“Good morning, Eileen!” said Alexis, causing Eileen to practically jump off the bike, just as she was stopping outside the mudroom door.
“My goodness child, what are you doing out here? And at this time of night!” said Eileen, leaning her bike against the side of the house, noticing that Alexis was fully dressed, and didn’t look as if she sneaked out of bed to come greet Eileen.
“Mommy’s horse got a visit from the doctor. Daddy let me watch,” said Alexis proudly.
“Oh, dear is the horse okay, did she have her baby?” asked Eileen, being well aware of the expected birth, as the household was filled with excitement over the event for some time as the gentle mare lumbered around the pasture, growing ever larger.
“She didn’t have a baby,” announced Alexis, bouncing up and down.
“Oh, dear!” said Eileen fearing that the mare lost her first foal, and worrying how the loss would affect Alexis.
“She didn’t have a baby. She has two babies!” chortled Alexis.
“Two? Twins! My goodness, I wasn’t expecting that, though she was getting very big last time I saw her,” said Eileen, very happy that the dawn brought double happiness, and not a single sadness.
“There is one boy and one girl. Daddy named the boy Casmin, and the girl Casmina,” said Alexis, as she followed Eileen into the mudroom.
“That is just wonderful. If you are going into the house, leave your boots in here, Alexis.” Eileen instructed.
“Yes ma’am, I am going to go tell Mommy about the babies,” responded Alexis.
“You shouldn’t be waking your mother up this early,” suggested Eileen.
“Oh, Mommy is in bed reading. She asked me to come and tell her when it was all over and the baby was cleaned up. She didn’t want to see the messy part. I can’t wait to tell her about the two babies,” said Alexis.
“Well, you head on up and I will get the coffee on,” said Eileen, figuring that her news could wait, and also, perhaps she should talk to Mrs. Archie about it before telling Alexis.
Alexis dashed up the stairs on her stocking feet, wishing she could take the stairs two at a time, like her long legged mother could. In the past she watched her father try it, but somehow, though his legs weren’t that much shorter than his wife’s, he looked very awkward in the attempt. Alexis was going so fast as she made the turn into her parents’ room that her feet slipped out from under her for a moment, causing her to windmill her arms like she was on ice before she recovered and went bounding into the room and up on the bed next to her mother.
“Well, is all done, sweetheart?” asked Genevieve, taking off her reading glasses and laying her book and the glasses on the side table.
“Yes!” said Alexis, and cuddled up to her mother’s side, on the fancy stitched quilt Genevieve rescued from the attic, and liked well enough not to use to pad paintings for trips to the art shows.
“Well, tell me about it. Was it a boy or a girl?” asked Genevieve, assuming from her daughter’s happy demeanor that nothing went wrong with the birth, and that mess of birthing a foal didn’t upset her.
“Both; one of each, a boy and a girl!” said Alexis with emphases.
“Well, I guess we are going to get to use both of the names we decided on,” mused Genevieve, thinking about how long Kelly took to come up with the names Casmina for a girl and Casmin for a boy. She was surprised when he decided on a variation in the spelling of gallery owner John Kasmin’s name, since he only met John once when the couple visited England and made a round of the better galleries, when she was riding the first big wave of success as a painter. When questioned about the choice, he admitted that he really didn’t remember meeting Kasmin, but just remembered liking the name.
“Yes, Casmin and Casmina; Get out of bed Mommy. Daddy told me to come get you so you can see the babies,” said Alexis, standing up on her knees and tugging at her mother’s arm.
“Okay, okay, I will obey!” said Genevieve, laughing, as Alexis led her to the closet.
“Good-morning Eileen!” said Alexis, as she came through the swinging doors into the kitchen.
“Good morning to you too, but you know you already wished me a good morning.” Eileen pointed out, as she continued mixing ice-cold water into the batter for the morning’s biscuits.
“I said good morning outside, now I say it inside,” said Alexis brightly, enjoying her little joke, but not realizing that the adults never caught on to the fact she was making jokes. They thought she was just a cute child who didn’t quite understand what she was saying. “I am going back to the barn, Mommy is coming down when she gets her pants on.”
