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Authors: Janet Rising

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BOOK: Pony Rebellion
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“No, really, how many? Three? Four? More than four?”

“A lot more than four,” I told him.

“Hummph!” snorted Drummer, shaking his head.

“Now I want to try another formation…” Sophie said, rearranging the jumps so that instead of a line of five up the center, she had four in the center arranged with each jump at right angles to the next like a big X, and designed to be jumped from quarter marker to quarter marker. Luckily, the poles were made of hollow plastic, so they were easy to move around.

“OK, now as you come across from the quarter markers I want you to jump over these—keep to the left-hand one—in the same order as you did when they weren't there, so Cat jumps first, then Pia, followed by James, Bean, Dee, and Katy. You need to keep straight and get your timing right. Up for it?”

We all nodded, getting ourselves into position—and it seemed to work well. Drum flew over our jump just before Moth crossed over behind us, with Bean close on our heels. It was actually starting to feel like fun!

“OK, now I want you to tackle the cross jumps in pairs, so everyone needs to ride around on the left rein in pairs. Ready?”

We were. I was on the inside, which meant Drummer had to do fairy steps as we cornered while Bambi kept wiggling around. Cat and I still weren't communicating, but as both of us were determined not to give the other anything to complain about, we both made sure we kept in step. I could hear James and Bean having a loud argument behind us—James was accusing Bean of going too slow and Bean was telling him not to be so bossy. Perhaps Cat and I, with our silence is golden policy, had it pretty good after all.

The ponies got a little competitive in their pairs and flew over the jumps with Moth and Tiffany both trying to get ahead of the other, which meant they were breathing down our necks. Sophie scolded James and Bean a little bit, but praised everyone else. We tried it on both reins, and it was really good. I found that I was riding Drummer without thinking about it. Instead, I was looking around and making sure I was level with Cat, and in line for the jumps, and my riding became more instinctive. Asking Drummer to lengthen and shorten his stride to keep with Bambi and get away from Moth and Tiffany behind us made me concentrate more too, and I couldn't hear the ponies moaning as much as usual because they had so many instructions from their riders. This activity ride was improving our riding—which was an added bonus.

“OK, that's wonderful!” cheered Sophie as we all came to a halt. The ponies were puffing a bit—and so were we. “I think you've all done really well. You look like an activity ride already!” Sophie continued. “We'll call it a day. Can you all make tomorrow for another practice? And then Monday after school, say five o'clock?”

Everyone could.

“What? More of this?” asked Drummer, still puffing.

“Yes, isn't it great?” I told him, patting his neck.

“Hummph!” Drummer snorted again.

“What's this all about?” I heard Bambi ask him.

“It seems to be an ongoing thing,” I heard Drummer reply. “More activity planned for Tuesday, can you believe it?”

“Oh well,” Bambi sighed, sidling up to Drummer, “at least we'll be together.”

Snatching the reins out of my hands, Drummer leaned over and nuzzled Bambi's neck. “Mmmmm,” I heard him murmur, “there is that to it!”

Bambi giggled. I know. Giggled!

I let out a sigh. Looking up, I could see Cat giving me an evil look from Bambi's saddle. I looked away again. How on earth were we going to get through this activity ride if we had to continue riding as a pair? It wasn't possible.

As if she could read my mind, I heard Sophie start talking about how our ride would be helping everyone at Taversham. Well, I thought, if that wasn't an incentive to knuckle down and get on with the ride, I didn't know what was. I could do this! Hostilities could be put aside for this one ride, surely?

The problem was, I didn't know whether Cat felt the same way.

Something is going on,” I told Bean.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, usually I can't get Mom to shut up whenever she gets a new boyfriend—or boyfriends, plural,” I said. “But this time she's being very secretive.”

“How so?”

“Just sort of quiet when she reads texts, and not reading her emails when I'm around and not jabbering on about her new boyfriend—or boyfriends—being this and that and Mr. Wonderful, like they all are when they start out and, oh, I don't know, sort of weird.”

“Can you have a talk with Tiff before I tackle this line of jumps?” Bean asked me.

We were in the outdoor school, trying to get Tiffany used to the jumps for the activity ride—as promised. I explained to Bean's palomino mare all about it—how she needed to take the jumps steadily, not running out. “They're only tiny jumps, Tiff,” I said, “hardly worth getting all worked up for.”

“You want me to go over them like everyone else does?” Tiffany asked.

“Yes, that's it. Just for the ride. Can you?”

“I'll try.”

I told Bean. “You could have told her that. She can hear you,” I said.

“Yes, but it's just a one-way thing when I do it,” she pointed out. “No opportunity for feedback.”

Bean headed for the jumps and Tiffany did her best. It was better. It wasn't fantastic but an improvement.

“How's that?” Tiffany asked.

“Fantastic!” I lied. “Can you do it even better than that?”

