Chapter 6:

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 138



“I don’t know what to do,” I said to Rosie.  “I thought it was going to be perfect but of course Leigh has to be the drama queen and throw a fit because I didn’t get her a freaking cathedral in Italy, with the ceremony being presided over by the pope.”  I furiously wiped away another tear that was slowly trailing down my cheek. 

Rosie nodded her head, staring at me with her big brown eyes.  “I know,” I said, kicking at the ground with my boot.  Shorts and cowboy boots.  Another one of my high fashions.  And another reason why I would never get a date.  I looked like a dork.  “I shouldn’t let her get to me.  But once, just once, I’d like for her to actually approve and tell me that she’s glad she’s my sister.”

Rosie said nothing, mostly because Rosie is a horse.  And excuse her name, I was nine when she’d been born.  She’s what horse people call a strawberry roan.  She’s mostly this red color, but there’s also white hair mixed in there, giving her this faded red look.  Our hair is almost the same color, at least the red shade.  Dad had called us his two strawberry blondes. 

I’d spent every waking moment with her, coming outside to read books to her and play my music.  She’d been born here, since we’d bought a mare that no one knew had been carrying a foal.  I was the only one out of the girls who’d been horse crazy and once my brothers knew that she was a girl, they hadn’t wanted her.  So I didn’t have to share her.  And I loved that.

By the time she turned two, we were inseparable.  Every morning, as I walked to the end of the driveway to meet the bus, she’d follow to the corner of the fence.  When I got off the bus, she’d be waiting.  I explored every inch of that pasture, with Rosie inquisitively poking around behind me.  I’d been lost when Dad had sent her to the trainers.  I was excited to be able to go horseback riding on her though.

Rosie had other ideas.  Apparently spending so much time with me had kind of ruined her.  She hated other people and she didn’t feel comfortable with any one who wasn’t a girl.  The trainer had given up after a week, saying that she wouldn’t be good for anything except glue or a lawn ornament.  I hadn’t understood that one for a while but I knew what he was insinuating now.  And it still pisses me off.

Anyway, Dad brought Rosie home, ticked about the waste of time and money.  He wanted to sell her but I threw a fit the likes that the universe had never seen.  “I can train her, Daddy,” I’d sworn.  “Let me try it.”  Like an eleven year old was qualified to do so.  But I had this obsession with horse books, like Flicka and The Black Stallion, so I was confident in myself.

“You’re going to get hurt,” he’d said to dissuade me.

Ha.  At that point in my life I’d already sprained my ankle, my wrist, and broken my nose.  At separate times of course.  Maybe that argument would have worked on his other kids, but not me.  “Let. Me. Do. It,” I’d insisted.

He’d agreed, but only on the basis that either he or either of my grandpas needed to be present at all times.  Whatever.  At first, it hadn’t gone as well as I had hoped.  Rosie had been reluctant to let me put the saddle anywhere near her.  Being the genius that I was, I decided that if the saddle was the problem, just get rid of it.  That hadn’t worked for Dad.

The only thing the two of us could agree on, was that Rosie trusted me.  So every day I lugged the saddle out to the pasture, sitting on it, reading out loud to Rosie.  She stayed away at first, but eventually got curious.  Once she realized that the saddle wasn’t going to eat her, she let us put the saddle on her.  By us, I mean my dad.  I didn’t have the upper body strength to hoist the saddle up onto her back.  The next battle was the bridle.  Once I got my braces I understood why she hated having the metal in her mouth.  But I was persistent.  Every time she behaved she got a treat.  The bribes really worked in her favor.

I was ready to try to ride her.  The jury was still out with Dad.  I stamped my feet, crossed my arms, and gave him the cold shoulder until he agreed.  At first he wanted to try it, or have Chance, who was twenty, give it a shot.  That hadn’t gone over well with me. 

Luckily my grandpa had sided with me.  That man has spoiled me and I know it and appreciate it.  He helped saddle her and helped me put the bridle on, then stepped back.  My dad had been due home from work any minute.  Once the moment had presented itself, I was nervous beyond words.  I had yet to fall off a horse and didn’t really want to find out how bad it hurt. 

