After untacking Donner and putting him in the pasture he was assigned to, I went back out to clean up the jumps. Unfortunately, I met Lilith out there. “I was hoping you would be back, your little poles and posts are in my way.” I rolled my eyes, “what is your problem, Lilith? You’ve barely said two words to me since I’ve been here, why all the hate?” I asked, genuinely curious why she was bashing me so hard. She scoffed, “you’re just one of those skimpy tomboys, all rough and tumble. You think you have it so hard, but in reality you’re just whiny. I mean, you chose to come to this dump because mommy yelled at you. Big whoop. Most of us would kill to have parents yell at us, you know. You’re just a spoiled brat. Now could you please get your crap out of the arena so that I can school my horse properly? Peppi here can’t be running around with all these nonsensical things.”
I wanted to comeback with something equally snotty, but I had to admit, she had a point. She was right; I ran from my family, where the kids here would run towards them. I tried not to let her words get to me, but I couldn’t help but feel bad. I put the jumps up, and head back into the house. The kids that weren’t at the barn were either in their rooms or the common area. I assumed Chelsea had followed Lilith to the barn now that her chores were done (she took forever to finish them), Adam was nowhere to be found, nor was Miranda or Dean. I figured everyone was in their rooms. I walked upstairs to me and Miranda’s room, where I found her on the desktop computer that was in the room. She was watching a video of George Morris teaching a jumping clinic. I asked her if I could join her, and she started to oblige but stopped herself, “Dean wants to see you first. He’s in his room,” she told me without looking away from the screen. “Are we allowed in each other’s rooms?” I asked. She nodded, “any times before dinner and after chores are done, we are. There’s cameras in each bedroom though, so don’t do anything too kinky,” she joked, flashing me a sly smile. I rolled my eyes, “you’re terrible Miranda! It’s not like that,” I laughed, teasing her. She replied with a sarcastic “su-ure,” just before I left.
I went down the hall and knocked on Dean and Adam’s door, which was already cracked. “Yeah?” came the single reply, from Dean. “It’s me, Miranda said you wanted me?” Quiet for just a moment, then the door swung all the way open, Dean standing at its entrance. “Come in!” He gestured, bowing as if he were a fancy doorman. I curtsied in response, before walking through the door.
While Adam wasn’t there, I could tell exactly which bed belonged to whom. Adam’s side of the room was coated in heavy metal band posters, pictures of him and some other people were showcased between some posters in a messy fashion. Clothes were strewn all over the floor, the desktop computer cluttered with different assortments of things, including empty cups. I laughed, “I didn’t think you could have food or drink up here,” I questioned. Dean flopped onto his bed, smirking. “You’re not technically allowed to,” was his only response. I looked to him and shook my head, but he just gave an innocent smile. His side of the room wasn’t much tidier, but the walls included posters of classic rock bands, and ticket stubs instead of pictures. I sat on the foot of Dean’s bed, admiring the ticket stubs, as there were many. “That’s so cool,” I noted. I had always loved concerts, but I had always been to the Country variety. He nodded, “Some of my better memories from staying in one place.”
His voice held no sorrow, but it did remind me of what Lilith said. I left the foot of the bed and moved up to where Dean was, and lay next to him. He scooted over a bit, but we were sandwiched together on the small bed anyways. He held my shoulder to keep me from rolling off. “Do you think I’m a spoiled brat?” I asked, the question falling out of my mouth. He gave me a quick, confused look. “What would ever make you say that?” I frowned a bit, upset that I had let her words get to me. “Lilith said that. She basically told me I was a terrible person because I ran from my family, while you guys want nothing more than a family. I guess I just felt really bad, because after what you told me, I kind of realized how lucky I was and how I just threw it away.” I didn’t mean to ramble, but that’s what happened when I felt bad. Dean was quiet for a moment, and I thought I had said something wrong. “Cas, you’re not spoiled. Yeah, we wish we had what you have. It’s true, we are all kind of jealous of you. But that doesn’t make you a bad person. Everyone has their reasons, if Lilith and her Brigade can’t accept that, then screw them.” He wasn’t looking at me when he spoke, but I could tell he meant what he said. I let myself relax a little.
“Thank you, Dean.” I let my head rest against his ribcage, and he hugged me tighter, “Any time.” “So, what did you want me in here for?” I asked, remembering that he had been the one to call me in. He sighed, which worried me. Was everything alright? “Cas, I’ve been given … an opportunity. The Haven got a call, and Vickie and Tamira called me down to the office to chat.” My stomach flipped, but I wasn’t sure if I should be happy for him or not. “There is a large ranch that isn’t extremely far from here. It’s sort of a permanent version of the Haven. They take in kids that are older than 16, and just give them a home until they are 18 and old enough to go to college and stuff, move out on their own. They only take four kids at a time, so it’s a miracle they picked me.” He seemed a bit relieved, so I supported him, “That’s so amazing, Dean! Right?” He nodded just once, “It’s good. But, uh … I kind of told them I had some conditions.” I gave him a confused look. He took a deep breath, and then turned to face me, “I told them I wanted to bring someone with me. They had another spot open, and I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask. This ranch takes in horses as well, if you own them. I talked to Vickie, and they said they would sell me Indy. It would be paid from the ranch, and I would work off the loan there. Since I found out they’d let me have my horse, I thought that would give you an option, since I know you’d never leave Donner.”
