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Lexington Jethro Churchill

"Winning isn't all it's cracked up to be."

0 · 266 views · located in Louisville, Kentucky

a character in “Shady Oak Stable”, as played by DeliriousFTW

Description

Image

Given Name: Lexington Jethro Churchill
Nickname: Lex
Gender: Male
Age: 26
Horse: Peter Piper
Position: Lead Trainer
Personality: Witty, real, and dreadfully sarcastic. Lex most definitely is not one for the eccentrics. He has a way with horses many would consider unnatural. But it comes all naturally to Lex though, every whiny and neigh, each meaning a different thing. The way a horse moves or how it looks. How the head is placed or it is standing, they all meaning something to Lex and he can read it. When it comes to his horses he won’t let an inexperienced hand near them, and always puts them before himself. Some claim he can just run his hand down the spine of a horse and know how they feel, what is wrong with them, but that could very well be a myth. He has an extremely outgoing personality, what can even be considered an overbearing confidence. It throws many people off, and turns many people off. But that is all irrelevant to Lex. He has found his personality often throws people off who are used to introverted, recluse animal lovers. Something he is not, and is certain he will never be. He also has a bit of a temper when one is able to set it off, especially when it comes to chivalry or the treatment of animals.
History: The limp, blue body of a premature baby was flip-flopped around in a towel. Rough hands worked over its back, attempting to revive the feeble infant. The room seemed to stand still as eyes locked upon the child. And then the most beautiful sound wailed out, the sounds of lungs taking in their first breath and exhaling in a very pissed off cry. That is how Lexington Jethro Churchill came to be in this world. Lex, as he would soon be called, became the child every parent wished for. Until his sixth birthday.
The lights on the police car whipped around and around, Lex found himself entranced by the red and blue of the sirens. He held the hand of his babysitter, whose name has long been forgotten. It was at that moment that a dull sensation came over his body, this six year old was now experiencing what we know to be life. No excitement would pass through his young body for quite some time, and no sadness would envelope his small heart. He would live his life with the dull aching of missing something. Because on that day Lex lost the one thing that means the most to a young boy, his mother.
That was the single greatest tragedy the boy had felt, but he would feel it often throughout his life. Six months after his seventh birthday his father would pack the two of them up and head back west, back to his family in Texas. He was the only son of a rancher in Texas and his father seemed glad to have him home. The family ranch flourished as Lex’s father brought the life back into the land. Lex’s father inherited the ranch when Lex turned ten, eight years later his dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He died within a year, leaving Lex the ranch and everything the family owned.
Lex had no family left, but after a life of much sadness he knew he was done with it. He sold the family ranch, vowing never to return. But he took with him the skills he had learned from his grandfather, a champion cowboy, and his grandmother, a trainer of the English seat. From his father he took his old horse Peter. He left behind the ranch, with a good chunk of money now in his pocket, and headed to a job interview at Shady Oak Stables, that was nearly eight years ago.
Dating: No
Married: No
Appearance: The word scraggly would probably best describe Lex. He is the typical Southern raised gentleman, but he is often more concerned with his proper form on a horse then the proper attire. Which isn’t to say he is totally just letting go, he trims and wears clean clothes, as much as you can ask of a man. Usually he is just to be found in a pair of old jeans and a t-shirt, unless it is competition day. But as of lately he is more focused on the training aspect versus the competing side of horses. He can be an imposing person, considering when he actually stands straight he towers in around 6'4 and about 230 lbs.

