Hellfire Ranch [a piece of fiction]

Disclaimer: I wrote this piece for my summer Fiction Writing course sometime between July-August 2010. It is loosely based on the ranch from my post “the story i wish was not my own”. Many of the details about the characters are true, such as the way in which Mitch walked “the sound of two feet dragging along slowly, got louder and louder”,  or the way Hope made Lucy feel like she could be herself. The struggle of feeling out of place was prominent for me at the ranch and in life at that time as well. Many of the characters are dramatized and a few of them acquired drastically differentiated personas. It has more of a positive spin than the real story, which doubles as a strength and a self-defense mechanism for me. It ends rather abruptly, as it needed to be a short story for my class, but could’ve easily been extended into a novel [which I hope to start penning the real story this fall/winter season]. It’s a long one, but it’s a good read on a calm, cloudy day such as this. Enjoy!

It was raining as Lucy descended the steps of the small jet. With a backpack strapped to her back, she swiftly followed the other passengers to the building to find the baggage claim. All kinds of emotions were welling up inside of her: fear, excitement, and freedom. Once she grabbed her two large suitcases from the small luggage belt, she scanned the occupied seats for her ride. Supposedly he was the chef at the ranch and his name was supposed to be Kelly.  There weren’t too many people there, perhaps five at the most, and suddenly her eyes locked with a relatively tall, well-built, somewhat attractive male.

“You Lucy?” He asked.

“Yeah,” Lucy softly replied.

“This way,” Kelly stated gesturing towards the parking lot where his black Porsche awaited him.

Interesting, was one of Lucy’s first thoughts, interesting indeed.

Outside, the rain started pouring down, and in the background the faint sound of thunder could be heard. Kelly and Lucy had a two hour ride to the ranch, perhaps even an hour and a half, depending on how fast Kelly drove. For the first bit they introduced themselves and Kelly let Lucy in on some details of the ranch and of the staff members who had already arrived. Kelly was a surfer boy, originally from Southern California, but he enjoyed spending his summers up north. He was a Caucasian who sported tanned skin, blonde hair, and brown eyes. Kelly also seemed to enjoy spending time with the ladies. He sure did emphasize how pleasurable it was for him to meet all the foreign students who decided to work their summer on a dude ranch in California.

Lucy, in return, told him a little bit about herself. She bluntly stated how much she loves Jesus Christ and going to church. Lucy was hoping to become a missionary, of some sort, when she graduated college.  The “of some sort” means she didn’t want to directly be a missionary, but hopeful service God through her studies in Psychology and perhaps help His people with their problems, perhaps as a counselor or therapist of some sort. Lucy was a reddish-brown haired, greenish-blue eyed, 19 (going on 20) year old girl, 5’6’’ in height and approximately143 lbs. She loved horses, but never really had the opportunity to ride or own one, so she decided that spending the summer at a resort-like place that offered all the horse-related activities, was the perfect choice for her.

One of her greatest weaknesses in life was her self-esteem. She could learn to love and care for everyone else around her, but for some reason she had a hard time learning how to love herself. This had been an issue that followed her around for most of her teen life. She had trouble getting close with people-she does have a few best friends-because she feels like she’s never good enough. This was one of her biggest spiritual conflicts as well. She wants to follow God’s commandments and his “golden rule” but how can she do this if she feels like she doesn’t fit in. She usually ends up conforming to the ways of others which then she’s conflicted because she knows that God doesn’t agree with those choices. She’s a very confused girl, with potential to do great things in this world, if only she could get over her fear of not being accepted by others, and learn to love herself for who she is; though Lucy skipped those details, for she thought they seemed too personal for a “get to know you” conversation.

  She must have dozed off, because the next thing Lucy remembered was pulling up the drive to a rugged looking building which she was soon told was the main ranch building. It was dark outside and still sprinkling, so she didn’t notice the other buildings around. Kelly told her that the majority of the staff lived across the creek, but she’d be moving there the following day. So Kelly dropped her off at her temporary room and told her to meet in the staff quarters of the ranch house in the morning and her training would begin. Lucy got comfortable (somewhat), read her Bible, said her prayers, and wrote in her journal, one of her favorite pastimes.

