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Author's note: I love horses, and want to train horses professionally, hopefully trying to in North Carolina. I really hope you enjoy the story, I worked hard on it.
“Hi,Valleri Davis.” I shook the man’s hand, my silver rings clicking together.
“Hello, David Vordello, barn manager. Welcome to Woodhaven Farm.” He smiled, white teeth flashing in the sun. “Follow me, I’ll give you the grand tour.” He added. I followed him, locking my truck. Can’t have that stolen, now can we? We entered the large barn, and I could barely contain my amazement. Not even Powhatan was this nice. The beautiful wood shone honey in the autumn sunlight, making the barn look heavenly and majestic.
David led me to the first stall, where a lean and powerful bay Warmblood was munching on some alfalfa. “This is Random Collective, he is one of our top dressage horses here, and next to him is Andrew’s Marcato,” he nodded his brown haired head to a chestnut stallion the color of a new penny. “He is one of our most promising show jumpers, and is going FEI this year with Angela, one of our riders.” David explained, and gradually made his way to the center of the barn—it’s shaped like a star, with four wings meeting at the center. I sighed inwardly at the expensive tack and luxurious barn. This is definitely a step up from home in Virginia, where I’d ridden all kinds of horses, and ridden all sorts of disciplines.
“As our head trainer you will work with all of our horses and riders, and break all of our new horses. Powhatan Farm said you were one of the best, and we look forward to seeing what you can do.” He said, petting Saliera, the mare in the stall in front of us.
“Thank you, sir. I look forward to working with you and your horses. I have seen great things in your horses, and am excited to work with them.” I answered as the seal brown mare turned her attention to me.
“When do you plan on having your horses shipped down?”
“I actually am boarding them at a racetrack, I wanted to talk here before I brought them. Can I trailer them in tomorrow?” I thought fondly of my two horses, Radiance and Vertigo.
“Oh wonderful, that would be great. You may keep all your gear in the tack room. He opened a wooden door, and I admired the open beauty of it the clean tack room. The tack trunks were made of an elegant wood, and all had names carved into brass plates on them. Eek. I’ll have to replace ye old plastic one. “We have these two stalls all ready for them, and our grooms will feed, clean stalls, and turn out if you wish.”
“Well, I’ll feed em, it’s a rule for me, and I’ll turn them out, but yes stall mucking is very welcome.” I replied, and we both laughed. The beautiful stalls were very open, and believe me, Radiance and Vertigo will love it.
“Back up, buddy.” I commanded to my young Thoroughbred. Radiance snorted, and backed down the ramp. Vertigo stood quietly, waiting for me to lead them to their new homes. They both towered over my five three frame. Vertigo, a highly-bred Friesian stallion, was seventeen hands tall, and Radiance in the Sunset (or Radiance), a young Off-The-Track-Thoroughbred gelding, was also about seventeen. Luckily, they were friendly souls and loved me a lot, so they don’t pull crap with me.
They clipped and clopped through the cobblestone aisle, and put them in their beautiful wood stalls, where they both circled and smelled around, familiarizing themselves.
“I love you both, I’ll be by later to ride you two and turn you out.” I promised, going into both stalls to hug each of them. I heard horses being led out of their stalls, and people beginning to talk—both to people and their horses.
“Hey, Val! You ready to work with your first pair?” David approached me, clipboard in hand.
“Yeah! I’m excited.” I answered, a nervous smile on my face. I wiped my hands on my grey breeches as I followed David’s muscular figure into the indoor ring, and I realized that there was a viewing box to watch from, and mirrors on the opposite side. Wow. This is insane. I walked onto the soft sand, and soon my brown schooling tall boots were covered in dust. A young woman was schooling a horse I recognized as Random Collective. She noticed me standing in the middle of the ring, and waved.
“Hi! I’m Kirby, are you the new head trainer?” She asked, her blonde ponytail flowing out of her helmet as she trotted over, halting when she got close.
“Yeah, my name’s Valleri.” I answered, shaking her gloved hand. “Alright, tell me about you two. What have you been working on?” I inquired, and she smiled.
