To start at the beginning, click here for the Prologue
News travelled fast in the community. The townspeople were aflutter in anticipation of the party to celebrate Squire Philip’s rather surprising nuptials. Everyone had liked the mystery lady Iona, but no one had expected that she’d be here to stay. But, any excuse for a party was good enough for them.
Seth was busy rearranging the village treasure chest so it could be moved into Patrick’s cottage for the duration of the celebration. This was normally a two-man operation due to its weight, but he was determined to prove his manhood and do it by himself. He closed the lid with a bang and set to work pushing one end, and then the other, moving it one painful inch at a time.
Darren ambled through the square and tossed his saddle on a bench with ease. Leaning up against a house post, arms crossed over his chest, he offered, “Why don’t you let the men take care of that, squirt? Seems to be a problem for you.”
Some of the girls giggled behind him and Seth felt his face grow hot. Lowering his voice, he demanded,
“Why do you have to treat me like that, Darren? I’m almost an adult. I can fish. I can harvest. Patrick’s had me chopping so much firewood this summer that I almost even have biceps!” Seth flexed his arms to prove his point. “There’s no reason for you to still be treating me like a kid.”
The girls passed by and all called out in unison, “Hi Darren,” each wishing for a dimpled smile to be tossed their way. Seth’s eyes followed them hopefully, but nary a word for him.
Darren smiled indulgently. “I treat you like a child because you are still a child.”
Seth sighed. “Why do they always say ‘hi’ to you?”
Laughter came from his older brother. “Ah kid… they say ‘hi’ to me because they think I don’t care. “ He chucked Seth under the chin. “You’re too eager. You’re easy pickings for them. But, if you make them think that you’re uninterested, why, suddenly you’re a challenge. The very thought that you don’t care is what makes them care.”
Seth eyed him skeptically. This idea seemed completely backwards to him. How would a girl know that he liked her if he acted like he didn’t all the time? That couldn’t possibly work. He moved away from his brother and busied himself with whittling away at a stick while he thought.
Regan, walked by with a pile of tablecloths and his eyes followed her hips as she sauntered by. His shoulders drooped. He was going to be forced to exist in his brother’s shadow forever.
“Hi Seth,” came the singsong voice. He looked up in surprise to see the lovely Regan standing in front of him. The sun glinted off her red hair and her eyes shone. She twirled in front of him and asked, “How do you like my new dress?”
Seth opened his mouth to tell her how pretty she looked when he caught Darren’s eye. His older brother raised an eyebrow. Here goes nothing. “I guess it’s alright,” Seth shrugged before going back to his carving.
Regan frowned and tried again. “There should be lots of dancing tonight at the party. You’ll save me a dance, won’t you?”
He pretended to look off into the distance. “Maybe if I remember,” he answered noncommittally.
“Oh,” Regan was disappointed, but undeterred. “Well, I’ll just have to see if I can find you and make you remember,” she promised before kissing him on the cheek softly and running off to join her friends.
Seth glanced across the square at Darren, who was nodding proudly at him. Maybe Darren knew what he was talking about, after all.