Dear Journal,

So I just got to the ranch and it’s not what I expected at all. It looks a lot more ricketedy (is that a word?) than I thought it would. Now I’m stuck in a room that’s freezing cold, and I can’t figure out how to work the darn heater. Kelly seems nice, but I fear that I won’t fit in here. What if all the staff members ‘hook up’ this summer and the third-wheel to all the couples, or what if someone tries to pressure me. Ugh why do I have to have so many fears?! Tomorrow I meet the rest of the staff who are here and I don’t know what I’ll say! What if they take one look at me and don’t like me? God please help me; give me courage and the right words to speak. Help them to like me!

The next morning she awoke bright and early with a feeling that was unknown to her; courage. She headed over to the staff quarters and was first greeted by the aroma of breakfast: pancakes, hash browns, and eggs, with Tabasco sauce of course. Kelly introduced her to the other three guys in the room. There was Justin, a wrangler; Shady, the baker; and Bob, the maintenance man/back-up wrangler. Justin fit the stereotypical cowboy. He was ripped (muscle-wise), adventurous, and pretty darn cute with the charming slow and western accent. Shady, the baker was a chill, go with the flow sort of guy. Bob was what some would call the “Alcoholic Christian.” In fact, some of his very first sentences to Lucy were, “So I heard you are a Christian. We should do a staff Bible study.  Want to have some beer across the creek with us fellas tonight?” He definitely was good at late night religion conversations.

Suddenly, there was the loud noise of a door slam. Any conversation that may have been taking place in the staff lounge was silenced. It seemed like, for a moment, even the delicious aroma of breakfast evaporated. The scattered sound of claws tapped along the tile floor as a mangy-looking cat found its way to its bowl of freshly-chopped tuna. Then the sound of two feet dragging along slowly, got louder and louder. Goosebumps raced up the skin of every person in that lounge. Lucy’s courage suddenly escaped her.

A scruffy voice muttered, “Morning Kelly.”

“Top of the morning to you,” Kelly exclaimed in a cheery, yet slightly sarcastic tone.

The sound of a yeah right in the form of a sigh was let out from the scruffy-voiced person. Without warning she stepped into the room and revealed herself, and (God bless her) she wasn’t a pleasant sight to see. She looked like she hadn’t showered for quite some time. A slight stench seemed to fill the room, and everyone was silently praying she’d just shut up, so they could breathe again.  She was about 5’5”, Caucasian with raggedy, dishwater blonde hair, and was considerably overweight.

“Hello,” uttered her monotonous voice. “You must be Lucy. Welcome to Hellfire Ranch, I’m Mitch, the owner and your boss.”

“Hi,” Lucy replied with as much courage and love she could acquire. Step one, Lucy thought, Give her a chance… God loves her, and so must I. “What’s this guy’s little name,” she said in a high-pitched, baby-talk tone of voice, as she reach towards the cat to pet it. But as soon as she said it, the cat let out a hiss, and reached out its claw to swipe her hand away.

Mitch glared at Lucy and hollered, “Do not pet Angelica!” and then she let out a sound, something like, “Hmph!” Shady was attempting to choke back laughter as Lucy was fighting away the tears like were whelming up in her eyes. “Oh don’t cry,” Mitch muttered, “Suck it up. You got a long summer ahead of you. There’s no room for wimps on this ranch.” And then her tone of voice completely changed as she lightly stated, “Martha will be here soon to train you in on laundry and housekeeping, and Kelly, in the meantime, would you show her around the kitchen and dining room? Thanks. I’m going to my office to prepare for this weekend’s guests. The rest of the staff will be arriving within the next couple weeks. Lucy, after lunch, you can haul your luggage across the creek to the staff quarters, and get comfortable. You’ll be living in the A-frame cabin.” After her instructional speech, she stomped out the back door towards her office, and everyone was thankful for the fresh air that reentered their lungs.

