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Authors: Bonnie Bryant

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BOOK: Riding Lesson
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“What is it, Dad?” Carole asked, handing him a freshly washed bowl.

“It’s about Marie,” he said seriously. “I just wanted to
make sure you know how important it is that we give her extra-special care. It hasn’t been that long since she lost her father, and it’s sure to be tough on her to have her mother so far away for such a long time.”

“I understand,” Carole said. “I’m being nice to Marie. And I’ve got a lot of special things planned for her, especially on her birthday.”

“That’s good, honey,” Colonel Hanson said. “But it’s important to remember to be nice and consider Marie’s feelings in little ways as well as big ones. For instance, I noticed you took the last of the rice at dinner without asking Marie if she wanted more.”

Carole frowned. “I guess so, but she already had lots of rice on her plate.”

“Even so, you should have asked,” Colonel Hanson said.

Carole didn’t really think it was fair for her father to criticize her for something so ridiculous, but she reminded herself that he was just anxious to keep Marie happy. Carole was, too. “Don’t worry,” she told her father with a smile. “The rice incident was a fluke. I’m going to be
nice to Marie while she’s staying with us, I promise. In fact, I was thinking of taking her riding tomorrow after school. What could be nicer than that?”

Colonel Hanson laughed. “Not much, in your book,” he admitted. Seemingly satisfied by Carole’s response, he changed the subject, and they finished the rest of the dishes quickly, working as a team.

, I
love your belt,” Priscilla exclaimed as she set her tray down across the lunchroom table from Stevie’s. “I’ve been meaning to tell you all day.”

“Thanks,” Stevie said. The belt was a nice leather one that had been a gift from her parents for her last birthday. “I like your whole outfit.”

“Do you really?” Priscilla asked, looking pleased. “I’m so glad! I wasn’t sure it was working for me.” As usual Priscilla was impeccably dressed in a perfectly coordinated outfit. Her shoes matched her belt, which matched her small handbag. Her shirt and pants were spotlessly clean and wrinkle free.

“You always look great, Priscilla,” Stevie told her. She wrinkled her nose at the food on the trays in front of them.

“Unfortunately the Fenton Hall mystery meat isn’t so lucky.”

Priscilla laughed. “You have the best sense of humor, Stevie,” she said admiringly. “No wonder you’re so popular.”

“I wish Ms. Lebrun agreed with you,” Stevie said.

“She’s your French teacher, right?” Priscilla said. “See, I’m learning! Before long I’ll know Fenton Hall as well as you do.”

“You’re a fast learner,” Stevie agreed, taking a tentative bite of the meat on her tray.

“It’s only because you’re such a good teacher,” Priscilla replied. “So what’s Lebrun’s problem with your sense of humor?”

“Well, to make a long story short,
replaced her French tape with a Spanish one,” Stevie said with a grin. “For some reason she seems to think that someone was me. Can you imagine?”

Just then Patty Featherstone walked by. “
Buenos días
, Stevie,” she said with a laugh.

“Hi, Patty,” Stevie said. “I was just telling Priscilla about what happened in our French class. You know Priscilla, don’t you?”

“Yes, we’ve met,” Patty said, glancing briefly at Priscilla. “Anyway, Stevie, I just wanted to congratulate you. Your prank was a riot!”

“It was nothing,” Stevie replied modestly. “Hey, would
you like to join us? Maybe I can come up with another brilliant prank involving this mystery meat.”

“Maybe some other time,” Patty said. “I promised Christina I’d sit with her today.
” She waved and walked off, chuckling.

“I’m just lucky Ms. Lebrun gave me an extra homework assignment instead of detention,” Stevie said, turning back to Priscilla. “Carole and Lisa would kill me if I had to stay late today. I’m supposed to meet them at Pine Hollow right after school. Today’s the day I’m supposed to ask Max about using the hayloft for Saturday’s sleepover.”

“Really?” Priscilla said. “Well, if you need any help with your assignment, just let me know. I’m pretty good in French.”

