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by Mackenzie Harris 10 months ago in family · updated 10 months ago
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The Old Barn

Photo by Conner Baker on Unsplash

I shouldn’t have been out there. I don’t know how many times I had heard my father telling me to stay out of the old barn that sat a few acres back from our house, a part of the old farm that had once sat on the property. He’d explained it was dilapidated and needed to be torn down, he’d just never gotten around to it after living there for thirty-five years, and I had always thought that strange.

I hadn’t actually laid eyes on it since I moved away from home at nineteen, attending a college that got me out of the shitty little town I’d grown up in. Truthfully, I’m not sure I’d even thought about the old place since then.

So, it was safe to assume that I wouldn’t have been inside of it, were it not for the fact I was having the land appraised for selling the next day.

One doesn’t really think about all of the legal processes that happen after their parents die, especially if they’re taken from you in a car accident. But I think mostly we don’t consider all that happens after, because we don’t want to think about them being gone. At least, most of us. I loved my mother and father, even if I didn’t miss the place where I had grown up, I always came back for holidays.

Now I wouldn’t have a home to come back to.

I couldn’t afford to keep this place, plus my apartment in the city, two hundred miles away. I didn’t have a choice but to sell. It would hurt to lose this place, but it wasn’t like I had brothers or sisters who could take on some of the burdens.

No, I was alone in all of this.

I suppose that’s why I had taken to the fields as dawn broke, wanting to walk by myself like something from a melodramatic music video, complete with a delicate fog hanging over the ground. I even went so far as to wear my mother’s old cardigan, the one with the pockets big enough to carry half a dozen eggs in.

I’m not sure why I walked to the barn, with it’s faded red paint and sliding doors, but it just sort of pulled me there, like a tether I couldn’t see.

It hadn’t changed much, as if time had stood still on this spot. There were still those little white flowers with the purple centers I had loved so much as a child spread out over the ground, and the gigantic willow tree that sat to the left where I had once kissed the neighbor boy, Tyler. I had been all of fifteen and smitten, which seemed ridiculous twenty years later.

But then again, everything thing seemed that way when you were jaded.

I frowned up at the building, wondering for the hundredth time why it had been built all the way out here where there was no sign of a house foundation or anything to suggest why a farmer would need a whole other barn. I suppose it didn’t matter.

My father had put a lock on the doors when I was about seventeen and some kids were breaking into garages in the area, he’d been worried more for their safety than anything else. It wasn’t like we kept anything in there, so they wouldn’t have had much to steal. Unless cobwebs were a hot commodity.

I reached up to touch the cool metal, briefly wondering when it had last been touched, and flinched when it came loose with a quiet click. The mechanism must have rusted out after all of this time, which made more sense than the crazy thought I had about me being the key.

I hadn’t slept well in a few days.

With a few chastising thoughts about how I shouldn’t be going in, I lifted the lock from the latch, pulling it away from the hook, and dropping it in my pocket. The doors rolled along the track with only a little noise, almost like a sigh of relief at being opened after so many years, and I found myself staring into the wide-open space with the same wonderment as I had when I was a child.

I had imagined this to be a ballroom, once upon a time. My mother had allowed me to dress in play gowns and dance around while she read under the tree before my father had forbade me from going in once it was locked. I’d even fought imaginary pirates on the massive ship I dreamt up while crouching behind walls and peeking out from support columns. And later, when I had outgrown such flights of fancy, this had been where I brought my friends to tell ghost stories that would keep us up all night, infuriating my father to no end.

I smiled to myself as I pushed a stall gate closed, remembering when I had hidden from Tyler and his brother while playing blind man’s bluff, still confused as to why they hadn’t seen me.

Nothing looked any worse for ware, like it had somehow been maintained, even with the lock keeping everyone out. I would have almost sworn the door on the grain room had been replaced, but there was no way for me to be able to tell. My memory wasn’t what it once was.

I felt a shift in the air, a gentle press against my senses, just before I heard the sound of a voice.

“Do you remember the time you found me in here?”

I had only been mildly startled, the familiarity of the presence like a fingerprint on my soul, and I nodded without turning around. “You were crying. You’d run away from home because you hated your father, and you didn’t know where else to go.”

He made a sound of agreement and walked farther inside. “I always knew I was safe here. No matter what.”

It had been years since I had laid eyes on Tyler Whitmarsh, but I would have known him blindfolded. There had only ever been one person whose voice felt like fingertips against my skin.

“I’m sorry about your parents.”

