Garrett asks, trying to get a closer look. "Is that a girl with them? It is a girl!"

"That looks like Eli Call," the older man, who I assume is Coach Clapp, states. Bella and Billy both whip their heads around with wide eyes.

"Call," Billy states. "You mean Embry Call's younger brother? I thought he lived in Houston with his mother."

"He moved back last year," Coach Clapp states. "Something 'bout his mother getting re-married. Lives with his brother."

"Well, I want to know what the hell he's doing breaking onto my property and whose with him," Bella demands. "You know I have posted signs all along my property. I don't want some kid gettin' shot for being stupid," she states, shaking her head.

"I wanna know what the hell they're carrying out of here," Billy blurts out, as he wraps an arm around Bella to calm her down. "They're not gettin' close to the barns or the alarms would go off."

"How often do y'all check the fence line?" Garrett asks, looking up from the computer screen he's been studying. "And can someone burn me a copy of this?"

"We check weekly." Jake jumps into the conversation, explaining what happened. "We noticed it cut open Monday, and we wired it closed. Seth and I checked yesterday and it was cut again, so we wired it back and set up the game cam."

"Can you take me out there?" Garrett asks, looking at Bella and Billy. He then turns to the older man. "Don't say anything to the Call boy or anyone else for that matter."

"Sure, son," Coach Clapp agrees. "Lemme know whatcha find out."

The coach leaves as Billy and Jake take Garrett out to the fence line. Sarah leads Bella from the office as the rest of us sit down to wait.

"I wonder if Boss kept all that old video equipment?" Tyler questions, looking at Seth and Eric. "You know? From the barns when we installed the new system."

"What are you thinking?" my father asks Tyler.

"It had a battery backup," Tyler starts explaining. "We could set it up to work off the battery only. I know there's an old laptop 'round here somewhere. I bet Jess could set that shit up to record."

About twenty minutes later, Jessica walks in. "What do ya need?"

"Garrett needs a copy of this," Seth states as he shows her the computer screen. He then gets up to let Jessica have his seat, kissing her cheek. "Also, Tyler has an idea. We need to run it by Billy and Garrett first, but I'm sure you can do it, babe."

"Tell me, Ty, while I burn this," Jessica instructs as she grabs a CD from the desk drawer and sits down at the laptop.

Tyler explains his idea and Jessica agrees it can be done; she's just worried about how long the laptop battery will last. When Billy, Jake, and Garrett return, Seth explains to them Tyler's idea but, Garrett has other plans.

"Who feels like camping out tonight?" Garrett asks. "And I mean sittin' in a deer blind with a scope."

"That would be Jake and Seth," Billy interjects. "But I don't want my boys in trouble. Bella would flip if somethin' happened."

"No trouble." Garrett is quick to reassure him. "I'm gonna be there, too. Jessica, can you set up a camera and have it feed to the laptop but where we can turn it on from the blind?"

"How far's the blind from where you want the camera?" Jessica asks, getting up and walking to a closet, unlocking it. When she opens the closet, my eyes go wide as does my whole family's. The closet is actually a safe full of computer equipment, guns, and what looks like some money. She takes out a laptop and starts digging around on the floor for something.

"Holy hell," my father states. "I forgot Charlie had that installed. Is my old gun still in there?"

"Oh, yeah," Jessica laughs. "It's in here somewhere. So is your bond certificate. You knew 'bout that, right?"

"Um, no," my father answers, walking over to the safe. "What're you talking about?"

But it's not Jessica that answers him; Bella's voice is hesitant from the doorway. "Papa and Meme purchased bonds for Daddy, you, and Billy when y'all graduated from college. Daddy had 'em in the safe and told me if y'all ever needed money to give 'em to ya. Billy transferred his into an investment account. I figured if ya ever got in a bind, you'd come to me first," she tells him, walking over to the safe. She pulls out an envelope and hands it to my father, who has tears in his eyes.

His eyes go wide when he pulls the certificate out. "I can't accept this," he states, looking at Bella.

"You're the only one who can," Billy states, laughing. "Unless ya know how to talk to the deceased. Take and invest it like I did. If ya ever need it, you know it's there."

My father just shakes his head before slipping the certificate back into the envelope and placing it back into the safe, "Es and I'll deal with that later."

"Found it," Jessica squeals from the floor of the safe. She crawls out with a box in her hand looking rumpled.

"What on earth are you doing, crazy woman?" Bella asks, laughing at her appearance. "And whatcha doing with a surveillance camera?"

"I'm gonna be a spy," Jessica sasses back, smiling at Bella. "Didn't you know I always wanted to work for the government as a covert agent?"

"Now y'all see where my sweet baby girl gets her sass from?" Bella snarks.

"Whatever, woman," Jessica replies with a wave of her hand. "Now move outta my way so I can figure this shit out. You know I ain't tramping through no woods to install this crap, so you best be watchin'."

"What's goin' on?" Bella asks, confused. "What are ya doin' with all this equipment? Does that old laptop even work?"

"Yeah," Jessica answers back. "It's outdated, but it will work for this."

Garrett and Billy explain what they want to do. She's hesitant at first, concerned about everyone's safety, but Garrett assures her he will make sure nothing goes wrong. He just wants evidence.

Rose, Alice, and I head to the house to get dinner ready. As we walk in, we are met with squeals and laughter. My mother and Sarah are watching Cassie run around the living room as Lleu chases her. Dasher is just taking it all in, perched on the couch, while Gracie is hiding behind my mother on the back of the chair she's sitting in.

Once they notice us, we smile and continue walking into the kitchen. Alice and Rose pull out the stuff for the tacos, rice, and beans as I start making the batter for the tortillas. It doesn't take long to get everything done between the three of us. By the time we are setting the food on the side table in the dining room, everyone starts making their way inside for dinner.

This is how the rest of the week went. The guys switch off nightly to keep lookout in the abandoned deer blind with a camera at the ready. Although, there was no activity the remainder of the week.

Everyone takes their turn helping to prepare dinner on their assigned night. However, most of our time this week was spent moving furniture, painting and decorating the rooms. It was a busy, but productive week.

Billy and Sarah leave Thursday afternoon for their anniversary weekend in Biloxi that Bella presented them, stating it was from all of us. By the time the weekend is over, everyone is exhausted.

Monday morning would start our first real day of working on the ranch, and we are all excited to learn our new duties.

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