“Thanks,” Stevie said, a little distractedly. She was still thinking about her plans for that afternoon. “Carole’s friend Marie—she’s the one whose birthday is coming up, you know—is coming to Pine Hollow today, too. She’s a pretty good rider, but she hasn’t been on a horse in a while. We’re taking her on a trail ride.” She was still hoping to interest Priscilla in riding.

“That’s nice,” Priscilla said. “Hey, did I mention what Mr. Rose said about my latest drawings for his class?”

“What?” Stevie asked, disappointed that Priscilla still didn’t seem interested in anything she said about Pine Hollow.

“He said they were really original,” Priscilla said. “He
said he hadn’t had a student who could draw as well as me for at least five years.”

“That’s great, Priscilla. Maybe you can be an artist when you grow up,” Stevie said.

“Actually, I’d like to be a fashion designer,” Priscilla said. “I already told you that, remember? I’ve got lots of ideas already. Maybe I’ll even move to Paris. Wouldn’t that be incredible?”

“Sounds like fun,” Stevie agreed. “Speaking of fun, you should come with me to Pine Hollow sometime. Not today, since Marie will be there already and we’ll have to help her, but sometime soon. You’ll never believe how great riding is until you try it.”

“Honestly, Stevie,” Priscilla said with a laugh. “You and your friends Lisa and Carole have one-track minds.”

“Oh, I almost forgot to ask, how did you like meeting them?” Stevie asked eagerly.

“They seemed sort of nice,” Priscilla said slowly. “Although they were a little obsessive about horses. I mean, there is more to life, you know. I guess those two just haven’t figured it out yet. Especially the one who thinks she’s the real expert—was that Lisa or Carole?”

“Carole,” Stevie said. She wasn’t particularly good at hiding her feelings, so she had to make an extra effort not to show Priscilla how annoyed she was at her remarks about her friends. She’s new, Stevie reminded herself, gritting
her teeth. She just doesn’t know them very well.
she doesn’t know how interesting horses and riding can be.

“Anyway,” Priscilla said, “I just don’t think I have much in common with them. I can usually tell right away whether I like someone. For instance, I knew as soon as I met you that I liked you.”

“Hmm,” Stevie said noncommittally. She decided to change the subject to something Priscilla might be more interested in: shopping. “After our trail ride Lisa and I are going shopping for a birthday present for Marie. Carole’s going to help her father pick out something for the two of them, so Lisa and I are on our own. We want to find something really great.”

“That’s nice,” Priscilla said. Stevie was beginning to think that was her favorite phrase. “But actually, I was just going to ask if you’d be able to do your trail ride and stuff another time. I was hoping we could get together after school today. Maybe we could go to your house so I could look at those old Fenton Hall yearbooks you were telling me about last week. I think that would really give me a feel for the history of this place and help me feel at home here.”

“Sorry,” Stevie said. “I just can’t do it today. My friends are counting on me to talk to Max. And I told you, it’s Marie’s first ride in a while—I want to be there for that.
I don’t know when Lisa and I will get another chance to go shopping.”

“Okay, okay,” Priscilla said, holding up her hands. “I was just asking.”

The bell rang. Lunch period was over. “I’d better get going,” Stevie said, standing and picking up her tray. “My math teacher doesn’t like us to be late, and I don’t want to get any other teachers mad at me today.”

“Okay,” said Priscilla. “I’ll see you in biology. Save me a seat.”

Stevie nodded. But she couldn’t help thinking that her friendship with Priscilla wasn’t going quite the way she had imagined it.

minutes left in Carole’s English class when a student she didn’t recognize came into the room and handed a folded piece of paper to the teacher.

Ms. Blackburn read the note. “Carole, could you come up here, please?” she said.

Surprised, Carole went up to the teacher’s desk. “What is it?”

“Your father is on the phone for you,” Ms. Blackburn said. “You’re excused to go to the principal’s office to take the call.”

