Children’s Author Spotlight-Kelli McKinney

Jeff is a kid I can relate to! He approaches problems with a scientific mindset and comes up with full proof plans to solve them. But unfortunately, in spite of meticulous planning, life throws Jeff curve balls as life tends to do for all of us. His mother is often upset with his decisions, but there is more going on with her, than just being frustrated with her overthinking son.

This book is a page turner and I read it nonstop over two days (well I had to eat and sleep in between). Will Jeff figure out how to stop getting grounded so he can go to GamerCon with his best friends? His awesome science club teacher gives him helpful input on how to improve on his, Field Guide to Raising Happy Parents. So maybe, just maybe…well, you’ll have to read it to find out! I highly recommend this book to all ages!

JEFF PENNANT’S FIELD GUIDE TO RAISING HAPPY PARENTS is Kelli’s debut middle grade novel. Learn more about Kelli and sign up for her newsletter at

Timmy the Lonely Pony-Spotlight: Fyrestorm

Fyrestorm is Chanel’s plucky little sidekick in, Timmy the Lonely Pony. Real life Fyrestorm is also quite plucky, but she prefers to be called by her nickname, Honey or Honey Boo. Like Chanel, she is a daughter of the resident Franch black stallion, Spirit (AV Olympic Spirit). Honey Boo’s registered name is, Spirits Fyrestorm. Honey was a surprise because one day her mom, Fyrelite, had a little red baby by her side even though as far as anyone knew, she hadn’t been bred. After DNA testing, it turns out that Spirit is officially Honey’s sire, so like Chanel she is a pure Franch bred Arabian.

Baby Fyrestorm with her mom, Fyrelite Bynite:

Fyrestorm aka Honey Boo all grown up:

Honey and me:

AV Olympic Spirit aka Spirit (resident black stallion at The Franch and father of Chanel and Fyrestorm):

Fyrestorm and Chanel:

Don’t forget to check out these social media links for Veronica Stanley-Hooper, the wonderful illustrator who is making my dream a reality!

Timmy the Lonely Pony-A Timmy Tale Picture Book

Timmy the Lonely Pony is the first book in the Timmy Tales picture book series which follow the adventures of Timmy the rescue pony!

Timmy is rescued from a ranch that couldn’t care for him. He really likes his new owner and the kind way she takes care of him, but the other horses on the ranch notice Timmy looks and behaves differently. When Chanel, an Arabian horse who isn’t kind to Timmy, finds herself in trouble by the pond, Timmy is the only one that can help. Can the horses work together to save Chanel?

This exciting story of Timmy the Lonely Pony was inspired by a real pony who now lives on a 200-acre ranch in Texas.

Timmy the Lonely Pony-Spotlight: Chanel

Chanel is a cute character with an attitude in, Timmy the Lonely Pony. Real life Chanel is a sweet Arabian horse owned by my good friend, Stephanie Young, who runs The Franch. It’s an over 200-acre horse paradise where all three characters in the story live very happy horsey lives. Chanel’s real name is, Spirits Chanel No V. Number V (five) because she’s the fifth offspring of the resident stallion, AV Olympic Spirit aka Spirit.

Baby Chanel with her mom, NH Hungary Eyes aka Sera:

“First Kiss”

More Baby Chanel Pics:

Stephanie with her love, Chanel:

AV Olympic Spirit aka Spirit (resident black stallion at The Franch and father of Chanel and Fyrestorm):

Lastly, Fyrestorm aka Honey, half-sister to Chanel and the third character in, Timmy the Lonely Pony (she’ll be featured in my next post):

Don’t forget to check out these social media links for Veronica Stanley-Hooper, the wonderful illustrator who is making my dream a reality!

Timmy the Lonely Pony-Spotlight: Timmy

Timmy the Lonely Pony is the first book in a series that features my rescue pony, Timmy. The real Timmy came into my life in 2014. It turns out that this cute little guy, who I thought I rescued, actually rescued me. He’s never been ridden and is just my little loveable pet. He lives on a 200-acre ranch affectionately known as, The Franch (Frances’s Ranch), along with many other happy horses, including my other rescue horse, Frisco. He has met the other stars of this little tale, but the fillies featured within its pages, Chanel and Fyrestorm, reside in the paddock with the pond which appears in the story.

