My fingers rested on home row as I tried to think of my story characters’ next moves. My mind was completely blank, no matter how many times I read, and reread, the chapter.
Plot holes become plot twists, but I couldn’t even twist the plot here to fit any narrative.
My story’s main character, a sassy blonde named Jen, had just been twirled into the arms of the man she found irritating-Dakota; a well built Native American who had eyes for only Jen.
I swayed in my hammock, staring up at the clouds.
Just then, inspiration struck. My fingers flew over the keyboard once more:
Laughing, Jen looked up as she joined her next partner, hoping her face didn’t display the dismay she felt upon seeing Dakota.
Of all people.
Jen kept smiling as she stared into his rugged face. Dakota had been working as a ranch hand on her family’s farm for longer than she’d been alive, and with the exception of a few deep lines etched around his forehead, eyes, and mouth, he looked her age.
Though not tall by most standards, Dakota was several inches taller than her 5’4”, and wore a Navajo-print, pearl snapback shirt, his dressy blue jeans, and black, snakeskin boots. His ever-present cowboy hat sat low on his forehead, and his long, black hair was plaited and hung down over his right shoulder.
The song had them changing partners again, and she glanced back at Dakota to find him staring at her. She quickly turned her attention back to her partner, and finished the dance.
As the last note faded, everyone clapped then cleared the dance floor. Jen walked to the table where her friend Becca had already sat.
“I ordered you a Coke,” Becca said. Jen acknowledged her as her eyes roved the crowd. She was surprised to discover she was looking for Dakota.
When her gaze landed on him he was leaning against a beam on the opposite side of the room, looking at her. Instead of feeling annoyed, she actually felt guilty that she was spying.
“You know,” Becca continued, “Dakota couldn’t take his eyes off you out there.”
“Don’t start that again,” Jen said, rolling her eyes. “He and my dad have been best friends since they were teenagers, and he’s been working on our farm since my dad inherited it in his early 20s. He’s practically a business partner!”
“I’m just sayin’,” Becca replied, taking a sip of Coke that Billie Sue, the perky blonde waitress, had just set on the table. Jen put a straw in hers and lifted it to her lips. Her eyes found Dakota’s easily and she was pretty sure he smiled.
Jen looked up at the sound of her dad’s voice.
“Daddy! You came!” She stood, embracing her father. “How’s your knee?” she asked, ushering him into her chair.
“Oh, it’s fine. You and your mama worry for nothing.”
“Mhmm,” Jen replied, scanning the crowd for Mama. She found her talking to her best friend Tammy.
“Oh shoot, I forgot something in my car,” Becca suddenly announced, nearly slamming her drink down. Jen glanced at her in confusion before she noticed a figure approaching the table. Dakota made his way to Jen’s dad. They shook hands and shoulder clapped.
“How are you feeling, Roger? It’s good to see you, Buddy.”
“Have you been talking to Mama and Jen? I’m fine,” Roger mock-grumbled. His eyes were merry and he smiled through the exchange.
The two men made small talk, mostly about the farm’s operations while Dad was on bed rest, recovering from a bad fall. Their voices began to meld with the noise of the crowds around them.
The Blue Elk was typically hopping on Friday nights, the majority of 20- and 30-somethings gathering to drink and celebrate the weekend. Jen didn’t drink, but she enjoyed dancing and mingling with her friends.
Tonight was a special night, and The Elk was packed. The high school football team had just won the State Championship so The Elk, normally 21 and older, stopped serving liquor and opened their doors to all ages to celebrate. Nearly every able-bodied townsperson came out to cheer and congratulate.
Jen’s brother’s band, Tractor Flies, was the next set, and the real reason her parents came out. The band was setting up their equipment as the previous band nearly finished tearing down.
After a quick sound check, the lead vocalist stepped up to introduce their first song. It was a quick jig that had half the room crowding the dance floor in a line dance.
Jen watched, sipping her Coke. She was too aware of Dakota just feet away, even though her dad separated them. She’d never had this reaction to Dakota before. She found his presence annoying, and since he and her dad were best friends, not to mention they often worked together, he was always around.
Dakota had moved onto their farm when his wife passed away suddenly, and he couldn’t bear to live in their house by himself. He built a small cabin at the back of the property, and was the hardest worker Roger had. He’d wanted to make Dakota a partner, but Dakota had refused, not wanting to risk their friendship. Though Roger often consulted him on business matters, Dakota preferred the grueling work.
