“Stella, you didn’t have to.” I laugh, climbing down from my tractor and using my shirt to wipe some sweat off my face while she unpacks my lunch. It’s been a week since the 4th, and every day has been wonderful.
“You say that every day, but you never take your own lunch, so I obviously have to keep bringing it to you.” She giggles, and walks straight into my arms, planting her lips on mine.
“You spoiled my evil plan.” I grin, wrapping my arms around her waist and spinning her around.
“Just shut up and kiss me some more.” Stella growls playfully at me before grabbing my cheeks and planting another one on me.
I spin her around again before putting back down so I can eat the two turkey and cheese sandwiches she brought. We sit on the blanket and I let her tell me how apartment shopping with Gemma went this last week. They took a couple of days and her parents and went to Savannah to look for the place where they’re going to live for the next four years. Apparently they found a nice two-bedroom apartment that was relatively affordable, and are moving in at the beginning of August. This leads to Stella getting on the topic of her artwork, and I could listen and watch her talk about it all day long. She’s so passionate about the clay she works with, and I’d love to see her work sometime, but unfortunately the equipment she needs is too expensive for her dad to afford.
“You’ll have to see this place, Beau, it’s the perfect place.” She sighs, leaning into my chest as she twists her fingers around mine, studying them.
“I’m sure it is.” I smile, pressing my lips into her hair. “And I can’t wait to see it.”
“We move in in less than three weeks, Beau. That’s all we have left of summer.” She turns her head to press her temple into the tattooed part of my chest that she has an obsession with, and I circle my arms around her, holding her close.
“Then we’ll make the best of the time we have together, right?” I ask, forcing her to look at me.
“We absolutely will.” She promises before puckering her lips, asking for a kiss. I chuckle at her as I lean down and kiss her for a few seconds before standing up, hauling her with me.
“As much as I’d love to sit here in the grass with you, I think you probably need to start packing, and I need to finish mowing this pasture. I’ll see you at the house tonight.” I tell her, pulling her waist to my hips and kissing her passionately once more time before she heads back to the Jeep that she brought to meet me today.
After watching her leave, I finally climb back up in the tractor, thankful that it’s only in the low 90s this week thanks to the storms at the beginning of the week and not over 100 like last. I should be done with this pasture in a few more hours, so I put my headphones on and turn up my music while I continue driving the straight paths. About the time I’m stopping for a water/pee break, I feel my phone vibrating in my pocket so I pull it out, not expecting Stella’s name to be dancing across my screen.
“Hey pretty lady.” I answer with a smile, surprised she’s calling, but glad she is. I know as soon as she starts talking though that something is wrong.
“Lucy’s having contractions but she’s almost a month early and she’s struggling and she’s never had problems like this and I don’t know where Dad is and I don’t know what to do for her, Beau. She’s down in her stall sweating like crazy and she’s really struggling. I need your help.” She rambles, and I can hear the tears and fear in her voice.
“Stella, Stella, breathe. Everything is going to be okay.” I try talking to her in a calm voice as I unhook the tractor from the swather because I know I’ll be able to drive faster without it. “I’m on my way, I’ll be there as fast as this tractor can go. In the meantime, go get some hot water and some towels. And call your dad. He should be around here somewhere. Lucy’s a good horse. She’ll take care of herself, I promise.”
I may be confident on the outside, but I’ve seen this before. One of my grandpa’s older mares had this happen once during a pregnancy. She’d foaled many times before, but that foal was stillborn. It takes me twenty minutes of having the tractor at top speed to make it back to the barn where Stella is kneeling by Lucy’s head.
“Hey, I’m here.” I call, letting myself into the stall and kneeling beside her, checking the horse’s stomach.
“I was cleaning the tackroom when I heard her go down. I tried to get her to stand up but she won’t and she won’t even pick her head up now. I called the vet and he should be here soon, but I couldn’t get ahold of Dad. I don’t know where he could possibly be.” Stella continues to babble like she was on the phone, and I pull her to me, trying to wipe her tears away.
“Come on, Lucy. You gotta keep fighting, girl.” I stroke the mare’s heaving side, feeling a contraction under my fingertips, but Stella was right. “The foal may be breeched.”
Outside the barn, I hear a vehicle pull up, and I assume it’s the vet. Stella disappears from the stall, only to reappear with an older man, who immediately starts assessing the situation. “How long has she been like this?”
“About half an hour.” Stella answer, wiping tears off her face.
“She shouldn’t already be this worn out. How old is the mare and how many times has she foaled before?” He asks, his face clouding with concern.
“She’s 15 I think. I know she’s had 5 foals while we’ve had her, but we didn’t raise her.” Stella answers, still rubbing the mare’s neck while the vet reaches in to check the foal.