After lunch, Lucy ventured across the creek and along a dirt path, dragging her two pieces of luggage. So much for hospitality, Lucy thought sarcastically.  It was actually quite a hike from the main lodge that would probably take about 10 minutes under normal circumstances, but it took her almost a half hour with the two suitcases; lugging two suitcases up along a hilly, dirt path isn’t the easiest task. But she eventually did find the A-frame cabin, which looked pretty nice from the outside and even had a little deck out front. But then she opened the door. There was an even layer of pine needles coating the floor. The bathroom was so small, it was like a puzzle trying to figure out how to get in and close the door. The inside of the toilet was stained and dirty, probably like that since the previous season. Gross! Lucy shook away her feelings of disgust. Her first task as housekeeper would be to clean her own room. Lovely, she thought sarcastically. Cabin?! She thought, This is no cabin… This is a shack! It surely would be an interesting summer.

On the upside, her training-in earlier with Martha went really well. Martha was actually the laundry lady, but considering she had spent several summers working at Hellfire, she knew her way around. Martha was a “cute old lady” probably in her late 60s to early 70s. She was approximately 5’3” with short, curly and graying hair. She was a spunky lady, who was an active member at the local Hellfire Community Church, and was excited to have Lucy join her whenever possible (that is, if she could sneak by Mitch). Martha knew that Mitch’s tactics weren’t the most practicable way to go about running a guest ranch, but somehow she still managed to be her friend. It must be God working in her; it sure takes a blessed heart to find room for Mitch.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The first couple weeks went by pretty fast. There was one weekend of guests, but other than that, it was mostly preparation work for the rest of the season. During this time, Lucy got the opportunity to learn a bit more about Mitch by working with her in her office. She learned that Mitch has lead several conferences of her theories of life at her church. Maybe she does have a heart, Lucy pondered the idea, but the more Mitch talked, the less likely that seemed. Supposedly Mitch was psychic, and she learned of these skills in her early teens. For a moment, Lucy’s heart did reach out for Mitch as she told her about her recent loss of her husband Luke. He was probably about a decade older than her, but it wasn’t his age that killed him. Mitch said that he fell off a hay truck while attempting to unload it. According to Martha, who happens to be an avid gossiper, there’s ‘talk’ around town of a different story. Some of her neighbors think that she may have pushed him off, because soon after they heard the “plop” they also heard some evil laughter coming from their yard. Though, in all reality, it may have been Luke laughing as he purposely jumped off the hay truck. People wouldn’t blame him… Being married to Mitch and all, that couldn’t be an easy task.

Even though he’s deceased, Mitch still enjoys bragging about her husband. According to her, Luke played the drums for KISS, climbed high on the military ladder, owned a castle in Scotland, was a butler for the Royal Family in England, and lived at Hellfire Ranch his entire life. The last one is obviously the true answer. Mitch also thoroughly enjoyed healing remedies. One of her remedies was to remove the poison after being bitten by a snake. She told Lucy that if she were to ever get bitten by a poisonous snake, she must first cut off the head, eat it, and then bury the body in the ground, and the poison will dissolve. Another remedy was some sort of herbal tea that supposedly cured cancer (obviously not).

Though Lucy was getting quite antsy and annoyed, she was thankful for all the crazy stories that she would get to retell to all the staff members at the late night bonfires. Lucy loved bonfires; they were the best time for the her and the guys to just vent to each other about all the new and crazy things that Mitch did or said. Though the guys chose to vent about their days via alcohol, Lucy just enjoyed taking it all in. Watching and listening. Mitch may have made their lives a living hell, but at least they were all in it together

Lucy was extremely thankful when those first two weeks were through. Plus, the second round of employees started to arrive. Most of them were from across “the big pond,” aka they were the foreigners. Kelly seemed especially excited and cheery as this time neared. As stated before, Kelly was invested in ‘International Business.’ He wasted no time once they arrived by starting to do business with Dishwasher [pronounced: Dee-sh wah-sher]. Now, she probably had a name, but no one ever saw her enough to remember it, well except Kelly of course. While doing business with Dishwasher, Kelly also had his eyes on Brigitte, a tall blonde, Swedish girl, who was practically perfect in every way. But to Kelly’s dismay, Brigitte had her eyes on Justin (and so the summer love triangle begins). Also with the new crew was Hope. Hope was an amazing girl with a lot of potential, but she was dealt a bad hand of cards in the deck of life. Lucy and Hope became close very quickly, there was outer force that pulled and bonded them together, like super glue.

