I held Grams’ phone to my ear and waited. The air conditioner cooled me in the car. Ave was now whistling outside, walking around.
A few rings later, my mother answered. “Hello?” I said softly.
“Mother dear, you sound like a child!” The woman on the other end laughed. She had a thick British accent.
“Um, yeah.” I paused. My heart was pounding in my ears.
“Mother, how is my baby doing?” she asked.
“Uh, I’m actually –” I was so nervous. Despite the coolness of the air conditioner, I suddenly felt really warm.
“Mother, is this even you?”
“Who is this?” my mother asked, suspicious.
“Julia Portman.” I said simply.
She didn’t say anything. So I decided to speak up. Heck, I’ve got courage I didn’t even know I had!
“You left me.” I started. “You left your baby! You left your child in the hands of an old woman! Actually, you left her in an orphanage! You left me! You left me and coincidently, your mother stepped in and took me!” I screamed. “An old woman who barely could take care of your idioticness took care of me! Can you imagine how much it must have been on her? Can you? No! And that, Anthea, is what makes you horrible, wretched, and evil!”
“Honey, my love, you don’t –” she said.
“SHUT UP!” I yelled. Ave knocked on the window. I ignored him. “You evil witch! You left your own daughter in the time when she needed you most!” I started crying. “You left me. And that lead me to almost killing myself.”
“Jules, I –”
“Don’t you dare call me Jules. Grams and my family can only call me that.” I sobbed.
“Listen to me.” she sounded desperate and horrified.
“NO!” I ended the call there. When Ave saw me, he opened the door and came to sit beside me.
“I don’t have a mother.” I sobbed into his shoulder. “Everyone hates me. No one understands how it feels to be so lonely and so… alone.” I whimpered.
Ave hugged me and I curled up into a ball. “I understand. It’s okay.”
I looked up at him, wiping away my tears, “But do you really? You’ve got a family, a house, love, friends, Carter…” I sighed and leaned into the back of the seat. “I’ve got nothing.”
“If you want to, you can stay home with Mum.” he offered, tightening his lips.
“I don’t want to spoil Izzy’s day.” I said, shaking my head, “I’ll go.”
Seconds later, everyone else had come into the car and we were driving to the stables.
“What took you guys so long?” Ave asked.
“We were looking for Grams’ phone.” Tim said, turning the wheel to the right.
“And it was here.” Izzy grumbled. Aunt Martha had made her wear sunscreen. Izzy hates it. One of the reasons it took them so long, according to Tim.
“What song?” Grams asked, looking at the CDs they had.
“Dark Horse!” Izzy chirped.
I made a face, “Are you kidding me?”
Ave groaned, “Get ready to go deaf.” He plugged his ears when Grams started the song.
“I knew you were! You were gonna come to me! And here you are! But you better choose carefully! 'Cause I'm capable of anything! Of anything and everything!” Izzy sung. She had a pretty great voice that I didn’t feel like plugging my ears. Ave unplugged his too.
“You’ve gotten better.” he said. Izzy glared at him.
“And here we are!” Grams said, turning off the radio.
I smiled, “This place looks fantastic!” I said.
We went in and asked for a couple of horses to go for a trail ride with. I was going to ride Coco, a chestnut with a white blaze running down his face. He had three stockings – two on his back legs and one on his front right leg.
Izzy was riding Oak, a beautiful strawberry roan mare.
Then there was Swiss and Luna, both twin appaloosas. Swiss was going to with Tim – he rides him all the time. Luna was going to be Ave.
Aunt Martha was with a half-wild and half-tamed dun quarter horse named Buck – she said she could handle him. And lastly, Grams was riding the sweetest Morgan horse named Belle.
I knew every single horse breed in the world after all of the lessons I had gotten from Ella. Ella… I felt tears prick my eyes, but I didn’t let them fall.
The horses were all tacked up and ready to go when we had first come, so there was no need to do any of the hard stuff – I think it’s the hard stuff.
I mounted Coco and squeezed my legs so that he’d know I wanted him to walk. He obeyed. Izzy followed me all the way out to the woods and the trail. She chattered about how much she loved doing this. She said that she had known Oak ever since she was born. Oak is four, so ever since Izzy was six, she knew her. Yeah, I can do math.
“How are you feeling?” Tim was beside me now. I could tell he was tense because Swiss was fidgeting a lot.