“Okay, well I feel two hooves, but no head, which means I’m going to have to try and reach its mouth to turn its head.” The vet says, and I feel totally helpless in here so I go and try to call John again. Yeah, I’ve finally gotten used to calling him by his first name after he corrected me every time I said Mr. Hawkley for the last week. I’m surprised when he picks up, considering he didn’t for Stella, and I quickly relay the news to him. Apparently he’d been in town at the feed store – the local gossip central – and hadn’t heard his phone ringing the other times. He promises he’ll be here soon, so I head back in and tell Stella.
“Any luck yet?” I ask the vet, worried that if it takes too much longer Lucy won’t have any strength left to push the little monster out.
“I can’t seem to find the mouth.” The vet grunts, before his eyes light up. “Got it! Now, I just have to get the head turned, and pray that this mare still has a few pushes left in her.”
“What can we do?” Stella asks, and the vet glances at her.
“Exactly what you are doing. Keep her calm and it’ll be better for everyone.”
It takes him a while to actually turn the head around because it’s a slow process, and by the time he’s trying to help Lucy with her pushes, John is running into the barn. “I am so sorry I wasn’t here, Larry.” John gushes, letting himself into the stall.
“Don’t worry, John. I have it all under control. It’s just up to the mare now. Can I speak to you outside though?” Larry, the vet, asks, and John nods and heads outside with him. I fall back into the hay and press my back into the stall, completely worried about this foal. This is exactly what happened to the mare my grandpa had. Stella crawls over and hugs me while tears are still leaking out of her eyes, and I rub her shoulder trying to soothe her. I don’t know the right words though, so I just let my fingers speak.
“Has she shown any signs of pushing?” Larry asks, coming back in a few minutes later.
“No but there was a contraction.” I answer, not sure if Stella noticed or not.
“Looks like we’re going to have to help her. I’m going to need a hand, boy.”
“Yes’ir, just tell me what you need me to do.” I say, crawling towards him after Stella lets go.
“Okay, I’m going to reach in and grab his hooves, and as soon as you see them, I need you to help me pull. But we’re going to go with the contractions. Ready?” He asks, apparently having a grasp of the foal’s hooves. I nod, and when the next contraction happens, he pulls.
“Come on Lucy, baby. We need your help.” I try to talk to the mare, but Stella’s cradling her head in her lap. During the next contraction Larry pulls the majority of the front hooves out, and I grab hold and pull as hard as I can when Larry tells me to.
Two contractions later and there is a stillborn foal lying in the middle of the stall. Stella gasps and covers her eyes, tears freely falling as soon as she sees the little guy. Lucy lifts her head finally and tries, but fails, to stand up, and John brings in an old blanket to cover the foal with. “There’s a newborn up across the South Carolina border that lost its mother this morning. The owner is willing to give him to us as long as we come get it. I told him I’d be there as soon as I can.” John says, and Stella gasps at him.
“Why?” She asks, coming and wrapping her arms around me and pressing her forehead into my chest while she cries.
“Because Lucy should still be a fit mother, and if we get the two of them introduced soon enough, Lucy could raise the orphan in place of this one.” John explains, and I pull Stella out of the stall so she stops looking at the blanket.
“But it’s almost dark, and it’s a long way up to the border.” Stella argues, watching Lucy try to stand up again. This time she makes it to her feet, and moves over to sniff the blanket before trying to move it with her nose.
“Honey, it’s what I need to do. I’ll be back in the morning.” John sighs, heading to his truck.
Larry gives us instructions for Lucy before he leaves, and Stella sits on a hay bale outside of Lucy’s stall while I bring in all of the other horses from the paddock for the night. No way am I going back to finish the hay now, and when I have all the horses in and fed and hay nets stuffed, I pull Stella to her feet.
“Poor Lucy.” She sighs, sniffling and wiping away some more tears, but I think they were the last.
“I couldn’t imagine losing a child.” I whisper, pulling her close to me and walking past Lucy’s stall as I lead Stella inside and proceed to make her dinner. The only thing that seems to be in the works for me is spaghetti, so I grab the box and a pot and put the water on to boil. Stella tries to take over for me several times throughout the process of me making supper, but she eventually gives up and resorts to shouting directions at me.
“You know, making spaghetti is as easy as following the directions on the box. I don’t need you telling me how to cook, missy.” I grin, pulling her to me while I’m waiting for the noodles to cook.
“Could’ve fooled me.” She smiles, leaning in for a kiss that quickly turns heated enough for her to end up on the kitchen counter without her tank top on, at least until the timer interrupts us.
“Bon apetitê.” I grin in triumph as I hand her a plate of perfect spaghetti.
“I’m impressed.” She answers, before grabbing a fork and spinning some around and trying it. “I’m even more impressed. This is good.”
“I can’t believe you doubted me.” I feign hurt, watching her eyes smile, despite the traumatic event that took place an hour ago. I’m going to do my best to distract her tonight, because I don’t want her getting sad about the foal.