I had led Rosie over to the stump that I used as a boost and talked to her quietly.  “Please let me do this,” I said to her.  Her ears had flickered.  “If I can’t do it, Dad will never let me keep you.  And if I get hurt, he’ll probably lock me up in the basement.”  

I’d taken a deep breath and put my left foot in the stirrup.  That was the first time I paused, gauging her reaction.  Rosie had her ear pointed back towards me.  “Okay, girl, it’s just me,” I’d said, putting my full weight on the stirrup.  She sidled away a little uneasily but I just put my right leg over and got situated just in case things went south.

My grandpa likes to joke that Rosie behaved so well because she couldn’t tell that I was on her back.  At that point in my life I maybe weight eighty pounds.  The saddle weighed almost as much as me.  My dad pulled into the driveway to see me beaming from the saddle, talking to Rosie the entire time.  I got grounded but it was totally worth it.

Nowadays she’s mellowed out, so I don’t even have to use a saddle.  Like now.  I’d just grabbed the bridle from the shed but I hadn’t been motivated to catch her.  I heard the front door open.  That changed things.

I scrubbed my face with one hand and snapped my fingers at Rosie.  She moseyed over to me.  I put the bit into her mouth and lifted the bridle up over her ears and buckled it.  The other horses were off over the hill.  Rosie liked to stay close, and came investigating every time she heard the door open.  I opened the gate and Rosie walked out it, used to the routine.  I was barely hanging onto the reins as I latched  the gate again.  I walked over to the same old stump I’d used that first time and stepped onto it.  Rosie held perfectly still as I gained my seat.

My dog, ok technically the family dog, Ranger raced over to join in on the walk.  “Hey, boy,” I said to him.  Rosie bent and sniffed at him.  The two of them actually get along pretty well.  I think it’s mostly because Ranger thinks that Rosie is a big dog.  He couldn’t be mistaken for a small horse since he’s a thirty pound yellow cocker spaniel.  He’s friendly but has his limits.  Like right now he was probably so overwhelmed with the little girls running around.  “Yeah, well, this is only a temporary escape,” I said to him, turning Rosie onto the road.

Part of my horseback rides is talking to Rosie pretty much the entire time.  Her ears will flicker back when she’s listening.  Ranger, trotting beside us, would look up every once in a while.  I caught Rosie up on the entire Leigh situation, telling her everything.  Rosie had heard a lot about Leigh over the years. 

After about twenty minutes I turned back for the house.  Ranger was a little ahead, sniffing along the side of the roads.By now I’d stopped ranting about Leigh and had started talking to her about everything else.  I ran off some of the more horrible work experiences, then the funny things I’d been up to lately.  As of now these stories involved Kirsten, Tate, and Ry.

“You remember Tate, don’t you,” I reminded Rosie.  She blew her nose.  “Yeah, you didn’t like him much… but you don’t like anyone.  He’s Ry’s roommate, the one that came back for my drill team show and graduation.  And Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.  I don’t know when that guy sees his family.” 

I broke off to look around for Ranger.  He liked to track bunnies and deer but after a few run-ins with a skunk, I was a little wary of letting him go exploring.  I whistled for him and of course he popped out of the bushes right on top of us.  Rosie jumped a little, but I’d been prepared for it.  “Nice try, Ranger,” I said to him. He just looked up at me, tail wagging.  It’s impossible to stay mad at him.

“Anyway, Ro, I know what you’re thinking.  But I’m determined to not get a crush on him so that I end up in that unrequited love situation again.  It ends up with me getting my hair cut and crying when I don’t like it.  My hair is finally long again.  So, Tate is firmly in the friend zone,” I said.  I came into view of the house.  I saw three little tornadoes of energy running around screaming in the front yard.  The adults were sitting on the front porch.  It was a nice evening, the sun almost under the horizon.  The air had cooled off a little, but not enough to need a jacket. 

“Be cool,” I said to Rosie as Ranger galloped ahead to play with the girls.  His little vacation must have been enough to relax him.  I saw him jump up and lick at El’s face.

“Gross,” she giggled, taking a step back.

“You’re gross,” I called to her.

“No, you are.”

It said a lot about the state of my life when I was exchanging insults with a four year old.  “Keke, I want to ride on Rosie,” Madelyn said.  She grabbed Peyton, who was making a dash for me.  I’d drilled the horse safety rules into her and El already.  Peyton had yet to get that one, mostly because she wouldn’t understand.