“We’ve been working on the Piaffe.” She demonstrated, and I appreciated the smoothness of the movement, the white polo wraps accentuating it. “John really-“she cut off, clearly embarrassed.
“John what?” I asked, nervous at the mention of my predecessor.
“John said it was wonderful…but that Randy never would never make it.” She explained sheepishly.
“I think he lied. When’s your next show?” I asked, crossing my arms and rocking back on my left heel.
“Next weekend. The North Carolina Dressage Association Finals.” She answered, dropping the reins on her Danish Warmblood.
“Well, you keep practicing. Don’t let the hour we worked today get away from you. When is out next lesson?”
“Today’s Monday, so Thursday.” She answered, dismounting and running the stirrups to the Stubben dressage saddle up.
“Okay! See you then, Kirby” I answered, and left the arena. I found David walking out from the viewing box.
I sighed, flopping on my bed…the only unpacked part of my house (Oh yeah, it’s on Woodhaven property, did I mention that?) and opened my phone. No New Texts. Shocker. I laid my phone next to my head, and closed my eyes. This day was insane. I worked a new horse, named Incondite, several of the eventers, and barely squeezed in time for my two guys. Thank god for assistant trainers, right?
“Hello?” I said groggily into the phone speaker.
“Hi, is this Valleri Davis?” a male voice asked energetically.
“Yes. May I ask who this is?”
“My name’s Tom Williams. I’m interested in bringing a mare through to be trained at Woodhaven.
Uh. Not my department, friend with a British accent.
“Okay, have you contacted David Vordello? He handles that.” I answered, sitting up and grabbing the Woodhaven business card off of my nightstand.
“Oh, no ma’am, I wanted to talk to you before I discussed actually bringing her in. You see, she’s my girlfriend’s horse, and I want to make sure she’ll be trained properly and with great care.” He commented, and I rolled my eyes. Of course the girlfriend would want that. He’s probably rich and mooching off of her. Believe me, I’ve seen it plenty.
“Alright. What breed is she? And how old?” I inquired, flipping the card over and grabbing the pen from my pocket.
“She’s a six year-old Hanoverian. I want her trained in Hunter/Jumper.” I heard a noise in the background. “Her name is Suchin’s Shine. She’s a palomino.” He added.
“Pretty! Palis are one of my favorite colors.” I smiled into the phone, feeling excited to see this horse. “Can you tell me about her temperament?”
“She’s feisty, but really sweet. She has lots of get up and go. She’s been trained to all gaits, she just has to be trained to jump.” He told me.
“Okay, Mr. Williams. If you just call David Vordello, he will work out the logistics with you. When do you plan on bringing her through?”
“As soon as possible. In the next few days would be optimal.”
“Alright. Now call David, and he’ll get you squared away. I look forward to working with you.” I reminded him, and we both said goodbye and hung up. Suchin’s Shine. Interesting name. She has an obvious relation to the great German Hanoverian stud Suchin’s Warrior…who is a fabulous show jumper. One of the neatest and most powerful jumpers I’ve ever seen. Hopefully his daughter—or granddaughter—is just as phenomenal.
“Yo, Val! That new horse, Suchin’s Shine, is here!” One of the grooms, Adam, approached the white fence.
“Okay, I’ll be right in.” I promised, sliding off of the dressage horse I was working, Michael’s Anarchy, and handed the reins to Reed, one of the assistant trainers. “Thanks, man.” I said to Reed, and left the dressage ring.
A large palomino stood in the center circle of the wings, and I spotted a man in a grey suit and a woman in a tan suit stood near her, talking to David, who was obviously trying to talk, but was being cut off by the woman.
“Hi, Valleri Davis, head trainer.” I introduced myself, looking at the horse.
“Hello, Tom Williams. This is Trish Armonda,” She looked down her nose at me with disdain. David looked at me reassuringly.
“Hey there, Shine.” I pet the mare, who nuzzled me with curiosity.
“Valleri will be training her,” David commented. “We’re gonna tack her up now to see what she does, and then we’ll talk about length of time she’ll be here.” He added. Sam, another groom (and a super awesome guitar player) had already gotten her mostly tacked by the time I had grabbed my helmet and put my spurs on.
