Rory’s voice shook him out of his trance. “Cameron can ye shut the door, it’s a wee bit chilly.” He chuckled.
“Oh, God, I’m s-s-sorry…” He stammered as he backed out of the bathroom and shut the door.
He quickly ran across to the kitchen washed his hands and ran back to his bedroom.
He practically dove under the comforter when he reached the room and prayed that he would quickly fall asleep.
A few minutes passed when he heard a light tap on the door. He tried to ignore it.
“Cameron?” He heard Rory whisper on the other side of the door. “Cameron, can I speak to ye?”
Cam sat up in the bed. “Come in, Rory.” He sighed.
Rory came into the room and quietly shut the door behind him. Cam was relieved to see that he was at least dressed. He was wearing a t-shirt and a loose pair of pajama bottoms.
“Rory, I’m so sorry.” Cam said as he felt the heat return to his face. “I’m so embarrassed.”
Rory sat down on the bed. “Cameron, me friend, there is nothing to apologize for or to be embarrassed about. I told you before, Finn and me have been walkin’ in on each other since we were babes, well since he was a babe. I’m used to not locking the door, cuz the little monster has a bladder the size of a peanut and the minute I settle into a bath he’ll start to poundin’ on the door. I wanted to make sure you were ok; I could see you were uneasy, and I don’t want you to be feelin’ that way.”
“I appreciate that.” Cam said. “I’ve never been one of those guys who was comfortable in the locker room.”
Cam shook his head. “I forgot you guys haven’t done the conventional school thing. I’m an only child, it’s been just me and my dad, so walking in on someone has never been an issue before.”
“Well, hang around here and you’re bound te be seein’ everyt’ing.” Rory laughed.
Cam grinned and shook his head.
“Are we fine then, Cameron?” Rory asked seriously.
Cam nodded. “Of course.”
“Good. I’d be hatin’ te think I offended ye.”
“Not at all, I was afraid I’d done the same.”
Rory just shook his head.
The two sat in a tense silence.
“So, Rory, how did your family end up here in this valley?” Cam asked trying to change the subject and break the tension.
Rory grinned at knowingly. “That, me friend, is a long story.” He said laying back on the bed next to Cam.
Cam wiggled over towards the edge of the bed to give Rory some room.
“Me granddad was a Traveler.” Rory began.
“Traveler?” Cam asked. “You used that word before.”
“Travelers are what many people call gypsies in other areas.” Rory explained. “They move from place to place. They often have a bad reputation as thieves or con artists, though that is most often not the case. Granddad was raised a Traveler, he thought that would be his life, until the day he met me Gran.
“She was from a very wealthy Dublin family. When they met, at a fair, he was seventeen and she was only sixteen. They both said it was love at first sight. But her father was not excited by the thought of his only daughter marrying a boy like my granddad. He forbid them to wed. They snuck around together for a year. Gran’s father kept trying to set her up with suitor after suitor and she would find ways to turn them away. Finally, on her eighteenth birthday, grandad snuck into her window and swept her away. They ran to the nearest Justice of the Peace and were married.
“When they returned to tell Gran’s parents about the wedding, her father was livid. He immediately disowned her and told them both to leave and he stormed out of the room. Me grandparents expected that, and they turned to leave, but Gran’s mother stopped them. She told them to sit down. She explained to them, that although she could not go against her husband as far as disowning and disinheriting my Gran, she had resources of her own and she wanted her daughter to at least have a chance.
“She pulled a deed from a drawer and signed it over to my Gran. It was for the land we are on now. My Great Grandmother’s father had left it to her when he died, and she had held onto it. She told my grandparents that they would have to work hard to make a go of the land, but if they loved each other and worked hard, it would be a beautiful place to settle down and raise a family.
“She also gave them enough money to get them from Dublin to the Valley and get a start. They left that night and arrived in the valley a few days later. Me granddad knew he wanted to raise horses, but first they needed a house. It was spring, so they set about clearing trees and me granddad built them a little house in one corner of the valley. He built a barn and fenced in some fields for paddocks. By the time, the first fairs were rolling in he was ready.
