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Authors: Bonnie Bryant

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BOOK: Riding Lesson
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“Okay,” Priscilla said agreeably. “Let’s go.”

The two girls started walking toward the small shopping center where TD’s was located. As they walked, Stevie began to tell Priscilla about Prancer’s latest training session. The girls had spent most of the weekend at Pine Hollow working with the mare.

“It’s just totally amazing to watch her,” Stevie said. “I mean, she was trained her whole life just to do one thing—run. Now we’re asking her to learn a whole new set of rules and do things she’s never had to do before. It took her a while to understand what was going on, but now she’s really catching on.”

“Uh-huh,” Priscilla said.

“Prancer is lucky she’s got Carole helping to train her,” Stevie continued. “Carole—she’s one of the friends we’re going to meet, by the way—is really good. She’s been training her own horse, Starlight, ever since she got him. She might even be a professional trainer when she grows up.”

“Oh, really?” Priscilla said. “When I grow up, I might want to be a fashion designer, or maybe a dancer.” She smoothed back her hair. “What do you think?”

“Well, both of those things sound okay, I guess,” Stevie said, still thinking about Prancer and Carole.

“Did I tell you that my art teacher said my fashion drawings look really good?” Priscilla went on. “Almost professional, he said.”

“That’s great,” Stevie said. “Do you just draw clothes, or other things, too?”

“Oh, all kinds of things,” Priscilla answered. “I took an oil-painting class at the community center in my old town, and we painted fruit and flowers and stuff like that. I’ve also taken some sketch classes. Maybe you could come over to my house and look at some of my sketches sometime.”

“Sure. Did you ever do any pictures of horses?” Stevie asked. “Maybe you could come to Pine Hollow and do some sketches there. The horse I ride, Topside, is really pretty. He’s a Thoroughbred, just like Prancer, and he used to compete in big horse shows.”

Priscilla shrugged. “I’ve never drawn horses. I’m really more interested in fashion sketching than anything else.”

“Oh.” Stevie couldn’t muster up much enthusiasm about fashion—it was one topic she rarely spent any time thinking about. She decided to try to switch the topic back to horses again. If she could get Priscilla interested enough, maybe she’d want to start riding at Pine Hollow. That
would be just about perfect. Then she would not only have a new friend at school, but she’d be able to share her with her friends at Pine Hollow.

Before Stevie could say anything, though, she felt Priscilla tugging on her sleeve. “Stevie, did you hear what I just asked you?” Priscilla asked plaintively.

“Oh, sorry,” Stevie said quickly. “I was, uh, thinking about something for a second. What did you say?”

“I asked you whether you thought this shade of blue looks good with my coloring,” Priscilla said, straightening the collar of the powder-blue blouse she was wearing.

“Your what?” Stevie asked.

“My coloring,” Priscilla repeated. Seeing the blank look on Stevie’s face, she added, “You know, the color of my hair and eyes and my skin tone.”

Stevie shrugged. As far as she was concerned, blue was blue, and anybody looked good in it. But she decided to humor Priscilla. “Sure. It looks really great,” she said.

Priscilla smiled. “Thanks,” she said. “When you didn’t answer at first, I thought it meant you didn’t like it.”

“Nope. It’s great,” Stevie said. “I love it.”

Priscilla seemed satisfied by that, and Stevie decided she’d wait to bring up the topic of horses again when they met Carole and Lisa. After all, it was the one topic that was guaranteed to come up whenever The Saddle Club got together. She and Priscilla chatted about teachers and classes for the rest of the walk.

“Is this the mall?” Priscilla asked as they reached the shopping center where TD’s was located. She looked a little disappointed.

“Not exactly,” Stevie replied. “There’s a larger one—the West End Mall—outside of town.”

“Thank goodness!” Priscilla said, shaking her head as she surveyed the stores. “For a second I thought I was going to have to do all my shopping in Washington! Maybe you and I could go to the other mall sometimes. You could show me where all the cool stores are.”

Stevie looked around, too. The shopping center was small, she had to admit. Aside from TD’s, there was a supermarket, an electronics store, The Saddlery tack shop, and a few other stores. It was nothing fancy, but Stevie liked it. “I guess we could go there sometime,” she said. “I’m not really sure I know where all the cool stores are, though. I don’t really do that much shopping.”

Priscilla smiled. “We’ll find them together, then,” she said. “I love shopping. It’ll be fun.”

