Hiram stared into the buffet mirror, fidgeting with his bow tie. Here it was Sunday morning and Ambrose still hadn’t finished his chores. Where had he gone off to so early? He’d better not be fooling around with that Hogan girl. There was no way Hiram would allow that girl to get her hooks into his boy. Ambrose was too nice for his own good, just the sort to be taken in by a pretty face.
He heard footstep on the cellar stairs. “Ambrose, what’s the hold up? We’re going to be late for church.”
Ambrose poked his head around the corner of the dining room door. “Just finished with the milking.”
“Well, get into your church clothes and let’s go.”
“I’m on my way to do that now,” Ambrose said and raced for the stairs.
Hiram shook his head. Getting that boy in church clothes was a battle every time. He couldn’t seem to impress on Ambrose the importance of appearance for advancing in a community. He checked his clean-shaven reflection in the mirror and once again considered whether to grow a beard. He’d want a full one if he did it. No sense going halfway. But a full beard around a blacksmith forge could be a fire danger. Almost unconsciously, his hand went to his chest and touched the four-inch almost square area where the border ruffians had branded him with a blazing hot horseshoe. He shuddered at the thought of sparks catching a beard on fire, at the pain of the burn and the scar it would leave. The puckered flesh on his chest was ugly enough.
He worried that his bride, Ava Carstairs, would be repelled by his mutilated ribcage. She had never seen it, of course, but in two weeks they would be married. Would she be repulsed on their wedding night?
“I’m ready, Pa.”
Ambrose’s voice startled Hiram out of his contemplations. “Let’s go then.”
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