“When the first fair came to town, he headed out to find the stock for his new farm. He came home with a stallion and three mares. They were just the beginning. Me granddad had been around horses all his life. He had a magic touch when it came to finding the right mix of temperament and ability. Within a few years, folks were seeking him out to buy his horses, rather than him having to go to the fairs.
“As he became more successful, Grandad was able to build Gran a huge house. He would always surprise her with new trinkets and treasures, his way of trying to replace what she had given up to be with him, but to Gran she hadn’t sacrificed anything. She had wanted to be with the man she loved and that made her happy.
“They had three boys, Me Uncles Liam and Donald and me Da. Donald died in an accident when he was our age. When the other two came of age, my Granddad gave them each a parcel of land and four horses to start their own farm.
“Uncle Liam was always the serious brother, the hard worker. By the time granddad retired, he was able to absorb the original farm and all. It’s huge now.”
“What about your father and this farm?” Cam asked.
“Me da was always the dreamer.” Rory explained. “There was always one new plan after another. Like buying the Prince and breeding him. Most of those ideas cost more than they brought in. Gran always had a soft spot for him so she would help him when things got bad. After me grandparents passed, Uncle Liam would make sure we had enough to get by. He bought up some of the land that me Granddad had left Da. Then when Da and Ma passed, I told Uncle that Finn and I wanted to make a go of turning this place around. He’s been helping us as much as he can. But Finn and I want to do it ourselves.”
“So, you guys want to make it as big as your Uncle’s?”
“I don’t know about as big.” Rory shrugged. “Just successful. Uncle Liam has a couple hundred head and he has so many hands working for him. He’s successful, but a lot of his horses are average. I’d rather have a smaller concern and be known for breeding the best of the best.”
Cam nodded. “So how are you doing so far?”
“Right now, we’re just keepin’ afloat.” Rory sighed. “Been settlin’ Da’s debts and such. We’re finally out from under that and we can start to focus on moving forward. It’s gonna be hard work though.”
“What would happen if you didn’t want to do it?”
“What would you do if you decided that you didn’t want the farm or to work this life?”
“I don’t know.” Rory said wistfully. “I’ve never known any life other than this. I love the land and the horses. I’m not as smart as Finn, so I don’t miss the schoolin’. I do wish I could send Finn to a more formal school.”
“Why can’t you?”
“T’would cost too much money.” Rory replied. “Gettin’ him from here to there and back. And then we’d have to be payin’ someone to be doin’ his work. Oi, it’s getting’ late.” He said as he jumped off the bed. “The sun’ll be risin’ before we know it.” He turned when he reached the door. “G’night, me friend.” He smiled as he left the room.
“’Night, Rory.” Cam said quietly, the smile lingering on his lips as he drifted off to sleep.
Cam woke up to bright sunshine streaming into the small room.
There was no clock, but he could tell it was later than he expected to wake up.
He looked around and noticed some clothes had been laid out on the edge of the bed. He got out of bed, gathered up the clothes and walked down the hall to the bathroom.
He saw no sign of the brothers.
He quickly washed up and got dressed and made his way out into the yard.
It seemed deserted.
He ran back into the house and grabbed his camera and phone from his room. The clock on his phone said that it was after ten.
He walked briskly over to the barn. He heard whistling from the back of the barn.
“Hello?” He called.
“Oi!!” Finn called back as he popped out of one of the rear stalls. “About time you pulled your lazy arse outta bed!” The younger boy teased.
Cam grinned sheepishly. “You could have woken me, you know.”
“I wanted to.” Finn said. “But Rory told me he’d bust me butt if I did.”
“Where is Rory?”
“He took the colt over to Uncle’s.” Finn explained. “The little monster needs the work and Uncle wants to go over some business with Rory. He’ll be gone for a bit. He told me when you got up that I was to take you back to the village so that we could get your clothes and such.”
“How are we going to do that?”
“Ride o’course.” Finn laughed.
Cam absently rubbed his butt. “I was afraid you were gonna say that.”