“Thanks, dude.” I smiled, taking the reins.
“Now, if you will follow me to the viewing box, we will be able to watch her working her in the indoor arena and hear what she has to say.” David motioned for them to follow.
“It’s so hot.” I heard Trish groan. “Please tell me that you have ac in your viewing box.” I was getting ready to swing into the saddle.
“Please, let me help you.” I heard a deep British voice. I swung around to face Tom. I realized that his eyes were a beautiful gray, and that he had a killer jawline. And dark brown hair that was parted down the middle. Uh huh. Mr. Attractive.
“Uh, sure.” I said after I had snapped back to reality, blushing. He gave me a boost into the saddle, and his hand lingered on my calf. Nope. Never washing these tall boots again. Nope. Never.
“I will enjoy watching you ride. I have heard amazing things about your riding. I heard from a small barn in Virginia. Woodmill Farm? They said you used to ride for them.” I paled. Yeah. For four lessons. I’d been thrown off four times on different horses. Yes, I switched very quickly.
“Yes, I did.” I answered, walking to the indoor arena, and I heard him follow me. “The viewing box is through there.” I pointed to a door, and he smiled.
“Thank you, I was worried about where it was. And…by the way. I love your Southern accent.” He commented before slipping into the viewing box. Uh…………………………………………………………………merp.
The soft sand moved well under Shin’s hooves, and I quickly warmed her up. I urged her into a trot, my body rising and falling in a post to her rhythm. I pushed her into a canter, and soon we were galloping.
“You have some amazing gaits, baby girl. I’m surprised they don’t turn you into a Dressager.” I said as I slowed her down, and gradually to a halt. Sam walked over, and set up a small jump. I saw her turn to look at it, and I turned her away, urging her into a canter to the far end.
Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Liftoff.
We floated through the air for what seemed like an eternity, and I felt free. She landed softly on the ground, and she swished her tail with glee.
“Good job, girly! I’m proud of you!” I patted her shoulder, slowing to a halt.
“Well, David. I think three months.” I called to the viewing box, and I felt amazing. I don’t want to give this mare up. Mostly because she’s awesome. And ye hot jawline guy. He has a girlfriend, you nerd. I chided myself inside, and tried to hold in my laughter at the irony.
“Vertigo!” I called to the giant black horse in the field. He looked up, and both he and Radiance ran over, in a race to see who would get the first peppermint. “Hello, goofballs.” I giggled, sharing my treat with them, and slipping the neon green halter over Vertigo’s head. “Time to work, my friend.” He shook his head. “No, you don’t wanna work? How about a bath after?” He nudged me. “Okay, buddy. Radiance I’ll come work you and give you a bath.” I promised, and he whinnied. “Hmmm, laughing at Vertigo, are we?” I teased, and he trotted off, tail waving the wind.
Vertigo and I flow together in the dressage ring. It’s like there is only two of us in the whole world, and we are one. We flowed through a canter, and elegantly around the well-traveled dressage ring. I tugged on the reins quietly, I more thought it, and he settled into a beautiful and intricate passage. We turned for home, halted perfectly, and I bowed. I heard clapping. What?! I turned to see ye hot jawline guy. Uh oh.
“Oh hey! I didn’t see you there!” I called, walking my sweaty horse over.
“That was beautiful! Is he yours?” Tom asked, arms over the fence.
“Yeah, he’s my beautiful boy. His name’s Vertigo.”
“Interesting name!” He commented, rubbing Vertigo’s nose.
“I’ve had that name on my mind since I was fourteen. I heard the U2 song and knew I would have a Friesian named that. So when a young Friesian stallion was given to me with no name, I jumped at the chance.” I ran my fingers on the reins, the expensive leather supple.
“When’d you get him?”
“He was a gift from a previous barn. I was seventeen and working hard training polo ponies.” I told him, remembering the hot Tidewater Virginia days of working polo ponies hard and cleaning barns.
“What made you leave?”