“Me too,” El piped up. 

“Well, I don’t have the saddle on her,” I said.  “You guys aren’t big enough to ride her without a saddle.”

“We can ride with you.”

Rosie was looking at me.  “Fine,” I said.  “Does everyone have the right shoes on?”

“Peyton doesn’t,” Madelyn reported.

“Okay.  You can go first, then El, then Peyton if she gets her sneakers on. Can someone lift Madelyn up?” I called to the crowd on the porch.

My dad got to his feet first.  He held Madelyn’s hand, walking over to Rosie and I.  She’d been well trained not to run over to a horse without an adult.  Much better trained than I had been.  Back then the horses had been used to a little blonde scampering around by their knees.  I couldn’t guarantee the same thing now. 

Madelyn was seated in front of me.  I took her to the corner of the road and back, then traded her off for El.  El grabbed a hold on the reins and helped me steer.  Rosie took it all with patience.  A wriggling Peyton was handed up to me.  I wrapped one arm around her waist.  She promptly wrapped her hands in Rosie’s mane and leaned forward to give her a hug.  She chattered nonstop.  Rosie flickered her ears back.  It was one of those moments I made a note of, a moment to recall when Peyton started growing up.

By then my mom had gone in after the camera.  She snapped a picture of me and Peyton.  “Get the other two up there,” she ordered.

I had El between me and Peyton, my arm wrapped around both of them.  Madelyn was behind me, gripping my shirt.  “Come on, Mom,” I groaned.  “You know I hate getting my picture taken.”

“That’s why I have to take advantage of the moment when it allows itself,” she said.

“Rosie is starting to get antsy,” I said. 

Tate came over to take the little girls down.  Madelyn waited for El, making sure her little sister got safely away from the horse.  Tori took Peyton.  “Bathtime.”

“Awww,” I complained with my nieces. 

“You look good up there,” Tate said, resting his hand on Rosie’s shoulder, really close to my leg.  I pretended not to notice.  Rosie turned her head to look at him.  He looked back at her warily.  “She’s not going to bite me, is she?”

“To my knowledge, she has never bitten anyone,” I said, truthfully.  That wasn’t to say she was above it.  “Can you open the gate for me?”

He sighed dramatically.  “You’re going to make me walk all the way over there?”

I held out my hand.  Ry and I used to compete in the county rodeos so I was trained fairly well in pulling people up off the ground.  Don’t ask questions, just know that it’s a competition in the rodeo.  Usually the tinier person stands on a bucket at the other end of the arena.  The rider runs the horse over as fast as possible, and pulls the person standing on the bucket up behind him or her.  Usually Ry had been the rider but there had been a time or two where they’d wanted to even up the odds.  Rosie had been my favorite in those occasions.  She was always quick to change her balance if she sensed me slipping. 

Tate just looked at my hand.  “I am not going to do that.”

“I won’t fall,” I said to him.  “If I couldn’t do it, I wouldn’t offer.”

He shook his head.  “I’d rather walk.”

“Okay,” I said.  “Remind me to have you watch some of our home videos.”

Once I had Rosie back in the pasture I took her bridle back to the small shed.  There was no light in there so I was grateful when Tate propped the door open, waiting for me.  I walked in the dim to the farthest corner, where Rosie’s stuff was all lined up.  My dad is highly organizational every once in a while. 

I turned and stumbled over a saddle rack.  Okay, so not so organized.  “You okay?” Tate asked.

“I’m so graceful it hurts,” I said easily, stepping around the saddle.  “As you can imagine, I was bruised a lot as a child.”

“From what Ry tells me, you also got scraped, cut, bumped, and broken,” he said. 

“He did too,” I said. 

“He never tells me these stories.”

“Of course not.  That would be embarrassing.”

Everyone was still relaxing on the front porch when Tate and I arrived.  “You still look good on that horse,” Dad said to me.  “I never understand why you don’t go for rodeo queen.”

“Because I’d have to invest in chaps and bright red lipstick,” I said to him.  I wiggled my sneakers at him.  “I never wear proper riding gear.”

“We know,” Mom said.  “You’re forgetting who paid the medical bills.”