By this time they had reached TD’s. “Come on, let’s go in,” Stevie said. “Carole and Lisa are probably here already.”

She headed into the ice-cream parlor with Priscilla right behind her.

“Stevie!” Carole’s familiar voice called. “Over here!”

A moment later Stevie and Priscilla were seated in a booth with Carole and Lisa, and the necessary introductions
had been made. “So, Priscilla,” Carole said. “Do you ride?”

“No,” Priscilla said. She turned to Stevie. “What kinds of ice cream do they have here?” she asked.

“All kinds,” Stevie said.

Lisa laughed. “And be forewarned, Stevie likes to eat them all together in one sundae,” she said jokingly. Stevie was well-known for the preposterous ice-cream concoctions she always ordered.

The waitress approached the table. She rolled her eyes as she recognized Stevie. Stevie grinned at her. “What’ll it be?” the waitress asked resignedly.

“I’ll have chocolate ice cream with marshmallow topping,” Carole decided.

“Oh, that sounds good,” Lisa said. “I’ll have the same.”

“And for you?” the waitress asked, turning to Priscilla.

“Nothing for me, thanks,” Priscilla said. She patted her slender stomach. “I’m on a diet.”

The waitress looked at Stevie with a hopeful smile. “You’re not on a diet, too, are you?”

Stevie smiled back. “I’m afraid not,” she said. “In fact, I’m feeling hungrier than usual today. I think I’ll have a banana split.”

The waitress jotted it down, looking relieved. She turned to go.

“Just a second,” Stevie said. “I want to make a few minor alterations.”

“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” the waitress said sarcastically, turning back to Stevie with a sigh.

“Instead of the vanilla and strawberry ice cream, I’d like to have bubble gum and pistachio. And could you substitute the chocolate syrup with peppermint topping and throw in some peanut-butter chips? And go heavy on the pineapple topping.”

The waitress wrote it all down, her jaw set. Then she turned on her heel and left without another word.

“Her disposition just gets worse and worse every time we come in here,” Stevie said innocently. “It must be the stress of the job.”

Lisa and Carole laughed. Priscilla looked a little confused by the exchange, but The Saddle Club didn’t give her time to worry about it.

“So, Priscilla,” Lisa said. “You go to Fenton Hall with Stevie, right?”

“That’s right,” Priscilla said. “It’s wonderful there, especially with Stevie showing me around. She seems to know everybody.”

“That’s our Stevie,” Carole agreed as Stevie grinned proudly. “She knows everyone, and everyone knows her. Max likes to say that when Stevie first started coming to Pine Hollow, she knew everyone there—horses
people—within the first week!”

“Max?” Priscilla repeated. “Is that your boyfriend, Stevie?”

Carole and Lisa burst out laughing. “Don’t let Deborah hear about this, Stevie,” Lisa teased. “Or Phil, for that matter.”

Stevie chuckled, too, but seeing that Priscilla looked a little disconcerted, she quickly explained who Max was and why they were laughing.

Then the talk turned to horses, as The Saddle Club began to discuss once again the progress Prancer was making.

“I think that if she keeps doing as well as she’s been doing this week, we should ask Max if we should start working on collection soon,” Carole commented.

Stevie turned to Priscilla. “ ‘Collection’ is a dressage term,” she explained. “It’s when a horse’s center of gravity is over its hindquarters, so it looks like its strides are shorter and its whole body is more compact. It makes it easier for the horse to respond instantly to its rider’s signals.”

“Hmm,” Priscilla said, taking a sip of water.

Stevie didn’t think that qualified as a very enthusiastic response. She wondered if the term was too hard for a beginner to understand.

“Anyway, it’s really interesting to work with another horse after training Starlight for so long,” Carole was saying. “It gives me a new perspective on things he’s done and things he could be doing.”

“I just think it’s wonderful that Prancer is doing so
well,” Lisa said. “She’s come such a long way in such a short time.” At one time Lisa hadn’t realized how far Prancer had to go in her training. She had even tried to ride the mare in a horse show, realizing only after the fact that Prancer wasn’t anywhere near ready for competition. Because of that mistake Lisa now took Prancer’s training very seriously. She welcomed any chance to discuss it, and Carole and Stevie were always happy to oblige.

In fact, the only person at the table who didn’t look happy to be discussing Prancer’s training was Priscilla. Stevie continued to explain what they were talking about, hoping to spark the girl’s interest, but it didn’t seem to be working. Priscilla alternated between staring blankly into space and playing with her straw.

