Doritha looked hesitantly into the darkened interior of the stables. “Excuse me. Mr. Dixon? Anybody here?”
Noah came from inside one of the stalls, wearing sand colored pants and a white button down shirt, top three buttons left open, exposing his muscular chest. “Can I help you, ma'am?”
“I…” Doritha stumbled, suddenly uncertain. “Um… I’m Doritha Simmons.” She collected herself. “I’m Kid’s fiancee. I heard you give riding lessons?””
Noah smiled. “Sure, your boyfriend mentioned you were interested. Just give me a minute to finish here and I’d be happy to start right now.”
He left her standing at the entrance and she looked around her. The building was huge. The biggest one on the set. It had 30 stalls in two parallel rows, and she could see the horses’ heads in some of them. The place was clean. Immaculate, even. She stepped further inside, smiling at the horses.
“I’m ready when you are,” Noah’s voice behind her startled her and she gasped and turned to face him. “You’re a little jumpy. Are you nervous?”
“Well, I hate to admit it, but yes. I’m afraid of horses, and Kid just loves them … I’m hoping I can get past it and learn to enjoy it too.”
“I reckon you never had much chance to be around horses, so - -.”
Doritha smiled ruefully. “It’s not that. Actually, my family had horses on our property. But I took a bad spill when I was little, and I didn’t listen to the old saying. I never got back on.” She looked around, impressed. “I know enough to see these are beautiful horses though.”
Noah grinned. “My pride and joy. Come on, let me introduce you and we can choose a nice, gentle one for you.”
Doritha followed him and smiled at the affection she saw in his eyes for the creatures. They stopped in front of a stall where a beautiful painted mare was standing curiously looking at them. “That’s Kid's horse, Lady, over there,” he turned and pointed two stalls down, “is Lightning, Lou’s horse. The palomino over there is Jimmy’s. Now let’s see which of these horses would suit you best…” he walked down the aisle between the two rows of stalls and stopped in front of a stall at the far end of the stables. “Here.” He concluded. “Dolly is the perfect horse for you. She’s real gentle and patient. Perfect to learn with.”
Noah opened the stall door and and led Dolly out. Doritha followed him outside of the stables into the sunny outdoors and she blinked her eyes rapidly against the sun.
“Next time, you might want to wear a hat.” Noah said. He picked up a saddle from just inside the stables by the door and placed it on the horse. He tightened the girth and patted the horse. “There. She’s all ready for you.”
Doritha looked wide eyed at him. “Wh… What do you mean ‘ready’? You mean I need to get on her now?”
“Well, that is the general idea.” Seeing her frightened face, he reassured her, “We’ll stay at a walk, and I’ll stay right next to you. Unless this isn’t what you want - -”
“I do… I think…” She swallowed hard. “I know she’s a nice horse, but … I’m scared,” she admitted. “I don’t think I can do this.”
Noah scratched his head. “Well, maybe you should ask Kid to teach you…”
She shook her head. “Kid’s tried to teach me a hundred times and we always just end up arguing.”
Noah said, “Well, maybe he’s too close to the situation. I’m used to teaching all kind of folks to ride, and I’ve never met one who really couldn’t learn at least to fake it for the cameras. Give it a chance with me. We’ll get you past your fear a little bit at a time and before you know it, you and Kid will be taking long rides in the countryside every morning.”
“Sounds good,” Doritha said.
“We’ll start today with getting you on Dolly’s back and just sitting there for a while, getting to know Dolly, letting Dolly get to know you. Sound fair?”
“Put your left foot inside the stirrup and lift your body…” He stood close to her. “You need to make a little jump with your other leg… Let me show you.” Doritha stood aside and watched as Noah effortlessly mounted the horse.
“You make it look so easy.”
“It is easy once you learn it. I’ve been working with horses for 15 years, so it should be easy for me. Don’t worry - you’ll be great at it in no time.”
He came to stand behind her and held her by the waist. “I’ll give you leverage. Put your left foot… yeah, like that… Great, now swing your leg…” He pushed her upwards and grinned widely at her proud smile at being mounted. “Take you foot out of the stirrup a sec.” He said and mounted the horse behind her.
“You should feel proud of yourself. It took Hickok five tries to get on.” He took the reins. “Hold on to her mane. Is it okay if she walks a little?”
“Sure,” Doritha said cautiously.