Eileen watched as the child wondered out through the mudroom, stopping to put on her boots. Soon she saw Genevieve coming into the kitchen her bare feet not having made any noise as she came downstairs and across the living room. She carried her socks in her hand.
“Eileen, I hope my boots are still in the mudroom. I didn’t see them in my closet,” said Genevieve, waving the socks vaguely toward the door.
“Yes, they are. I cleaned them and left them by the back door. I figured with the foal on the way, you would need them sooner than later,” said Eileen, hoping that it didn’t make her sound as if she was shirking her duties.
“That is a good idea. I think I am going to ask Kelly to build a shoe rack in the mudroom, so that we can all keep our work shoes there all the time,” said Genevieve, looking longingly toward the perking coffee.
“Do you want to sit down and wait for a cup?” asked Eileen seeing her glance.
“I think I will go out and admire the twins first. I will be back soon, for the coffee though,” said Genevieve, going to put on her boots before heading to the barn.
While Eileen was finishing cooking breakfast, the family and the hands who were called in to help the vet in the delivery, stood around the stall where the new mother was nursing her babies who were already standing on spindly legs. Alexis was in the stall with her father carefully watching the procedure while her father held the mare’s head and gently murmured to her.
“Well, what do you think dear? Do I win the bet?” asked Kelly when he saw his wife looking over the edge of the stall.
“Should Alexis be in there with her? I mean; what if she tries to defend her babies?” asked Genevieve worried, ignoring the question of the bet.
“Genevieve, horses are not dogs, she knows us and trusts us. If anything has her worried and confused right now it is her babies. She doesn’t quite understand where they came from and why they are here. Don’t try to change the subject,” said Kelly, still stroking the mare’s nose.
“Yes, Mommy, horses are not dogs,” said Alexis very seriously.
“Watch your mouth Brattella,” cautioned Tony Hunt.
“I am sorry Mommy,” said Alexis, quickly.
“Brattella?” questioned Genevieve, raising her eyebrow at Tony.
“Sorry Mrs. Kelly,” He said using the nickname that the farmhands used for Genevieve, which Eileen disapproved of. “It is just a nickname we have come up with when Alexis needs some reining back.”
Genevieve looked at Alexis and back at Tony, observing that the hand seemed not to have any animosity toward her child and Alexis seemed to have taken the correction good-naturedly, so she let it drop.
“Well, I think I won the bet!” insisted Kelly, looking back and forth between the roan foal and the golden foal with its pure white mane and tail.
“Okay, already. You can get palomino foals from a roan mare!” said Genevieve grudgingly, feeling that the mixing of horse colors didn’t make as much sense as the mixing of oil paints. “They are lovely little things, but I really need my coffee.”
“Okay, dear, I will be in after a while. I am going to hang around and make sure our new mother is going to be okay with the little-ones alone,” said Kelly looking over the arch of the mare’s neck at his wife. Looking down at Alexis he stifled a chuckle when he saw the look on her face as she intently watched the foals butt each other out of the way, trying to hog the milk. Alexis stood with her fists on the hips of her well-worn blue jeans, her cambric shirt not quite tucked in right. The extra hay brought down and spread in anticipation of the birth, came almost to the tops of her brown boots, and as she leaned over the tip of her single messy braid nearly touched the top of the hay. Kelly felt an urge to draw her close and re-plat her hair, but reminded himself that since Alexis learned to, abet poorly, braid her own hair, she didn’t like other people doing it for her. Sighing with the realization that his little girl would soon be braiding her hair like an expert, he wished she wasn’t growing up so fast.
When Genevieve returned to the house she found Bennie in the kitchen with Eileen. “Good morning Bennie, You are certainly up early.”
“The vet’s truck woke me up when it came in. I went down to the barn to watch. It was amazing. When it was all over I went for a run, figuring I would get it in before you needed me in the studio,” said Bennie, his eyes riveted on the pan where Eileen was cooking what she called American Fried Potatoes.
