"If you could stay here and love me then I wouldn't be leaving, but you don't know how to stop packing your bags for bulls and spurs-- for dirt and barrels."
He swallowed the words on that sunny June afternoon. Mark did appreciate all of those things and in that order: bulls, spurs, dirt and barrels. Then her.
Mark had never known anything but riding. The raw-shattering feeling of roping one hand onto the back of a 2,000-pound beast and praying that eight seconds would come and go, with his ribs and face still intact.
His dad rode. Mark's eyes fixated on the movement of the animal's bucks and turns through the iron fences for 10 years before he ever rode one. Behind the safe zone of that barrier, as it was, he got tired of watching.
But instead of thinking about his years of saddling up against fate, he went to the moment he first saw her. Calgary, Canada, in the year 2004. His body stood near his horse while his eyes floated to her for a closer look. Tall and slender, but the kind of slender that comes from working out and lifting weights. The strong slender that meant she was a fighter-- that meant she was tough. Her smile glistened the sweet side. She wore a ragged pair of slim boot cut Levi's with a red pair of cowboy boots, and a white, button-downed top that revealed two tattoos. Farther down, her left hand read no commitment.
Without even realizing it, his dirt covered face stood in front of hers. He could not remember how he got there, turning to see if he had actually walked. He said nothing. She starred, laughing and grinning while swaying her hair.
"Pleased to meet you, cowboy."
She called him cowboy from then on out. She never called him anything else. His birth-given name of Mark never crossed her lips except when he brought out her red-haired temper; which grew as the days went forward. The riding was innocent enough, he remembered thinking on those days when her vocal chords went an octave higher. It was the out of town, never home, empty bed, lonely nights, and no kisses that drove her back to the New England coastline. Too many empty promises and the same lie-- over and over again. He told her he would be home next weekend or that they would go to the new museum next Tuesday, next Saturday.
"What is a man to do with a bull anyways-- it doesn't love you back, it doesn't want your chivalry or embrace... it doesn't even want you riding it."
The words faintly hummed through his ear drums as if it they were spoken yesterday. Mark dazed down the gravel and dirt drive. He could still see the tire marks she left. No amount of rain could wash her face, Grace's face, out of the rear view mirror.
Grace Pickering and Mark Stocktan are fictional characters crafted by Megan Blevins. Read previous posts to catch up on their story. Enjoy, Mb