His father had been killed six years ago in a car accident; then his mother six months later had succumbed to cancer. Drace now owned the farm and was leasing it to a friend from college and her husband; they trained show jumpers. Drace’s goal was to return someday and breed horses like his parents. He was toying with the idea of adding Friesian horses to the farm. He was saving his extra cash with hopes of purchasing Pride in a year. Pride’s owners were talking of retiring him from the show, then possibly selling the horse afterwards. Drace had already talked to them about being first in line to purchase the twelve-year-old stallion. For three years, Drace and Pride had been performing at the theater. The first year doing a dressage demonstration, then the medieval tournament was added. To Drace, all that time together made them family; parting company would be difficult.
As he drove, he thought about his college friend in Virginia. She probably wouldn’t recognize him now. He hair was still dark brown and his eyes a blue-gray hue. His hair was longer now and his body had filled out from lanky athletic to muscular. The equipment and weapons were heavy—and while the performance itself was a workout, Drace still lifted weights and ran five days a week.
He stopped at a drive-thru and ordered a bacon cheeseburger combo; then he headed to his small apartment.
He pulled into the parking lot of the neat, modest complex, found his covered parking spot, killed the engine, gathered his gym bag and supper from the passenger seat, and exited. He locked the door with the clicker, strolled across the lot, passed the pool, to the side stairs, and went up to his second level apartment. Once he entered, an orange cat, which he’d found as a kitten in the alley behind the casino, greeted him.
“Hey, Thomas. Did you do anything interesting today?” Drace addressed the cat.
Thomas meowed in reply and walked proudly into the kitchen. Drace got his answer when he flipped on the light and found a new roll of paper towels shredded all over the mat in front of the kitchen sink.
Drace frowned at the cat as he cleaned up the paper, and instantly forgave him as the cat rubbed against his legs, purring loudly. Drace picked up the cat and looked into its eyes. “Do in another roll, buddy, and I’m trading you for a dog,” he threatened. He set the cat back on the floor, fed him some dry food, and then stood by the sink eating his supper.
Once he was done with his burger, he slipped Thomas a French fry from his own meal, and moved into the living room, a cold beer in hand. He put his bare feet on the coffee table and clicked on ESPN. He watched game highlights for a couple of minutes but felt himself nodding off. He got up and cleaned the kitchen quickly, brushed his teeth, and stripped down to his boxers. Exhausted, he fell into bed. There was a small thud on the bed as Thomas joined him, lying by Drace’s feet, purring like a motorboat.