I smiled.  “Love you, Mom.”

“It’s too late to suck up to me,” she said, waving me away.  “Every time you or Ry would fall off of one of those things I’d try to convince you dad to sell them and he refused.  Then I’d see you riding around on Rosie and see why.”

“Why?” Kirsten asked.  “You forget that some of us here haven’t been in on the touching family moments for all of eternity.”

“She just gets this look on her face,” Dad said when Mom failed to describe it.  “Like- I don’t know.  Keely, give it a go.”

“Normally I’m not looking at myself in a mirror when I’m riding,” I said.

“Keely said that there were home movies,” Tate said.

“You have home movies and you’ve never shared?” Kirsten glared at me.  “You’ve seen all of mine.”

“Mostly because you post them on Facebook,” I said.  “Mine aren’t as embarrassing as yours.”

“Then share.”

“I don’t think anyone wants to relive the old glory days,” Ry said. 

“I do,” Tate spoke up again.

“Yeah.”  Kirsten poked El in the belly.  “Do you want to see your mom, Keke, and Ry when they were your age?”

“Yeah,” El giggled.  “I wanna see.”

I shook my head.  “I so don’t want to be a part of this.”

“Watch them or know that we’ll make fun of you the entire time,” Kirsten threatened.  “Same goes for Ry.”

I looked at Ry.  “You hold them off and I’ll go grab the evidence.”



After Ry was taken down by his three nieces, they’d turned to chasing Keely through  the house.  They didn’t understand what was so important with the storage tub filled with videos so when their aunt put that on the table, they continued to chase her.

“Okay guys,” Tori called, grabbing the remote as the first video rewound.  “Come see how adorable Mom was.”

“If by adorable you mean purely evil,” Keely said, plopping on the floor.  She leaned against the chair where Ry was sitting and stretched out her long legs.  “I was the adorable one.”

Tate enjoyed watching the tapes of birthdays.  There was one of Keely and Ry, both toddlers still in diapers, dancing to Michael Jackson.  “I forgot about this one,” Keely groaned, covering her eyes.  “Look at me.”

“You’re so cute,” Kirsten kicked at her playfully.  “Look at those curls.”

Keely had been a pudgy little redhead with spiral curls.  At about five she’d lost the baby fat and was a little twig.  For the rest of the home videos she was always running around with Ry, close to her dad or grandpas, or doing something adventurous.

“Ooh, the rodeo,” Keely said as there was a loud crackle and then an arena came onto the screen. 

“Our next contestants are the sibling duo, Keely and Rylan Fitz.  Let’s see if they can beat their record.”

The video panned out, showing a long haired Keely hopping up onto a bucket across the arena.  She waved and the crowd cheered.  The video went to the other end, showing Ry sitting tall on a horse.  “What were we, fifteen and fourteen?” Ry speculated out loud.


There was a shot and then Ry’s horse ran over the line into the arena, galloping for his sister at the far end.  He swung his horse around the bucket, throwing out his arm to his sister.  She locked her arm with his, getting a foot in the stirrup, and got pulled up behind him.  There was hardly a lull in the pace.  The horse ran back for the gate and the time was announced. 

The video camera got pointed down at the ground for  a moment.  “They want her to be the anchor,” Tate could hear Mr. Fitz say.  “She’s getting Rosie.  I want to see this one.”

“Ha.  This is the first time they made me do it,” Keely gloated.  “I showed them.”

The video camera went to Ry, standing on the bucket.  It zoomed in.  He looked a little worried.  The camera went to the other end.  “Dad, she doesn’t have a saddle.”  That sounded like Chance’s voice.

Sure enough, there was Keely, proudly on Rosie, only a bridle to be seen on the horse.  “Get her,” you could hear their mom say.  “They’re both going to get hurt.”

Mr. Fitz passed in front of the camera, bent on stopping his daughter.  He was too late.  The shot went off and there was just a blur of red.  The camera focused back in on Ry.  Keely straightened out her arm, Ry grabbed it.  The horse took a step closer and he was behind his sister.  Then the three of them were racing for the gate.

“That folks, was without a saddle,” the announcer said.  The video cut out then.

“What this video didn’t show was me getting my head ripped off,” Keely told the group.  “Apparently I was irresponsible and stupid.”

