“You see when I got home my parents saw how sad I was.” you explained. “They saw how I was no longer the happy teenager I used to be.”

I nodded in understanding while gripping the bridal of the horse tightly in my hand. I had been around horses before but that was a very long time ago and I was doing my best to be in command while inwardly I feared being trampled. I followed you out of the barn as we let the horses out for some fresh air. “So what happened then?” I asked with the full intention of getting to the bottom of what made you tick.

“Well, I registered for university courses but I really didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do.” you explained. “Who really does at that age?”

“I thought I did, but I’m not as sure any more to be honest.”

“Well I didn’t have a clue. All I knew is that I wanted to feel as free as I did in Paris, and whatever I could do to get that feeling back was all that mattered.” You pushed your horse roughly to the side and returned to the barn. I followed suit. “But it’s just a child’s dream.”

“You said you went back though. When did that happen?”

“Christmas.” you sighed. “It was during Christmas after my first semester of college.”

“Your parents let you go during the holidays?” I blurted, surprised at the willingness of your parents to let you go so soon after getting you home.

“Yes. I was surprised as well.” you continued, somehow able to look graceful and elegant as you shovelled large piles of horse manure into a wheelbarrow. “Don’t get me wrong. I did enjoy my first semester in college. It’s so much different than high school, but coming from a small town where the graduating class has less than 10 students, it was a bit of a shock.”

I pushed the wheelbarrow closer to the next pile of dung, “The commute must have been interesting too.” I noted, thinking about how far this little farm was from any post secondary education facility.

“Well I commuted for the first month but I had to stop.” You placed the shovel back in it’s place and took the wheelbarrow from me, pushing it out of the barn and into the newly fallen snow. “It took over an hour to drive there, and then some of my classes were late so I wasn’t getting back home till nearly eleven on most days.” You dumped the manure into a pre-existing pile and turned around abruptly. The horses looked on from the paddock they were frolicking in, clearly enjoying the soft snow on their hooves. “, and as you already know driving at night around here can get a little hairy.” you look over your shoulder at me and wink. I can’t help but laugh at myself as well; though if the circumstances of my vehicle ditching experience were more harrowing I doubt I’d be in a humorous mood. As you turn back to the wheelbarrow my eye is drawn down to your backside. The jeans you’re wearing are tight and cup your ass beautifully. I find myself for a moment staring and tracing the lines of each curve with my eyes. “Stop staring at my ass.” you say abruptly without turning around.

“I….” is all I manage to stammer.

“It’s ok. I’ve been told it looks great in a pair of jeans. Why do you think I wore these instead of a pair of snow pants.” you turn to face me and smile.

“My goodness I love the way you think” I say to myself. “Well who ever told you that was indeed accurate.” I manage to croak, taken aback by your flirtatious forwardness. I feel myself smiling without thinking. I watch you scoop out a measured amount of feed for each horse, and then add pieces of carrots and a single sugar cube to each portion. “So if you didn’t commute any longer, how did you get to university?”

“My cousin.” you answer curtly. “My cousin lived in town and needed a roommate.” You place each of the mixes of feed and treats into their respective trough. “She was also in university and had recently broken up with her boyfriend. So she needed me to help her with the bills.”

“Well that seems pretty convenient timing.” I say, watching you wrap your knuckles against the feed trough.

“It was,” you continue keeping an eye on the horses as they cantered back into the barn. “but she was a pretty bad roommate.” you admit, grabbing a bag of brushes and other horse maintenance related tools.

“Oh?” I say, mimicking you and taking a brush out to brush one of the horses while you did the other. “Why’s that?”

“Well she just broke up with her boyfriend.” you repeat “He left her, high and dry. So she was a little devastated, and really a bit crazy.” you stroked the horse’s mane as it gobbled and crunched the feed you had just provided it. “I mean, I understand how she felt and all. Breakups are hard. But she oscillated between this overly melodramatic angst filled teenager wanting for him to return, and this overly flirtatious, well, slut, who would grab any guy and bed him that night.”