“Where is Alexis?” asked Eileen, as she watched Genevieve going to the coffee pot and pouring a cup.
“She is still out in the barn. I think poor Cheyenne has been replaced in her heart, at least for a little while. They are very cute little things, all legs. One roan and one palomino,” said Genevieve.
“You should go out and get a look at them, Eileen. I don’t know much about horses, but I think they both have star potential,” said Bennie, wishing that one day he could have a horse of his own, and imagining himself riding a temperamental palomino alongside the Duke.
“I will go out before I head home. A palomino? Well, the palomino should be old enough to make good saddle horses when Alexis is old enough to join the Palomino Club,” responded Eileen.
“The Palomino Club?” Bennie queried, anticipating the question that was on Genevieve’s lips. “What is that?”
“They are the girls you see at the fair and the rodeo who do the show riding. All the girls want to be in the club. The requirement is that the girl has to own her own palomino and it must be a full grown horse not a pony,” said Eileen.
“Oh, yes I remember, the girl who used to own Cheyenne let her go to get a full sized horse, even though Cheyenne is a palomino,” said Genevieve, as if it were a question.
“That is right. The rules pretty well cut out the poor girls and the little girls with only ponies. It was around well before I was born. A girl who is in the Palomino Club is pretty well assured of being popular, sort of like a boy riding rodeo,” said Eileen.
“That seems sort of elitist, to cut girls out of a social group because their parents can’t afford to keep a horse,” said Bennie sourly.
“Well, I am glad that Alexis can’t ride anything more than the barrel races in the rodeo,” remarked Genevieve. “She has finally bugged Kelly into agreeing to let her train for barrel racing.”
“Really now, I thought after that little girl was killed by her horse falling on her, a while back that Mr. Archie wasn’t going to let her,” said Eileen.
“Well, he was shocked by the little girl’s death when it happened. It got him upset that she was the same age as Alexis, but he is determined not to wrap Alexis in cotton and try to put her on a shelf because she is an only child,” said Genevieve.
“That’s good,” said Eileen, as she set a plate of soft scrambled eggs in front of Genevieve. “I put some of that fish Bennie brought from New York City under that bowl over there, he told me you like it cold with your eggs.” Eileen internally shuddered at the thought of eating the unnaturally red fish cold with breakfast. She liked to have a nice fried trout with breakfast, but thought this fish brought from so far smelt a little too fishy to be safe to eat.
“Oh, do I ever. I should have some before Alexis comes in and eats it all. She loves it even more than me. Thank you for bringing it Bennie,” said Genevieve, appreciating how much trouble Bennie went through, carrying the green Coleman cooler filled with the ice and fish all the way from New York to Misty, on the train, renewing the ice all along the way. “Eileen you look very happy today. Are the good spirits over the new foals catching?”
“Well, the foals are good news, but I am happy because my oldest boy Jessie is getting married!” said Eileen announcing the news that she was itching to tell since she got to the farm, but was preempted by the new foals.
“Jessie, married, now that is good news. Who is he going to marry?” asked Genevieve, not slowing down on consuming her eggs, potatoes, and lox, relishing how the down-home cooking melded with the New York staple to make a delicious meal.
“Wendy Harper,” said Eileen barely containing her joy.
“I know Wendy. She is a nice girl,” said Bennie. “Graduated from Misty High last year.”
“Is that Emma and Luke’s daughter?” asked Genevieve, remembering that the Harper’s beautiful daughter was the captain of the barrel racing women’s team the year before.
“Yes, that’s the one, she set her hat for Jessie when she was 15-years-old, but it took him a while to notice that she was grown up and wasn’t just that little girl who he taught to ride.” Eileen smiled to herself knowing that her plan worked. Exposing her young men to Alexis kick-started them into thinking about children of their own, and of course that made them look around for wives. The other four were all dating, so she was expecting more daughter-in-laws after Wendy joined the family. It shouldn’t be long before she would have five daughters, and maybe even a few grandchildren.
