Apple Juice, and snake ' fraid horses.

I grinned as I poured a glass of apple juice for myself and leaned back against the counter.

I opened my mouth to offer Caleb some, then closed it again. If he wanted some, let him come over here and get it! I thought smugly.. Ok, please come get some! I groaned inwardly.. damn him!

"Could I've some?" he asked hesitantly, and I turned to face the sink to hide my ecstatic expression.

Ok, It's official Harlem, you're bonkers.. you're this happy over being asked for some apple juice? I thought silently.. But I didn't care, If it was Caleb doing the asking, then I'd do anything..

I realized that he was waiting for me to respond and quickly spun back around to face him.

"Uh.. yeah, sure" I answered quickly, handing him the carton..

I smiled to myself as his fingers brushed lightly over mine..

Ugh.. I was so corny it was nauseating.. I pulled myself away from the sink, and retrieved two glasses from the cupboard.

When Caleb had finished with the juice I filled them and headed back out to the milking shed.

"Shh!" I whispered to Caleb over my shoulder, making a silencing motion with my finger.

I wanted to see what was happening in the shed with Anne and Jude..

I crept up around the side of the shed, and peered around the wall.

I grinned as I saw Anne sitting very close to Jude, she seemed to be showing him how to go about milking the cow.

I felt like slapping myself on the back but remembered the juice, and decided against it.

I felt Caleb come up behind me, and I heard him chuckle softly..

"I should have known" He spoke quietly, so only I would hear, and we wouldn't disturb the two in the shed.

"I think the juice can wait" I whispered back, and he nodded and I followed him as he headed back up to the house.

I grinned as I closed the door behind me, silently thanking Jude and Anne, they had done more than they could know.

I glanced at my watch, It was just on eleven, and I wondered silently what I should do, here was Caleb sitting in my lounge room, there were no adults and big bro was in the milking shed with my friend.. Seems like everyone's getting it on but me.. I thought sadly.

That really is sad, Bat boy is out there having a good time, and Nun Harlem is in here experiencing her self enforced and questionable virtue!

I grimaced, and looked over at Caleb who was busy examining some photos that we had put up on the sideboard.

"Who's this?" asked Caleb suddenly, and I turned to look at the photo that he was holding up.

I took in the soft blonde curls, the sapphire eyes, and sweet smile..

"My mother" I told him quietly, and although my voice was soft, even I could hear the finality in my tone.

"Is she." he broke off, and I realized that he was asking if she had died..

"No, they divorced, my parents.. she's not.." I answered quickly, and he nodded and replaced the photo.

"I should be going, I need to get back home" Caleb spoke suddenly,

Oh.. I wished that he could stay, having him here was better than nothing at all..

"Ok, so.. I guess I'll see you at school then" I replied, and walked him out..

Damn, if only I had of been able to think of a reasonable excuse to get him to stay.

I wiped the forlorn expression off my face as Anne and Jude walked through the door.

I grinned at Anne, and raised my eyebrows at Jude, who merely raised his own back at me.

Damn him.. how was it that one human being could be so unflappable? It just wasn't natural.

"I was thinking Harlem, that you and Anne might like to come riding with me.. I wanted to explore the property, horseback's the best way to go" Jude spoke suddenly, and I snapped my mouth shut in surprise, that had to be a record number of words in a sentence! For Jude at least.. I thought.

If this was the effect that Anne had on my big brother then this was great!

A half hour later, I was sitting precariously on a saddle, which was resting on the biggest horse I had seen in my life.

"Just letting you know now Jude, If I fall off, I'm blaming you!" I called to him..

Jude merely nodded, and went back to helping Anne, I grinned as she agilely climbed onto the horse, calmly passing up his offer of a hand up..

I gasped slightly as the horse began to move, and increase it's pace until we settled into a reasonable pace..

I laughed into the wind. We weren't riding fast but for a first effort, I had to say that I was doing pretty damn good!

I looked ahead to where Anne and Jude were riding a little faster, and side by side.

I wondered where Jude had learnt to ride, I was under the impression that he too had grown up in a city, where horses weren't exactly in abundance.

I patted the horse's dark mane, and shifted my hips slightly so that I was more comfortable.

I followed Jude and Anne at a distance, If anything, today had caused Anne's shyness towards my brother to dissolve, and that was definitely a good thing.

I watched her laugh at something that Jude had said, and once again was shocked by my brother.. he had the capacity to make others laugh.. something that I wouldn't have guessed by the time that I had spent with him.

I momentarily let the reins slip out of my grasp as I got caught up in thought..

I felt the horse move slightly, and I snapped my head up, coming out of my reverie.

I gasped as I noticed the snake slithering across the ground before us..

"aigh!" I shrieked as the horse reared up, and then took off in fright..

"Ooohh Sshhiittt!" I yelled, as I held on for dear life, as the horse galloped furiously, I passed Jude and Anne, and continued down the rise we had been climbing..

I grasped a firmer hold of the reins, and pulled them hard, causing the horse to come to a stop..

Jude and Anne quickly caught up with me, and I noticed that they were both stifling laughter..

Same sense of humour.. I observed silently..

Hey! What the hell was I doing? I should be feeling sorry for myself! Not thinking about them! What's wrong with me? I wondered..

"Are you allright?" Jude asked finally, and I nodded absently..

"Yeah" I answered.. and watched him exchange a glance with Anne.. and then once more smother a smile.

"Laugh it up" I told him, annoyed.. And urged my horse on..