Here’s the complete story of cowboy Tristan Hay and young Fantasia Irons. We launched our parody a few weeks ago and asked readers to continue the saga, week by week. Enjoy:
Chapter 1: Fantasia Meets Tristan
By E.M. Eveld
Jeez. My big, bouncy, cocoa-brown hair just won’t behave. Oh, I know I’m nothing to look at with these saucer-like blue eyes. And I’m as clumsy as an ox. Just awful, I admit it.
No wonder I’m 21 years old and have never had a hint of a boyfriend, although the boys do seem to lavish me with attention. Jeez.
I look in the mirror one more time and figure I’ll just gather up all this luxurious, unruly hair into a giant ponytail. I’ll play the part of the pert coed I wish I was — and get on with this.
“This” is something my gorgeous best friend and roommate got me into. Thanks, Kassidy.
She pointed “him” out to me at the American Royal in Kansas City last week — Tristan Hay — the sinewy, scruffy-looking guy tying down a calf with ropes to the delight of rodeo fans. I was there to help Kassidy with her “research.”
I’m a pre-veterinary student, but that doesn’t mean I know anything about rodeos. And why is this billionaire guy acting like a common cowboy?
Because he’s Tristan Hay, Kassidy says. With his unfathomable wealth, amassed by age 27, he can do anything he wants.
“He has his fingers in lots of places,” she explains.
Including international restaurant chains, apparently. Kassidy planned to interview him for the Kansas State University Gazette. She’s the editor. Hay recently coughed up a gazillion-dollar donation to our school, and Kassidy planned a massive profile for the school paper.
But now she’s sick as a dog. She says it took months to set up the interview, so I have to do it.
Seems like she could have assigned an actual reporter. I’ve never done anything like this before. But off I go into the sunset, driving my beater out of Manhattan, down a bunch of two-lane blacktops to his fabulous cattle ranch.
By the way, I’m a vegan. There, I said it. Which makes me so very not right for this Tristan Hay and his meat-tastic restaurant empire, including the Big Saucy, which I suspect is a reference to barbecue, and the Harness Room, a reference to I don’t know what.
GPS doesn’t fail me, and soon I’m here, stopped at a white wrought-iron gate that could withstand a medieval invasion. It opens slowly, and I’m waved through by a series of cowboys and cowgirls, Western-wear fashion models, it seems.
Inside the arena-sized ranch house, headquarters for Tristan Hay Inc., the ceilings soar and polished wood abounds. One last cowboy-host opens one more door. I fall through it, tripping on … nothing.
I’m practically on the floor, and somehow there’s Tristan Hay. He nimbly grabs me by the waist, saving me from a full-on meeting with the hardwood, and pulls me up, past his thighs, past his waist.
“Oh my, that’s a big silver buckle you have,” I say.
“My eyes are up here, honey,” he says.
Yes they are, and they’re drilling holes right through mine. “Intense” hardly does his gaze justice.
I introduce myself — “Fantasia Irons. Most people call me Fanny” — and explain why I’m here and not Kassidy. I set up the digital recorder and pull Kassidy’s notes from my backpack. So far, so good.
Thank goodness Kassidy wrote out these insightful questions so I don’t have to do much thinking.
I start at the top with “Why are you so successful?” and work down to “Are you gay?” The answers: “I’m really good at reading people, most notably by staring at them for long periods of time,” and “No.”
Hay cocks his head at a question, then cocks it to the other side at the next. In fact, he does a lot of head-cocking. I wonder if there’s something wrong with his cervical vertebrae.
As I finish the interview, I realize my face has been aflame the whole time. Jeez. Why am I blushing so? Maybe it’s because his eyes never stop blazing. Did I mention that he is drop-dead, oh-my-gosh, holy-moly, off-the-charts, very, very good-looking? And tall?
“Did you notice, Miss Irons, that I like to stare intently at you and cock my head a lot and that I’m extremely good-looking?” he says.
“Not exactly,” I say, making my way to the door. Apparently, he’s going to lead me back to my car.