“Well. I’d finished my Associate’s Degree, and used the money from working there to pay for the rest of my Bachelor’s Degree, and I graduated in June. I was training horses full time for two barns, and heard some big barn down in North Carolina was looking for a trainer. So I interviewed, was accepted, and moved here.” I think I just told my entire life story from age seventeen. Three years of adventure. Three years of hard work and dedication. Three years of pain. All led up to this day, when I accepted an incredible job, and could support myself.
I slid off of my horse, and Vertigo eyed Tom, as if to say uh, no, Val. No can do I like this person but people are your strong point, my friend. Vertigo sniffed Tom’s hand, and shook his head, letting me know that in horse world, he is a-ok. I smiled at my silly Friesian as I led him to be untacked.
“Here, let me help.” Tom said, taking my saddle from me.
“Oh, thanks! I really appreciate it.” I answered, slightly caught off guard. I’ve always taken care of my own gear, so the idea of someone else taking it is quite a strange experience for me. I turned back to my patient friend, waiting for me to put him in his stall so he could cool off before his bath and I could work Radiance.
“So, do you think Shine will be easy to train?” He asked, following me down the cobblestone aisle.
“She seems willing, I hope she’ll be easy-ish to train, although I love challenge horses.” I led Vertigo into his stall, slipping off the neon halter and hanging it next to his fancy leather one, and hugged him. “Bye, boy. I love you I’ll be back soon.” I promised, slipping out of the stall. He ambled over to munch his hay.
“He’s super calm for a stallion.” Tom commented, leaning next to me and we watched Vertigo.
“For me he is. He’s not everyone’s horse and can be a challenge to handle. When I first had Vertigo, a young groom ignored the “Leave alone, stallion, get Valleri” sign, and Vertigo decided to go. The guy broke his leg when he was slammed into the barn wall. He never went near him again.” I shuddered at the memory of Jake’s screams, the blood everywhere, and the exposed bone.
“Thomas!!” A high voice cut through the silence, and I heard the clicking of probably heels on the cobblestone aisle. Maybe she’ll trip? That would be okay. Trish came into view, and glared at me.
“Can I help you?” She snapped at me.
“Well, as much as I appreciate the offer, I don’t need any help.” I answered, and I enjoyed the look of shock on her face at my sass. Oh yeah, did I mention I am the queen of sass? I am quite proficient at it.
“Well I never. Thomas, we are leaving.” She declared, turning around and stalking off to probably some fancy convertible.
“I’m coming, let me go say goodbye to Shine.” He answered, and I knew that he would need assistance in getting to the barn. Le sad he’s leaving.
“Hey, Valleri, do you mind if I call you?” He asked as he pet Shine.
“Of course, you’re welcome to anytime.” I answered, trying not to pass out and making a valiant attempt to contain my excitement. I think I failed. Oh well, right? Ugh why are cute people so difficult to be around? It’s quite frustrating.
“Okay awesome, I would love to get to know you better.” He smiled, his straight white teeth flashing, and walked out of the barn, and I stayed next to Shine for a few more minutes before I ran over to the field to grab Radiance.
“You b*tch.” I heard behind me, and as I spun around, Trish’s fist connected with the side of my face. I hit the stall’s bars, and bounced back to look at her.
“Care to explain why you did that?” I asked, my anger was barely contained, and proud of the fact that I hadn’t punched her back. Can’t get Woodhaven in trouble.
“You stole Thomas from me.” She snarled, and slapped me. My face was already throbbing, and this definitely didn’t help.
“Look. I’m not gonna hit you back, so please stop.” I answered, holding my hands up. I felt the swelling already starting on the right side of my face. “Now, no, I did not steal him from you.” I made quotes in the air. “You drove him away, you used him, and spend all of your time belittling him. We are going to cancel Suchin’s Shine training, and will return her to your home barn tomorrow.” I said, walking away from her. “Oh, and Trish. Get off of Woodhaven property. If you are still here in three minutes, you will be arrested for trespassing, and I will charge you will assault and battery.” I continued my walk into the center of the barn wings, my black tall boots clicking on the cobblestone.