I wrote this manuscript about two years ago and had pretty much given up on ever getting it published because it seems illustrators are difficult to come by. But then the extremely talented, Veronica Stanley-Hooper, came into my life and now my dream of publishing a picture book is about to become a reality!

Check out Veronica on social media:

Timmy is also featured in some middle grade stories I’ve written which can be found on the Timmy Tales page of this website. It’s so easy to come up with story ideas for this cute, little, golden pony!

The real Timmy:

Timmy and Frisco:

Timmy and me:

Timmy is my muse and his ability to inspire me has helped me begin to realize my dream of becoming a published writer. A dream that I first vocalized many years ago when I was in seventh grade. Click on the links below for more about Timmy and more about my writing journey.

Timmy My Little Muse

Timmy the Rescue Pony-Star of Timmy Tales and Timmy the Lonely Pony

Timmy My Little Muse

The picture above was my Facebook memory today. Nine years ago today, this sweet boy came into my life. He isn’t just a cute little pony that blossomed into his best self at the horse paradise that is, The Franch, but he is also my little muse. Even though he’s not an Arabian, it’s this little halfbreed pony that fired up my dream to be a writer.

Timmy is loved by all at The Franch because he’s the smallest and cutest little guy on the ranch, and oh so loveable. He’s a tough little dude, though. He lets the bigger horses know he’s not a pushover!

I realized I wanted to be a writer way back in seventh grade, but life got in the way for many years, as it often does. Another dream I had was owning an Arabian horse. In my late forties, I acquired two rescue horses: Frisco first and then Timmy. I managed to board them at a ranch that bred Arabians, but that was as close as I got to Arabian horse ownership at first. My circumstances improved and first I acquired, Flame and later his full sister, Honey aka Fyrestorm.

My friend, Stephanie Young, suggested that I write something like The Black Stallion, so I started writing, The Red Filly, which stars, Fyrestorm. My previous writing had been more geared toward adults, but I gained access to my inner child, when I started writing the story of a girl who wanted desperately to ride a beautiful red filly. I then realized that cute little Timmy would be an awesome star in children’s short stories and later I came up with a picture book story which stars the cute pony.

Once I started writing Timmy Tales, my writing juices really started flowing! Timmy is the cutest little muse!

Timmy the Lonely Pony and 2023 Writing Goals

So, I didn’t get a lot of writing done in 2022 as my 7 followers are probably aware. Lol (Oh hey, I have 68 subscribers!) I changed day jobs three times and just couldn’t get into a groove at all this past year. The art posted above was created by the very talented artist, Veronica Stanley Hooper, and it is a sample for a picture book that I wrote in October 2021.

The three horses pictured in the image are based on real horses, although the real ones don’t talk (as far as I know).

The real Timmy (read more about him here):

The real Fyrestorm:

Fyrestorm and Chanel:

I plan to be more productive in 2023. My biggest goals are to publish, Timmy the Lonely Pony, by my birthday in July and finish writing my middle-grade novel, The Red Filly, by the end of the year. I also plan to create more content for my site, so stay tuned for that. I greatly appreciate all of your patience and support and I hope you all stay along for the ride! Happy 2023 everyone!

Timmy and the Lost Horse-A Timmy Tale by Sharon Miesen

Gina’s riding skills had improved to the point that a boarder at Kuhaylah Arabians had asked her to keep her horse Simon exercised while she was on vacation.   Simon was an Anglo-Arab, sired by Spirit and out of a Thoroughbred mare.  He was very tall – the tallest horse Gina had ever ridden.  At first, she had felt intimidated by his size, but his gentle nature and excellent training built her confidence. Now she was enjoying her rides on the elegant bay gelding.   As she and Simon approached the front gate for an evening trail ride, she saw Antonia on the four-wheeler. Gina could read the worry on Antonia’s face.

“I’m missing about eight head of cattle.  They didn’t come up with the others, and I can’t find them on our land. Can you keep an eye out for them?”  

“Will do!” said Gina.  She was energized by the knowledge that her trail ride was serving a purpose.  She directed Simon along the back fence line, scanning the fence for breaks and studying the brush for the missing cattle. She was happy to spot the herd of pasture horses resting under the trees, and called a special greeting to her favorite, Timmy.   He lifted his head and flicked his ears, then returned to grazing.  

