Winners Are Dreamers | Teen Ink

Winners Are Dreamers

August 23, 2011
By nikkigee123, Granby, Massachusetts
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nikkigee123, Granby, Massachusetts
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Author's note: My own life actually inspired this story. The main character is based on me, because I actually ride horses; except this story is really just a huge exaggeration of my life, or sort of what I would like my life to be. I honestly didn't really write this for other people, but I hope people will enjoy it. I just wrote it for myself, and it was fun writing it because I almost saw it all like a movie.

The author's comments:
This one is probably kinda boring, but it's just getting started.

Two years ago, my biggest dream came true. Something I had wanted my whole life; something I had worked hard for for a long time. I had finally gotten my own horse.

His name was Rip. A very beautiful, flashy, Pinto horse. He was the love of my life. He was my best friend. Rip was a wonderful horse, and an amazing jumper! Standing at 15.3 hands, and being only 8 years old, it was pretty incredible that he could jump so well.

Two years ago, I started working for a woman, Tanya Reyburn. She was a very successful horse trainer, and used to be an international show jumper. So, when I was 14, I asked her if I could help out around her barn, just to get more experience with horses. She was very generous, and let me ride her pony, Dora, in exchange for mucking out stalls, cleaning tack, etc. But Dora could only walk and trot, and Tanya thought I should advance a little. So, she traded horses with a friend. They got Dora, and Tanya got Rip. She soon taught me how to canter and jump on him, but he was for sale. He was technically still her friend's horse; we were just “borrowing” him.

After awhile, my mom and I talked to Tanya. Because I liked him so much, I didn't want Rip to go. We made a deal with Tanya that we could co-own him.

Now, I realize, it was the best, most wonderful decision of my life.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Come on, buddy. Get up!” I whispered urgently to Rip. We were riding in Tanya's jumping ring. Rip was being lazy and didn't want to canter when I asked him.

“Push him! Use your legs!” Tanya called from the center of the ring. “Do you want a crop?”

“No, thanks. I think I can get him going.” I asked Rip again to canter, keeping my outside leg behind the girth. He finally picked up his left lead, and I did some work in the canter; circles, lead changes, my jumping position.

“You look great, Emily.” Tanya said. “Now, I want you to try a course I set up for you.”


I slowed Rip to a walk and looked at all the jumps. They were much higher than I had ever jumped before, which was about 3' 6” high. “They look... really high.”

She chuckled. “Yes. They're all about four and a half feet.”

“Wow....” My heart pounded. I knew Rip could jump them, but I wasn't sure if I could.

“Don't worry. You'll be fine. So, I want you to start with the green roll-tops line, then the blue and white vertical, the red and white vertical, the brown line, and finish with the wave and white oxer.”

“They're all so huge!” I whispered to Rip as I asked him to canter on his right lead. As I turned him toward the first roll-top, an adrenaline rush surged through me, and soon, we were up and over. I smiled and three strides later, we jumped the second roll-top. We rounded the corner, then turned sharply toward the blue and white vertical. A little too sharply. Rip literally crashed through the blue and white poles. I managed to keep my seat, but when Rip landed, he stumbled, throwing me on his neck. He got up quickly and kept on cantering.

“You're okay! Just keep on going!” Tanya called to me.

I heaved a sigh of relief, getting back my stirrups, then I headed toward the red and white vertical. I lined him up carefully, and we met the jump perfectly, and smoothly. Then, I looked at the next jump, another sharp turn, but, this time, I took it slow and pushed Rip to the rail, turning him a little late and pointing him toward the center of the brown line. The first jump was simple, but the second one in the line was a very wide oxer.

We needed more momentum. I urged Rip forward, covering more ground, and in about five strides, we were flying. But I couldn't enjoy the moment for too long. Rip landed, but he was on the wrong canter lead. I quickly asked him to change, then looked to the last two jumps-another vertical and oxer.

“Excellent, Emily! Let him trot for a bit!” Tanya said when we finished.

I went over to her after a few seconds of trotting.

“You looked really good out there-you handled the height no problem, you got the leads, and the strides. The only thing was the turn to the blue and white jump.”

“Yeah... my bad. I just turned too soon, right?”

“Well,” she started, “yes, but you also didn't look. You turned too soon, so Rip didn't have enough time to prepare. And not looking made you come at the jump at a bad angle. So, tomorrow, we'll practice that a lot.”

“Okay. Sounds good.” I toyed with Rip's mane as we walked up the long driveway. “So... is there a big show coming up? Or did you just want me to try bigger fences?”

“Well, there is this event-bigger than any show you've ridden in-and I think you can do it.”

“What event?”

“It's called The Animal Planet Sporthorse Cup.”

“Oh! Wow! I've seen that before.” Then I realized that she wanted me to ride in it. “That's... really... big. A lot of really good riders compete in that.”

Tanya smiled. “Exactly. I think you're ready for something more. You up for the challenge?”

“Sssuure....” Wow. “So, how does it work? Don't I have to qualify somehow?”

“Yes, you do. First, you have to send in an entry form, although it seems more like an application for college. They want to know how old you are, how long you've been riding, your horse's name, breed, age, color, height; and they also need the results of your last five shows.”

“Okay. Then what? It's in New York, right?”

“Yes, Syracuse. After they get your entry, well, all the entries, they pick the top twenty horses and riders with the most potential. They'll give them all a call inviting them to ride in the qualifier. It's sort of like a show, and the top seven get to ride for the cup.”

“Yeah, the $50,000 cup....”

“Yup. First place is really nice.” She chuckled. “So, if you qualify in the top seven, there are three phases to do-the speed phase, the power phase, and the Grand Prix.”

“Wow... so, now all I have to do is convince my mom....”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“No way!”

“But Mom! This is a huge opportunity for me! And Tanya thinks I can do it!”

“No! I don't want you to get hurt!”

“I won't-”

“You've had me watch it before. The jumps are huge, the pressure must be terrible, and you are too young to have a career like this!”

“First of all, Tanya said Rip and I handle heights no problem. Second, you know Tanya doesn't put pressure on me, and last, it's not my career!”

“I don't want to hear it. Besides, an entry fee can't be cheap for something like that.” She started to walk away.

“First prize is $50,000.”

She stopped in her tracks. “$50,000?”

“Yup. And Rip is getting easier to ride every day.”

“Where is this held?”

“Syracuse, New York.”

“It's a long drive. I'm going to Mapquest it.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A month later, Tanya drove Rip and me to Syracuse. They accepted my “application”, saying it would be interesting to have the youngest rider to ever enter. I endured two days of intense qualifying rounds, competing against some incredible riders, and we were finally waiting for the results. They had all twenty horses and riders, with their trainers (if they had any) line up in front of the judges.

“We now have the results of the 2011 Syracuse Invitational. From first to seventh, we have Alissa Rockvan on Talk About Class, Kaylee Convise on Time Flies By, James Bowman on Twice The Limit, Samantha Gardew on No Autographs Please, Heather Owen on One Last Dance, Madison Stewart on Chestnut, and Emily Johnson on Ripple Effect. Congratulations to all of you. We look forward to seeing the seven of you compete the day after tomorrow for the Animal Planet Sporthorse Cup. For those of you who didn't qualify, we are sorry, but you all rode great. Congratulations again, and I hope to have a great Sporthorse Cup this year.”

I was incredulous. 'How could I have beaten 13 other riders? I guess I am good enough to ride here.'

“Emily,” Tanya interrupted my thoughts, pulling Rip's head around so we could bring him to his stall, “congratulations! Now, when is your mom coming?”

I checked my watch-2:30- “She told me she would leave today at about noon, so she should be here in about a half hour.”

“Okay. That gives us enough time to get Rip all set for the night-except for feeding-and we can meet your mom at the hotel.”

“Alright.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“What are you all doing here?” I exclaimed as a crowd of people walked into the hotel lobby.

“Surprise!” My mom said.

I looked around at all the people who came to cheer me on-my mom, her boyfriend, Greg, my brother, Peter, my mom's friend, Evelyn, her son and daughter, Scott and Danielle, and my best friend and her mom and sister, Rachel, Shannon, and Amber.

“Wow! Thank you... all, for coming!”

“So, did you qualify?” My mom asked impatiently.

I sighed happily. “Yes! Barely, though. I'm seventh, but I'm in!”

Everyone cheered “congratulations” and Rachel gave me a huge bear hug.

“I need a really good night's sleep tonight.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You're up! Now, I know it's the speed phase, but I don't want you to go too fast. Keep a steady pace, focus on getting a clear round, and watch the turns.” Tanya gave me a leg up onto Rip.

“Up first for the 2011 Animal Planet Sporthorse Cup, in the speed phase, is Emily Johnson, riding her horse Ripple Effect. Emily is the youngest rider to ever ride for the cup, as she is only sixteen. This is actually a very young pair-Ripple Effect is only eight.”

“Go! Good luck!” Tanya said.

I pushed Rip forward, walking cautiously into the bright ring. Nervously, I glanced around at all the gigantic jumps, remembering what the course was. I asked Rip to canter, and after only a few seconds, I heard the buzzer that tells me to start, and I headed toward the first jump.






As we landed the final jump, the crowd applauded enthusiastically to our good round.

“-with a time of 66.05 seconds with one fault.”

I grinned widely as the gate opened to let the next rider in and let me out.

“That was good, Emily!” Tanya said. “Now, we just have to wait. I think that's the hardest part about going first.”

“Good job!” I heard someone exclaim. I dismounted and went over to the cheering crowd of my friends and family. Rachel hugged and squeezed me tightly.

I laughed. “Thanks! Oh, that was fun, but terrifying.”

Tanya laughed too. “That's how it usually feels. Now, Kristen, could you take Rip and walk him around? Emily and I need to watch the other riders.”

“Okay.” My mom took him and as everyone else went back to their seats, Tanya and I watched the rest of the speed phase.

Most of the riders finished quicker than me, and many went clear, so I ended up in fifth place.

“Fifth.” I sighed.

“Don't worry. You can still pull up in the next two phases. Now, the power phase is next. You won't feel a difference in the height. Actually, don't think about the height at all-I don't want you to lose your nerve. So, just focus on getting over the jumps, lining him up right, and keeping a good pace. With his big stride, the space between the jumps is going to get tight, so be careful.”

I took a deep breath. “Okay.”

“Don't be scared. You'll do great. And also focus on having fun. It's very important to have fun, because if you're not, then what's the point in doing it, right?”

“Right.”

“Good. Now, I'll get Rip, and you watch the first two riders.”

Tanya left, so I turned to the ring, where helpers were lining up four jumps in a row, each one a little higher than the last. This was the first of a possible four rounds in the power phase, so the jumps were fairly low-well, low for a power jump-about 4 ½ -5 feet. The last round will get up to over 6 feet!

The first rider went into the ring and trotted around until the buzzer sounded. They rocked into a canter, and lined up beautifully toward the first jump-the second, third, and last. They cleared them all.

When it was our turn, Rip and I rode in nervously-but rode out with confidence and a big grin on my face.

The next two rounds went just as perfectly-but not the fourth one.

“You've been doing incredibly well, Emily, but I just noticed that Rip was a little spooky at that final jump.” Tanya told me as the jumps were being highered.

“Well, it was a 5' 11” vertical; I think he's allowed to be a little nervous.” I laughed, but I knew that a hesitant horse was not safe to jump a 6' 3” high jump. (the final jump size in the last round)

“Yes, I guess he is, but the next final jump is over six feet. You have to give him the confidence to jump.”

“Okay. I can do that.”

“Good. Now, I think you're next, so go ahead and mount up.”

When I went into the ring, my ambitions were swarming my brain. 'How amazing would it be if we won? How far could Rip and I go? The Olympics?'

I heard the buzzer, and I snapped back to reality. Pushing Rip into a canter, we approached the first jump, concentrating hard.
'Wow, these are huge.' I thought as we went clear over the first two jumps. I guess I shouldn't have stopped to think-I must have sent Rip an “unconfident” signal. He hesitated, but I urged him on. The third jump's top pole came down... and everything happened in slow motion.

Rip took an extra step-plus the two strides in between the jumps-we were too close to the jump to take off.

I fell on his neck with the momentum as he stopped- but I heard both stirrups thump against his sides as my feet slid out of them.

My usually calm and almost bombproof horse flung himself into the air. I held on only long enough to fall on the top of the jump.

Pain jolted through my right side.

I fell to the ground.

More pain... but an even stronger sense of horror flooded through me as I witnessed Rip catch a pole between his back legs.