She could, it turned out. Bean was ecstatic and gave her pony a hug.

“You are the smartest pony
ever
!” she told her, wrapping her arms around her golden neck and planting a kiss on her pony's nose where the noseband would have been if it hadn't been taken off due to Tiffany's noseband phobia.

“That's sorted that out, then,” I said. “Job done—way to go, Tiff!”

“Maybe he's married,” suggested Bean.

“Who?” I said, used to Bean's way of starting a conversation in the middle. As it happens, she wasn't starting a new one but continuing an old one.

“Your mom's new boyfriend.”

“That,” I declared gloomily, “would be just the end.”

“Or he could be hideously disfigured—like in
Beauty
and
the
Beast
or
Phantom
of
the
Opera
.”

“Er, do you think?” I asked, frowning.

“Or, maybe he's famous!” Bean was off on one now, totally going for it. “He could be a film star or a singer or royalty! Or a politician—his relationship with your mom could bring down the government! Or, or…”

“Stop!” I said.

“But it is a possibility, isn't it?”

“No. Stop right now. Maybe my mom's realized that there are better ways of handling her relationships. Maybe she's decided to stop embarrassing her only daughter and lie low. I hope so, anyway.”

I did too. With all my heart. How wonderful would that be? My mom being all grown-up and sensible and discreet instead of conducting her romances via Facebook and discarding boyfriends like old socks. Bliss! She'd been dating ever since we'd moved to our tiny house—after my mom and dad divorced—and she was still out there, looking for love. I thought it unlikely she was toning things down.

“If you say so,” said Bean huffily. “I like my theories better. I bet she's got some famous big shot wrapped around her finger and has had to sign the official secrets act or whatever it is.”

“I'm sure you don't have to do that just if you're going out with someone,” I said doubtfully.

“I bet you do. I bet you do if you're seeing a prince—or a
spy
. I bet that's it, she's seeing a spy! And maybe”—Bean's eyes narrowed and she prodded my arm with her finger like it was my fault—“he's an enemy spy. That's why she's keeping it under wraps! Or—oh I know, I
know
, your mom's a spy! Has she been sidling up to people in raincoats in parks with briefcases and starting conversation with
The
snow
is
beautiful
in
Moscow
this
time
of
year
or
Red
Squirrel
flies
tonight
?”

“No,” I said, without bothering to even try to remember.

“She wants to be careful. She could end up in Alcatraz waiting to be tried for treason.”

“Well, it's been great talking this through with you, Bean,” I told her sarcastically. “I feel much better about it now.”

“I would hate for you to get a nasty surprise,” Bean said darkly.

“Too bad you didn't think of that before—it's too late now,” I replied dryly, all Bean's possibilities swimming around my head like piranhas in a tank.

When I got home, Mom was still acting weird.

“What are you doing?” I asked her as I walked into the sitting room to see her hastily gathering up a mountain of brown paper in her arms.

“Er, nothing. Just tidying up. What would you like for dinner?”

She'd tried the dinner diversion on me before when I'd spotted her shopping online. I was sure the brown paper contained a vital clue to her weird behavior.

“What's that?” I asked, peering at it and thinking it was very plain, like it was disguised.

“Just some trash,” she replied, a bit too innocently. “I'll put it in the recycling.” Only she didn't, she hid it away upstairs.

Could she be a spy? No, I shook my head. Bean had gotten under my skin—I'd be as crazy as she was in no time if I listened to her. It was living with her artistic mom, dad, and two gifted sisters that did it, I decided—too much creativity around.
Get a grip, Pia
, I told myself. Mom's a grown-up and entitled to have a few secrets of her own, isn't she? I mean, what would spies buy off the Internet? Bugging devices? Code books? Maybe the plain package was a disguise for my mom. Would I recognize her in the future? Could it be kinky stuff? Oh please no! Kinky stuff came in brown paper, didn't it?

“Mom,” I began when she came back downstairs and started rummaging in the fridge. “Mom, what's going on?”

“Going on?” she asked, ever so casually. “I don't know what you mean.”

“You'd tell me if there was something,” I continued, “right?”

“Of course, why wouldn't I?” It was still a bit casual for my liking, as though she'd been expecting me to ask and had thought out all the answers beforehand. Like a spy would. The thought sprang into my mind uninvited and unwanted. Bean really had gotten me going! I decided to bite the bullet and ask her.

“Er, Mom, your love life has been a bit quiet lately—any new boyfriends on the horizon you haven't told me about?”

“Um, I didn't think you were that interested,” she replied rather casually, her head still in the fridge.

I was sure we didn't have so much in there to keep her enthralled for that long. Suspicious! “Oh, I like to keep up with developments,” I said, equally casually.

“Er, well, yes, I have actually,” she said.

“What's he like, then?” I asked.

“Oh, you know, the usual,” she replied. “Want some hot dogs? We can have them with french fries,” she said, holding up a packet of Big-n-Beefy Dogs temptingly.

