In Deep Waters
1The day had come to an end as the sun fell behind the earth and darkness peered over the covers. The same thing happened to the rest of my world as Katelyn Dale. I was 16 years old and couldn’t scrape a memory from my mind that equaled up to the awful day I had just lived out.
I shut my eyes and tried hard to wash out the events that had happened the past 48 hours of my life. But as hard as I tried, I failed, and everything came rushing back, as if it was all happening again.
It was a bright sunny July morning, in the town of Modesto, California. I’d just finished serving my mother’s parents, Paul and Jeanie Harrison a breakfast that consisted of eggs and pancakes. I was about to head on my way to Lone Pine Stables, the place I had learned to ride, and where I’d kept my horse, Harley, for the entire four years I’d owned him.
I said good bye as my grandparents munched happily in silence and I slipped on my running shoes. Lone Pine Stables was only 3 quarters of a mile away from my grandparent’s house, so since laziness was an attribute I didn’t like, I had come up with an idea awhile ago to run to the stables on days when it was nice. This happened to be almost every day during the spring, summer, and fall. But I enjoyed it, and it kept me in shape. The only disadvantage was that my friends at the barn teased me about running in my breeches. But I didn’t really mind too much because I had convinced myself it was just simply a more convenient way.
Before heading out the door, I set the play list of all my favorite music on my mp3 player and then shoved the little device in the one and only pocket in my tan breeches. I jogged my usual route that I took to Lone Pine, speeding up once I reached the beginning of the drive way, watching the wooden fences of all the many pastures and paddocks fume by from the corner of my eye.
Not long after I was at the barn entrance and found my way quickly to the utility room that housed a bathroom, a mini kitchen, couch, washer & dryer and personal lockers for the boarders. Lone Pine was no fancy stable of perfect high quality. Despite the few things in it that had been remodeled, it had a historic look about it with its large old wooden stalls, creaky but sturdy doors, and humungous yet well used arenas. But it certainly held everything needed to keep a horse owner happy.
I undid my combination lock and grabbed my tall riding boots, replacing their spot with my running shoes.
I was just about to zip up my second boot when I felt the presence of someone near me. I looked up to be greeted by a pair of dancing sparkly blue eyes that belonged to my best riding buddy, Carly Evans. Carly had an oval shaped face with bouncy black hair and a pretty young face that denied her age of 18.
“Guess what!” Carly chimed in her voice that people claimed sounded identical to mine.
“What’s going on?” I asked boredom. Carly over exaggerated everything.
“Tina is buying a stallion!” Carly announced excitedly.
“Really now, Tina, as in “our” Tina?” I replied skepticall.
“Hmm, well what other Tina do we know?”
“I assume her husband Mike is going to help with the handling of the stud, right?”
“Of course! Unless, Tina is too stubborn! You know how she gets.”
I smirked for I knew how feisty that little lady could be. I also laughed at the picture I imagined in my head of petite Tina Myler, the owner and manager of Lone Pine, as well as being my riding instructor for as long as I could remember, trying to control a big stallion ten times the size of her.
Then I realized Carly was staring at me.
“What?” I asked defensively.
“Is that all you have to say?”
“Huh, No! What makes you think that?” I unleashed all the curiosities that were forming in my head at the moment. “So tell me then, what kind of horse is it? When is she getting him? Tell me his color and his name!”
“One at a time!” Carly said holding up her finger.
I smiled at how impatient my friend could be at times, folded my hands and shoved them in between my legs.
“Alright! I think I heard her say she’s getting him in three or four weeks and he’s coming here from somewhere way down in southern California. Then she said he was half Hanoverian and half Oldenburg. A pretty good mix I think. He’s a bay I think or maybe a black, I can’t remember. She didn’t have a picture on her. Ooooh! How can I not remember!?” Carly degraded herself and clunked her fist against her head a few times. Then she paused and burst out boldly, “Let’s go with a bay!”
I stifled a small laugh, “Ok Carly! Whatever floats your boat!” I patted her on the back and stood up from the rock hard couch that looked like it belonged in a dumpster, not a horse stable.
“So, what’s his name?”
“Moon Dance Away, I think it was and she said she was gonna call him Danny.”
“Hmmm, that’s sort of cute. But I don’t know if it would fit a stallion.”
