Shamrock Stable #2
No Time for Horses
Sixteen-year-old Vicky Miller feels overloaded since her parents filed for divorce. Her mother got the house and a new job. Her step-dad has the new car and a new girlfriend. Vicky has the five kids, her younger half-brothers and sisters who range from 18 months to 10 years old to look after and her own life now comes second to their needs and wants.
It's been six months of house-cleaning, baby-sitting, cooking, non-stop laundry and Vicky is through waiting for her life to improve. She has plans for her sophomore year at Lincoln High and they don't include being an unpaid servant. If it takes a constant battle to attend her riding classes and complete her internship at Shamrock Stable, she's ready to fight for her goal to be the best natural horse trainer around.
Her parents may not have time for her to be with horses, but she has dreams no one can steal. Why should she give them away? But will keeping them mean she loses her family?
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|Middle Grade/ Teens|
Tuesday, November 12th, 7:35 a.m.
The warning bell for first period rang just as I rushed through the front doors of Lincoln High School. I hesitated for a moment, debating whether I should race to my locker and grab my English text or just go to class. I was out of time. I turned and ran for the Humanities wing. Mrs. Weaver always locked the door the instant the last bell rang.
She couldn’t let me in unless I had a note from the office, and I definitely wasn’t going there. One more tardy slip meant another detention, and I’d be in Saturday School with a bunch of slackers. They wouldn’t care, but I did, since S.S. also put me on automatic academic probation and the cheer coach would nail me.
The last thing I wanted to do was try to discuss my parents’ divorce with the vice-principal again. Mr. Schuesser didn’t seem to understand their split ruined my life. Mom got the house and a new job dealing cards at the local casino. Dad took the new car to impress his skanky girlfriend, and I got stuck with their five little kids. Anger lent added speed, and I pelted into the classroom, just as the final bell rang.
Mrs. Weaver closed the door behind me. Her skirt and jacket were her favorite shade of steel gray. It totally matched her gray hair. She gave me an evil look from stone-gray eyes. “Next time you’re late, you’re headed for the school Counseling Center to have a chat with Dr. Danvers. Sophomore Class President or not, you don’t get special treatment in my room, Victoria.”
I nodded, trying to catch my breath, and hustled toward the seat next to my best friend, Robin. Actually, a time-out with the head-shrinker kept me from getting a detention and away from the V.P. in charge of
discipline, but I wouldn’t tell the other students that. Mrs. Weaver and Dr. Danvers had made a deal back at the beginning of school to try and help me stay out of Saturday School, but it was a major secret.
Robin was everything I wasn’t. Four inches taller than me at five foot six, but who wasn’t? I tried to remind myself that being short was what made me such a good flyer for the cheer squad. Sometimes, it worked. Sometimes, it didn’t. My eyes were hazel, which meant some days they were green, and some days they were brown. It depended on what I wore.
Blonde and athletic, Robin never stressed about her weight. She didn’t have to since she was a cross-country and track champ who ran six miles a day regardless of the weather. Me, I couldn’t gain an ounce without the other cheerleaders freaking out. I didn’t blame them. They were the ones who had to toss me to the top of the pyramid, and two pounds made a big difference.
Robin kicked my backpack toward me. “The kids giving you heartburn again, Vicky? I guess we should have expected it after a three-day weekend.”
“Yeah.” I bent down and unzipped my pack, pulling out my composition book. Robin had obviously taken time to go to my locker and grab my stuff for this class. “Thanks. You’re the best.”
“Sorry, I couldn’t keep your latte over here for you. Weaver nabbed it.” Robin caught a glare from our teacher and dove for her own comp book.
The first day of the week, we always had a long writing assignment. Ten to fifteen minutes of pouring our souls into the lined books on some sort of crazy topic that I’d swear Mrs. Weaver spent all weekend thinking up. Last Friday, we’d written long essays about Veteran’s Day. Today’s write was about Elizabeth Cady Stanton who was born on November 12th, 1815. She was famous for her work in the women’s rights movement. American women still didn’t get the vote until the passage of the 19th amendment in 1920, and Stanton didn’t live to see it happen.
Mrs. Weaver had written in big red letters on the whiteboard, “Why do you think women were not allowed to vote for such a long time in America? Support your answer.”