I saw the whites of his eyes as he flailed, twisted in the air, and fell, upside down... right on top of me.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Even though I knew we were in trouble, I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sensation of peace. Everything was black, so I knew I wasn't dead. (I would've seen a bright light if I was dying) I couldn't feel the pain-which was good; I didn't like pain. All I could hear was breathing and a heartbeat-and I'm pretty sure it was Rip's.

All of a sudden, reality flooded back to me-I could see, and hear... and feel.

There was a sharp throbbing in my chest, making it difficult to breathe.

I heard voices-lots of them. “Get an ambulance!” Someone yelled. “Secure the horse!” Another one said.

“Emily! Oh my god, Emily!” I heard my mom scream. “Is she okay? Please tell me she's okay!!”

I kept my eyes closed, silently sighing at my mother. Then I heard a distressed whinny. My eyes flew open. There were multiple people all around me-my mom, a lot of show officials, and three paramedics with a stretcher.

“Oh, thank god!” My mom exclaimed.

I ignored her and tried to sit up.

“Whoa! Don't move! There might be damage to your spine.” A paramedic gently pushed me back down to the dirt.

“Wait! My horse-ow! Rip is-ow! Is he okay? OW! Stop that!” I complained as the paramedic kept pushing me back down.

“You need to stay still, Emily!”

I sighed heavily-which was painful for some reason-and crossed my arms. “Ow!” Nope, can't do that.

The paramedics worked quickly, putting a neck brace on me, and strapping me on the stretcher.

In the blaring ambulance, they asked me all sorts of questions, making sure I don't have a concussion. I did, but not a bad one. I just felt a little dizzy, not forgetting about anything. I also ended up with a collapsed lung, a fractured wrist, a dislocated shoulder, three broken ribs, and a sprained ankle.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Emily, you have a visitor. But I can tell her to leave if you're not up for it.”

“No, I'm fine. Let her in.” I was in the hospital, hooked up to an oxygen tank, an IV, and with many casts on my injured body.

Tanya walked in with a worried face. “How are you doing?”

“I'm great-how's Rip?” At the moment, I didn't really care about my pain. How could I forgive myself if Rip was seriously hurt?

“You don't look... great. But, uh, Rip is fine; spooked and upset, but no physical injury.”

I relaxed immensely. “Good.”

The nurse came back. “You have... eight more visitors. Do you want to see them?”

“Yeah. Sure.”

The crowd of people came in, Rachel in front. “Oh my gosh!” She exclaimed, rushing over to me. “Can I hug you?”

“Um... three broken ribs... how about a high five?”

She smiled and slapped my good hand.

“I'm okay, really. It just looks bad. And they won't let me leave because of my stupid concussion!”

My best friend chuckled with a sad face. “I'm still so sorry.” She looked at my casts. “How bad are you?”

“Well, they said the concussion isn't that bad; they just don't want to take a chance of me going into a coma. The lung is pretty bad, but the surgery went well, and it should be good as new. The ribs are going to be fine too, just a simple crack. My shoulder is all set back, but it's still sore. My ankle is just sprained, but I still have to wear a cast, and finally, my wrist is broken too, but it should be fine too.” I sighed, almost embarrassed by all my injuries.

“Oh... I'm so sorry.”

I chuckled. “It's okay! I'll be fine, really. I'm just sorry, to all of you, for having to see that.”

“Yeah....” People said. “It's okay....”

“Well, I hate to leave you, but it's getting late, and it's a long drive home.” Rachel's mother said.

“Oh, no, it's fine! Go! I'm okay, really. Thank you so much for coming out here with us. It means a lot.”

Rachel smiled and high-fived me again. “Bye! I love you! Feel better!”

I laughed. “I love you too! I'll call you when we get home.”

“Okay. Good luck!”

When they left, Evelyn said the same thing Shannon did. “Scott, do you want to come with us, or stay with Peter?”

“Uh... I'll stay with, um, Peter.” He answered awkwardly, glancing around the room. His eyes met mine for a split second and he looked away quickly.

So, all who was left was my mom, Greg, Peter, and Scott. After a short awkward silence, my doctor walked in. “Oh! I'm sorry. I didn't know you had company. I can come back-”

“No! It's fine! They're good. Let's talk. Can I ride?”

“Whoa! Slow down! Alright? Now, I brought the x-rays of your ribs and wrist.” The doctor put them on the x-ray light thingy. “Now, here is your left wrist. Here is where the fracture is-it's a simple break, so it will heal easily, but you need to keep it still. No heavy lifting that will put pressure on the splint.. Now, you might be wondering what you can and can't d-”

“Not really. You mean I can't ride?!”

“Emily! Don't be rude!” My mom said sternly.

“It's quite alright.” The doctor laughed. “Emily, I don't want you to worry about riding for awhile-you're going to be in too much pain for that. So, the cast on your wrist should stay on for about 4-6 weeks. You will be able to take a shower, just be careful not to move it so much. And... here are your ribs. We taped them up, and I'm sure they will heal 100%, but only in time. I want you to wear the bandage for about a week, but they will take another month or so to heal well enough that they aren't hurting so much.”

I started to protest, but the doctor put a finger up.

“Just wait. I think you should be able to ride once your wrist cast is off-but no jumping.”

My mom spoke up. “Thank you.”

“No problem. Now, I want you to stay the night here so we can monitor your lung, but if you're fine in the morning, you'll be free to go.”

“Awesome.” I said, mostly sarcastic.

When he left, my mom gently hit my good shoulder. “You should be grateful you weren't killed!”

I rolled my eyes. “I know, I know. Anyway, I know you wanted to stay with me tonight, but I want you to go to the hotel and get a good night's sleep. Okay?”

She looked surprised. “Oh. Okay. Well, I guess we should go now then, so we can make it to dinner.”

“Sure. Go ahead. I'll be fine. Really.”

“Okay. Love you.” As they all were getting up to leave, I noticed Scott looking at me, holding something. He let everyone go out the door in front of him, then threw a folded up piece of paper on my bed and left. Confused and a little nervous, I unfolded the paper. It read:
Emily,
To make a long story short, I'll just come out and say this: I like you. A lot. For some strange reason, I think I have always liked you, but was too scared to talk to you. So, will you go out with me?
...and scribbled at the bottom was:
Tonight I'll come back, and if your answer is yes, then great! But if it's no, just rip this up and throw it away.






-Scott M.

'Wow!' I thought, my eyes wide open with shock. 'I did not see that coming!'

Right after dinner, around 6:00, Scott walked through my door. “Hey.”

“Hi.” My heart was pounding. I reached under my blanket and pulled out his note.

“You didn't rip it up.” Scott joked.

I laughed nervously. “No, I didn't.” Pause. “Um... I'm not exactly sure how to say, uh, what I want to say....”

“Okay... well, is it good news, or bad news?”

“I... don't know....” Laugh.

Scott laughed too. “Uh, that's very helpful.”

I sighed. “Okay. Well, um, it's not a no, but... don't you think it would be really weird, or awkward? Because Peter is my brother and your best friend?”

“Well, it would only be awkward if we made it awkward. Right?”

“That's true... but what about our age?”

“I think we're old enough to date.”

“No, not-Scott! I meant the age difference!”

“You think four years is a lot?”

“Well, no... not really, but for us, yes.”

“Why?”

“Well....” I felt so stupid and weird saying this. “You're twenty. You're in college. You might have... expectations... that I can't, uh, meet.”

He held back a laugh. “You think I want to go out with you for... that?”

“Well....”

“Emily. I honestly like you for you. Not your body.”

“But how can I know that? How can you know that? Can you really tell the difference between a crush and lust?”

Scott sat down on my bed and leaned toward me, his face about a foot away from mine. “Emily. Do you know what I was thinking when that horse fell on you?”

To show how uncomfortable I felt, I made a joke. “Holy crap, that's a long drive for nothing?”

A smile tugged at his lips. “No. I wasn't thinking. My instincts took over and I literally couldn't breathe. When you fell, the horror I felt was overwhelming. I looked at your mom, and she had the same expression I did... and you know she loves you more than anything.”

I looked at him in surprise. “Wow.”

“Do you believe me now?”

“How could I not?” I paused, thinking. “Okay.”

“Okay what?”

“Okay... I'll go out with you.”

If this was a sitcom, you would've heard applause. Scott's face lit up, and he stood up, looking ready to hug me, but I guess he remembered my ribs.

“Um...” I said, “how about a hand shake?”

He gave me an odd look, but then took my good hand. After a few seconds, he looked me in the eyes... and kissed me.

My eyes were wide with surprise, butterflies going nuts in my stomach, my heart racing.

When he pulled away, he looked at me, smiling. But he noticed my shocked expression. “Too soon?”

I composed myself. “N-no. You just... surprised me.”

“Sorry. I've... just been waiting awhile to do that.”

We laughed, and after that, everything flowed easily, and naturally. We talked for a long time, discussing random things, and laughing a lot. After about three hours, Scott sighed and looked at the clock. “I'd better go. It's getting late, and you need some rest.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

After he put on his jacket, he came over and kissed me again... and again... and again, longer each time. He pulled away unwillingly, smiling again. “Bye.”

“Bye.” And... one more kiss.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I took a deep breath (which was still hard because of my lung) as I stepped into my kitchen, where my mom was making dinner.

It was my second day home from the hospital, two days after my fall, and two days after Scott and I officially became a couple. No one knew yet, except Peter, because Scott told him. My mom was in a fairly good mood that day, so I thought it would be a good time to tell her.

“Mom?” I said, wincing as I walked in. (I had refused the crutches for my sprained ankle)

“Hmm?”

“I have to talk to you about something.”

“Okay....” She said uncertainly. “About what?”

“Um... about what happened after you left the hospital.”

She looked at me with a blank expression.

“Okay. I know you won't approve, so I'm just going to say it- Scott asked me out. And... I said yes... and he kissed me. Alright! See ya!” I turned to leave.

“Wait! Whoa whoa whoa! Are you serious? You and Scott? As in Scott Murphy? As in Peter's best friend Scott? That Scott?” My mom was clearly freaking out.

“Yes! That Scott!” I sat down with a huff. “I knew you wouldn't approve.”

“Of course I don't approve! He's too old for you!”

I looked at my mom with my famous if-looks-could-kill look.

“Yeah, yeah, I'm a hypocrite. I've heard it all before. But it's different for you! He's twenty and you're only sixteen! If you don't remember my 'men are pigs' speech, then maybe we need to have a talk.”

“I remember it, and you don't need to worry about him. He's different.”

“You may think so now, but he's a guy. Men are-”

“Pigs. I know. And they only want one thing. You've told me this all before. I get it. But it's Scott. You don't have to worry about him. Or me! Have you ever thought that some men are pigs because girls just won't say no? Well, I can say no. Please trust us.”

She looked at me in surprise at the word 'us'. “I do trust you... both.”

“Thanks.”

Then, she seemed to snap out of 'mother' mode and said, “So... he kissed you?”

I laughed, happy that she was sort of okay with this.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hey! Are you sure you'll be able to do this?” Scott asked me the next day at my front door. He was picking me up to go out to dinner for our first official date.

“Yeah! Of course! I'll be fine.” I was not about to let my stupid fall ruin a special night for me-or anything else.

“Alright, if you're sure.”

“Okay, you two. Have fun and be home by 8:00.” My mom told us.

“8:00?” Scott said, clearly not liking the early curfew. “8:00 is-”

I elbowed him in the ribs, hoping he'll get the clue.

“Fine. 8:00 is fine. Two hours should be plenty of time to have dinner.” There was a slight hint of sarcasm in his tone.

“Okay! Let's go. I'll be back in time to go to Rachel's.”

Rachel and I had made plans to have a sleepover the night of my first date with Scott. Who knew it would be the day after we made the plans!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“How many times have you gotten hurt around horses?” Scott asked in disbelief. Our date was going great at the 99 Restaurant. We were done with dinner, and were talking about horses. (of course)

“Well....” (laugh) “A lot. I guess it started out with the summer I leased Sly. So, I had never fallen off of him, but he-” I counted off with my fingers “-almost scraped me off his back with a tree branch, almost rolled on me, almost bucked me off twice, and he stepped on me. Then, I started out with Tanya.” I gave a short laugh. “Uh... do you want to know all the injuries? Or just a guess of how many?”

He laughed too. “Uh, that depends; how many do you think there are?”

“Well, I'll just tell you the ones I remember. I remember getting kicked... twice, stepped on a few times, ran into... once, fallen off a lot, smacked in the face by a horse head a few times, bitten a few times, and of course, a whole lot of close calls. And most recent, fallen on.”

“Wow. You're crazy, you know that?” Scott laughed.

I laughed too. “That's a great thing to say to a girl.”

