Part Time Cowboy

By: Maisey Yates


WHOEVER SAID YOU couldn’t go home again had clearly never been to Copper Ridge. The place hadn’t changed. Not in the ten years before Sadie Miller had left town, and not in the ten years since. It probably wouldn’t have changed much in another ten years.

Well, it would change a little bit now. The population sign would increase by one, adding back the resident she’d taken away when she’d left town at eighteen. And it would also contain at least one more bed-and-breakfast.

So, in an unchanging landscape, she would be responsible for two changes in a very short amount of time.

She deserved a medal of some kind. Though she doubted anyone in this town would ever give her a medal. She was just the wild child from the wrong side of the tracks. Not many would be welcoming her with open arms.

But that was fine with her. She wasn’t here for them. She was here for her.

She looked across the highway, at the ocean, barely visible through the trees on her left. She could remember walking there as a kid. A long hike in the sand, through gorse and other pricklies, around the lake and across the road.

A walk she and her friends had always made without their parents. Because the main perk of getting out for an afternoon was getting away from their parents, after all. At least it had been for her.

It was strange to see something familiar. She’d spent so many years moving on to the next new place. She never went back anywhere. Ever. She went somewhere new.

This was the first time she’d ever been somewhere old. And she wasn’t sure how she felt about it.

She looked at the gas gauge on her car and sighed. The little yellow light was reminding her that she hadn’t made a pit stop since she’d gone through Medford, nearly three hundred miles ago. She was going to have to stop somewhere in town before she went out to the ranch. She wasn’t exactly sure where the Garrett ranch was, just that it was on the outskirts of Copper Ridge.

She’d never been invited onto the property before.

The fact that she was leasing a business on it now would have been funny if she didn’t just feel horrible, stomach-cramping nervousness.

But then, she figured facing past demons was supposed to be scary. She wouldn’t know for sure since she’d spent years avoiding them. Six months ago, that had changed.

Working with people dealing with grief and loss was always impacting—there was no way around it. But one very grumpy older woman who’d lost the house she’d been in since the 1940s had forced her to think about things she’d always avoided.

“Home is wherever you are,” Sadie had told her.

Maryann, whose every decade on earth was marked clearly in her snow-white hair and the deep lines etched in her face, had scowled at her. “Home is where I raised my children. Where my husband breathed his last breath. I don’t know who I am outside those walls.”

“You’re still you. I’ve spent a lot of my life moving from place to place, and I take my essence, my soul, or whatever you want to call it, with me wherever I go.”

The other woman had waved her hand in dismissal. “You can’t know, then. You’re a vagrant in your own life. If nothing matters to you, how can you sit there and tell me that something I poured the past sixty years of my life into is meaningless?”

And that was when she’d a crisis counselor she’d helped so many people deal with loss. Either the loss of a loved one, the loss of a marriage or, very often, the loss of a home, and she’d realized that all that advice had been thin. Rootless, because she was.

Because nothing was permanent in her life. Because not one thing had the kind of deep resonance and meaning for her that Maryann’s home had for her.

She’d never before been quite so conscious of the transient nature of her life. But in one blunt sentence her patient had reduced the past ten years to a tumbleweed in her mind’s eye, while Maryann’s own past had risen up like a redwood. Towering, significant. Rooted.

After that she’d felt so aware of how alone she was. That she’d let every friendship she’d left behind wither on the vine and die, that she’d done a crap job of making new friends since she’d moved to San Diego. That her last boyfriend, Marcus, hadn’t been missed from the day she’d rolled him out of bed and out the door for the last time.

Those revelations had led to online perusals of Copper Ridge. Which had led to an ad she hadn’t been able to get out of her head.

Long-term lease. Perfect for a private residence or bed-and-breakfast.

From there, she’d examined her savings, done estimated profit and loss based on exhaustive research of similar businesses, and before she’d quite realized what she was getting herself into...she’d committed. Committed to leaving the career she’d spent more time in school for than she’d spent actually practicing.

For the first time in ten years, she’d agreed to an extended time frame in one location. And for the first time in ten years, she was headed back to the one place she’d ever called home.

Of course, now she felt like she was approaching doom. Which she didn’t think was at all dramatic. Since she was never dramatic.

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