I heard the squeal of tires and the crunch of gravel, and walked into the bathroom. The right side of my face was bruised and turning beautiful colors. I sighed, and grabbed a towel to put cold water on it. I walked out of the bathroom, and walked up to David’s office. I knocked on the open door, and walked in.
“Hey, David.” I said, closing the door.
“Oh God, What the heck happened to you?” He stood up from behind his desk, walking up to me to look at my face.
“We are cancelling Suchin’s Shine training, and returned to her home farm tomorrow.” A dark look crossed David’s face.
“Did he do this?”
“No. She did. So I am removing the need for her to be here, and is not welcome here.” I answered, sitting down in the chair opposite him, closing my eyes.
“I am so sorry that happened.” He said quietly.
“Oh it’s okay. I don’t really care. She accused me of ‘stealing’ Tom. And I didn’t. We just became friends.” I commented, laughing. “Speaking of which.” I said, opening the new text.
So...Trish just left me a message that said she hit you. Are you okay?
Yeah, I’m fine. Little bruised, but fine.
Good. I am sorry she hit you though.
Nah Don’t worry about it. I don’t really care :) i responded, and I felt David’s eyes on me.
“Are you...with Tom?”
“No, we’re just interested friends.” I answered, blood rushing to my face. It’s a very uncomfortable subject for me. He left Trish a few days after Suchin’s Shine had been put into training. And he’d told me. And I had said okay, and asked if I had a significant other and I’d told him the truth: I haven’t dated since I was a sophomore in high school.
“Okay then. Will you let me know when you do?”
“Uh. Sure.” I said, standing up. “Well, I will see you later. I have to go work with Caramel Machiatto.” I explained.
“Okay, let me know if you need help or something.”
“I will,” I laughed, walking out of the room and back downstairs to the barn. I saw a man standing in the middle of the circle, in tan breeches and navy blue polo. A Woodhaven polo. I do not know who that is.
“Who are you?” I asked, approaching him.
“Are you Valleri Davis?” He asked, looking at me.
“Yes. Who are you?” I asked again, beginning to to get nervous.
“My name is John, and you stole my job from me. I came to get it back.” He said, walking menacingly towards me, and i reached around for the knife in the back pocket of my blue jeans.
“Sir, I believe you need to talk to David about that.” I answered. “He is upstairs, in his office.”
“Oh no. No you don’t understand. They heard about the ‘magic’ you were working with those polo ponies up in Virginia, and were talking about hiring you as head trainer while I was head trainer. So whatever David lied to you, you’re wrong. Do you really think they would put an advertisement in that part of Virginia from all the way here in Hendersonville?” He said, an evil grin on my face. “I came to tell you that you better watch your back and your horses. Vertigo and Radiance may just disappear.” He threatened. “Unless of course, you leave your job.” He added. He turned and left. “You have twenty-four hours.” He added, sauntering away.
I breathed in deeply. Okay. I texted David, telling him that I would be back in a few hours. I walked to my horse’s stalls, and looked at my two horses, both safe.
“Hey guys, so we’re gonna go on a trip.” I told them, and walked out to get my truck and hook up my trailer.
In a few hours, my horses and tack were loaded, and I drove down to my house. I packed my clothes, and the rest of my stuff, minus the stuff like my bed and dresser. I looked out of the sideview mirror, back at the luxurious barn, and blinked back tears.
“Goodbye, my friends.” I said, and sent the goodbye text to David.
David. I wish I could explain to you why I am leaving, but I am for Woodhaven’s safety and my own. Please make sure to hire John back, I heard he was a good trainer, and I think that I just ended up not being the right fit for each other I guess. Thank you so much for taking your chances on my, and please do not hesitate to call me with any questions. -Valleri
I pulled onto the quiet road, and headed for the best place I knew.
I pulled into my grandparents’ driveway, and I heard the horses moving to compensate for the hill, and I saw my grandmother and grandfather walk out onto the porch as I put the truck in park, and walked over to hug them.
“Hey, Grandpa.” I hugged him, and then hugged my grandma.
“Hello there! We just got your message. Is everything okay?” He asked, and I sighed.