“Yeah, I guess we’ll have to wait on Tina for that..”
I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and glanced at the time. It read 9 ‘o’ clock and I figured that if I was to beat the hot California heat, then I should get Harley ready to ride.
“Have you ridden yet?” I asked reaching for the door as Carly followed me out and down the wide rubber matted aisle.
“Yeah, I did earlier this morning. I’m babysitting and meeting with Aaron at his house this afternoon, so I snuck my ride in before hand.”
She caught me off guard. “Aaron? Who’s that?”
“Uh, my boyfriend.” she stated bluntly as if I should’ve known.
“Well, according to me, I didn’t know you had one.” I said slowly and cautiously so she’d take the hint.
“Oh.” she looked surprised and turned away, embarrassed. “I guess it would make sense if you didn’t know. I mean, he only asked me out yesterday. We met at work.” She peeked up at me through her long dark eyelashes.
I let loose a quite laugh that I always seem to have around my friend. “Carly! You make me laugh!”
Just then a few horses nickered as if setting a wake up call in Carly’s mind. She perked up and said, “Well, I should be going. I guess I’ll see you around!” She waved good bye and the rest of the barn grew silent. Normally there was at least one stable hand cleaning stalls or one of Tina’s lesson girls lingering around longer than usual. Today though, it looked empty, so I turned on the radio and let is disperse throughout the barn.
I spent a good grooming session with my horse until his dark chocolate bay shined and gleamed. “Such a good boy, Harley!” I praised the gentle gelding, giving him a big hug and patting his neck. None of my other stable friends who I usually hung out with, Derek, Kara, or Cassie showed up, so I tacked up and rode Harley for an hour in the indoor ring that was next door to the barn. Harley, being the usual awesome horse that he was, did everything I asked of him. He was so well trained and such a joy to ride. I always had to remind myself that he was finally mine. I could remember the first day I saw him 9 years ago and how I’d always wanted to love him like my own. And now that’s just what I did every single instant of my life.
When I was finished riding and Harley was settled out in one of his favorite pastures with his barn buddy, Jasmine, I jogged home.
The Harrison house was quite when I got home. It was only around noon time, so my grandparents were usually home at this hour unless there were emergency things that needed to be taken care of which was basically never.
“Gran? Grandpa?” I called through the hollow house. Gran answered from the kitchen.
“In here dear!”
I came through the door way and Gran motioned me to sit. I pulled out a chair from the table and sat down next to my grandpa who seem to have his mind somewhere else temporarily.
“I’m making sandwiches, would you like one Kate?”
“Sure, thank you Gran.”
Grandpa tuned back into the conversation and patted my hand.
“Did you have a good ride, honey?” His gruff but gentle voice warmed my heart like it always did when he spoke. “Harley was fantastic, grandpa!”
“Good!” he replied cheerfully, his thin white hair shaking as he nodded his head as he sat contently in his wheel chair. The crow feet around his eyes showed even more as he smiled at me. I smiled back before Gran began to talk.
“Teresa called after you left. I filled her in on what’s happened around here lately.”
I thought for sure I caught Gran swapping a knowing glance at Grandpa when she said that.
“Why’d she call?” I asked in a voice that was too snobby for Gran to not notice.
“Just to check in on us. She’s still family you know.”
Teresa was my older sister. She was twenty years old and in her third year of
college. We’d never been close, but we did use to be friends. We emailed a few times a month. But other than that we hardly kept in contact, except for when she called me here at our grandparents.
“How’s everything with her?” I asked sweetly, trying to make up for my previous question.
Gran seemed satisfied that I was asking about Teresa, even if it wasn’t all that interesting to me.
“Good, actually! She said school is going well and that she met a nice young man. They’ve only talked over coffee a few times, but the way she talks about him, I can tell there’s something special with those two.
I just nodded along, playing with my fingers while only half listening.
“Isn’t that nice? Katelyn?”
“Huh? Yeah that’s good. Did she mention his name?”
“Uh no, she didn’t. I don’t know why. I didn’t bother to ask either.” Gran pondered while she slapped the top pieces of bread to the bottom ones. She piled the sandwiches on a plate and brought them over to the table, placing them in the middle so both Grandpa and I could reach. She handed me a napkin and I pulled a half turkey sandwich off the plate and laid it on my napkin. Before sitting down, my Grandma placed her cane down on the floor.
