This is a short follow‐up to the short story I wrote about Johnny's First New Year's Eve. You don't have to read it first to understand this one, but it would probably give it more meaning.
Feeling warm and cozy, he turned over onto his back. Still, true to form, he waited and listened to his surroundings before opening his eyes. This time, however, it was more to enjoy the sounds of the cold quiet morning rather than to determine what danger lay outside his cocoon of contentment. Someone had come in and stoked the fire in his room without waking him. He could hear the crackle and pop of the logs in the fireplace as the fire began blazing. Opening his deep blue eyes, he looked around at his room. His room. Funny, this room had waited for him for the past seventeen years and he never knew about it until last year. Here, in this room, devoid of much of a personal touch on his behalf, he was beginning to feel safe at last. After last night's New Year's Eve toast with his father, he felt even more safe and calm.
Turning to look out of the window, he noticed that it was daylight and that the day had dawned clear and bright. He knew it was cold outside as his arms and face could feel the cold in his room that had yet been dispelled by the fire. With a contented sigh, he threw back the covers, which, for once, were not tangled around him, choking him and pulling him into the dark hell of his nightmares. Sitting on the side of the bed for a moment, he actually felt good. He couldn't recall having slept so well in a long time. He had had no dreams at all, just a peaceful rest.
Rubbing his eyes with both hands, which were then used to run through the unruly mop of his black hair, he stood up and walked over to the fireplace in order to prevent freezing his naked body. Stretching a bit in front of the fire, much like a cat awaking from a nap, he strolled over to his bureau and opened a drawer. Looking up into the mirror, he thought, 'Johnny boy, this is the first day of a new year, make it a good one.' Staring at the few pairs of pants in the drawer, he paused in thought, and pulled out a pair of soft leather pants that bound at the fly with rawhide, and had rawhide lacings at the bottom to accommodate getting them over his boots. Pulling them on, he relished the soft, butter‐like feeling of comfort that they provided. He then pulled on a pair of thick wool socks and walked over to the wash stand and splashed water over his face, its icy coldness invigorating him. Grabbing a white shirt from off of a chair, he padded out of his room and across the hall to his brother's door. Listening for sounds of activity, he heard none. Smiling, he quietly and slowly turned the knob of the door, opening it slowly, peering around the door to observe his brother, Scott, lying face down in his bed, arms spread out beneath the pillows and above the covers, clearly in a deep slumber. He smiled. 'Yeah Boston, you had a good time last night.' He pulled the door to and headed downstairs.
He found his father in the great room as usual, sitting at his desk, but looking out of the window behind it, nursing a cup of coffee, deep in thought. 'Mornin' Ol' Man.' He said softly and with a hint of affection. Murdoch turned and looked at him, a smile on his face. 'Morning son, happy new year.'
"Back at ya!" he smiled, lighting up the already bright room even more.
"Where's your brother? Still sleeping off his good time?"
"Yeah, I don't think we'll be seeing him until after lunch sometime." He grinned.
"Well, breakfast won't be for another hour anyway. Scott's not the only one who's taking it slow this morning. There's coffee though." Murdoch nodded towards the tray sitting on the edge of his desk.
Johnny stepped back into the foyer and grabbed his boots and gun belt. Coming back into the great room, he dropped them by the sofa and walked over to pour himself a cup of coffee. He moved back over to the sofa. Sitting down, he took a few sips and then began putting on his boots.
"Going somewhere son?" Murdoch asked surprised and somewhat hesitantly.
"Well, I just feel good this mornin' and since we've got an hour 'til breakfast, I wanna take Barranca for a quick ride, it's so pretty out. Wanna come?"
Murdoch hid his surprise at being asked to ride with his son, he also tried to blow away the feather of fear tickling the back of his mind that there was something wrong. So unlike Johnny to express himself this way. Taking a slow sip of his coffee to buy a moment's time, he couldn't help himself, "Is there something you want to talk to me about?"
Johnny looked up at him from where he was lacing the bottom of his pants and paused for a moment, to ponder the question. Smiling, he responded, "No, nothin', just thought I wouldn't mind spending some time with my ol' man." He ducked his head and finished his lacings.
Murdoch looked over and smiled. Last night really did make a difference, he thought. "Well son, I would really like to spend some time with you, but could we do it later, here in the house? My back's really bad this morning."
For once, Johnny did not feel rejected by his father. After last night, he knew that his father loved him. "Sure. When I get back, after breakfast, I'll even show you a little trick I learned to maybe loosen up some of those muscles if you want." He grinned mischievously, thinking about the massage one of the girls had given him at the bordello.
"I think I'd like that son." He replied, wondering what 'trick' it would be and from where his son had learned it.
After taking another long sip from his coffee, Johnny stood up and pulled on his gun belt. "Okay, it's a date!" He laughed. Turning to go, he looked back, meeting his father's eyes, "I promise, I won't be long. I'll be back for breakfast."
"I trust you son. I trust you. Enjoy your ride, and . . . be careful!"
Johnny grabbed his hat and the fleece‐lined jacket his father had gotten him for Christmas and headed out the door. Moments later, Murdoch saw his blue eyed baby boy flying out of the yard towards the archway on his golden palomino, bareback and without a bridle. As they reached the edge of the yard onto the drive, he saw Johnny ask his horse for more speed, which didn't take much encouragement, and then, as they went flying down the driveway hell for leather, he saw Johnny spread his arms outwards into the air and throw his head back in sheer joy, his hat flying off his head and bouncing along his back by the stampede strap.
Shaking his head at the scene, he felt a sense of peace. For just a few moments, he felt that he had that little toddler back.
About that time, Jelly walked in from the French doors carrying some wood for the fireplace. "Murdoch, did you see that boy?"
"Yes I did Jelly."
"Sometimes I think that boy just ain't right in the head." There was a pause before he added, "I shore do love 'im though."
"Me too, Jelly, me too."
Happy New Year! Remember, it's not who you spend it with, but how you spend it that counts!