“Remember when I dropped my shotgun off when I first moved here? Can I have it?” I asked, and I saw an uneasy expression cross his face.
“Yeah, come on in. Do you need to do anything with your horses?” He asked, and I looked back at the trailer.
“Can I put them in a pen I have in the backyard? And pull my truck around really far? I don’t particularly want people to recognize my truck or trailer.” I answered, walking to pull out the travel pen from the trailer.
I walked Radiance and Vertigo around to the back, and made sure I would be able to see them from the sunroom.
“So what is going on?” Grandma asked as I helped make dinner--chicken with a salad.
“You know how I worked for Woodhaven? Well, the previous head trainer, John, came back and threatened to hurt my horses if I didn’t leave. And as much as I want to stay, I cannot risk the health or safety of my horses. So I’m gonna go talk to North Carolina Racetrack, where I’d boarded Radiance and Vertigo when I first got here, and ask if they need a trainer or something.” I explained, pulling the chicken out of the hot oven.
“Do your parents know?”
“Yeah, I texted them. I didn’t have time to call them. I was packin’ all of my stuff.” I answered.
“What’d they say?”
“Well they agreed that I should take Rad and Vertigo out, and talk to you guys about staying for a few days.” My phone began to ring a familiar ringtone.
“Hey, Tom. What’s up?” I answered, walking over to the sunroom to see my horses grazing calmly, trying to keep the shaking out of my voice at my next actions.
“Oh not much. Just got out of a meeting.” He said lazily, and I took the opportunity.
“Tom. This hurts me to say, but I don’t think we should talk anymore. It’s nothing against you at all, Tom. This hurts me as much as it hurts you.” I said, tears falling down my face. A stunned silence.
“Valleri what is wrong.” he answered, and I heard him lean forward. “I will catch the next flight out of London to you.”
“No. Don’t. Trust me, okay? And Tom I love you very much. I just...I have to go.” I answered, hanging up and turning my phone off immediately.
I looked down at my phone, the crucial piece of technology clicking to black, the tears falling from my green eyes.
I led the young Thoroughbred to the track, and felt the nerves from the seventeen year-old jockey aboard the nervous stallion.
“You’ll do great. Kick butt.” I said, letting go of the reins and leading Radiance away from the chestnut horse. I urged him into a lope, my right hand resting easily on the western saddle. We reached the barn, and halted. I heard Vertigo nicker in welcome to his stablemate.
“Hey, buddy.” I said to the Friesian stallion as I haltered Radiance and began to untack. Vertigo shook his head up and down, reminding me that he was waiting for me to take him for a run on the track in the very late evening when the racing had shut down.
I put my old band jacket on, blocking out the chilly autumn breeze, as I walked to the sideline to watch the last turf race of the day.
“Come on, you can do it.” I urged under my breath, rooting for the young jockey as they crossed turn four. “Let’s go, Alex. Come on. Damn.” I said as they crossed the wire, Alex coming in third place. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all, huh?
It was very late when I led Vertigo onto the dirt track, the English saddle shifting under my weight and his movement. I urged him into a quick canter, and then into a gallop. This is the only work he ever got anymore. There was no ring I could work them in, no jumps for Radiance to leap. Just a track. We pounded around turn four at a very pretty trot, and walked under the wire. We walked back to the barn, and I put him away. I began to walk to my truck, looking at the lights on the track, and the hoofprints we’d left behind.
“Excuse me, were you just riding that Friesian?” A deep voice asked behind me. I turned to see a middle-aged man and cowboy hat.
“Yes, Sir, that was me. Why?”
“My name is Oliver West, and I am the trainer for Alexandrite, who ran today.”
“Yes, I remember you. Congratulations on the win.” I said, turning to face him.
“I recognize your horse, did you take him to Dressage at Devon a few years ago?”
“Yes, I did. I’m Valleri Davis. He’s Vertigo.” I answered, shaking his hand.