Gina had worked her way to the very back corner when she spotted dark shapes in the undergrowth of the neighbor’s property.  A quick count confirmed the eight missing head, ranging from a big lead cow thru some yearling heifers to a calf nearly at weaning age. They were on the other side of a tight, 5-strand barbed wire fence.   Gina could not tell how they had gotten back there, but there was no way they would be able to return to the Kuhaylah Arabians property.

She asked Simon to halt and stand while she extracted her phone from her leg pouch and dialed Antonia.   “I’m on my way!” said Antonia.  A few minutes later, the four wheeler’s headlights in the falling dusk signaled that Antonia was coming.  

Gina dismounted from Simon.   Since he was in English tack, she ran the irons up the stirrup leathers and pushed them securely against the bars of the saddle.  She also gave the reins a couple of twists and then buckled the throatlatch of the bridle through the middle twist.   She knew that these precautions would keep Simon’s tack from getting caught up on anything while she was dismounted.   She took an old lead rope from the back of the four-wheeler and hooked one end to the snaffle ring of Simon’s bridle.  She knew better than to tie a horse by anything attached to their bit, so she draped the end over the four-wheeler’s cargo rack.  Simon was well trained, and she felt sure he would just think he was tied. 

“They most likely crossed the fence line further south where it crosses a ravine, then wandered up here”, was Antonia’s speculation. “We need to see if we can pull the fence.”  She cut one wire and held the others up high while Gina eased through the gap.    Walking quietly, she circled behind the small herd and started to pressure them towards the gap.   Suddenly, the big lead cow bellowed and bolted towards the fence.   She brushed against Antonia as she charged under the wire, knocking Antonia to the ground.  The next one in line was a calf determined to follow the lead cow, but Antonia had dropped the wire and the gap was gone.   The young black calf was caught, trapped halfway through the wire. Simon, startled by the big cow crashing past him, was further panicked by the cries and struggles of the trapped calf.  He spun around and bolted into the rapidly falling darkness.

Gina was horrified – Simon had been entrusted to her care, but Antonia was down, and the calf was trapped. She could not chase him across hundreds of yards of fields and woods on foot. She had to believe that Simon would be able to make his way back to the front gate.   She fought back the panic while helping Antonia to her feet.  Together they were able to free the calf and hold the fence back up.  The rest of the herd wanted nothing more than to follow the lead cow back thru the fence, so they quickly vacated the neighbor’s property, and Gina and Antonia began to repair the fence.


Timmy was resting on the outskirts of the herd when he heard the thudding of hooves in the woods.   The sound stopped abruptly, and he heard branches cracking and saw a big shape.   It was a strange horse. Timmy felt a strong sense of wrongness in the situation.  Twilight was time for the pasture horses to find their resting spot and settle into their night stillness. The big, strange horse was out of place; agitated and wearing tack, he did not fit the rhythm of the evening.  He flung his head around but didn’t seem to know where to go.

Timmy heard the distant clang of gate chains. He knew that sound!    It was the entrance gate at the front of the property.   Images connected in his mind, and he remembered seeing horses going in and out of that gate, wearing tack and carrying riders. As he imagined this, he was overwhelmed by a strong sense that the big, strange horse needed to go to the front gate to be in his right place.  

Timmy moved next to the big horse. He kept his head low and his ears forward – he didn’t want the big horse to feel threatened.  He slowly walked ahead, willing the other to join and follow him.   At first there was silence. Then Timmy heard the following thump of shod hooves on hard ground. 

They made their way slowly.  It was a long way around and it required knowing how to go thru the woods, over creek crossings, and along dirt paths.   Timmy moved with the confidence of many years of residence as he navigated across the dam and towards the front gate in the rapidly falling night. His confidence seemed to transfer to the big horse, who grew calmer as he followed Timmy. 


Gina and Antonia drove to the front gate and Gina hopped off to open it.  They were jubilant about their teamwork in cutting the fence, herding the cattle back thru, and doing a field repair of the gap.   It would have to be mended properly in the morning, but for tonight all was well.  Gina’s phone rang and she listened to the caller.  “You mean Simon didn’t come up to the front gate? He’s not with you in the barn?   No sign of him? I wonder if he tried to go to the back gate and got lost!”.   The cold feeling of panic grabbed her guts.  

