“ I HATE THEM! I HATE THEM! I-I-I” she broke down into tears.
The large, bay next to her blew softly into her face. Its large ears flicked forward and its eyes widened as it pushed its nose against her face.
“ Stop it, Annie,” she whispered, pushing the horse’s head away from her.
The early morning sun poured in through the small grated window of the stall. Dust swirled up into the air as the bay danced around nervously in her stall. Sidestepping, she sidled up to her water bucket, all the time looked intensely at Taryn. Then gracefully dipping her head down, she drank deeply from the bucket before raising her head. Her nose was wet and she looked on with concern at the girl who sat hunched over in the corner.
It was quite hard to believe that less than an hour ago, Taryn had been back at her ranch. With her family. But now, that was the last thing on her mind.
Large beads of hot sweat dripped down her face, as Taryn dismounted the Quarter Horse. She wasn’t an especially tall girl, but her height would do. Giving Annie a pat on the neck, she quickly loosened the girth. Taking the reins in her hand, she led her back into the stable. Once, Annie was safely in her stall, Taryn tiredly slouched into the tack room with the bridle and saddle. Just then, Walter, the groom came in.
“ Hi Walter,” she greeted him, throwing him a weary smile.
Walter’s eyes lit up. Stuffing his thick, hide working gloves into his pockets, he smiled.
“ Hello. Look’s like you been working hard today,” he laughed, his forehead creasing into many lines.
Taryn sighed obviously. Wiping her hands on her jeans, she grinned.
“ Me and old Annie went out for a ride. We found this great path into the forest that went near that old creek. Betcha you didn’t even know ‘bout it. We found his strange looking tree. It was pretty low to the ground and it had this one branch that stuck out, kinda like a fence, and I couldn’t help it. Annie completely cleared it! We even spotted some deer and what not. But it gets so hot nowadays. I couldn’t stay out much longer and neither could Annie. I had to take us in early.”
Walter sat down next to her heavily. He too was sweating for he had risen earlier than Taryn and Annie combined to muck out stalls before everyone woke up. The aisles were swept clean and hosed down. Many of the horses had already been turned out to the pastures for the day to graze and do what the please.
“ Its best if you stay in during this time of year. I know you’re fifteen and all…and can drive…ummm I think….but you still should um… mind yourself. Don’t want you coming down with something. Well looking at this weather… it would more be like up…” he stumbled over his words as he wiped his glove across his dark skin.
Taryn stood up and went over and hung up Annie’s bridle. Supporting the saddle in her other arm, she waddled over to the saddle racks and placed the saddle upon it. Slinging the girth over it, she smoothed out the saddle pad. Remembering she forgot to roll up the stirrups, she began to pull the stirrups up the straps as she craned her neck around.
“ Well… I’ve been out pretty much all morning. What’s been up at the house?” she asked.
Taryn lived on a fair sized ranch. Being the summer time, she normally woke up early in the morning, to try and beat the heat, and to go exercise some of the horses at the stable. Yet, the barn was a long walk off, and she normally didn’t return back to the house until near breakfast time. Since Walter lived with them, she frequently asked him about what she would miss on her long hours away from home.
“ Nothing much.. Just the same things. Cat’s lazy as always. A lady called from the nursing ho—“ he stopped and clamped his jaws shut.
Taryn tensed as she heard him almost utter nursing home. Her knuckles grew white around the stirrup and she stared at the wall for a moment. In the previous year, her mother, Catherine, had had a high fever. Since their family wasn’t particularly rich, she refused to go to the doctor until the fever had taken its toll. Her health soon deteriorated and when Taryn and her father had finally rushed her to the emergency room after she feinted, the bad news came. Though the doctor’s had tried in vain to help her, the damage had been done and it was too late. The doctor informed them that since the high fever had not been tended to immediately, the prolonged delay had finally damaged her brain. The frontal lobe of her brain had the full blow of the rising fever and her speech was now stunted. Yet, it had partially wounded the occipital lobe and she was now blind in her left eye.
Soon after her mother returned from the hospital, she and Taryn’s father got into a large fight. When asked, she would never tell Taryn what caused her to become so distressed for she and her mom had had everything in common and did everything together. All the disputes between them soon caused her to become depressed and she slow wrinkled away into nothing but a hollow shell.
In the end, Taryn’s busy schedule and her father’s growing intolerance and hatred for Catherine had led them into having no choice but to place her in a nursing home, although she was only 43. The change had caused Taryn’s little brother, Ryan, to become overwhelmingly sad. The new change had changed Taryn and she was very uncomfortable when the subject arose.
Walter quickly tried to make up amends and rushed into another topic.
“ … Lorianne has been up at the house. Knitting I presume. She and your father…” he stopped again. His face stiffened and he rose to his feet. His face became filled with sorrow. His eyes softened and Taryn swore she could see tears. Shoving his hands into his pockets he lumbered unsteadily out of the room. Taryn stood confused as she listened to the echo of his sobs disappear.
“ Strange.” She thought.
Pulling off her field boots with difficulty, she jammed her feet into a pair of spare sneaker and wandered out of the stable and back up to the house. The hot Saturday sun beat down on the back of her neck. Her stomach growled loudly, and she realized that she was incredibly hungry. Clutching her stomach, she sprinted down the hill to the shelter of her front porch. Skidding to a halt, she entered the house with relief. The cool air-conditioned rooms were much preferred to the hot New York upstate sun. Grabbing an apple, she munched contently as she headed up the stairs when a call interrupted her.
