Gentling the Cowboy(2)

By: Ruth Cardello


“Mom and Dad called me. They’re upset. There is no way you’re quitting your job to travel cross-country alone.”

“Yes, I am, Charlie.”

“Why the hell are you doing this?” he’d stormed.

“I need this,” Sarah had fired back, knowing that a deeper conversation wasn’t possible between them. I need this.

Before it’s too late.

Maybe it already is.

Twenty-five.

What is it about a milestone age that makes a person reassess her life? She’d graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a bachelor degree in English, but she could easily have gotten a degree in basket-weaving for all she’d done with it since.

Lucy’s question had haunted her, especially during her last birthday party when the forest of candles on her cake had hit Sarah like a bucket of ice-cold reality. How did I lose myself?

She wished there had been one grand event she could blame, but the truth was it had happened much less dramatically than that—more like a flower wilting in the sun until the life she thought she was meant for was nothing more than a pile of dried-out, brittle regret.

Charlie said I should think of how this is affecting others and not be so selfish. Easy for him to say from New York.

I tried to be the one who stayed behind to make everything okay, but the price was too high. Be good. Follow the rules. Avoid all unpleasant topics. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t be the perfect daughter in the perfect family. I’m an adventurer. A pioneer. Texans hadn’t stayed where the boat dropped their parents. They’d boldly left for parts unknown.

Like I did.

Life in Rhode Island wasn’t awful. Her office position at her parents’ company paid enough for her to live in her own apartment and afford a horse she rode four nights a week at an exclusive equestrian facility.

I didn’t have anything to complain about.

Or anything to look forward to.

Until Lucy called.

“Hello . . . anybody here?” The silence was eerie, but this wasn’t the movies––nothing extraordinary was going to happen.

Sarah grimaced. Nothing ever did.

Lucy had probably run to the store for some last-minute supplies. Isn’t that how it always works? You step away for just a minute and your company arrives.

A bead of sweat trickled down Sarah’s neck. The light cotton shirt she had chosen so carefully that morning was now plastered against her back. Sarah plucked at it while renewing her resolve. She’d adjust to the heat. Comfort didn’t matter. This was about finding herself, finding her voice.

She returned to the living room, plopped on the unforgiving couch, and flung out her arms in victory. I did it! The drive may have taken her three days, giving her horse time to rest along the way, but even that part of the journey had been amazing. Each bed and breakfast she’d stayed at on her way down had intensified her anticipation. Each time she’d told the other guests where she was going, she’d felt even more alive.

This is what life is about: seeing new places, meeting new people, grabbing life by the balls and squeezing until it coughs up a story worth telling.

I should write that down.

She whipped out the purple spiral notebook she’d purchased specifically for this trip and stopped halfway through recording her thoughts, hesitating before writing a word she normally avoided: balls.

I’m twenty-five, not five. Writers are not afraid of words. On the very first page of her notebook, she wrote, “Balls. Balls. Balls.” And smiled with pride. With renewed enthusiasm, she wrote, “Big balls. Hairy balls. Bald balls?”

Chewing on the end of her pen thoughtfully, Sarah decided to designate a section of her notebook to research topics. She drew a margin on the right side of the paper. In her finest penmanship, she wrote: Do some men shave their balls?

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