Just then, Timmy and the big horse emerged from the night.  Gina ran to her friend, quickly checking him for injury. Antonia joined in, and they all made a big fuss over Simon.  Simon relaxed as the anxiety of his night was dispelled by the comforting presence of the humans.


Timmy stood off to the side in the shadows, not sure what to do next.   Then a person separated from the group with a hand extended towards him.  Timmy closed his mouth over the crisp sweetness of a carrot as a gentle voice said, “Good Boy, Timmy”.

Timmy Goes Missing-A Timmy Tale

            Gina bolted upright in the bed. When she realized where she was, she laid her head back down on the comfy pillow. No sounds of her younger, twin brothers arguing over what to watch on TV.  It was Sunday, and the smell of apple chicken sausage tickled her nose. A real breakfast! No scrounging around trying to find remnants of cereal after those two brats had free rein over the kitchen. I wish I could just live forever at Kuhaylah Arabians! Gina rolled off the bed onto the floor. She stretched before slipping on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and headed into the kitchen.

            “Good morning, Antonia,” said Gina as she retrieved a couple of plates from the cabinet and carried them to the table.

            “Good morning,” said Antonia.

The morning news was playing in the background on the small television on the kitchen counter as Gina finished setting the table and Antonia finished cooking.  Gina helped Antonia make the plates with eggs and sausage and Antonia set another plate on the table with toasted English muffins that were already dripping with butter.  Antonia turned to shut off the TV because she preferred talking during meals, when a breaking news story announced a missing boy.

            The local news reporter, Nancy Hill, appeared on the screen.  All blonde hair and blue eyes…a walking cliché.

            “A boy has gone missing,” she announced maintaining her serious reporter face as she continued.  “I’m here at Connie’s Creatures, a local petting zoo, where the search is underway for a five-year-old boy that disappeared from his church group who were here to visit the sweet farm animals as part of the Mother’s Day Out program that the church runs for single mothers.  The boy’s mother has just arrived,” said Nancy with a gleam in her eye.

            Seconds later, Nancy Hill, shoved a microphone in the face of the distraught young mother. 

            Antonia turned off the television. “That woman has no shame,”

            “You know her?” asked Gina.

            “She used to cover horse shows and the like.  She always loved it when someone was injured.  The more serious, the better.” Antonia continued, “That animal farm is near here.  We need to help with the search after we feed the horses.”

            Antonia walked over to a side counter and picked up her cell.  “Go ahead and eat. I’m going to call Lucas.”

            “Lucas Remington, the sheriff’s deputy you’re friends with?” asked Gina.

            Antonia nodded as she said, “Hello Lucas.  Yes, I heard.  We’re going to help with the search after we feed the horses.  Gina’s with me.  Okay, I’ll call you as soon as we’re done.  Let me know if you need horses.” Antonia clicked off the call and slid the phone in her pocket.

            Gina finished her last forkful of eggs and took her plate to the sink.

“We’ll clean up later.  Pull on your boots and let’s go.” Antonia grabbed a chicken sausage with one hand and ate it as she opened the back door with the other and strode toward the main barn which housed the mares.  Gina slipped her feet into her steel-toed cowboy boots, her barn boots as she called them and came flying out the door behind Antonia.  Even in a hurry, she looked graceful in Gina’s eyes as she scrambled to keep up.

            Several scoops of feed later, the mare’s barn was done, and they headed to the smaller stallion barn.  Spirit, the younger resident stallion, Flame, and the two geldings, Ambush and Blaze, whinnied in unison as Antonia and Gina arrived. 

Antonia walked straight to Spirit and held the beautiful face the black stallion offered over the stall door in her hands, placing her forehead to his. He became a kitten in her hands. It always looked to Gina as if they were communing telepathically. She couldn’t help feeling jealous every time they did it. 

Flame nickered softly to her. “I know.  You want your feed,” Gina whispered.  She walked to the feed bin, lifted the lid with one hand and grabbed a scoopful with the other.  She closed the lid after retrieving the scoop and then crossed the narrow barn aisle and entered Flame’s stall.  He immediately attacked the grain after she poured it in the corner bucket.  The sun peeked through the small windows up high in the stalls and Flame’s bright red coat glistened with spots of gold and copper.  Gina couldn’t help wishing he was hers and she could one day share the same bond with him that Antonia shared with Spirit.  Flame lifted his head, turned toward Gina and nuzzled her chest with his soft nose, then returned his attention to the bucket.  