“I see.” I offered. Not entirely sure how to respond, and slightly mesmerized by the love and care you were showing in the simple act of brushing these big beasts. “I guess that would make it hard to get any school work done.”

“Yes!” you bursted with exasperation as if you finally had found someone that agreed with you after long hours of unproductive debate. “I mean. Look I don’t much care about who she slept with, our how many there were. I’m not a prude. It’s just….she was…..loud. Really loud.” you emphasized the word, really, by widening your eyes as much as you could. Putting the brush away you grabbed a hook shaped tool and stood next to the horse’s hindquarters. You tapped it twice on the leg and clicked with your tongue. The horse immediately raised it’s back leg and presented the hoof to clean. You then continued, “You could tell that it was all a show.” you explained. “She made the same noises, said the same things, the same cadence, the same everything.” You scooped some mud and dirt out of the hoof and moved to the front leg, repeating the same tapping and tongue clicking. “It sounded like a bad song on repeat. The guys left thinking they were superstars. But the moment the door closed I could see her disappointment and frustration. She’d say goodnight and be off to bed again. Then I’d hear her rummaging through her room before it became very quiet. It doesn’t take much to figure out what was going on.”

“I see.” I repeated, again not sure how else to respond.

“Yes.” you continued, moving to the next horse and repeating the same hoof cleaning process. “She was faking everything with these guys.” you explained tiredly “Acting like they were amazing when really they weren’t.” You sighed and looked at me directly. “I don’t get that. What’s the point of faking it.” you shook your head and continued your task. “I’ll never fake it.” you reveal, “If my partner isn’t doing a good job, they have to get better, and I have to teach them how to get better. But I’ll never fake it. Not ever.” You released the final leg and dropped the tool back into the bag, then picked it up and walked over to place it back where you got it.

“I’ve faked it.” I admitted, to your surprise.

“What?” you cocked your head to the side and clearly were dumbfounded. “How?”

“I faked being in love.” I confessed. It was the first time I had said so out loud and it shocked me as well.

“You’re going to have to explain that.” you say, while nonchalantly grabbing a splitting axe from the barn wall. You turn to look at me, axe in one hand, the other hand on your hip. “Well?”

I look at you, then the axe, then back to you again. “It’s complicated.” I admit mournfully. “I used to be married.”

“I see.” you repeat my words, also unsure of how else to respond. “You married her but didn’t love her?”

“No….well…I’m…I’m not sure to be honest.” I stammer awkwardly. “I thought I did. I thought I was sure. I thought everything was going according to plan. But in the end, when it came down to it, we were merely acting like a married couple, we weren’t being married couple.”

“What do you mean?” you ask, lowering the axe and grasping it with your other hand.
“You get stuck.” I admit. “You just follow patterns. Go to work at the same time. Come home at the same time. After a while all your stories have been told, all your secrets have been shared. After a while, there’s nothing left. There is no excitement, no intrigue, no interest. You’re just following the pattern of your life without any thought. Like an automated robot sent out to do a series of tasks.” You frown at me and I’m not sure if you’re frowning at my explanation or the circumstances of my relationship. “We just realized at one point that we weren’t the people we thought we were. That we were great friends but little else. The chemistry that was there had become stagnant and toxic.”

“So you’re divorced now?” you ask, turning to leave the barn and I follow suit. You close the barn door and latch it, handing the axe to me to hold as you do so.

“Yes. About 10 months ago now.” I admit. I see you calculating in your head and I stop you before you can reach the mathematically obvious conclusion. “Yes, we finalized our divorce on Valentine’s day.” I laughed at the absurdity of it. “That’s how bad things were. When we went into the lawyer’s to finalize everything neither of us had even realized it was Valentine’s day.” You laugh at me shaking your head, then grab the axe out of my hand. Placing a cut log on the splitting stump you swing down and expertly half the log. Placing one of the halves on the stump you split it, then repeat the task with the final half.

“Have you seen anyone since then?” you ask, placing another log on the stump and splitting it in two.

“No.”

“Why’s that?” you ask, bringing the axe down again, sending the halves spinning off in opposing directions.