Robin leaned over and whispered. “What happened today? Did the twins try to skip school again?”
I nodded and tried not to remember the chaotic morning. It was hard to believe that it wasn’t eight o’clock yet. I’d already cooked breakfast, packed five lunches, dressed the five kids and myself, and ironed my mom’s uniform for her casino job because I was the lazy, sniveling wretch who failed to pick up the pressed one at the cleaners. I’d scrubbed up the kitchen and tidied the rest of the house. I dropped off Mom’s dirty uniforms at the dry cleaners and the five kids at daycare. Four of them would go off to the elementary school at eight-forty-five, but the baby would stay all day until I picked her up this afternoon. If it hadn’t been a three-day weekend with the kids at their father’s until Sunday afternoon, I never would have been able to finish my homework.
They weren’t even my kids and it wasn’t my house, but at least we had a dishwasher. If I had to do everything the way women did in the olden days, I wouldn’t have time to breathe, much less campaign for the right to vote. I didn’t know if that was what Mrs. Weaver wanted to hear or not. Frankly, I didn’t care. I needed somewhere to vent, and a blank sheet of paper worked for me. Then, at least I wouldn’t be screaming my head off and hearing about what an ‘ungrateful wretch’ I was from my mother.
“Time,” Mrs. Weaver called, “Pass your books forward.”
I did and cringed inside. I’d forgotten that Tuesday morning was when she shared what we wrote. The only good thing was she never used names. She flipped through one book and read. “Women didn’t get the vote because men were smart back then.”
Mrs. Weaver gazed around the room and turned her evil look on the cluster of guys snickering in the back corner. “Sounds like I have some volunteers to teach the ‘Declaration of Sentiments’ this week. I’ll enjoy hearing what you come up with for tomorrow’s presentation. That includes at least twenty slides, an assignment that engages the whole class, a worksheet, a homework activity, and an assessment of what your classmates learned.”
Sudden silence and one of the guys elbowed another, probably the chauvinist who’d succeeded in getting all of them stuck with a major assignment and zip in the way of prep time. Lincoln High was a private school, and we were all supposed to be college-bound. Mrs. Weaver was a notorious hard grader, and she loved making her students suffer. She wasn’t joking about her expectations either. The guys would be up in front of the room tomorrow or they’d take an ‘F,’ and that meant a call to each of their parents from Dr. Danvers or Mr. Schuesser. Failure was unacceptable at Lincoln High.
Next book. “Women didn’t get the vote because nobody listened to them but that didn’t mean they stopped trying.” Mrs. Weaver glanced at Porter, then Gwen, and continued eying other students. “Good start, but whoever wrote this needs to think about how to support the argument.” Third book. This one was mine. Mrs. Weaver frowned over the first section then said, “I’m skipping to the conclusion. This person wrote, ‘Because women’s work has primarily dealt with the home and children, it was not respected in Stanton’s time. Little changed in America from the time that Abigail Adams argued women should be included in the Constitution until Stanton’s era, and it took until 1920 before they finally achieved that status.’”
Steve raised his hand. “Who was Abigail Adams?”
“An interesting question and that leads us to your next assignment.” Mrs. Weaver opened her literature book. “We have a selection of the letters she wrote to her husband, John Adams, and before you ask who he was, I’ll tell you that he became the second President of the United States. Page 88, please.”
When we were all on the appropriate page, she chose Porter to start reading the first letter. Mrs. Weaver came over to me, a cardboard sixteen-ounce coffee cup in her hand. “I think you need this latte more than I do, Victoria.”
Robin grinned at the teacher. “That’s why I always pick her up one. If I had to do what she does every morning, I’d be asleep in here.”
“Not for long,” Mrs. Weaver told her and returned to the front of the room.
The rest of the morning went well too. At lunch, I was the second one to the table that Robin nabbed for us. She usually bought her lunch and then we swapped around for the stuff we liked best. Today, she had the chef salad, a hamburger, fries, and cheesecake.
Since I didn’t dare gain any more weight, I traded off my peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwich for the salad. I’d just put light ranch dressing on the lettuce when my boyfriend, Jack arrived. He sat down next to me. He couldn’t do more than smile at me because Public Displays of Affection, or PDA, meant more detentions and possibly Saturday School. Both of us had better things to do.