“You were,” Ry said.  “But we were awesome.”

“I bet we could still do it,” Keely said confidently. 

“Let’s not try,” her dad said to her.  “I’ve almost got your bills paid off.  The two of you cost me more money than the other four put together.”

“We were a handful,” Keely said to Kirsten. 

There were a few more videos, several with shots of Keely or Ry in a cast, a few with Keely and a freshly broken nose.  “There was a kickball incident,” Keely explained to Tate.  “Ry did it on purpose.”

“You broke your sister’s nose?”

“No,” Ry said defensively.  “We were playing in a game at recess, boys against girls.  She was already mad because she couldn’t be on the boys team.”

“Girls sucked,” Keely muttered darkly.

“It was my turn to kick and I assessed the field.  I aimed at Keely because I was figuring she wouldn’t catch it and would be too far away to tag anyone.”

“How did that work out for you?” Kirsten said.  “I remember that game.  There was blood everywhere.”

“Keely blocked the ball with her face.”

“You kicked it at my face.”

“You could have ducked.  Anyway,” Ry addressed Tate again, “she’s got blood pouring from her nose.  We’re all frozen, so stunned.  She used that opportunity to tag the other two guys on the bases.  Then she tossed the blood sprayed ball at me and walked away, head held high.”

“The girl next to me still swears that she heard it break,” Keely said.  “And the teacher almost had a heart attack.”

“And that was how boy versus girl kickball got banned from our school,” Kirsten said.  “I can’t make this stuff up.”

“We’re still highly competitive,” Ry said.  “She was always getting hurt.”

“You got hurt too,” Keely said, nodding at the TV where a ten year old Ry was sulking.  “Nice cast.”

“Maybe if someone hadn’t made my horse spook so that I hit the gravel.”

“You definitely got her back,” Tori recalled.  “Wasn’t that the summer of the biking incident?”

“Yes,” Keely groaned.  “That was painful.”

“Biking incident?”

“Ry dared me to ride down the hill on my bike.  Thank god I had my helmet.  I was flying down the hill and went to hit the brakes and hit a patch of gravel.  My bike tipped, I hit the gravel, and my helmet popped off.  I walked away with my left leg scraped raw, a scraped elbow, a jammed finger or two, and a bump on my forehead.  And a broken nail.  It peeled completely off.”

“That’s gross,” Kirsten wrinkled her nose. 

“It was worth it.  Ry was in such huge trouble that summer.  Especially once he started calling me unicorn girl because of the lump dead-center on my forehead.”

“We have pictures,” Ry said to Kirsten and Tate.  “They’re hilarious.”

Keely snarled at him.  “Knock it off, you two,” their dad said. 

There was a few videos of drill team performances over the years, of Leigh cheering at football games where Chance, their older brother, was playing.  Then there was one of Keely, riding down the center of the road, sitting high on top of Rosie.

“She’s going to hate us for recording this,” her mom was saying to someone.

“We need to record the fact that she’s part of the family,” came Tori’s voice.  “She won’t even let us take her picture anymore.”

“I still won’t let you take my picture,” Keely said out loud.  The camera zoomed in, showing that Keely was talking a hundred miles a minute to Rosie.  Then she was kicking Rosie in the ribs and Rosie dodged right, hopping over the ditch into the alfalfa field.  The camera stayed zoomed in for a few seconds, showing the hair blowing back from Keely’s face as she urged Rosie in to a full-out run.  Then it zoomed out, showing the girl’s hair streaming behind her, the horse’s mane and tail doing the same. 

“I still say that this should have been a shampoo commercial,” Tori said as the video ended. 

“You need longer hair to be in a shampoo commercial,” Keely said, getting to her feet.  “That was at the end of my tomboy stage.  I have to be at work at eight tomorrow, so I’m going to bed.”

“I have to be there at nine,” Kirsten groaned.  “That’s the one bad thing about summer.”

“We’re going over to your grandparents to go fishing and have a bonfire around five,” her mom said.  “That’ll give you guys time to nap and get in a good mood.” 

“I’m always in a good mood.”  Leigh entered the room, shoulder checking Keely to do so.  “Never mind.”

Submitted: April 25, 2012

© Copyright 2022 DMT. All rights reserved.


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