            “He’s bonding with you,” Antonia said, as if she were reading Gina’s mind.

            “What do you mean? He just turned for a second.”

            “When a horse stops eating feed, one of their favorite things, to greet someone, that means they care about that person,” said Antonia.

            Gina took one more look at Flame before stepping out of the stall and allowed herself to imagine for a moment that he was truly hers.

            “Ok, let’s go feed the retirees.  They’re already gathered up front,” said Antonia, breaking Gina from her thoughts.

            Gina loved how Antonia called the southwest pasture horses, retirees.  They earned their retirement she always said.  The feed buckets for the pasture horses hung on the fence just west of the stallion barn, so they didn’t have far to walk.  Antonia had poured feed into a wheelbarrow that she rolled over now as they walked toward the fence.  They both grabbed a scoop of feed and emptied them into a couple of buckets before wasting no time to scoop up some more feed.  This was a process that had to be done quickly to minimize the breakout of fights.  A few minutes later, all the horses were happily munching away in their individual buckets, but then Gina noticed one of the buckets had no one attending to it.

            “Oh my gosh, Antonia! Where is Timmy?!” Gina exclaimed.

            “I just noticed that too,” said Antonia.  “I’ll saddle up Spirit, you get Freedom from the other barn, and we’ll ride out to find him.”

            “Something really bad must have happened! Timmy is always with the herd! Oh Antonia…” tears streamed down Gina’s face.

            “Gina, we don’t have all the facts yet. When you worry and then something happens, you suffer twice. Go get Freedom, girl.”

            Gina ran to the mares’ barn to get Freedom. Stop crying! Antonia’s right. We’ll find Timmy. The seasoned mare had finished her feed and was happy to see Gina to take her out to the mares’ pasture as per the usual routine.  Gina slipped her halter on her in the stall and as she exited the stall, she turned left in the barn aisle to head to the pasture. 

            “Sorry girl.  We have to find Timmy first.  You’ll get to hang out with the other mares later.” Gina patted Freedom’s neck and then turned her the other way toward the saddling area.

            Gina met up with Antonia outside the gate that led to the southwest pasture.  Antonia on her black stallion, Spirit, and Gina on the dependable chestnut mare.  Freedom was the first offspring of Spirit.  And like all his children, she was beautiful; fiery chestnut coat, flowing tail, blaze, and all. 

            “Ok, let’s check the pond out front first,” said Antonia and they cantered out together toward the pond.  What a sight they would have been to anyone watching.  Two petite women riding magnificent Arabian horses, running with tails held high.  One shimmering black in the morning sun and the other flaming red.

            Timmy was not at the pond. They headed toward the south gate that led to the back riding trails.  It was open this time of year, so they cantered through single file, Antonia leading the way on Spirit.  Kuhaylah Arabians was over two hundred acres in size, so the search was cut out for them.  They rode side by side on the main trail, walking now and watching and listening.

            They both stopped in their tracks.  They heard the faint whinny at the same time.  Gina’s heart leapt into her throat, “Timmy’s alive!” she said out loud because she had feared the worst.  She loved that little golden pony so much.

            Antonia held up her hand, palm facing toward Gina.  She was listening intently.  Nothing.  So, she called out, “Timmy!”  There was another whinny in response to her query and this time stronger.  It came from in front of them, off to the right, deep amongst the trees.  Antonia urged Spirit straight into a gallop from a dead stop.  Gina urged Freedom to follow.  The red mare wasn’t as fast as Spirit, but she willingly followed at a good clip. 

            They slowed to a trot as they left the trail to enter the thicket.  Halfway into the trees, Timmy came trotting up.  He seemed perfectly fine, so Antonia said, “Timmy, you gave us a huge scare.  Come here!”

Timmy looked at Antonia and just as it was with Spirit, it appeared that they were communicating telepathically.  They continued to stare at each other for what seemed to Gina like several minutes, but in reality, lasted only seconds.  Timmy shook his head, blonde mane tossing about his neck, then turned on his heels and trotted deeper into the trees.  Antonia followed without saying a word. Gina followed too.