I do notice that he never calls me Fanny. For the life of me, I don’t know why. What a mystery he is!
“Fantasia,” he says in a deeeep-voiced, husky farewell. He opens the car door for me, and I brush away a few Skittles from the driver’s seat.
“Tristan,” I respond, cool as a cucumber. I kill the car engine twice before taking off in a cloud of Flint Hills dust and gravel.
Chapter 2: Tristan and Fantasia Are an Item
By Virginia Brackett
The next morning, I sat up in bed and pushed my cocoa-brown hair out of my eyes. When I touched that mop of dark delight, I felt those eyes on me — the eyes of Tristan Hay.
I was still thinking about that shiny buckle. I’ve seen some buckles in my time, and his is one of the biggest. He wore it well, so well that I wanted to take some polish to it and make it shine. I pulled on skinny jeans and cinched the leather belt that I bought at the gift shop close to the American Royal.
Then the phone chimed. I brought my thoughts to a climax and then said, “Hello.” My voice echoed with innocence and charm.
“Miss Irons? Miss Fantasia Irons?”
Tristan! Heat poured through the phone. I thought of those big hands around my tiny waist.
“Yes?” Despite my cool reputation, I could feel a blush on my cheeks.
“Tristan Hay here,” he said. “Your friend, the reporter, gave me your number.”
Bless you, Kassidy.
“She said you would enjoy hearing from me.”
Dang you, Kassidy.
“I called because I want you to join me for dinner at the Harness Room. If you’re not already tied up.”
“My restaurant. The one that just opened in Manhattan.”
I sighed. I could hear him suck in his breath.
“Look,” I said, “I know that most girls would give the world to try your meat. But you and I probably shouldn’t … I don’t think we could. … I’m a vegan, after all.”
“I’ll have my chef rustle up his best salad. We can dress it ourselves, right at our table. I’ll send a car at 8.”
How could I resist? I sent a bunch of selfies to Kassidy to help me pick an outfit — a purple mini with a silver belt, silver leggings and strappy silver sandals. My hair swept up into a stylish pony tail, I donned a silver chain, and I was on my way.
I spotted him from the doorway. I stood in the light and swooshed my pony tail. He did that strange thing with his neck but stood up while the host walked me to the table. Everyone wondered who was this dark beauty who had corralled the richest man around. I was proud of myself for working a ranch term into my thoughts.
“What do you think?” he asked, gesturing around the room with a sweep of his silken-sleeved arm.
“Shouldn’t I be asking you that?” I returned, posing, one knee bent, and swooshing again.
“Beautiful,” he said.
Just then we heard a wolf whistle, and Tristan whirled around with a snarl. But as he searched the dark corners with his smoldering gaze, he couldn’t find its source.
“Sorry about that,” he said, as he pulled out my chair. His knuckles lightly grazed my neck as I sat down. “No lady should have to put up with that.”
“Who says I’m a lady?” I teased. “Maybe I liked it.”
Dinner went by in a whirl. I didn’t flinch when he ever-so-slowly licked his greasy fingers.
“Let’s blow this place,” he said.
I knew I had drunk too much wine, but I didn’t care as the car charged up to his Manhattan townhouse. It beckoned me to step through the door. We walked down a long hall.
“This is one of my trophy rooms,” Tristan said, pulling me forward with a firm hand around my wrist. I touched the trophies and then swung my leg over the trophy saddle sitting in the middle of the room.
“What’s that?” I pointed to a glass box on the wall.
“My silver piggin’ string,” he said, cocking his head.
When I looked puzzled, he explained.
“A piggin’ string is what I use when I rope calves.” He took the box down, opened it and asked, “Do you want to touch it?”
I lifted the velvety rope from the box and brushed it across my cheek. He leaned toward me, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Chapter 3: Fantasia and Tristan Break Up
By Larry Hightower
I woke up alone in the ginormous bed. I wiped the sleep from my saucer-like blue eyes. The thread count of the sheets was high enough to be a Hawaiian ZIP code. I was swimming in luxury, but did I need a life vest?