One final character that came with the new group of staffers was Wanda. Wanda was Mitch’s cousin from Australia. She came to the ranch to help out every now and then, and similar to Kelly, she was interested in the International Business field. Wanda was 55 years old with brown hair. She was larger-built in a muscular sort of way. She seemed like a decent human being with a good sense of humor, but she was also a big flirt. Despite that seemingly small flaw, Lucy took a liking to her. Wanda was a safety net. She didn’t yell like Mitch, but actually made fun of her cousin whenever she’d do something stupid, which happened a lot. She had some good nicknames for her cousin: butch, witch, the other _itch; well with a name like Mitch, some of them are unavoidable. Wanda truly knew how to make an awful experience into a comedy. She brought some sanity to the ranch. She wasn’t role-model material as she had no faith in any sort of higher power and unashamedly flirted with every guy on the ranch (staff and guests alike), but it was good for the ranch to have a decent character in a management position for the sake of the staff and guests alike.

Lucy, Hope, Wanda, and Bob all became close friends soon after they all had arrived. They all enjoyed late night conversations about intense topics like life, purpose, death, relationships, and religion. After most of the staff retreated back to their side of the creek, these fantastic four would belly-up to the bar, crack open a beer, and chat. Every now and then, a guest would join in on the discussions. Lucy and Hope would then continue these discussions as they walked back to their cabins and even as they fell asleep, making every night seem like a slumber party. Brigitte, the third member of their cabin would sometimes join in, but as she had started to take an interest in Justin, she spent some of her nights in his cabin.

One night, while Brigitte was away with her summer lover, Hope and Lucy revealed their insecurities and fears in life. “I just don’t know where I belong,” Lucy continued.

“Nobody does,” Hope concluded.

“Yeah, but at this place, everyone seems to have so many similarities, except for me.”

“What are you talking about?  This ranch was made for misfits. I mean look at Kelly, surfer boy, working as a chef and he’s like 30, but he’s hanging out with 20-year olds. And how about Bob, he’s like ancient.” Hope paused as she and Lucy broke out into laughter. “But seriously, what brought him here?”


“Okay, I gotta stop you there. Fate? You Christians believe in that?”

“Why else would I be here? Things have to happen for a reason. I mean, seriously, God brought me to you. I don’t think I would have made it through this summer alive if I hadn’t met you.”

“Life happens, and that’s all I can say, just a bunch of actions and reactions, no master plan. I can’t imagine why some ‘savior’ would send me through all the hell that I’ve been through in my life. It just doesn’t seem right. If there is a God, he mustn’t like me.”

Lucy was silenced by that. She had yet to figure out why bad things happened to good people. She didn’t know why she had been blessed with an amazing life, and her new, dear friend had had to overcome so many obstacles. She allowed herself to drift off into a sweet slumber that would unfortunately be interrupted too early by the crude nightmare of her life.

The next morning after the guests had enjoyed their breakfast and before Hope took the children to archery, Hope told Wanda and Lucy that she wasn’t feeling very well. By the looks of it, Wanda thought it might be her appendix, but Hope didn’t want to make a big deal of it so she decided to “tough it out” for the rest of the day. Later that night, while the staffers were playing pool with a couple guests, and Wanda was manning the bar, Hope slipped away and headed to her shack across the creek. Luckily, for Hope’s sake, Bob was in his cabin- drinking Jack Daniels while reading his Bible (Alcoholic Christian) when he heard uncontrollable coughing from the cabin next door. He rushed over to find Hope in a frenzy: coughing and shaking and showing other signs that something really wasn’t right.

