While I might have fibbed about how close the last installment would be, I took the liberty of going ahead and writing a few chapters ahead. I will have one chapter up each day until it's finished, now!
I didn't think you guys would mind any! :) Without further ado, Chapter 9!
I was dressed and ready when Tamira came in, to her pleasure. She smiled and nodded, leading me back to the house. The chores consisted of many things dealing with basic housekeeping. There was a large chart set on one wall, a whiteboard sectioned off with tape and filled with dry-erase marker. The chart was divided horizontally by each person, labelled with a name on the far left. It was divided vertically by chore. Check marks went where the columns and rows intersect, when someone had completed a chore. While I was shown the system, my name remained off of the board for now. Instead, Tamira checked off the chores I was to do under a blank name-spot.
Once I was finished sweeping the kitchen floor, dusting the common area, cleaning up the place I slept in the infirmary, and watering the plants outside of the house, I was finished and allowed to use my barn recreation time. We had already taken care of our horses as a part of our chores (they weren’t on the board because it was done daily, at set times), so I was ready to ride. Beforehand, I ran to the infirmary to clothe myself in a bathing suit under a comfortable t-shirt and jeans. I threw on my riding boots and half-chaps over my jeans and head out for the barn. Dean and Miranda were already getting tacked up, but we were still waiting on Adam. I got Donner’s saddle on, but waited to put his bridle on. I walked him over to where Dean and Miranda were also waiting. “Adam’s usually a little late leaving the house when we go on rides,” Miranda noted. “Yeah, he has to fix his makeup for the deer,” Dean joked. We laughed, but I was curious to know why nobody knew exactly what took Adam so long. I shrugged it off quickly when he finally came out. “Sorry guys, I’ll grab Chester and we can be on our way,” Adam called to us as he hurriedly entered Chester’s stall. Chester was Adam’s assigned horse. He was a short, stocky Quarter Horse, with a nice, dark roan coat. I noticed Miranda and Dean slipping their bridles on, but asked why they were doing so already, “doesn’t he have to tack up still?” Miranda shook her head, and pointed back to Adam. He already had Chester out in the aisle, brushed, and dressed in a Bosal bridle (a type of bridle that has no mouthpiece; bitless) With nimble skill, Adam jumped right up onto Chester’s back, turning back and jeering at us, “what’s taking y’all so long?”
I was a bit shocked, but quickly got Donner’s bridle on and joined my friends on horseback. Adam led the way with Dean next to him, and Miranda and I rode side-by-side just behind the boys. The trail was wide enough to where this worked out well. The path was beautiful, neatly trimmed and clearly well-traveled. “We come out here on the weekends mostly every week during the summer. It’s one of the best spots you can find, and the girls never take this trail, so we can avoid them pretty easily,” Miranda explained as I nodded along. “They typically stick to the arena, working their horses around the barrel patterns. They get around pretty quick, but they aren’t super friendly about it. They are constantly wailing their legs on their horses’ sides to get them to run faster. They compete with each other since we don’t go to showing events or anything, so I guess it’s enough to keep them occupied.” I nodded along, “how do the horses react? Do they seem to put up with it?” I asked. Miranda swished her head side to side, “they don’t seem to dislike it, and the girls do take care of them. I mean, they are required to, but at least they don’t slack on giving them water or anything. I don’t think they really have any sort of bond, though.” I gave a wayward frown. I loved the bond I had with Donner. I couldn’t understand how someone could work with a good horse that worked hard for them, and not feel anything towards them. I didn’t have much time to dwell on it, though, as we reached the lake soon after the conversation.
The water was gorgeous, not green or cloudy at all. It seemed almost pool-like, full of large, flat stones and smooth surfaces. The lake included spots of sand, and stretched a good ways. There was a large fountain on the far side, built of rocks and a barely-exposed PVC pipe that turned the fountain into a beautiful waterfall. It was obvious that the pond was man-made, but it looked extremely natural, and was even stocked with large fish. “Pretty amazing, huh?” Adam came up jumped off of Chester, tying him to one of the two hitching posts, “it was one of the house’s big budget projects, when they got all kinds of funding from start up.”
