Like A Whisper...

Alice loves horses. She helps out at her local yard. Her mother and father hate not being able to afford to buy their daughter a horse.
Alice doesn't like school, though she gets good grades. She's not popular, but she's not bullied.
What will happen when her perfectly normal life is turned upside down?


6. Chapter 6


 I lead him to his stable. Because we're going to be riding for a few days Mally booked a loose box for each horse. All of the horses from her stable are together. Wonder's to the far right, beside Hatter.

 I take off his heavy dressage saddle and groom him for about two minutes. He already has rosettes in his mane and his tail is neatly plaited. I give him one last pat before going to Rice's stall to tack him up.

 I lead the cremello stallion out to the warm up arena. It's packed. I bounce into the saddle and warm him up in the field. It looks like a few people have had the same idea.

 I twist the stirrup so it's facing the right way and Mally puts her foot in. She smiles at me and trots in.

 Straight after Mally rides I run to Wonder's stable to tack him up. I tighten his martingale one more hole before bending down to do his leg bandages.

 I buckle my helmet and straighten my jacket before mounting. I press him into a trot and go around the arena. There's not many people in this arena as I'm the last to ride. I turn him to the jump and ask him to canter. He pulls slightly and I sit back. He pops over it cleanly and I give him a pat.

 Feeling he's warmed up enough for now, I watch the jumping. I only walked the course once. There's a woman on a beautiful brown horse. I watch closely. She's riding him in a Dutch gag bit.

 She turns him to the jump and puts pressure on the reigns, so he's almost cantering on the spot, his head held high. Two strides before the jump, she drops contact and the horse puts in two bounds before springing over. He's foaming at the mouth and trying to shake his head loose. The woman repeats this process over every jump.

 When she comes to the oxer, she gives him two hard smacks with the whip. He puts in a half stride and does an ungainly stag leap, knocking the higher pole. The last jump is upright. She holds him back then lets him go. I shake my head in disbelief.

 I watch the next rider. It's a boy maybe a bit older than me. "Pádraig Ó Súilleabháin on Sweet Pear, you may begin your round."

 I stare at him. How did I not recognise the longish black hair? He sits up straight and clucks to his dun mare, giving her a tap with his heels. She springs into a canter towards the first jump. He sits motionless in the saddle, letting the mare go at her own pace. They're capable of jumping much higher but Pear was sick for a few weeks and he's only bringing her back into work.

 He keeps her going at a steady canter up to the first jump. She arcs nicely over it and he turns her to the next one. They keep a steady rhythm going throughout the whole course and not a pole is knocked down.

 "Pádraig," I call, trotting Wonder over.

 "Hello?" he looks confused. I smile, waiting. "Alice!? Oh, my god, hi! It's been, like, four months since I've last seen you. How are things? Is that your horse?" He says, hugging me from his mare.

 "This is Wonder. He's only four, but no, he's not mine. He's Martha's. She stables him at Mally's and I'm jumping him today. How's Pear?"

  "He's stunning. She's good. She's been recovering well. Are you riding tomorrow?"

 "Yep, I'm riding three horses in the two star and two in the three star. I'd better warm him up again, we're in in ten minutes." I smile at him before walking Wonder away.

 I pop Wonder over the jump twice more before we're called in. I fix my tie and trot him in. The bell sounds and I push him into a canter and tun him towards the first jump; an orange and white upright.

 He feels so well trained that I turn him too tight into the oxer. A well trained horse would have cleared it but he's still green and he brought down the top rail with his hind legs. We come out with four faults. I give him a big, slappy pat on his neck. We're called back in for the prize giving.

 Pádraig comes first and we come second. A girl on a grey gelding comes third and the woman with the brown horse comes fourth.

 I give Wonder a huge hug. If I hadn't turned him so tight we would have come first. We had a much faster time than Pádraig.

 "Pity about the oxer." He rides up beside us.

 "It was my fault. I turned him too tight."

 "No, it's good for him to learn stuff like that. You rode him well. Do you want to have dinner at our truck?"

 "I'll see if I can. I might have to show Cathal stuff." He tenses slightly.

 "Who's Cathal?"

 "The new groom. He's fifteen like you." We trot to the trucks them walk the rest of the way to the stalls. Pear's stall is right next to Wonder's. You can unbolt the top half and flip it down mostly for hot days to let the air through but also if you have two horses who panic if they can't see each other. Lily and Dairymilk are like that.

 I unbolt it to talk to Pádraig. He looks angry but when he realises that the top is down his expression changes. He smiles at me and starts to talk about Pear. I listen, untacking the tall gelding standing beside me.

 Cathal comes in and the conversation stops. "Cathal, this is Pádraig. Pádraig, this is Cathal."

 They both say hello and Pádraig goes back to grooming Pear. I talk to Cathal about Wonder.

 "Is it okay if I show you everything tomorrow? Pádraig invited me to dinner at his van." Cathal glares at him. Seriously, what's wrong with them? Do they know each other?

 "Yeah." he walks away.

 (My outfit; I know that it's not mine but it's so nice.)

 I knock on the door to his truck. He opens it and smiles down at me. I step in and look around. There's music playing softly and there's candles lit.

 After wrapping me in a hug, he pulls me over to the table and I sit down. Without a word, he goes into the kitchen section. I smile; it's so over the top. He comes out with two plates and a bottle of something. It's Coke in a glass bottle.

 He puts the plate down in front of me. I stare at it.

 "You can get Chinese here!?" I gasp. He nods with a smile. Chinese food is my all time favourite. He pours me a glass and then begins to eat. The music is the only noise for a few minutes.

 "You look really nice," Pádraig says.

 "Thanks. I like this shirt." I take a forkful of rice and pop it into my mouth. He continues to look at me and I raise an eyebrow, a smirk growing on my lips. He looks away.

 "Aren't your parents here?"

 "No. They stayed at a hotel but I wanted to stay here to have dinner with you and catch up. Why?"

 "Just wondering."

 After finishing the dinner, we go to watch a movie. I kick off my shoes and curl up on the couch. Pádraig has been my best friend for years. Well, he was until he moved school. He sits beside me and holds his arms up. I smile and put my head on his lap. It's just like old times.

 He was playing with my hair when my phone rang.

 "Cathal, what do you want? You almost gave me a heart attack."

 "Are you coming back to the truck tonight or are you staying and his?" Cathal shrugs. I have it on speaker.

 "I'll stay here." He hangs up. "So much for a goodbye," I mutter. I put my head back down and Pádraig presses play. When the movie finishes, I turn so I'm looking at his stomach. I close my eyes and begin to drift off.

 I feel Pádraig pick me up and carry me somewhere. He places me down on a bed and climbs in. His arms are wrapped around me as I fall asleep.

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