The conversation was interrupted by the arrival of the waitress with their ice cream. “Enjoy,” she said dryly as she placed the heaping banana split in front of Stevie.

“Thanks. I will,” Stevie said, licking her lips in anticipation. She picked up her spoon, then paused. “Would anyone like a taste?”

Carole and Lisa, their mouths already full of their own ice cream, shook their heads. They liked to say that one reason Stevie always ordered such unusual sundaes was because she didn’t want to have to share them. Still, they had to admit that she always offered politely.

“I’ll try a little taste,” Priscilla said, picking up a spoon.

Stevie’s jaw dropped. Carole and Lisa almost choked on
their ice cream. “Really?” Stevie said. “Oh, uh, I mean, go ahead. Take as much as you want.” She slowly slid the dish across the table toward Priscilla.

Priscilla daintily gathered a bite of chocolate ice cream, peanut-butter chips, and peppermint and pineapple toppings onto her spoon. As the other three girls stared in amazement, she popped the spoon into her mouth, chewed, swallowed, and smiled. “Mmm. Good choice, Stevie,” she said. “Thank you for the taste.”

Stevie gulped. “Y-you’re welcome.” She pulled the dish back and stared at it. It was a rare day that Stevie Lake was speechless, but she was speechless now.

Carole wisely decided to change the subject. “Stevie, before you got here, Lisa and I were saying we should ask Max soon about using the hayloft in the stable.”

“Carole’s friend Marie is going to be staying with her for a couple of weeks, and we’re having a sleepover for her this Saturday night in the loft at Pine Hollow,” Lisa explained to Priscilla. “That is, we’re having it in the loft if Max will let us.” She turned to Stevie. “Since you’re so good at talking people into things, why don’t you mention it to him?”

“But it was your idea,” Stevie protested, finally recovering from her shock enough to pick up her spoon and start to eat.

“I’m with Lisa,” Carole said. “Stevie, you’re the genius
at convincing people to do things they don’t really want to do.”

“Why would you want to sleep in a stable, anyway?” Priscilla put in.

Carole shrugged. “Just for fun.”

“Well, it sounds like a pretty smelly kind of fun to me,” Priscilla said with distaste. She stood up and gathered her things together. “Stevie, I’ve got to get going. I’ll see you tomorrow at school. We’re going to sit together at lunch, right?”

“Sure,” Stevie said. “See you then.”

“Good-bye, Priscilla. It was nice to meet you,” Lisa said politely.

“I’m sure we’ll see you again soon,” Carole added.

“ ’Bye,” Priscilla said, slinging her leather bag over her shoulder. “Nice to meet you, too.”

When she had gone, the talk returned to Marie’s upcoming visit. “When is she arriving?” Lisa asked Carole.

“Tomorrow after school,” Carole replied.

“It’ll be neat to have her staying with you for two whole weeks,” Lisa said, sounding a little envious. “Having a sister must be wonderful.”

“I’ll say,” Stevie put in. “Maybe we could work out some kind of a trade—you know, Marie could come stay with me, and my brothers could move into your house.”

“No deal,” Carole said with a laugh. “I’m sure having Marie for a temporary sister will be great. I’ve got everything
all ready to welcome her to the family. I made up the guest room with my favorite sheets and put fresh towels in the guest bathroom. There’s no desk in the guest room, so I cleared off some space on mine so she can use it to do her homework.”

“Sounds like you thought of everything,” Stevie remarked.

Carole laughed again. “I think I did,” she admitted. “I even put a new bulb in the lamp on her bedside table. And Dad and I have been talking over ideas for a birthday gift for Marie. We want to get her something really special.”

“Being your temporary sister sounds like a pretty good deal,” Lisa said. She licked the last bit of marshmallow topping off her spoon and then leaned back in her seat. “I have an idea. Why don’t Stevie and I meet you and Marie at Pine Hollow tomorrow after she arrives?”

“I don’t think so,” Carole said slowly. The idea was tempting, but she wasn’t sure Marie would want to rush off to Pine Hollow as soon as she arrived. “It will be her first night at our house, and she’ll probably need some time to get settled. And I’ll have to be there to show her the ropes—kind of like you’ve been doing for Priscilla,” she added to Stevie.

“Oh, all right,” Lisa said. “How about the day after tomorrow? The four of us could go for a trail ride or something after school.”

BOOK: Riding Lesson
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