I crossed my arms over my chest and studied him. His eyes were the same light brown that reminded me of pale liquor, his dark hair still a mess of waves that never sat in the same place twice, and the hint of a smile always on his mouth. But that was all that remained of the boy I once knew, as I looked at the man before me.

“Thank you. I saw you at the funeral.” I sighed as I leaned marginally closer, my body seeking to rid myself of the cold that had settled into my bones with the warmth he’d always radiated. “Thank your mother for the brownies. I ate the whole pan by myself.”

He smiled down at me. “I knew you would. You always liked my mama’s brownies.”

I knew without having to say a word, that he’d asked her to make them for me, I could tell by the way he spoke and the look in his eyes.

“How’s the farm?” I asked after a few moments passed and we didn’t look away.

His smile morphed into something a little more mature like they often did when he talked about something that wasn’t fun but made him happy. Like football had.

“Good. I just got my second cut in, the corn is doing well, and I had a few nice-looking foals this spring.” He turned so he was facing me squarely, his shoulders looking like they could span a doorway. “How are you? And don’t give me the BS small-talk.”

I tried not to smile. He’d always been able to read me like a book. “I would like to say the hardest part is over, but this crap with the house, and the estate… it’s just a lot more than I thought it would be.” I let my gaze float around the space. “I didn’t realize I missed it, ya know?” My head shook and I found myself blinking away tears I didn’t want to fall. “I only came once a year, and I never went anywhere but the house.” My eyes found his. “I forgot how much I love it. The fields, the land, the way the trees blow in the wind.” I sighed. “This damn barn.”

He nodded and looked around. “You and I have a lot of good memories here.” His grin showed up before his gaze meandered back to mine. “Got my first kiss by the tree out there. And if I remember correctly, I got to second base with you up against that wall when we were seventeen.”

I laughed then, remembering that night better than I should have been able to. “My dad locked it up a few days after that.” All though, that was just coincidence. I dropped my hands and tucked them into the pockets of the cardigan. “I was so mad.”

He chuckled at me then, shrugging his shoulders. “That’s probably why he asked me to look after it.”

My attention snapped to him from the floor I was staring at.

“He didn’t tell you?”

I shook my head, not sure what he was talking about.

“Your dad asked me to keep this place up. Fix beams that needed tending, replaced that door two years ago,” He pointed to the grain room. “I insulated it. Put in new windows. Hell, I was up on that roof three years in a row replacing tin. Son of a bitch used to leak like a sieve.”

I was so confused. “My dad asked you to take care of it?” Tyler nodded. “Why?”

He shrugged. “Guess he wanted you to be able to come here when you were older, remember that it wasn’t so bad growing up in a small town.”

The tears burned my nose, and I didn’t try to stop them. “I made him think I hated it.”

“Nah, he knew you needed to get out. See the world. But I think he wanted you to want to come back.” Tyler shrugged. “So, he kept your favorite place alive.”

I felt an ache in my chest as I let a tear slide down my cheek. “I can’t afford to keep this place. There’s no way.” Even if I moved back.

“Well, the barn doesn’t come with the house.”

I blinked up at him as I wiped my nose with the sleeve of the sweater. “What?”

“Your dad sold it to me a few years back. He said I was the only one who loved it as much as you did. I bought the three surrounding acres.”

My eyes searched his face and then I blinked. “So, the barn isn’t mine?”

He huffed. “It’ll always be yours, I just own it.”

I watched him walk to the door, his hands casually tucked into his jeans pockets.

“You bought my barn. Why?”

He shrugged. “Figured if you ever came back, maybe I could get you to kiss me under that tree again.”

I blinked at his back, shaking my head when he turned to look at me in the doorway.

“Maybe you’d let me get to third base, too.”

My mouth dropped open on a laugh. “Pretty sure of yourself, Whitmarsh.”

He shook his head. “Nah, but I’ll always bet on you.”

He always had a way with words. My stomach did that annoying flip-flop thing when he smiled and turned. “Where are you going?” I called out as he started walking.

“Home.” He looked over his shoulder. “You coming?”

I furrowed my brow and stared at him. There was no trace of humor in his tone or look to suggest he was kidding.

My smile was slow like it enjoyed taking its time.

“Yeah,” I gave the barn one final look for the day and followed him out. “Wait for me.”


About the author

Mackenzie Harris

The truth is, I don't let many people read my stuff. I've been writing for years, decades even, but I can never bring myself to share it. But I'm really getting too old to be scared of being judged.

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