Accompanying Horse

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Show Name: Peter Piper
Barn Name: Peter
Gender: Gelding
Breed: Quarter Horse
Age: Thirteen
Discipline: Cutting, roping, jumping
Personality: Peter is a typical laid-back gelding. Nothing really rattles his stern composition. Having been raised to cut cattle and take park in the herding of cattle he is an extremely reliable horse. He’ll take the punches as they come and not flinch at the sight of something new. He has been at Lex’s side through just about everything, and even though he was trained first in cutting and roping and he proficient in jumping. But as he has gotten older he has settled into the life of a lesson horse and teaching the younger riders how to become a single entity with a horse rather than two separate.
History: Peter started his life on the ranch of Lex’s family. He was born and raised alongside a large number of other ranch horses. Churchill was a very big name in the horse and rodeo industry for some time, which led to the Churchill brand bringing a hefty sum for a horse. But unlike all the other foals he was ran with that year, Peter ended up catching the eye of Lex’s father. Becoming his project horse before the cancer took his life. Since then Peter has come to be a proficient English ridden horse, along with his Western side. In his younger years he jumped his way into the top of the equestrian show world with Lex on his back. Now, in his older years, he has settled into a retirement life of a lesson horse.
Appearance: From the blackened, velvety muzzle to the gold streaked, brown tail Peter is a beautiful gelding. He sports four blackened stockings, which steadily fade into the bucksin color. Running your hand along his withers and down to his croup you will not only see, but feel the well-muscled body of a work horse. But he is of average height for any other horse, coming in around 16.2 hands.

So begins...

Lexington Jethro Churchill's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eden Adler Character Portrait: Lexington Jethro Churchill Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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It was like for a moment the Earth stood still. As the sun began to break through the horizon and wrap the world in a warm hug. He felt the heat hit him, warming his body. The spring chill dissipated quickly and Lex soaked in the morning sun. He heaved one more pitch fork of the soiled sand, from the training ring, into the wheelbarrow. Setting the pitch fork down he walked to the side of the ring, his hands running across the worn wood of what was now considered the old training ring.

His eyes glanced up, just long enough to catch the figure of Eden disappearing within the Old Barn. He figured he should talk to her, at least for a moment. He knew she was stressed out, and spring going into summer, the showing season, was especially stressful. But he looked back to the sun instead, reveling in its power for a moment. He let out a low sigh as he turned back to the barn. He needed to turn Peter out anyway, he thought. And so he set off slowly towards the Old Barn.

He gathered the pitch fork and the wheelbarrow to the side of the entrance, and he just stood there for a moment. Peter’s stall was located down at the end, directly across from Sterling, Eden’s horse. Lex made his way down there quickly, catching Eden as she was feeding Sterling. He turned to look at Peter for a moment, the gelding just bobbing his head, telling Lex he was ready to be turned out. Lex just stroked this thick neck of the horse though and turned to Eden.

“Finished up cleaning the lesson ring,” He said gently. Although Eden had been Lex’s best friend for the past years he couldn’t help but feel the need to tell her of anything he had done. He had been hired on as a lead trainer, but he quickly realized what situation the stable was in. More than once he had offered to help Eden out, financially, but he knew she never would take him up on that offer. “Anyways, that’s done. How are you doing?”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eden Adler Character Portrait: Lexington Jethro Churchill Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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Eden was so wrapped up in the welcome monotony of morning chores she hardly noticed Lex's entrance. He was so quiet, so calm and purposeful in everything he did, that his presence seemed as natural as that of the horses. When she did take notice of him, she waited for him to speak, comfortable in the silence between them.

She and Lex went way back, long before Eden's accident. She'd met him at some horse expo down South, and the two had hit it off immediately. Even in those days Eden had a way of working herself into a tizzy, and she remembered frantically trying to unload a skittish horse in an attempt to make it to a clinic on time. Lex, as it turned out, had been headed to the same clinic, and stopped to help her with the panicking horse. His connection with horses in turn connected him to Eden, and the two had become fast friends. As her career grew and other horse-y ventures paid off, Eden was able to scrape together the money to purchase Shady Oak Stable. Unable to imagine her equine dream without Lex, she'd hired him on as her head trainer, and he'd yet to let her down.

Even now his mild manner worked wonders on her nerves, and she turned to him and gave him a weak smile. "You're a godsend, Lex. What would I do without you?" she asked, setting Sterling's feed bucket aside. How are you doing? His question reminded her of who she was (at least, who she was supposed to be) and she attempted to widen her smile, putting on a brave face. "Never better. I don't suppose you've seen my feed forms, have you? I've got to order more alfalfa, and I could've sworn they were on my desk last night. Christ, I do my best to keep this place organized, but with all these kids using my office as their play room..." she trailed off, realizing how riled she was getting. Taking a deep breath, she tucked back the one stray strand that had escaped her otherwise perfect bun and looked at Lex.

