Authors: Bonnie Bryant
Carole was keeping a watchful eye on Prancer in case of further problems, but she was also thinking. She realized, belatedly, that she had been pretty mean to Marie on the trail—in fact, it was almost as though she hadn’t been able to stop herself. She’d been as out of control as Prancer, but though the horse’s misbehavior was easy to understand, Carole’s wasn’t. Even if Marie had been sort of annoying since she’d arrived the day before, and even if Colonel Hanson had been acting strangely because of her visit, it wasn’t very polite to take it out on Marie. After all, Marie was a guest in their home. And Carole had to remember that everyone was different. Just because Marie had a weird sense of humor and was obsessed with rock music, it didn’t mean Carole didn’t like her. It just meant she’d have to adjust to living with her.
I’m overtired, Carole finally decided, that’s all—and still a little shaky from the scare Dad’s phone call gave me this
morning. As The Saddle Club turned their horses into the paddock at Pine Hollow, Carole reminded herself that Marie was missing her mother and needed an understanding friend—no, make that
. Carole vowed once again to be that sister to her if she could.
reached the stable a few minutes later, the first person they saw was Marie. She was leaning against a fence post near the driveway, humming and kicking at the dirt with the toe of one of Carole’s old riding boots, which she had borrowed.
“Hi, guys,” she greeted them, coming to meet them as they dismounted and started to lead the horses inside. “The Colonel isn’t here yet, so I can give you a hand with the horses if you want.”
“Not necessary, Marie,” Carole answered before Stevie or Lisa could say a word. She was determined to keep her vow, and she was starting now. “You can just wait here. Everything’s under control.” Carole turned and led Starlight into the stable, proud of herself for realizing that
Marie shouldn’t be stuck doing extra stable chores. After all, she was a guest.
Stevie and Lisa glanced at each other as Carole disappeared inside. Now Carole didn’t seem to want Marie around at all. They shrugged, then turned back to Marie.
“We’ll see you in a few minutes,” Lisa told Marie.
Marie nodded. “Okay,” she said quietly. Lisa thought she looked a little hurt.
“Hey, Carole,” Lisa said when they were out of Marie’s earshot, “maybe we should let Marie help us. There’s no better way for her to learn about horses than by helping out with superfun stuff like grooming and mucking out stalls.”
“Not necessary,” Carole said again, apparently not noticing Lisa’s attempt at humor. “She’s a guest. She shouldn’t have to do any work.”
“Well, yeah,” Lisa said slowly, “but I think she may be feeling a little left out. She may think you don’t want her around or something.”
“Lisa’s right,” Stevie added. “I think Marie really wanted to help out.”
Carole frowned. She couldn’t believe her two best friends were criticizing her just when she was trying her hardest to be extra nice to Marie. It was as if everyone except Carole had been taken over by aliens. First her father was turning into a different person around Marie, and now Lisa and Stevie were, too. “Give me a break,”
Carole said sharply. “Marie doesn’t have to hang out with us every single second, you know.”
Lisa was more than a little surprised at Carole’s attitude. “Stevie,” she whispered when she was sure Carole wouldn’t hear, “what’s up with her?”
Stevie glanced at Carole. “Mini–Saddle Club meeting, you and me,” she whispered back. “As soon as Carole and Marie leave.”
Lisa nodded and turned off as they reached Prancer’s stall. “I’ll be there.”
FTER THE HORSES
were untacked, groomed, and comfortably settled in their stalls, Carole, Stevie, and Lisa joined Marie outside.
“We’ll keep you company while you wait,” Lisa offered.
“Great,” Marie said. Carole didn’t say anything. She just crossed her arms across her chest and stared straight ahead, her face frozen in a frown.
“So, Marie,” Stevie said, trying to make casual conversation. “What’s that song you were humming just now?”
“It’s called ‘Let Me Be Me,’ ” Marie told her. She hummed a little bit more. “It’s by the Three Blind Mice. They’re my favorite band.”
“Oh, yeah, I think I know them,” Lisa said. “They do that song ‘Lori Lori Lori,’ right?”
Stevie nodded and started whistling the song Lisa had
mentioned. “I love that song. My brother Alex has the tape.”
Marie smiled. “I have a lot of their CDs at home, and they’re really great. I’ll play them for you sometime if you want. It’ll have to be after my mom gets back, though, because I forgot to bring them to Carole’s house.”
“Yeah, we know, we’ve heard all about it,” Carole muttered darkly.
Stevie and Lisa noticed that Marie pretended not to hear the comment, but they knew that she had. And they knew that it bothered her, because she didn’t say another word the whole time they were waiting.
Luckily they didn’t have very long to wait. The Hansons’ familiar blue station wagon pulled into the drive a moment later. “Hello, girls!” Colonel Hanson greeted the four of them, climbing out of the car. “How was your ride?”
“Pretty good,” Stevie said. “We had a little trouble with Prancer, though.”
Colonel Hanson nodded wisely. He was a parent volunteer for Horse Wise, the Pine Hollow branch of the U.S. Pony Club, and so he knew all the horses at Pine Hollow. “I’m sure with The Saddle Club training her, that mare will be a wonderful stable horse in no time at all.” He turned to Marie. “Did you have fun, Marie?”
“Sure,” she said. “Riding a horse is sort of like riding a bike. You never really forget it once you’ve learned.” She rubbed the backs of her thighs and grimaced. “Although
my rear end always seems to forget everything
ever knew. I think I was posting down every time Chip was coming up.”
Colonel Hanson laughed. “You’re a funny girl, Marie.”
