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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Before You Go: ‘White Horse’

John Gray gets back to his fantastic fiction.

The bell that hung over the door of “The Stompin Grounds” coffee shop was busy this morning. Carson Winters thought it gave the place a homey touch when he bought the place years ago with what he called the “Gulf War Guilt” money. He was on a tour in Iraq when his Humvee drove over an IED, killing two soldiers and leaving Carson with a badly reconstructed face. The docs did their best, but the scars told the sad story without him saying a word. An honorable discharge and fat government check bought the place.

Molly came in, just like every Saturday, laptop and cappuccino in hand, straight for the corner table with a view of the street. “Hey Taylor,” he yelled, teasing her as always. “What’s up Scarface?” she shot right back. His nickname was obvious, but “Taylor”? That came from Molly’s love of sappy love songs and totally dysfunctional love life. You’re just like Taylor Swift, he’d tell her, singing Molly’s favorite “White Horse” out loud as he made drinks, “Cause I’m not a princess and this ain’t a fairytale…” She’d just glare at him.

Molly was a perpetually single 40-something who looked for love on those Internet dating sites. Problem was she had aged a bit and put on some weight so she used a photo from 10 years ago. Guys she met online did one of three things: asked for a full body shot, which made her feel like cattle being sold at auction, set up a date then showed their utter disappointment when they came through the door, or worse, showed up, peeked through the window at her and bolted. Talk about humiliating.

“It’s your fault,” Carson told her as he wiped down a nearby table. “You’re ashamed of who you are. Stop that.” Molly knew it was the truth, but snapped back, “Nobody asked you Carson.” He pressed on, “Look at me. Seriously, LOOK AT THIS FACE.” He was shouting now so everyone could hear, “Do you see me hiding who I am?”  Then he leaned in and whispered, “So you’re not 20 anymore. You’re not size two. Get over it. Be this, right now. Be you. If they don’t like it, screw em.”  She knew he was right as she closed the laptop and left without saying a word.

A couple months came and went before Molly returned to the coffee house with a renewed swagger. “I’d never admit you were right Carson, but…” and with that turned her laptop around revealing her new profile page. It was a recent picture, chubby cheeks and all, smiling proudly. “Good for you,” Carson said, “Any takers?” She laughed. “Well, there is one guy, but he’s too hot for me, a total babe. See.” She showed him a photo and the man was young, fit and handsome. “I mean, we talk online all the time and totally click. If I looked different I’d have a shot, but it’s just a friends thing…” she said, her voice trailing off.

“So,” Carson said, “Why not meet him and find out?” Molly giggled like a teenager, “Why do you think I’m here moron? I’m meeting him in like two minutes. I just hope he shows.”

Just as those words left her lips she and Carson noticed a commotion outside the coffee shop. People were gathering around something all excited.  Molly walked to the window to see what the fuss was about and saw a beautiful white horse. “Know what’s funny Molly?  You never asked me what I looked like before this,” Carson said, pointing to his flawed face. With that he took out an 8×10 framed photo revealing a gorgeous man. The same man Molly was supposed to meet. “I’m the one you’ve been talking too. I’m crazy about you.”

As her eyes swelled with tears he said, “This next part is cheesy, but I have to.” Music filled the coffee shop and Carson started singing her favorite song, changing the words just a bit, “Cause you are my princess and this ain’t a fairytale. “I want to sweep you off your feet and lead you up that stairwell.

“No this isn’t Hollywood, it’s just a small town and I’m here on my white horse to tell you, I’ll never let you down.”

It took Molly’s breath away, her mind racing, heart aching and hands trembling as she reached for him. “I love you Molly. I have… forever. If you can just look past…” She stopped him putting her fingers gently over his scars.  “I don’t see them anymore. I never really did.” They shared a soft kiss two years in the making. “Is this the part where we ride off?” she asked wiping away her tears. “God no,” he said laughing, “The horse is a rental, but my heart is yours to keep.” As he pulled her close and the customers in the shop started applauding, Taylor Swift was singing about a silly girl and happy endings.

John Gray
John Gray
John Gray is an Emmy-winning journalist and writer. In addition to his 32 years of television experience, John is the author of three children's books and two novels. He is married with three children. He and his lovely wife Courtney have five dogs, three of them are rescues with special needs. They make their quiet home in Rensselaer County.

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