Around other boarders, Eden was picture of cool, but she'd never been able to mask her feelings around Lex. He knew her too well to let her get away with this bottled-up-feelings crap, and she was simultaneously grateful and irritated by his ability to call her on it. She wanted so much to be the perfect owner, the perfect equestrian...but it seemed the world was working against her as of late.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eden Adler Character Portrait: Lexington Jethro Churchill Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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Lex watched with understanding eyes, knowing the time Eden was thinking of. The two had often talked about how life was funny in the way it connected people. His mind wandering back to the first time Eden and he had met, just the same as her. She knew him back before his father died, she had been there through all of it. Even with the past events playing through his mind like a movie, he was able to watch every bit of her movement.

Something always clicked on in Eden’s head, it seemed, when they spoke. But he had noticed it with other people, it was like a turn when she realized she had let her façade slip. What would she do without me, he played it back in his head. “Probably have to clean the training ring yourself,” He said with a gentle shrug, a sly grin growing over his face. His eyes flickered over her face as it changed to cover up the stress both of them felt. “I filed them back in the filing cabinet, the one I bought you three years ago,” He said with a chuckle. “Just like the beginning of every week, I file all your paperwork.”

Eden often came off as cold, but if you let yourself open up to her, she would often do the same. Having met her at one of the lowest points of his life, Lex had turned to her as he had no one else. He often thought that was why they were so close. She wasn’t one to open up first, but reveal your inner feelings to her and she would be there for you. He cocked his head to the side as he watched her, the subtle shaking of the hands, as she worked herself up again. His grin grew as he reached out to touch her arm. “Summer will be over before you know it, and autumn always brings a break.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ali Cooper Character Portrait: Eden Adler Character Portrait: Logan Thomson Character Portrait: Gwyneth Alexander Crusoe Character Portrait: Lexington Jethro Churchill Character Portrait:
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Ali was sitting in her window seat in her bedroom, watching the sunrise over the stables. The roof of the old stable seemed to glow in the early sunlight, and she though of Sephey (her beloved horse) waking up the same way she was, with the sun in her eyes. Ali let out a contented sigh and stood from her perch, stretching her arms over her head. She had training for the opening competition today, and Ali wanted to impress whoever would be training her this year.

As Ali looked in her closet, she selected a pair of light skinny jeans, a long sleeved, pale yellow shirt, and a pair of grey converse. After pulling her hair into a braid, Ali descended the stairs to the main dining hall. She wasn't to hungry, but she knew if she didn't eat she had the possibility of passing out from the sun. Ali looked at her long sleeved shirt, then shrugged. If she sweated, that was more calories she lost, and more she could eat at dinner. The young lady decided on an apple and a few triangles of toast and some water for her breakfast.

Ali was just finishing her half of the apple (she'd give the other half to Sephey) when she came up on the stable, she saw Eden and Lex talking. "Morning," She said in her quiet, strongly British accent. She went to the last stall, the one she kept Persephone in, and held out the half apple for her. Ali wasn't one to talk much, but she needed to know if Lex would be training her again this year.

"Hey, Lex, am I continuing to train with you, or did you want me to bring in an outside trainer, since you have Logan and Gwen, too?" The girl pushed a loose piece of hair behind her ear. "Obviously, I'd love if you trained me again, since I did so well last year...but if you think you've got to much on your plate..." She let it hang there, going back to Persephone and stroking her nose. Ali looked back over to Lex, her eyes meeting his. "It's up to you," Ali said with a final shrug, working on Persephone's stall as she did every morning.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ali Cooper Character Portrait: Eden Adler Character Portrait: Gwyneth Alexander Crusoe Character Portrait: Lexington Jethro Churchill Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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Gwyn watched the gathering of Eden, Lex, and then Ali with little amusement. She had been at Shady Oaks for the past year now, and had yet to really make friends with either Ali or Eden. She had become slightly more social with Eden as of late, and had been known to talk to Lex a bit. But their encounters were always reserved to the horses or mainly about Lex. He was quiet, she had taken notice. But he was serious, and he was a good instructor.

She clipped in the feed bucket of Bandit’s and stroked the horse’s neck. She had recently taken a break from training, just for the week. After lessons every day for the past three months she figured it would do them both good for a break before the show season. She played with Bandit’s jawline as she listened in on the ongoing conversation. Herself, wondering if Lex would carry on with lessons for the three students and then also the group of youngsters he got every year.