“Oh, no, I didn't mean it-”

“Relax! I'm kidding! Of course I know I'm crazy.” I knew I was crazy. So was every other horse-crazy-riders out there. Honestly, how many people would risk their lives every day like that, loving every minute of it, and still not being afraid to get back on the horse?

We chuckled again, and then there was an awkward silence.

“So...” Scott started, “do you want to stay here or hang out somewhere quieter?”

I grinned. “Somewhere quieter.”

“Okay.” He smiled back. “Let's go.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scott brought me to Dufrense Park, which looked abandoned; very quiet and peaceful. Under the moonlight, and setting sun, it was very romantic.

We sat on the swings for a bit, swaying slightly, enjoying the peace.

“How much time do we have left?” He asked.

“Uh... about twenty minutes.”

He looked really uneasy as he said, “I guess we'd better make the most of it.”

To hide my blush, I looked down, letting my hair flow around my face. I heard Scott snicker, but say nothing. After a moment, I looked up to see him staring at me.

“That's okay, don't get up.” He joked.

We laughed, and he pulled my swing over to his, swept my hair out of my eyes, and kissed me. I closed my eyes and kissed him back. Kissing Scott was both very weird, and very enjoyable. I had never kissed anyone before, so it was weird that way, but also because it was Scott. The Scott I had known for years, and it was strange when I thought about that fact. But when I didn't think, it was great! When I just let myself feel and just go with it, it was an unbelievable feeling. And now... I was thinking about it.

'Damn!' I thought. (no pun intended) 'Stop thinking! Okay. Now. Focus.' Then, I almost started laughing because I felt like I was yelling at myself.

Scott pulled away. “What's wrong?”

I couldn't help it-a small giggle escaped my lips. “I'm sorry! Er, that came out wrong. I laughed at myself, not you.” He had a very confused look on his face, almost making me laugh again, but I composed myself. “I-I was thinking about how it's still kind of weird-you know, the two of us.”

“Oh. And that's...funny?”

“If I said yes, will you hate me?” I smiled.

Scott played along. “Hell yes!”

I tried to keep a straight face as I said, “Then, no! Of course I don't think it's funny! Never!”

He laughed, then reached for my hand, looking at my watch, and sighed. “We'd better go. Don't want to be late to tell your friend all about tonight!”

About ten minutes later, we pulled into Rachel Martin's driveway. Scott walked me to the door, which flew open with Rachel panting.

“Hi! Hey! How's it going?”

“Are you okay?” I laughed.

“Yeah! I'm great!”

“Okay....” I said, not really believing her. I turned to Scott, lowering my voice a little. “I, uh, had a great time tonight.”

“Me too.” He smiled. “Have a good night.” And before walking away, he gave me a quick peck on the cheek.

As he drove away, Rachel yanked me inside by my left arm.

“Ah! Whoa! What was that for? And, careful! I'm broken, remember?”

“Sorry! But I'm freaking out! We need to talk.” She dragged me into her room and closed the door. “OMG!”

“What?”

“Guess, what, happened, to, me, this, morning.”

“You decided to hyperventilate?”

“No! He asked me out! OMG!”

“What?! Who?”

“Zach!”

“Wow-uh, wait, which one?”

“Oh. Bennett! Can you believe it?! Oh, I'm so happy!”

I had to laugh at Rachel's dreamy expression.

She sighed. “Okay. It's out of my system now. So... tell me about your night. I want details!”

Laughing, I told her everything-every touch, kiss, conversation, etc. She 'oohed' and 'awwed' and laughed in all the right places. When I told her about the short 'making-out' on the swings, Rachel leaned toward me and said, “Ooh! Awesome! How was it?”

I hesitated. “It was...good.” Not very convincing.

“Good? What happened?”

“Well, I mean, it was great! But, I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that it was Scott. It's still so weird!”

“Well, that's okay! It'll pass-”

“I started giggling.”

“Oh.”

Awkward silence.

Rachel burst out laughing and said, “AWKWARD TURLE!!”

I couldn't help but join in, until we were both doubling over with laughter. In between gasps, I had to hold my aching ribs. “Ow-” (gasp) “ow-” (gasp) “ow!” Which, of course, made us laugh louder until Rachel's mom came in.

“What's going on in here?”

It took us a few seconds to quiet our laughter, and by then Rachel's sister, Amber, had come in too.

“No more sugar for you!”

And... we began guffawing again.

Ah... friendship is bliss.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“So... I'm guessing you said yes?” I asked.

Rachel and I had finally calmed down and were now sitting on our sleeping bags in the middle of her living room.

“Duh! Of course I did!”

I laughed. “I guess we're going to have another sleepover soon!”

For the rest of the night, (we stayed up until 1:00am!) we mostly talked about Scott and Zach, but we also discussed other things, such as Rip and riding. We talked about college and the future too.

Rachel asked me softly. “Were you scared? When you... fell?”

I let out my breath. “Yes. I was. Not exactly about me, at first, anyway. But about Rip. When I was laying there, thoughts of Rip having a broken back, or needing to be put down, or something just kept racing through my mind. But, I was scared for me once I got to the hospital. I wasn't sure how bad I was hurt, or whether I'd be able to ride or not. If I hadn't been able to... well, I wouldn't really have a future now. But, thank God, we both got out okay, and we'll be fine. I was just so relieved when Tanya told me Rip was fine.”

Rachel nodded, and was silent.

I changed the subject. “I wonder what's going to happen in a couple years.”

“You and Scott will probably be married!” Rachel joked.

I slapped her gently. “We've only been on one date! Besides, I'd only be 18 or 19.”

She shrugged. “But you guys are so cute together!”

“But not as cute as you and Zach.”

She blushed and said, “Duh!”

I sighed almost dreamily. “I can't wait to go to Meredith Manor. Tanya said she's trying to get a certain women to come see me ride, to try and get a scholarship. Thank God she wasn't at Syracuse! Oh, I really need the scholarship! I wonder how Rip will like it there?”

Rachel grinned. “Don't you mean you wonder how Scott will like it there?”

I rolled my eyes, then went back to my 'serious-horse-crazy-thinking-about-college-all-the-time' mode, and said “I wonder what shows I would have to ride in to get a scholarship?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“YES!!” I yelled, trying to use my 'indoor' voice as I power-walked down the school hallway toward Rachel. “Guess what guess what guess what guess what! Are you guessing? Come on! Speak!”

“I would if you let me!” Rachel laughed.

“Oops. Sorry.”

“Yeah, well, since you never raise your voice, and ramble, I'm guessing it's about Rip or Scott.”

“I knew you'd get it! My 2 weeks are up! I can ride now! My wrist is fine!” I wiggled it around. “I can only walk and trot, though, because of my stupid ribs.”

“Sheesh! Relax! You had a horse fall on you! I think you need some rest, and just to calm down a bit. You'll be jumping again sooner or later, I bet.”

“I wish it was sooner. I have to wait another two weeks! And my ribs feel fine! I can finally sleep on my stomach now.”

“Well, that's good. But, at least we have Cotillion on Saturday! I can't wait! My first dance with Zach!” She bounced up and down like a little 5 year old.

“That's true. I wonder if Scott would want to go?”

“You haven't asked him yet?!” Rachel squeaked, very high-pitched.

“Uh... no?” It came out like a question.

“Oh my god! Go call him now!”

“School just started!”

“So!” She pulled me into the bathroom, which was surprisingly vacant. “Cell phone! Call-now!”

I laughed shortly. “What? We're in school! It's illeg- I mean, it's against school rules!”

“So? It's never stopped us from passing notes! Call!”

I laughed again and pulled out my cell phone.

“Hello?” Scott answered.

“Yo!” Rachel snickered at my 'hello'. “Hey, it's me.”

“Nice. Hey! How-wait, are you home?”

“Oh, no. Rachel wants me to ask you something. Now, apparently. But I have to be quick; cuz the bell's about to ring. So, will you go to Cotillion with me this Saturday?”

“Uh, sure.”

“Great! Alright, I'll see you later!” When I hung up, I just started laughing. Rachel was just too much sometimes.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hold still!” Rachel told me.

“I can do it myself!” I laughed. “Just-here, come on! I don't need you poking out my eye!”

It was finally Saturday night, and Rachel and I were at her house, helping each other get ready for Cotillion. Sort of.

“Well, I won't if you stop moving! We made a deal-you would do my hair and makeup, and I would do yours!”

“Okay-new deal. How about we do our own!”

“Fine! Then I hope you have fun washing the big 'Cleopatra' line off your eye.” She smiled smugly and dropped the black eyeliner on my lap.

I laughed. Of course we weren't really fighting-just harmless bicker. Then I went to the bathroom to wash my face. I also 'floofed' my hair, making sure it was nice and thick. Then I twisted it up in the back and clipped it so it was bouncy and cute, but comfortable. I left a few strands out to 'frame' my face, then went back to Rachel, who was in front of the mirror, fixing her hair into a great looking pony tail.

“Hey! It came off.”

“Oh, good! I felt so bad!” She hugged me. “I'm so sorry! I shouldn't have done that!” She hugged me again.

I laughed. “Relax! It's fine. Let's just finish getting ready. The guys will be here any minute.”

We quickly finished putting on light dabs of eyeliner, eye shadow, lip gloss, and perfume. It sounds like a lot, but we did it lightly, so it's subtle but effective.

“Girls! Zach is here!” Mrs. Martin called to us.

“And Scott just pulled up!” My mom said.

Rachel and I answered in unison. “Coming!” But before we went out there, we checked each other's outfits to make sure we were as perfect as we could get.

“Nervous?” I asked her.

She nodded. “You?”

“Terrified. Let's go.”

She was laughing when we finally walked out to see our dates. Both of them were very handsome in tuxes.

Zach looked at Rachel like he'd never seen anything so beautiful. “Wow!”

“Wow back at ya.” She couldn't stop smiling.

I laughed quietly to myself and went over to Scott. “You look great!”

“You look great too.” He hugged me and whispered, “I would've said 'beautiful' but I wasn't sure how your mom would react to that.”

I chuckled again. “Yeah, good point. And thanks.”

“Okay! Let's go!”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In less than 45 minutes, the four of us were dancing, having a great time.

Soon after, Scott and I sat down. Rachel kept dancing with Bree while Zach said 'hi' to his friends.

“This tie is choking me.” Scott complained, pulling at it.

I had to laugh. “I'm sorry. At least we'll die together; these shoes are killing me!”

He smiled and pulled me onto his lap while we saw Rachel and Zach dancing to Smile by Uncle Kracker.

“She looks so happy, doesn't she?” I said, resting my head on his shoulder.

“Yup. Zach looks like he's having a good time too.”

After the song was done, Scott and I watched as Zach leaned down to kiss Rachel. Her eyes were wide with shock, and when he pulled away, he smiled, said something, and walked away.

“Brace yourself....” I whispered to Scott and he chuckled.

Rachel ran over to us, tripping on her own feet, and almost falling on us. “OH MY GOD!!!” She shrieked. “Did you see that?! OMG, he is so amazing!”

I laughed. “Are you going to be okay?”

“Yyyeeessssss...!” She giggled and bounced a little, then looked away. “I gotta go. Zach's getting us some drinks.” She grinned widely and skipped away.

I laughed again. “I think she's going to be in her own little world for awhile.”

Scott smiled, then looked up. We saw Rachel and Zach coming toward us.

“Alright, you two. It's your turn to start dancing!” She did a little wiggle thing.

“Uh... I don't know... we already danced for awhile.”

Rachel scoffed and pretty much dragged me onto the dance floor. Laughing, Rachel 'forced' me to dance with her for three songs-until one of my favorite songs came on.

“Oooh!” Rachel ran over to Zach and Scott (tripping twice) and 'dragged' them both over to me, basically throwing Scott at me. “DANCE!”

I laughed and shook my head at her, but happily allowed Scott to take me in his arms, swinging to the song Fallin' For You by Colbie Caillet.

“I love this song.”

He chuckled, pulling me closer to him. “Of course you do.”

“What's that supposed to mean?”

“Well, you like these lovey, poppy kind of songs.”

“Well, yeah, but I like your kind of music too. Like Disturbed.”

“That's true.”

For the rest of the song, we were silent. Every once in awhile, Rachel and I would see each other, and exchange happy glances.

When we finished the dance, I realized that Scott and I had unintentionally got closer. And I'm pretty sure I blushed when he looked at me!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Phew!” I exclaimed, collapsing on my couch. “I'm exhausted!”

Scott sighed tiredly and sat on the edge. “Me too. When is your mom coming home?”