“ Gwendoline! Get down here!”
She rolled her eyes. Hopping up onto the banister, she slid down it and jumped off right before the railing ended.
“ Where are you ma?! Dad?!”
“ ON the back porch!” her mom yelled back softly.
Opening the back porch door, she sidled onto it. Her parents were waiting for her there, sitting in white wicker chairs. Her father stood up. His face was glowering and his fists were clutched tightly. Lorianne, who Tom had married after Catherine left, was weeping quietly and from time to time would dab her eyes with her handkerchief.
“ Come on. You know I hate being called my first name,” she said placing her hands on her hips. “ So. You called?” Taryn replied warily, taking another bite out of her apple.
A hand swept out in a blur and knocked the apple out of her hand. At the same time, it hit her across the shoulder.
“ What the HECK is wrong with you?!” she screamed, rubbing her shoulder as she stared back at her father.
“ Now. Tom… that was unneeded…” Lori whined.
Tom turned abruptly and slapped her face.
“ Shut up Lorianne.”
Whimpering, Lorianne held her pink cheek and huddled back into her chair.
Taryn blew up.
“ DAD! What the %^&* is wrong with you?!” she screamed as she leapt at his face. “ Leave ma alone!” He grabbed her neck with a tight grip and threw her to the ground. Lorianne bawled out loud. Kicking her in the stomach, he shook visibly. His eyes were now narrowed to a squint. Taryn backed away. It was times like these that she hated to confront her father with. It was impossible to tell which way he would swing.
His hand thrust forward and revealed a large deformed duffel bag. Shoving it into Taryn’s hand, he stepped forward menacingly.
“ I want you out.”
Taryn laughed nervously.
“ What? Now? What’s going on here? Dad. What’s going on?” she asked, her lip trembling.
He took another step forward and grabbed her by her shirt collar. Fling open the back door, he dragged her down the hall towards the front door.
“ You are such a stupid child. What is there not to get? I want you out!” he growled as he went towards the front door.
Tripping, Taryn fell and was yanked over the floor. Her shirt was now amazingly tight around her throat, and she clawed at her neck trying to breath. Lorianne scrabbled from her chair and tried to lift taryn up so she wouldn’t suffocate.
Finally, Tom stopped. Lorianne helped taryn to her feet and dusted her off. Digging into her large apron pockets, she drew out a silver chain with a gold locket at the end. Placing it around Taryn’s neck, she drew in her step-daughter close to her. Burying her head into Taryn’s shoulder, she wept for a moment before letting go of her reluctantly. Drawing her to arm’s length, she pushed aside Taryn’s long hair behind her ears.
“ Your mother would have wanted you to have this,” she whispered. “ Remember Gwendoline.”
Tom had had enough of it and shoved the two apart. Pushing Taryn out the door, he pointed towards the road.
“ Get out of my sight, Taryn,” he growled as if her name were filthy.
Taryn stared at her father with hatred. The color rose to her face as she filled with anger. Gripping her bag in her hand, her piercing gray eyes looked straight through him.
“ Its Gwen to you,” she replied coldly for under no circumstances was she going to let some person like him address her in such a disgusted way.
“ Quiet,” he snarled. “ Leave now and take that dirty creature with you. We haven’t the kind of time to raise livestock” He pointed towards the stable.
Taryn stood stiff in the doorway. Taking a step back, she clutched the duffel bag to her chest. Looking over what used to be her home, she turned away disgusted. Her legs pumped beneath her as she fled to the barn for Annie as her step-mother’s voice trailed behind her.
“ Don’t forget us…Gwen…”
Taryn got up slowly. Shouldering her bag, which held her belongings, she clipped a lead rope onto Annie’s halter. She was just about to close the stable door behind her when she turned and glimpsed the trailer connected to the trick beside the stable. Quickly, she led Annie back into the stable and secured her in between the cross ties. Running into the tack room, she grabbed Annie’s bridle and saddle and slung the girth and saddle on over her shoulders. Stumbling out, she tossed them into the passenger seat of the truck. Dashing back in, she unclipped Annie from the ties and led her outside into the trailer. Giving the Appaloosa a reassuring pat on the nose, Taryn made sure there was hay for her to eat before she closed the door behind her.
Making one last check of the barn to make sure she hadn’t forgotten anything, she spotted her riding boots and helmet lying in the corner of the tack room. Sadly, she picked them up before heading back out to the truck, leaving a whole stable-full of childish memories. Placing them beside her, she hopped into the driver’s seat. Closing the car door, she turned around just to make sure that Annie was there. Annie stood quietly inside the trailer. Her ears were pricked out to the side as she stared through the little glass window. Pieces of hay stuck out the sides of her mouth as she chewed contently.
Exhaling, Taryn placed her hands on the steering wheel. Thanks to her father’s forgetfulness, and not to mention stupidity, he had left the keys in the car. Holding her backpack close to her, she turned the key; the truck rumbled to life.
As the truck putted down the driveway, with Tom cursing from the front door, and Lori waving her hand meekly, Taryn’s eyes never left the long stretch of continuous road.