Gwyn appreciated every Lex had done for the students. Although she never expressed it. Her attention turned to Ali. She and the girl, who had been here much longer then herself, never seemed to speak. Maybe it was the fact Gwyn held herself to a higher standard, or the ‘niceness’ of the younger girl never sat well with Gwyn. Gwyn was always one to assume the kind actions of others were always a ploy for them to get something. Although at this point she wasn’t willing to say anything to the girl, knowing Eden and Lex would have something to say about her pettiness.

---

Lex looked down at the girl, Ali. A smile grew as he leaned back against the stall wall. “No, of course you will still be under my instruction. I wouldn’t let one of my star pupils be under the training of another! Why, when we compete this year I’m sure you will do superb and no one will take that credit of training you other then myself,” He said with much excitement. He had seem Ali rise to out preform a lot of the other riders. She, in his eyes, was an excellent student. His attention turned back to Eden for a moment, letting her know he still expected a response.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ali Cooper Character Portrait: Eden Adler Character Portrait: Gwyneth Alexander Crusoe Character Portrait: Lexington Jethro Churchill Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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Ali smiled brightly, wordlessly going back to Persephone. The young woman had been training under Lex since she came to the establishment she'd come to call home, and she really didn't want another trainer. Ali looked at Lex as a father figure, and it always made her incredibly happy when he told her she was his star, and he was proud of her. Ali lived for the moments when he would just sit and stare at her. Even when she excelled at things she and Persephone had never actually competed in, Lex would get this look of pure and utter pride and astonishment in his eyes. Ali adored Lex, and she knew he felt the same way for her.

She looked at Gwyn out of the corner of her eye. Ali couldn't understand why the older girl was never speaking to her, or was never nice to her. The British teen recalled one day in particular during the last season, when Gwyn had forgotten her riding boots at Shady Oak and they were at an out of state competition. Ali had competed in her converse so that the older girl (who was luckily the same shoe size) could wear her performance boots. Gwyn had never thanked Ali for this, and it kind of bothered the younger girl.

Ali sighed, looking around the barn. It was mostly clean, the stalls done and the horses fed. "Did you want me to go over to the new barn and take care of the lesson horses?" Ali asked Eden. Ali liked the lesson horses, and she tried to ride a few of them when she wasn't training with Persephone (which was hardly ever. Ali never took a break from training). Ali looked at Persephone, then Sterling. Maybe she would talk to Eden about breeding them after this season...

Ali looked out the window at the rising sun. It was nearly 8 a.m. by its position, and Ali knew that Lex would soon be busy with the first trickling paperwork of the youngsters (most were no younger than Ali, but she was almost professional by now) who would be coming in for summer lessons. Ali didn't like the kids who came for summer lessons, but she knew Eden got a lot of money from those kids, and she tried to be nice to most of them, but some were just stuck up, spoiled brats.

Ali looked at Gwyn. "Would you care to help me?" She asked gently, not wanting to insult the older girl. She knew Gwyn didn't like her (for what reason, she didn't know), but Ali thought it'd be easier on Lex and Eden if all the competitors got along this year. Last year, there was just to much drama.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ali Cooper Character Portrait: Gwyneth Alexander Crusoe Character Portrait: Lexington Jethro Churchill Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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“If you don’t mind, that would be lovely,” Lex answered for Eden. Lex had spoken to Ali on more than one occasion about her past. He knew she, too, had a difficult one. But he admired that she didn’t let that alter how she approached her current situation. He wanted to open the doors for his pupils, but he didn’t want to just give it to them. He appreciated those that trained hard for everything they earned, and Ali was certainly one of them. He turned to look at Gwyn, who had clearly finished her caring of Bandit’s morning routine. “Why not,” He said to her, knowing the young girl would listen to him.

---

She held back the scoff at Ali’s suggestion when Lex answered for her. “It would be my pleasure,” She groaned as she turned about to head over to the recently built barn. She sauntered out of the Old Barn, expecting Ali to be at her side at any second. Oddly enough, the suggestion to go take care of the lesson horses didn’t bother Gwyn much. She did enjoy the company of animals, it was the company of the younger girl she didn’t look forward to having.

