I was more than happy to leave Stonehill farm and that wretched girl far behind . Besides I had a willing and sweet girl waiting for me in the village. I worried what Raya would think of the state of me with the clay baked in my hair making it hang in hardened, unattractive clumps and my stained clothing. At least my clothes would dry on the two hours it took to reach the village as it was in between Stonehill Farm and my own homestead .
But me being dirty had never stopped Raya from fooling around, in fact our last visit she had helped to wash the sweat and mud off my chest from my attempts at helping to break in a wild bronco. Afterwards we took a tumble through the hay in the small stable near her cottage. Raya was up for more things indeed than her cousin, and it was only a matter of time now before I became a man during one of our visits.
Thurston and Greer had both offered their words of wisdom regarding women. Mylon had even offered to take me along on a visit to the brothel with him. I had declined his offers, but listened to the advice of the Greer. It had gotten me slapped and Ledora refused to talk to me for over a week when I tried to take control and be the strong manly type who a woman really wanted. Someone to take charge and make sure she fell in line.
Thurston’s advice to tell a woman whatever she wanted to hear regardless of truth and simply say yes to her demands so I would get sexually rewarded, had proved far more useful. It had had even lead to Raya placing her hand down my trousers that first time. Then there was my father who spoke about treating women with respect, kindness, and honor, and oh the unpopular sentiment of equalness. But most men in the village did not share that same point of view. But I loved my mother fiercely and could not imagine treating her the way many village men treated their wives, like slaves.
Right now as we made our way to the village, Greer looked anything but a brother in arms to me. When our eyes happened to meet, a warning was clearly on his face. It said keep your mouth shut about what went on in the barn. It naturally made me all the more curious.
It seemed he had impregnated one of his conquests and wanted to get rid of it. And Azra had refused him that type of tonic. I wasn’t all that surprised that Greer had made a girl with child, or that he was not willing to settle down and do right by her, but rather the fact Azra did not grant his requests. I never thought witches to be so sentimental or care about the sanctity of life. Especially when tales claim witches eat children or kill them for sacrifices to the devil.
But I simply could not see Azra doing something like that, even if she was clearly a bit deranged. But I tried to let the matter pass, and her from my mind entirely when the village came into view just on the horizon. It was hard to get that girl out of my head though. She was annoying beautiful but with a serpents tongue.
For a moment I wondered what bedding a girl like her would be like. Would she be wild in bed, or one who likes to inflict pain? I had heard of such sordid tales. But all I could imagine is that she was far more likely to slit my throat and watch the sheets turn crimson.
Our village was called Briar Hollow, as it had once been just that, a dense, overgrown forest full of briar patches. Though it was not large as the town of Fairhaven that our king and his court resided in, Briar Hollow had come a long way since even I was born. It seemed with each passing year, more and more of the trees were forced to retreat to make way for new homes and shops. Now it was home to about three hundred souls.
I knew these winding dirt streets like the back of my hand. Most of the cottages were still made of wood with thatched hay roofs, but more and more sturdy buildings made of stone were gaining favor in the village. It was believed that the stone would withstand even the worst winds and storms the Good Lord threw our way. It was all about priorities it seemed as the inn with the salon inside it was made of stone, as was the church which had been rebuilt after a nasty storm a few winters back. And stone burned less quickly than wood, as our village had seen its fair share of fires.
I urged my horse into a gallop as if I could outrun the thoughts in my own head. Father yelled at me to behave myself and meet him back at the jailhouse just past the tolling of the afternoon bell . I rode straight for Raya's cottage, though I slowed my pace in the heart of town.
Two small boys, troublemakers with snotty noses and dirty faces threw rocks at my horse as I passed by. I considered throttling them both. I recognized them as the sons of Derkin, the barkeep. Derkin had more children than I could count, and they often ran amuck . The oldest of his brood was one of the daftest boys I had ever met named Philip. Philip was known to cry and do other unmanly things on a daily basis.
I slowed my horse and withdrew my slingshot. I hit the elder of the boys on the arm with a well-placed shot. I had had much practice. He hollered like he was being killed. His brother aimed a large rock at my person in retribution.
“How does it feel?” I yelled to the boys, dodging their rock easily enough. “The next time you hit Dash with a rock, I’ll hit you both with ten- fold.”
They both took off running when I aimed my slingshot at them again. I hit the other little devil on the backside as he fled. They were both hooting and hollering. I patted my horse and told him what a good animal he was before I continued on my way to Raya’s. I had a good laugh over the whole thing.
I dismounted Dash, but sadly I had no treats to give him as I had consumed all the contents of my satchel. I gave him a good pat down and decided to ask Raya for a carrot from her garden. I was hoping her father would be at his blacksmith shop at this hour. Her mother would likely be consumed with starting to prepare the evening meal. Blacksmithing was hot and hungry work after all, and Raya’s brother Torren worked as their Father’s apprentice. Torren would likely challenge me to a duel if he ever discovered I was two timing his sister. And the boy with muscled arms from working the forge all day would likely win. Another reason it was imperative that neither girl knew about the other.