            Timmy slowed to a walk as they entered a small clearing, Antonia and Gina slowed their mounts too.  Timmy had stopped in front of a lone tree in the clearing.  Antonia and Gina had both been temporarily blinded by the morning sun.  Timmy stepped sideways, head down near the base of the tree and when Gina and Antonia urged their horses a few steps forward into the shade of the great oak tree, they saw what Timmy was looking at.

            The little boy stirred, placed his little hands on each side of Timmy’s soft muzzle and kissed his nose. “Hello horsey,” he said.


            “We found the boy,” said Antonia talking on her cell to Lucas. “He’s fine, just a few scratches and tired after his adventure,” she continued. 

            The little boy whose name was Caleb, he had informed them on the ride back to the house, was now munching happily on some leftover apple chicken sausage at the kitchen table.

            “Ok, we’ll see you in a bit,” said Antonia before setting down the cell phone.

            Antonia walked over and sat at the table with Gina and Caleb.  “How are you feeling Caleb?” she asked.

            “Great!” he answered with a mouthful of sausage.  “I love Timmy! He saved me! And I love Freedom too! I never got to ride a horse before! Can I ride Freedom by myself sometime? I mean, it was fun riding with Gina, but I wanna try on my own!” Somehow the boy was smiling, talking, and eating all at the same time.  Gina and Antonia looked at each other and smiled.

            There was a knock at the back door.  Antonia rose from the table and walked the few steps to the door, opening it and in stepped Lucas Remington, tall, dark, and formidable in his deputy’s uniform.  He removed his hat as he entered, revealing the tight, jet-black curls clipped closely to his head.  He was clean cut and smelled of leather and musk.

            “Hi Lucas,” said Gina.

            “Hello, Gina,” he said before turning his attention toward Antonia.  His face softened when he gazed at Antonia, and Gina wished that someone would look at her like that someday.

            “Hello Lucas.” Antonia smiled.  “It’s good to see you as always.”

            Lucas returned her smile and then faced the boy, his expression all business again. “How you feeling, Caleb?”

            “Awesome!” said Caleb, now munching on an English muffin.

            “That’s good to hear,” said Lucas now smiling at the boy.  Lucas reached out his hand and said, “Let’s go see your mom now, she’s been worried sick.”

            “Okay,” Caleb rose from the table and grabbed another English muffin on his way out.

            “I’ll call you later Antonia and let you know how things went,” said Lucas as he turned to leave, holding Caleb’s hand.

            Caleb stopped and twisting toward Antonia asked, “Can I come back and ride Freedom one day?”

            “I would like that Caleb,” said Antonia.  “Lucas, give my number to his mother, will you?” she asked.

            “Yes ma’am,” Lucas, tipped his hat and stepped out the door with Caleb in hand.

            After they drove off in the squad car, Gina asked, “Why don’t you go out with him, Antonia?  He’s obviously in love with you.”

            Antonia had her back to Gina as she continued to look out the kitchen window even though the car was no longer in sight, but then she turned toward Gina and for a split second the sun caught in her eyes and Gina noticed a slight shimmer, as if Antonia were holding back tears. But that wasn’t possible Gina thought, because Antonia was always strong, never emotional.

            “Gina, we need to turn out the mares.” Antonia opened the back door and stepped out. Her voice was strong as always, no hint of sadness. Gina followed her without another word.









Timmy and the Girl-A Timmy Tale

Gina shimmied under a low spot beneath the white pipe fence separating the front pasture of Kuhaylah Arabians from the road, and, as always, the pony trotted right up to her. She pulled the carrot from her pocket and, not wasting any time, he took the entire treat in his mouth before the rest of the herd noticed. The pony, the smallest of the bunch and not a purebred, stood out from the rest of them. He was a cutie though, a beautiful coppery, golden color, with a dishwater blonde mane and tail. A jagged, white, blaze ran the full length of his face to the tip of his nose. And on this lovely spring day, his slick coat glistened in the sun.

The pony didn’t leave after he finished the carrot. Gina was drawn to him because she was an outsider in her circles too. And, like him, she had dishwater blonde hair, although it was cuter on him in her opinion. Gina felt less than cute with her skinny body, and long, stringy, often tangled, hair. Gina spoke softly to the pony, rubbing his neck and scratching his cheek, the way she knew he liked. “I love you little boy, I wish I could stay here with you.” Tears streamed down Gina’s cheeks. She hugged his neck as the events of the previous day came crashing back into her brain.