Gwyn had never really interacted much with Ali. Sure the girl had given her the boots at the show the previous season, but she acted like that was world changing. Ali just didn’t understand the world wasn’t a loving place, but Gwyn also didn’t know Ali’s back story. She kicked the gravel with despise as the jealousy over the attention Ali received from Lex grew. Gwyn didn’t think Ali was that great of a rider, but apparently Lex saw it right away. Often she tried to respect her trainers, but sometimes she couldn’t help but think Lex was on something for even giving Ali the time of day.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eden Adler Character Portrait: Lexington Jethro Churchill Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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Eden allowed herself a small laugh at his comment on the training ring, shaking her head. Oddly enough, it was his humor and flexibility that kept her sane, his ability to foresee her rising stress levels and calm the turbulent waters of her emotions. Where she was battle cries and balled fists, he was warm smiles and welcoming handshakes. Their social and managerial skills shouldn't have worked together, but they did. That was the beauty of horse-lovers: come hell or high water, they were always there for each other.

She heaved a sigh of relief as he informed her of his filing work, recalling his last words to her as she'd left the barn last night. "Eden, I'm putting the feed papers back in the filing cabinet, alright?" She seemed to remember grunting a reply before dragging her weary body from the barn back to the house, but she couldn't be sure. "Right, the filing cabinet. You'll have to forgive me, Lex; I haven't had my coffee this morning, and I'm positively useless without it," she smirked, passing a hand over her tired face. At 27, the first few strands of gray were already appearing in her dark hair, and the circles under her eyes sold the secret of her sleepless nights. Dressed to impress in a crisp white polo and tan breeches, Eden did her best to appear the put-together and controlled woman she had once thought herself to be. "Never let them see you sweat" had been her motto in the show ring, and it'd served her well in other facets of the equine world.

Eden drifted off momentarily as Lex struck up a conversation with Ali, her mind straying to her long to-do list. To add to her guilt, she had a horse in top showing condition and no one to ride him. She'd considered asked Lex to show him, but her head trainer had enough on his plate without the added stress of another mount. Since her injury, Eden had tried a slew of riders on the loving grey, but few were experienced enough to guide the dependent horse through three grueling events. She mostly brought him along to have at the show grounds; he was a veteran of the highest levels of competition and soothed the more easily excitable youngsters.

“Summer will be over before you know it, and autumn always brings a break.” Lex redirected his attention to Eden, drawing her from her thoughts. How was it that he always knew exactly what she needed to hear? "Autumn's a long way off, but it's something to look forward to. I've got a new boarder coming in today, so there's paperwork that'll need to be done, and I'll have to see about getting someone to fix that fence in the back pasture. Oh, and the winter blankets need to be washed, my god, they're a mess!" She caught herself in the midst of her long list and paused to paste on her smile. "But it's nothing I can't handle," she said, brushing a nonexistent speck of dirt off her polo. "And I'm sure you've got plenty to do yourself, so don't let me keep you."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eden Adler Character Portrait: Lexington Jethro Churchill Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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“You know I always forgive you,” Lex said with a grin. He watched as the two girls walked off and turned back to Eden for a moment. She needed a break, a break from the stress this world seemed to pile on her, that much Lex knew. But he knew she would never listen to him, at least not when it came to those matters. He wanted so badly to hold her, to force her to listen to him, to accept everything he could give her. But he also understood the determination that was the cause of that gray hair, those sleepless nights he heard her in her room.

He shook his head as she piled on the list of things that needed to be done. “Don’t worry about the fence in the back pasture, I’m sure Logan and I can handle it,” He said with a certainty that was meant to settle her nerves. “And I’ve always got time for you,” He said in a haste that she didn’t try to escape their little meeting. “I’ve got a group lesson of four later today, but I’ll handle the fence and the blankets if need be,” He said with a nod of his head.