Then it hit me. There seemed to be a sudden tension and I could see Gran stiffen beside me. Even Grandpa’s presence changed. Both straightened more and crossed their arms.
“Kate, hon, your grandfather and I need to talk to you about something.” Gran urged gently.
My mind raced uncontrollably. “Like what?” I asked taking a bite from my sandwich trying to act normal. A tired sigh escaped my grandma.
“There are going to be some changes in the next few weeks.”
My mind raced before I could stop it. Nothing that I could think of had gone wrong lately, unless it had something to do with my dad.
Ever since my father, Johnny Dale divorced my mother, Connie, when I was only 3 years old and Teresa was 7, he immaturely made some irrational decisions, causing him to lose everything he once held dear. After getting addicted to drinking, drugs, women, and even involving himself in criminal work, he reserved a twenty year jail sentence for auto theft and murder. The news was so devastating for my mother that I thought she wouldn’t survive. After all, the man she had once loved was now an entirely different person and her two daughters no longer had a father to love and cherish them.
But my mother encouraged my sister and me, promising us we would pull through this together. Then she met Tony Hinder, my step-dad, almost 4 years ago and fell in love. But until 2 years ago, after only being happily married to Tony for two years, My mom was diagnosed with cancer and passed away 5 quick months later. Before she died, my mother insisted that I go to live with my grandparents since I was still only 14 and just going into high school. My sister on the other hand, was just graduating and heading off to college. Therefore, my step dad moved away for reasons we didn’t know. Tony had gotten to know my sister and I a little bit, but we’d never had any real relationship of any sort. So my step dad and I rarely kept in contact. In fact we had lost all contact for the most part.
I was brought back to reality and realized that my grandmother had a tear spilling from her eye.
“Yes Gran?” I could feel the panic seeping from my voice.
“Katelyn, we need you to understand. Your grandpa and I are getting old. You need somebody younger, more agile and mobile that can provide better care for you, sweetie, with what you need…”
“But Gran, I can take care of myself! I’m grown up now! And I need to stay here and take care of you and Grandpa!”
Gran gave me a hopeless yet stern look that told me to be quiet.
“Sorry,” I whispered.
“Honey, that’s exactly my point. You are taking care of us, when we should be taking care of you!”
There was a short pause while Gran glanced at Grandpa who gave a slight nod at whatever Gran was unsure about.
At that moment, I realized how old my grandparents really were. I’d never given thought to it, but they were withered little people whose strength was weakening every day. But I wasn’t going to give up that easily.
Gran continued, “In a few months, your grandfather and I are going to…” she broke and a tear slipped down her cheek. “Your grandfather and I are losing the house. We’ve given up payments for the past few months.”
My grandma began to cry and my grandpa tried to stand up to comfort her. I couldn’t even move.”
“We contacted your step dad in Kalbarri, Australia…” my grandpa started.
“Australia?” I interrupted violently.
Gran took no heed of my interruption and continued. “He said he’d be delighted to have you come live with him and his wife, Lori.”
“What!? NO!” I cried, standing up and knocking my chair over in the process. “I don’t want to go live in some other country I’ve never been to before! What about Harley? I can’t leave him! And all my friends? I’ll never see them again! What about finishing school here? And you guys! I’ll never see any of you again!” My words tumbled out so badly I wasn’t sure if Gran and Grandpa even understood what I had said.
Gran held up her hand in attempt to silence me. It just irritated me more so I folded my arms so I wouldn’t hurt myself, anyone, or anything. She motioned for me to sit again. I felt like a steam engine as my face pulsed with heated blood. I did as Gran wanted me to, pulling up my chair with an aggressive jerk and tried hard to focus and listen.
“We’ve been saving for awhile. We knew this was going to happen. So we agreed to put money away for you instead of trying to save the house for a few more months. We weren’t quite sure at first, but we’ve put extra money aside for you for some years now anyway, so if anything ever happened to one of us while you were still living with us, you’d have some money to support yourself for a little while. After Grandpa and I talked this over, we decided to take some of that money to pay for your plane ticket to Australia, and to ship Harley down there to live with you.”