Still I was alone; just me, my shadow and my thoughts. I sure wasn’t much of a cowgirl, having failed to keep my calves together. Last night was history, but this morning, I was doing the math.
Tristan appeared in the doorway. His head was cocked beneath a white Resistol hat. His feet were clad in what appeared to be armadillo skin Tony Lama boots. Between those vestiges of cowboy culture he wore a white apron. He smiled. “How do you like your eggs?”
He decided for me. “Over easy?”
Yeah, that was me last night.
I scowled. “I don’t eat eggs.”
“Nah? I can rustle up some other vittles quicker than two shakes of a lamb’s tail.”
Rustle up vittles? Two shakes of a lamb’s tail? Who talks like that? He turned on the heels of his Tony Lamas. I realized that hat, boots and apron were all he was wearing. Part of me wanted to jump into neatly folded clothes, make a rope ladder of the gazillion thread count sheets and climb down from the balcony. Another part of me wanted to say, “Forget the breakfast. Bring those buns in here.”
Later, I padded to the bathroom which was big enough to have its own ZIP code. Jeez, why did I have ZIP codes on the brain? Why was I thinking about the fact that Lebanon, Missouri’s ZIP is 65536 — two to the sixteenth power? Tristan sure had my unzip code.
I looked in the mirror. Girl get it together! My big, bouncy, cocoa brown hair wouldn’t behave — perhaps because I hadn’t. I stood barefoot all the way up, knowing that half the women in a 100-mile radius of Manhattan would kill to be standing in my shoes.
Breakfast on the veranda — roses on the piano — Jeez. Saturday morning became Saturday night. The next thing I knew it was Monday morning, and I was in danger of missing Biology 213 at 10:30 in Room 405 of the Science building. Though this had been an amazing weekend, there was still a part of me that wondered if I was just another number to Tristan — a 36, 24, none of your beeswax.
We kissed over black coffee until it became stone cold. His steel gray eyes penetrated me. He cocked his head.
“I know we’ve only known each other for a few days, but they’ve been magical. Would you consider moving in with me?”
My heart nearly stopped. He wound up giving me a modified version of CPR. I wound up missing Biology 213 in Room 405 as we studied anatomy in condo unit 306. Jeez Louise — what a unit!
Later he twirled my big, bouncy, cocoa-brown hair. “Say, I'm sponsoring a charity ball for Co-eds Without Boundaries. Want to go?”
“I’m not sure I have anything to wear.”
He smiled. “Not a problem. Take my Titanium American Express card. Spend enough and we can earn a trip to Paris, Texas — or that other one.”
He frowned. “I’m afraid there’s a bit of a catch.”
My heart stopped, leading to more modified CPR. He cleared his throat. “I have a shy brother, Andy. Could you fix him up? Maybe a friend, your roommate?”
“My roommate is pretty, but she’s a real tomboy. I’m always asking. ‘Why do you dress so butch, Kassidy?”’
“We could get her gussied up, too.”
Gussied up? Who says gussied up?
“You could take her dress shopping? Call her. I’ll make us some watercress sandwiches.”
“Hold your water.”
“Never mind. I’ll call.”
He returned, bent, cocked his head and kissed me. “Is Kassidy interested in dating my brother, Andy?”
“She said ixnay on the Andy Hay. She wasn’t comfortable with letting you buy her dresses, either.”
“Money’s no big deal, darlin,’ I can just slaughter another herd of cattle.”
I took a sharp breath. “I’m a vegan!”
“If I’d known that I’d taken more time.”
I didn’t need a mirror to know that my saucer-like blue eyes were blazing. “Tristan, this is a problem. I can’t be immersed in all this wealth knowing the money came from the death of innocent animals.”
He rose, cocked his head and glared at me with steely gray eyes. He picked up a phone and pushed a button.
“Send a car to take Ms. Irons home.”