Once again he caught his mind wandering to his own list of things to do, but he put them to the back and moved her's to the front. “If you like, when I turn Peter out I can take Sterling also,” He offered. “But before that let’s go get some coffee,” He suggested as he shoved his hands into his back pockets. He popped up on his toes and gave Eden a goofy grin, a trait he had inherited from his father. He knew the usual reaction that he got from Eden, laughter. Over time, it had grown into a way to remind her of the old days. The days when he chased after her with a love only a teenage boy could possess. Now he hid his feelings within, knowing that wasn’t the person she needed. What she needed was just a friend.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: [NPC] Bartender Character Portrait: Eden Adler Character Portrait: Lexington Jethro Churchill Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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Before Eden could take a single step in the direction of her office, Lex had waved his magic wand and banished her troubles once more. He offered the solutions to her problems on a silver platter and asked nothing in return, his selflessness unmatched by anyone she'd met. "How do you put up with me?" she laughed, shaking her head in disbelief. "I'd have left me a long time ago."

She stood silent for a moment, just looking at him. He was wearing that goofy smile she'd come to love, and there was something hopeful about him, something eager. She was about to comment on it when Hobbes reappeared at her feet, purring loudly and batting the toes of her spotless boots. "Silly me, you didn't get any breakfast, did you? So many mouths to feed...." She grabbed his dish off a nearby hay bale and disappeared into the feed room to pour out a bowl of cat food, Lex's voice drifting through the door as he offered to turn out Sterling.

"Oh would you? Could you? Oh gosh, that'd be great," she said, popping her head out the door and smiling gratefully. She set down the dish of cat food and turned to the tabby, raising an eyebrow. "You know, if you weren't such a terrible mouser I wouldn't be spending so much on cat food," she scolded, squatting beside the massive orange feline. As usual, she'd found herself unable to stand still turning a conversation, and even as Lex spoke she found her eyes scanning the barn, seeking out any errors that might betray her. Everything had to be perfect; she had to look as though she had it all together. There, she could see a broken rein dangling from a bridle in the tack room, and someone had left their dirty wraps and bell boots on the tack room floor.

“But before that let’s go get some coffee,” Lex's offer was too good to refuse, and she looked up at him, a smile playing at her lips. The broken rein could wait. The dirty wraps could wait. Hard as it was for her to believe, Lex had often assured her the world would not stop spinning if she were to sit down and rest for a moment, and she was more than ready to test that theory. She straightened up, masking a wince as the pain flared up in her leg. The injury wasn't nearly as bad as it had once been, and if she followed the doctor's orders and attended physical therapy regularly (which she very rarely had time for) it hardly hurt at all, but she'd never quite regained her confidence after that fateful accident. The injury was just an excuse, an inconvenience that allowed her to duck out of any attempt to get her back in the show ring.

Returning to her poised, upright position Eden returned his smile and swept a bit of cat hair off her breeches. "Coffee sounds lovely, actually. Lead the way."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eden Adler Character Portrait: Lexington Jethro Churchill Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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How do you put up with me, I’d have left me a long time ago, his mind played those words over. Tossing and turning them, as if they would bring up something else. At least I’m good at hiding my feeling, he thought as he just gave her a smile. “And leave all these poor boarders to fend for themselves,” He asked jokingly, always sure to never hint at why he was still here. “Besides, when Shady Oaks becomes the stable I know it will be, I’m gonna be head trainer of a pretty rad stable.” He let that sentence hang there for a moment before continuing. “And you aren’t so bad, just too hard on yourself.”

He pulled his hands from his pockets and gave a chuckle. “Yeah, Dr. Seuss, it would be no problem. The two get along just as well as we do anyway.” His eyes fell to Hobbes purring around Eden’s feet. “I was gonna put Peter in the left pasture along the drive, so Sterling should be fine. He enjoys running along with the cars after all.” He could see her eyes scanning, picking out the imperfections. It never ceased to amaze him how quickly she could do that. Perhaps it was because he was a man and she a woman, but those small details never seemed to jump out at him. Except when it came to conformation, then everything seemed to speak to him.

Lex’s mind registered the pain that Eden had felt, her wince giving it away. But he had, long ago, figured out to leave that subject alone. It was a shame she never rode anymore, Lex had always been thoroughly impressed by her. That was one of the things that had made him want to be lead trainer at Shady Oaks in the first place, and what caught his eye about Eden the first time he saw her ride. She was always one with the horse, her movement was fluid, she was meant to be there. He remembered thinking that exact same thing the first time he saw her. But then he came back to reality and looked toward her. “As usual,” He said as he turned about to make his way toward the boarding house.