“When is the wedding going to be?” asked Genevieve, having become accustomed to attending the towns’ social events and finding that she liked being around other people. She had found it hard to handle small town life during her first years in Misty. She didn’t city crowds, because no one knew her, no one was looking at her, and no one was judging her. Here, where she had no past, but all the strangers around her shared a past with her husband, she felt that everyone was judging her. She still knew they were judging, but as time passed, she learned not to care.
“The first of December or there-a-bouts, it is going to be on a Saturday when the church is free and almost everyone is off work,” said Eileen.
“Gee, December? I hope it isn’t too cold. Wendy once told me that she wanted to ride her horse to the church,” Bennie remarked, remembering the few dates he and Wendy went on in an attempt to make Jessie jealous enough to propose.
“Oh don’t worry about that, Bennie. Around here it doesn’t get very cold that early. It should be in the high 50’s or low 60’s, unless we have an Indian summer day. All this talk about the wedding reminds me, Jessie asked me if I could ask you to let Alexis be a flower girl, since he doesn’t have a little sister.”
“Of course. Alexis dotes on Jessie. I am sure she would love to be a part of his wedding,” said Genevieve, “but we will have to run it past Kelly.”
“Run what past me?” asked Kelly as he came into the kitchen followed by Alexis, who was looking tired from the early morning excitement.
“Eileen’s Jessie is getting married and wants Alexis to be his flower girl,” said Bennie, summing up the past conversation in a few words.
“Well, congratulations, Eileen, I know that you have been wanting the boys to get marrying for a while now. I would be honored to have Alexis as a flower girl in his wedding,” said Kelly.
“Daddy, I am not a flower girl! I am a cowgirl!” stated Alexis, firmly.
“Oh, Alexis, you will still be a cowgirl. Jessie wants you to dress up as a cowgirl and ride Cheyenne!” said Eileen.
“Oh, well I can be a flower-cowgirl, easy,” said Alexis, and eyeing the lox on the breakfast table said, “Boy-o-boy, we are having locked fish!” Making another one of her little jokes, which the adults smiled indulgently at.
The day of the wedding Alexis found herself very nervous because she would be riding in front of Jessie on the way to the church. It wasn’t that it was a long ride. The horses were trucked into town to the community center. When Alexis and her family arrived in her mother’s sedan, they saw the hands unloading Cheyenne and two horses Kelly was loaning to part of the wedding party who came on the train and couldn’t bring their own mounts.
“Well, though it’s cloudy today, it isn’t too cold, and not too much wind. I don’t think Alexis is going to have to wear a coat for the ride,” said Kelly, sitting in the truck relaxing seeing the horses were okay.
“I am going to get to work,” said Bennie, and exited the back seat; he got some bags out of the trunk and headed toward the horses.
“He really does see this all as theater, doesn’t he?” remarked Genevieve.
“Yes, he sure does. He really seems to be enjoying himself,” said Kelly. “We better be getting inside and get to work ourselves.”
Everyone was very careful to make sure that Wendy and Jessie didn’t see each other before the church. The bride and the other women came first and settled in at the north end of the center, where rooms were made ready for the bride and her party to dress.
Alexis was glad that she didn’t have to wear the flower girl dress until just before they left for the ride to the church. She felt that she suffered a trick about the dress. She thought that she would be dressed in her blue jeans on the wedding day, and wasn’t very happy when Wendy came out to the farm one day a few weeks before the wedding to have her fitted for her dress. Alexis was very uncooperative at first, until Bennie took her off to one side for a talk.
“Oh, dear, I didn’t expect her to react like this,” said Wendy, wishing that her fiancé picked a more girly girl, or even let her have both the flower girls be from her family.
“Don’t worry Wendy, Bennie has a certain magic when it comes to getting Alexis to behave herself. Just watch, she will come around.” Genevieve assured the nervous bride.
“Alexis, this isn’t a dress that is going into your closet that you will have to wear over and over,” said Bennie, out of the earshot of the women, kneeled down so that his eyes were on level with hers.
“You promise?” she asked, trying to turn away from his intense green eyes. He placed one hand on her shoulder and the other holding her chin up so that she couldn’t turn away or sulk.