He didn’t really know what to do, but stay with her awhile and chat with her to keep her calm. He didn’t have any way of communicating to the main ranch building, but just in time, Brigitte and Lucy entered into the room. Brigitte used one of her many practically perfect features and quickly raced back to the main building in search of help while Lucy used one of her qualities and prayed for Hope.

Back on the other side of the creek, Brigitte, Mitch, and Wanda were involved in a heated discussion. Brigitte had just told them of the Hope’s condition. Mitch, claiming that she was rudely awakened by “all this nonsense” tried to just let Hope sleep it off. Wanda forced the opinion of calling an ambulance on her. It took almost five minutes for Mitch to be convinced that Hope needed an ambulance. Unfortunately the ambulance couldn’t get access to the other side of the creek, so Bob, Brigitte and Justin drove over in the ranch’s van to bring Hope back to the main side. By this point, Hope was unable to move on her own, or even form comprehensive speech. Justin and Bob had to pick her up and move her to the back seat of the van.

In the van on the way to over Bob drove while Justin and Brigitte clung to Hope’s nearly lifeless body. They did all they could he keep her warm, as she was violently shaking. Suddenly, she stopped moving completely. Justin responded quickly by checking for a pulse. His heart raced as he realized that her heart had stopped. Panicked thoughts raced through his mind as he tried to remember what to do next, Was it compressions first, or breathing?! He gently titled back her head, and transferred air from his lungs into hers. He was completely relieved as she coughed revealing that her heart had once again, started to beat. But all was far from being well. Justin and Brigitte tried everything to keep her from shaking, and Brigitte also tried to help Justin stay calm as she softly, repeatedly told him that everything’s going to be alright. The five minute ride over seemed like hours, but soon enough they made it. Justin and Brigitte stayed in the vehicle with Hope as the ambulance hadn’t yet arrived.

The couple of the guests, who had been playing pool with the staffers, were roped into helping to flag down the ambulance. Just before it arrived, Lucy breathlessly joined the group (as she had to run from her cabin across the creek, in the dark, without a flashlight). When the ambulance had arrived and the rescue team started to load Hope in, Mitch decided it was the right time to call a “Staff Meeting.” Shady showed his true side, by calmly yet forcefully, telling Mitch to shut her pie hole, except in a more vulgar manner. Nonetheless Mitch continued talking, but most of the staff was in a daze. Mitch mumbled on and on about what should and should not have been done in this situation, and then she obnoxiously starting talking about the next day’s activities. Lucy shouted several expletives in her head and thus, basically stomped away from Mitch, completely ignoring her, and went to stand by Justin’s side as he gazed into the back of the ambulance as the rescue team pulled shut the doors.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The next day and through the week, Mitch held Hope’s true condition as a secret. She kept making up stories about what was wrong with her. She also warned Lucy and other staffers that they should not disclose any information to the concerned guests. This was a rule that Lucy didn’t follow, because she didn’t believe in lying and, especially the few guests that helped that fateful night, deserved to know. Not everyone could be as ignorant of the well-being of another life as Mitch could be. Somehow she managed to not care about a single soul other than her own, while running a hospitality business: ironic? (Once she even stole a heater from a guest’s cabin so she could put it in her office.)

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum of human beings, Lucy was dying to go see Hope. So on her day off, she packed into the ranch van with Wanda and Bob, and they drove two hours to the hospital where Hope was residing. The drive was an adventure within and of itself. Wanda ignored the rule of “no drinking while driving” and popped open a beer for herself, Bob, and Lucy. While Wanda flirted with Bob in the front seat, Lucy looked through the stack of cards that some of the guest’s children made for Hope. After a couple hours’ drive they did make it to the hospital alive. Hope was away being examined for something or another, but was surprised to see Bob dressed as a doctor when she arrived (he charmed one of the nurses into helping him out). There’s nothing like bringing joy and humor to a good friend. As “they” say: “Laughter is the best medicine!”