Chapter 4: Fantasia Finds Trouble
By Jane Swearngin
“You look like Steven Tyler,” Kassidy said, walking into my bedroom. She opened the curtains with a sharp yank, like she was trying to prove something.
“Don’t you mean Liv Tyler?”
“No, Liv Tyler is mysterious and hot. You look like an old, worn-out rock star with a substance abuse problem. It’s almost been two weeks, Fanny Renee.”
Kass was right. I got the Tony Lama boot from Tristan — all because I can’t enjoy money made from the butchering of animals. It happened so sudden — the cold flash of his gray eyes, the knee-jerk reaction to my honest feelings. I was out the door so fast even Tristan’s head spun.
I went from swimming in luxury to drowning in sorrow atop 180-count percales. It’s vegan versus meatarian. Is that even a word? I’d Google it, but I’m suffering from depression.
My big, bouncy, cocoa-brown hair was now flat and matted. Dark circles flanked my swollen, saucer-like blue eyes. I dragged to my classes — a zombie on the run. My zip zapped. The professors bore on. I think I had attention deficit Tristan Hay disorder (ADTHD). It’s quite rare.
Our brief moments together were special: The Harness Room restaurant where a wolf-whistle ventured from an unknown source, making Tristan snarl. Our first night together when cowboy Bill roped his Betty. And ditching biology so I could be present for Tristan’s sin o’buns.
Kassidy clapped her hands. “Get your fanny out of bed, and comb out the tangles in that cocoa brown mess. It’s a beautiful day, and we’re going to a free outdoor concert. Cowgirl up, ya hear?”
The concert was at a farm on the outskirts of Manhattan. Any time spent on a sea of green under a clear blue sky is a good day. But fill that space with people and music — perfection. Kass and I sat on her purple K-State blanket watching the crowd as we waited for the concert to begin. Families picnicked with buckets of chicken, or sandwiches with the crusts cut off, potato chips, fruit and cookies.
Happiness is a moon pie, I thought as I bit down on the yummy chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker goodness. I took a bite and then held the confection out to behold its beauty — then another bite.
“You know, Tristan’s ranch abuts this farm,” said Kassidy.
“You ruined my moon pie meditation. I shall be forced to eat another.”
My peripheral vision picked up several people moving away from me. Some scrambled to their feet and ran, yelling, screaming and corralling their children with their arms. Jeez, did I say corralling? Anyway, I turned and saw, for a split second, a stampede of one. A single cow kicked up grass and dirt as it raced straight toward me. Kassidy dashed. It hurt like you know what, and then everything went black.
As I came to, I heard Kassidy’s voice far away: “You look awful, like Steven Tyler.” I was lying in a hospital room, an I.V. hooked up to my left hand and a nearby heart monitor beeping a steady rhythm. I heard the hustle and bustle pass outside the door, and then it opened.
There he was, Tristan Hay, peeking in. My heart stopped. Code blue! Emergency! Somebody fetch the crash cart! Yeah, I know, I said fetch. His eyes were dark and swollen — his hair disheveled. I smiled as he approached.
“Aren’t you the lead singer of Aerosmith?” I asked weakly.
“Very funny. I just met Kassidy. Ouch! My self-esteem just took a rare hit.”
“Speaking of hits, was that your heifer that mowed me down?”
“Yeah, I told her about us. A little jealous, that one.”
“You’re not going to hurt her are you?”
“I’m not going to hurt her, and if you’ll take me back, I promise never to spend money on you that was earned from bovine slaughter. I may even participate in meatless Mondays.”
I laughed. “That’s a start, Mr. Hay.”
He leaned down and kissed my forehead, then my eyebrows, down to my cheeks and, finally, my lips, where he lingered and lingered.
Now, if I can just get out of this full body cast. Jeez!
Chapter 5: Tristan’s Secret Exposed
By Kelly Gibbens
If I wasn’t a vegan already I certainly would be one now! The memory of being charged by a crazed Charolais is something that I would like to forget. Fortunately my solicitous caregiver had been very successful in distracting me. Mr. Tristan Hay no less, the zillionaire cattle baron, had put his empire on hold just for me. Jeez!