Carole followed the messenger out of the room and down the hall toward the principal’s office, her head spinning. Why would her father be calling her at school? The last time he’d done that had been when Carole was eleven. He’d been calling then to tell her that they were taking her
mother to the hospital again, and that he would be coming to pick up Carole shortly. Mrs. Hanson had died a few days later.

Carole gulped. She tried to put that terrible memory out of her head and think positively. If her father was calling her, nothing too bad could have happened to him. But what if something terrible had happened to someone else? A relative, Stevie or Lisa, Starlight … the possibilities were too frightening to think about.

By the time she reached the office and picked up the phone the secretary handed her, she was so nervous that she could barely squeak out the word, “Hello?”

“Carole? Is that you?” Colonel Hanson said, his voice as cheerful as always.

“It’s me, Dad,” Carole said. “What’s wrong?”

“Listen, honey,” her father said. “I just thought I’d better call to remind you about the juice. I know you were pretty sleepy this morning, and I was afraid you’d forget.”

“The juice?” Carole repeated. She didn’t have the foggiest idea what he was talking about. She
been sleepy that morning—in fact, she still was. Marie had kept the radio on until almost midnight the night before. It had been loud enough to keep Carole awake, but she hadn’t wanted to ask Marie to turn it down. After all, she was a guest.

“That’s what I was afraid of,” Colonel Hanson said reproachfully. “Remember, I told you and Marie that we only
had one insulated cooler bag, so I put both your juice boxes in it with your lunch. You’ll need to give Marie her juice box at lunch. I know you two have different lunch periods, so I thought I’d better remind you.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Carole said mechanically. She did remember the conversation now, and in fact she
forgotten all about having Marie’s juice. Still, she couldn’t quite believe that was why her father had had her dragged out of class. “Are you sure that’s all?”

“That’s it, sweetie,” he said. “Now, don’t forget, okay?”

“I won’t. I promise,” she said. “ ’Bye.”

She hung up the phone. The school secretary stopped typing and looked up. “Everything all right, hon?” she asked. “I hope there’s nothing wrong at home.”

“No, no, everything’s fine,” Carole assured her. “It’s under control.” She left the office, still feeling a little confused. When her head began to clear, her confusion turned to relief, then annoyance, then anger. The relief was because there really was no emergency. The annoyance was with her father for frightening her. And the anger was for Marie.

Having Marie as a guest should have been fun. And in some ways, Carole had to admit, it was fun. But it was also turning out to be more difficult than Carole had expected. Last night her father had gotten carried away about Marie’s having enough rice, and today he’d dragged Carole out of class just to make sure Marie had her juice. When was the
last time the Colonel had been that worried about what
had for lunch? He certainly hadn’t seemed concerned last night when Carole had had to stay up late finishing her English essay after Marie stopped working on the computer. And did he even know that when the essay was finally finished, Carole hadn’t been able to sleep because Marie was playing the radio too loud?

In fact, the more Carole thought about it, the more she realized that Marie’s visit was totally upsetting the Hansons’ life—and she hadn’t even been there twenty-four hours yet! Carole even found herself missing her father’s fifties and sixties music. She hadn’t heard anything but current rock hits since Marie had come to stay.

By this time the late bell had rung and students were hurrying to get to first lunch period. That was when Marie ate lunch. There was no way Carole would be able to make it to her next class on time, especially since she still had to find Marie and give her the juice box. That would be just one more thing for someone to chew her out for, she thought peevishly. Feeling very sorry for herself, she headed toward her locker to get Marie’s juice.

Fenton Hall, Stevie was sitting in math class pretending to pay attention to the long, complicated problem that Bobby Effingwell was solving at the board. But actually she was thinking about Priscilla. Stevie didn’t have anything against art or fashion, but they weren’t topics
she enjoyed discussing very often. And she had a sneaking suspicion that Priscilla felt the same way about horses.

BOOK: Riding Lesson
10.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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