Read Riding Lesson Online

Authors: Bonnie Bryant

Riding Lesson (2 page)

BOOK: Riding Lesson
7.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Soon all four of them had chosen the food and drinks they wanted. Colonel Hanson paid the cashier, and then they managed to find an empty booth in the crowded seating area. As they all ate and chatted about the exhibits they’d seen that day, Carole’s mind kept wandering back to her thoughts about her father and Mrs. Dana. Since not thinking about it wasn’t working, Carole decided to try looking at things logically, the way Lisa—a straight-A student and the most practical and logical member of The Saddle Club—would.

First, Carole considered the facts. Her father and Marie’s mother had been dating for a while now. In the past two
weeks they had had dinner together two or three times and had gone to a play and a concert. Now here they were, not only spending more time together, but also making sure that Carole and Marie spent time together. And judging by the looks they kept giving each other, the adults were definitely paying attention to how the girls were getting along.

It all pointed to one thing as far as Carole was concerned. Their parents wanted them to get along because they thought Carole and Marie would be spending a lot of time together soon. Carole scooped up some ketchup on the end of a french fry, ignoring the bug-oriented conversation going on around her. Try as she might, she could think of only one explanation for the adults’ behavior. She glanced at her father, then at Mrs. Dana. Then Carole popped the french fry into her mouth and chewed it slowly and thoughtfully.

to keep her thoughts to herself until the two families had parted ways and headed to their separate cars for the ride back to Willow Creek.

“All right, what was that all about?” she finally asked as she and her father strolled across the Mall, the large green lawn around which the museums of the Smithsonian were clustered. At one end the tall, thin spire of the Washington Monument stretched toward the sky, while the domed Capitol Building was visible at the other end.

“What was what?” Colonel Hanson asked. He paused
briefly to snap a picture of the monument with his instant camera. “The car’s right over there,” he added, hurrying ahead to unlock the doors.

Carole climbed into the passenger seat and slammed the door shut a little harder than strictly necessary. “What were you and Mrs. Dana winking and smiling about all day?” she demanded as her father got in across from her. “Is there something you’re not telling me?”

“Whoa! I surrender!” Colonel Hanson exclaimed, holding up his hands. “I didn’t realize we were being that obvious.” He started the car and carefully pulled out into the busy late-afternoon traffic.

Carole just crossed her arms and waited.

“Actually, I was going to tell you the news on the way home if things went well today,” Colonel Hanson said. “But Olivia and I wanted to watch you and Marie together first to see how you got along before we broke it to you.”

Carole took a deep breath. “I think I know what’s coming, Dad. And I want you to know that I could probably get used to having Marie as a sister. I mean, I don’t really know her that well yet, but as long as you and Mrs. Dana are happy together, that’s what—”

“Time out!” Colonel Hanson interrupted. “What are you talking about?”

“Well, aren’t you about to tell me you and Mrs. Dana are getting married?”

Colonel Hanson opened his mouth to reply, then turned to stare at her in surprise. When he turned his attention back to the road a second later, he began to laugh. “No, my dear, I’m not!” he said at last. “Oh, honey, I’m sorry to laugh, but you caught me off guard. I can’t believe you’re in such a hurry to marry me and Olivia off! After all, she lost her husband only a few months ago.”

Carole stared at her father. “What were you going to tell me, then?”

“Well, I don’t know, it may seem sort of anticlimactic now,” Colonel Hanson said teasingly. Carole glared at him, and he relented. “All right, sorry. The truth is, Olivia has to go to Europe on business for a couple of weeks. She can’t take Marie with her, obviously, because of school, and she was worried about leaving her alone or with total strangers.” He braked for a red light and turned to smile at Carole. “So I invited Marie to stay with us while her mother is away.”

“Oh,” Carole said, feeling a little relieved. She liked Mrs. Dana a lot, and she definitely wanted her father to be happy, but she didn’t think she was quite ready to welcome someone else into their home—not yet. “So that’s why you wanted to make sure Marie and I were getting along today.”

“Right,” her father replied.