“I promise Brat! And you know I am good for my promises. Remember when you came to see my play in New York? Remember how I was on stage dressed in those horrible rags?” Receiving two nods, he continued. “Those rags were my costume. I wore them to make my character believable. Now at the wedding you will be playing a role. Your role is going to be that of a cowgirl flower girl. Right?”
“Yes,” said Alexis, actually enjoying the attention from Bennie.
“Well, your role isn’t that of a cowgirl. If it was your normal cowgirl getup would be just fine, but you have been cast as a cowgirl flower girl. That role calls for a different costume. Cheyenne will have a costume too,” said Bennie, hoping that he could beg some ribbons, satin, and lace from Wendy to make the pony’s costume.
Bennie turned a now compliant Alexis back over to Wendy and Genevieve, for the fitting. Once the dress was fitted and off again, Bennie walked Wendy out to her car.
“Wendy, as you know, I went to school in New York to become an actor. Which, by the way, I am glad you have kept to yourself. But anyway, it was required that I take some classes on costume design. They even taught me to sew,” he said, as they made their way to where she parked her car to shield it from the sun.
“You are welcome, why did you have to learn to make costumes?” she asked, curious. Bennie only talked about his acting once, when he drank too much at one of the watermelon parties the Misty teens threw from time to time, thinking that they were pulling the wool over their parent’s eyes, not realizing that watermelon parties started back during prohibition and as teens their parents held them too.
A watermelon party was when local kids drove to an isolated pasture, out from under the adult’s eyes for a party. Someone would hazard stealing moonshine from a still hidden in the woods, and others stole watermelons from a farmer’s field after dark. The morning before the gathering a hole was cut in the side of each watermelon, which was filled with moonshine and re-plugged. The watermelons spent the day somewhere cold, before being cut and consumed at the party.
Bennie underestimated the impact of the spiked watermelon and found the next morning Wendy knew all his secrets. It surprised him she took her vow, to guard the secrets as her own, to heart and never spoke of it to any of his girlfriends. It further surprised him that she didn’t try to get him to talk about it later. He thought that doing the horses’ decoration at her wedding might be a nice way to say, thank you.
“Well, I guess they thought that when we didn’t make it as actors, we could make a living making costumes. I have to say it does seem like most of the costumers I know are wannabe actors,” said Bennie, and went on to make the offer of costumes for the horses.
“Bennie, it would be wonderful. There is a lot of stuff left over from making the dresses. I will bring it out to you this afternoon, so you can figure out how you want to do it,” said Wendy, excitedly.
“Okay, I will see you then,” said Bennie as he gallantly handed Wendy into her car.
At the community center, Alexis watched as her mother unzipped a garment bag and extracted the flower girl dress. Alexis admitted her dress wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It was a nice green color that matched the big girls’ dresses, and the top was made like a cowboy shirt, with pearl buttons and fancy stitching. Her Daddy bought her a new pair of soft black boots and a new black belt, tooled with ALEXIS across the back, in white letters. She knew she would wear the boots and belt a lot, but didn’t think she would give into wearing the green cowgirl dress again. Her mother suggested that maybe Alexis could wear it in the rodeo, but Kelly informed his wife that the barrel riders didn’t wear dresses when they rode, though the Palomino Club girls did. The green hat, festooned with lacy green ribbons, was just for show, as it wasn’t well made and probably wouldn’t make it through the reception after the ceremony.
Being quickly stuffed into her costume, for her role, she was cautioned to sit quietly to one side of the room and watch as the bride and her attendants were dressed. Alexis fidgeted on the chair that was too high for her legs and as slippery as glass under the satin of her green skirt. She watched as the bridesmaids donned their dresses, first slipping on green satin strapless dresses, of a truly shocking color of green, before covering them with an outer dress of white lace that allowed the green to show through, muted and quite pretty. The outer dresses were made with short cap sleeves and a neckline straight across the collarbones, so that they were modest enough for the church even though every line of each girl’s shoulders and upper chest could be seen through the lace. Alexis watched the procedure down to slipping on light green high heels. Each young woman donned a small hat that seemed to be something more than a large hair band, and a few of them could be seen cinching the wide belts of the over dress to try to make their waists seem smaller.