“Well, she's out with Greg, so, around 1:00 or 2:00. Why?” I sat up and let Scott drop right next to me.

“Just wondering how long we have.”

“Well, I think we could watch a movie.”

Just for a laugh, we popped in Scary Movie 4; but (blush) it didn't stop us from cuddling. :) We laid on the couch together, my head on his chest.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next thing I knew, Scott was stirring, and I heard my mother's voice.

“What the hell is going on?!”

Scott and I stood up quickly. “Mom-”

“I don't want to hear it! Scott, go home.”

Without speaking, he got his jacket, gave me an apologetic look, and left.

“Mom-” I tried again.

She sighed. “Go to bed. We'll talk about this in the morning.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And... I got grounded. For the first time in my whole life! I wasn't allowed to see Scott, or Rachel, talk on the phone, and, worst of all, ride! I was (finally) able to ride because I felt better, and I got grounded! It totally sucked! It was only for a week, though, and I could still see Rachel at school, so I guess it wasn't the worst thing that could have happened.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A week later, the first thing I did was hop on Rip bareback and ride in the ring. As I was cantering in a large circle, I saw Tanya riding over to me on a horse she was training, Stevie Wonder.

“Hi, Emily!”

I slowed Rip to a walk. “Hey!”

“How are you doing?”

“Great! But I feel so jelly-like. I was hoping riding bareback would help.”

“Well, it should help a little bit, but mostly, you just have to get back into it. Do you want to try a little cross-rail?”

My heart started to beat faster, but I squashed down the feeling of dread. “Sure....”

Rip was incredible. I thought because of my fear, and his lack of practice, that he might over-jump, but he was perfect. We were completely in sync as I went over it a couple times, my fear dissolving into joy and relaxation.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Your mom hates me now, doesn't she?”

I had to laugh as Scott asked me this random question. We were at his house, playing video games, and chatting about random stuff. “N-well, maybe.” I laughed again. “Sorry.”

“That's okay. I kind of figured she would. Especially since I'm four years older than you, I'm a college drop-out, I work for Dave's Pet Food City, and she found us asleep together.”

I had to admit that it sounded bad, but I honestly didn't care. I shrugged. “Oh well.”

Then he paused the game, kissed me quickly, then went back to playing. I laughed to myself and shook my head. He could be so strangely romantic sometimes.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next day, I decided to give Scott, Rachel, and Rip a break, and work on a school project. But, as luck would have it, while my mom was at some concert thing with Greg, Peter had a small party, of course inviting everyone I hate (except Scott)-Jake, Justin, James, Paul, Nick, and some dude I didn't know, Adam.

Laughing at the irony, Scott still gave me a hug 'hello', which, of course, set off my worst enemy, Justin, to say, “Whoa! Hey Pete! I didn't know we could date your sister!”

With Scott's arm still slung across my shoulders, I scoffed and said, “You can't.”

And like an audience in a bad sitcom, Peter's other friends went 'oooh'.

Scott laughed. “Leave us alone, alright Justin?”

Justin laughed too, but it sounded evil. (to me) “She's got you whipped, huh? Man, you can't let girls do that. You got to train them!”

“Train us?” I almost started toward him. I found that I've become more aggressive hanging out with guys. I don't know why....

But Scott held me back. “Easy....” He said in a low voice before going over to Justin. “Cut it out. Don't be a jerk, okay?”

“Or a dumbass!” I stage-whispered.

I heard Scott stifle a laugh as everyone in the room stopped, including Justin, who turned around and came back to me.

“Did you just call me a 'jackass'?”

“No, but that works too.” It was hard to keep a straight face when you're telling someone off!

“Okay!” Peter finally stepped in. “How about you leave now, Emily.”

As Justin turned away, I heard him say “b****” so I said “fatass”.

It was so funny as he spun around on his heel and marched angrily back to me. “You just don't shut up do you?!”

All I did was laugh and walk away. Man! That was fun!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next few weeks flew by as I got back into the swing of training with Rip. And like we'd never had a two month break from each other, Rip and I were totally in sync. We met every jump with perfect precision and grace, no matter how high. I definitely wasn't afraid anymore-it was hard to be with a great horse like Rip. But, not long after, Tanya brought up an 'event' again. Okay-now I was scared.

'Oh god.' I thought as she told me that she thinks I should try the Sporthorse Cup again, but this time not almost dying.

I was definitely freaked out, and terrified to do it again, yet I felt I needed to face my fear, try again, and do the best that I possibly could. So... for the next nine months or so, Debbie trained me constantly, helping me though all of my weaknesses as a rider.

But, those nine months weren't all work.... (coy smile)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Emily! Peter! Could you come down here for a minute?” I heard my mom call. As we got down there, my mom and Greg were standing in the middle of the room, whispering to each other.

“What's up?”

“Well, sit down. Um... we need to talk about something.” She looked at Greg, then back at us. “Okay. I'm just going to say it: Greg and I are getting married.”

Peter and I just stared in shock.

“Do... you have any questions?” My mom asked.

My brother answered grimly, “When can I move out?” And before anyone could say anything, he stomped up the stairs and slammed his door.

She slowly turned to me. “An-and you?”

“Can I go to Scott's?”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hey! What are you-” I didn't let Scott finish and I threw my arms around his neck, and groaned.

“I hate him! I hate her! I hate this! This sucks!”

Five minutes later, he had his arms around me, comforting me as I vented about my new stepfather.

“This sucks so much! I mean, he could pass as my grandpa! Oh my god, when he dies, she's going to get depressed!”

“Okay, but just think about how happy he makes her. Shouldn't you be glad about that?”

“I guess... but what about my happiness?”

“But... at least you have me. And Rip.”

I looked at him and smiled. “Yeah.” I kissed him deeply. “Thanks.” We kissed again, but then heard a throat clearing. It was Danielle.

“Okay! Nightmares.” She said.

Scott laughed shortly. “What do you want?”

“Just telling you that I'm leaving with some friends. I'll be back for dinner, and so will Mom. Don't do anything icky while we're gone.”

I chuckled awkwardly. “Don't worry.”

“Yeah, she won't let me.” Scott joked and I hit him.

“Hey!” But he was smiling so I knew he couldn't be too upset.

“Okay! Not what I wanted to hear. Anyway, see ya.”

In spite of Danielle telling us not to, we couldn't help but make-out. (Rachel will be thrilled to hear the details) I loved the fact that I could feel close to Scott at a time like this-emotionally and physically. I even let him go farther that I ever had before. (double deep red extreme blush)-I allowed him to push up my shirt and kiss my stomach (and other stuff....) It may sound odd, and possibly too soon, since we've only been dating about 6 months, but it felt right. I liked him so much, and he was being so sweet about my problem. He was such a good guy.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Oh my god!!” Rachel practically screamed when I told her about Scott. Even though we were in the high school hallway, she didn't contain her excitement for me.

“Shh! Relax! It's not that big a deal.”

“Of course it's a big deal! I haven't even let Zach get to second base yet!”

“Yeah... how's that going anyway?”

“Oh no! No no! You're not changing the subject that easily! So, tell me; how did it feel?”

I laughed. “You're acting like I slept with him or something! It was just kissing!”

“I know. Ooh! When are you going to do that?”

“Rachel!” I let out a quick breath. “I don't know!”

“I'm sorry. I'm just excited for you.”

“Thanks.”

“Anyway, back to... what was it like? How did it feel?”

I rolled my eyes and smiled. “Well, it was really great, and sweet. We started out by just making out. Even with that, he was super sweet. He kept one hand on the small of my back, and the other was in my hair, just kind of playing with it. Then, he started kissing my neck. Then he went down to my stomach.” My thoughts flashed back to that moment. “Afterward, we just laid there together, holding each other. It was really great.” Then I realized something that made butterflies in my stomach. “Rachel; I think I might love him.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For the rest of the day, I was almost in a trance. I couldn't believe that I thought I loved him. Rachel thought that I should tell him immediately, but I was hesitant.

“What if he doesn't say it back? What if it's too soon?”

Rachel snorted. “He better love you!”

I almost laughed. Typical Rachel. “How do you even know if you actually love someone?”

“Okay. Everyone feels what you're feeling right now. I might have that same feeling with Zach soon.” Rachel's eyes got all dreamy for a second, but then she snapped back. “So, I'm going to help you, because that's what friends do.” She smiled widely and I laughed.

“And how are you going to help me?”

“Um... okay. I'll ask you some questions, and if you say yes to most of them, then you love him.”

“Okay. I'm ready.”

“Okay. When he touches you, or kisses you, do you get tinglies and butterflies?”

“Yes....”

She grinned. “Awesome! Okay, next. Do you miss him when you're not with him? But not in an obsessed way?”

“Yeah, I guess. I mean, I miss him now; I wish he were here, but I know I can live without him for a few hours.”

She grinned again. “Um... when he holds you, what do you feel?”

“Uh... awkward question, but...okay. Well, I feel... happy. At peace. Comfortable. Safe. Incredulous.”

“Incredulous?”

“Yeah. Every time I'm with him, I think; how did I get so lucky?” Just thinking about him made me smile.

“Aww! Alright, now, do you see yourself marrying him someday? And having a life together past high school?”

I paused to think. “Yes. Sort of. It's a little strange to think about that stuff in high school, but, yeah. I do.”

“Okay, you love him! You have to tell him!”

“I think I will. Oh god! I'm nervous!”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

At our next date, which was at Dufrense, I was planning to tell Scott that I loved him.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hey babe!” Scott greeted me when I met him at the park.

I gave him an odd look.

“Yeah, I can't pull off 'babe', can I?”

I laughed and hugged him. “No, not really.”

Scott laughed too and breathed in deeply. “You're hair smells really good. Like-”(sniff) “Coconuts.”

“Thanks! New shampoo.”

“Nice.” The he got a strangely nervous look on his face. “Uh... do you want to walk in the field?”

“Sure.”

As we walked silently hand in hand, I felt this would be a good time to tell him.

“Scott, I-” I started.

At the same time, he said, “Can I-”

We laughed and Scott said, “You go first.”

“No, you go.”

“No, go ahead-”

“No. Go!”

“Fine! Fine. Okay, um, I'm not exactly sure how to say this, so I'm just going to say it. Emily; I love you.”

I stared in shock, and relief.

He took that differently. “If you don't feel the same way-”

“No no! Oh god, I do! I was just... surprised.” I laughed happily, but, again, he took it differently. His face fell a little. “I'm sorry, I... I'm just happy, because I wanted to tell you the same thing.”

He looked surprised, then delighted. “Wow. I wasn't sure if it was too soon or something.” He took me up in a massive hug, then a super sweet kiss.

“I love you too.” I had to say the words-and it felt so good too, especially his reaction to it.

“Me too.” And his face lit up, making him (and me of course) so happy.

This was probably one of the best days of my life, but I knew (well, I hoped) that there would be many more to come.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I'm riding against Beezie Madden?!”

It was the day of the Sporthorse Cup again, and I was freaking out... again. I may be a year older (17 now) and I have a whole year more of experience, but no where near as much as three-time Olympic gold medalist Beezie Madden! I mean, it's like going up against Tanya herself!

“Relax, Emily. You don't want to panic and get hurt again. Now, the Speed Phase will begin in about ten minutes. I want you to watch the first three riders go. Okay? And don't worry about Beezie. She is on a new, younger horse today. I'm guessing she's using this as experience.”

And about ten minutes later, the 2012 Animal Planet Sporthorse Cup began.

I watched the first three riders go around the Speed Phase course-one knocking two rails down, one with a refusal, and only one clear. By the time it was my turn, I was literally shaking with fear. But as soon as Rip started cantering, I relaxed, and rode a fast, clear and determined round.

“And that was Emily Johnson, ladies and gentlemen, on her horse Ripple Effect, riding a clear round.” The announcer said.

“Great job, Emily!” Tanya congratulated me. “You're in first place!”

“Yeah, well, not for long. Beezie is riding next.”

So, I ended up in third, Beezie (of course) was first.

And, of course, next was the Power Phase-the one, a year ago, almost killed me. So, being human, I was terrified. But Tanya believed in me. I wanted to do well for her. And for Rip. And for Scott, Rachel, my mom, everybody. Especially myself. I wanted to prove that I wasn't a failure; or a wimp. One bad fall won't make me lose my nerve. Completely....
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Do NOT think about falling. Think about getting over the fences, and going clear. Focus only on Rip, only on the Cup, only on the fence in front of you.” Tanya was prepping me before the Power Phase as the first four riders went.

I took a deep breath to relax and concentrate. I cleared my mind, only thinking of Rip, determined not to let him down again, praying that we would go clear; or at least not fall.