Dakota’s interest in Jen didn’t begin until she’d returned from college. Before she’d left, she’d been a skinny, hate-the-world, goth-dressed teenager, and she’d come back a beautiful, voluptuous woman. He remembered the moment like it was yesterday.
Sitting on the small front porch, he'd been enjoying the quiet morning after chores. The sun was bright; the day, unseasonably warm. He’d just set his Mason jar of tea on the floor next to his rocking chair when movement to his right caught his eye.
A woman approached, stepping tentatively as she neared the cabin. Dakota had stood and walked to the edge of the porch, his arms crossed over his chest. He leaned against the column at the corner.
“Mr. Morning Bird?”
“Well I’ll be. Jennifer Farrington.” Thankful that his eyes were shaded by the brim of his hat, he watched her approach. Gone were the black, skin tight clothes, chunky black boots, and short, badly dyed black hair.
The woman approaching had hair the color of wheat, falling in soft curls to her shoulder blades. She wore a tan and white gingham print, square neck, smocked dress that ended at her knees. The sun shone at just the right angle that her legs were shadows beneath the fabric. When he realized his eyes were following the shadow, he quickly snapped his gaze to her face. Scrubbed free of heavy, black makeup, she was plainly beautiful.
Jennifer stopped where the grass met the dirt patch, an area 6’ from the walls of the cabin that he’d marked off as an unofficial property line. “Mama sent me over to invite you to dinner tonight, being Thanksgiving and all. We’ll be eating after the animals are fed.”
“Yes ma’am, I’ll be there,” he’d answered. It was the first time since his wife died that he’d be eating dinner with another human, as he preferred the quiet company of the farm animals or himself.
Seemingly unsure of herself, Jennifer had nodded with a soft “Well I’ll see you then,” and turned to head back to the main house. Dakota watched until she was out of sight.
Tractor Flies went into a ballad.
“Miss Farrington, may I have this dance?”
Jen looked up to find Dakota’s proffered hand. She glanced at her dad, but he and Mama were hobbling to the dance floor. With no other option, she accepted. It would’ve been rude to say no, even if it was D akota.
Tractor Flies played a long intro of To Make You Feel My Love, allowing couples time to get to the dance floor. Dakota rested his hands lightly at Jen’s waist, and she slid her arms around his neck. She was surprised again to find how natural it felt being this close to him.
As the farm-and now, town- veterinarian, she’d often worked closely with Dakota on the farm in the four years she’d been home from college. They’d even worked side by side, but she’d never been IN his arms. It unnerved her.
She glanced from Dakota’s shoulder to his face to find him watching her. “You haven’t stopped watching me all evening,” she said.
“You’re the prettiest girl in here,” Dakota replied easily. Jen felt her face getting warm and hoped the blush wasn’t obvious.
“Then why do you stare all the other times?”
“Because you’re the prettiest girl all those other times, too.”
Jen smiled, looking over Dakota’s shoulder. She knew the blush was plain to see now, and she couldn’t quite make herself meet his gaze this time.
I let out a frustrated growl. Writer’s block again.
My fingers drummed along the keyboard, replaying the scenario in my head. I knew I wanted Dakota to kiss Jen, but… how?
I picked up my phone and texted my best guy friend:
Can U come over? Need story help
Laying in my hammock, I straightened my legs, crossing them at the ankles. I tapped my feet together a few times and decided frozen wings and pizza would be a good thank-you for making Jack come over. I slid off the hammock and set my laptop down on the small table next to it, then headed into the house to preheat my oven.
I dragged my card table out to the patio and set the pizza pan and plate of wings on it. Jack pulled in just as I’d returned with two glasses of sweet tea.
“Back here!” I called.
He inhaled dramatically as he neared. “I knew I smelled something good!”
“A little thank you for helping.”
Jack rubbed his hands together gleefully and looked at the little spread. “Just like our college days,” he trailed off, picking up a piece of pizza.
“Fail-safe,” I agreed. I was too eager to get my story done, so I didn’t indulge, but I did watch him eat.
“Not gonna eat?” he asked around a mouthful of pizza. I shook my head. He sighed.
“Okay, what do you need?”
