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Your Horse or Me

"You have to choose!" I heard a gruff voice demand loudly from the barn just up the hill. Whoever it was didn't sound very happy and the crisp autumn air projected it across the field I was walking across. It had been a pretty average day so this perked my interest. I pulled my jacket closer over my shoulders and began to walk straight up to the barn.
The clouds threatened to rain, or even snow. I was headed to the ranch house initially but this caught my attention. As I stepped closer I could hear faint whimpering over the hood beats and snorts of impatient horses from inside the barn. This was unusual. Not many people had arguments here unless it was about horses. I walked along the side of the barn to the doorway.
"This won't work," The harsh voice spoke again. I shimmied to the very end of the wall. Carefully, I peeked around the corner and into the barn. Right away my eyes found two figures in the hall way, standing in front of a horse stall. Looking closer I saw Harper, one of the riders here at the ranch, and what must be her boyfriend, Jace. I've never seen him before, but there was nothing special about him. He was tall, muscular, with short auburn brown hair. His face seemed sharp to me, unforgiving. Not the type of guy you'd want to get into a pickle with.
He was looming over the frail figure of Harper, well I think it was Harper. She usually stood up straight with her head held high and a long smile spread across her face. Instead she was hunched over and shaking. The smile was replaced with a sad expression and her eyes were cloudy and red. Jace's large hands were clasped tightly over her small shoulders.
"What's it going to be?!" Jace almost scolded Harper. My heart throbbed, how could he talk so harshly to her? Couldn't he she is was almost in tears? Harper wiped her nose with her coat sleeve and painfully lifted her head to look at Jace. He rose his eyebrows and stared right into her eyes to demand and answer. Her golden hair was undone from it's usual pony tail and lay limply over her shoulder like her arms against her side.
"Why... can't I have... both?" A definitive waver affected her voice. I loved her voice, it was so calm, never rose, and never snapped. But I loved many things about her. I've had a crush on her since I met her. But, ever since I could remember she had other guy friends, even boyfriends. Jace had been with her for at least a year now.
"No, you have to decide! I'm not going to be second anymore!" Jace shook Harper slightly. Second? There was someone else? What was going on?
"But... I can't choose," Harper complained. I wanted to hug her, tell her it was alright.
"You have too. Horses or me," Jace ordered. My eyebrows shot up. He was upset that she rode horses? What didn't he understand? Harper lived for horses. Horses were the very reason she went to bed and got up the next morning. Nothing could stop her from being with horses. No weather, no injury, no person... hopefully.
Harper always had a special connection to horses. Like she could communicate with them better than anyone I ever knew. It would never cease to amaze me what she could do with a horse. Just her voice would calm down the most wound up stallion. She's helped me with my horse plenty of times, I respect her. Why didn't Jace? Couldn't he see that this is what she does?
"Jace... I don't wanna," Harper looked back down at her cowboy boots.
"You'd better," Jace threatened. I wanted to yell for him to stop. Just to leave her alone. But I just couldn't find my voice, the courage. Harper closed her eyes and clenched her teeth. They stood there in silence and I watched them with wide eyes. What was she going to say?
At last her eyes shot open with a more determined look to them. The looked back up into Jace's intense eyes and pursed her lips.
"Horses," She whispered. My heart skipped a beat. Jace looked as if someone had just insulted him, he was blown away. He couldn't believe what she just said.
Harper's hands traveled up to his back as if to ask for a hug. Jace replied by pulling his hands off her shoulders and shaking his head. They looked at each other for a second longer then Jace pulled out of her arms and spun around to face the doorway. My head shot back around the corner and returned to the rest of my body that was plastered on the cold barn wall.
Jace stormed out of the barn and to the right, thankfully away from me, to get to his car. I waited until I heard his engine start then and stepped out to the doorway. The cold wind nipped at my face and made me jumpy. Harper stood in the same place with her head in her hands. Her shoulders shook and she cried silently.
Without thinking I stepped forward into the sanctuary of the barn. As soon as my boot hit the rubber mats I flinched. It sounded as if a bomb had exploded in my head. Harper didn't seem to notice and continued to cry. I ran my frost bitten hand through my long, black hair. My breath clouded up in the air. I began to walk forward towards the crying girl.
As soon as Harper noticed me she tried to wipe the tears from her eyes. It was a hopeless effort, there was no mistaking her crying. She looked at the floor as I parked myself in front of her, right where Jace was standing. I even felt as if I had endless power over her. She seemed to have shrunk, I was only a bit taller than her but she looked like a shrimp standing in front of me.
"Adrian," She coughed a welcome.
"Broke up with Jace?"I said immediately regretting I did. She looked to her right, away from me, with teary eyes and a closed mouth.
"He asked me to give up horses for him," She almost laughed, but I knew it was fake. Her heart must be broken into a million pieces.
"I know," I admitted. Her gaze returned to my face as she looked for an answer, "I heard you guys arguing."
"I can't believe he would ask me to make that choice," She whimpered, not minding that I had heard the conversation,"He means everything to me."
"And so do horses," I finished her explanation.
"Yea," She said then a steady stream of tears began to run down her inflamed cheeks. I inched forward and she let her head drop onto my shoulder. My heart began to pound.
"It was hard," I sighed. She sniffled in a response. I felt her tears begin to seep in through the fabric of my jacket. The cool air made my shoulder freeze. Instinctively, I wrapped my arms around her body and pulled her closer. Her warmth added to mine. I quiet wail escaped from her mouth. I shushed her and rested my chin on the top of her head. Her hair smelled fresh and was as soft as a rose petal. I began to rock her back and forth in my arms like a loving father would for his crying daughter. We stood there in silence for what seemed like hours. Every once in a while she would whimper or sniff but mostly it was silent.
"You made the right decision," I broke the silence after a while. She shifted her head so her cheek was rested up against my chest. I hope she couldn't feel my heart frantically beating.
"You think?" She mumbled into my shirt.
"Yes. Don't let anyone pull you away from what you love doing," I said passionately.
"I thought he liked me for my personality, what I liked to do," Harper spilled. I felt what she felt.
"Not everyone is like that," I helped her out.
"We've been together forever now. Why would he choose now to make me decide. It would have been a lot easier a long time ago," Harper cried. I didn't know what to say.
"I'm not sure," I said honestly. More tears began to pour from her eyes. I wanted her to stop. She needed to forget him.
"It will be okay," I stoked the hair behind her back then I gently pulled away from her. She looked into my eyes with a concerned look on her face. I replied with a small grin.
"Come inside the house, you'll catch a cold out here," I coaxed her to my side. She walked by my side like a lost puppy dog, hoping for a new home. Although her eyes were locked on the ground I was sure she was following my every move. We turned a sharp corner then trudged up the hill to the old ranch house.
My throat tightened when I felt her hand bump against mine. I tensed us as her hand pressed closer. Her warm fingers intertwined around my frozen ones. We locked palms and held on tight.
I smiled to myself and led Harper up the hill to the house. Little did I know at the time, but Harper and I became more than just friends right then. Our relationship began to grow as we spent more time together. Since that day, Harper has never gone anywhere with any other guy. Who knew that one hard break up could spark up something much more beautiful.




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