The Red Filly-Chapter 3

           

            Bethany stood at the end of the cafeteria line looking for her friend, Octavia. Her only friend.

            “Move!” said the freshman who had finished paying for her lunch just after her.

            Bethany scooted out of the way and continued to look for Octavia. Even though Bethany was a senior, the petite, blonde freshman girl, had no respect for her or the pecking order when it came to Bethany. Bethany was the resident ‘weirdo’, so the normal high school pecking order didn’t apply to her.

            “Bethany, over here,” Octavia called out from a corner table.

Bethany smiled an unseen smile from behind her light blue, cloth mask, when she saw her friend. She walked the short distance and set her tray down across from her friend and removed her mask, so she could eat.

When the pandemic started last spring, school had been shut down almost immediately. They had to finish out the rest of the year using Chromebooks for virtual learning. It had been especially hard on Bethany, because she wouldn’t see Octavia again until summer, when her mother finally stopped freaking out as much about the coronavirus. So, for Bethany, having to wear a mask was not a big deal, as long as she could get out of the house and intermingle with the rest of the humans. But not all the humans were…

“Well, looks who it is, the nigger and the retard,” said Chet Dickson as he passed the table where Octavia and Bethany sat. He said it low, so no one else could hear.

“Shut up Chet!” shouted Bethany. “I hate you!”

Every eye in the cafeteria turned toward them as Chet walked on snickering under his breath.

Octavia reached out and touched Bethany’s arm, even though they weren’t allowed to touch at school. “Bethany be quiet. Everyone is staring at us.”

Tears started flowing down Bethany’s face.

Octavia knew that if Bethany lost control, she would have a meltdown right here in the cafeteria. “Bethany, it’s okay. Just calm down, please,” said Octavia, still touching her arm.

“Octavia, how can you be okay with what he called us?” said Bethany between sobs.

“I’m not,” said Octavia between clenched teeth. “Don’t for a second, think that I’m not angry too, but no one else heard what he said. It’s our word against his. And we’re at the bottom of the pecking order at this school and this town, for that matter. He’s a jock and belongs to an important family in this town. Our families are not so important…”

“But your brother Lucas, is a deputy,” Bethany reasoned.

“Yeah, he’s their token black deputy, because ‘Black Lives Matter’ you know,” she answered snidely.

“But Octavia…” Bethany whined.

“Please Bethany, just do what I ask. Now is not the time to take a stand. We have to be smart about this,” said Octavia.

“No touching allowed,” said Mr. Green, the assistant principal as he passed the two girls.

Octavia removed her hand, but continued to plead with Bethany with her eyes.

Bethany still had tears streaming down her face, but she got herself under control and wasn’t sobbing anymore. “Octavia, I hate being different, a weirdo.”

“You’re not a weirdo. And different is not a bad thing. Do most people really achieve anything special? Think about it. It’s the weirdos and people who dare to be different who go on to greatness. They don’t accept the status quo.”

“I guess,” said Bethany through her sniffles.

“I don’t understand why you won’t trust me Bethany. I’m your friend, I wouldn’t lie to you.”

“I know. I just hate being different.”

“And I’m not considered different?” asked Octavia, eyes wide with sarcasm and frustration.

“It’s not the same thing. When you leave this racist little town, it will be okay for you. I’ll be a weirdo no matter where I go,” said Bethany as she started crying again, quietly this time.

“Really?! You think racism is only in Dale City?! Do you even watch the news?!”

“No,” answered Bethany.

Octavia looked at her for a moment, both of them silent and then Octavia laughed, “Oh Bethany, I love you, but you need to open your eyes to the ways of the world. You’re not the only one who is persecuted. And you really need to learn to embrace your differences or you’ll spend your whole life wallowing in self-pity and end up a bitter old lady.”

………….

Bethany stepped off the bus in front of the little peach colored, manufactured home she lived in with her mom. Her little grade horse, Starbuck, trotted up to the fence to the left of the house and nickered, when he saw her. She set her backpack on the porch and then went over to greet him. He nuzzled her with his reddish-brown nose, and she rubbed the big star on this forehead.