Noah started leading Dolly forward slowly, holding her by the reins and the bridle. “You say you never wanted to ride. Why the sudden change?”
Doritha shrugged. “For one, I’m bored. Second, I know Kid enjoys it a lot, and I wanted us to have this in common.”
“Yeah, I know Kid likes riding. He’s been coming here every morning before breakfast to ride. He and Lou ride together usually…” He stopped.
“I know they do.”
They continued riding for a few minutes in silence, before Noah spoke again. “So, how does it feel - riding? Ready to take the reins?”
“What should I do with them?”
Noah gave her the reins and kept his hands on hers, showing her what to do. “You control the horse by the tension you keep in the reins - where you want her to turn, when you want her to stop. Like this.”
She nodded, and was about to try, when Noah’s phone rang. He flicked it on and listened a moment.
“Oh, I’m sorry… I didn’t realize the time; I’ll have the horses ready in fifteen minutes.” He returned the phone to his pocket. “I’m sorry, Doritha, but we have to call it quits for today.” He took the reins from her and turned the horse back toward the stable..
When they arrived he helped her down, his hand on her waist again.
“I really had a great time, Mr. Dixon. Thank you so much.”
“You’re quite welcome, Doritha. I’d be happy to teach you how to ride, if you’d call me Noah.”
“Noah,” she acknowledged.
“If you can make it here tomorrow at ten, I’ll get Dolly ready for you and we can start right away.”
“See you then.”
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
“Okay, I hope you practiced enough last night,” Teaspoon said. He was standing with Kid and Lou at the corner of the coral. The sun was setting, casting beautiful colors all around. It was the end of a long day and it was the last scene to be shoot. All the other actors were sitting in their chairs, cooling off, waiting for Teaspoon to call it a day.
“Let’s do it. Camera roll,” he called as he backed away, leaving Kid and Lou staring nervously at each other.
“It’ll be okay,” Kid whispered, smiling.
“On your marks.” Teaspoon called and Lou stepped a couple of steps back to her mark and Kid turned to pat Lady’s neck. “And… action!”
“Thank you for keeping my secret.”
“I didn’t promise.”
“No... but... you could’ve said something and you didn’t.”
“You got a right to make your own way. I won’t tell. I give you my word.”
Lou kissed Kid’s cheek and pulled back slightly before he caught her mouth, sending a shiver down her spine. She pulled back and sighed.
“It’s gonna take some getting used to… now that you’re a girl…”
“I… always been a girl, Buddy.”
“Cut!” Teaspoon called and came over. “Guys, that was a great scene. Good job. That’s the kind of acting I’m looking for!”
Lou averted her eyes, glad that this was over, at least for now.
“Okay, all. You’re dismissed for tonight. I’ll see you back here tomorrow at nine am. Don’t be late.”
Kid and Lou waited for the others to get off their chairs.
Noah slapped Kid’s back as he walked over to gather the horses for the night. “You have quite a girlfriend,” he grinned. “First lesson and she was already holding the reins.”
“Really?” Kid whistled. “I was never able to teach her.”
“Speak of the devil,” Lou mumbled under her breath as she just noticed Doritha coming towards them.
“So, who’s up for some fun tonight?” Jimmy asked.
“What do you have in mind?”
“How about that place we went to the other night? Pike’s Tavern?”
“I… I can’t get in there.” Lou said hesitatingly.
“Well then, don’t come.” Cody snapped.
“Guys, maybe we should just go someplace Lou can get into?” Ike suggested.
“Like a gymboree?” JImmy smirked.
“Don’t worry about it guys, really. I’ll probably just turn in early. I’m really tired.”
“Okay, that’s settled then,” Jimmy said. “Who’s coming?”
“Noah, you want to join us?” Kid offered.
“Thanks, but I’ll take a rain check on that. I have to start early tomorrow.”
“What about you, honey?”
“You’re going?” Doritha asked surprised.
“Sure, why not?”
Doritha eyed Jimmy. “I had quite enough of that place the last time. I’ll stay here. Have fun getting drunk with the boys.” She turned on her heel and headed towards their trailer.
“Looks like the missus is angry with you, Kid. You won’t get any tonight…” Cody laughed.
“Shut up, Cody!” Kid said automatically, watching his fiancee storming off, unsure of what he did to upset her this time.