Carole gazed out the window as the light changed and the car continued down the street through the busy city
traffic. “It could be fun having Marie stay with us,” she said after a moment. “She’ll be like a temporary sister.”

“That’s right,” Colonel Hanson said. “I’m glad you feel that way. And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that Marie still needs extra compassion from us. It will be difficult for her to be apart from her mother so soon after the accident, even if it’s only for a couple of weeks.”

“Don’t worry,” Carole assured him. “I’ll be extra nice. Stevie and Lisa will, too.” The more she thought about it, the better the plan sounded. Carole had always wondered what it would be like to have a brother or sister, and this would be the perfect chance to find out. Stevie complained about her three brothers almost constantly, but Carole was sure a sister would be different. A sister would be like a good friend, but better, because she would be there all the time.

“Good,” Colonel Hanson said. “I’m sure she’ll appreciate it. Oh, and I almost forgot to tell you, Marie’s birthday is coming up, too. So that’s just one more thing we’ll have to help her through. Not only will this be her first birthday without her father, but her mother won’t be with her either.”

Carole nodded. “That’ll be tough for her,” she said sympathetically. “We’ll have to plan something really special for her so she won’t miss them both so much.”

Colonel Hanson glanced at her again and smiled proudly. “I knew you’d feel that way,” he told her. “You’ve
been such a good friend to Marie. And I’m sure you’ll be an even better temporary sister.”

Carole smiled back. “I’m sure of it, too.”

she got home, Carole hurried to the phone and dialed Stevie’s number. “Guess what,” she blurted out as soon as Stevie answered.

Stevie laughed. “You sound like me,” she said. Stevie was notorious for launching right into conversations without bothering to identify herself.

“Never mind that,” Carole said. “I have big news. I’m getting a sister. Well, sort of.”

“What?” Stevie yelped. “What do you mean?”

“It’s Marie,” Carole explained. She quickly filled Stevie in on the news.

“That’s terrific,” Stevie said when Carole had finished. “I like Marie. She’s funny.”

“She sure is,” Carole replied ruefully, remembering the barrage of bug jokes that afternoon. “Anyway, we should start thinking of lots of things to do while she’s staying here.”

“Cool,” Stevie said. “Why don’t we get Lisa in on this, too?”

“Good idea,” Carole agreed. “Three-way calling is a great invention, isn’t it?”

A moment later Lisa was on the line, too. Carole quickly told her about Marie’s visit. “Now we have to think of
special things to do for her while she’s here. We don’t want to give her a spare second to miss her mom.”

“What have you thought of so far?” Lisa asked.

“Well, just that we’ll want to spend a lot of time at Pine Hollow,” Carole said. “I was hoping you guys could help me with the details.”

“No problem,” said Stevie. “Let’s see, we can start with lots of trail rides, maybe a nice autumn picnic in the woods.…”

“That all sounds great,” Lisa said. “But you’re forgetting one very important thing. Sleepovers.”

“Oh, well, I guess that goes without saying,” Carole replied.

“I guess it does,” Lisa said. “But I have an even better idea. Let’s ask Max if we can have a sleepover in the stable.”

“The stable?” Carole repeated. “You want us to bed down in one of the box stalls?”

Lisa laughed. “Of course not. We can sleep in the loft.”

“What a perfect idea!” Stevie exclaimed. “Why didn’t I think of that?”

“I guess it does sound kind of like a Stevie plan, doesn’t it?” Lisa said. “Although it could just as easily be a Carole plan. After all, you already spend every waking moment at Pine Hollow. I’m surprised it’s never occurred to you to spend every
moment there, too.”

Carole and Stevie laughed.

“We must be rubbing off on you,” Stevie told Lisa.

“I think you are,” Lisa agreed. “And I’m glad. That’s what friends are for, right?”

“Right,” Carole and Stevie said in one voice.

Carole thought for a moment. “And you know, I think we should all try to be really good friends to Marie while her mother is away,” she said. “It will be hard for her, especially on her birthday.”

“Sounds like a Saddle Club project to me,” Lisa said.

