Allison Jewel Rembert, AJ, as most people called her, wiped a hand across her forehead. It’s hard to keep cool in the summers of Roseburg, Oregon.
As AJ stood grooming her horse, Dixie, she thought about her upcoming birthday. In six more days, she would be thirteen. Wow. I can’t believe I’m going to be thirteen! She thought. It sounds so mature.
AJ ran the brush over Dixie’s body one last time, then let her go in their twelve-acre pasture. AJ leaned on the wooden fence and watched Dixie trot off to meet Charlie, AJ’s mother’s horse.
As AJ turned to leave, she saw Dixie drop to the ground and start rolling in the dirt. “Oh thanks a bunch!” She said sarcastically. “You know you’re a brat, Dixie, right?” AJ sighed. She started to walk back to the two-story, weathered, white house.
As she opened the door, she breathed in the smell of fresh baked cookies. “Mmmm! Snicker-doodles!” AJ said to her grandmother.
“Your favorite!” Gram said.
“Hey! They’re my favorite too!” Ryan, AJ’s twin brother, chimed in.
As he reached for a cookie, Gram swatted his hand away. “Would you at least wait until they’ve cooled a little before you eat them all?”
”Fine,” he said, “they’re better cold anyway.” Gram smiled as he left the room.
“How’s Mom?” AJ asked. Her mom, Jenny, who loved to be with the horses, was pregnant, and lately had been having back aches.
“She’s upstairs in your room borrowing your Bible.”
“What happened to her Bible?” AJ asked. “She’s misplaced it.” Gram explained.
“You mean she lost it.”
“I’m gonna go say hi.”
“Alright.” Gram turned to the calendar.
“Y’know, I, personally, like snicker-doodles better when they’re hot.” Gram turned back to see AJ snatch a cookie off the plate and run up the stairs giggling.
“Allison Jewel!” Gram yelled up the stairs. AJ walked into her room, seeing her mom sitting on her bed reading AJ’s Bible.
“Where are you reading in?” AJ took a bite of her cookie.
Mom looked up, “Hey! Listen to this ’He makes the wind His messengers, flaming fire His ministers.”
“Where’s that found?” AJ asked again.
“Psalms chapter 104 verse 4.” Mom looked at AJ’s cookie. “Hey, I thought I heard Gram say to wait.”
“I like ‘em better hot.” AJ grinned at Mom.
“Just think, when you listen to the wind, it could be a message from God.” Mom sighed with content. “Thanks for letting me borrow your Bible.”
“No problem.” AJ sat down at her desk and took out her sketch book.
“How are the horses comin’ along?” Mom asked.
“Dixie rolled right after I groomed her,” AJ made a face.
“No,” Mom laughed, “I meant the drawings.”
“I know.” AJ grinned again. “I guess they’re OK” she said, “Do you want to see them?”
“Of course!” AJ handed Mom her sketch book and she started to look through the pages.
“I really like this one,” she handed the book back to her. “You’re getting really good.”
“Thanks,” AJ said, “Too bad I can only draw horses.” She sighed. She had tried to draw other things, but they didn’t turn out very good.
“You just need more practice,” Mom said.
“That’s all.” AJ sighed, “I guess you’re right.”
“Aren’t I always?” Mom grinned.
AJ took another bite of her cookie, “Rats.”
“What’s wrong?” Mom asked.
“My snicker doodle is cold.”
”Oh well.” AJ put the rest of the cookie in her mouth.
As Mom stood up to leave, she asked, “can I keep this,” she held up AJ’s Bible, “until I find mine?”
“Sure, go ahead.” AJ turned to her sketching.
“Thanks.” Mom said. AJ grunted as Mom left. When she was drawing the curve of a horse’s ear, some golden-brown hair fell onto her freckled face. She got a hair tie and put her waist length hair into a ponytail, then went back to her horse.
As AJ was putting the finishing touches on her drawing, her dad came in. “Hey,” he said.
“Hey, what’s up?” AJ looked up at him. “Mom just wanted me to give this back to you.” He handed AJ her Bible.
“Oh, thanks.” She stood and walked over and put it on her bookshelf.
“Where was it?”
“She remembered she left it in the car,” he chuckled at her forgetfulness. “That’s a good one.” he pointed to her drawing.
“Thanks,” it was of a mare nuzzling her foal. “The foal’s hooves aren’t quite right.”
“You just need to study them.”
“And how am I going to do that?” She asked. “You’re always saying that we won’t be breeding any time soon.”
“Maybe you’ll just have to visit someone else’s foal.” He said.
“Maybe.” she sighed.
When he turned to leave, AJ thought she saw him smiling. As she sat wondering what that was all about, she heard Ryan come bounding up the stairs.
