1. Prologue: Welcome to the Middle of Nowhere USA
I rested my forehead against the cool glass of the window. The landscape rolled past outside; the sunny day in contrast to my mood. I reflect on the meeting we had earlier in the week over Skype. Simon sitting there in his half buttoned shirt and dark sunglasses had informed us with a slight smile that instead of letting us spend our summer break from tour with our families he was shipping us off to an old friend of his. On top of that he told us that he had arranged for us to work the summer away calling it a relaxing exercise and telling us it would relieve stress. So there I was stuck in a van heading to the middle of nowhere, USA.
“The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round…” Louis and Niall sang at the top of of their lungs at the front of the van. I had long stopped listening to their excited chatter. Unlike me they were excited for the summer.
“Could you not.” I groaned from where I was slouched at the back of the bus. Candy wrappers and crisp crumbs littered the floor and seats of the bus evidence of the long car ride.
Niall and Louis continued ignoring me like I’d never interrupted them. I gave up and went back to staring out the window. Zayn slouched beside me. He had similar sentiments to mine. I knew that he had looked forward to spending quality time with his fiance during the break. Zayn’s head was turned away from me as he watched the fast moving countryside accompanied by his music.
“What is the ranch called again?” Liam asked his voice drifting into my awareness.
“It is called Half Moon Ranch.” Paul answered his tone patient. “You will be staying with the Harlow children. Mr. Harlow was an old friend of Mr. Cowell’s.”
“Was?” Liam asked puzzled.
“Mr. Harlow and his wife died shortly after the birth of the youngest Harlow child.” Paul answered sadly. I mulled over Paul’s words and waited to hear what Liam’s reaction was.
“Oh.” Liam answered quietly. “How many Harlow children are there?”
“I believe Mr. Cowell said there were 7. He talked highly of the Harlow boys. He also mentioned that there were several about your age.” Liam nodded done answering questions.
“Are there any girls?” I heard myself asking.
Liam turned around probably surprised to hear my voice for the first time since the beginning of the ride.
“I don’t remember Mr. Cowell mentioning any girls.” Paul replied obviously trying to remember.
“Oh.” I said slightly disappointed before slouching back into the seat and staring out the window.
Green rolling hills stretched as far as I could see only broken by farm houses and groups of cows grazing quietly. White clouds streaked the upper atmosphere. Mountains loomed darkly around us and at the moment I couldn’t remember the name of them. Telephones whizzed past us at a fast pace sticking out of the calm picture. I thought I saw tops of wind farms over the hills but I couldn’t be sure. The van made its way through a small town. A white steeple towered above the building from the local church. Brick buildings stood along the road with flower boxes overflowing. A quaint cafe stood on the corner. We passed through maybe two stoplights before we were back onto country roads. After 15 more minutes of driving I heard the steady clicking that told me that Paul had turned on the turn signal. He passed through a wrought iron archway. A wooden sign slipped past reading: Welcome to Half Moon Ranch established 1876. Tall trees stood in two lanes framing the gravel road that crunched under the tires. The driveway wound over a hill and across a stream. I saw cows and horses grazing in the fields surrounded by white picket fences. If I craned my neck I glimpsed a brown barn that stood in the field. Momentarily distracted I pondered on why the barn wasn’t red.
Paul pulled the van around a small circle with a fountain in the middle. Water spouted in an arc from a vase held by a half clothed woman made of marble. Stalks of wheat laid nestled in the crook of her elbow. The van slowed to a stop with a crunch of gravel. Paul hopped out of the van and slid the door open for us. Niall and Louis jumped out of the van with shouts of joy. They bounded around of the van full of the pent up energy the long drive had stored. Liam slid out of the front seat, raised his arms and leaned back to stretch. Paul pushed down the middle row so Zayn and I could get out. I followed Zayn out of the van. Dusting the crumbs off of me I watched a man lumber up to us. His plaid shirt was open letting everyone see his white t-shirt underneath that was drenched in sweat. This tips of his cowboy boots peeked out from his jeans and a stalk of grass protruded from his mouth. The man rambled up to Paul.
“I’m Luke Harlow. We’re real happy to have y’all here.” He said with a smile and extended his arm to Paul. I looked around as Paul got everyone introduced. There were several steps leading to a wrap-around porch with colonial pillars. The ranch house towered above us with a wood and brick facade. I saw a curtain sway above me like someone had noticed me looking and didn’t want to be seen. “Harry? Harry?” I heard Paul’s stern voice calling me back to reality. I focused back into the conversation.
“I am headed off to make my flight. Luke here has assured me he can get you all settled in.” Paul said sternly. “Be Good.” I shrugged my shoulders and stuffed my hands into my pockets. It wasn’t me that Paul needed to worry about. Paul looked us over one last time before getting back into the driver’s seat. He stuck his arm out of the window.
“See you boys in 3 months.”
I watched as the van pulled slowly out of the driveway. I halfheartedly wished I was on it even though I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I felt Zayn’s hand on my arm as he stood beside me.
“We are heading inside.” He said quietly. I knew he was wishing the same thing I was.
I turned from staring at the retreating band and followed Luke Harlow up the stairs and inside.
“Jake and Dan get yourselves down here and greet our guests.” Luke hollered through the expanse of the foyer. A double curved staircase stretched up to a hallway on the second floor.
The black and white tile floor and vaulted ceilings echoed the sound. Running footsteps swung the crystal chandelier set in the ceiling. Two boys appeared at the top of the bannister. They yelled nonsense to each other.“I’m gonna win.” The one on the left yelled before he hopped on the banister and slid down sitting. He jumped off the end his brother close behind. Luke looked at his brothers with a stern expression. Something in the gaze made me think I never wanted to be on his bad side.
“I won.” The first one taunted.
I looked at the new arrivals. They were obviously identical twins. The only difference in their appearance besides their clothes was their hair.
“I’m Dan.” The one with shorter hair said smiling. “That’s Jake.” He added pointing his thumb at his brother.
“I see you’ve already met the spoil sport of the family.” Jake said slinging his arms over Luke’s shoulders and rubbing his fist on his head.
Luke pulled out from underneath Jake’s arm.
“Would you like anything to drink?” He offered.
“Water please.” I answered.
The other boys chorused around me accepting or declining the offer.
Luke led Niall, Liam and I into the kitchen. As he got the drinks out I surveyed the open space that filled part of the bottom floor. Modern appliance stretched across the kitchen. It was a chef’s paradise. The kitchen opened up onto an informal dining room with double doors leading outside.
“Where’s……..speak of the devil.” I heard Jake trail off behind me as the door opened.
A girl slipped into the door in a bikini and cutoffs. Her skin glistened showing she had been swimming and it made her tan glow. Her hair dripped down her back making water splatters on the floor.
“Luke are the twins…..” She said and then trailed off with a wide smile. “Jake! Dan!” She yelled and ran across the room. The girl threw herself into Jake’s arms and he swung her around in a hug.“I missed you.” I heard her whisper. She quickly went and gave Dan a big hug as well.
“I’m going to go freshened up." She stated before leaving the room.
I watched her leave wondering who exactly she was. A girl friend? A friend? A worker?
Little did I know that girl was going to change my outlook on life, love and that summer.
So this is my first story on here. Let me know what you think :)