Unclear as to what he was asking, I had to clarify, “Dean, you asked if I could come with you? To the ranch?” He nodded again, looking at me with his calm, green eyes. “I don’t want to go without you, Cas. You’re the first person I’ve felt at home with since my old family. I’m not losing you.” He spoke genuinely, that I could tell. I was astonished. This was my chance, my permanent fix. The ranch could be everything I had ever hoped for, and they would let me keep Donner. I couldn’t believe it. At the same time, the quickness of it all made me a bit unsure. There would be no turning back from this ranch. I would likely never see Xavier again. After my dream last night, I was questioning if that was even an option for me. What would he say? I knew I would be calling him tonight, but maybe we would be having more to talk about than I originally thought. Dean broke my train of thought, “I can’t expect an answer today, so they gave me a week to let us decide if it’s what we want to do.” He stroked my hair, “just give it a thought, okay?” I nodded, smiling back. “Okay, I promise.” He kissed my forehead, and pulled me in for a long hug.
We chatted about other things for a while, mostly about our horses and his concert experiences. We laughed about fond memories that we shared with one another, and I found myself more and more comfortable staying with him. After a long while, I figured I should clean-up for dinner. Miranda questioned me, of course, and I told her the cliff-notes version again. I knew she would find out eventually, but I wasn’t ready to tell everything yet. Not until I had an opinion of it myself.
After dinner, we went out to take care of the horses for the night. I loved on Donner for a long while, brushing him off completely and making sure he was completely content. All the while, I discussed leaving for the ranch with him. “You would get to stick with Indy, and they might actually let us show at this ranch, so we could get back into the Jumper circuit. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” I rubbed on his nose, and scratched his neck where he loved it. Sooner than I thought, I was told it was time to come in. I patted Donner once more, then head back into the house. We were stuck in our rooms for the rest of the night, but I wasn’t ready to sleep yet.
I faked my rest until Miranda fell asleep. Once I was sure she was out, I grabbed my phone. I had to call Xavier. A few rings, and he answered. “Cas?” I smiled. The nickname wasn’t exclusive just for him anymore, but I guess I had grown to love it that much more. “What’s up Xavi?” I asked, keeping my voice down. “Oh, nothing, just happy to know you’re alive. Your parents are sort of freaking out, though. They keep asking me if I know where you are. I’ve got to be honest with you; it’s hard for me not to tell them I at least know you’re okay.” I sighed quietly, realizing how hard it must be. “I know Xavi, but you’ve got to keep quiet. Things … might be different soon.” “What do you mean?” I took a deep breath, and proceeded to tell him about the ranch. I didn’t tell him about Dean, though. I didn’t think he’d want to hear about it, to be honest. I kept the facts about the ranch simple, and kept him in the dark as much as I could at the same time.
After explaining, the line was quiet for a long time. I thought the call might have dropped, “Xavi, you there?” I asked. “Uh, yeah, I’m um … I’m here.” My heart broke, hearing the solemnness in his voice. I knew he wouldn’t be happy about it. “Cas, you’ve got to do what makes you happy. But … can’t you come home? Your parents, they’ve learned their lesson. We all miss you, Cas. I miss you. I miss you so much.” I could tell he wanted to keep rambling, but I had to stop him. I couldn’t handle it if he started begging me, it would have been too much for me. “I’m still thinking about it. I don’t know what will happen yet. I just want you to be … aware. If I do go, I’ll be able to get a real phone, though. We won’t have to worry about being so secretive, you’ll be able to call whenever. I’ll be able to speak to my parents.” “Will we be able to know where you are?” He questioned, barely letting me finish. I took a deep breath, quiet for a moment. “No, Xavi. We … we might be apart until college, okay?” Another long spell of quiet. “Okay.”
“I miss you too, Xavier. I’ll call you tomorrow, okay? I have to be quiet now, my roommate is asleep.” I didn’t know how much longer I could stay on the phone without bursting into tears. “Okay, okay Cas. Goodnight. I … I love you.” His response was hushed, as if he himself was trying not to cry. “I love you too, Xavi.” A single tear left my eye.
Nobody hung up for a while. When I finally had the courage to end the call, I sat in the dark room, still for just a moment, before I fell onto the pillow, and let myself go.