I jumped down with everyone else, tying our horses with quick release knots. We had all brought halters with us, of course, and that is how we tied them. Everyone started stripping into their bathing suits, so I did the same. The boys had just thrown t-shirts on and rode in their trunks, but Miranda and I had come fully clothed. We threw our clothes into one big pile, on top of an old worn picnic table. Miranda and I gushed over my Supernatural bathing suit for just a minute, and then we proceeded to untack our horses. Our saddles went on small saddle racks that hooked onto the hitching posts, and we hopped back on our horses bareback, with nothing but our halters, with lead ropes looped over as reins, and tied to either side of the halter’s rings. The only one to break our mock dress code was Adam; he continued riding in his Bosal bridle, as it wasn’t made of leather like everyone else’s bridles were.
“Alright everyone, let’s plunge in!” Dean shouted, with a jaw-breaking smile. He looked over to me and laughed, using his hand to gesture me into the lake. We entered through a part made of rock, with no-slip mats covering them. The rocks made a gentle ramp into the water, and it was obvious that this was made just for the horses. Dean went in first, trotting Indy at a quick pace into the water. It was obvious that they had done this many times. Adam trotted in behind them on Chester, while Miranda walked her horse Maverick in just ahead of my boy. She laughed as we watched the boys frolic about in the shallow end of the pond, trotting their horses in circles and letting them paw at the water with big, powerful strides. The boys jeered and laughed, teasing each-other and splashing about. Donner was a bit timid, but Maverick seemed very sure of himself. Miranda gently led us into the shallow end of the pond, and I kept Donner just a few strides away from everyone as he got used to the cool water. Miranda let Maverick wade around just a bit, before she led him right into the deep end.
Maverick clearly enjoyed swimming, as his ears flicked about and his step bounced a bit more as his body was slowly cloaked with more and more water. Just after the water lapped up onto Maverick’s belly, Miranda slipped off of his back and into the water, letting her legs float behind her and she stayed an arm’s length away from Maverick’s shoulder. She kept a grip on Maverick’s lead as he carted her around, holding his head up above the water like a professional. You could see his big, powerful legs kicking and swishing about below the surface, proud and quick. Miranda giggled the whole time, and Maverick took her around the deep end with gentle power. I was just watching in awe, smiling ear-to-ear, excited for me and Donner to take the plunge. I patted his wet neck, as he seemed to begin to relax. Suddenly, I felt a cold burst of water splash up onto my torso!
I quickly shot a glance to where the water came from, only to see Dean laughing his head off just a few feet away, with Indy prancing about under him, “Got you!” he called. I laughed, “ohh, I’ll get you Dean!” I teasingly threatened, pushing Donner into a swift trot. Dean spun Indy away from me, trying to flee as he was unable to control his laughter. It wasn’t long before I caught up to the pair, turning Donner in front of them. Indy stopped short, putting Dean onto her neck. Without resisting, Dean let himself fall into the water before Indy, laughing the whole time as it happened. I stood proudly upon Donner, trying to keep myself from bursting into laughter as well. “Now I’ve got YOU
, mister!” I stuck my tongue out as Dean shook his head, whipping water from his hair. “Oh yeah?!” He taunted, before jumping over to my leg, “Not for long!” He chanted, as he pulled me off of Donner and into the cool, clear water. While we kept a grip on our horses, we stood between them now, gripping onto each other’s arms with our free hands, laughing hysterically. “I think we may have to call this a draw,” Dean pleaded, through breathless laughter. “Yeah … or …” I jeered, just before dunking his head under the surface. He rose from the water with wide eyes, and an even wider smile, “I’ll get you, Cas!” He called to me as I climbed back onto Donner’s back to make my escape. The nickname stopped me for a moment, sending a warm feeling through my skin. I felt no urge to tell him to call me Cassie, that that nickname was reserved. Instead, I found myself egging him on, “Oh yeah? You’ll have to catch me first!”
The whole gang swam for a good, long while. Everybody splashed, jumped about, roughhoused, and otherwise made fools of ourselves, leaving us all pretty tired. The horses were allowed to munch on the grass they could find around the hitching posts, while Dean and Adam busted out some sandwiches for all of us. Miranda and I thanked them for thinking of the lunch, for we were all pretty hungry. We chowed down, joking and laughing about like old friends. I really felt close to these guys, even though I had only just met them a few days ago. I secretly hoped that the Haven would allow me to stay, for I could barely tolerate the thought of having to leave again.