Finn laughed so hard he shook. “C’mon. The more you do it, the less sore ye’ll be.” He said as he led Cam to the paddock closest to the barn. “’Sides, Ivy has a soft spot for ye, so she’ll be taking care of ye.”
“You’re gonna let me ride Ivy?”
“Sure.” Finn nodded. “She’s taken to ye and ye to her. She’s gentle and a good match for a beginner.”
“Are you taking Prince?”
“Oi, are ye daft? I’ve just started his training. He’s a good boy, but I’m not takin’ him that far, not yet. He be needin’ a lot more work.” Finn replied. “I’ll be takin’ Westie.” He said pointing to a huge painted horse standing in the next pasture.
“My god that’s one big horse!!”
“He’s a drum.” Finn explained. “Same as the cobs, just bigger. Funny thing with drafts, for the most part, the bigger they are the gentler they are. Westie is a big baby. Aren’t ye, me son?” He called as the big horse lumbered over to fence closest the barn.
Finn handed Cam a halter for Ivy and went to get Westie.
Once they had led both horses to the barn, Finn spent the next few minutes teaching Cam how to groom the horses.
“Be right back.” Finn said and then he reappeared carrying a saddle and bridle which he placed on a rail next to Ivy. “Let me just grab Westie’s and I’ll show you how to tack up.”
Cam looked at the saddle. “Wait a second.” He said to Finn, who turned back. “I thought you didn’t use saddles.”
Finn looked at Cam curiously and then burst into laughter.
“What are you laughing at?”
“Rory made you ride all the way here bareback?” Finn asked, barely getting the question out between giggles.
“That’s why you’re so sore. You’ll be far more comfortable ridin’ in that saddle.”
“But Rory made me think that you guys never rode with saddles.”
Finn shook his head. “Well, I think he was havin’ a bit a fun with ye and more than likely testin’ ye at the same time.” He said. “We ride bareback quite often. It’s a sign of a true horseman around these parts, but it’s not often that we would be makin’ a beginner ride that way. He musta been wantin’ to see what you were made of and seein’ as yer still here, ye musta passed the test.” He grinned.
Cam smiled weakly and shook his head.
Finn quickly showed him how to saddle and bridle the horses.
Soon the two were mounted and on their way across the valley floor.
Cam, feeling more secure with his feet in the stirrups, gave Ivy her head and spent a good part of the ride snapping as many pictures as he could. While he took his usual high number of scenic shots, he couldn’t help but take a number of shots of Finn and the large horse he was riding.
Cam marveled at the ease with which the boy handled the big horse and the gentle nature the horses seemed to bring out of him.
Finn looked over to see Cam smiling at him.
“What are ye smiling at?” He asked.
“Oh, I was just thinking about when I first saw you yesterday.” Cam explained. “I figured you for a little hothead. You had that head full of steam and you were pissed. And now I see the real you. Carefree, happy, content.”
Finn shook his head. “I’m not a hot head.” He grinned. “I’m Irish. Sometimes the two be confused.”
Both boys laughed.
The boys continued in silence as the horse climbed out of the Valley and headed towards the village.
When they reached the inn, Finn stayed with the horses, while Cam went in to pick up his stuff.
He was glad that he traveled lightly. He hurriedly packed up his duffel and stopped at the desk to let them know that he was checking out.
When he came out of the inn, Finn took the duffel and threw it behind his saddle. The boys mounted up and headed back towards the valley.
As they were riding through the woods towards the valley, Finn turned to Cam.
“Can I ask ye something Cameron?”
“Do ye like me brother?”
Cam pulled lightly on the reins to bring Ivy to a stop and looked at Finn. He thought maybe the younger boy was playing with him again, but Finn had a serious, almost grim look on his face.
“Of course, I like him.” Cam said. “I like both you guys, you’re great.”
“I think ye know that’s not what I mean.” Finn said his green eyes staring right through Cam.
Cam looked away. “Why?” he asked quietly.
“Cameron, look at me.” The younger boy pleaded.
Cam looked at Finn. His eyes were wide and wet.
