Under the Starry Sky
He walked past the horse tied to a post into the diner. He hadn’t seen a horse post since Tennessee. Now in Kentucky, he’d seen at least 200 posts. The place was old and rickety, but he liked it. The place had character. It was in the middle old an old bike and horse trail. He locked his bike into the bike rack and went to sit down at the bar. Finishing his food, he left a tip and excited the diner. He stopped to pet the horse this time.
The horse was shorter than most he’d seen. He was black with a white snip on the end of his nose along with four white socks and a white triangle on his withers. He nickered into his hand and flicked his ears forward.
Wait a minute, he knew this horse. He had flashbacks of riding double at a rodeo in Tennessee, holding onto a beautiful red-headed blue-eyed girl as they rode around the outer arena, looking into each other’s eyes with such love. She was the only girl he’d ever felt like that for. Along with the flashbacks of the saddle digging into his manhood.
“Reno.” He whispered.
The horse nickered again, throwing up his petite head.
“Can I help you with something?” A woman called as walking up to him. She untied Reno and patted his nose.
“Oh no, I just … recognized him, an old friend of mine from high school owned him. She loved him to death.”
“Sounds like something happened to her?” The woman inquired.
“She moved right after high school. Her life dream was to own her own stables. I didn’t know what happened to her or Reno. I haven’t heard from her since my graduation.”
“Well I know of Reno only having one owner, Lou my boss. Said she raised him from a foal. She brought him here from Tennessee about three years ago. Do you know Lou? Lou Sullivan, she owns Under the Sky Stables about a mile up the road.” The woman climbed onto Reno. Even though Reno is shorter than most she struggled to get into the saddle.
He shook his head. “No her name was Zailea.”
“Uhh.” I moaned as the sun peered through my window into my room. Why did I buy those clear sparkly curtains? I sat up; I could literally feel my hair going every-which-way.
“Well, that’s a pretty sight.” Jessie called from my doorway. “Come on cuzin it, breakfast’s ready.”
I stood up and slid on my jeans and a sweater. For April it’s still pretty chilly outside. I threw my long blonde hair into a messy bun and slipped on my boots.
The woman in my mirror was Zailea Lou Sullivan. But underneath the blond hair dye and green contact lenses was a redhead blue – eyed 21 year old woman from Prospect Tennessee known as Zailea. I’ve been Lou Sullivan ever since I moved to Kentucky with my best friend and sister. Only Jessie and Cole know the real me and now Jessie and I own our own thoroughbred stables. Cole said he just wanted to ride and not deal with all the finances, so Cole is our head trainer instead. I’m hoping the horse we just boarded from Devon Emerson will bring us to the top. Like Shadow’s Pride or Flaming Black did for their trainers, and hopefully soon.
I smelt the bacon cooking as I walked through the hall. At the kitchen table, sat Cole, Charlie, Ben, and Dusty. Jessie was finishing up the bacon and sausage.
It’s been a tradition for the three years Under the Sky Stables has been open, to have a big breakfast for everybody.
“Where’s Nolan?” I asked as I sat down. Cole, Nolan, and I train the horses. Charlie, Ben, and Dusty take care of the stables and exercising most of the time. Jessie manages the finances; she has never really been good at training.
“He called around eight saying he wouldn’t be in till ten. Family matter, he said.” Said Dusty through a mouthful of eggs.
“Well I wonder what’s up?” I ponder as I poured syrup in my pancakes and piled on some bacon.
Charlie piped up, “Oh, hey Lou, while I was out on Reno yesterday riding down the Ol’ Dusty Trail I stopped at the diner. When I came out there was a guy petting Reno. I asked him what he was doing and he said he didn’t mean to bother he just recognized Reno.”
I pondered for a moment. Reno was a Tennessee walking horse and didn’t race, so the only people that knew him were the guys and the food delivery man. “I have no idea Charlie.” I stated.
Jessie nudged my elbow. “Maybe he’s from Tennessee?” She turned on Charlie. “Did he say his name or where he’s from?”
I thought in silence as Charlie answered Jessie. There were only three guys that saw Reno: Nate, Damian, and … Tyler.
Charlie talked around the strip of bacon in her mouth. “He didn’t say his name but he said he was from Tennessee and that he had a friend from high school that had owned Reno but he didn’t know what had happened to her or Reno after she graduated.” She swallowed the bacon. “I asked if her name was Lou Sullivan, and he said no, that her name was Zailea. Do you know a Zailea?”
I blanched. How could my past have found me?
Jessie pressed Charlie. “What did he look like?”
“Well he was very cute.” Charlie giggled, “He was tall and lanky and had dark brown curly hair, didn’t look but about 22 or 23.”
I gasped. “Tyler……”
Jessie put her hand on my shoulder. “Don’t worry about it Lou. It’s probably not even him. It could just be a coincidence.”
I nodded. I got up from my still intact pancakes. “I’m going for a ride.” I whisper. I went out the front door. I head Jessie telling Cole to go after her before it shut. I was walking up the path to the barn when he caught up to me.
“Lou you ok?” He asked even though he already knew the answer.
“Yeah.” I say quietly. “I’m fine, Bubba.”
“I mean, I know how you feel … you know about Him.”
“I really am fine Bubba. Thanks for worrying but you don’t have to. I’m just gonna take Reno out on the trail.”
He kicked a pebble. “Mind if I ride with you?”
“I think I wanna be alone right now. But thanks again.”
Cole nodded and held his arms open. I hugged him. Thinking how lucky I am to have such a good friend. “I love you Bubba.”
“Love you too Z.”
Z was what all my friends down in Tennessee called me. I could feel the beginning of tears so I backed off. I ground my teeth and my eyes cleared. I’m quite good at hiding tears. I nodded at Cole and walked the rest of the way to the barn.
“Come on Songbird. What’s wrong with you?” Songbird was what the one member of my family, Papa, that hadn’t disowned me, had nicknamed me: I arrived at Reno’s stall and his head was hanging over the gate. He nickered at me softly. I unlatched the gate and let Reno out. He walked beside me when I went to get his bridle. Reno was the one person I could always count on. And yes person, Reno sometimes acted so mundane it worried me. I slipped on his bridle and got on bareback. Reno reached his head around and nuzzled my knee.
“I’m okay boy. Let’s go for a ride?”