Helene pulled up in the driveway and after cutting off the engine to the massive, old, truck, it chugged a couple of times before completely giving up. Helene sighed, buying a new vehicle was simply not in the budget right now, or would it ever be… Before stepping out, she looked over at Bethany who was now inside the fence, hugging Starbuck. Helene could see Bethany’s body shaking with sobs even from the driveway on the other side of the house. Helene sat there a moment watching her daughter, sighed again and then stepped out of the truck. She walked around to the other side, opened the passenger side door, grabbed all the grocery bags and her purse and after hoisting them from the truck, shut the door with her foot and headed toward the house. She called out to Bethany, “Hey baby, I’ve got groceries, could you come help me put them up?”

Bethany didn’t hear her or acted as if she hadn’t. Helene was frustrated. She had been on her feet all day and was exhausted. A van from a retirement community had come in that day to purvey Amir’s shop and they insisted on asking endless questions about every piece in the shop. Amir was happy to oblige. And Helene enjoyed helping the ladies too, but she was on her feet for hours and packing up endless bits of antiquity, so now she just wanted to make an easy dinner and then sit down with her nightly glass of wine or two. She had a fresh box amongst her groceries and was eager to pop it open. But when Bethany came home like this, she knew it would be hours before she could relax.

Helene carried the groceries into the house and after setting them down on the little, round, wooden, kitchen table, she started putting them up. Their grey tabby cat, Trixie, jumped up to help her and was purring as she did so. Helene was agitated and wanted to snap at the cat, but Trixie looked at her with such unconditional love in her eyes, that Helene’s heart melted. She rubbed the aging cat’s head and said, “I love you Trixie, but I have things to do right now.”

Helene started to boil the water for the hot dogs, and opened the can of chili for the chili dogs she was making for dinner. It was one of Bethany’s favorite meals, so hopefully she would cheer up. Helene eyed the big box of wine she had set on the counter. It was only 4:30, but she wanted, no, needed a glass. Besides, like her granny used to say, ‘It’s five o’ clock somewhere.’

She was watching the hot dogs boil, with glass of wine in hand when she heard Bethany come in through the front door and go straight to her room and slam the door and start sobbing as soon as it was closed. Helene sighed for a third time. She loved her daughter with all her heart, but when Bethany was like this, she was unreasonable. Her sobs were so loud, it was obvious that Helene would be dealing with a full-scale meltdown tonight. Meltdowns were exhausting for both of them. Helene downed the rest of the wine in the glass, set it down on the counter, turned off the fire under the hotdogs and headed for Bethany’s room.

Helen knocked on her daughter’s door, “Bethany, what’s wrong? Please let me in.”

“Go away!”

“Bethany please.”

“Go away, Mom!”

“Bethany, please open the door. I love you. I just want to help you. Do you need a hug?”

Silence. Then the door slowly opened. Helene stepped into the room and held her arms open. Bethany sunk into her mother’s body and began sobbing even louder. Helene just held her daughter and didn’t say anything. It had taken Helene awhile to learn to do that, because when she was upset, she wanted to talk everything out. That technique did not work with Bethany. Her daughter had to sob the emotion out first and then they could talk…carefully.

Helene surveyed Bethany’s lair while her daughter sobbed. ‘Filthy,’ she thought to herself. There were books, comic books and clothes piled on top of the dresser; some of which had fallen off and others about to give up their precarious positions as well. Her nightstand was in the same state, bed unmade, empty diet coke bottles littered the floor. A floor which god knows when had last been introduced to a vacuum cleaner. Helene closed her eyes. That battle would have to be fought another day, now was not the time.

Bethany’s sobs were slowing so Helene took a chance and asked, “What happened? Why are you so upset?”

“Chet Dickson…” Bethany began and started sobbing again.

Helene tensed up, she didn’t make it a practice to hate people, but she hated that boy and his crew. She wanted to smash their heads together for hurting her baby. Helene was not a violent person, except when it came to protecting her daughter. But of course, smashing Chet’s head was not an option in civilized society.

“What happened?” Helene prodded.

“He called me retarded and Octavia the n-word,” said Bethany, now just crying lightly.

Helene clenched her fists and then relaxed them. She knew she had to remain calm if she had any hope of calming Bethany. “I’m so sorry Bethany. How is Octavia?”

“Octavia is fine.”

