Two By Two (HBTC #6)

1.6: Lonely Cowboy

"Fine! Run away!"

George slammed the gate of the goat pen and stormed across the yard, watching Little Bo duck between the slats of the paddock fence and head straight for the ponies' feeding trough, even though George had fed the goats not more than half an hour ago. He really couldn't be bothered with this today, or yesterday, or any other day since Libby went back to her parents. The annoying thing was that he'd mastered the art of extracting himself from the goat enclosure with all of them, including Little Bo, on the inside, but a split-second lapse in concentration was all the little tyrant needed to put Operation Fleeing Pygmy Goat into action. George leaned his arms on the paddock fence, resting a boot on the slat Bo had just cleared, and gazed through hazy eyes as she dodged around the ponies' hooves, snatching mouthfuls of hay. She was waiting for him to give chase. He wasn't in the mood to play.

"Is this a private mope, or can anyone join in?"

George jumped. He hadn't realised he had company. "Hey, Soph. What you doing here?"

"I was on my way to Sean's and thought I'd drop in and see a good friend of mine."


"Yeah. He's about six foot tall, got a kind of sexy cowboy thang going on? Big happy grin, sparkling green eyes? Don't suppose you've seen him around, have you?"

"Can't say as I have," George said, attempting a smile. He sighed. "Sorry, Soph. I'm being a miserable bastard."

She nodded in agreement and leaned her head on his shoulder, blinking up at him. "Yes, you are, but it's to be expected in the circumstances. And I do understand why you keep it bottled up, but you don't have to."

"I don't want to call you just to moan. It's not fair."

"Would I be here now if I thought it wasn't fair?"

"No. I guess not. I still can't believe she's gone, Soph. I mean, why? She was safe. She was away from them. Why go back, when all she had to do was tell someone?"

Sophie shrugged. "Who knows? Perhaps it wasn't as bad as she made out. Just a bit of teenage rebellion."

"Do you think so?"

"No," Sophie confirmed regretfully. "I don't."

They both stayed where they were, watching the ponies have their fill and plod back up to the other end of the paddock. It was a chilly day, and they needed to go back to the stables soon - before it got dark - but George was putting it off for as long as he could, just to give him something to do to fill the void.

"I've got my wellies in the car," Sophie said. "I'll give you a hand."

"You don't need to."

"But I want to."

George looked at her doubtfully.

"At least I can catch Bo for you."

"You'll get filthy."

"I'll wash."

"Soph - "

"George! Just let me in!"

He stopped protesting, not that she was paying any attention to him, as she was already on her way back to her car for her wellies, and she was absolutely right. He'd been avoiding her, because it hurt to talk about it, to face how helpless and guilty he felt, not just about his powerlessness to help Libby either, but for how it was affecting Josh too. More than that, it made him angry, to the point of losing control. Libby's parents had almost destroyed her, and it was wrong that they were getting a chance to finish the job. They needed punishing, and he could imagine too well how that might be accomplished.

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