“Stop stressing,” I said, “Look at poor Swiss!” I chuckled and kicked Coco into a trot then slowly into a canter. “Race ya!”
I looked back at the others and they had all stopped, giving me death glares. Finally. Time to think.
As Coco cantered, I gave him a quick pat on the neck to assure him that he was doing great. I was lowered onto his back and he felt warm and nice. He was happy, I can tell you that for sure. But I wasn’t. Not yet, at least.
No. I’m not calling her that. I would rather die than do that. I felt guilty, and I bit my lip.
What if she wanted to apologize? What if she wanted to tell me that she wants to come back? What if she really does love me but she just couldn’t live with me? I wish she had just died in the plane crash and I wouldn’t have to worry about all this.
My hair went in my mouth and I spat it out.
I sighed as the woods seemed to come to an end and we were now in an open field. I could hear the others quickly approaching.
There was a stream coming. More like – we were going to the stream. And we’re here.
Three, two, one, and hup! We jumped over the stream, landing on the other side cleanly.
Ella had taught me all this. Maryam was always too afraid to touch horses. She had seen too many movies. I leaned into Coco, burying my head in his soft, neatly combed, thick mane.
“Wait up!” I could hear Ave calling out to me. I rolled my eyes, slow pokes. I slowed Coco to a trot, gathering his reins.
“C’mon, Coco, let’s turn around.” I said calmly, rubbing his neck. I was closing my eyes, breathing in the fresh air as Coco slowed to a trot. When I opened my eyes, I screamed. I pulled at the reins as hard as possible. Coco whinnied and halted. I felt so bad. But we almost crashed into that tree! I don’t even know where it came from.
“Aww, cutie, I’m so sorry.” I apologized, petting his mane. “Let’s go back to the barn.” I said and as if on cue, he bobbed his head and trotted back. I didn’t even have to tell him! This is one obedient and smart horse, I must say.
Once we had arrived, I put Coco back in his stall and waited for the others. When I had met them on the trail in the woods, I told them that I’d put Coco back and they could go play. I would just wait and hang around. They agreed.
To pass time, I started untacking Coco. While I was taking everything off, I started talking to him. I don’t exactly know why. It felt right.
“I bet you never found out if you’re mother loves you or not. Because you probably know. She probably loves you. She probably misses you right now.” He bobbed his head when I held out a carrot for him.
“Are you a happy horse?” I asked him, looking down at the hay and waiting for a reply. Then, realizing how stupid I sounded, I looked into his eyes and – oh my goodness, he looks sympathetic! Oh god, a horse feels sympathy for me! I quickly said sorry and left the stall, locking the door tightly.
“Julia.” someone said. It was more of an ‘order’ than it was a ‘call’. I looked back and groaned. I pretended I didn’t see Raven and dashed out the stable. It was like getting out of a maze. Sometimes I ended up in the tack room, other times in an arena… This is madness.
“Julia! Stop!” she said, “Wait! I’m not Raven!” she yelled. Some of the horses neighed. I was finally outside, but… Not Raven? How could you not be Raven when you look just like Raven?
“Darn, girl. You run fast.” she panted when she caught up to me under the shady tree right by the paddocks. It was willow tree. My favorite.
“You just hurt your brother last night, Raven. And you acted like the Wicked Witch of the West. And now you’re admitting that you’re not Raven?” I growled, “How lovely.”
Raven gawked, “Last night? Why would I hurt Carter? He’s a sweetie.” she smiled at the thought of him. I narrowed my eyes at her suspiciously. “Oh right. Everyone thinks I’m Raven.” she laughed.
I continued staring at her and a horse neighed.
“I’m Grace,” she stuck out her hand.
Oops. I totally forgot about her. Raven has a twin. I wanted to smack my forehead. Carter said that he had sisters. Seventeen year olds. Right. That makes sense now.
I cautiously stuck out my hand, “Julia – wait, you already know that. How though?”
She shrugged and tucked a loose hair behind her ear, “Raven talks about you. She’s jealous.”
I stared at her, “Say what?”
Grace looked embarrassed, “It’s kind of a long story.”
I sat down and patted the seat next to me, “I’m all ears. Sit. I’ve got plenty of time anyways.”
How in the world am I listening to a word she’s saying right now? She’s probably as evil as Raven.