Then I almost kicked myself. 'Stop it! I will not fall!' And, all of a sudden, I felt the urge to win.

“Okay, Emily, you're up next. Focus. Don't take your eyes off the jumps. Don't think about the height. Feel Rip's strides. You can do it.”

I mounted with confidence. 'Yes. Yes I can.'

As I rode into the ring, my new-found confidence comforted me. I looked at the massive verticals, and felt no fear. Only determination. And let me tell you; confidence is key! I went clear! All five rounds! Even the 6'4” final jump!! It was sooo amazing! I was extremely happy as I rode out, currently in first place. (until Beezie rides)

And I was right; Beezie was in first before the Grand Prix Final Phase, and I was second. And SO thrilled! SECOND!! Whoo-hoo!! (laughing)

For the final Grand Prix stage, I had to wait for all the other riders to go first, (7th to 1st) until it was just Beezie and me left.

“Okay, Emily. You are doing incredibly so far, and I think you really have a shot at winning, but you need to be quick.” Tanya told me right before it was my turn to go in. “Now, the second combination is tricky-there is a tight turn to the first jump, two short strides to the second, and one long stride to the last. Okay? The rest of the course had things we've worked on before; but you need to concentrate. It's still a difficult course. The rider who is first right now went clear with a time of 62.25 seconds. Also, I don't want to put any more pressure on you, but Heather Ferro is here, and if you win the Cup, she can guarantee a half scholarship to Meredith Manor.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Yeah, no pressure at all.”

“Don't be nervous. It's your turn now. Go in there and give it your all. Good luck!”

And I trotted in the ring, focusing on the cup. I lined Rip up to the first fence perfectly, followed by the rest of the jumps with the same amount of precision. Toward the end, I really pushed Rip, attacking the course with (hopefully) enough power and speed to win, galloping across the finish line.

“And Emily Johnson on Ripple Effect goes clear, with a time of 60.56 seconds, putting her in first for the Cup.”

I rode out of the ring, glowing with happiness and pride. Hopping off of my amazing horse, I threw my arms around his neck. “Thank you, Rip! You are the best horse ever!”

“Great job, Emily!” Tanya yelled over the screaming crowd. “I'll hold Rip, and you watch Beezie go!”

Completely nervous now, I watched as the experienced rider came into the ring on her seven year old horse, Luna. They looked impeccable. As they flew around the course at a speed I'm positive was faster than mine, my hopes plummeted... until the final fence. Beezie urged her horse on, trying to get a good time, but the spirited mare got careless, flinging herself too early over the jump... knocking down the top rail.

I was frozen in shock.

“And it's Emily Johnson! The youngest rider to ever compete in the Animal Planet Sporthorse Cup won it on her second try!”

I couldn't believe it! A judge official came up to Rip, Tanya and me, and placed a blue sheet over Rip's saddle, put a sash around his neck, and then handed me the trophy.

The top three riders then got to gallop a victory lap around the ring, me in the lead. It felt so good to do that. To me, it felt like the whole audience was cheering for me and Rip. It was good to be noticed and loved. (smile)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Excuse me, Emily?” I heard a woman's voice behind me a little after the victory lap.

I turned around and my eyes widened. “Uh, hi, Mrs. Madden.”

“Oh, please, call me Beezie.” She smiled. “I just wanted to congratulate you. You and your horse make quite the competitive team.”

“Wow. Thank you. You too. And your horse is incredible! How long have you had her?”

“Uh, two years. Yeah, she's been really great. I'm a little disappointed about not winning, but it was nice to see a young rider like you win.” Her warm smile and nice words made me so proud of myself. “You have so much potential, Emily. Use it wisely.”

“Thank you.” I grinned widely. “I plan to. A woman from a scholarship organization said she can offer me a half scholarship to Meredith Manor.”

“That's great! Good for you.” After a moment, she told me, “Well, I'd better go. Congrats again, and good luck with everything.”

'Wow!' I thought when she walked away. 'That was so nice of her!'

Later that evening, the Animal Planet television crew came up to Rip, Tanya and me for an interview.

“What was it like to win the Cup?”

“It was... incredible. I still can't believe it happened.”

“Is it true that last year you had ridden here and had had a bad fall? And what happened there?”

“Uh, yes, it's true. We were in the Power Phase, and I just got a little, well, a lot nervous, and Rip fell on me. But I made a full recovery.”

“Indeed you did. Now, you've shown us today that you have enormous potential. How do you plan on fulfilling that potential? Do you see the Olympics in your future?”

“I plan on going to college. And... honestly, I hope I don't end up going to the Olympics. I just think it would be too much pressure for me, and way too much for a young horse. I really want to focus on going to college and becoming a trainer.”

They seemed pleased with that answer. “Now, what was the deciding winning moment for you?”

“I guess I would have to say when I realized that I didn't want to get hurt again. And I didn't want to let my horse down.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That night, because we were all exhausted, we all (meaning my family and friends-everyone who had come to the last SHC) decided to stay in Syracuse. We got only four hotel rooms, bunking with people to save money-and even though there were only two beds (and a couch) in each room, the arrangements were: Mom, Greg, and Tanya in one, Peter, Scott, and me in another, Danielle and Evelyn in the next, and Rachel, Amber, and their mom in the last.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Okay. Who's on the couch?” Peter asked that night.

“I'm not. I need a good, long, comfortable sleep.” I said. “Rock, paper, scissors to see who does.” I gestured between him and Scott.

They did and Peter lost. (ha ha!)

I was so tired, so I fell asleep immediately, but only to wake up around 2:00 the next morning to someone coming out of the bathroom. The moonlight shining through the window showed me that it was Scott.

“Hey! Sorry, did I wake you?” He whispered.

“No, it's fine.” I sat up, and he sat next to me. “I don't think we need to whisper; Peter is a heavy sleeper.”

We laughed, still in whispers.

“You were so amazing... yesterday. This may sound corny, but I'm really proud of you.”

“Thanks.” I beamed. “And it's not too corny. I like to hear that.”

He smiled and took my hand. “I love you.”

I grinned. “I love you too.” Even though it's been months, it's still nice to hear.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Incredibly, Tanya found a way to possibly get me a full scholarship to MM-riding in the Maclay Finals. I only had a few months to prepare myself (and Rip) to ride in the Top Young Rider Competition-it was held in the spring; and also, I had to do it this next time, because it's only for riders 18 and younger.

The pressure was on! I had to get in the top 5 winners for the scholarship.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“So, how's it going with you and Zach?” I asked my best friend as we were hanging out at the Commons one day.

Rachel answered with a broad grin. “Amazing! He's so great! I can't believe it's been almost a year.”

“Yeah, congrats! Have you let him get to second base yet?” I raised my eyebrows teasingly.

She blushed. “How about you and Scott? Or should I say 'guy who is now old enough to drink'.”

“Nothing's happened... yet.....”

“Yet?! Oh my god! Are you thinking of doing anything?! OMG!”

I laughed nervously. “I... don't know.” Her shocked expression made me elaborate. “I really love him, and he's a guy, so I know he wants to, but I'm not sure if I'm ready. Or if I'm too young; although, I am eighteen now. I can make my own decisions. It's so hard, you know?”

“No-I don't know. I know I'm not ready, and I don't want to rush anything.”

I nodded, understanding. “How do you tell if you're ready or not?”

She shrugged. “I have no idea. I guess you would just... know.”

“Great! That's helpful!” I dropped my head into my folded arms on the table.

“Relax! You don't have to decide right now!”

I lifted my head. “That's true.” (sigh) “I'm so confused.”

“Maybe you could talk to your mom.” She suggested.

I gave her a look that I'm guessing was a cross between surprise and pissed off. “I can't talk to her about that!”

“Why not?”

“Well, for one, she pretty much hates Scott now because 'he's too old for me.' And second, she's been planning the stupid wedding for, like, a year, and she's stressed and upset.” I took a deep breathe. “I'm sorry. I guess I'm just stressed. With the Maclays coming up, and the wedding in a couple weeks, and now Scott... I'm sorry.”

“Don't be!” She hugged me. “You know I complain all the time, and you put up with it. I like hearing what's going on in your life. And I hope I can help. Is there anything I can do to make anything less stressful?”

I had to smile. “Thanks. You're such a good friend. Um... I guess you could come to the wedding. I could use some support.”

“Of course I'll come. Psh! There's going to be cake!”

I laughed. “And it's going to be so good. I helped her pick it out-vanilla with buttermilk frosting and fudge drizzle.”

“Mmmm....”

“I know... anyway, and for the Maclays thing, I guess there's not much you could do. But, you could help me figure out what to do about Scott.” I grinned hopefully.

“Of course I'll help! But.... I don't know how.”

“Me either.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Emily! Hurry up and get the chairs! Come on, chop chop!”

I rolled my eyes at my mom. It was the day before the dreadful wedding. We were holding it on our property and our neighbor's-the Thompson's gazebo is 'perfect for an alter'.

“Ay ay, Cap'n.” I muttered. I sighed heavily and picked up as many chairs as I could to carry, and brought them to the Thompson's lawn.

Let me paint a picture of what this is going to look like-100 some-odd people sitting on unmatching folding chairs lining the walkway to the gazebo/alter; many bustling people on our lawn: the band, the caterers, along with tents, tables, more chairs, a dance floor, (a huge wooden thing we rented) and millions of billions of flowers-and, of course, me puking inside because I can't stand to watch my mother marry someone so old and creepy.

'I don't even know why she's having a big wedding like this. It's her second one!'

She had told me that, to save money, she would not have the wedding in a church. But in my opinion, she wasted too much on the band and the flowers. WAY too many flowers!

“This sucks.” I told my brother, who was also helping with the chairs.

“Tell me about it. I'm twenty one but I'm still pissed about her getting remarried!”

“Yeah. Well, at least you are out of the house. I still have a few months until I get to go away to college. Do you know how much it sucks to have her room right next to mine? Need I say any more.”

Scott and Danielle then came over. They had been volunteered to help as well.

I let out an exuberant laugh as I saw Danielle (holding two chairs) walk over with Scott. (who was carrying ten chairs!) He had two slung over his shoulders, three in each hand, one under his chin, and one balanced on his two hands, out in front of him.

“What are you doing?”

“Need... help....” He managed to get out without moving his chin too much.

I rushed forward and grabbed the two in front of him.

“Thanks!”

Laughing, I said, “Stupid male ego!”

I heard a throat clearing then. It was Peter. “Well, I got to go. I have a date.”

And everybody stopped. I froze with my jaw dropped. Danielle stared at him in shock. Scott dropped a chair. Even my mom stood still with wide eyes.

Peter looked around in surprise. “What?”

“You-you have a date.” My mom stuttered.

“Yeah. So?”

I recovered the quickest. Picking up Scott's chair, I said, “Congrats! What's she like?”

“She's... nice?”

I gave him a look.

“Well! What do you want me to say?”

“Where you met, who asked who, what she looks like, what does she do, what her name is, things like that.”

“I'm... good.” And he left.

“Guys are dumb.” I looked at Scott. “No offense.”

He rolled his eyes and picked me up by the waist. “None at all. As long as you don't mind me calling girls weak.”

I hit him on the head.

“Ow!”

“See? Ha!”

“It only hurt because of my big brain.”

“Sssure.” I smiled and kissed him.

He put me down and said against my lips, “You're heavy.”

“You're a jerk. Ish.”

“Thanks. Ish.”

“When you're done slobbering on my daughter, could you tell her to come to the house?”

And then she left, barely giving us enough time to pull away from each other, let alone react.

When we finally did react, she was already gone.

“Jeez!” I sighed. “I guess I should go.”

When I entered my house, Mom was at the kitchen table with her wedding checklist.

“Hi.”

“Hi.”

“Do you need me for something?”

“I need you to tell me the truth. How serious is this thing with you and Scott?”

“Um... what do you mean?”

“Where do you see it going? What do you see happening with him?”

“Uh... I don't really want to talk to you about this.”

“Why not?”

“Because I know how you feel about him now, and if I tell you anything, then you'll just hate him more.”

She sighed. “I don't hate him. I-I guess I just don't want you to make the same mistake I did with your father-rushing into anything.”

“I know. But you still don't approve.”

“Well... I still think you could find someone more appropriate, but, I guess you could do worse. I have to admit he's a good kid. And... I can tell... he's good for you. You're happier when he's around. Although, Rachel and Rip do that too.”

“Well, I love them.”

This caught her off guard. “Love. Them. All of them?”

“...yes.... Like you and Greg.” Just saying that hurt me a little.

“Wow.” She responded. “I didn't realize.”