By the time the bridesmaids were dressed, the bride was free of the hands of the older women who were doing her hair and makeup. While they continued working the older women chattered about how natural they wanted the bride to look, but Alexis thought she looked as about as natural as the doll her aunt Dana gave her at Christmas, which Alexis gave a place of honor in the toy box and forgot about until now. Alexis was amused at how many women and girls it took to get Wendy into her dress. She figured that they just weren’t as good at it as her mother.
Genevieve came and took Alexis away just as the Borrowed, Blue, and New ritual was taking place. Alexis was confused as to why Wendy and her mother started crying and was very interested in how the maid of honor hopped up and started wildly dabbing at Wendy’s eyes with a Kleenex. Alexis was sorry to be taken and handed over to her father on the men’s side of the hall, before seeing what was next, but it was time for the men to ride to the church.
As the wedding party came out of the center their mounts were being held for them. Alexis mounted her pony, with Kelly’s help, and rode in front of the bridegroom and his best man, who were followed by the groomsmen. She was worried she wouldn’t remember the way to the church, even though they practiced the ride and the wedding the day before. Soon she relaxed when she realized that all she needed to do was follow the truck up ahead with the photographer who was sitting on the tailgate taking photos of the procession. Alexis was glad to see her father riding in the truck and knew he would be taking care of her pony before he came into the church.
The guests were all outside to see the groom’s arrival, as the procession came to a stop at the church. Alexis was impressed at how many people were waiting, and realized that there must be something very special about this wedding business. She sat straighter in the saddle, causing Cheyenne to veer a little. Alexis guided the pony straight again, being careful not to upset the basket of rose petals she held in front of her as she rode.
At the church steps Kelly plucked Alexis from her saddle and set her down on the ground. “Now you remember what you are to do?” he asked seriously.
“I wait at the door until Wendy gets here then I walk down the row with the other flower girl spreading the petals for Wendy to walk on,” recited Alexis, still thinking it seemed like a silly thing for Wendy to do. It seemed even sillier that the little bits of colored paper that Wendy walked on the day before.
“Good Girl! You have it!” said Kelly proudly and led Cheyenne off to the temporary paddock the Giffin brothers assembled, near the church for the wedding party’s horses during, the hectic preparation for the wedding. Bennie went to the paddock to remove the pony’s trappings, having rushed around the brides party as soon has he saw the bride mount her palomino, which Bennie festooned in white.
Wendy was thrilled when she came out of the community center and saw how Bennie decorated the wedding party’s mounts. She felt it showed, to everyone that there were no hard feelings over her marrying someone else. Not that she would have ever considered marrying a man like Bennie, who dreamed of spending his life going back and forth between Broadway and Hollywood. An older stable farmer like Jessie would make a good steady husband and father to her future children.
The seamstress who made the little cowgirl dress and the bridesmaids dresses, as well as the brides own dress, was frugal with cutting the material and there was plenty of satin and frills to make small blankets to cover the utilitarian saddles, and ribbons and lace enough to festoon the animals’ manes and tails.
As the groom and his attendants entered the church, Wendy’s father stayed behind looking after Alexis, while he waited to hand his daughter off her horse. He kept glancing back over his shoulder, making sure that the bridegroom didn’t slip to the foyer of the church, to sneak a peek at his bride. Mr. Harper finally saw his daughter approaching, riding side-saddle. She designed her lacy white dress to look as close as possible to the dress Grace Kelly wore the year Wendy started planning her marriage to Jessie.
Alexis looked up at Luke Harper, surprised to see that his eyes were brimming with tears. “Mr. Harper, don’t cry! This boring part will be over soon, and then there will be a big party with music, dancing, and a barbecue!” she assured him.
Luke Harper looked down at the little green cowgirl standing next to him, and began to cry in earnest.