Eugene stood at the window, his breath obscuring the small pane of glass as he strained to see the tall figure in the long dark coat. He wiped away the fog of his breath and caught a glimpse of the leggy filly galloping through the snow. She was young, a bit wild still, and Mr. Dawson was training her.
Rumor had it he was the best horse trainer around, but he didn’t look like any of the hard-faced, rough men Eugene saw around town who worked on the nearby ranches. He looked more like the bankers and businessmen with the silk waistcoats and top hats. He looked like the men who lived in fancy houses with servants to mop the floor and cooks to make his meals. Instead, Mr. Dawson lived in the boarding house where Eugene’s sister Sarah mopped the floors and Agnes—his mother—cooked the food. Some townsfolk whispered about Mr. Dawson’s oddness, but he was still considered a catch by the women in town.
Eugene didn’t like thinking too much about Mr. Dawson and his stern, handsome face and long fingers. And when he did in the dark of his bedroom, he woke up with sticky sheets, feeling guilty and ashamed.
“Eugene!” The sharp note in his mother’s voice made him turn quickly, afraid she’d been calling him for a while. “Stop staring out the window and tell Mr. Dawson to come inside. I’ll not have him be late for dinner again.”
His mother tolerated neither tardiness nor daydreaming, so Eugene dashed out the door. Any icy gust of wind stopped him at the top of the steps that led to the yard behind the house. “Mr. Dawson,” he called. “Mr. Dawson, dinner’s ready.”
Eugene shivered as the wind carried the sound away and flung stinging bits of icy snow against his cheeks. It wasn’t until the filly’s circle brought her in front of Eugene, that Mr. Dawson spotted him.
“Whoa!” he called to the filly as he strode toward her. She skidded to a halt, dancing in place as he grabbed the reins. “Easy, girl.”
The filly quieted. There was something soothing about his deep, commanding voice, although it always gave Eugene a funny feeling deep in his belly.
“Dinner’s ready, Mr. Dawson.”
“It’s Thomas. How many times do I have to tell you?” He cleared his throat and looked at Eugene over the top of the horse’s mane, his dark curls dusted with snow and his strong, handsome features looking like something carved from marble. Eugene unsuccessfully tried to control his chattering teeth and the stern expression softened. “You’re half-frozen, boy. Go inside. I’ll be along shortly.”
Warmed by Thomas’ concern, Eugene made a dash for the door. The kitchen smelled of roast and his mouth watered at the sight of the onions, carrots, and potatoes his mother was spooning onto the platter with the meat.
“Thom—Mr. Dawson will be in shortly.”
She glanced at him then turned her gaze on Sarah. “Wash your face and tidy your hair, girl. You’ll never get his attention looking like a wreck.”
Sarah flushed and left the kitchen, her skirts rustling in her haste.
Eugene felt the same sick, sinking feeling he got every time his mother talked of Sarah and Thomas together. It would be a good match although Thomas was a good ten years older than his sister. The clatter of the door opening and the stomp of boots alerted him to Thomas’ return.
A while later, over apple pie, Mrs. Gordon cleared her throat. “Sarah’s birthday is coming up on Sunday. She’ll be seventeen. We’ll be holding a bit of a party to celebrate. I’m sure there are many eligible young men in town who will be quite interested.”
“How nice,” Thomas said, his tone polite, but as disinterested as ever. He turned his gaze to Eugene. “It’ll be your birthday as well then?”
Eugene nodded. He and Sarah were twins after all. “That’s right.”
There was something in Thomas’ gaze that made Eugene shift in his chair. “That reminds me I’ve been meaning to ask you if Eugene would be available to me. I could use an assistant. Eugene is good with horses and I believe he’d be a good deal of help when I travel. I’d pay him fairly of course.”
Mrs. Gordon sputtered at first, but when it was finally agreed upon, Eugene’s heart sang.
After dinner, as his mother read the bible aloud and Sarah embroidered a handkerchief, Eugene and Thomas sat by the fire and discussed the horse business.
When Eugene fell into bed that night he dreamed of galloping horses and long-fingered hands on his skin.
This was actually last week’s prompt. I had half an idea that refused to solidify, so I set it aside. When I went to write this week’s prompt and didn’t have any ideas, I went back to this one and it finally came together.
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I look forward to seeing you next Monday!