“Alexis, how would you like to come over to my house tonight for a sleepover? My cat has a batch of new kittens that you can play with,” said Eileen, as Alexis finished the last of her tomato soup, by running a crust of bread, from her grilled-cheese sandwich, around the bowl. Eileen was working with Alexis on learning to eat soup with a spoon, and was so pleased with her mastery of the process that she decided not to scold the child for this little breach of etiquette.
“I’d like that,” said Alexis slipping down from her booster seat and running to her father’s office bellowing in a shockingly loud voice for such a small person, “Daddy, Daddy, can I sleep over at Eileen’s tonight.”
Eileen went back to her dishes smiling, knowing what Kelly’s answer would be, since it was he who asked her to get Alexis out of the house for the night. Mrs. Archie was coming home that evening. Not that he wanted alone time with his wife, she thought, though it would be nice if they could have some private-time, but Bennie was coming back with her. Eileen was glad, having missed the boy while he was off acting in New York.
Eileen thought about how her life changed, becoming more interesting, working for this family. She never planned on ever working for anyone. The plan was to get married, have children, and run her husband’s household. Working outside her home just crept up on her. When old Mr. Post was ailing she came over to help out. She was offended when the Post children sent her an envelope with cash as a thank-you, but after she got over her hurt feelings, she found the money very useful. Though her men were hard working, the farm life was pretty marginal, and she found she liked being able to buy a few things that there was never any money for before. She especially liked being able to start tithing at the church like one should.
After that it became known around town that if you needed a birthday cake or your laundry done that Eileen Giffin would take care of it for you. She charged more than the other women who took in similar work in Misty, but she was known as being reliable and always did things better than you could yourself. There were more than a few women in Misty who disliked the Archies, just because they hired Eileen all to themselves.
She remembered the day that Kelly Archie hired her on regular. He warned her he couldn’t pay that much, but when he told her how much he would pay her she managed to keep a straight face. Not Much to a city man, and Not Much to a farm woman are two very different things. Eileen was happy to settle into a regular routine, and her Mister was glad to see the extra money coming in too.
She hadn’t been working long before she began to find out the Archies’ secrets. It didn’t bother her too much. After all, everyone has a secret or two, and most people’s secrets were pretty sordid. Eileen thought that the Archies’ secrets were like something out of the paperback romances that she bought at Massey’s drugs on the sly, making sure none of the town women saw her purchasing them.
She was very shocked one day when she showed up unexpected at the farm and found Bennie, in his all-together as her mother would have called his state of undress, getting a drink of water in the kitchen during a break from modeling. She assumed the worst, until Genevieve drew her into the studio to see the painting being worked on.
Kelly came in and saw how things stood. Taking Eileen into the kitchen for coffee and a long talk, he explained who his wife was and why they wanted it to be kept a secret in the little town. She agreed with him that it was best for Alexis if she could have a normal life, without a famous mother. He assured her that she would never find a nude boy in the kitchen again. That was when Bennie was given his white robe to put on when he wasn’t on the models stand. To be taken into their confidence on such an important matter made Eileen feel very protective of them, so as more secrets emerged, she guarded them carefully.
Like these business trips that Mrs. Archie took about her paintings. When Mrs. Archie started making her trips to New York after Alexis’ birth, Eileen sat down with Genevieve and Kelly to hammer out the details of the cover story. So far as the town knew, Mrs. Archie’s mother lived in New York, and was an invalid, who her dutiful daughter visited often. She was instructed to let it slip that Genevieve was expecting an inheritance, though her mother was quite generous with her. That story not only explained Genevieve’s frequent absences, but also the family’s affluence.
She looked out the kitchen window; as she dried the dishes and set them on the counter, wanting to get them all dried before putting them into the cabinet all at once. She remembered reading a story about a man who had two families and how he happily balanced his life between the two, without anyone knowing until he passed away. Sometime she felt like that man. She had her family, her husband and grown sons. Here she had a whole other family. Since she married so young and finished having children before she was 21, she felt more like she belonged with the generation before. Though she was of an age with Kelly and Genevieve, she felt like the grandmother or elder aunt of the little family.
Helping take care of Alexis was one of the great joys of her life. She always wanted a girl, and as each boy was born, she was bitterly disappointed. She thought she would miss her rivalry with Louise when Louise moved to Florida, but she soon found that with Louise gone, she was able to have a bigger role in Alexis’ life. This was the first time Kelly asked her to take Alexis home, and she was very excited. She talked to her husband about it when she went home for lunch and he seemed to be please as well, though it was sometimes hard to know what the taciturn man was thinking.
The farm was strangely quiet when Genevieve, Bennie, and their bags were deposited next to the gravel drive by the hired car’s driver, before he raced the car down the drive with the goal of making it back to Dallas to hopefully get another fare before the end of his shift, though the over 120 mile drive round trip was a pretty good day’s work as it was.