“We have to add Gina Targoff to the list,” Chet whispered.

“Of course! She should be at the top!” responded Cassie, in a louder whisper. Chet, Cassie, and their minions all giggled.

Gina was keeping her head down, pretending to read whatever textbook she had opened in front of her. She refused to cry; she would not show them weakness. Even though Gina knew they were whispering loud enough for her to hear on purpose. Samuel James Middle School was almost a daily exercise in humiliation. She fought back the tears though…

“Yeah, Gina is definitely the ugliest girl in the school,” said Chet.

They all laughed again.

The golden pony put his head on Gina’s shoulder as if he were trying to comfort her. She hugged him tighter and let the tears flow until there were no more, but she continued to hug him, taking in his horsey scent, and allowing it and the quiet to calm her mind.

“Timmy has really taken to you,” said a voice behind Gina. One with the slightest hint of an accent, an accent from another country though, not rural Texan as Gina had grown accustomed to.

Gina straightened and jumped back a step from the pony in one quick move.

“I’m sorry. I know I’m not supposed to be here.” Gina gaped up at the woman astride a black, Arabian stallion, solid black, save a small white star on his forehead.

“Come closer girl,” said the woman.

Gina did as she was told. The woman appeared to be around her mother’s age. But unlike Gina’s mother, she was beautiful and confident. She had her long brown hair pulled back with a black velvet scrunchy. But then Gina’s gaze was drawn back to the horse. So much like the black stallion she had read about, except the one in the books was solid black. This stallion before her had the same wild look of the one in the books though; thick black mane, forelock blowing in the breeze about his face, and a thick, flowing tail. He pranced about a bit and snorted a couple of times. The woman said something to him that Gina couldn’t quite hear, and he settled down.

“What is your name?” asked the woman.

“Gina…Gina Targoff. Please don’t have me arrested. I’ll never come on your property again.”

The woman laughed. But in a lilting way, not in a, you’re darn right you’re going to jail, kinda way.

“I was actually thinking of offering you a job. I’ve watched you with Timmy. You two have formed quite a bond.”

“Timmy, a cute name, for a cute little boy!” said Gina.

The woman laughed again. “My name is Antonia Silva, and I am the owner of this ranch. So, what about the job?” Antonia asked.

“I don’t know anything about horses or ranches,” Gina answered.

“Do you know how to drag a water hose or carry buckets?”

“Umm, yes…” answered Gina.

“Okay, good. We’ll start with that.” Antonia smiled.

Gina smiled back and then jumped when something firm and soft rubbed the small of her back. She spun around and little Timmy nuzzled her chest. Gina reached out and stroked his face.

“He loves you and trusts you. You’re a natural with horses,” said Antonia.

“He’s so sweet. May I ask how he came to be here among…” began Gina.

“…among all these purebred Arabians?” Antonia finished.

“Well…yes. Is it rude to ask?” said Gina.

Antonia laughed again. It sounded like music to Gina. “No, it’s not rude. My best friend runs a small horse rescue. She saved him along with a small herd of starving horses. He was less than a year old at the time and he reminded me of a pony I once had growing up in Portugal, so I adopted him.” Antonia rubbed her black stallion’s neck and smiled. “Spend a little more time with Timmy and then head up to the big house and I’ll show you around.” Antonia wheeled her glorious steed around and galloped up the hill toward the house.

Gina watched the graceful woman in control of such a magnificent animal and couldn’t help wishing that could be her one day. She turned back to Timmy and gave him a hug. “Did you hear that boy? Now I can see more of you and no more sneaking around!” One of the gray Arabian mares had come closer, curious about this skinny, young girl in the big pasture. Timmy laid back his ears and turning on a dime chased her off as if to say, “This is my girl!”

Gina laughed for the first time since she could remember. It had been a long, emotional journey from Dallas to Dale City. Even though they were only an hour apart, they were miles apart in cultures. The small-town Dale City students at Samuel James Middle School did not respond well to newcomers. For the very first time in a long time, Gina felt like she was where she belonged.