Tall, black haired with dark brown eyes, Jack was totally sweet. And I wasn’t just saying that because he let me ride his Thoroughbred racehorse that majorly kicked butt at barrel racing. Robin was terrified of Nitroglycerin, but I liked the gelding. He could go from a standstill to a dead run in less than a heartbeat. Sometimes when the two of us did our speed demon routine, I felt like I could race away from all my problems.
Jack rested his arm along the back of my chair, carefully not touching me. “So, do you ladies need a ride to Shamrock tomorrow?”
“Yes,” I said, before Robin could say that her boyfriend would take us to the local barn.
Robin and I had a riding lesson tomorrow, like every Wednesday. Afterward, she would hang out and wait for me while I did my internship hours, part of my sophomore project. I was training, or rather re-training, a young Arabian with a nasty attitude.
Aladdin was a six-year-old rescue. Rocky McElroy, the owner of Shamrock Stable, only wanted his buddy, Summertime, a former show horse, but she had to take both of the Arabians to get the owner to donate the one she really liked. It’d been two years since Aladdin came to the barn. He’d learned to wear a halter, to lead, to longe, to wear a bit, to carry a saddle, to be clipped and hoof-trimmed, but he still had a long way to go. Rocky said that horses had memories like elephants and it was why Aladdin remembered all the abuse from the first four years of his life before he arrived at her barn.
Since my goal was to be a natural horse trainer, he was a great choice for me to practice everything I’d seen in videos and at clinics. Of course, Aladdin thought our training sessions were a good time for him to bite and kick me. I’d improved when it came to avoiding the kicks, and I’d started wearing several layers of shirts so he nipped my clothes, not me. It wasn’t like I could carry a crop or even a longe whip. He took those as a challenge and then tried to really attack me. He actually liked girls better than he did guys, so that made his antics even more scary.
I was supposed to have him ready to ride next spring, but my personal goal was way earlier than that. Rocky said she couldn’t keep feeding him if he didn’t work. Since he probably wouldn’t find another sucker to house him for the rest of his life, another thirty-plus years, he’d undoubtedly get a one-way ticket to a slaughter house in Canada. I hated to see that happen to any horse, even one who seemed to think I was a chew toy.
Robin’s boyfriend Bill showed up at our table. The conversation changed to basketball, even though we were just finishing up the football season. The guys normally played both sports, but Jack was still on the bench until his cracked ribs finished healing. Robin’s horse had totally stomped him a couple weeks ago when Jack tried to hurry through chores. And basketball practices had heated up since football was almost over.
It still meant Jack couldn’t play this Friday, and the coach was threatening Robin and her horse with dire deeds if he didn’t leave Jack alone. Neither team would be taking things easy, any more than the cheerleaders would. Senior varsity cheered for football and boys’ basketball while the freshman squad rooted for girls’ basketball.
Robin always griped because nobody supported the cross-country or track teams. Of course this year, Mr. Schuesser was dumb enough to tell her that it wasn’t like the squads would win the district or anyone would be going to the state competitions. Maybe that was part of the reason, she had kicked butt all season and Lincoln High was tops in their division. Her coach had already talked to mine, and we’d be going with them to state to cheer on the cross-country team at competition.
I hadn’t brought the weekend trip in January up to Mom yet. I didn’t want to hear that I couldn’t go because she needed me to look after my half-brothers and sisters. Robin nudged me under the table. “What?”
“Eat something or lunch will be over.” Robin drank some of her milk then put down the carton. “So, have the cheerleaders started organizing the holiday food drive activities yet? Do you have the boxes ready to go to the classrooms? You’re a double winner, so you have twice as much work as the rest of us. The student body officers are in charge of publicity. The cross-country team is ready to deliver the boxes and issue the first challenge to the other teams during tomorrow’s announcements.”
“Oh my Gawd! I totally forgot.”
“What?” Jack said. “Bill and I picked up the boxes at the moving company last week, and they’re in a storage closet in the art room. Did you space on the cheerleaders decorating them?”
“No,” I said. “We’re doing it this afternoon as soon as we finish practice. I forgot to remind my mom this morning, and she expects me to pick up the kids.”