“Are you sure? Dealing with that racist, hateful asshole can’t be any easier for her than it is for you.”

“Well, she didn’t start crying,” answered Bethany.

“That doesn’t prove anything. Some people hold their emotions inside,” said Helene.

“Well, she seemed okay. She said that I needed to calm down because no one would believe us that he said it.”

“She’s probably right about that unfortunately, which convinces me that she’s not okay.”

“Octavia said, I need to embrace my differences and that I’m not the only one that’s persecuted,” said Bethany, no longer crying.

“See, that right there…she’s just as upset as you, but holding it in. And she’s right,” said Helene, shaking with anger over the pain Chet caused the two girls. Helene was especially fond of Octavia, because not only had the girl befriended her friendless daughter, but she had helped Bethany get the job at Orion Racing. Octavia would forever be dear to Helene because of what she had done for Bethany.

“Mom! Why are you taking her side?! You should be on my side!” shouted Bethany.

“I’m not taking Octavia’s side. You girls are on the same side. Just because I agree with something she says, doesn’t mean I’m against you, nor does it mean she’s against you. Why can’t you see that I’m always on your side? And so is Octavia!”

“No! You’re both disagreeing with me! That means you’re against me! Leave me alone!” Bethany shouted while rapidly flapping her hands.

“Bethany, please listen to reason. We love you,” said Helene.

“No, leave me alone!” shouted Bethany as she pushed Helene out of her room and then slammed and locked the door behind her.

Helene stood outside the door. She was shaking with anger. Anger at Chet, anger at Bethany for being completely unreasonable and anger at Bethany’s dad for abandoning them. But most of all, she was angry with herself for being angry and resentful. This routine had happened so many times, but it was exhausting for Helene every time. She knew Bethany would see reason once she calmed down and the meltdown had completely subsided, but these occurrences always sent Helene into a depression, because she worried so much about what would happen to her beloved daughter if she was not there to protect her.

She decided to go have another glass of wine.

The Red Filly-Chapter 1

Honey2018

Bethany Resmon watched the flashy red filly galloping with tail held high, flipping her head as she floated across the green pasture, and Bethany felt as if her heart would burst from her chest. She thought to herself, this must be what love at first sight feels like.  Bethany memorized every inch of her as her mom drove their 1978 Ford F150 up the long, winding gravel road that led to the house and the main barn.  All the thoroughbreds were beautiful at Orion Racing Stables, but this filly had a smaller head than the rest, with a slightly dished face and delicate, curved ears.

“Mom, stop the truck!” Bethany shouted.

Helene stopped the truck after pulling off into the grass to the side of the gravel driveway because another truck was approaching theirs as it was leaving the ranch.

“Mom!  Look!” Bethany was still shouting.

Helene stuck her hand in Bethany’s face flat and palm side down.  The signal that Bethany was being too loud.  Bethany’s eyebrows scrunched down for a second because she really hated when her mother did that.  But instead of getting in an argument, Bethany placed her left hand on her mother’s chin and turned her head toward the filly.

Helene immediately dropped her hand because she was mesmerized by the beauty of this filly too. Bethany knew that when her mom was young, she had spent time with horses.  Her mom often talked about one she loved with all her heart, a little bay with a star she had named, Starbuck after the character in Battlestar Galactica.

“You see her, Mom?” asked Bethany.

“Yes…she’s beautiful…I’ve never seen anything like her,” Helene’s voice was breaking.

Bethany saw tears in her mother’s eyes.  Her mother never cried.

“Are you okay, Mom?” Bethany asked.

“I’m fine,” Helene laughed. “I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed having horses in my life.”

The other pickup pulled up alongside them.  The young man driving it lowered the passenger side window as his tires grinded to a stop in the gravel and a little dust floated out behind his truck; a sleek, black, Ram, at least a 2019 model.  He had to lower it for them to even see him through the tinted windows.  Their windows were already down because…no A/C and late Spring in Texas.

“Hi!” said the young man.  He looked to be about nineteen years old.  A couple of years older than Bethany, Helene guessed.

“Hi,” responded Bethany and Helene in unison.

“I’m Tyler.  I’m an assistant trainer here. Are you the new exercise rider?” he asked while looking at Bethany.

“Yes,” said Bethany.

