Word Count: 1700
Scott Lancer looked at himself in the mirror. He had just cleaned up for dinner and wanted to be sure every blonde hair was in place. His was a handsome face—although he’d beg to differ. He insisted that the reason certain women in Morro Coyo found him attractive was because he was so different from the dark-haired, dark-eyed variety so prevalent there. That was certainly part of the reason for his popularity. But, in truth, even in Boston, where blonde men were at least half the population, Scott had been admired.
His yellow hair, now longer than when he first came to Lancer, was thick and had a slight wave, made more prominent when wet.
His eye color ranged from a dark blue to a medium teal—depending on his mood. They weren’t large eyes in a round way, but had a more oval shape, and were surrounded by eyelashes any woman would envy. Most emotions Scott experienced—happiness, anger, confusion, sadness—were revealed in his eyes.
Scott snorted; all he saw was the face he hid behind. There were things about him his grandfather didn’t know…would never have guessed. Most of his life was still a mystery to his new family at Lancer. He smiled derisively at his reflection—no, he was not an attractive man. Certainly not like either Murdoch or his grandfather had been. Now, his brother was obviously handsome. And Johnny knew it! Scott smiled, surprised at how fond he had become of his brother. His smile didn’t appear as easily as Johnny’s. It was a shy, slow smile. But, if he felt comfortable with the person and the moment, it became a rich, open, beautiful gesture that transformed his serious face into one almost as rascally as his brother’s.
Scott heard someone shuffling up the stairs; he knew it was Johnny. He left the mirror and quickly buttoned up his dark blue shirt.
“What are you doing in here, Boston?” Johnny asked in his usual friendly manner.
“Sorry, I guess I was daydreaming.” Scott was tucking his shirt in his black pants. Murdoch hated holding up dinner for anyone. “Is he mad?”
“Murdoch? No. He’s talking to John Parsons out front.” Seeing Scott’s puzzled look, Johnny smiled. He had arrived at Lancer before his older brother by about two weeks, so had a slight knowledge advantage. “Parsons is Murdoch’s lawyer.” Scott nodded; how had he forgotten that piece of information? “He’s probably trying to convince him to stay for dinner. Not that anyone should have to be convinced; between Maria and Teresa, we’ve got the best cooks in the county!”
“Does he want to talk over business?” Scott wondered.
“Naw. Ol’ Murdoch wants him around for support. He’s still not too comfortable eating with us.” Johnny grinned mischievously. Scott had picked up on this before and, unlike Johnny, it bothered him. “Don’t look so serious, Boston. It ain’t our fault. We came invited.”
“I guess it’ll work out eventually.”
“That’s right.” Johnny agreed. He stepped in front of Scott’s mirror and beamed. His black hair was combed, his red shirt was spotless, and his boots were shined. He knew that before Scott came along, he was the one most women dreamed about. At first, he felt some jealousy when some of his female following drifted towards his brother. Once he realized Scott did nothing to attract the attention, and sensed his discomfort with it, Johnny’s jealousy vanished. He felt kind of sorry for his older brother. Johnny smiled at his reflection, checking out his white teeth while he was there. He did possess a winning and genuine smile, and used it often. He watched Scott in the mirror; he was looking through his drawers for some socks. Granted Scott wasn’t as handsome as he was, but, still, he had his good points; and Johnny was puzzled as to why his brother couldn’t see them. He shrugged; there was no telling what Scott thought sometimes.
“Are you ready yet?” Johnny asked, feigning impatience.
“Yep,” Scott said, pulling on his boots. They both hurried downstairs, figuring Murdoch was certainly at the table waiting by now. But they could see his tall form by the door, still talking to John Parsons.
“Where have you two been?” Teresa asked, hands on her hips.
“I was upstairs helping Scott dress,” Johnny smiled. He had felt an attraction to the diminutive girl immediately. But Murdoch made sure both his sons understood that Teresa was ‘off limits’. During the following weeks, Johnny had begun feeling more like a brother to her—much to his surprise.
Scott snorted behind him. “You were too busy preening in front of the mirror to be of any help to me.”