I stayed silent.

“Could you please tell me where you think it's going?”

“Why do you want to know?”

“You're my daughter. I want to know what goes on in your life, and help guide you.”

“Well... we've talked about possibly... living together, when I go to Meredith Manor.”

My mom closed her eyes and whispered, “Have you slept with him yet?”

I'm glad she couldn't see my face-I was in complete shock. I'm glad I hadn't because I wouldn't have been able to lie that well. “No. We haven't.”

She let out a big breath, opened her eyes, and stood up. All she said was 'thank you' and she walked away.

Confused and slightly horrified that I actually had that conversation with my mom, I went back outside. Scott was waiting on our swing set.

“Hey! You're still in one piece!” He came over and wrapped his arms around me.

I sighed and leaned my head into his chest. “This is just so much to handle-almost too much.”

“You mean the wedding?”

“The wedding, the Maclays, college, you. It's just... a lot to deal with right now.”

“Me?”

“Of course that's the only part you heard.”

“Sorry, but it's because I know why the other ones are stressful.”

Even though I couldn't see his face, I could tell he wanted me to explain.

I pulled away from him and sat on a swing. He stayed standing in front of me.

“I've been... thinking, a lot, about us.”

He looked at me strangely. “Good or bad?”

“Good... I think... well, a confusing good.”

“Okay... now I'm confused.”

“Well, what I mean is, I'm really excited about us living together in college, but I'm also worried.”

This made him sit down on the swing next to me. “Worried? About what?”

“Our relationship could, or, would, change.”

“For the better, though.”

“Or for the worse! Think about it-I'm going to be busy in school all day; we'll barely ever see each other! I...just don't want anything to go wrong.”

“Well... either way, if we're living together or not, I won't see you much. It's just something we're going to have to live with.” Scott slowly pulled my swing closer to his. “Are... you okay with that?”

I rolled my eyes jokingly. “No. But I really want my education.”

“I know you do. And you should. And have fun! Like I didn't have.”

We laughed.

“Seriously, though. Go to college. I can wait a couple years to see you-except for holidays.” He took my hand.

“Well... we could still live together. And then we'd see each other every morning and night. And on weekends.”

“I could go for that.”

“And it's not that long-it's only a seventy two week college. That's a year and two and a half months.”

“Nice.”

Then we were silent. I could tell he didn't want to talk about college anymore-he seemed a little hesitant to go down to West Virginia just for me; but he insists, so....

“Can you believe Peter actually has his first date?”

Scott laughed with me. “I know. I wonder who it is?”

“Yeah. Me too.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The morning of the wedding, I was a mess. I heard my mom get up really early, and start to get ready.

I groaned as my alarm went off. Turning it off, I threw a pillow over my face.

'Why did this day have to come?'

Then my mom burst into my room and turned on the light. “Come on sleeping beauty! The wedding is in six hours-we don't have much time to get everything ready! Let's go!”

I groaned again and sat up. “Six... hours, mom. Why do we have to get up this early? It's 6:00! It's February Vacation, and I'm waking up as if I'm going to school!”

“Well, we both need to get dressed and ready, then we have to make sure everything is set up, work on the parking... there's so much to do! I can't stand here telling you-come on!”

When she left, I slowly got up and looked grudgingly at my cream-colored Maid of Honor dress. I showered, dressed, and cleaned up slowly. But when I got to my mom (who desperately needed my help for something insane) I still had four and a half hours until the dreaded ceremony.

She looked up from her breakfast. “What... are you wearing?!”

Surprised, I looked down at my outfit. I had put the dress aside, and thought that I should wear a simple T-shirt and jeans, so I don't ruin the dress while I was setting everything up. I explained this to her.

“Whatever. Just hurry up and eat. Evelyn, Jenn, and Helen will be over soon to help me get ready. Will you be okay with helping setting up with... everybody?”

“Yeah. Sure. No problem. There's not much left to set up anyway. I think the parking will be the most demanding ordeal.”

And I was right! Parking was horrible and difficult. It took six people, numerous signs, and lots of shouting to get people parking their cars correctly on the Thompson's lawn.

By the time everything was all set, there was only thirty minutes until my mom would be walking down the aisle. She had finally calmed down knowing everything was ready and flowing easily.

I quickly threw on my dress (which was surprisingly comfortable) and the deathtrap of shoes, which were completely uncomfortable and dangerous. (four freaking inches!) Running (well, as much as I could without breaking my ankles) from my room, to the kitchen, then downstairs, then to my mom's room, I got my flower bouquet thing, said 'hi' to Scott, then went to my mom's room to see her with her other three bridesmaids working on her dress, her hair, and her makeup.

“Emily! Finally! Is everything ready?”

“Yup. Everyone is waiting outside, the band is setting up, the caterers are ready, and more importantly, my ankles are still intact.”

My hope at lightening the mood worked, as all four of them giggled, but just as quickly returned to their girlish 'makeovers'. (dress, hair, makeup, etc.)

I sighed and waited patiently until noon-then, I started to panic again.

'Oh, this cannot be happening! I mean, why me? What have I ever done to them?'

By the time I was walking down the aisle with Greg's Best Man, I was practically hyperventilating-which wasn't helping my coordination issues with my shoes. And, of course, I tripped, didn't fall, but almost took-Tom?-with me. Everybody laughed, but I didn't let it get to me. When something like that happens, you have to laugh at yourself! Then, people aren't laughing at you, they're laughing with you. So, I laughed too, liking the feeling, but knowing it wouldn't last for the next few hours.

My eyes met Scott's and he grinned. I giggled quietly.

All throughout the ceremony, I could tell Scott knew I wasn't taking it well. He gave me a sympathetic smile when they said their vows. He raised his eyebrows when the minister asked if anybody rejected the couple. I bit my tongue (literally) and glanced at my brother. He looked bored.

I could especially feel Scott's stare as the 'newlyweds' kissed, and I sighed loudly (no one would hear me with all the cheering) and looked away.

'I really wish I could be on Rip right now.'

Soon, everybody was standing and walking to our house. I fell behind everyone and waited for Scott. I suddenly felt so tired. Like all my energy had been drained from me.

“Am I a horrible person?” I asked my boyfriend. “Am I so stubborn, selfish, and self centered that I can't be happy for something that makes my own mom happy?”

“No. Of course you're not a horrible person. You... well, uh, you know, I'm not the best person to talk to about this. You should ask Rachel.” He smiled awkwardly and slung his arm over my shoulders.

I gave him a look, but agreed. He wasn't really good at talking about feelings. Guys never are. (in my opinion) That's why we have girl-friends. :D

“Aw, come on! You'll be okay.” We began walking. “You'll be out of the house soon.”

“Not soon enough.” I muttered.

Scott chuckled softly. “Just be patient. Try to focus on happier things ahead-like the Maclays. And college.”

I nodded silently, resting my head on his shoulder. 'Good times. Right. Stressful, terrifying, and completely unsure of what's going to happen.' (inward sigh)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Care to dance with your new step-dad?”

Of course he had the nerve to ask this. I hadn't been expecting it, but somehow, I wasn't surprised. “Uh... I... I don't think I can dance in these shoes. I swear, they're trying to kill me.”

Greg laughed his fake, too-nice laugh I've learned to recognize-the slightly hysterical one that he always does when I say something not-really-funny, and only deserved a short laugh, and maybe a 'nice'.

And it almost always pisses me off. Not exactly the fake laugh, but the fact that he does it so much to try and suck up to me.

Trying to still be polite, I forced a smile and said, “Excuse me.”

And... of course, walking away... I tripped. Instead of laughing at myself, I fought the urge to rip my shoes off and chuck them at something... or someone....

But I soon found Rachel and her sister talking to each other with an excited look on Amber's face, and a surprised-deer-in-headlights look on Rachel's. When I walked up to them, Amber shot me a wide smile and practically ran away.

“What was that about?” I asked my best friend.

She shook herself out of 'deer mode', and answered, “You will never believe what Amber just told me!! She knows who Peter's new girlfriend is!”

“What? Who?”

“Her! Amber! Can you believe it?!”

Wow. Didn't see that coming.

“Whoa! H-how?!” I stuttered.

“I don't know!” She laughed. “She said it just... happened!”

“Wow! Wow.” I let the news absorb into my brain.

“I know.”

We both looked thoughtful until Rachel spoke again, a different tone. “So, how are you?” She asked softly.

I sighed, remembering my troubles. “Fantastic! My new 'step-dad' just asked me to dance.” Very heavy sarcasm.

She winced on my behalf. “Was it awful?”

“I told him I couldn't dance with these shoes and walked away.”

“Well... that's good....” She said it like a question. “How about before that? At the ceremony? You looked really upset.”

My face fell (even more), remembering my question to Scott. “Am I a horrible person for not being happy for my mom?”

“No! You're an amazing person! A great daughter, friend, girlfriend. I can imagine it would be hard for you to be happy for something that makes you upset.”

I smiled weakly, still unable to shake that feeling. “Thanks. You're such a good friend.”

She was about to wave it off like it was not a big deal, but I interrupted. “No, really. I really appreciate you being here. Not just for the wedding, but for everything-all my horse stuff, boy drama, school crap, and anything in between.” I smiled with more feeling. “Thank you so much. I don't know what I would do without you.”

And she was so funny! She looked like she was going to cry, laugh, and fall down all at the same time. Instead, she exclaimed, “I love you too!” and threw her arms around me, squeezing me in a massive, very long, personal, happy, and emotional hug.

I think this hug might have been a sort of 'goodbye' before we go to college. I would miss her so much-too much.

'We'll video chat.' I thought with a sad grin.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“That was gross.” I heard a low, familiar voice say.

I looked up from my delicious cake. “Tell me about it.”

Just two minutes earlier, the couple cut their cake, fed each other a mouthful, and shared a disgusting, wet, sloppy, frosting-covered kiss. It almost made me puke. As soon as I could, I got the biggest piece of cake that would fit on my plate and collapsed against the side of my house, away from everyone and everything.

My very caring boyfriend crouched beside my outstretched legs. “Are you okay?”

Tears came to my eyes as I choked out 'perfect' and shoved the dessert in my mouth.

Scott almost laughed, and sat next to me. “Come here.” He took my cake (which made me more upset) and held my head on his shoulder in a comforting way (which helped). “I'm sorry you're so unhappy.”

I thought about that for a moment. Was I truly upset? Or was it my Johnson-side-stubborn-streak that was overreacting and just wanting to hate him? I couldn't tell.

Instead of speaking my thoughts, I bit my tongue. “Thanks.”

“No prob.”

“Can I have my cake back?”

He paused. “Where's your fork?”

“Fingers work perfectly fine.”

“Touche.” He paused again. “I love you.”

Butterflies fluttered blissfully in my belly. “Love you too.”

Then it was my turn to pause. “How weird was-or, is-it for you?”

This surprised him. “Well, honestly, I don't really know him that well. And your mom-”

“No, not them. I meant...” (awkward) “us. Because of Peter being my brother and your best friend.” Speaking of him reminded me of something. “Ooh! Oh! Guess what!”

My outburst made him jump. “What?”

“Peter is dating Amber!”

“Wh-who?”

Dumb freak. He only met her like five times! “Amber! Rachel's sister! You met her!”

“Oh. Right. That's... weird.”

“Yeah. Definitely. Anyhoo, back to before. Did you, or do you, still feel awkward?”

“Well, I guess it was kinda weird at first, but it got easier. Why? Is it still weird for you?”

“No! No, not... really. But, sometimes, when I think about it....”

“And that's your problem. You got to stop thinking so much!”

We laughed. “I know! I'm sorry! I'm sorry. That was a stupid question, wasn't it?”

“Yeah. Kind of. But I understand why you asked it. Sometimes... I think... how come I never saw you that way before? We knew each other for years before we started going out.”

“Yeah... well, we were developing, uh, sort of, a friendship. You know, even though I had always hated Peter's friends, well, mostly Justin,” (laughter) “I had always hated you the least.”

He gave me strange look. “Thank you?”

“I mean, you were always the one I could be around without wanting to kill. Even though you made fun of me with Peter, I always laughed instead of getting angry. And you were usually always nice to me. But, of course, after I kinda started liking you, my thoughts changed a bit.” I laughed at myself.

“Really?” He sounded surprised. “You had liked me too?”

“Well, yeah.”

“For how long?”

I grinned coyly. “Awhile... around the time you graduated.”

“Wow. That long.”


“What about you?” I had wondered about that for awhile, and now that I had spilled my guts, it was his turn.

“Um... a few months. Did you ever wonder why I went to your first Sporthorse Cup?”

I laughed. “Yeah, I guess.”