I wasn’t sure whether to be pleased, or angry. I considered being both at the same time, but the anger over took. I hadn’t spoken to my step dad for awhile, so I had no idea where he had been living, or anything. “Where will I keep Harley?”
“Your step dad lives on a big working horse and cattle ranch, Kate. Did you not know that?”
“Uh, no! I don’t exactly talk to him every day! Will Harley be going by airplane or boat?”
“Boat, airplane is too expensive. We’ll ship him out the day you leave so he can
arrive there about two days after you.”
I gripped my thick dark chocolate brown hair at the top of my head and felt like ripping out all the red and light brown highlights I’d had put in a week ago.
“Harley has never been on a boat before! What if he freaks?” I struggled to hold it together.
Neither Gran nor Grandpa answered. Gran just continued on her little spiel. “We’ve booked you a flight on the twenty third, two weeks from today. We have your schedule and everything. We’ll call your step dad, Tony when you leave and have him come pick you up at the airport.” Gran seemed to be finished finally and I felt the tears burn down my face as if they were leaving permanent streaks.
Gran didn’t say anything else, so I felt it was my turn to talk.
“So that’s it then, you just go and make all these decisions, plans, and arrangements without letting me know or have any say in what happens to my life? I guess you still must think of me as a little girl!” I tried not to shout before tearing from the room and storming into my small bedroom. The sobs came harder then. I was sure my pillow would be flooded in the next hour.
The rest of the day passed and I still couldn’t hold back the painful sobs. The tears had stopped after all the water deserted my now dry eyes, but that was the only thing that changed. I didn’t go to dinner or come out of my bedroom the rest of the evening. I cried myself to sleep before my grandparents could come check on me and fortunately slept peaceful throughout the night.
When morning came, still nothing had changed. I could still feel my body shaking and my heart breaking. I checked my clock and saw that the time read 5:30. I had an hour and a half before my grandparents would be up to start the day.
I decided to get up and drive over to Mumbo’s Coffee shop in the middle of town where my best friend, who I’d known since 4th grade, worked. She wouldn’t be there until 8:00, but I figured I could just wait in my car, sleep, or listen to music. Anything but sit here and cry like I had the day before.
My face was still slightly swollen and red, but I freshened up by washing my face, applying a small amount of mascara and combing my hair. I checked myself over in the mirror, only disappointed that I looked like I’d been sick and stuck in bed for the past week. People always told me I was beautiful, but I always believed they were just being nice. I mean, who was going to call someone ugly? Well, except for the times like today.
Despite both my parents part Indian bloodlines, my inherited light brown skin didn’t help my paleness at all. I still looked somewhat sickly, like all the color from my face had drained out over night. Even my bright deep sea blue eyes looked blank and empty.
I went out and got in my car after leaving a brief note for my grandparents in the kitchen. The garage door rumbled to life and started to lift, so I shifted my car into drive and sped out of my grandparent’s quarter mile long drive way as fast as I could without being noticed. I was enjoying this freedom of being able to drive without adult supervision. But it only added to the fact that I was now on my own more than ever. As I drove in silence through town, I tuned my brain out so I didn't’ have to listen to all the thoughts jabbing around inside my head. About eight minutes later I pulled into the small parking lot that surrounded two sides of Mumbo’s coffee shop and parked my silver compact car in a parking spot near the front door. Once the car was still, I leaned my head back, hoping that the nearing future didn’t hold anything so troubling that I wouldn’t be able to handle it.
When I awoke I realized I had fallen asleep. Thankful that I had, I looked around and saw that people were buzzing around. Cars were out on the street and my car clock read that it was 8:15. My best friend Leslie Robinson was definitely at work by now.
I hit the lock key on my car and stormed through the opening double doors slightly less than I wanted to so people wouldn’t stare or question my behavior. I spotted Leslie rushing around behind the counter, filling cups and snapping lids while telling her co-worker how much whip cream needed to be put on each drink.
Leslie didn’t see me, so I got in line. The two people in front of me went quickly and then it was my turn. Suddenly, it was brought to my attention that I hadn’t decided what I was ordering.
“Hi!” Leslie welcomed me. “What brings you here this morning?”
“You’ll never guess. Can we talk?”
