Dusty Road Ranch
"So... on Monday morning? I'll be there from 8 doing chores. You know Duchess loves to fuss over in the morning!" I say.
Cheryl smiles at me, clutching her books. "Sure! My Dad'll bring Ace in the trailer. See you at about 10am?" She says.
"'Course. See ya, Cheryl!" I say back. The bell lets off a ear splitting ring.
"That's my geography lesson. Bye, Nate." I just smile.
Hasn't she picked up I know her lesson timetable from heart? I wave at her and head to Maths. So there. I made a sorta date with my crush. I finally plucked up the courage to ask her on a trail. I first met her on her first day here.
Bouncy, light brown hair, chestnut eyes, clear skin, pink lips, hourglass shape, looks great in jods and a hoodie, my kind of girl.
I was late for math and I ran into her. Er... bumped into her actually, and knocked into her so hard her books and fell. As I was apologizing, I picked up her folder. "So, you like horses?" I inquire. Obviously. Everything she had had horses on them.
"Yeah, I live horses! You?" She answered.
"Heck yeah!" I laughed. That memory was clear in my mind. That was January. Now, late May, we're pretty good friends. She showed up that weekend at Dusty Road Ranch to ride. Where I work. Turns out she had her own horse, Ace, a lovely, black stallion, with one stocking and a blaze, 16hh.
We rode together in lessons and hung out at the barn but never went on a hack together. I suddenly realize everyone is staring. "Erm... um... 4?" I mumble. Everyone erupts in laughter. My best friend, Shane, slaps his forehead.
"Nathan! Haven't you been listening? The width on a square is the equality..." blah blah blah.
As maths ends, Shane walks up to me. "Nate! What's up? You were in a daze the whole lesson, you idiot!" Shane says with disdain.
"Sorry," I say half-heartedly. "But you won't guess what! I asked Cheryl out!" I whisper.
"You didn't!" Shane grins, his tone changing.
"Okay, so, not a date-date, but I asked her out on a trail!" I fess up.
Shane shrugs. "Good enough" He says. "You and horses, though, Nate. What's so special about a four-legged animal?" He says, shaking his head, and heads off to English.
That's what's different about me and my best friend. He likes Arkman Origins, Batman, I prefer leasing an abused horse. He'll play Uncharted 4, I'll go on a hack. I sigh. Doesn't he realize? At 15, jumping 4 foot is big. I've been riding for 6 years, and for my twelfth birthday, mum and dad gave me Duchess, a 7-year old Palomino mare.
I exhale, blowing my black fringe up. School stinks.
Saturday spins by, with me skidding for my jeans and t-shirt, because I slept in late. 7:45am. I'm supposed to be at the barn by 8:00am. Sunday rolls along, with me going on a quiet hack with Duchess. And then Monday. My sorta date. I look at what to wear. Cool and casual. A tight blue tee and jeans. Don't be overdressed when you plan on jumping over ditches.
I cycle to the ranch and walk to Duchess's stall. "Whats up, baby girl?" I say. I open up the stall and muck out, give her water and feed, and start grooming. "You won't believe what I got you, Duchy! A new red halter and lead rope! Aren't you gonna look snazzy!" I say in baby talk to her.
"WHAT AN IDIOT! TALKS TO HIS HORSE LIKE A MUM TALKS TO HER BABY GIRL!"
I groan. I know who that is. James. "Why don't you mind your business!" I snap. Him and his cronies, Brandon and Connor laugh. As soon as Lily walks by, they are all wolf whistles and attitude.
"What's up, babe? New jeans?"
"You look hot!"
"Chick alert!" They all say.
Lily looks at them and raises her eyebrows. She has blonde hair, big turquoise eyes, and a good figure. But she is really sweet. She walks on.
"What a fox!"
I roll my eyes. "Come on, girl. Let's go. Cheryl won't be here till 10, and you need some exercise."
"Oohh! Who's Cheryl, Romeo!"
I just ignore them, and tack up. I kick off into a canter as soon as I'm onto the plains. I go on and on, the wind blowing my fringe, whipping through my t-shirt. Everything is okay once I'm on Duchess's back.
I have just learnt to gallop. I take a deep breath in, and raise in my stirrups. I hope that I don't fall. And suddenly, I'm galloping.
"Oh My Gosh! I'm doing it!" I yell to Duchess. It's a dream. She gallops faster, and suddenly, my feet slipped from the stirrups.
"Dang it!" I fall off Duchess, and the wind is literally knocked out of me. I swear, and feel my elbow. I'm then thinking quick.
"Duchess! Girl! Where are you!" I shout. " Oh man..." I mutter. Not a good start, Nate. I hold my head in my hands, and start panicking.