Teresa laughed. Seeing that Murdoch was occupied, she slipped down the main hallway to peer into a mirror. Teresa was petite, and 18, with long black hair and blue eyes. She patted her hair down and straightened the collar of her rose-colored blouse. All in all, she was satisfied with her reflection. She saw herself as an attractive girl, although there were times when the sadness of her situation overtook her and her blue eyes filled with tears. But those moments happened less and less as time went on and she was assured of Murdoch’s support. She pursed her lips disappointedly at her stature….if only she could grow another three or four inches.
Murdoch watched his friend ride down the road leading away from Lancer. He sighed deeply. Hearing one of the new horses whinnying in his stall, he walked over to check it out. The horse was fine, just looking for some attention. He smiled as he passed a cracked mirror someone hung on one of the stable walls. Murdoch Lancer. It was a name that had always filled him with pride, a name synonymous with wealth, cattle, and land. Now, he felt dissatisfaction with his name. He looked at his reflection and saw an old man, a guilty man. Deep down, he knew he had given up too easily on his sons. That guilt made it hard for him to communicate with them, hard to look them in the eye sometimes. All of which translated to weakness and indecision in his mind. Yet, when he looked at his sons, neither seemed to view the old patriarch with anything less than respect and curiosity. This pushed his guilt to new heights. If they’d verbally accuse him, or demand an explanation from him, he could strike back with the pent up anger he felt inside. Truthfully, Murdoch Lancer was hiding just as much from himself as either of his two sons. He frowned at his face. There were many lines, many wrinkles; much of his life had entailed stress of some sort. Jelly always told him he took on too much; he needed help with the ranch. Well, now he had help. He had expected that once the trouble was over, his sons would leave. But they hadn’t; and now he was at a loss as to what to say to them outside of giving them orders concerning the ranch. His stomach growled and he stomped off, wondering who was holding up dinner this time.
“Where is everyone?” Murdoch roared, coming through the front door. But, when he entered the dining room, everyone was seated at the table, looking innocent. He snorted and sat down. “I finally went looking for you,” he said to no one in particular, but with enough bite to accuse everyone.
“Oh, for Pete’s sake,” Jelly grumbled. “We’ve been sitting here for hours!” Murdoch’s head shot up and he glared at Jelly, who merely waved him off. “Looking for us. You never went looking for nobody.”
Suddenly Johnny’s face broke out in a wide grin. Teresa tried to keep a serious face, but ended up snickering. Scott was puzzled at first, as he was brought up in a much stricter atmosphere. Were they being disrespectful? No, he decided and smiled hesitantly. Murdoch glowered at everyone sitting at his table.
“Is something funny?” he bellowed. Scott cringed slightly.
“Y-e-e-ss,” Johnny said, shaking his head. “You take yourself too seriously. Relax and have some fun. We all know you were outside talking to John Parsons.”
Murdoch sat up straight in his seat and raised his chin a bit. He looked closely at his ward, trying to hide her smile behind a small hand; Jelly, looking positively put out, and Scott, nervously watching to see what his father’s reaction would be. Then his blue eyes lighted on Johnny and he couldn’t help himself; the corners of his mouth began to tilt upward.
“See!” Johnny yelped. “Look at that! Scott, you were wrong; our father isn’t full of sour grapes.” Scott’s head snapped in Johnny’s direction as quickly as Murdoch’s faced Scott.
“What?” Murdoch yelled.
“What?” Scott protested. “I never said that!”
“Are we ever going to eat?” Jelly asked heavenward.
Johnny was laughing so hard he didn’t see the biscuit Scott threw at his head. Teresa’s shoulders were shaking and her face was a deep shade of red.
“All right,” Murdoch declared. “Enough. This is a dinner table.”
“Can’t prove it by me,” Jelly mumbled. “Don’t see any dinner in my plate.”
Everyone settled down to eating finally. There wasn’t much conversation, but maybe tonight there didn’t have to be. After dinner, Teresa settled to embroidering; Johnny and Scott read. Murdoch smoked a cigar, nursed a brandy, and pretended to be perusing the newspaper. Jelly went to his room to write a letter. Passing the small mirror nailed over his dresser, he frowned, reached for a rag and rubbed a spot off it.
“Dad burned piece of glass,” he grumbled, “don’t know how it gets so filthy!”