Tristan, my knight in shining armor. Well, more like knight in Tony Lamas, made sure all my needs were covered. Once I was sprung from my body cast, I made sure I showed my appreciation … uncovered … and often.
Kassidy is stopping by this afternoon, and I’m glad for some girl time. I really need to talk to someone, and Kassidy is the best. She always tells me like it is, keeping it real!
“Lately, Tristan has been so distant. I don’t think it’s my imagination. Something’s not right. The other night he came to bed late. He said he’d been checking on a sick heifer, but the next morning when I saw his jeans they were covered with threads, lots of ’em. And he smelled like fabric softener.”
Kassidy frowned. “Well, babe, sounds like you need to get your rear in gear. You can get him to fess up. I know you, just bat those big baby blues!”
“Jeez! You’re right. It’s just I know it hasn’t been easy for Tristan, what with his mother dying in that freak branding accident and then a few years later, his dad was found smothered under a hay bale. … OK, I’ll do it tonight!”
Dinner conversation was strained. We had made a food agreement: Tristan wouldn’t chow down on a steak in front of me, and I wouldn’t tempt him with tofu. As this was meatless Monday, we both toyed with our entrée of Crispy Buffalo Fried Cauliflower, saying little. I couldn’t bear the tension.
“Tristan, we have to talk. Please tell me what’s wrong. Something is coming between us.”
Before I knew it, I was bawling like a baby. Tristan pulled me into his arms. “I never want to hurt you. But you’re right, there is something.”
Tristan looked deep into my eyes. “I have something to show you. I’ve wanted to for a long time, but I thought you might freak out.”
He took my hand and led me upstairs. The walls were flanked by 20 grand plaques and photos from American Royal shows. I had never been on the third floor. We came to a door. Tristan unlocked it and switched on the lights.
On the walls were quilts of every pattern and color imaginable. It was dazzling. It took my breath away. Jeez!
“Fantasia, this is my secret … my obsession. I’m a quilter! You see my mother was a quilter, but after she died, Dad locked all her things in here. He couldn’t bear to see her quilts. That’s why we always had comforters on the beds.
“I became obsessed with this room, and one day I picked the lock. I found myself surrounded by fabric: cottons, silks, velvets. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t stop fondling the fabrics. Before I knew it, I was cutting out patterns, something an 8-year-old boy shouldn’t do, and then my dad walked in just as I was thumbing a thimble.”
I began to speak, but Tristan shook his head.
“My dad dragged me out of the room and forbade me ever to enter it again. I didn’t go back until years later, after his death. The room had cast a spell on me. I couldn’t stop. The hours I spent in here … quilting. I even had my quilting magazines delivered to a post office box in Kansas City. I didn’t want anyone at the ranch to find out.
“I was once naïve enough to think that I could enter a quilt at the the state fair, but when I got there, I was unable to pull out my ‘Gentleman’s Fancy.’
“I was ashamed. What if some good ol’ boy recognized me? You saw all those plaques downstairs. So my ‘Fancy’ and all the other quilts hang in here. Now you know the truth.”
“Tristan, these are beautiful. You have nothing to be ashamed about.” I found myself stroking the mitered corners of a quilt. “I love all the quilts, especially this one.”
Tristan turned me around. I could see a little of the old Tristan, the one who made my stomach do flip-flops when he cocked his head and smiled.
“Funny you should choose this one. It’s called ‘Emphatically, Yes!’”
I pulled his quilt-worn hands in mine. “Teach me. I want to learn.”
“Are you sure? It might take some getting used to.”
I kissed him. “We have all the time in the world.”
Chapter 6: The Finale
By Larry Hightower
Tristan cocked his head. “You’re OK with my … secret passion?”
