His Plain-Jane Cinderella

By: Jennie Adams

‘That’s good. You’ll know exactly what to do, then. I didn’t see you move in. When we met this morning at the plant, I didn’t know…’ That he would be her new neighbour.

That instead of potentially seeing him here and there when he happened to visit the plant, or if she bumped into him in town, she might see him very often. Daily…

‘I moved in at the weekend. Actually, I thought your place was empty.’ He cleared his throat. ‘Ah, that is…’

‘It seems I’m living in a place that needs a little attention?’ She grinned and found her equilibrium again as she contemplated the hard work ahead. And the fulfilment of achieving her business goals, providing a home for herself, going forward by herself.

‘The house needs a lot of work, but it’s already habitable. It has heating and a working kitchen and bathroom, even if both are old. The foundations and structure are solid. I might strip a lot of it back to those bare bones but it will be a great place once that work is done. I’ve already renovated the laundry room and done a really good job of it, if I say so myself.’

She’d started there to make sure she could do the work using do-it-yourself guides and she’d proved that she could.

‘In any case, welcome to your farm, and to the town, Troy.’ She drew a breath. ‘I should have said that this morning. I’ve been happy since I moved here. I hope you will be, too.’

‘Thanks. I’m pleased to have the plant as an investment, though it’s the orchards where I want to put in most of my time. Labour-intensive work that I do for myself.’

‘Yes. The plant is a solid place, but it’s not all that exciting.’ As the words emerged, she clapped a hand over her mouth. ‘I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean…’

His eyes narrowed. For a moment she thought a rebuke might follow. It would be well deserved. What had she been thinking? Well, that she’d taken on a job that wouldn’t be too taxing so she saved most of her energy for building her home business, actually—but it wouldn’t be particularly PC to hint at that!

But Troy simply dipped his head. Was there a tiny hint of amusement in the back of his eyes before he did so? ‘That’s probably an accurate statement. Why didn’t I see you over the weekend while I was moving in, Stacie?’ He glanced beyond her to her home. ‘I thought the place was not only empty but, eh…’

‘Just an abandoned shack? The whole farmlet was a mess when I bought it. You should have seen the yard before I put the time in to get the “jungle” hacked back to discover what garden might be left underneath. And the paddocks were terrible.’

She only had two, and they were small, but her face broke into a smile as she remembered hiring a little machine one day to get them cut down.

This move had been good for her. It had given her a new focus, and she’d needed that. She would never forget what had happened with Andrew, and because Gemma was her sister it would always be there, but Stacie didn’t want to think about it all the time either.

‘I haven’t minded roughing it here, and the house is clean and mostly functional.’ She followed his gaze to the exposed weatherboards, to the front door that needed to be realigned, to guttering that maybe needed some attention, and a few other things.

Well, a lot of things, but she had an aim for this home and at least it would keep her busy. ‘I’ve been learning all about DIY.’ And she was glad Troy hadn’t minded her suggesting the plant wasn’t the most exciting place to work.

‘I’ve indulged in a few do-it-yourself projects myself. They are satisfying.’

‘That’s how I see it.’ Stacie rushed on. ‘There’ll be a chicken coop one day, and a vegetable garden. I do need some work from a few tradespeople in the town. There’s only one roof guy; he’s been out here once.’

Stacie had been in town at that time, and disappointed not to get up there with him to look. ‘The roof needs to be treated where there are rusty patches. He fixed a few loose sheets of tin and said the rest of the work can wait until he can fit the job in. And, to answer your question, I spent last weekend away visiting family.’

‘I hope you enjoyed the time with your family.’ His expression made it clear that he expected she would have.

‘Of course.’ She said it too quickly, with too much emphasis.

Stacie sought for a change in the topic. ‘Do you see your family often?’

‘Not often. My parents are early retirees. They spend a lot of their time travelling.’ He shifted his arm almost awkwardly. ‘I couldn’t say we’re close.’

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