Who was she kidding? There was no “usual” with my mom. Just weirdos—different, geeky weirdos. I wasn't giving up.

“What's his name?”

“Name? Michael. Mike. Hot dogs then?”

“OK,” I agreed. “What's he like?”

“Er, well, he's very nice. He, um, rides a bike.”

Ahhh
, I thought,
the plot thickens.
I could be a spy at this rate. A vision flashed before me. A vision of geeky Michael on a bicycle, pedaling like crazy. Big, bulging thighs wider than my waist, a cycle helmet jammed onto his head. Determined expression. Thin. Very thin. Extra thin like a flat cracker, with bumps where his elbows, hips, and knees were. Covered in bright yellow and black Lycra, like a wasp (not that wasps wear Lycra, but you know what I mean). One of those sporty types who couldn't sit still. Sort of red in the face. I shuddered and felt a bit better. Mike sounded exactly like the type of guy my mom would have a date with. No change there. I sighed. I'd been worried about nothing. Maybe. Or had Mom invented Mike to draw me off the scent? Was Mike a foil so she could carry on her illicit activities, whatever they were?

You can't pull the wool over this girl's eyes
, I thought, vowing to stay on my guard.

“Pia, love, can you call your dad? He called earlier to talk to you,” my mom-who-may-or-may-not-be-a-spy said.

“OK.” I went upstairs and speed-dialed Dad's number on my cell phone, and we chatted for a while about school and stuff. Then I told him all about the activity ride and how exciting it was. He wanted to know when it was going to be performed so I told him—and all about the Equine Extravaganza. “That sounds wonderful, Pumpkin!” he boomed down the phone.

“Er, Dad, can you not call me that, please?” I pleaded. I thought I'd cracked that one, but he had relapses now and again. I hate being called Pumpkin. It would be understandable if I were big, fat, and orange, but I'm not!

“It's just a little pet name,” he replied soothingly.

“Lyn and I have pet names for each other…” He yelled away from the phone, “Don't we, Fluffball?”

Fluffball?
More like Furball
, I thought, remembering how I'd caught stable cat Twiddles Scissor-Paws gagging on his own personal furball on one of Drummer's bales of straw. I mean, Skinny made me gag. She was the reason my dad had left home and my parents divorced.

“Well, anyway,” I continued, desperate not to know the ins and outs of my dad's and Skinny Lynny's personal lives, “that's what I've been doing, Dad.”

“Well, Lyn and I will be there to watch your little ride,” Dad said decisively. “We enjoyed seeing you at Hickstead, and this sounds like a great night out. Will there be a bar?”

How would I know? “Dunno,” I said, my heart sinking. I should have known they'd want to come and watch. I didn't relish the prospect. Things were never very comfortable whenever Mom was in the same vicinity as Dad and his younger girlfriend. Me and my big mouth. And I hoped there wasn't going to be a bar because I was still traumatized by my mom's encounter with several glasses of wine when I went on TV. So not a happy memory. My heart sank even lower as a dark cloud of gloom settled over me and threatened to stay there until after the activity ride had been performed. “Your little ride,” my dad had called it. Jeez!
Still
, I thought, brightening up,
Dad will probably forget.

Skinny wanted a word. When I'd been to stay with Dad, I'd actually managed to sort of get along with her. When she wasn't with Dad, she didn't play the little girl lost and was bearable. With Dad in the background she reverted to type.

“Hello, Pia!” she gasped in her little girl voice (see what I mean). “How's Drummer?”

“He's fine, thanks,” I said, appreciating her effort to take an interest. She and Drummer didn't get along. Surprise!

“What would you like for Christmas?”

“Oh.” Didn't see that one coming. “Can I think about it?” I asked her.

“Of course!” she said. “If you like, we can go shopping again and you can pick out some clothes. That was fun last time, wasn't it?”

Ditto that. I'd got some designer stuff and Skinny (or rather, my dad) had paid. Awesome! That sounded like a good plan to me and worth giving up a morning for. I nodded enthusiastically, then realized she couldn't see me.

“That would be fantastic, thanks,” I croaked, feeling a bit guilty at how quickly I'd sold out for the promise of some new gear. Still, I told myself, I was continuing to work on my relationship with Skinny so shopping together could only help.

“Good!” said Skinny. “We'll organize a date before the stores get too crowded. Here's Paul again. See you later!”

“Yeah, right, OK,” I replied.

“OK, Pump—I mean, Pia,” remembered Dad, miracle! “Glad you're having fun with Drummer, and we'll arrange that shopping date very soon! Oh,” he added, just before I hung up, “say hello to your mother for me, will you? And get two tickets for your little riding thingy, I mean it—I'll send a check to cover the cost, just fill in the amount!”

So much for my dad forgetting.

BOOK: Pony Rebellion
10.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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