“What I want doesn’t seem to be what others are willing to give. And what I’m willing to give is not what others want.”

The axe comes down again splitting another half into quarters. “That’s a pretty cryptic response buddy. How about you try again.” You place the other half on the stump and ready the axe, turning to me with the axed poised “So what is it that you want?”

“Well it’s going to sound bad, but really I just want sex.”

“Just sex?” the thud of the axe punctuates the abruptness of the question.

“Well, not just…sex. Good sex. Great sex.”

“So just sex then.” you laugh, placing another log on the stump.

“No. Good sex.” I say emphatically. “When I was married the sex we had, on the rare occasions we had it, was plain, boring, dull. It didn’t matter how much I tried, how much effort I put in, she just was never interested.”

“I see.” you respond and the axe thuds again. “Getting someone to have sex is easy though, it’s finding someone that you connect with that’s hard.”

“Yes, well that may be easy to find for some, but it isn’t for others.” I explain, trying not to sound too exasperated. “I am of the later group and not the former. Coming from a relationship that was best friend like, but had no internal fire, I’ve been languishing over lost time and opportunity. It makes it difficult to want to jump into another boat only to end up in the same sea.” You place the axe on the stump and turn to look at me, intent now on hearing what I have to say. “I’m capable of amazing sex. I’m capable of feats beyond that of the average man. But instead of accessing these traits I’m subjected to restraints, bars, chains, and anchors. I want to experience the dreams I dream in the tangible memorable reality. I want to have something to look back on that gives me that twinkle in my eye, that allows me to smile inwardly at moments past. Is that too much to ask for?”

You simply smile and reply, “You want to make a memory.” Your thoughts drifting to your own memories.

“Exactly.” I say, happy to be understood.

“Well you’re already making them right now.” you laugh then point to the quarter logs strewn about and motion for me to pick them up. Without a thought I do so, stacking them neatly as possible in my arms. You smile at my concentration, and the moment that my arms can’t take any more you walk up beside me and kiss me on the cheek. Then in a subtle whisper you say, “Back to the house now. Time to warm up.”

I stand slightly dumbfounded. The kiss on the cheek has thrown me. The whisper intrigued me. I find myself wondering what is to happen next. I can feel the thrill of the unknown rush through my body. The unpredictability of these moments are intoxicating. I turn and follow you up the path to the snow covered country home, smoke still trickling out of the chimney and windows covered in frost. My eyes wander back to your beautiful backside admiring the curves, wishing I could see more than the tiny glimpse I caught last night in the hallway. “You’re staring again aren’t you.” you say to me softly.

“Sorry.” is all I manage to croak.

“It’s ok.” you reply. “I don’t mind.” as you continue to walk up the path and into the house. I kick off my borrowed boots and follow you into the living room. Setting down the freshly cut logs into the copper lined container I then turn to face you again. You’re smiling at me and there is a secretive flash in your eye. I have no idea what you’re thinking, but something tells me, I’ll may like it. I turn away and take one of the dryer logs and place it in the fireplace, being sure to place it so that it has adequate space to breath. Mere moments later it’s engulfed in flame the heat of the other log spontaneously pushing the new one past it’s flashpoint. I turn once more to meet you gaze. You’re now sitting on the couch and motion with your head for me to join you.

“I understand what you want.” you tell me quietly. “I understand the need to make memories worthy of remembering.”

“Yes.” I exclaim, finally understanding. “Wait…that’s what your French friend Leon said…isn’t it.”

You look at me and smile. The broad mischievous grin beautiful and captivating. Even your eyes were smiling. “You know Zale,” you continue “you’re welcome to stay a little longer if you’d like. It’s not like you’re car is going anywhere or could get any more stuck than it already is.”

I open my mouth to respond, but then nothing comes out. I sit down in silence and realize I’d like nothing better than to stay here a little longer in the warmth of your company. In truth, I had completely forgotten that my car was in a ditch some distance away, likely covered now with an additional foot of snow. Running against most accepted social protocols I answer with my heart instead of my head, “I’d love that Alcina.” pausing to smile I repeat,  “I’d love that very much.”

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