Set in c.1870 in Fair Play, Texas
A young man falls for a spinster, ten years his senior, whom he had admired for years. Will she be able to get past the age difference?
September 16, 2014: Epublished on Amazon
An excerpt from Chapter 1:
Fair Play, Texas, May 1872
Now was the time. Today was the day.
Jeremy Farnsworth took a deep breath. He liked the freshness of early morning air. The ground was still damp, moisture left over from yesterday. He could feel it though, that today would be another hot one, hotter than hot. Yep, it would be a scorcher. Typical Texas weather, unpredictable––you never knew what the weather might be till it happened. It had rained hard yesterday with warm breezes and lightning. That left the humidity high enough to make him feel sticky, but not so high it took his breath away, not yet anyway.
His azure eyes scanned the trees. He found the treed prairies of the Piney Woods region refreshing; the trees made the prairie not seem so flat. There were no signs of smoke; the lightning had not set the forest afire. He was always glad when there were no fires threatening wildlife and homestead ranches. Every day the trees renewed his love of nature.
He rode on into town. Town. He disliked town, mostly. Not the buildings cluttering up the beautiful prairie that God had created nearly as much as the mean-spirited people who walked it. Not everybody was friendly and fair as the town's name implied, the reason the name had been earned and given. Things change. He preferred open land and solitude. Up ahead, one who was different from the rest, Diana Carter, came out of the boardinghouse where she resided and sat on the bench along its front. A smile pulled his mouth at the sight of her. This would be easier than he'd thought.
He rode up to the front of the boardinghouse. "G'mornin', Miss Diana. Do y'all mind if I sit a spell?"
She nodded consent. "Good morning, Jeremy."
He dismounted, tied his mount to the hitch, and let Alamo drink from the trough. He took off his Stetson, the best of cowboy hats, looked at it and then slapped it against his thigh, the easiest way to remove the dust and bits of foliage, while recalling how he went on over nigh onto Dallas to buy it from Mr. Stetson himself at his hatter shop in Garland just year before last. He then ran his fingers through his hair to loosen his light blond locks. Diana looked at his hair as though she'd never seen it before, like she liked it. He playfully frowned and asked, "Somethin' wrong with m'hair?"
She shook her head. "Your hair is catching the sun real nice like." Her eyes shifted to his horse. She hadn't been this close to the stallion before.
Jeremy was gazing at her bright eyes, green as spring grass. He noticed her looking his Quarter Horse over. "Wanna say howdy t' him? His name is Alamo."
"Yes." She stood and swept her hands over her skirt, and then stepped down off the boardwalk into the street beside his tall stallion. "He is a fine looking steed. He has spirit. Is he new?" She stroked the horse's chestnut brown nose, twiddled her fingers in his black mane, and spoke sweetly to him. The charger responded by calmly nuzzling her shoulder.
"Nah. I raised him from a colt, breakin' him in slowly t' be a good all-'round mount. He's decided t' be my buddy, so I brung him t' town today as a treat. The one I usually ride is his pa. Y'all like horses, do ya? Sorry he got y'all wet."
"It will dry in no time in this heat. Yes, I more than just like horses. I like horses better than people, well, most people, that is."
Diana went back to the bench and sat where she had been before. Then she scooted closer to the far end to make extra room and replied, "It is good to see you, Jeremy. Have a seat. How have you been?
"You never do," she stated matter-of-factly.
"Y'all look lovely this mornin', Miss Diana. A special day?"
"Lovely?" She looked down to her hands, "Thank you. Nobody's ever told me that before." She looked melancholy. "And no, this day is just like every other." She sighed as she thought, 'Destined to be lonely.'
He wondered about that. Nobody? Ever? Lovely, an' more! She's beautiful an' don't even know it.
"People've thought it, though. I guarantee it," he told her with a cheerful, friendly smile.
"I doubt that. But you have always been kind."
"Kind?" He cocked his head, looking perplexed.