“Are you excited?” he asked, smiling through perfect teeth.

“Yes,” Bethany said again.

“She’s just nervous,” said Helene, “I’m Helene and this is my daughter, Bethany.”

“Well, it’s nice to meet you both,” Tyler said looking toward Helene.  But his attention reverted to Bethany, which wasn’t surprising because men often took notice of her curves, and thick, wavy, long copper hair.  Bethany was often oblivious though since she spent most of her time up in her own head.

“I’m looking forward to riding with you Bethany,” Tyler continued, gaze still fixed on Bethany.

Helene poked Bethany and she responded, “Me too.” And smiled.

“It was nice to meet you both,” said Tyler.

“It was nice to meet you too,” Bethany and Helene said in unison again.

Tyler raised the passenger window and pulled away.  Helene pulled their old truck back onto the gravel drive, so the air was full of the sound of the tires from two trucks grinding over gravel as dust misted about them both.

“Mom, you don’t need to make excuses for me. I didn’t say anything wrong,” said Bethany.

“It’s just that you don’t seem friendly when you just give one-word answers,” said Helene.

“Mom, you worry too much about me.  My answers were just fine,”

“But Bethany…”

“Mom, please just drop it. Please.  You always do this.  This is a good day. You just saw a beautiful red filly. Just enjoy it. Please,” said Bethany.

“Okay, you’re right.  I just can’t help but worry.  You’re my only child and I love you,” said Helene.

“Mom, I love you too. Just relax,” Bethany said with a smile.

When they pulled up to the house, a tall, tanned, man about Bethany’s mom’s age was standing in the driveway talking to a young, Hispanic man, but when the older man saw their truck pull up, he turned from the younger one and waved at them.  Bethany waved back.

“Mom, that’s Kirk Robertson! He’s the one who owns this place!” said Bethany.

Helene slowed the truck to a stop and they both got out.  Bethany ran straight to Kirk and gave him a hug.  Helene was startled since Bethany rarely hugged anyone.  Helene was not prepared for how handsome Kirk Robertson was.  He had medium length blonde hair and exuded masculinity with tanned muscles and black eyebrows and sideburns.  Helene had a hard time looking at him and knew it would be even harder for her to talk to him because he reminded her of a childhood crush, Bo Duke from the seventy’s television show, The Dukes of Hazard.

She shook it off and walked toward him, feeling very conspicuous in her baggy, full length skirt and equally baggy top. Her stuck in the seventies look was complete with big gaudy earrings and necklace and un-pedicured toes in sandals.  Helene had never been secure with her looks, or lack thereof, especially since Bethany’s father just up and abandoned them.

“Hello, Bethany’s Mom,” said a cheerful and freakishly handsome, Kirk Robertson.

“Helene, and hello, nice to meet you,” Helene answered, meeting his eyes as she reached out her hand.

“Helene, what a lovely name,” said incredibly handsome man.

Kirk turned toward Bethany and the guy he had been talking to when they pulled up.

“Bethany this is Strider, our ranch manager, Pablo Castillo’s son.  He’ll show you around the place.  He’s about the same age as you, Bethany. He’s taking classes at community college right now,” said Kirk with a smile.  “I’m going to take the lovely, Helene inside to sign some paperwork, Bethany, you two enjoy yourselves.”

The two of them watched as the adults walked toward the house.  Bethany turned toward Strider and said, “Your name is Strider, like in The Lord of the Rings?”

“Yes, my dad loves those books,” said Strider.

“So, he went with Strider instead of Aragorn?”

“He thought Aragorn would be too weird,” said Strider.

Bethany laughed, “Well because Strider is so normal, right?”

“Yeah, he didn’t think it through,” Strider laughed too.

Bethany opened her mouth to respond, but Strider interrupted and said, “Hey, I know you. I thought you looked familiar.  You go to Dale City High School, right?”

“Yes, but I don’t remember you…wait, you’re the gay guy the jocks used to beat up,” said Bethany.

Strider laughed, “ Wow, you really are blunt, aren’t you?”

“What do you mean? It’s true isn’t it.  I haven’t seen you in a while though.”

“That’s because I graduated last year,” Strider laughed again.

“Oh,” said Bethany.