We were silent for a moment.

“We... should probably get back to the party.” I said reluctantly, looking at my watch. “At least there's only an hour left.” I stood up. “We haven't danced yet.”

He stood up too, coming close and putting his hand on my waist. “I thought you couldn't dance with your 'goddamn killer shoes'.” He laughed, quoting my angry words.

“I can take them off.”

I saw him wince slightly as he said, “Let's go, then.” Scott doesn't like to dance.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Five minutes later, Scott and I were attempting to dance.

Seeming to last forever, the hour was finally up. All of the guests began to leave, people cleaned up, and all the hired help packed up their stuff and left.

Soon, everyone was gone, all was quiet, and my mom and Greg were packing for their honeymoon. Two whole weeks on a luxurious cruise, with stops at beautiful islands. Lucky ducks.

“Okay, honey! Now, you're sure you'll be fine here alone for a couple weeks?” My mom asked for the tenth time, right on her way out the door.

“Yes! I'm eighteen! I'll be fine! Go; have fun.”

“Okay! Alright! We'll go! Love you, Emily. Be good. Take care of yourself, the house, the animals-”

“Just go already!” I laughed, and she finally left, with one more hug, kiss, and 'I love you'.

In exhaustion and relief that everything was finally over, I collapsed on our couch, and closed my eyes. I knew I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew, I heard a crash! And a crap! And then ouch! And shh! And stop! And stupid! And then two voices together shut up!

I guess I must have been pretty unconscious, and possibly thought I was dreaming, because when I felt a hand on my hip, it freaked me out! I jerked so suddenly that I would've fallen off the couch if that hand hadn't been holding me.

“Whoa, ho! Hey. Whoo! Sorry!” He said.

I nodded and waited for my heart to slow before I spoke. “That's okay. I'm fine.” I sat up and smiled at my boyfriend. Then I realized that Peter and Amber were here too. “Hey! You... two....” It was kind of weird to see them now.

“Hey, Emily!” Amber said. “I heard you're gonna be home alone for two weeks. Whatcha gonna do?”

I rolled my eyes, knowing what she was talking about. “Um... shut up?”

She laughed. “Fine, whatever.”

Peter looked uncomfortable and cleared his throat. “Well, we just wanted to say goodbye.”

“Okay. Thanks. See you later.”

When we were finally alone, Scott asked, “So, are you okay?”

I shrugged. “Sure. I guess.” I tiredly rested my forehead on his shoulder.

We were silent for awhile. I wondered what he was thinking. “Scott?”

“Yeah?” His lips touched my hair. “I thought you were asleep.”

I smiled. “Nope. I was just curious; did you... um, would you want to stay here? Tonight?”

I could feel his shock as he held me. “Wh-what? Um... wh... what?”

I felt too embarrassed to say any more, so I just shrugged.

“I... don't know what to say to that.” He said.

“Me either.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next morning, I awoke to the sunlight streaming through my open window. Laying on my stomach, I tried to stretch my legs and toes, but then I felt something around my waist-Scott's arm. A sudden surge of guilt flooded through me.

'What did I do?'

Then, I remembered what really occurred-Scott and I kissing; going up to my room; falling on my bed; Scott tentatively pulling off my shirt; me telling him that I'm sorry and I couldn't do it.

Nothing happened, I realized with relief, and a teeny tiny bit of regret.

My stirring woke Scott up, and he said, “Morning.”

I rolled over so my hands were on his chest. “I'm sorry.”

He shook his head and kissed my nose. “Don't be. If you're not ready, then you're not ready. No big deal.”

“You sure?”

“Of course!” He pulled me closer. “I love you.”

“I love you too. Thank you for understanding.”

“No problem.”

I would've fallen asleep in his arms again if he hadn't of spoken. “Well... I should go. It's almost noon, and I have to go to work for two.”

I sighed with disappointment and stood up. “Where's my shirt?” I muttered to myself.

Scott chuckled softly, gave it to me, kissed me once, smiled, and left.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Rachel? Hey! I... need to talk to you. Could you come to Tanya's? Yeah, I'm here working. Great! Thanks! See ya in a bit.”

I had just finished cleaning the last stall when my best friend came in.

“Hey!” She gave me a huge hug. “What's up?”

I got straight to the point. “Scott stayed over last night.”

“Oh... my, god! Wh-”

I cut her off. “Nothing happened! We almost did, but then, I, like, freaked out, and told him I couldn't do it! So, we just slept in my bed. That's it.”

“Wow. H-um, may I ask, why you said no?”

I sighed and sat down on a tack trunk. “I don't know why. I really love him-and I... want to do it. But... when he took off my shirt... a siren seemed to go off in my mind, screaming at me to stop. And I think the little voice was my mom.”

Rachel was silent for a minute while I contemplated what else I was going to say. “So...” She started, “what can I do to help?”

“I don't know. I mean, how do you know if you're ready? How can you tell if your nervousness is normal, or if it's a warning sign to don't do it?”

“You're scared to do it?”

“Terrified!”

“Why?”

I paused for a moment, thinking about my best friend. I have always loved talking to her. Whenever we talked about something serious or important, I always felt that Rachel really listened to me, and cared about what I have to say, and not just getting gossip, or anything. “I... don't know. Lots of reasons, I guess. What would it feel like? Would it change our relationship? What... I just... I don't know what to expect. It's scary when you have no idea what's going to happen; especially with something like this.”

“Well, aren't a lot of good things supposed to be like that?”

“Yeah... I guess. But this is, um, a bit different.”

“True. So, I'm... not sure how to help.”

“Me either.”

We were silent for a moment, thinking.

“Well,” Rachel started, “you don't have to do anything, yet, until you're absolutely sure you're ready. Or you could talk to him about it.”

I just nodded. 'I guess I could do both. I mean, I have plenty of time. Two weeks until my mom gets back, and one week until school starts again.' I thought to myself.

“Thanks Rachel. You're a really good friend.”

She beamed. “I know!”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When I got home that evening after talking to Rachel for a couple hours, I felt exhausted; not to mention the physical barn work I had done, also. After I ate dinner, I crashed on my couch, and decided to call Scott.

He picked up his cell after two rings. “Hey, Emily.”

“Hi!” I tried to sound cheerful, but I don't think it worked.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah! I'm fine!” I could tell my voice highered an octave or two, and was possibly shaking with nerves.

“Yeah, you sound it. What's wrong?”

“Nothing. I just wanted to say hi. What's up with you?”

“Not much... but, uh... Amber's here with Peter. You know, when I got the apartment with him, I knew he was going to be here all the time, but I didn't expect another roommate.”

“She stays the night?!”

“...yeah....”

“Ew.”


“Yup.”

'Ew' didn't cover it! I mean, my best friend's sister (who was only two years older than me) with my brother. Double ew.

“Do you want me to come over?” Scott asked.

“Uh, you don't have to. I'm okay. It's kinda late, anyway.”

“Okay, well, actually, I meant to ask, can I come over? Like I said, Amber is here, and they keep giving me looks that are screaming at me to leave.”

I had to laugh because I could imagine it. “Sure. Why not. See you in a bit.”

“Thanks. See ya.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Nothing happened. Again.” I told Rachel over the phone the next day.

“So, what did happen?” She asked impatiently.

“Nothing... icky. I mean, we did sleep in my bed again, but it wasn't like the last time. Mostly, we just talked. I told him that I'm really sorry to keep him waiting, and that... I'm almost ready.”

“What did he say?”

I rolled my eyes. “He was too nice-again! Just like you! I apologize for something, and you both say 'nah, it's no big deal', and it is a big deal!”

“Yeah, but what did he say?”

“He told me he understands, that 'of course he can wait', it's not that big a deal, that he's not that kind of guy, blah blah blah!”

“Why are you getting upset about that? He sounds like the perfect boyfriend! Honestly, how many guys his age would wait that long?”

“How's Zach in that aspect?” I asked softly.

I could almost hear the silent 'what the hell?!' on the other side of the line as my best friend paused. “Uh... let's not talk about me. We're talking about you right now. So, what, uh, what are you going to do?” She said, suddenly hyper. I could hear the slightly hysterical edge to her voice.

“Are you okay? Is something wrong with you and Zach?”

“N-well, no, not really.” She paused. I waited. “He... sort of asked me something-along the lines of your issue-and... I have no idea what to tell him.”

“What... did he ask?”

“He sorta... well, he asked... when I would want to... do it.”

“Oh.” I wished I could hug her. Being in the same situation as someone else makes it easier and somewhat more comforting. “What did you say?”

“I told him I'd have to think about it. I mean, I've always thought of myself as someone who would wait until I get married.” She paused. “Is that crazy?”

“No! No, of course not! That is completely your choice. I think it's smart for you to want to wait for a commitment. Maybe you should talk to him about that.”

“Yeah... I guess I could. Ugh! This is so complicated! Now I sort of know what you're going through.”

“It's confusing, isn't it?”

“Definitely. What are we going to do?”

“I don't know. I think we should talk to them.”

“Yeah, I guess so. I have a date with him tonight, so I'll talk to him then.”

“Okay. Good luck.”

“You too. Is he coming over again tonight?”

I grinned, even though she couldn't see me. “Yes. I love having the house to myself for these two weeks. With Peter finally moved out, and now that Amber is taking up a lot of his time, he doesn't notice that Scott comes over all the time.”

“Cool.”

“Yeah. So... good luck. I'll talk to you tomorrow.”

“Okay. Thanks, you too. See ya.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hey!” I said to Scott who had arrived at my door that evening.

He kissed me and smiled. “Hi! How's it going?”

“Fine, fine. Uh... we need to talk.”

“Uh-oh.”

We sat on my couch.

“No, it's-it's not that bad. I just want to talk about... my problem.”

“Oh. Okay. But, like I said, I can wait however long you need. It's no problem.”

I smiled. “Thanks. I just want to say, well, first that you're so amazing to want to wait for me,” I took his hand, “and... that... I think I'm ready.”

Scott gulped and stuttered a little. “Wh... um, uh, hum buh duh... whfhsoodaog... what?”

I almost laughed. “Well, I think we're in a really good place right now. We love each other, and we have plans for the future.”

“W-wow. Uh, I actually thought you would be kind of old fashioned, and wait for a ring.”

“That's what I said about Rachel! Ha! Well, um, no. I don't know. I just think... love comes to play here, no matter if you have a commitment or not. Which we do.”

“We... do?”

“Living together. I think that's enough, don't you?” Nervously, as I knew what would follow this conversation, I pushed myself closer to my boyfriend and hugged him.

He wrapped his arms around me and whispered, “Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.” I whispered back.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When I woke up the next morning, I felt oddly... content. And warm. My face and right hand were sprawled on Scott's bare chest. I realized what I had done, and it was hard to feel regretful when I enjoyed it so much. Being that close to another person in a completely different way was incredible.

I yawned and stretched my right arm.

“Hey.” Scott said.

“Hi.” I looked at him. He looked happy. (of course he was-he's a guy!) “That was....” There were no words to describe it!

But he understood. “Yeah. I know.” His arms pulled me tighter against him.

Then we both spoke at the same time.

“Thank you.”

“Thank you.”

We looked at each other weirdly.

Scott spoke. “Thank me? For what?”

“Well, first, for being so patient, and then, last night, for being so considerate of... me.”

“What do you mean?”

“You kept asking me if it hurt, and all that.”

“Oh yeah.”

“Yeah. Now, why are you thanking me?”

He gave me a look that said 'you know why! It's right in front of you!'. “For... letting me....” His face scrunched up as he said that.

“Then, we're even!”

We laughed.

Then I sighed. “I need food.”

When I stood up, I realized I felt dizzy. I wondered if that was normal.

Scott chuckled and caught me as I almost tipped over. “Hey... you okay?”

“Whoo! Yeah! Head rush.” I laughed too. “I'm fine!”

I got dressed first and went to the kitchen, scanning it briefly to find what I craved-Eggo chocolate chip waffles.

As I waited for the toaster to pop, Scott came up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist, his chin on my shoulder.

“Hey.” He pressed his lips to my neck. “You know what's weird?”

“What?”

“You.”

“Gee, thanks. Love you too!”

“No, I mean-love you-but, no, I meant, you're so different than what I expected.”

“What do you mean? Oooh!” My food was ready. “Sorry. What?”

He laughed at me, but continued. “Well, you always hear in movies and stuff, that girls tend to be... clingy, after... sex....”

“Sexist, are we?” I turned to face him.

“No! That's, no! Um....”

“Relax. I know what you mean.”

“And yet, here you are, eating a waffle.”