Softly smiling, she explained, "I was thinking of that day, about ten years back, when we had a church picnic by the pond at Wells Park. Remember? You were about ten or eleven, I think. I was still fairly new to town so had tried to look my very best, you know, hoping some fella of marrying age would notice me. Instead, that Smithers boy chose me as a target and tossed a mud-ball at me. It splattered all over my skirt. I was right stunned and trying hard not to cry when you called my name out and started splashing me. You drenched the front of my skirt, but only my skirt, and you did not stop till all the mud was gone."
"I meant well."
She smiled at him. Quite distracted by it, he hoped she hadn't seen him gazing at her smile, her enticing lips. She quickly looked away. A muscle by her mouth twitched, almost imperceptibly. Had she noticed? Of course she had, she's one who keeps eye contact, and he'd broken it when tempted by those kissable lips of hers.
"I knew you did." She continued, "I was so shocked by it all, that I just stood there, a spectacle. Everybody was so quiet at first. Some older boys started heckling me, so I decided it was best to laugh it off – thinking maybe if I laughed first there would be no jokes made about it."
"It su'prised 'em fer sure" Jeremy told her. "Then it dawned on me that others might join in splashin' ya an' git y'all wet clean through, top t' bottom, so I stopped real deliberate like. I was right glad that y'all started laughin'. I was afraid ya'd be mad at me."
"Mad at you? Oh, for getting me wet? No. I wanted to thank you with a big hug. The water was better than the mud, you see. It dried quickly in the heat, remember?"
"I knowed that even then. Jimmy threw th' mud cuz he liked y'all. Did y'all see his face when he seen what a mess he'd made?"
"No, I was looking down at my muddy dress."
"Too bad y'all didn't. He was right sorry. Thought he was gonna cry. Thought y'all would, too. So I tried t' git rid o' that mud b'fore too many people seen it."
"I do not think anybody else saw the mud. Nobody ever mentioned it. It all happened too fast, I think. Thanks for that."
He smiled and nodded acknowledgement of her thanks. "I never saw y'all wear that dress again. Was it ruint?"
"No, just a bad memory. You noticed what I wore?"
"Yep, I was sweet on y'all." To himself he added, 'Still am.'
"Me? I was, am, what, about ten years older than you?"
"Yep. I seen y'all as th' perfect gal. I watched ya all th' time."
"The perfect old maid," she stated sourly.
Jeremy chuckled. What could he say to make her feel better? He tried by saying, "Maiden, yep. But old? Nope."
"I am beyond hope of marrying now. Tis a fact."
"Nah. Y'all git perdier ev'ry year, Miss Diana. Y'all can't hide that. An' yer th' nicest person in town. Nobody here's good enough fer y'all."
She laughed, "Too bad you are not older, Jeremy. Bye, now." Diana rose and went back into the boardinghouse.
"Yep. Too bad," he spoke aloud, to himself.
She may have left Jeremy on the bench outside, but he was still in her thoughts. He has grown into a right fine young man, and much taller than most fellas around here. He has a sweetness about him, and, mercy, he's downright handsome with that whitish hair and blue eyes. That dimple when he smiles makes my knees weak. And those muscles of his are so powerful looking, even through that nice shirt of his. She sighed. She blushed at the thought of having been so aware of his muscles. She had to admit to herself that she had admired his masculine physique approaching her, all the while trying to hide her gaze. He was a right good looking man now, so tall and lean, but looked solid and strong, a mighty fine looking man. A young man with a sinfully tempting mouth.
Oh, why couldn't she have a man like him of her very own? Sweet. Smart. Thoughtful. Handsome. Dependable. Hard working when helping out folks in town. That was Jeremy Farnsworth. The perfect man. What would he be now, twenty or twenty-one? Nope, the wrong age to her thirty. It could never be. He was not only younger, but nine or ten years younger. Maybe even eleven years. She would soon turn thirty-one.