Strider put his arm on Bethany’s shoulder. “Come on, let’s take the truck to the training track.  My dad is working one of Robertson’s colts.  They say he’s a Derby contender.”

“Derby, like Kentucky Derby?!” asked Bethany.  She had been watching the Triple Crown every year as far back as she could remember.  The series of races that the top three-year-old horses in the country started training for at the age of two.  The Kentucky Derby was the first of the three.

“Of course,” said Strider. When they got to the truck, Strider removed his arm from Bethany’s shoulder and beckoned toward the passenger door. “Get in.”

Bethany obeyed and could hardly sit still in the passenger side she was so excited.  Strider didn’t notice that she flapped her hands a couple of times outside the truck before getting in. When Bethany was excited or angry, she flapped her hands to help shake off the extreme emotions.  She managed to force herself to stay calm once in the truck.  She was very aware that most people did not do such things.

Strider backed the truck out of the garage and then turned in the opposite direction from the way Helene and Bethany had driven toward the house.  There was another gravel road heading in the opposite direction from the house and they took that one.  They rode in silence and arrived at the training track in ten minutes, but it had seemed like much longer to Bethany.

Strider pulled up near the track and stopped the truck.  They both stepped out and Bethany was frozen in place watching the magnificent, bay stallion gallop past them on the track.  Strider had moved alongside her and they both watched the colt cross the finish line and then relax into an easy slow gallop with ears pricked as his rider stood up in the stirrups.  It was a small track, only a half mile round. The bay slowed to a canter as the rider brought him back around.  This time as rider and horse neared them, the colt was now just walking.  The exercise rider saw them and waved.  He walked the colt for a bit longer and then headed to where Strider and Bethany were standing.

“Hola hijo mío,” said the rider, “¿Quién es la chica?”

“Dad, English, please. This is Bethany Resmon, the new exercise rider,” said Strider, and then to Bethany, “This is my dad, Pablo Castillo.”

“Hello Mr. Castillo.  I don’t mind if you speak Spanish.  Well as long as you don’t start laughing and pointing at me,” said Bethany.

Mr. Castillo laughed, “Me gusta ella,” he said to Strider.

“Great,” said Strider rolling his eyes.

Bethany was awestruck by the beauty of the colt.  He’s a perfect bay, a blood bay even, Bethany thought to herself.  She was mesmerized by his glistening auburn coat and four perfect black legs which ended in four black hooves. His thick black mane and tail rounded out his perfection.

“He is beautiful, isn’t he?” said Mr. Castillo in a thick accent.

“Yes! Will I get to ride him?” asked Bethany.

Mr. Castillo laughed again, “Maybe one day,” he said. “You want to pet him?”

“Yes!”

Mr. Castillo dismounted in one quick leap and then led the colt over to the rail.  The colt was bright eyed and curious and reached over and nuzzled Bethany.

A small gasp of glee escaped her mouth and she reached up to rub his soft nose.

“His name is Giovanni. His sire is Bernardini, one of the greats,” said Mr. Castillo.

“I remember him! I watched him race on tv when I was little.  I cried when he lost to Invasor in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic,” said Bethany.

“His jockey moved too soon.  The stretch run is longer at Churchill Downs than at other racetracks. But Invasor was a great horse too,” said Mr. Castillo.

“So, if I can’t ride Giovanni, can I ride the red filly out front?” asked Bethany as she continued to pet the colt.

“What filly out front?” asked Strider.

“The one with the beautiful, dished face,” said Bethany.

Giovanni grew impatient and stomped his foot because he knew it was time for his evening feed.  The colt still let Bethany rub his nose though. Animals were always drawn to her.

“Oh, she is talking about Fyrestorm,” said Mr. Castillo laughing.

“Why are you laughing?” asked Bethany.

“Nobody has ridden her yet.  We can’t race her, so we haven’t started training her,” said Strider.

“What do you mean you can’t race her? I saw her running in the front pasture. She barely touches the ground, as if she has wings. Is Firestorm, one word or two?” asked Bethany.

“She’s half Arabian, Bethany. That’s why her head is more distinct than the other horses. The Jockey Club only allows full-blooded Thoroughbreds to race in the U.S. and Fyrestorm is one word and it’s spelled with a y,” said Strider.

