Lacey spun on the heel of her well worn boots and headed to the first stall to begin what was going to become her morning routine for the rest of the summer. As a part-timer she always worked in the lesson barn, which doubled as the sale barn since the Cutter’s only had two honest lesson horses, which were actually horses that his children had outgrown but refused to part with. The rest were for sale. The number of students not owning horses in this facility was pretty small. Mr. Cutter was very particular in accepting new clients, he refused to waste his time on those who did not wish to learn. The lesson barn was always loud and bustling, she was going to miss the friendly atmosphere it offered. This barn seemed to be a little stuffy.
Once all of the horses were turned out she began the chore of mucking stalls. It surprised her that she was the only one working in the private barn that morning, although she had never thought about who cared for these animals before. It had always been off-limits in her mind so she had spent very little time in it. Unless she was hanging out with Maddie, but Maddie usually came down to the lesson barn. She liked it better there and was always complaining that she was never fully accepted by the other teens in the private barn. Lacey jumped at the sound of a male voice.
“Hey.” It was Jake. He was standing in the open door of the stall wearing a tight pair of blue jeans, ripped out at the knee. His t-shirt was already filthy for the early morning. He was drenched in sweat and had pieces of hay stuck to his glistening arms. For a moment Lacey pictured him rolling in the hay with one of the saddle divas and then she noticed his leather gloves. He’d been unloading the hay wagon. That’s where everyone was this morning. Her eyes widened. Had she been supposed to be there? Helping?
“Hey.” She answered in a shaky voice. It wasn’t Jake that she pined for, he was much to old for her. He was a college boy. She wouldn’t even turn sixteen until the beginning of the school year. Even so, he was a very good looking man and she found herself unable to form words. “Was I supposed to be somewhere else?” She asked.
He took his hat off to wipe the sweat from his forehead. His dark hair was soaked. Was it really that hot outside she wondered? “I was looking for Chase.” He braced himself on the door of the stall with one arm making that diagonal muscle on his upper arm bulge. He was definitely a solid guy.
“I haven’t seen anyone this morning. I did leave his horse up.” She remembered the owners request list on the white board.
He cursed. Lacey’s eyes shot up and she took a step back placing her pitchfork between the two of them. The prongs were still in the sawdust and she didn’t realize what a defensive pose she had taken. But he had seen it. She saw it in his expression. She wasn’t going to have him thinking she was some timid little girl. She’d hidden the abuse that her mother and she had endured up until her father had finally left them in her last year of middle school and she wasn’t about to show the scars now. She stood as tall as her five foot two frame would allow and she held her chin high. “He left his name on the list.” She told him defensively. She had been a member of this facility for over eight years and was amazed that she still felt like such an outsider.
“He was supposed to help unload hay.” He grumbled heading to the other side of the barn. When she heard his loud curse she knew his horse was gone. He must have joined the girls on their morning trail ride. It didn’t surprise her. She was pretty sure he’d been seeing Morgan towards the end of the school year, although nothing had ever officially made it’s way down the rumor mill. Not that she had heard anyway. Morgan was the quintessential high school teen queen anyway with her wheat blonde hair, big blue eyes and the cheerleading outfit she donned for the Friday night football games. They made a cute couple. Lacey knew she would never be the kind of girl that demanded attention from a guy like him anyway. Her hair was long and thick and it was even blonde, but it was that strawberry blonde that brought out the splash of freckles covering the bridge of her nose. Her eyes were blue but not an exceptional shade, just plain old blue. She was the girl next door that everyone sings about in the country songs. The one that is always begging the guy to notice her.
"Be a best friend, tell the truth, and overuse I love you
Go to work, do your best, don't outsmart your common sense
Never let your prayin knees get lazy
And love like crazy"