---

Gwyn hummed lowly to herself, an old song that often got stuck in her head. It was a lullaby that she remembered from her toddler years, she could never remember the words, simply the melody. But it soothed her on any occasion. She scooped and dump the soiled bedding, her mind playing over the last lesson she had with Lex. Over the critiques he had made on her form, keeping her heel, hips, and shoulders aligned always seemed to be an issue. But Lex had commented how she was vastly improving, he had taken a break from training last year to go back to Texas and told everyone to practice on their own while he was gone. That was what Gwyn had focused on the most.

Just as she was in the middle of dumping another scoop of soiled bedding Ali spoke. Her voice cracked the silence that was in the air, making Gwyn wince slightly. “I don’t hate you,” Gwyn answered, shrugging slightly. “Don’t really like you though.” She knew her answer didn’t answer the second question Ali had posed, but she didn’t really care either. Gwyn began to spread out new bedding when she heard the solid thud of a horse hoof against wood. Her head shot up to see Ali jumping over the stall wall, clearly landing on her ankle. She muttered something under her breath, not loud enough for Gwyn to make it out, but she could guess.

Gwyn ignored the girl’s question the second time, having already answered it. Instead she slid the door open to the stall and grabbed the pail of brushes and the hoof pick. Placing it on the ground she strode toward Oliver, who Gwyn affectionately called ‘King Oliver’ because of the horse’s white medicine hat, which she always thought resembled a crown. Although that was in secret that she called him anything. She was supposed to be a super bitch, and liking any other horse but her own simply did live up to that in her mind. She took hold of the horse’s halter and led him to face the interior of the barn and set to work curry combing the horse.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eden Adler Character Portrait: Lexington Jethro Churchill Character Portrait: Riley Smith Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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“And you aren’t so bad, just too hard on yourself.” Eden gave a faint smile at his comment, shaking her head. If only that was the worst that could be said for her. How was it that where he saw strength and determination she saw only timidity and foolishness? She was weak; she was crumbling; the armor she'd used to protect herself was now falling away, leaving a soft underbelly exposed.

But she couldn't very well say that aloud, could she? No. Not here, not now. Not ever. Lex had already moved the conversation along, and her moment of guilt passed as though blown away on some wind. "I'm still waiting for Sterling to realize he isn't a dog. After 12 years he still looks at me as though he'd like to jump up on my lap," she laughed, looking back to him. She forced herself to put the messy barn at the back of her mind and engage with him. Over the years he'd become so familiar to her she'd stopped really looking at him, and she did so now, her eyes studying his face with the same scrutiny she had the tack room. They were about the same age, but Lex had a look of youth about him- a ruddy, healthy-looking complexion and brown eyes that always smiled.

She felt old and weak beside him, and as she looked at him she felt something that was like envy, but not, growing in her chest. Her eyes dropped her eyes to the floor a moment, and it came upon her like some great wave: she was embarrassed. Embarassed...in front of Lex? She couldn't be. Still...what must he think of her when he saw her now- mouth tightly drawn, skin pale and pallid? She used to wear her hair down- she'd always liked the feel of it on her shoulders when she rode- but she couldn't remember the last time it'd been out of it's severe bun. They'd grown up together, reveling in the trials and tribulations of the show ring. ...When had he left her so far behind?

He saw her wince, and she watched him watch her, seeing her injury through his eyes. He'd long given up on his mission to return her to the show ring, but she couldn't help but feel guilty for any pity he sent her way. But he didn't know. He didn't know why she could never look at a competition the same way again, why she froze up at the thought entering a show ring. He didn't know, and he could never know, not ever. If he did, he would hate her, and he would leave, and she would never forgive herself for that. He was her sanity, and, in some twisted way, to lose him was to lose the one part of herself worth keeping.

She blinked, banishing the nightmarish scene that played behind her eyes. Lex was already headed out of the barn, and she paused a moment to collect herself before striding after him, her calm and control restored. As she stepped out into the late morning sun, she spotted two figures moving up the drive- horse and human. Of course, her new boarder! How could she have forgotten? "Lex, I'm going to have to take a rain check on that coffee. I've got a new boarder attend to. ...Find me if you need anything?" she asked, looking to him for conformation before hurrying past him to intercept the newcomer.