“But I thought Orion Racing Stables only bred Thoroughbreds?” asked Bethany as she summoned all her strength to remain calm.  When she had seen that red filly, it had immediately become her dream to ride her. She felt determined to do so.

Mr. Castillo laughed again, “The filly’s momma decided she wanted to jump the fence and make love to the black, Arabian stallion next door,”

“But I’ve studied the history of the Thoroughbred breed and all three foundation stallions were Arabians. The Darley Arabian, The Byerley Turk and the Godolphin Arabian. So, they have Arabian blood…” said Bethany.

“That was a long time ago, Bethany.  Most horse breeds have Arabian blood if you go far enough back because Arabians are considered the oldest breed of horse. They’re in the Bible even,” said Strider.

Bethany dropped her hand from Giovanni’s nose and her eyes filled with tears.  Giovanni snorted and stretched his muzzle out toward the crying girl.  She reached up and petted him again and smiled through her tears.

“Don’t cry chica.  See, Giovanni doesn’t even want you to cry. Maybe we can train the filly to be a stable pony. You will have to gain her trust first though.  She doesn’t come near anyone,” said Mr. Castillo.

“I can do it! I can gain her trust! Thank you, Mr. Castillo!”

Chelsea Resmon-Character Profile #TheRedFilly

Honeyglamorshot

Write Your First Novel, Week 2, Assignment One: Character Profile

Logline: An ostracized teenage girl captures the love and trust of wild red filly who she hungers to ride to victory before the naysayers can vanquish her dreams.

Character Profile:

 

Name: Chelsea Resmon (Protagonist)

Sex/Age: Female/17yo

Description: thick, wavy, copper hair and curvy figure, green eyes

Personal History: Chelsea is being raised by a single mom.  Her dad left when she was a baby, so she doesn’t remember him.  She is very close with her mom.  She has always been drawn to animals, especially horses.

Distinctive Personality Traits: Chelsea is a loner at her high school because the other students consider her “weird” and she knows it. She sometimes has strong emotional outbursts and flaps her hands when excited or angry.  Over the years she has learned to control some of those tendencies with her mother’s help and by mostly avoiding other people.  She lacks confidence and has low self-esteem, except when she’s around horses.

 

Timmy and the Red Stallion

Timmyinthepasture (2)

 

            Gina and Flame galloped around the inside edge of the arena as if they were one.  It had taken several months for Gina to gain the confidence to even ride the magnificent red stallion, but Antonia had insisted.  At first Gina would only ride Flame if Antonia were present.  Antonia would stay on the ground in the arena and instruct Gina.  Eventually Gina gained the confidence to take Flame out on the trails and Antonia would ride her trusty gelding Blaze, so Flame would stay calm.  Flame and Blaze had a close bond because they were born within a month of each other at their original home in Dubai.  The half-brothers were a gift given to Antonia by a sheikh she had met during her time in Paris working for Louis Vuitton.

            Gina slowed Flame to a canter and reached down to pet his neck.  The summer sun reached through the open sides of the arena and caressed the crimson stallion’s coat, making his neck almost sparkle in its brilliance.  Gina had been so enchanted by Flame that she hadn’t noticed Antonia escort a man and teenaged boy into the barn.  She looked over to see the gate open on the barn side of the arena as she slowed Flame to a trot on the opposite side.  She tensed up when she saw the teenager was her classmate, Chet.  He followed along behind Antonia as she led Patriot, the gray son of Spirit, their resident black stallion, into the arena, while the man leaned on the outside of the red pipe fencing and watched.  Chet saw her at the same time and smiled.  Not a friendly smile, but more like a sneer.  He held is phone up and the sun reflected off it.  Flame was already tense because he reacted to the tense signals coming from Gina’ body.  Gina wasn’t prepared when Flame bolted, so when Flame ended up on the other end of the arena, she was left in the dust in their last location together.

            Chet started laughing.  Laughing at her, the way they always did at Dale City High… 

           

            A week had gone by and during that time the video had gone viral, well, viral among Dale City High students anyway.  Gina found herself where she often did after being subjected to the almost daily humiliation that was Dale City High.  She was crying into Timmy, the golden pony’s, neck while he silently consoled her.  She felt something press into her back and turned to find Flame offering his muzzle for a kiss.  His best friend, Blaze, watched the trio from a short distance away.