“Oh ok, give me 5 minutes and then I’ll tell Lily I’m taking a quick break.” Leslie nodded, gave me a knowing look that she understood something was up.
“Alright. So uh, what’s your special today?”
“White peppermint mocha. You want that?”
“Sure. I’ll try it. Just a small please.”
Leslie got to work on my mocha while I scrimmaged in my pocket for money. I didn’t have any so I motioned to Leslie that I was going out to my car.
I grabbed a five dollar bill from the glove compartment that was supposed to go towards gas money and forgot that I’d left my cell phone on the seat. The screen informed me that there had been two missed calls from my grandparent’s house. I flipped the phone back on the seat and went inside.
My mocha was waiting for me when I came back in, so I paid at the counter and wandered my way over to a small two person table by one of the many windows in the casual coffee shop. I waited patiently, drinking my coffee slower than what was probably normal until Leslie came over and pulled a chair out in front of me.
“Let’s hear it.” Leslie said, looking up at me with her green eyes underneath her blonde, styled, straight across bangs.
I started from the beginning, replaying the whole conversation, my grandmother’s words, and my words. When I finished, it looked like Leslie’s jaw was no longer connected to her mouth and her eyes had been frozen in a wide eyed position.
I pressed my lips together and faked a smile. It was my way of showing Leslie that I was frustrated to the bone.
After Leslie still didn’t respond, I snapped my fingers in front of her face. She still didn't move. But I could see water outlining the edges of her eyes as if she were about to cry.
“Leslie, do I need to call the ambulance?”
Leslie frowned and shook her head, “No, don’t be silly this isn’t funny. I’m just shocked.”
We both sat there for a minute, thinking. “I didn’t wear much make up for a reason.” I whispered.
Leslie ignored my comment.
I nodded very slowly.
“I mean, if you were moving to another state, that’d be one thing, but….but Australia? That’s half way around the world!”
I didn't’ respond because I couldn’t. My emotions rarely took control of me when I was upset, but this was more than I could have ever imagined. Fiery tears avalanched from my eyes again, but this time, there were no sobs.
“I don’t want to go, Leslie. I’m going to miss everything. And I don’t want to move down to a place I never been before and live with a whole bunch of strangers.” I sighed before continuing. “I’m so glad Harley’s coming with me, if he wasn’t, I’d for sure be a fish out of water down there in that dried old desert, swarming with all those down under dog cowboys.”
There was a faint smile on Leslie’s face, but it slipped away just as quick as it appeared.
Leslie gave a quick glance over at where she should’ve been working.
I noticed. “I should probably let you get back to work.”
Leslie opened her eyes really big, looking like a sad little puppy. She always had those eyes when she was sad.
“Call me later after you get off work, ok? Then we can meet somewhere.” I told her.
Leslie nodded, hugged me tight and went back to the coffee kitchen.
I got back in my car and went back home, without calling my Gran back.
Once I was home, I didn’t even stop to say hello or mention I was home. I went straight to my room, which was right next to the laundry room that led into the garage. My grandparent’s house wasn’t very large, but it wasn’t too small either. Once in my room, I slipped my breeches on, but instead of putting on my running shoes, I slid my socked feet into my fuzzy slippers that were made for walking around outside. There was no way I’d be able to handle running, so I took my car.
Tina was in view when I pulled up and parked in the small Lone Pine dirt parking area. I hurriedly put my riding boots on in the utility room, and then stalked off to talk to Tina.
When I found her, she was as cheery as ever.
“Well, hello Kate! It’s good to see you!” I knew Tina well enough to know she was ignoring my desperate appearance.
I tried to deliver a happy smile, but I didn’t succeed very well.
“Hi Tina. Is there somewhere we can talk?”
Tina didn’t look surprised, “Yeah, how about in my office right now?”
“That’d be good. Thanks.”
Once we were settled in her office, I brought the subject directly up front.
“Tina, I might be moving to Australia.” I kept the might in there in case there was any hope I could stay.
My riding instructor frowned deeply. “Why there?”
“Well, it’s where my step dad lives and it’s where my grandparents want me to go.”
“Oooh sounds like a tough situation, Kate. What about Harley?”
“My grandparents are going to ship him down there for me.”
“By boat or airplane?”
“Boat.” I replied with a doomed voice. “He’s never been on one before, has he?” I asked.