Soon enough, Miranda checked her clock, “Hey Dean, when did you tell Vickie we would be back?” “Sometime around five or six; we left at two, correct?” She nodded, “It’s four thirty now. You think we should head back?” She asked. Dean dropped his shoulders a bit, biting his lip. “You and Adam go ahead; me and Cas will clean up around here. That okay with you?” He asked me, to which I nodded. Miranda looked to me through the corner of her eye and snuck in a wink, to which I replied to with the best evil-glare I could muster. She would get a talking-to later! Adam stood quickly, Miranda following short after. “See you guys at dinner! I’ll tell Vickie you’re coming in a little bit behind us, so don’t take forever!” Miranda called back to us as her and Adam rode their horses back up the trail. Dean stood up now, and I followed. We started cleaning up as Dean had stated, and I mentally told myself that Miranda had gotten the wrong idea about his intentions. I did decide to use the alone time to my advantage, though.
“So, Dean … I don’t mean to pry, but Adam said something about you being kind of quiet when I got here. Was he just messing with me, or…?” I asked timidly, a bit shy to ask. The question had been bugging me, though, I had to admit. Dean stopped for a moment, making me think twice about asking such a question. Before I could repent, he began speaking. “No, he wasn’t messing with you. I guess I kind of felt comfortable around you pretty quickly. You just seem kind of … real, I guess.” He laughed at himself a bit, though I didn’t know why. He continued, “I’m not really a people person, Cas. Here, come sit.” We moved over to the sandy area near the pond, as Dean played with a stick in the water while he talked. I simply watched the designs he made as I listened, sitting close to him but not touching, “I’ve been in the foster system for a while. I remember my parents, surprisingly. They dropped me when I was six, I think. Put me up for adoption because they couldn’t afford to keep me, I was told,” he shifted his weight uncomfortably, and I reached out for his hand, hoping to comfort him. He gripped it, looking down at my arm as he kept going. “That made me a little mad. I mean, it’s not a puppy, it’s a person, you know? You don’t just give a kid away like you do a dog.” I nodded softly, squeezing his hand, trying to keep him from getting too upset. He squeezed back. “Anyways, I’ve been shuffled around since then. When I was ten, I thought I had found somewhere nice, a family that would actually keep me. Well, I thought that for five years. Sometime after I turned fifteen, they got pregnant. Said it was a miracle, an act of God. Needless to say, they didn’t need someone else’s kid to love anymore. I had made friends, thought I had a family, even made some memories in a house I thought I might have called home. Then all of a sudden, it was gone.” His voice cracked in the last sentence, which cracked my heart along with it. I pulled him into a hug, as he dropped his stick and let himself fall into my lap. I held him there for a while, letting a soft silence remain between us.
I stroked his hair for a long time, gently massaging his head. Every once in a while, his breath would shudder, and he slipped out a whimper, but it was basically silent by the lake. I think it must have been six by then, because shadows began to cast themselves on the lake, but that didn’t matter to me. I just wanted to fix all of Dean’s problems, turn his memories into happy ones, do all I could to help him. After a long while, he took a deep breath and spoke again. “I’ve been here ever since. It’s been nice, but people come through in here so fast. Here one day, gone the next. You become close with someone, and then they’re gone. I only let myself open up to Adam because … no foster families wanted to deal with a punk teenager. Miranda sticks close to us too, but I’m still even afraid to get too close to her, you know? She’s the type to be taken home at any given day.” I took a deep breath, suddenly realizing that the Haven might not have been the refuge I thought it was. Dean flipped on his back now, facing upwards as he continued to use my lap as a pillow. I attempted a slight smile, “I’m not going anywhere,” I whispered, trying to keep myself from crying as well. “I’m not going anywhere, Dean.” I repeated, stronger this time.
And that’s when I, Cassandra, had my first kiss with a beautiful, yet partially broken, boy named Dean.
Oops, my romantic novelist side fell out
What do you guys think, team Dean or team Xavier?? I felt like getting a little more depth to this particular story, let me know if you like it or would prefer to keep it more solely horse-oriented!