“Me brother is all I have in this world.” He said quietly. “And as big a pain in the arse as he is, I don’t want him to get hurt. I see the way he looks at you. I seen it since the first time, and I seen the way you look at him.”
“Don’t ye be Finn’n me, Cameron. I know me brother. I know who he is and what he is.” Finn said with a grim look on his face. “And I’ll kick the arse of the first person who hurts him because of it.”
“Finn, like I said, I like you and Rory. You guys are great.” Cam said. “If you’re asking me if I’m gay, then the answer is yes, I am. I’ve never hidden that. If you’re asking me if I’m attracted to your brother, then I think you need to look at him.” He laughed.
Finn smiled and rolled his eyes.
“But as far as anything more.” Cam continued. “I don’t know. I’m a loner, I always have been. I’ve spent the last few years just focused on getting out of High School and getting through college. I’ve never given much thought to a relationship. As far as starting anything with Rory, it wouldn’t be fair to either of us.”
“How do ya figure that?”
“I’m only here for a few weeks, maybe a few months at the longest.” Cam answered. “Rory belongs here. He deserves something more than a brief fling.”
“He deserves ta be happy.” Finn said defiantly.
“I know.” Cam agreed. “That’s what I’m saying.”
“So do ye, Cameron, me boyo.” Finn replied.
“Are you sure you’re the younger brother?”
“Did Rory tell you about me Da?”
“He told me some about him and your grandparents last night.”
“Well, Da was a dreamer. He wasn’t much of a father.” Finn said, not trying to disguise his disdain. “He wasn’t a horrible man or a monster, but he was more interested in his dreams then in providing for us. Ma was our parent, Da wanted to be a friend. Ma was sick when she got pregnant with me and she never really recovered after I was born, so Rory took care of me from the time I was a babe. I guess there’s some that think that I should be the one who missed Da and Rory should be the one who resented him, but it’s just the opposite. Rory loved him and always made excuses for him, I hated him. I don’t miss him at all.”
“You can’t mean that.”
“Oh, yes, I can.” Finn replied defiantly. “Rory has been more of a father to me than me Da ever was. Me Ma had a reason, she was never well, and I blame my Da for that too, he never should have let her get pregnant with me.”
Cam considered the smaller boy for a moment. “Think of it this way”, he said. “If she hadn’t had you Rory would be all alone in the world. I can see how much you both love each other and how much you admire him.”
“I guess yer right.” Finn nodded. “I do love him, even if he is a pain in my arse. That’s also why I don’t want to see him hurt.”
“Hurting him or anyone would be the farthest thing from my mind.” Cam replied.
Finn looked at the older teen curiously and nodded his head.
The two rode in silence most of the way back to the O’Leary farm. Cam let Ivy have her head and spun around to snap as many pictures of the lush, fertile land as he could. He also took more than a few pictures of Finn on his big Drum horse. The way the small boy wordlessly communicated with the large Drum horse was almost magical to Cam.
When they came to the river where Cam had first met the brothers, Finn rode Westie right into the water.
“What are you doing?” Cam asked making sure Ivy wasn’t going to follow.
“The horses love the water.” Finn replied. “If’n we had time, we could swim with them, but at least let them get their feet wet.”
Cam looked at his hesitantly.
Finn smiled and laughed “Trust me, Cameron. Ivy swims like a fish if you let her, but right now she’ll just plod along in the shallows.”
Cam shrugged and let his horse follow Finn’s into the river.
“Do you really swim with them?” He asked.
Finn nodded. “All the time when the weather is good. Not far from here there be a horse fair next month. Buyers and sellers from all over come to horse trade. Each morn, the boys (and some girls) that be selling the horses will take them to the river to wash them. Folks come from all over to see it, they think it’s quite a sight.”
“I never realized horses were such a big deal over here.”
“Well, they are.” Finn boasted. “Many folks’ll judge a farm by the stock they produce rather than the state of the buildings or the land. Rory and I take care of what we have, but it’s the horses that keep us fed and clothed.”
“Where I live it always seems that horses are for the rich and mainly the girls.”