“You all were quite a pair. Took champion, if I remember correctly. Anyway, I just watched you ride, and that was beautiful riding. My employer, J.R. Stables, is interested in him. Is he for sale? I am prepared to offer you one hundred thousand dollars.” I stood there, shocked. Sell Vertigo? That’s quite an offer. I could get really back on my feet with one hundred thousand dollars.
“Vertigo is not for sale, sir.” I answered, shifting my weight onto my toes.
“Are you sure? He would be ridden by the best, and have the best of care.” He pestered.
“Sir, unless you are willing to offer me a job, Vertigo will never enter the barns of J.R. Stables.” I said, and I saw the gears of his mind turning.
“That could be arranged. Would you be willing to give me your phone number? I can get back to you in a few days.” He said, pulling out his phone, and opening a new contact.
“Uh, sure. And what all does your farm train?” I asked as I entered my information.
“We train eventers, racehorses, and polo horses. Some of the best in the world.” He added as I handed the flip phone back. “We could offer you a job as one of our trainers, if you wish.” He offered, and for the first time he really caught my interest.
“I would appreciate that. However, Vertigo will always be mine,” I reminded him.
“Of course. I will call you.” He answered, and walked away. After he had disappeared, I walked back to where Vertigo and Radiance slept. I silently opened Vertigo’s stall, and laid down in the straw. No one is stealing my horse. I thought to myself.
I pulled into the misty Pennsylvania stable grounds, and sighed in finality. After three days, I was finally at J.R. Stables. Beautiful horses grazed in the green grass, and the white barns were elegantly built into the countryside, the white fences standing out. I walked into the first barn, and found a young man grooming a young mare.
“Hi, I’m looking for the barn manager.” I approached, and he looked over her withers at me.
“He’s probably in his office. Walk to the end of this barn, and it’ll be on the right.” He pointed down the aisle, and I thanked him. My paddock boots shuffled the dirt around, and I knocked on the wooden door.
“Hello?” I walked in, and a middle-aged man looked up from his computer.
“Oh, hello! You must be Valleri Davis.” He said, walking over and looking me up and down. Gee, that’s not creepy. He shook my hand, and we walked out. “Here are your horses’ stalls. Vertigo, your magnificent stallion, is here.” He pointed to a nice stall, “And Radiance in the Sunset will be here.” He motioned to the stall next to it, equally as nice. Both were already made up, and I knew my guys would be waiting for me to get them out of the trailer.
“Thanks. I’ll move ‘em now.” I answered, and he smiled.
“I’m afraid you can’t do that. It’s Saturday morning, you know. You have a lesson in ten minutes. That young man down the aisle is your student.” He nodded down to the guy I had asked for directions.
“Oh. Okay then, I will have to ask him where I am giving him his lesson.”
“You don’t know that? It’ll be in the racing ring, of course. He’s one of our apprentice jockeys. Don’t you know anything about this barn?” The barn manager commented, and went back into his office. Um. Okay then. I ran to the trailer, and quickly backed my horses out, swinging aboard Radiance.
“Alright guys, we need to find the race track, and hurry. I don’t have time to put you two in our stalls, so we’ll hafta go together.” I answered, urging Rad into a quick trot, Vertigo following. This is nothing like what I expected.
“And now entering the ring, Valleri Davis and Vertigo, a nine year-old Friesian stallion.” The announcer said as I entered the dressage ring at a graceful canter. I bowed to the judge, and urged Vertigo into a beautiful collected trot.
A few excruciating minutes later, I bowed to the judge again, and claps went up as I exited the ring. I saw Anthony, my trainer, smiling.
“Well done, Val! You two did amazingly!” He gushed as I slid from the black dressage saddle.
“Thanks,” I hugged Vertigo. “He did great.” I added as we walked to the barn.
“Valleri?” A familiar yet unfamiliar voice said behind me. I turned, and saw someone I thought I’d never see again. His jawline was still sharp, and his hair hadn’t changed a bit.
“Tom?” I asked, incredulous look on my face. “Is it really you?” I asked
I woke up from my dream, the alarm clock destroying me. I blinked back the tears that threatened to spill onto my skin, and sat up. I threw back the covers, and stumbled into the bathroom for a shower to wash the dream from my skin. The hot water fell on my face, and I forgot to stop crying, the water mixing with salty tears.