Jack was a thin 6’4”, though he worked in construction with his dad. Even thin, he was toned and had the metabolism of a football team. I’ve watched him devour two whole pizzas in one sitting, and not gain an ounce. Talk about unfair.
His dark brown, slightly shaggy hair, blue eyes, and goatee had the ability to make girls trip over themselves trying to get his attention. It used to annoy him, but then he found his Charm Button and used it to gently turn them away in a way that left the ladies swooning and giggling. I don’t ever remember him accepting a date or making plans to call one.
To this day I make fun of him after every encounter.
I opened my laptop and let Jack read the last few paragraphs, then explained my situation. “So, how would you kiss someone?”
“Well first, you need something to indicate your female is okay with it. How old are they?”
“Uh, veterinary school takes 6 years, plus what did I say…four years after that? 30? And Dakota is her dad’s age, so… 50? 51?”
“Okay, so two very adulty adults.”
Jack wiped his hands on his jeans and came up to me. He put my arms around his neck and rested his hands on my waist.
“Start the dialogue,” Jack said looking down at me.
“Wait,” I said. I ran to my shed and pulled out an orange box, then ran back to Jack. I stepped on the box so we were on a more level field. “This puts us closer to height.”
Jack rolled his eyes.
“Okay, I’m ready now,” I said, balancing. “You haven’t stopped watching me all evening.”
“You’re the prettiest girl in here,” Jack said.
“Then why do you stare all the other times?”
“Because you’re the prettiest girl all those other times, too.” I smiled and looked over Jack’s shoulder as Jen did with Dakota.
I drummed my thumbs against the back of Jack’s neck, thinking. “Should I have her rest her forehead against his shoulder? Remember, she doesn’t think she could meet his gaze after the last compliment.”
Jack worked his jaw as he did when he was deep in thought. “What song did you say they were dancing to?”
“To Make You Feel My Love,” I replied.
“And they’re in a honkytonk?”
“That’s a little Hope Floats, isn’t it?” I made a face as Jack took out his phone and pulled up the Garth Brooks version. As it played, he listened.
“Okay right here,” he paused as Garth sang: I could hold you for a million years/To make you feel my love. “You can have her look back at Dakota. With the band’s long intro and that being the end of the second verse, it’ll give them time for the dialogue and if she’s paying attention to the words, she can look up at him.”
“Okay, that’s good,” I nodded.
Jack restarted the song and we repeated the dialogue. I stared over his shoulder until the end of the second lyric, then looked up, trying to make it appear like Jen might look at Dakota.
“That’s good,” Jack said. “Perfect.
“After a shared glance, Dakota might do something like this,” Jack trailed off as he stepped closer to me. He mocked taking off a cowboy hat and dipped his head closer to mine. “He’d give her a second or two to pull back, and if she didn’t move, he’d kiss her.”
“I think they should stare at each other for a full verse, like, reading each other? Working out feelings? Then he moves in.”
“That’s a good amount of time.”
“Can we do it again?”
We got into position again, restarted the song, then ran through the dialogue. I looked over Jack’s shoulder until the second lyric when I brought my eyes back. He stared at me perfectly the way I imagined Dakota staring at Jen. After the third verse played, Jack once again mimicked removing a cowboy hat and stepped close. When he did, he brought his hand up to my cheek and leaned close. As he suggested I write for Dakota, he paused, giving me time to back out.
I was still writing the scene in my head when I felt Jack’s lips on mine. They were soft, the kiss gentle, hesitant. Even his goatee felt soft. I whimpered in surprise and then a strange feeling stole over me. Where I should’ve felt funny and pushed Jack away, it felt… natural.
Jack deepened the kiss and my arms automatically tightened around his neck, my body molding to his. I felt his other arm on my back as he held me tightly. The kiss felt confident, commanding. His tongue filled my mouth and I followed his lead.
With the last ounce of thought I had left, I broke the kiss and looked up. With a thick voice I whispered, “Are you still Dakota?”
Jack shook his head. “I never was,” he replied, before sliding both arms around my back and pulling me close. I felt that next kiss all the way to my toes.
About the Creator
Coffee gets me started; my toddler keeps me haggard.
I've always had a passion for writing but fear has stopped me from sharing my work with anyone. Vocal is my push to step out of my comfort zone.