I sigh and throw my clothes together into my suitcase — creating one huge jumbled mess. I slam the lid shut and try to zip it up, but it's too full. I give up, glaring stonily at it.
Mom comes into my room. "What's wrong, honey?"
"I can't stand going to Hoofbeats Academy."
"Why ever not? Last year you begged and begged to go."
That was before I knew that Carly was coming, I think sarcastically. This year she's going with me to the riding school too. I used to like her, when we were little kids. But know I'm 14, and, to make a long story short, we're not exactly friends anymore.
It started with Rascal, a little Shetland pony. We went to a different riding school together when we were about 7 or so, and that's where we met Rascal. Believe me, he was the cutest little thing on four legs.
At that riding school, they let us pick which horse we wanted to take lessons on, and it could be 'ours' for the month-and-a-half that we stayed. We both wanted Rascal. That's actually putting it bluntly. We longed for him with our souls and hearts as soon as we met him. That's when things started to go wrong, and I think you can see what I mean.
Well, from that day on we just got farther and farther apart, and when the day came that we got to pick horses, Carly got Rascal. I was mad, mad, mad. But a few days later the trainer said that Carly couldn't manage him, and she made me and her trade. I was pretty smug about that, as you can imagine. Toss in a couple more incidents between me and Carly, and we're perfect enemies.
I glance around me at my surroundings — a rough bunk in Cabin 16 with about 8 or 9 others exactly like it all around it. It's pretty cool, except that Carly is sleeping directly beneath me. That really gets me. It wouldn't be so bad if I were sleeping below her, but if it's like this, then Carly gets the benefits of kicking me any old time — and I'll bet you anything that she's the type that prefers midnight to perform her ghastly tricks on me.
I throw my suitcase down on my bed. Tomorrow we check out the horses and the next day we pair up with them. I honestly wonder who I'll get. The rich kids, including Carly (her mom split up with her dad last year, leaving Carly and her mom all the money) all brought their own expensive, perfectly trained horses.
I'm not exactly rich. But if I was, I'd make my own Academy. This one would be exclusive and I'd check everybody over before they came.
I stand by the gate, looking the horses over. None really appeal to me that much. The other girls are having a great time choosing the ones they think are the best.
“Emily, lookit this one! Hey wait! No, over THERE!!!”
“Jane, that's MINE. I saw it FIRST!!!”
“No way! I TOUCHED him first!”
“Hey, will you quit it, Lana?”
So you can see that all the noise in general causes great stress to those of us who are headache-prone. I think I can feel one coming on right now.
Today they made a chart of who's in which class. I made it to the top of Advanced 1. Advanced 1 is the highest you can get. Carly's not exactly rejoicing about that, but I hope she'll get over it.
It's pairing-up day. I glance at the horses again, feeling somewhat desperate. I'm not getting ANYWHERE. Advanced 2 is having elections for which girl gets which horse now — and that means we're next.
“And it's up for Advanced 1.” I turn my attention to Janet, the manager of pairing-up. “Hmm, let's see. We have six in this class, and six horses left. Sharon, my assistant, will hand you slips of paper, on which you are to write the name of the horse that you think you want, and then we will vote.”
A hush falls on the crowd of jostling girls as Sharon, a small blonde-haired 19-year-old, hands out the papers and pens.
I stare at the pen of horses with an expert eye, sizing them up. I finally scrawl 'Moondust' on my paper. He's a dappled grey Arabian gelding, with the best confirmation of all.
It's time for voting, now. Emily and me are the only ones who wanted Moondust, and I win the vote. Sharon leads him over to me.
“Good luck,” she tells me.
The late afternoon sun wafts in through the window of the barn. I feel Moondust breathing softly on my arm. I stroke his nose.
We're actually supposed to be having some sort of dance right now in the main hall. I figured nobody would miss me, so I sneaked out to the barn when the music got really loud.
The other horses are quiet.
Sometimes, I wish that my life could be exciting. In books you're always reading about these kids that save people's lives and solve mysteries and stuff, but my life is mostly blah.
And Moondust just doesn't suit me. I'm scared to let it show that we don't get along good, because I might get thrown out of Advanced 1, but I still think that the trainer notices.
I give Moondust one last stroke and then leave the barn. I run towards the cabins, hoping that the dance hasn't let out yet. I don't need to get in trouble to wreck my summer even more.
I glance out to the woods, and in that second I see a flash of pure black in the woods, then for one instant a perfectly shaped Thoroughbred horse's head, and then it disappears.
I shrug, wondering if it was my imagination. Deep down I know it wasn't.
I step over branches, trying not to make any noise. I search the ground for hoofprints.
Suddenly I uncover one in some soft mud. My heart leaps. I find another one, and then another. I follow the trail they make.
It's about midnight. Tonight there's a full moon, though. I can see easily, even if it's the dead of night.
After I follow the hoofprints, a clearing comes into view. A pool of water reflecting the moonlight is in the center.
And beside the pool, is the horse, standing stock still, staring at me.
I hold my breath, not daring to move.Thanks for reading, and comment for more!
I carefully advance a step.
"Hey boy," I breathe, holding out my hand. Every muscle in his gleaming body is tense.
"I wonder where you came from," I whisper. "Do you have a name? A horse like you deserves a name."
He comes forward and reaches out his nose. I can feel him sniffing my hand.
Up in the sky, I see a shooting star.
"That's what I'll call you," I tell him. "Shooting Star." I put out my other hand to stroke his forehead.
My thoughts fly away. Maybe I can ride him. I take another step towards him, and I land on a muddy patch in the ground. My feet fly out from under me, and I land hard on the ground, then slide helplessly into the slimy pond.
I hear a crashing noise and I know that my horse is running away.
"Great," I hear myself mutter sarcastically.
By the time I look up, Shooting Star is gone and silence falls again over the forest.
I stare off into the woods for a second... hoping he'll come back. But the trees are silent, except for the slight breeze that rustles them softly.
I look into the woods one more time, sigh, brush myself off, and head back towards the riding school.
I come into the clearing. The cabins and buildings are silent. Panic strikes me for an instant as I realize that I can't remember which cabin I'm in.
Oh, duh. Cabin sixteen.
I walk towards it, silently. It's on the far end of the row of cabins, so I have to be careful not to wake anyone up.
I check my watch. It's 2:09 a.m. I'm probably safe. I watch my feet, making sure I don't step on anything that would make noise. Then I start running.
CRASH! Something hits me dead on. I crash to the ground.
And angry voice snarls.
"What're you doing out here?"
I half-pick myself up from the ground. It's the second fall I've had tonight.
"I could ask you the same thing," I pant.
As I recover from my shock, I realize the form towering above me is Carly. This is the last person I want to meet tonight. I get all the way up. I'm half a head shorter than her, still.
"Well, spit it out. Where were you tonight?" Carly asks.
"Never mind. What are you doing out?" I ask, knowing full well I won't get an answer, and even if I do it will be a lie, more than likely.
She pauses and bites her lip. "Look, you keep silent and I keep silent and nothing will happen."
"It's a deal," I hear myself say.
We shake on it, then head our separate ways.
I plunk down on my bunk, and wonder what in the world Carly is up to tonight.