“No. I just want to spend time with you, Jasper. It could take all day, and I wouldn’t mind.”
“Cool!” He grinned, slowing slightly so they could ride side by side.
They saw Jeff and Marnie by the corral as they rode past. Marnie waved and told them Aunt Enid was happily ensconced in a Mahjong tournament.
“Where you headed, cuz?” Jeff called to Jasper.
“Down to the flat rock,” Jasper told him. “We should be back by dinner.”
“‘K. See you then! Bye, Hana!”
“See you two!” She waved and called over her shoulder.
Jeff kissed Marnie, his hands getting friendly. The last they saw of their friends, they were locked in a passionate embrace.
“I’m happy for them,” Hana said with a smile.
“Me too. Jeff’s a dumb ass, I’ve told him often enough. Where he got the idea she liked Jimmy, I’ll never know.”
“People get weird ideas sometimes.”
“It would be like Jimmy to tell him that, just to be an asshole. He’s a tease.”
“I’d have to kick him if he ever tried that kind of thing with you.”
Jasper shook his head. “He knows better than to fool with me. Besides, I’ve staked my claim, and you have shown a distinct preference. He can’t refute that. Jeff never did that with Marnie, so hitting on her was fair game.”
“Do men always reduce relationships to those terms? What’s fair game?” Her tone was more biting and caustic than she intended.
“Not all of us,” he sounded somewhat subdued.
Hana immediately regretted her comment and sat quietly on Moonstone’s back. “I’m sorry,” she said finally. “I didn’t mean you.”
“It’s okay,” he told her, though he didn’t sound like he believed it was. “Some men reduce relationships to that level. Others of us value what we find.”
They fell into uncomfortable silence for a few minutes. Moonstone decided enough was enough and she nipped at Jasper’s pant leg. He chuckled, relaxing into the saddle.
“I think we found a sore point between us,” she said quietly.
“Little things, we’ll find out, and have to work around.”
“Yeah. But I’m willing.”
“I grew up with brothers who tended to do that sort of thing. They belittled women. Every conversation between them and their friends degenerated into loud discussions of their sexual exploits. It was disgusting, but they wouldn’t stop even if I was around. I guess it became a sore point.”
“It’s been my experience that the guys who talk about it the most are the ones who do it the least. A gentleman doesn’t talk about it afterwards.”
Hana didn’t know if that was said to reassure her or just that he was stating fact. She took it to mean both. If there was one thing that could be said of Jasper, it was that he was a gentleman through and through.
“I think our conversation got off to a bad start,” Jasper said. “I don’t want to spoil our day like that.”
“Me either. Let’s put it behind us and talk about something else. Agreed?”
“So, Jasper, what kind of music do you like?”
“Me? I listen to just about anything. If it’s good, I’ll listen. Not a fan of rap or club stuff, but I’ll listen to rock, outlaw country, blues. I’m a big Kenny Wayne fan. I get that from my uncle and old man.”
“I like his music. I loved that song we danced to.”
“Me too. It’s my favorite of his.”
“I could listen to him play forever, and never get tired.”
“Music’s a big part of my life.”
“In school did you ever do those scenarios where they would ask you, If you were trapped on the moon, what equipment would you want with you?“
“Yeah, problem solving for small groups. I had a class like that in college. Not sure why I had to have it to be a vet.”
“Did they do the one about which you’d rather lose, your eyesight or your hearing?”
“Yeah, it amassed great discussion on both sides.”
“Which were you?”
“Sight.” Jasper answered without hesitation. “As much as I love the beauty in the world, I’d rather lose my sight. Someone can describe a sunset to me. Music is too important to me for me to want to lose it.”
“I get songs stuck in my head that won’t go away. I have to listen to something else to purge them. If I couldn’t hear, I wouldn’t be able to do that.”
“Oh, me too!” He laughed happily, relaxed, at ease and confident. “So what kind of movies do you like, Hana?”
©2022 Dellani Oakes