“Aye, we’ve aa bit o’that over here, too.” Finn grinned. “The show ponies and racing stock. You won’t see any cobs or drums racing at the Irish National or jumpin’ fences, lest it’s Aragon trying to go on one of his jaunts. But we’ve had a more than a few who’ve won at the local fairs and gotten a fair price for them afterwards. One of the few things I’d agree with my Da about is he’d always rather be happy than rich.”
When they arrived back at the farm, Rory was in the yard waiting for them.
“Survived a ride into the village, then?”
Cam dismounted and scowled at Rory. “Yes, Finn was nice enough to give me saddle so my ass isn’t so sore this time.”
Finn laughed as he dismounted and took Ivy’s reins from Cam. “’Twas a bit mean to make the poor laddie think we only rode bareback, brother.”
Rory turned a bit red. “Sorry, Cameron, but for the little bit of a ride we took, I usually do ride without a saddle.”
Cam couldn’t stay mad at the beautiful Irishman. “It’s ok, Finn explained it to me, and my ass is still sore from the ride saddle or no saddle.”
Finn pulled Cam’s bag from Westie’s back and handed it to Cam. “Here’s your stuff, Cameron, I’ll take care of the horses if you want to be getting’ settled in the house.”
“Thanks, Finn, and thanks for taking me, it was fun.”
“You’re welcome.” The red-headed boy replied as he led the horses into the barn.
“So, your friends now?” Rory asked as he watched his little brother walk away.
Cam smiled. “Seeing him in his element was enlightening. I thought he was a little hot-head but seeing him with the horses and talking to him, I saw the real Finn and he’s a good kid.”
Rory rolled his eyes. “Aye, he is, but don’t be letting him hear you say it, or his head’ll be getting big.”
Cam laughed, “I can see that.”
Cam took his duffle and his camera and headed towards the house.
“I’m gonna stow this stuff and then help Finn if that’s ok.”
“Finn’ll be done before you are.” Rory said. “He can untack and groom those two faster than either of us and he’ll have’em in the field before you can get unpacked.”
“In that case, I’ll just stay in and go through the pics I’ve taken so far.” He stopped and snapped his fingers. “That reminds me, I still need the releases for you and Finn.”
“DO you have them with ya?”
“In my computer bag.”
“Then I’ll come with you and we can take care of that.” Rory stated as he walked alongside Cam. “I don’t know why ye be wanting pictures of me and Finn though.”
“IF some of the ones I have of Finn are even half as good as I think, they’ll be hanging in a gallery by the end of next week.”
“I thought you were staying here for a bit.”
Cam chuckled. “I’ll stay as long as I’m welcome, I sent the pictures to America digitally. There’s a company that will print and matte them and then send them to the gallery where they will be framed and hung.”
Rory shook his head. “Do ye think someone will want to buy them?”
“Oh, yeah!” Cam nodded. “I’m sure thye will, but I want to save the best ones for later.”
“I’ve been wanting to do a book for the longest time and I finally found a subject that I think will work out great.”
“And what’s that?”
“You and Finn, the farm, the horses, the countryside and Ireland.” Cam answered. “It’s so beautiful here, I just hope I can do it justice.”
“A book about Ireland, I can see, but I don’t see how me and Finn belong in it.”
“You two represent a culture with your farm and horses that goes back for generations.” Cam explained. “I’d love to go to some of the fairs Finn described and look at other farms, but the focus will be on you and your farm.”
“You should see Uncle’s farm, that’s a big concern and deserving a’ye attention, not our little farm here.”
“I’d love to see your Uncle’s place, but it won’t change my mind, the focus of the book will be here, unless you don’t want me to use it.”
“No, if’n ye think folks will buy a book about me and the monster then be me guest.” Rory said as they entered the house. “Does this mean you’ll be staying more than a few days?” he asked trying to disguise the hope in his voice.
“If you don’t mind.” Cam answered. “I’ll call my dad and let him know I’ve settled in with you and then hang around for a few weeks, if that’s alright.”
“You’re welcome to be stayin’ as long as you want.”