“It a good waffle.” I said with my mouth full.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“O... M... G!!! Oh my god! Are you serious?! What was it like? What did it feel like? How was it? Tell me tell me tell me!!” Rachel's words slurred together so fast I could barely understand her.

After Scott left, I called Rachel, and we met at Dufrense to talk.

“Calm down! Breathe. Relax. Are you okay?”

“Am I okay?! Are you okay! Talk to me! Come on!”

I laughed nervously. “It was... great.”

“Great? Ooh! Tell me details!”

“What do you want to know?”

“What did it feel like?”

“Weird. Incredible. Just... completely different. I don't even know how to describe it.”

“Did it hurt?”

“A little, but it wasn't as bad as I was expecting. And Scott was so sweet! He kept asking if I was okay.”

“Awwwww! If you didn't love him, I would! Sort of.”

“Nice! And if you didn't love Zach?”

She blushed. “Yeah....”

“So... how's... that... going?”

“I don't know, wait, no! No! We are not changing the subject! We're still talking about you! Damn! You keep trying to do that!” Her words were mad, but she was laughing.

So I laughed too. “So sue me for not wanting the attention on me!”

“Well, I still have more questions!”

“Fine! Shoot.”

“Are you going to do it again?”

I rolled my eyes. “Probably.”

“What made you do it? Did he ask?”

“No, I decided I was ready.”

“Really? Wow. Was it hard to make that decision?”

“Yeah, in a way. But I'm glad I did it.” I couldn't help but smile.

“Aww! You love him so much!”

“Well, yeah! Duh!” I laughed.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

'Okay.' I thought to myself two days before the Maclays. I lingered in the shower that morning, letting the hot water calm my nerves. 'Only two days. We can do this. Fourth place or better for scholarship-no pressure!'

Tomorrow, Scott's mother was having some old family friends over, so she decided to have a joint party-one for them, and a 'good luck' one for me, so hopefully that should help my nerves.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next day, the party went great. I met some really nice people, there was lots of good food, and there were fun activities to do outside. But, about an hour into it, it started to rain. I was inside chatting with Evelyn, until she asked me to go and find Scott.

It was starting to rain harder as I happily, almost skipped, outside to look for my boyfriend. In spite of the weather, I was in a surprisingly good mood. I felt loved by my (possibly some day) mother-in-law, and, of course, by Scott. I even felt calm, secure, and ready for tomorrow.

But as I turned the corner to the backyard, my whole world seemed to come crashing down. My whole future flashed through my mind, (marriage, college, Rip) then crumbled into nothing.

Evelyn's friend's twenty year old daughter-who, when I first met her, I felt envious for her gorgeous, long blond hair, perfect teeth, etc-had her 'curvy' body pressed up against Scott's.

And he was kissing her!!

I let out a gasp. Immediately, Scott pulled away and looked at me.

“Emily-” Scott started toward me.

I shook my head and spun around. Feeling complete betrayal, I took off running down the street, letting the now pouring rain soak me. When I slowed down, I heard foot steps behind me.

“Emily! Wait!”

I turned around and glared at Scott.

“I'm sorry! That was not supposed to happen!”

“Really? If only there was something in your head to control the things you do.” My words were sarcastic, but I felt so enraged, I didn't know what I might say to him.

“I know. I'm so sorry! But it meant absolutely nothing!”

I scoffed and started to walk away again.

“Wait! Come on! Can we please talk about this?”

I swung around to look at him. “Fine! You want to talk about it? Let's talk about it! How was it?”

“Huh?”

“Did you enjoy the kiss? Did you like how big her boobs are? How about her teeny-skinny waist you could hold on to with one hand!”

He shook his head and reached for my hand.

“Don't touch me.”

He pulled back and said, “She was nothing compared to you. Emily, I love you so much!”

“Is that what you told her tonsils?” I folded my arms across my soaked shirt.

“Emily,” he began, putting his hand on my waist, not budging when I gave him a dirty look, “I love you more than anything. Please forgive me.”

My anger was still at it's boiling point, so I said, “If you want to keep that hand, you'd better remove it from my body.”

He sensed my tone and stepped back. “You're my whole world. Please, I can't lose you.”

“You already lost my trust. The thing that gets me is-is why you did it! Why the hell would you even think about doing that?!”

“I don't know! I was thinking about y-”

“Oh, don't give me that s***! If you knew what was happening, you would've stopped that kiss! You should've told her you had a girlfriend. That we had plans. God, Scott! I have given you everything-I was ready to give you my whole life, and now... you just spit my love right back in my face.”

“I... I don't know what to say to that.”

We were silent for a moment.

“Do you think you can forgive me?” His eyes pleaded.

I sighed, my rage finally subsiding... a little. “I don't know. Scott, you betrayed me!”

“I know! And I'm so sorry!”

I sighed again. I still love him, and I didn't want to lose him either. “Yeah. You know I can't hold grudges.”

“Thank you. Can... can I drive you home?”

“Sure.” I shivered from the cold rain. “But first, I need to do something.” Almost smugly, I got closer to Scott... and slugged him right in the gut.

“Ugh!” He exclaimed.

“There. Now I think my anger subsided.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The car ride back to my house was quiet. When he pulled into my driveway, and put the car in park, I just sat there. I had so much to say, yet I couldn't get the words out. So, I began with an apology. “I'm sorry I punched you.”

“No. I deserved it. I was a total jerk. And, I'm sorry. I love you.”

“I know you do.”

When we got out of the car, the rain had slowed to a light drizzle. Scott walked me to the door, and gently took my hands. He didn't speak, but I knew what he was intending to do. And... I was right. Scott slowly-hesitantly-bent his face toward mine. I closed my eyes and waited, but at the last second, when I could feel his breath, I bowed my head so our foreheads touched.

“I... can't. Not yet.”

“I understand.” He pulled away and looked at me. “I... guess I'll see you tomorrow. It's your big day.”

I smiled weakly at that. “Yeah.”

“You'll do great.” Scott smiled too, patted my hands, said, 'good night', and left.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“He did what?!!”

That night, after Scott dropped me off, I told my mom what had happened. She wasn't taking it well.

I sighed. “Mom, please don't be irrational. I'm not in the best mood, and I just want to go to bed.”

“I'm not going to be irrational. Did you break up with him?”

“No. I still love him.”

“Really? Then, what did you say to him?”

I didn't really want to relive that moment, so all I said was, “I told him that I couldn't believe that he did that, especially after I gave him everything.”

She raised her eyebrows, zeroing in on something which made me nervous. “Everything? What do you mean by 'everything'?”

“Um... nothing.” I muttered, trying to walk away, but she stopped me.

She said more intently. “What do you mean by 'everything'?”

I gulped. I wasn't ready to have this conversation with her. It has been 3 weeks since Scott and I first slept together, and I was kind of waiting until I moved out to tell her. I don't think I have the strength to talk to her about it yet. “Um... when you were on your honeymoon... Scott came over....”

My mom gasped a little. “Oh my god... you didn't!”

I didn't say anything, just hoping she would drop it until after tomorrow, at least.

She took a deep breath, most likely calming herself. “Let's... talk about this later. You need to get some sleep.” Then she looked at me like I've never seen her look at me before; like she was disappointed, ashamed, awestricken, and like she lost her 'little girl'.

“Okay. Good night.”

“Good night.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That night, despite my apparent forgiveness to Scott, I cried myself to sleep (although, it might have also been the fact that my mom found out what I did with my boyfriend). Flashes of him and that girl kept popping up in my dreams, until finally, at three in the morning, I woke up in a cold sweat. I then waited the next three hours until I was supposed to wake up, sitting in the fetal position on my bed, praying to God that I could get my scholarship.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

'Love is friendship caught on fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses. Love is content with the present, it hopes for the future, and it does not brood over the past. It's the day-in and day-out chronicle of irritations, problems, compromises, small disappointments, big victories, and working toward common goals. If you have love in your life, it can make up for a great many things that are missing. If you don't have love in your life, no matter what else there is, it's not enough.'
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Maclays came quicker than I had anticipated. Before I knew it, we were standing outside the ring, waiting for the first riders to go.

Out of the twenty riders, I was going 12th, which gave me plenty of time to prepare.

The first round was fairly difficult. There were a lot of different lead changes, and difficult jumps. Actually, they were smaller than those at the Sporthorse Cup, but the combinations were still hard.



As Rip and I walked into the arena, I tried to clear my mind and just focus on the course in front of me.

We started cantering briskly toward the first jump. Soon, we were up and over and cantering around to the next jump. We flew over the oxer; fence #2. Jump #3 was difficult because it was a very hard angle. So, I slowed down and collected Rip's stride, and lined him up carefully. We popped over that one, then headed to #4 on the left lead, the #5. Fence 6 to 7 was fairly simple so I tried to be quick, but Rip didn't have a good amount of momentum to get over the oxer. I winced as I heard the clatter of Rip's hoof hitting the back pole, but I still went on. Ten strides to the fence 8 combination-2 strides in between the two jumps, 1 stride between the second and third. Then there was a simple dog-leg turn after fence 9, fifteen strides to #10, then a straight line for fences 11 and 12.

The audience cheered as I left the ring, but I knew it was pity applause. I blew my chance from one stupid mistake.

So that's why it confused me when Debbie smiled and said, “Good job! You're in the jump-off!”

“But I thought only the riders that went clear go in the jump-off?”

“You did go clear. The rail you hit stayed up!”

“Really? That's great!”

At the end of the first round, there were seven riders in the jump-off.

“Okay, Emily,” my trainer began, “now, I think you had the fastest time, so you'll be going last. How are you feeling?”

I knew what she meant, so I said, “Confident.”

“Good. When you go out there, don't worry about college or winning. And don't try to go fast. Keep a nice steady pace, and you'll do fine.”



The jump-off course was very difficult. It was one that if you weren't concentrating completely, you could easily get lost. Two of the riders already did, one forgot a jump, and only one rider went clear. The other two knocked down rails.

I had to ride a clear round in under 121.58 seconds to win.

Again, no pressure!

When I rode into the ring, I automatically went through the course in my head, mapping out the easiest way around it.

Despite what Tanya said, I tried to get in a fast round, but after the 3rd jump, Rip was getting careless, so I kept him steady.

In the end, I got a nice, clear round, not missing a jump, not forgetting the course, but, it was not fast enough. My time was 123.14 seconds, which put me in the second place!

I GOT MY SCHOLARSHIP!!!!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next two months after the Maclays I spent with Scott. Each day we got a little bit closer, almost like we were starting completely over again. I began to trust him again, and before the summer, we were back where we left off.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A week before Scott and I would head down to West Virginia to look for an apartment, Tanya bought another horse. She also told me that she wanted me to have full ownership for Rip.

The horse she bought was great. He was definitely not a jumper like Rip, but he was good for Tanya's other student, Stacey who was still learning a lot.

The horse, who was more like a pony, was named Junior. He was a 14 year old dark brown 14.1 hand high Morgan gelding. He was sweet, calm, and super cute.

The second day she had him, she asked me to take him out on a trail ride to see how he does. I brought Rip with me, with Scott riding him.

When we got to Dufrense, Scott halted Rip, and looked at me.

“What?”

“Uh, n-nothing. Never mind. Don't you want to ride him in the ring?”

“Yeah, I guess I should.”

Junior was a great little pony. Very responsive, smooth, and a joy to ride.

When I finished, Scott and I rode into the big Dufrense field.

Suddenly, Kyle stopped Rip and turned to me, and smiled nervously. “You know how much I love you, right?”

“Uh... yeah, of course... why?....”

“I just want you to know... that you mean the world to me. I can't imagine my life without you. Well, it wouldn't be much of a life.”

I smiled and blushed.

“So, I guess what I'm trying to say is....” He reached into his pocket, and I stopped breathing when he pulled out a little black box. “Emily, I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?”

A slight gasp came out as I looked at the beautiful ring. With it's fair-sized diamond, delicate band, and blue topaz stones, it was perfect.

How could I say no?

And... of course, I began to cry. “I, I love you too.”

He chuckled softly. “That's convincing!”

I laughed too. “Yes. Yes! Of course I'll marry you!!”

He grinned widely and we both dismounted. Scott slipped the ring on the correct finger before securing me in a massive hug. He then took my wet, happy face in his hands and gave me the sweetest, most wonderful kiss ever.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Many people say that you shouldn't expect a lot from life. But, honestly, I think you should expect everything from life. Set goals for yourself. People say that if you do this, there won't be any surprises. I think that, even if you expect something, it can still take you by surprise.

'The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of altitude on life. Altitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the altitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our altitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our altitudes.'




Life is what you make of it-just live.



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