            Timmy was in the paddock with the two chestnut Arabians recuperating from an eye infection.  The brothers loved the pony because he had been their caretaker when they first arrived at the ranch to help them get adjusted.  Timmy had a knack for calming other horses and was often utilized for his “nursemaid” capabilities.

            “Gina!”

            Gina looked toward the paddock gate to see her friend, Strider Castillo. She wiped her tears with the back of her hand and waved as she headed for the gate.

            Strider hugged her when she turned toward him after closing the gate.  Then he stepped back and looked at her face.

            “You’ve been crying.  Are you okay?” he asked.

            “I’m fine,” Gina lied.

            Strider wasn’t fooled.   He had known Gina all through high school.

            “It’s those bullies isn’t it?  That video going around Facebook?” he asked.

            Gina started crying again.  He held her again and said, “You have to stop this Gina.  When you let them get to you, they win.”

            Gina took a deep breath, stepped back and looked Strider in the eye and said, “That’s easy for you to say.  You’re starting college this year, so you don’t have to deal with them anymore.”

            “Exactly my point.  They’re nobody to us.  You just have one more year to deal with those losers,” said Strider.

            “I thought at least I’d get a break from them in the summer, but it seems like they’ll always be in my life.”

            “They won’t,” said Strider. “Trust me.”

            Strider and Gina walked into the barn to find Jalissa and Antonia feeding the horses. 

            Gina’s entire demeanor changed, and she called out, “Jalissa!” as she ran to her and swept her up in a big hug.

            The expression of pure joy on Gina’s face at seeing Jalissa was not lost on Strider.

            “Gina, why don’t you and Jalissa take the wheelbarrow and get some hay.  I’ll finish graining the horses,” said Antonia.

            Gina practically skipped off with Jalissa.

           

            The next morning Gina and Strider took Flame and Blaze out on the trails at the ranch.  They had been enjoying the clear, crisp morning trotting and loping the two brothers along the flat parts of the trails.  Now they rode side by side, talking as they headed back to the barn.

            “Gina, I’ve noticed the way you look at Jalissa,” said Strider.

            “What do you mean?” asked Gina.

            “I mean, it’s obvious you’re attracted to her.”

            “She’s beautiful.  Anyone would be attracted to her,” said Gina.

            “You know what I mean,” said Strider.

            “Look Strider, I’m happy for you. You know…that you’re out of the closet and all, but believe it or not some, no, most of the world is straight,” said Gina.

            Flame took a couple of high steps because he sensed Gina’s tenseness.  She relaxed a little, “Sorry boy,” she said to Flame as she reached down and rubbed the stallion’s neck.

            “Yeah, most of the world is straight, I guess.  But not you,”

            “Strider, just because I notice someone is pretty…well, it doesn’t mean anything.  And besides, I don’t want to go to Hell.”

            “So you think I’m going to Hell?” Strider laughed.

            “No, of course not.  You’re too nice, but I would…”

            “Now you listen Gina. I know you’ve been raised in this holy roller religious bullshit, but this is what I think.  God made me this way, and God doesn’t make mistakes.”

            Gina sighed and said quietly, “That’s beautiful.”

They rode the rest of the way to the barn in silence.  When they reached the outer, arena gate, they stopped and watched as Chet cantered Patriot around the arena.  Patriot rounded the far end and was then heading toward them.  When the graceful, gray gelding drew near their position and saw them, he slammed on the brakes.  Chet wasn’t ready for that, so he was launched in the air over the front of Patriot’s lowered head and landed on the floor of the arena hard.  He started crying.  Then he shouted, “Shut off that camera, faggot!”

            Gina looked over at Strider and saw his hand raised with phone in hand, obviously videoing the incident with a broad smile spread across the width of his chiseled brown face.

            For a moment Gina smiled too.  But then she reached over and pulled Strider’s arm down.

            “I don’t want to be like them, Strider,” said Gina.

            “But…,”

            Strider saw the sincerity in Gina’s eyes.  He put the phone in his pocket.

            “I love you, Gina,” said Strider.

            “I love you too,” said Gina.

           

           

         

BlazeandFlamePaddock
Blaze and Flame
Patriot Headshot
Patriot