“Definitely,” Carole replied wholeheartedly.

as Lisa and Prancer walked in a figure eight in the outdoor ring at Pine Hollow the following Thursday afternoon. “I think you’re ready to take her to a trot,” she called from her position atop Starlight.

Lisa nodded quickly and gave the signal by squeezing gently with both legs and allowing the horse a little more rein. Prancer responded instantly, moving into a smooth trot while continuing in the figure eight as directed. Lisa smiled with pleasure, and Carole nodded with satisfaction as she watched.

Prancer had been a racehorse for the first three years of her life, until a leg injury had ended her racing career. Since the injury had revealed a hereditary weakness, it made her unsuitable as a brood mare for a racing stable
despite her impeccable bloodlines. Prancer had a sweet disposition and a love of young people, so Max Regnery, the owner of Pine Hollow, and Judy Barker, the local veterinarian, had decided to buy the mare as a riding horse for the stable.

Once the horse’s leg had healed, Lisa had begun to work on training Prancer to be a pleasure mount. As a racehorse she had been taught to do only one thing, and that was race. Part of what the mare needed to learn first was obedience and precision, and that was what Lisa and Carole were teaching Prancer today by putting her through some basic dressage training exercises.

After a few minutes Lisa brought Prancer back to a walk, then to a stop. The mare obeyed perfectly.

“She looks good!” Carole called.

“She feels good, too,” Lisa said with a smile. She loved riding the beautiful bay mare, even though the task of training her was painstaking and sometimes tedious. A lot of patient work had preceded today’s performance, and Lisa was proud of the results. It was a compliment to her own riding skills that Max was allowing her to work with the mare at this stage. Even though Lisa hadn’t been riding as long as her friends had, she had learned very quickly, and Max was confident that she could handle this challenge—especially since Prancer had developed a real affection for her.

“What now?” Lisa asked. Carole knew a lot about training,
and Lisa trusted her opinions. She had the feeling Max did, too, and that that was part of the reason he trusted Lisa to work with Prancer. He knew that The Saddle Club always worked as a team.

Before Carole could answer Lisa’s question, they both heard Stevie’s voice. “Hi, guys! Sorry I’m late! I’ll be right out.”

With that their friend disappeared into the stable. She reappeared a few minutes later leading Topside, the Thoroughbred gelding she usually rode.

By this time Carole and Lisa had moved ahead with their exercises. They were riding the two horses in a wide circle around the ring with Starlight in the lead. Every so often Carole would ask Starlight to switch from a walk to a trot. Prancer’s natural instinct was to move into a trot as well, but Lisa held her to a walk. She was teaching the horse to respond only to what her rider was telling her to do, not to anything that was happening around her. It was an important lesson, and Prancer was getting better at it every day, although she still sometimes became impatient when she felt she was being left behind. Horses are naturally competitive creatures, and Prancer had been bred and trained to race—and win.

“What happened to you?” Carole asked when Stevie and Topside joined them in the ring. She brought Starlight to a halt.

“I kind of lost track of the time,” Stevie explained. “See,
there’s this new girl in my class at school, Priscilla Tyler. I volunteered to fill her in on some stuff about Fenton Hall.” That was the private school Stevie attended, located across town from the public school where Carole and Lisa went. “We got to talking and, well …”

“We know,” Lisa said. Carole nodded. They knew that when Stevie got to talking, it was sometimes difficult to get her to stop.

“So what’d I miss?” Stevie asked.

Carole quickly explained what they’d been doing. Then they got back to work. At one time Lisa might have thought that doing so much riding at a slow walk would be boring. But when she was involved in teaching a wonderful horse like Prancer something important, as she was now, she didn’t mind it at all. All of the mare’s gaits were so smooth and pleasant to ride that it almost didn’t matter whether she was walking, trotting, cantering, or galloping. Lisa loved riding her at any speed.

BOOK: Riding Lesson
7.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Harum Scarum by Felicity Young
Crank - 01 by Ellen Hopkins
Forever Promised by Amy Lane
Half Magic by Edward Eager
Such Is Life by Tom Collins