1. Because my elbow, my butt, and my leg are killing, and I think this is what hell is like,
2. My "so-called date" is in an hour, and I'm far away on a trail, without a horse, and a throbbing leg.
3. My horse has run off, and I have no idea where the heck she is.
"This is bad." I look around the place. It's a field of long grass, and I have no idea how to get to the ranch. I take my phone out of my pocket, and it's not there. Of course. I never ride with my phone. I put my head in my hands, and mutter, "Just shoot me now, seriously," to a butterfly on a flower.
I then hear hooves, and a neigh, and turn around, carefully, because my butt is still trying it's best to make my life a living hell.
"Duchess! Yes! How did you find me!" She trots up to me, and nuzzles me, accidentally touching my elbow.
"Ow... sorry girl, not your fault, stupid Nate just hurt himself..."
She whinnies. I look at the saddle. Here it goes...One, eternity later... (in Nate's head)...
I'm up in the saddle, whimpering, cause my butt is on a western saddle, which, by the way, isn't like my recliner in my living. Technically, not mine, it's my dad's, but... I use it a lot since he is rarely home, because he works in the military.
I start cantering, heroically trying not to cry. It's already 15 minutes past the time I'm supposed to meet Cheryl when I get to the ranch again.
As I walk into the barn, leading Duchess, I see Cheryl sitting on a bale of hay, rubbing Rex the dog, Mr. and Mrs. Hudson's dog, who own the Ranch.
"Cheryl!" I say. "She looks up, and I see pure delight in her face.
"Nate! I thought you wouldn't show up! Are you ok? You're walking funny. And aren't you left-handed? Why are you leading Duchess with your right hand?"
I sigh, and motion for her to follow me to Duchess's stall. I tell her the whole story. She looks distraught when she thinks I won't ride.
"No way!" I say, when she asks if I want to sit this one out.
"Are you sure? It might hurt. I think you should check your leg and elbow." She says.
I know she's concerned, and that's a good sign, cause it means she likes me enough to be concerned.
"Cheryl, thanks, but no thanks. Let's just go for a gentle hack. Have you got Ace?" I say.
"Course, he's in a stall. I'll tack him up." She answers.
"I'll come, I think Duchess needs a break." I say, trying to show her how caring I am. Plus, Duchess looked exhausted.
Cheryl smiles at me. Another good sign. She's got nice teeth, actually. Nice, white and straight.
We chat while she grooms Ace and tacks him up, me sitting on the barn door. It was uncomfortable but I wanted to look cool.
Finally, we were ready to ride.
This has not gone off to a great start. In fact, it really stinks. I did everything wrong. I made awkward conversation, said bad things about James and his cronies, (which makes me look like a gossip) and mentioned my ex. Well done, Nate. Well done. Smooth.
"So, do you have any siblings?" Cheryl asks, after ages of awkward silence.
"Er, no." I say. "You?"
Cheryl laughs. "No, definitely not. I think having siblings are a pain. My boyfriend has siblings, and they are so annoying." She says casually.
There's a deafening roar in my head.
"Boyfriend?" I squeak.
Cheryl smiles dreamily. "His name's Casey. I miss him so much already. I miss Colorado a lot too. " She says sadly.
"Oh, I just thought..." I trail off. Cheryl looks at me closely, and I know this is gonna be embarrassing.
"Nate? You didn't think this was, like, a date, did you?" She questions.
I curse under my breath. "No. Of course not. You're not my type anyway. We get should get back." I say, sharp and coldly. Cheryl looks sad, but I'm just annoyed. That didn't go well.
We say an awkward goodbye at the stables, and she leaves. Leaving me to deal with Brandon poking and teasing me about my date. As if.
"I love this one!" My Mum squealed. "It's so pretty! Oh, Nate, everyone will be so jealous of you! Take this one!" Mum said.
I sigh, and wonder did God forget to put a brain in her head, because seriously? I'll look like the 4th of July. Doesn't Mum know? That's a dressing up saddle pad! For parades!
"No. I'm taking the plain beige one." I say firmly. Mum opens her mouth, and I know she's gonna say "think about it" but I beat her to it.
"For sure," I say. I don't need to look a bigger idiot in front of Cheryl. Duchess is really, my only friend right now.
Shane called me earlier this morning to ask if I wanted to go to the beach in 2 hours' time because there was a fun fair and arcade on the boardwalk, and when I said I was gonna go shopping for tack today, Shane just huffed and said, "fine".
I sigh and pull out my saved 3,000 bucks I had been working for at the stable for since I was 12. I choose a saddle, headgear, and some other stuff, and have just enough for some treats for Duchess. I know she's gonna look great at the jumping competition.
James, here comes hurricane Nate. Watch out.Continued in Comments Section below.