I smiled at my hunk. “Everything’s hunky-dory.” I bit my lip. “I have my own … secret passion. I do woodworking — a lot — I even have a name for the curlicues of wood you get when you drill — borange — ’cause you’re boring into wood.”
“Fantastic! We finally have a word that rhymes with orange.” He bent to one knee and took my hand. “Will you marry me?”
You had me at piggin’ string. I pointed to the sumptuous quilt. “Emphatically, yes!” I repeatedly said yes through the night and appreciated his “Gentleman’s Fancy.”
We went to the courthouse to get a marriage license for a Valentine’s Day wedding. We waited in a long line behind cowgirls and cowboys, cowboys and cowboys and cowgirls and cowgirls. Toto, the topography’s unchanged, but the landscape is different.
Tristan, having donated a building to Kansas State, pulled strings so we could be married at mid-court at Bramlage Coliseum during halftime of the KSU-Oklahoma game. We planned an intimate reception at the Harness Room. Kassidy agreed to be my maid of honor and even to be the date of Tristan’s brother, Andy.
“Kass, let’s go dress shopping.”
“I’m doing the final edits on your interview with Tristan. We can go as soon as I email it to the Gazette.”
We went dress shopping. I needed a size two square. Kass needed a size three square. My folks flew in from Oshkosh, b’gosh.
A whirlwind courtship was capped off by a buzzer-beater wedding. OMG, I was Fantasia Irons-Hay. I kissed my husband. “OMG, we’re hitched.” OMG, I’d said hitched.
We immediately left for the Harness Room. We were less than an hour into the reception when the lights went out, not just at the Harness Room, but all over town. People lit the room with their cellphones as we continued to celebrate our love, our wedding and this special Valentine’s Day. The reception tapered off as phone batteries faded. Tristan swept me into his sculpted arms to carry me away. As we left, Andy and Kassidy locked themselves in the restaurant with a treasure trove of fine wines.
On the other side of the world, the supreme leader summoned Melvin Linger, the head of his cyber-attack operations. “Tell me of our glorious success.”
“Revered comrade, I intercepted an email from Manhattan. The subject was ‘The Interview’ and there was an attachment. I assumed it was the Seth Rogen movie and focused our cyber-attack there. We completely shut down Manhattan. It is even darker there at night than … here.”
“Fearless leader, I must confess, I’ve since learned there is more than one Manhattan, and, uh, the one whose power grid we destroyed was in Kansas, not in New York City.”
The dictator raged. “Shazbot! No one understands me but Dennis Rodman.”
His wife pleaded: “Don’t kill the Mel Linger.”
Back in Manhattan, power was restored two days later. Locals assumed the outage was the result of further government cutbacks. Oklahoma fans, who’d been trapped on a stalled escalator, were able to go home. Couples, having no television to watch, did what couples did before there was “Sports Center.”
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I returned Kassidy’s calls, as I’d been tied up earlier. “Kass. How are you?”
“Fine. How’s the new bride?”
“Blissfully happy. We’re already trying to get pregnant. I want to be a mama, Kass. How’d things go with Andy?”
“You remember we locked ourselves in the Harness Room after the reception?”
“We were drinking this delightful Merlot and making out hot and heavy. I was hot, he was heavy. Anyway, at the worst possible moment he jumps up and runs to the bathroom, yelling that the dates he’d eaten had given him cramps.”
“Talk about bad dates. Colitis interuptus.”
The next morning I woke in Tristan’s arms. My big, bouncy, cocoa-brown hair was draped over his rock hard bicep. Suddenly my stomach did a double Axel. I ran to the bathroom big enough to have its own ZIP code. I called Ralph on the big white phone and lost my chow when my stomach did a triple Salchow. I brushed my teeth, gargled and padded back to the bedroom. The concern on Tristan’s face could not have been plainer if it had been written with a Sharpie. Where do panhandlers get magic markers? Focus, Fanny!
The thought hit me like the Charolais in Chapter 4. “Maybe I’m pregnant?”
“Nice!” he brightened. “I told you we ought to make a little Hay while the sun shines!”