The news about Hope’s condition wasn’t good. She had something along the lines of a poor heart condition and had wanted to return to her country to receive treatment. These precious moments were the last ones that Lucy had with her. Who knew if they’d ever meet again? So they exchanged addresses and digits, then Wanda and Bob left for a couple hours so Hope and Lucy could bond, just the two of them.

“I can’t believe you’re leaving me,” Lucy solemnly stated. “I don’t know what I’m going to do without you.”

“You’ll be fine,” Hope replied reassuringly. “Just don’t take Mitch seriously. You do what you’re good at, and let Mitch be your entertainment. Think of her singing the Yogi Bear song!” Hope and Lucy laughed simultaneously, for singing and dancing to camp songs weren’t among Mitch’s fine list of accomplishments. “And don’t forget to make fun of Wanda and Bob for me, and their shameless flirting.”

“Oh always. I don’t think there’s a bone in my body that doesn’t itch to make fun of those two. Odds are that they end up together at the end of the summer.”

“Haha. I can see that happening, and don’t forget Brigitte and Justin: ‘I like him like I like human!’” Lucy joined Hope in an encore of laughter. Though their time was short, they sure had made several memories together; memories that would last a lifetime.

“Don’t leave me, seriously I need you.” Lucy pleaded.

“You’ll be fine.”

“You have to promise me to get better.”

“Yeah, okay,” Hope stated sarcastically.

“Well, try at least… because someday, I’m going to come and visit you and you can show me your homeland.”

“Okay, it’s a deal. If you come and see me, I’ll get better,” Hope smirked at Lucy. Then she patted the open spot on the left side of her hospital bed, and Lucy climbed on and sat beside her. They chilled there for a few moments in complete silence, just enjoying the sense of each other’s presence.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The following day, Lucy returned to work. The last place she wanted to be was work. She had basically cried herself to sleep, all alone in her cabin. Goodbyes weren’t one of her specialties. On her walk over to the main lodge for breakfast she reminisced the good times she had had with Hope when she saw a flash of blonde locks flying through the air by the play set. She went to investigate. A small girl around the age of three or four or five (Lucy wasn’t the best at guessing ages) was enjoying a lovely ride on the swing. She was an adorable child with big blue eyes and the most precious smile upon her face proclaiming pure joy. Lucy thought it strange that she was alone at that age, even if was at a secluded resort ranch.

“Hello,” Lucy said cheerfully, actually much too cheerful for the time of day that it was and the mood she was in. It seemed like the sun had just risen a few moments ago. Just at that point she realized how exhausted she was, but she continued to attempt to chat with the girl on the swing. “What’s your name?”

There was no response from the child, but instead she heard a deeper, more mature voice from behind her say, “Crystal.”  Lucy turned around to see an extremely handsome man approach her, looking like he came from the main ranch building.

`“Hey,” she stated at a volume level that sat near a whisper, then she cleared her throat and tried again, “Hey. I haven’t seen you before. Are you a guest?” She was puzzled because it was in the middle of week, therefore that group of guests had already been there for a few days and Lucy could at least recognize all of them; she even knew most of their names.

“Umm no,” he responded, “Mitch just hired me. I’m the new children’s counselor.” Lucy’s smile started to fade as she felt the anger build in the pit of her stomach, knowing Mitch already had a replacement for Hope. “And helping out the housekeepers when needed.”

“Lucy, head housekeeper,” she held her hand out.

“Eric, newbie,” he smiled and firmly shook her hand. “So you like it here? You seemed surprised by my job title.”


“Just sure?”

“People never really want to know the truth; they just ask out of politeness, that’s why answers such as fine, okay, and sure, are better than the real truth, such as I hate this job.”

“Ahh the truth comes out,” he jokes.

Lucy smirked, “I guess I just don’t fit in here. Supposedly I’m the ‘good Christian girl,’ or so Mitch says.”

“Might I be blunt?”