I walked into the barn, and grabbed Vertigo, who sighed deeply.
“I know boy, I know.” I said, tacking him up and leading him to the dressage ring.
I bowed the ending bow, and felt someone’s eyes on me.
“Valleri. That was...interesting.” Anthony stood along the rail, his eyes dark. “Look, I don’t think you and Vertigo are meant for each other. I want to try someone else on him.”
“That’s not your decision to make.” I answered, walking past him on Vertigo. “Let’s remember that he is my horse, not yours.” I added, looking between Vertigo’s black ears. I saw a trailer pulling up, and I looked through the glass to see if there was a man with great hair, grey eyes, and a killer jawline. I looked down at the ground, trying to contain my emotions.
I looked at my phone, and saw a text from the riding job website I use. One new job offer in London, England. Maybe. I slid it to unlock, and read about it. I followed the link, filled out the application, and hit submit. I'd been applying for jobs everywhere, and hadn't gotten one hit.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Valleri Davis and Vertigo.” I hand galloped Vertigo into the award ring, and the crowd cheered as the judge placed the first place ribbon on Vertigo’s bridle.
“Great job, boy.” I told him with a grin, and hugged him. I saw a solitary figure walking out to to stand by the judge.
“Valleri Davis, I love you.” Tom said as I looked down at him.
I bolted upright, and rubbed my eyes.
“I love you, Tom.” I said to the darkness, and settled back down on my bed, tears soaking my face and pillow. I hate this place. I thought to myself, and drifted off into sleep again.
I walked into the ring, feeling the power of Vertigo’s muscles under me. I saluted, and began my test. When I bowed after the grueling test, I relaxed, and that was when I spotted him. His jawline stood out, casting a shadow on his throat. His dark brown hair made a hat not possible, and his gray suit was very chic, fitting well. Terror went right through me. Nope, this is not a dream. I thought to myself as Vertigo stiffened under my body, sensing my nerves. I petted his shoulder, trying to calm myself and relax him.
He met me at the gate of the fencing, and I tried to stop my hands from shaking with no success. Oh lord.
“Valleri?” he asked, walking next to us.
“Oh, hello, Tom.” I answered, looking down at him.
“How are you?” He asked, and I saw him visibly resisting the effort to touch my calf, a habit he’d always had.
“I’m okay. And you?” I asked, my heart pounding.
“I’m well. Can...can we talk?” He asked as I dismounted next to my trailer.
“Sure, what’s up?” I answered, sliding the stirrups up and putting Vertigo’s new leather halter on him, the engraved brass shining in the sunlight.
“Why did you leave Woodhaven?” He inquired, and I stopped checking my horse’s feet.
“Do I need to talk about it?”
“Then why did you want to stop talking to me?”
“To protect your life. And mine. John...the previous trainer at Woodhaven...came back one day, and threatened to hurt my horses. So I left. Look, it’s been two years.” I said, going back to checking Vertigo’s feet.
“I still love you.” He answered, and I stood up to look at him.
“I love you too.”
“Even after all this time?”His voice was gentle, but full of anticipation.
“Yes of course.” I rolled my eyes, and he walked up to me, and put his arms around me. His lips were soft on mine, and I lost my fingers in his dark hair. After two years, my dreams came true. After two years of pain and nightmares, I could see him, touch him, kiss him.
We parted, and his smiled.
“Hey, Val, you wanna get married?” He asked, getting down on one knee and revealing a beautiful diamond ring. It wasn’t flashy, and I was glad. He wants to marry me! Oh my god! I cannot believe it! Ahh!!!
“Yes, I will, Thomas,” I grinned, hugging him after he placed the ring on my finger.
“We’ll go back to Woodhaven, where you’ll be welcomed back, and have a house in London too.” He said, resting his head above mine. Suddenly my life clicked into place. Everything I had ever wanted, even from a teenager, was finally coming true. For the first time in two years, everything is going to work out. I don’t know what the future will bring, but with my horses and the love of my life, I can do anything.