Summary: The aftermath of an argument sees Joe and Adam trying to mend fences.
Word Count: 720
It seemed he had always come here when his heart was troubled. It was a favorite spot and the calm blue waters of the lake did much to soothe his tempestuous mind. Stooping, he picked up a flat pebble and skimmed it over the lake. He counted six skips before it sank beneath the surface, gone forever.
At the sound of footsteps, Joe turned and looked at his oldest brother. Adam hesitated, not sure of his welcome after the quarrel the brothers had just had a short time before. “Joe, I’m sorry,” he offered.
For a long moment, Adam thought Joe wasn’t going to accept his apology and he wouldn’t have blamed the younger man if he didn’t. What he had said to Joe was bad – almost unforgivable.
“It’s all right,” Joe replied, sighing. “I’m sorry, too, Adam.” He turned and drifted another few aimless steps. Silence fell again, and this time, Adam was reluctant to break it. In truth, he had no idea what to say to Joe. He still tended to think of him as the youngster who needed to be watched like a hawk and who needed picked up when he fell, or his nose wiped. But somewhere in the intervening years, at first while Adam was a college, and then after Adam had returned, Joe had become a man. A very fine man, Adam acknowledged.
“Have you ever wondered why we fight like we do?” Joe asked. Adam collected his thoughts and looked at Joe once more. His brother had turned and was looking at him, the sun glinting off the surface of the lake behind Joe’s head and creating the aura of a halo.
“Yes, I’ve wondered,” Adam admitted. “I just haven’t found an answer.”
“Neither have I,” Joe mused. “I thought, with you being a college man, that you might have got it figured out by now.”
“College doesn’t teach you much about family dynamics,” Adam returned, ruefully. How he wished it did, for it might have spared him a lot of heartache over the years. “Joe, I didn’t mean to imply that you’re stupid. I know you’re not…”
“But?” Joe asked. “I could hear the ‘but’, Adam. Just say it.” He smiled briefly at the discomfiture on his brother’s face and completed the sentence for him. “But I know best?”
Making a wry face, Adam acknowledged Joe’s perspicacity. “I guess,” he admitted.
Once more, Joe moved, walking away from Adam. Numbly, Adam wondered if it was unintentional symbolism on Joe’s part; if he was trying to tell Adam something. His heart ached.
But abruptly, Joe turned back and took several quick steps that landed him right by Adam’s side. He looked up at his older brother. He had always loved Adam so much, but never quite felt that he lived up to Adam’s expectations. Now, perhaps they could sort this out once and for all.
“I’m not a child any more,” Joe said, softly. “I have had some experience in life, too. I know I haven’t had as much as you, Adam, but you’re 12 years older than me; I’ll never have as much experience as you. But there are some things I know more about than you do, college course or no college course. This is one of them. I didn’t run off to have a tantrum, you know. I came out here so that I wouldn’t hit you.” He offered a ragged smile. “See? I am finally learning to control my temper. But I am right in this Adam, and I am not going to back down. If you aren’t willing to accept my judgment, then we’ll ask Pa to decide.”
“Joe,” Adam began, but Joe didn’t let him finish.
“Adam, who do you think was running this ranch while you were off traveling the world?” Joe laughed suddenly and gave his brother a gentle punch on the arm. “I think between us Pa and I have managed, don’t you?”
Laughing back, for Joe’s quicksilver moods somehow always soothed him, Adam conceded the point – for now. “All right, you win,” he muttered baldly, but Joe saw that his brother wasn’t serious about his grouching.
“Until next time, you mean?” Joe smiled.
“Until next time,” Adam agreed.
Together, they returned home.
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