Tina use to own Harley and competed him in advanced hunter jumper shows when he was young. She and Harley excelled at their competitions, but after Mike, Tina’s husband bought her an even better horse awhile later, Harley was just used for lessons before I bought him. Now he was twelve years old and even better at jumping than he’d ever been. Harley wasn’t the only one who loved to jump. I did too. Ever sense I laid my eyes on him, I had wanted to jump him. He was so big and athletic, and had the most ideal conformation for jumping. Just as I’d hoped, he’d turned out to be a magnificent jumping horse.
Tina and I went to competitions around town and to a few towns outside our area. We did really well and Harley was so eager to please. Since I had been taking jumping lessons for about 6 years, I only had experience riding English. I’d never been in a western saddle my entire life. Going to live on a ranch in Australia, where they only rode in large, unfamiliar western saddles, would be an entirely different experience, for both Harley, and me.
Tina seemed to be thinking about answering my question as she squinted at me.
“I’m 99% sure he hasn’t. Which isn’t a good thing. I’ve heard bad stories of horses being too traumatized on the boat that they can’t be brought off. Oh dear, why am I telling you this?” She mumbled that last part to herself.
I didn’t respond, lost in my thoughts.
Tina spoke again. “I remember when you came to me on the day of your first riding lesson when you were just 7. You wanted to jump so badly. And then you begged me for the next 3 years.” Tina paused and studied her feet. “Now you’re moving to a western horse ranch way down under!” Tina teased me, smiling her wide friendly smile.
For the first time sense yesterday, I smiled because I wanted to. She was right. A working horse and cattle ranch in the desert was the last place someone like me belonged.
“Now you promise me that you keep on jumping that beautiful horse of yours, alright?”
“I promise you Tina! They won’t make me sit in one of those Western saddles even if it kills me!” I teased back.
“Why don’t I give you my email address so you can email me when you get down there and keep me updated, ok?”
Tina looked at me suddenly with shock, “They will have computers down there, right?”
I shrugged my shoulders. If I were to give a speech on Australia based on my current knowlege, all I could inform the audience would be that kangaroos lived down there and it was where the Sydney Opera house was located.
“Alright well here it is anyways. I left my phone number in case you can’t email me. You can also call me whenever.”
She handed me a slip of paper. “Now when are you leaving?”
“Sooner than I’ll ever be ready for.” I mumbled to myself.
“Ah Kate, I’m going to miss you so much! Make sure to take pictures and send them to me ok? And you’ll come back to visit right?”
“Make sure you come and see me!”
Tina and I finished our conversation. Then I went off to see if I had any riding buddies around. When I came down the far end of the stable corridor, I spotted a group of people down by the tack room, next to the entrance doors. When I reached them, I recognized all my friends, Derek, Kara, Cassie, and Carly. They were all chatting about something and for the first time in the past few weeks, all of us were here at the same time, which I found coincidental. Derek was the first to greet me.
“Hey Kate! Long time no see!”
My friends and I all exchanged hugs. “So what’s up with you guys?” I asked.
“We were just talking about you.” Kara stated.
“Oh? Is that a good thing or bad thing?” I responded cheerfully, trying to disguise my hurting spirit.
“Good thing!” Kara laughed. “We thought it would be fun if we could put on like a little horse day camp thing for all of Tina’s lesson girls. We thought we could have like a ride time where we can like give them pointers and let them work on stuff. Then have horsey games on foot and in the saddle.”
“And Derek here is gonna be the cook and make them all lunches!” Cassie teased poking Derek in the rib. He just rolled his eyes..
“And what do you think about this Derek?” I asked, knowing he’d appreciate a say in whatever was taking place.
“Thank you, Kate, for acknowledging my opinion,” he said loudly, sending the other girls a silly face that was supposed to be a dirty look. “I think it would be a marvelous idea….for you guys. But I don’t want to hang around with a bunch of little girls all day long! I have work to do around this place you know!”
“Hmm, that’s what I thought.” I laughed out loud.
Poor Derek, ever sense he’d gotten into horses as a boy, he’d always been teased, and treated like a girl. I tried my best not I do that to him. But now that he kept his own horse at Lone Pine with a bunch of girls, he still got teased for it. But he’d once told me that he could care less now.