“Yeah,” Carole said flatly. “Hilarious.”
Colonel Hanson didn’t seem to notice her sarcasm. “Come on, you two, let’s get going,” he said. “I had a great idea for dinner tonight. Marie, since you were telling us yesterday how much you like pizza, I thought we could have a make-your-own-pie party, just the three of us. How does that sound?”
“It sounds terrific to me!” Stevie said hungrily.
Colonel Hanson laughed again and winked at Marie. “Sorry, Stevie, this one’s just for family. Maybe next time we’ll invite you.”
“Aw, you mean you don’t consider me part of the family?” Stevie said, pretending to be hurt.
“Not when it comes to food,” Colonel Hanson joked.
“What are we waiting for?” Marie demanded, opening the passenger-side door and hopping in. “Let’s get at those pizzas!”
“That’s what I like—a girl with an appetite,” Colonel Hanson said. He glanced at Carole. “Come on, honey, let’s move out.”
Carole shrugged and headed for the car. “I guess I’m sitting in the backseat again,” she said quietly.
Neither Colonel Hanson nor Marie heard her. But
Stevie and Lisa did. “I think we’d better have that Saddle Club meeting,” Lisa commented as the station wagon pulled out of the driveway.
Stevie nodded. “And fast!”
Lisa walked toward the shopping center a few minutes later, Lisa took a big breath of the fresh air. Even though the weather was still warm, she thought she could detect the slightest hint of autumn sharpness in it. “You know, I feel bad for saying this, but it’s a relief to have Carole and Marie gone,” she remarked. “Things were getting pretty tense back there.”
“You’re not kidding,” Stevie said. “And I think I know why.”
“Let’s hear it.”
Stevie sighed. “I think Carole is suffering from good old sibling rivalry.”
“Sibling rivalry?” Lisa repeated. “But Marie’s not Carole’s real sister. She’s just been calling her that.”
“True. But Carole is jealous because Marie has been getting a lot of attention from her dad,” Stevie explained. “So Carole has been taking it out on Marie, even though Marie herself hasn’t really done anything wrong. That way Carole gets her father’s attention, even if it’s only to have him yell at her. It’s sort of like the time my brother Michael dropped my dad’s brand-new watch down the toilet.”
“What?” Lisa looked confused.
“You see, it was the night of my other brother Chad’s debut in his school play. Everyone was paying a lot of attention to Chad and none to Michael, even though Michael had just made the Pee Wee soccer team. He was mad, so he did something he knew would get everyone’s attention. And there you have it: sibling rivalry.”
“I think I see,” Lisa said. “Carole’s used to having her dad all to herself, so it’s hard for her to share him. Even if it’s only for two weeks.”
“Exactly,” said Stevie. “And believe me, with three pain-in-the-neck brothers like mine, I know what I’m talking about.”
Lisa thought about it for a minute. “I guess I can sort of understand how she feels,” she said finally. “My brother is so much older that I’m practically like an only child myself—after all, he doesn’t live with us and we hardly ever see him.” She shook her head. “I know I complain sometimes when my parents pay
much attention to me, but I don’t know how well I’d handle it if they were suddenly paying lots of attention to somebody else.”
Stevie nodded. She remembered that Lisa had first started riding at Pine Hollow because her mother had insisted on it. Mrs. Atwood had insisted that Lisa do lots of other things, too, from ballet lessons to tennis. But once Lisa had discovered how much she loved riding,
had finally insisted on giving up the other things she didn’t like so much. Since then she and her mother had had a much
better relationship, though Mrs. Atwood could still be overbearing at times.
“How do you deal with having all those brothers, Stevie?” Lisa asked.
“Well, my parents do most of the coping, I guess,” Stevie admitted. “When we start fighting or something, they’ll threaten to cut off our allowances or our TV or phone privileges. When they’re really mad at me, they’ll sometimes threaten to cut off Pine Hollow. That almost always works.”
By this time the girls had reached the shopping center. They stopped and looked around at the stores.
“Where should we start looking for Marie’s present?” Stevie wondered. “Maybe we should try The Saddlery. We’ve found some great gifts there.”
Lisa shook her head. “I have a better idea,” she said. “I get the impression that Marie really likes rock music. Let’s buy her something at Sights ’n’ Sounds.”
“Good idea,” Stevie agreed. “Between us we should have enough money to get her a CD.”
As the girls flipped through racks of CDs, they returned to their conversation about Carole.
“We need to do something before her behavior really gets out of hand,” Lisa said seriously. “I mean, Marie’s only been around for one day, and Carole’s already turned into a different person. We both know that she has the best of
intentions about Marie. She really wants to make this visit a good one. But she’s sabotaging herself.”
“Definitely,” Stevie said. She wouldn’t have used a tencent word like “sabotaging,” but she knew what Lisa meant. She pulled out a CD. “Hey, here’s a brand-new disk by the Three Blind Mice. Isn’t that the band Marie was just talking about?”
“It sure is,” Lisa said. “And if this disk is new, she probably doesn’t have it yet. It’s perfect.”
They took the CD to the counter to pay for it. “This one’s on sale,” the sales clerk told them as he rang it up. “Thirty percent off.”
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Stevie asked Lisa as the clerk handed them their change.
“Unless I’m sadly mistaken, you’re thinking that the only way to spend this extra money is on a couple of sundaes at TD’s,” Lisa guessed.
Stevie grinned. “You know me too well,” she said. “Anyway, I could use some ice cream right about now to help me think. Because I may be getting an idea about what we can do to help Carole and Marie.”