Genevieve was worried when Alexis was not with Kelly when he came out of the house. She didn’t like to be away from her daughter for very long at a time. Up until now she always took Alexis with her to New York. Now that Alexis was at an age where she could be counted on to talk about what happened on the trips, to all and sundry, Genevieve knew that she couldn’t be counted on to know what not to talk about. Since she decided that Alexis couldn’t go with her until she understood the need for discretion, Genevieve chose not to take the train, but to fly and minimize her time away from her daughter. Though the expense of the airfare staggered Genevieve, she admitted to herself that she enjoyed the deference she was treated with by the airline, as compared to the relative anonymity of train travel.
“Kelly, where is Alexis?” demanded Genevieve, forgetting her plan to hustle Bennie straight to the studio to work on her latest canvas.
“Oh, simmer down. I sent her over to spend the night with Eileen. I asked Eileen not to bring her back until I called. I wanted you to get here and see the pony before Alexis came home. Let’s get your bags upstairs, and then we can all go out and meet our new family member,” he said.
Genevieve took the time to change out of her traveling clothes into a simple shirtdress, which she liked to wear on hot days around the farm, before joining Kelly and Bennie, and headed out to the barn. In the barn the new pony was peacefully getting accustomed to its new surroundings. Earlier that day Kelly cleaned out an extra stall that the farmhands were using as a storage room, and put all the equipment back were the hands should have left it to begin with. When the pony was delivered the stall was ready with water, food, and a clean layer of wood chips covered with straw as bedding.
“Have you told Alexis that she is getting the pony yet?” asked Genevieve, as Kelly opened the barn door for her to enter, hoping that Kelly hadn’t broken the news while she was gone.
“No, way! I haven’t mentioned the pony since we got the idea on the day she realized the TV was gone. She has no idea that Cheyenne is here. I knew you would be back from New York tonight, so I had Cheyenne delivered after Alexis went to spend the night with Eileen,” said Kelly.
“Oh, Kelly she is beautiful! It is a she, isn’t it? It looks like a girl with all that long mane and tail,” said Genevieve, as she caught her first sight of the pony.
“Yes, she is a girl,” said Kelly, “but the males of this bred have impressive manes and tails too.”
“Man, this is so cool!” remarked Bennie, as excited as if the pony was his. “The little girl is going to be crazy about her new horse.”
“Dear, I don’t mean to carp, but I thought you were going to get a new pony. That looks like an older horse. She is much bigger than I expected,” remarked Genevieve, after taking a longer look at the peaceful animal, which was eating oats and examining the people, gawking at her, through a cascade of long white bangs.
“Well, while she is a little taller than most pony’s you have seen, she is rather small for a Haflinger, there is some idea that the mother of this one got a little friendly with a Welsh stallion. Yes, but it is an older pony. It is best for Alexis that her pony be very accustomed to children. We will be training Alexis to ride, so we don’t want to be training a pony too,” said Kelly, looking at his most recent acquisition with pride.
“Wow, its fur looks like gold, and its hair looks like platinum,” said Bennie, having come to expect that all horses were brown or gray, since those were the only colors he saw sported by a horse before.
“Oh, Bennie, it is called, Hair, Mane, and Tail!” said Genevieve, wondering if this were the first time Bennie ever discussed a horse before.
“Oh, well, it is very pretty. Alexis is going to love it. How did you get ahold of something so nice, Kelly?” asked Bennie.
“Well, I was over at the sales, and got to talking to a guy whose daughter outgrew her pony. He talked her into getting rid of it since he couldn’t afford to keep two horses for her. She joined the Palomino Club and needed a full sized horse. She wouldn’t let him take Cheyenne to the sales, but insisted that he find a family to adopt her. So he went to the sales without Cheyenne looking for a family like us. So meet Cheyenne,” said Kelly, as the horse raised her head and looked right at him as if she knew he was talking about her.
“How old is she?” asked Genevieve, figuring that her former owner probably owned her for 10 years.
“She is 20-years-old. Alexis will be her third little girl,” said Kelly, with confidence in trusting his only child to the well-mannered animal. “She has enough years left in her, she might even get passed on to a fourth child one day.”
“It sounds like her name should be Nanny!” said Genevieve, realizing that if it had been up to her, she might have bought a cute foal for Alexis to raise, not realizing that an older horse was better for a child, she decided to leave all farm-like matters up to her husband.
“Lets go inside for some dinner. Eileen left me stew to reheat, so it should be eatable,” said Kelly. “Eileen will bring Alexis home in the morning, after the pony has time to relax from the transport. It will be ready for her to ride.”
“That is a good idea, honey.” You know once you get her on it; she will not want to ever get off.