“I don’t know why I’m suddenly spilling my guts out on you, but sure doc, tell me what I should do.”

“Don’t care what other people think about you. Better yet, stop having expectations for yourself that you know you’re going to fail. For some reason, you remind me of a good buddy of mine back home. He would set these ridiculous standards for himself and then he’d fall short of them every time. Then he’d mope around for a bit… and then start the vicious cycle all over again. And you have to think about who you are trying to fit in with because the crowd you think you want to be with is not always the right crowd for you. If you’re the Lucy Martha works with, then you have at least one fan, ‘cause she loves to mention you and how great she thinks you are.”

“Thanks counselor, but how do you know Martha?”

Lucy’s question never got answered as she was interrupted by a skinny blonde female who seemed to be in her mid 20s. She said, “Hey honey,” as she put her arm around Eric’s waist. Eric slightly pushed her away, not trying to make it too obvious. Lucy found this move to be intriguing.

“So you got the job eh?” Something in Stacy’s voice almost seemed angry that he got the job, perhaps a tint of subtle sarcasm.

“Yeah Stacy,” he replied a little downheartedly.

“Who’s this?” Stacy asked moving the direction of her speech towards Lucy.

“This is Lucy, she’s the head housekeeper here, one of my bosses,” he said jokingly. “Lucy, this is Stacy, my girlfriend.”

“And the love of his life,” Stacy concluded his sentence, and reached out her hand to shake Lucy’s, “Pleasures all mine, really…”

Eric rolled his eyes, something in the tone of Stacy’s voice made it seem like she wasn’t all that happy to be meeting Lucy.

“Darling,” Stacy asked, “Where’s Crystal?”

Right as she said that, Crystal came over and started hugging on Eric’s pant-legs, “Daddy, can’t I stay with you today?”

Daddy? Lucy thought. Now this was getting to be too much for her. All she wanted to do was eat breakfast, but instead she got introduced to a whole family that screams ‘drama.’ Drama is something that she tried to avoid, except via movie watching and TV shows. She enjoyed drama when it wasn’t her drama, and she knew that even a friendship with Eric would bring that into her life full force ahead, so she kindly excused herself from the conversation considering she already missed her opportunity for breakfast and was close to being late for work. Mitch would freak out if she was in the kitchen to catch Lucy arriving late. No excuses.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Well, as hard as anyone tries to avoid drama, it usually sneaks up on them. A couple weeks had passed by since Hope had left and Eric joined the crew. Lucy was trying to refigure out who she was and where she fit in. When Hope was there, she always felt like she had someone to hang out with, and she even felt accepted among the rest of the group. There was just something about Hope, and Lucy’s friendship with her, that allowed Lucy to be herself, even in a large group, which would usually have been a struggle for her. But since she left, Lucy found herself spending more time with the guests and even working extra hours to avoid the-what she found to be-awkward moments with the other staffers. She even spent some evenings in the laundry room blasting her Jesus-tunes while catching up on the laundry so that Martha would have a lighter load the following day.

One night while working late in the laundry room, she was startled as someone walked in. It was dark outside and she didn’t see or hear him coming, considering DC Talk was blaring on her iTunes.

“Knock, knock. May I come in?” Eric asked with a lovely white smile and his unbearably blue eyes shining.

Lucy turned down her music a bit, “Sure.”

“DC Talk eh? Good stuff.”

“Ha. Yeah. I need my Jesus time, especially while working at this ranch. It’s crazy here.”

“So I’ve heard and seen. So why are you up here all alone? I heard the crew’s having a bonfire across the creek tonight. They invited me.”

“Well, I…” Lucy didn’t quite feel like telling him that she was deathly afraid of the fact that she thought no one liked her. But then something inside of her urged her to speak, “I guess, truthfully, like I told you earlier, I feel like I don’t fit in.”

“Really? You?” Eric seemed completely taken aback. “Didn’t you listen to your counselor?” He joked and then turned serious, “All I hear is good things about you, even from Mitch. Martha, of course, adores you; Wanda thinks you’re a good kid; Bob aspires to be as good of a Christian as you; Brigitte loves being your roommate; and Justin basically thinks you’re a cool dude, well I suppose, chick.”