“Yes, Ryan?” She said to him when he came to the door. “Gram wanted me to ask if you want any more cookies.” AJ looked at his wild brown hair and brown eyes.
“So, do you?” He raised his eyebrows.
“Of course I do!” AJ followed him downstairs. When they got to the kitchen Dad was on his way out the door. AJ and Ryan looked at each other then at Mom, who was sitting at the table.
“The Grayors called, their dog is having her puppies.” She explained.
“Awesome!” AJ and Ryan both exclaimed. Ben, their dad, was a veterinarian, and he often got called to work. AJ looked out the window and saw him pull away in the truck with the horse trailer on it.
“Why is he taking the trailer?” she asked. AJ noticed that Mom glanced at Gram before she said, “He’s in a hurry, and I guess it’s still hitched.”
“Oh.” She took a cookie off the plate and started munching on it.
“So, what do you two want to do for your birthday?” Gram asked Ryan and AJ.
“Eat cake.” Ryan grinned.
“Of course you do,” AJ shook her head. “I actually want an ice cream cake.”
“I’m cool with that.” Ryan nodded.
“But what do you want to do?” Mom asked.
“How ‘bout a trail ride?” AJ suggested.
“Nah, too hot for that.” Ryan shook his head. “We should go play laser tag!” He said.
“No way.” AJ said.
“We could invite the Carsons to come swimming.” Gram said.
“Sure! They haven‘t come over in a while.” AJ said.
“Awesome!” Ryan agreed.
The Carsons was a family of seven, the oldest son, Thomas, at nineteen, was in Bible college. Heather, at seventeen, was wanting to go to college to be an art teacher. Nikki, AJ’s best friend, at fourteen, was just thirteen months older. Mark, Ryan’s best friend, at thirteen, was just two months older. Ruby, AJ’s other best friend, was eleven months younger.
“So, a pool party with the Carsons it is!” Mom said.
“Y’know, a puppy would be a pretty cool birthday present.” Ryan hinted.
“Maybe,” Mom said, “We’ll think about it.”
“Really?!” Ryan asked. “You're not kidding?”
“I said we’ll think about it.” Mom cautioned.“But even if you did get a puppy, you would be the one who would have to train it and take care of it.” Gram said.
“That’s ok.” He shrugged.
“Have you groomed Cookie yet?” AJ asked Ryan. Ryan’s horse, Cookies ‘n cream, also known as Cookie, was a white appaloosa with black spots.
“No, not yet.” he answered. “I’ll come and help.” She followed him out the door.
As they were walking AJ said, “Y’know that ’we’ll think about it’ usually means of course, right?”
“Duh, of course I do.” He said. He disappeared into the barn, then came out carrying a halter and a bucket of brushes. When they reached the gate, he whistled and Cookie came running. Ryan slid through the rails of the fence.
As he slipped on the halter, he said to Cookie, “Man, you’re dusty!” He patted Cookie’s neck and a cloud of dust came off. AJ opened the gate for Ryan so he could lead Cookie to the hitching post. After she closed the gate, AJ grabbed the bucket and walked over to Ryan and Cookie. AJ took a rubber currycomb and handed it to Ryan.
“If I did get a puppy, would you help me train him?” Ryan asked.
“Sure,” AJ took out a brush for herself. “But only if he’s ours.”
“Never mind, then.” Ryan teased.
After ten minutes of brushing, they finally got all the dust out. AJ walked back to the pasture to open the gate while Ryan untied Cookie and led him into the pasture.
“I hope he doesn’t roll like Dixie did.” AJ said to Ryan as he took off Cookie‘s halter.
“Yeah,” he said as he saw a dirty Dixie, grazing out in the pasture. “It took forever to get all the dust off of Cookie.” Ryan said as he watched Cookie trot off to meet Dixie. Ryan came out and closed the gate, then walked to the barn to put away the brushes and the halter.
When they stepped into the kitchen, Gram and Mom were sipping glasses of strawberry lemonade.
“Which flavors of ice cream do you guys want?” Mom asked.
AJ grinned slyly. “Black licorice and cotton candy.”
“EW! Gross!” Ryan gagged.
AJ laughed, “I’m just kidding!” She smiled.
“How about I pick one, you pick one?” Ryan nodded.
“Mine’s cookies ’n cream.”
“Oh, har har,” AJ shook her head. “Well, we need some chocolate, so I pick chocolate peanut butter.”
Mom and Gram nodded. “Great! The cookies ’n cream and the chocolate peanut butter balance each other.” Mom said.
“Now, since that’s settled, I’m going to go swimming.” AJ said.
“I’ll come too!” Ryan said. AJ and Ryan raced upstairs.