Jenna's Lesson

January 12, 2009
“Jenna! Turn that music down, NOW!” Jenna’s mother Elizabeth Brennan looked up at the swinging chandelier above her head. She knew perfectly well what was causing it to swing-Jenna’s new Dance Dance Revolution DVD her grandfather had gotten her for her fourteenth birthday. Up in her room, Jenna was twisting and moving to the beat of the music. This was the most fun she had gotten working out in ages! She was two hours into it. It was four hours long, and so far she had only gotten to two hours and eighteen minutes. This time she was determined to get to three hours. She was going to keep working up until she could do all the four hours straight. Then, she probably wouldn’t ever do it again. It took too long, even though it was fun. And riding kept her in pretty good shape. Riding! She smiled fondly at a picture of her horse, Crusader which sat on her desk. She had smooched to him and he had turned, ears pricked and eyes bright. The picture was perfect. It caught all the intelligence in his black, beautiful face. His forelock hung over one eye, and the sunset had given his ebony coat a trim of orange. She smiled and turned back to her workout. Suddenly the door flew open. “JENNA BRENNAN!” “What? Just a second, Mom, I can barely hear you!” Jenna reached for her remote and paused the TV. “There. What is it?” “Jenna, I am fed up to here with that noise!” Elizabeth slashed her hand across her forehead in an angry gesture. “Either turn it down, or I’ll throw it out!” “But, Mom-” “No ‘buts!’ You are not the only person living in this house. Respect others, Jenna! Do unto others as you would have them do unto you! Remember that!” Jenna flushed. “Yes, ma’am.” Mrs. Brennan nodded sharply. “Good. Your snack is ready, and your friends are waiting to go on a trail ride with you down at the stable.” “Oh, good!” Jenna brightened. A trail ride was just what she needed. She sighed. So much for three hours of Dance Dance Revolution. Oh well, she could always try next Saturday. She pulled on her riding boots and grabbed a jacket. “See you later, Mom!” she hollered as she dashed down the stairs. “Jenna!” her mother admonished again. “Please! Do you have to sound like a herd of elephants every time you come down the stairs?” “Sorry,” mumbled Jenna. “Sorry ‘what?’” “Sorry, ma’am.” “That’s better. Did you remember your jacket?” “Yes!” Jenna jogged into the kitchen and snatched a handful of warm oatmeal cookies from the baking tray. “Have fun!” “Thanks, Mom!” Jenna hurried out the door, pulling her jacket over one arm and switching her handful of cookies to her other hand. She shrugged the windbreaker on and jogged through the yard to the stables that occupied the Brennan’s large property. “Hey, guys!” she could see their bikes propped up against the stable wall, although she couldn’t see them. She turned the corner and slowed to a walk before entering the stable. “Hi, Josh!” she greeted her friend. “Hey!” He grinned at her. “Where are Brittney and Amanda?” “They’re in their stalls,” he answered as he swept a currycomb over his horse Rajah’s already gleaming chestnut coat. “You mean our horse’s stalls,” corrected the Brittney, the oldest of them all. She was sixteen and owned a dapple gray Arabian mare named Lotus. All of her friends boarded their horses at Jenna’s stables, and Matthew, the old groom, loved taking care of them. He had once been a groom for racehorses, but after a stroke the doctors had said he had to stay out of professional horse business since it was too stressful. Matthew loved taking care of the kid’s horses, and his house was not far away. “Where’s Matthew?” asked Amanda, leading her Norwegian Fjord pony Thor out of the his stall. “It’s his day off,” answered Jenna. “I already fed and watered the horses and mucked their stalls out.” “Thanks!” said Brittney with a smile. Jenna grinned, then walked quickly down the aisle to her favorite horse in the world’s stall. “Hey, boy! How’s my favorite guy in the whole world?” she crooned. “Hey, what about me?” called Josh from the other end of the stable. “You’re a close second,” she called back. She smiled sadly as she realized that if she had a father, he would be her favorite. But he had died in a car accident three years ago, just after buying Crusader for her. The huge Fresian/Thoroughbred cross nickered and walked over to her and buried his face in her chest as if to say ‘hello.’ “Hello yourself,” laughed Jenna, shoving his face away playfully. He, in return, butted her gently. “Don’t be rude,” she scolded, although a moment later her pretend scowl melted away and she smiled at her horse. “I love you, boy,” she whispered, hugging his neck. He craned his neck around and hooked his head over her shoulder as if to say ‘I love you, too.’ “Aw, that’s sweet,” smiled Amanda, leaning over the stall door with Jenna. “I know, he is,” smiled Jenna. Jenna pushed the stall door open, absentmindedly forgetting that her friend had all her weight on it. Consequently, Amanda went tumbling headfirst into Crusader’s stall with an “Ow!” Jenna snapped to and gasped. “Oh!” Amanda, her face still buried in the clean straw that layered the stall floor, said in a muffled voice “Thanks. I needed that.” From down the aisle Josh burst out laughing, and Brittney said “Josh! That’s not nice.” and called “Are you okay, Mandy?” “I’m fine!” called the younger teenager, standing up and brushing her jeans off. “A little face plant never hurt anyone.” Crusader seemed genuinely surprised at the intruder to his stall, although he was as gentlemanly as ever and stepped back so he wouldn’t step on the girl. Jenna helped her friend up, apologizing profusely. “All right, all right, do it.” “Do what?” asked Jenna, sounding puzzled. “Laugh your head off because me diving headfirst into Crusader’s stall was so hilarious.” Jenna obligingly began to laugh hysterically as she grabbed Crusader’s grooming kit and began to brush him. “I was only joking,” said Amanda, pretending to grumble. “Oh. Sorry,” said Jenna, eyes twinkling. “Yeah, sure you are,” snorted the other girl. They both grinned at each other and hurried to ready their horses. In a few minutes they were all ready, and they galloped across the Brennan meadow. “Where do you want to go?” called Josh over his shoulder. “How about let’s take the old dirt road? That’s only two miles long, and it’s got trees overhanging it the entire length!” suggested Amanda. “Sounds good!” answered the others. The quartet of young riders let out their horses, and soon they were all racing in a flat-out gallop, their laughter being tossed behind them in the crisp October wind. “I’m sure glad Mom made me bring my windbreaker,” shouted Jenna as she gained on Josh and Brittney. “Yeah!” the boy called back. He himself was muffled up to the chin in a navy blue hooded sweatshirt that set off Rajah’s chestnut coat beautifully. “Hey, wait up!” called Amanda from behind. Thor was galloping as fast as he could, but his shorter legs made him not quite as fast as the other, larger horses. They all slowed down until she could catch up. They were at the road now, and they slowed their horses down from a gallop into an easy canter. The road was very muddy, due to all the rain they had been getting lately. “Maybe we should slow the horses down,” suggested Brittney, eyeing the slick road. “They’re fine!” answered Jenna dismissively. “Are you sure?” asked Brittney doubtfully. “Lotus doesn’t have shoes.” “You should get him shod,” answered the younger girl. “I will, but my job only pays so much, you know!” Brittney fired back. “I’m slowing down.” “Fine, we’ll meet you on the way back!” answered Jenna, feeling annoyed at the other girl’s attitude. “You’re acting like my Mom.” “Well maybe your Mom is right more often than you think!” Snapped Brittney. “I agree with Britt,” said Josh slowing Rajah down. Jenna turned back around angrily and dug her heels sharply into Crusader’s sides. He jerked, surprised, and sped into a choppy gallop. “Come on, Amanda! Don’t be a chicken like these guys,” she called, knowing Amanda would go along with her. Amanda, being the youngest at thirteen, looked up to Jenna. “All…all right,” said the younger girl doubtfully. She clucked with her tongue and her horse sped up. The cold wind whipped the girls’ hair as their horses dug into the mud that was so deep it was up to the horse’s fetlocks. “Maybe they’re right. Maybe we should slow down,” suggested Amanda, looking worried as she raced alongside Jenna. “Forget it! I’m sick of everyone bossing me around! First my Mom, then those guys!” She gave a frustrated huff. “I’ll show them! It’s going to be fine.” “Okay,” faltered Amanda. As soon as the words left her lips, Amanda screamed. It seemed to happen in slow motion. Jenna heard the scream and turned slowed Crusader down just in time to see Thor stumble