“How do you know all of this?”

“I’m a good listener… or something about me makes people want to talk to me.”

“Me too! Ha. I feel like I’m always the listener and I enjoy it, but it’s nice to be heard every now and then.”

“Well let’s test out these listening skills. What’s going on?”

“How long do you have,” Lucy slightly smirked in a sarcastic, but not, sort of way.

“Try me,” Eric winked back.

“Stacy know you’re here? She seems pretty protective of you.”

“Tell me your story.”

  “You mean my issues… Well, I guess I’ve been struggling my whole life with feelings of not being good enough, like ever. Even at home, with my family, I feel like I don’t fit in. Even with close high school friends I wondered why they wanted to be friends with me. I almost felt as if I didn’t have anything to offer them. So I decided to try new things, because I realized I’m good at the initial meeting new people. I’m just insecure about it. Does that make sense?” Eric’s reassuring look encouraged her to continue. “College was a good start for that one. But sometime during my freshman year I started to feel lost. I was friends with my roommates, but I felt like I needed to branch out beyond their friends, and find my own group of friends that enjoyed similar hobbies to those that I enjoy, instead of just tagging along with the roomies all the time. I wanted to find myself. So I applied to work here. Miles away from home, I figured I could create whoever I want to be, but as it always does, fear got a hold of me, and now I’m stuck again. There was just something about Hope, the girl you replaced, that unleashed me; she got me out of my shell, and now that she’s not here, it just doesn’t feel the same. I feel like people don’t miss her as much as I do and therefore they judge me because I spend so much time missing her. I guess it’s easier to hide away from the world.”

“Hiding from the world is the easiest way. But isn’t it usually the tough parts of life that are the most memorable, and the most worthwhile?”

“The rough patches take longer to get through. So logically, it makes sense that I remember them more.”

“Don’t hide from your conflicts. All of us have conflicts. So next time you’re sitting around that campfire with the crew, don’t be afraid to let your light shine, because something you might say, might spark a light in someone else. Like me, I’m having some issues as well.”

“You? Issues? No way!” Lucy stated in a sarcastically joking sort of way.

“Who knew right?” Eric sarcastically replied. “Stacy’s been my girlfriend since my senior year of college. And I loved her to death when we first met and started dating, but lately I just feel like Crystal’s babysitter. Don’t get me wrong, I love Crystal to death, which makes life all the more complicated.”

“Wait. I don’t mean to interrupt, but you’re not Crystal’s dad?”

“She’s the most precious child ever, and I became a father-like figure to her. But now things are basically dead between her mother and I. Stacy hardly notices me anymore, unless there is another girl around, suddenly she gets all protective. But when it’s just me and her, all she talks about is her business. She didn’t even want me to have this job, because she wants to be the breadwinner for some reason. I feel like a complete waste of space! I’m the man and I stay home taking care of a child that’s not even mine! I need to work. A man without work is ridiculous. I need to bring in the money for the family. I have a drive, a passion to take care of someone, and Stacy’s not letting me do that. And I’ve tried oh so many times to talk to her about this, but she won’t budge. She loves her job, and that’s it. I need to get out of this relationship, but I feel selfish for leaving. Life sucks right?”

“Completely.” Lucy stated in total agreement.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Lucy didn’t join Eric and the rest of the crew for that night’s bonfire, but she was no longer hiding in her shell. Two people had come into her life and had remarkably torn her free from the shell that had for so long contained her. She knew, after that fateful night in the laundry room, that she would make it through the summer alive. Hope, coincidentally, brought her hope, and Eric, gave her confidence. With this new found hope and confidence, and the courage she earned through prayer, Lucy was now ready to tackle whatever the world threw at her, or in this case, whatever Mitch threw at her. No longer did she run away from her life, but ran towards the adventures it presented with courage, hope, and confidence; the gifts of three true friends.

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