CHAPTER 2: FREYA
Freya Gunderson suddenly sensed something different, something exciting was about to happen and her eyes were slowly drawn to the horizon where a lone bay horse walked toward town as if it were a proud stallion. Freya had seen such a thing so many times it was uncanny, but never had she felt so drawn to a stranger riding into and probably just through town; she expected it to be a stranger for no one local would waste that much money on a dancing bay stallion like that one seemed to be, and the closer he came the more her heart pounded and the more her fear grew that it was only her imagination and this stranger was like all the others, a disappointment that would simply stay a day or so, to rest up and then ride on. But as the figure grew larger and her eyes became more accustomed to the distance she saw that he who rode such a beast was fancy, and all dressed in white, and though the distance was still great she had an ever increasing feeling this man was special. Who was it that could have such an effect on her from just barely even being present? She had no idea, for she had never considered the possibility of love at first sight let alone love at first sensation! What was that?
As Freya continued to stare a glowing anger built itself up in her stomach as she began to be jealous of Disa Oelstrom, who always got to see them first. Maybe she would have been cooking and was too busy to notice, or even care to go outside in the bright sunlight in her flimsy dress to give that husband of hers a treat, as if that bone head would notice how nice she was being to him. But that was probably not the case for surely if Freya felt such a mysterious attraction then surely Disa had too, and what if the evil b*tch had laid him already? Why, she might even be on her way to being pregnant with his male child by now! Freya was fuming and tried, she really did try to turn away into the dark torment of her imaginations, but she could not. Besides, the stranger was nearly to town now and it was clear he was going to be an event as well as a man the town was not likely to forget for a long while.
Freya looked around. There was Theresa Salida, and even ugly little Salina, her sister staring as she had been, and as she looked about the rest of the town she saw every woman, young and old, beautiful or plain, or just plain ugly, they all had their eyes on him, and his white shirt, white hat, white trousers, and even white boots!
Just then the stallion snorted and Freya did look away from ‘that’ identifying the horse, not as a bay, but as a stallion. Unlike Disa Oelstrom, she was not as able to accept the sexual side of reality and even the sexuality of animals sometimes appalled her. Red faced she hurried into the Bonnet Boutique and Beautiful Hats Store, confronted by every woman in the store, and it was busy, looking out into the street where the children ran bawling to their mothers’ having given up the various games that had proved their latest distractions. But even little Salina Montoya, barely old enough to menstruate was enamored by the stranger and stood in the pitchers place staring, mouth agape, at the man in white who actually seemed to glow in the sunlight as he tipped his hat to her, causing a gasp among the women who all looked hungrily at him, or as Preacher DeShamer would say much later, “In a most peculiar way!”
Freya boldly stepped out onto the sidewalk not brave enough to enter the dangerous, stinking dung cluttered street as other women seemed to be paying no attention to it as some even were bold enough to touch the bay horse that was not skittish in the slightest, as if it expected such a phenomenal greeting. Amazed she stared at the strangers dark face and black eyes until he noticed her with a glance and then a stare, and then she waved, and he stopped the bay and walked it to the railing near Freya, wrapped the reins around the rail and stepped up onto the sidewalk, much to the disappointment of the women who had been in the street, all the time staring into Freya’s eyes. Then he tipped his hat and began to walk down the sidewalk away from Freya, whose heart felt like it might actually rupture if she didn’t have him there and now.
“Stranger!” she said sounding strangely hoarse and unable to believe she had actually said something to him, and when he slowly turned, she said, “We have no hotel but my mother takes in visitors, would you like me to show you to our place, or…” she said only then noticing the sign for the saloon was in full view of them both from there, causing the stranger to look back toward her and then over his shoulder to the saloon sign.
Then tipping his hat graciously he said, “It would be my pleasure, ma’am. I never was much of a drinking man anyway,” and she melted at the sound of his voice as the women near enough to hear it all blushed and looked away, a reaction that obviously pleased him. Then he stuck his arm out and Freya boldly took it and began to walk with him right past the saloon as Davey Helmsrud collected his horse for him and led it off toward the livery stables; Davey shoveled the stalls and even drove the manure wagon most of the time, but in no time at all the couple arrived at Hedvig Gunderson’s house which was right in town, the only one not back a ways from the local businesses.
“This is my mother, Hedvig,” Freya said and then became jealous of her mother, whom she found a silly school girl for the first time in memory in the presence of the stranger.
Hedvig giggled. “Are we lucky enough to have you stay with us, Mister?”
The stranger nodded silently.
“You could’ve stayed in the Clementine’s bunk house just out of town!” she said, shaking her head all the time she said it, and giggling again when she had finished.
“God, Ma!” Freya said and then whispered to her, “Don’t send him there; a man like him with that ruffian!”
“Thank you, Hedvig,” he said causing her to gasp for breath, “I wasn’t aware there was any place else to stay.”
“No, no, you shan’t go there!” the younger woman said before he could actually begin to consider it for real.
“Sure,” he said, “actually, I prefer the company of men when I am resting.”
The two women looked at each other in shock.
“But, only when I am resting. Women are my favorite pastime but a man does need to rest. If you don’t mind then I will be on my way to this bunk house you mentioned?”
Freya rushed up and grabbed the stranger by the arm, holding it to her bosom blind to how it would look even to her mother.
“No you will not!” Hedvig stated with finality and took a roll of bills from her bosom and began counting the bills and laying them out on the table as she did.
The stranger broke free of Freya and stepping forward a step, put his hand upon Hedvig’s hands and said nothing but stared into her eyes for what seemed an eternity to Freya, and when Hedvig took her hands back, letting the money stay on the table where she had been counting it just a moment ago that now seemed an eternity even to Hedvig.
Backing away from it, and the stranger, she said, “Take it.”
“No,” the stranger said, “it is only money, and quite frankly I don’t have much need for the stuff.”
Then he turned and walked toward the door of the house where he stopped and said, “Freya, I’ll be back after dark if you’re willing?” so softly Hedvig could not hear him.
“I am,” Freya said feeling her face flush and wringing her hands.
Then Hedvig joined Freya as the two women stood in the doorway watching the most magnificent man either had ever seen walk away.
“Why did you say that, Ma?” Freya demanded.
“That man? In this house?” she said fanning herself with a genuine Japanese fan,
“Your father would kill me for sure.”
“Why, Ma! What were you thinking of?” Freya asked amazed.
“Yah, Ma!” Gunther Gunderson said as he walked in the front door, “why would you turn away a customer with things so hard going as they are?”
“They ain’t so hard going as they would be should I be found a month later single or dead!” she said, shaking her head, and then hurrying after the stranger as if to change his mind again.
“Silly woman,” Gunther said, “do you suppose she really would mate with that ‘fancy pants’ if he stayed here?”
Then he looked at his daughter and surprise struck him, for he knew what she had agreed to, having just stood out behind the arbor vitae while even that conversation took place with his yet excellent hearing.
“By the Jesus,” he said shaking his head, “What kind a guy is that guy?”
Then he looked in the direction of the bunk house and his returning wife and shook his head with renewed vigor.
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