in the thick, slippery mud. He twisted, his hind legs high in the air as he flipped forward. Jenna thought she had screamed, but she couldn’t be sure. She could see Amanda’s panicked face as she flew out of the saddle. She saw Josh and Brittney ride up quickly, and she saw Brittney’s mouth open in a scream while Josh’s brown eyes were wide with horror. Then, it sped back up to normal. Amanda landed heavily on her right arm in the mud, and Jenna’s stomach turned inside out as she heard a sickening crunch. She quickly dismounted and ran over to Amanda, nearly slipping she was running so fast. “Aman-daaaa!” she screamed, getting a lungful of the frigid air. It burned her lungs, but she didn’t care. She didn’t know how, but Josh and Brittney were by Amanda’s side before she got there. “I-is she all right?” asked Jenna, feeling like she was going to throw up. Brittney looked the same as she did, her face was pale. They all looked at Amanda, who lay in the mud, her eyes closed and her face white. “Brittney, call the 911,” ordered Josh. He looked at her helmet, and Brittney broke in quickly saying “Don’t take the helmet off! If her back is hurt and you do that, it could paralyze her!” Josh nodded and looked at the cause of the trouble. “Jenna, go check on Thor.” Jenna blindly obeyed her friend and ran over to the Fjord pony. He was laying on his side and struggling to get up as the mud made squishing noises underneath him. She grabbed his reins and hauled on them, and soon had him up. Other than being a complete mess, he seemed fine. She could hear Brittney sounding shaken as she said into the phone “Yeah, that’s right, it’s um, the old dirt road off of…no, wait-” After three minutes, Brittney finally managed to give them the right directions. Jenna, meanwhile, was feeling overwhelmed with guilt. It was her fault Amanda had fallen. She was the one who had urged Amanda to gallop, and hadn’t listened to Brittney and Josh. And every time her heart pounded it thudded to the words “Is-she-dead, is-she-dead.” She knew that Amanda and Josh were purposely not looking at her, to avoid yelling their heads off at her. She couldn’t blame them. Suddenly the roaring sirens of the ambulance broke into her guilt, and soon they were carrying Amanda off on a stretcher.

Later that afternoon, Mrs. Brennan walked into the stables to find Jenna sobbing in Crusader’s stall. “Honey, what is it?” “I just feel so bad, Mom!” Jenna sobbed into Crusader’s black mane. “It’s one hundred percent my fault that Amanda got hurt today.” “Honey, I think this should teach you a good lesson,” said Elizabeth gently. “I just got a call from the doctor. She is going to be fine. She broke her arm and fainted from the pain, but they said in three weeks to a month, she’ll be able to ride just fine.” Jenna sniffed. “Mom, right after Brittney told me not to gallop in the mud, I said that she sounded just like you.” “So?” asked Mrs. Brennan, smiling. “I guess…” Jenna’s voice trailed off as tears blurred her blue eyes. “I guess that means that I should listen to you when you say stuff. Amanda could have died this morning.” Elizabeth Brennan caught up her daughter in a hug. “Honey, it looks like you have already learned your lesson.” “I hope so,” sniffled Jenna. Suddenly Mrs. Brennan exclaimed “Oh! I almost forgot what I came out here for. Josh and Brittney are in the hospital with Amanda, and they are all on the phone for you.” “Really?” Jenna looked up, excited. Then her face fell as she said “Probably to tell me they never want to see me again.” Mrs. Brennan smiled. “Honey, if someone is a true friend, you’d be surprised at how forgiving they can be.” “I hope you’re right,” sighed Jenna. She gave Crusader another pat and jogged out to the house. She ran into the kitchen and picked up the phone. “Hello?” she asked breathlessly. The run hadn’t been long, but her mixed emotions and the strain of the day had worn her down. Amanda’s voice came over the phone. “Thanks a lot, Jenna,” she said sourly. Jenna stared into the phone. “W-what?” Suddenly Amanda laughed and said cheerily “I would never have gotten these guy’s get well baskets if you hadn’t sent me here!” Jenna cracked up, laughing so hard that she could hear all of their voices laughing along over the phone. “I’ll be over with mine in twenty minutes!” answered Jenna, and she knew everything would be all right.


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