Jennabel enjoyed her solitude while she rode into town because just not thinking about spells and schedules, if even for a short while, felt good. The new leaves on the trees shone a bright green and the smell of new life permeated the air as she rode through the thick canopy of foliage. She was a little disappointed the ride was so short when she arrived in town. She sighed, dismounted and tied up the horse, and then got right to business.
Several tables and wagons belonging to local farmers lined the town square, which together made the weekly farmer’s market, held every Friday. Items for purchase ranged from fresh fruits and vegetables from local fields, to crafts such as handmade quilts and candles, all available for a price. Jennabel started at one corner of the market, sniffing and squeezing vegetables and placing properly ripened items in the basket she brought along for the shopping trip. The farmer’s wife manning the cart nodded and smiled in greeting to Jennabel.
Jennabel replied in kind and commented, “The produce looks very fresh today.”
“Thank you,” The farmer’s wife replied. “Did you see those shallots yet dear? They were gathered just this mornin’.”
“I did indeed, and they look splendid But I am not in need of any today.” Jennabel took some coins from a small leather pouch and paid for the items in her basket. “Thank you ma’am.”
The farmer’s wife took the coins and replied, “You are most welcome dear.” She gave Jennabel a sidelong glance as she walked away. Some of the townspeople didn’t necessarily approve of the coven lifestyle and sometimes demonstrated their opinions verbally or even physically in extreme cases.
Jennabel was thankful that exchange was civil and moved to the next booth. She eventually made her way through the entire market and her basket was full of vegetables and herbs needed back at the coven. The townspeople had been friendly this time, for the most part, but she could tell who the disapprovers were by their brisk responses. Her last stop of the day was the blacksmith to get a shoe checked on Elder’s horse.
The shop was half a block from the market so she carried her basket with her and peered through the double barn door that was open a crack. She could not see anyone, but it was dark so she entered the shop thinking someone might be working in the shadows. Once inside, she realized she was still alone. Frustrated, she called out, “Hello? Is anyone around?”
The blacksmith's apprentice, Patrick Miller, was on the side of the building cleaning some tools when he watched Jennabel enter the shop. He was struck by the beauty of her long blond hair that fell across her shoulders in intricate curls, which bounced as she walked. He walked around the building and followed her inside through the double barn doors. “May I help you Miss?
Startled, Jennabel emitted a high-pitched yelp and spun around, dropping her basket in the process. Patrick did his best to stifle a chuckle. “You should not be sneaking up behind people sir!” Her face wrinkled in an angry scowl. “It...it is just not polite!”
His amusement quickly turned into embarrassment when he realized how angry she was. “My sincerest apologies Miss. It was not my intent to frighten you.”
Her ire softened once she took in Patrick's chiseled features, contrasted by his soft brown eyes. Still wanting to appear cross, she looked away and half-closed her eyes. “Fine sir. You did not frighten me. And I need the assistance of the blacksmith.”
“Of course not. I am Patrick. Uh...Miller. Patrick Miller.” Trying to get in her good graces, he squatted to gather her purchases that currently littered the shop floor. His gaze wandered up to her piercing emerald green eyes, which caused him to stammer, “Maybe…perhaps I can offer some sort of assistance.” He placed the last of her purchases back into the basket that she still held.
Still cold, she replied, “You could help me by fetching the blacksmith for me Patrick Miller.” She offered him a contrived smile.
“Yes Miss. I mean no-”
Amused with his nervousness, Jennabel cut him off, “No? No! May I ask why not Patrick Miller?”
Patrick stood back up and their eyes locked. “Perhaps we could start again Miss? I am Patrick Miller, the blacksmith’s apprentice. How may I be of assistance to you Ma’am?” A benevolent smile crossed his face, which caused Jennabel to flush and look away.
“It is one of the shoes on, er, my horse.” She thought it best to avoid the explanation of why she was riding someone else’s horse and who Elder Golden was for now.
“I think I can help you with that Miss, but I will need one thing from you first.”
Her gaze met his again and she felt her heart pounding in her chest, “Yes Mr. Miller?” she asked softly.
“Your name Miss. I need your name.”
“It is Jennabel. Procter.” She bit her bottom lip.
“Well Miss. It is Miss, yes?”
His smile grew just a fraction wider. “It is indeed a pleasure to meet you Miss Procter. Let us see about that horse.”
Jennabel didn’t answer right away. She was lost in the moment wondering if he was feeling the same sense of arousal. Instead, she just stood in front of him studying the angular features of his face, the stubble of beard growing on his chin, the kindness in his eyes, and his brown hair spilling from beneath his black planter hat.
Patrick drank in Jennabel’s beauty too, but was first to recognize the awkwardness of the silence. “Um…the horse?”
She snapped out of her trance and blurted, “Oh, yes of course.” Her face blushed again and she was thankful she had to turn away to exit the shop. “He is tied off to the post opposite the square.”
“Please lead the way.” He gestured toward the barn doors.
“Thank you kind sir.”
They engaged in small talk during the short walk. “Tell me Miss Procter, why is it that I have never seen you before?”
“I really do not come into town very much.” She thought for a moment. “And I have never required the services of a blacksmith,” she looked in his eyes and cracked a half-smile, “or his apprentice until this very day.”
He returned the smile and parried her playful quip, “I suppose your need for a blacksmith’s apprentice on this very day is my good fortune.”
“I suppose. Now you tell me something Mr. Miller.” She feigned anger once again, and with slit-eyes asked, “Do you make a habit of skulking about your shop grounds? Startling unsuspecting customers?”
Suddenly embarrassed, Patrick defended, “I was not. I merely-”
Jennabel could not continue the charade and burst out laughing.
“Oh. I see.” He joined in her merriment.
They arrived at the hitching post where Elder’s horse was tied. “Here he is. It is this hoof.” She pointed to the hind leg closest to them.
“Let us have a look, shall we?” He first walked to the front of the horse and calmed him by stroking his nose and speaking to him softly. Once the horse seemed comfortable with him, Patrick walked back to the offending leg and gently picked it up and held it between his legs. “Here is the problem.” He held two of his fingers on holes where nails should have been. “These nails are missing.” He reached in his apron and pulled out a nail and tapped it in the hole with a hammer. Once the tip of the nail protruded from the hoof, he took a cincher and bent it until it was almost flush with the hoof. He then pulled out a rasp and filed off the sharp edge of the nail, as well as the head where it met with the shoe. He repeated the process for the other missing nail and then gently placed the hoof back on the ground. Jennabel watched him work and was amazed with his dexterity that was combined with gentleness, which she thought revealed him to be a caring person.
He patted the horse’s hindquarter and said, “There. That was not so bad was it?” Then to Jennabel, “That should fix it for now, but he will need to be shoed again very soon.”
“Thank you Mr. Proctor. I will take that under advisement.” She paid him for his services and mounted the horse. “It was a pleasure meeting you.”
“Likewise Miss Proctor.” He untied the horse and handed her the reigns. “The spring fair is soon. Will you be attending?”
“I might just. Perhaps I will see you there?”
“I would like that. I would like that very much Miss Proctor.”
They exchanged smiles and she rode out of town. During the entire trip home, she wondered if she might just be smitten with Patrick Miller, the blacksmith’s apprentice.