A couple hours later, Iris was sitting at Sugar Cup Coffee House feeling morose. The email that the management company had sent to her was comprehensive, and included all of the information that Iris could've wanted. As well as the astronomical sum of money it would cost to rent the space.
She did know that it would be expensive. Any place in this part of town was bound to be. It was just that Gold Valley was a tourist attraction, and the historic buildings in town got heavy foot traffic. So many people came from California, dreaming of a simpler life, and they brought California money with them. The kind of money that was rare for people in Gold Valley to have.
In fact, she imagined the building itself was owned by a Californian and managed by a local company.
She felt a sense of impotent regional rage. Californians and their lack of turn signals and deep pockets...
She hadn't had a dream in so long. The idea of giving up on this one was... It was crushing. Crushing in ways that she didn't really want to think about.
She closed the laptop, and stared into her coffee.
Sugar Cup was the most adorable redbrick coffee place, with wide pastry cases overflowing with cookies, scones and cakes. The floor was all scarred barn wood, and from the ceiling hung a massive chandelier, all glittery and proud in the middle of the rustic flair.
Iris couldn't even enjoy it right now.
She turned and saw her sister Rose standing at the counter with her now fiancé, Logan.
Rose patted Logan on the shoulder, then scampered over to Iris's table.
"What are you doing here?"
"It's strange for you to be here," Iris said.
Logan and Rose worked full-time at Hope Springs Ranch, her family's ranch. Iris still lived in the house. She was basically a rancher wife, without the benefit of the husband.
She had spent years of her life taking care of her cousins and siblings. Cooking for them, cleaning. It was a full-time job even now.
But it was a full-time job that didn't have any pay, and didn't have a lot of personal satisfaction at this point.
Her brother was married now, and while Sammy had always been involved in the household to an extent, she now lived in the house. And was... Well, it was her house.
It made Iris feel like there wasn't as much to do. And like she didn't really have the authority to do it.
It was the same with her sister Pansy and her husband, West. They were firmly established at their own home, raising West's younger brother. A family unit apart from the one the Danielses had spent years building after their parents had died when they were kids.
And now that Rose and Logan were engaged, Rose had moved out of the main house too, and Iris just had...less and less to do.
She and Logan no longer came to the farmhouse for every meal. Instead, they usually ate at their place.
It seemed fitting that they were all settled first. Well, she couldn't have imagined another way for it to go. She was a practical girl, and she tried not to give in to self-pity. Self-pity didn't help anyone. But she'd always occupied a particular position in her family. She was steady and she was well-behaved, and she was...well, she was the one who had to shepherd them all into the safe, happy, finished places of their lives.
Ryder had taken care of them, it was true. But the emotional well-being of her siblings, that she be a good example...all of that was an essential part of who she was.
Of what her mother had needed her to be.
And sure, there were hard things about that, but she'd never seen the point of arguing with the way things were.
She'd tried. But she'd lost her parents at fourteen. She'd exhausted her lungs arguing with the universe back then. And it hadn't changed a thing.
And yes, it burned a little more at the realization she was the only one left alone. And maybe she was irritated by the fact that a few months ago her pride had suffered a mortal wounding at the hands of her sister.
Unintentional of course.