“Hey, listen. So I’ve been thinking a lot lately, and I think I’m ready. I was going to tell you when I got home yesterday, but I never had a good enough time to tell you, but we’re alone now.” Stella surprises me after she finishes her supper.
“Ready, as in, ready to have sex with me?” I ask, raising my eyebrow. I’ve never had a girl be so up front about it. Usually they just kiss me and try to lead me to the bedroom or couch, whichever’s closest, but then again I’ve never met a girl like this one.
She nods, and I grab her hands, looking at her face, trying to read her emotions. “I was actually ready that first day, but I wanted this to be different. I think what we have is special and I didn’t want to ruin that.”
“What we have IS special, Stel.” I smile, and pull her towards me, kissing her long and hard.
“I know, and I think us together like that would be even better.” She smiles into my kiss, running her fingers down my chest until they settle around the button of my jeans. I don’t let her get any farther before I bend down and pick her up, maneuvering my way to her bedroom where I kick the door closed behind me and we land on her bed in our fight to get each other’s clothes off.
“Stella, are you SURE about this?” I ask, reaching for my wallet that was in the back pocket of my jeans that has a condom stashed in it like it has since high school. Of course not the same condom, though.
“I’ve never been more sure about anything.” She replies, her eyes closed and her chest heaving while it’s trying to catch its breath. She’s so beautiful I could just look at her all night long, but unfortunately my hormones are going crazy too. I roll the condom on before we go all the way.
“Damn.” Stella gasps, sprawling across my chest while our chests both heave.
“That was the best sex I’ve ever had, Stel.” I breathe, closing my eyes and focusing on running my fingers down her spine while trying to control my breathing.
“That was insane. I’ve never been with someone who lasted so long.” She sighs, and I cringe as I think about some other guy doing with her what we just did.
“You held your own, my dear.” I answer, warning my friend that he’d better not stand up again because I’m pretty sure Stella’s had enough for one night. Plus, I don’t have another condom with me, and I’ve already discarded the other one. After I have my breathing under control, I sit up in her bed and locate my boxers that are lying halfway across the floor with her bra and thong she was wearing under her shorts. I go retrieve the items, pulling my briefs back on before handing Stella her bra that she tosses to her closet and thong that she tugs back on. “You don’t want to put it on?”
“I don’t sleep in bras unless I don’t have a choice. I’m pretty sure I have a choice tonight.” She grins, pulling me back down into her sheets. “Please stay.” She mumbles, softly digging her fingers into my back as she clings to me.
“I’m not going anywhere.” I promise her, untangling my feet from her sheets so I can pull them over us. “Goodnight, Stella.”
“Goodnight, Beau.” She murmurs, pressing her lips into the skin on my chest where she’s resting her head.
Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep before she does, so I settle with watching her eyelashes and lips flutter while she’s slowly drifting off to sleep. I stare at the blue ceiling above us while I continue to draw soft circles into the silky skin of her shoulder, thinking about everything between us. Hell, if she didn’t have her entire life ahead of her, I’d probably ask this girl to marry me tomorrow. But I want her to be able to experience life, college – even though she’s not going to a normal college and probably won’t have a normal experience – new friends, new adventures, but I want to be there beside her while she’s exploring life. I want to be the guy that she talks to her friends about, but comes home to at night. I want her to know she can trust me with any secret, that I’ll be here when she needs a shoulder to cry on. I also want a lot more of what happened in her bed tonight, but that’s just a personal preference. Eventually my eyes drift closed, and I fall asleep to Stella’s rhythmic breathing, only to be awoken when I hear her dad’s truck pulling into the driveway around 5AM. I hurry to untangle myself from Stella’s sleeping body, and hurry to locate my jeans, quickly yanking them up and buttoning them so I can go meet John without him thinking I slept in Stella’s room. Before I leave the room, I pull the covers up to Stella’s shoulder, and slip out of the room, yawning as I walk to the kitchen and turn on the light as John walks through the door with bloodshot eyes.
“Did you get the newborn?” I ask, starting to brew a pot of coffee. I have a feeling that John needs to get some sleep, and that I’ll be stuck trying to pair the momma and baby.
“He’s sleeping in the backseat. I’ll go wake Stella and the two of you should really get started on pairing them up.” John yawns, and my mind quickly darts to Stella’s nearly naked body under the covers.
“No need, John. I’ll get her. You should probably catch a few hours of sleep.” I stop him before he reaches the hallway.
“Thanks, son.” He finally sighs, turning right into his bedroom and closing the door while I breathe out a sigh and head down to wake Stella up. I have a feeling she won’t want to miss this.
“Stella. Darling, your dad is home with the colt.” I sit on the edge of her bed and shake her shoulder until she stirs.
“Already?” She asks, rolling over, letting the covers slip.
“Come on, you have to be there when I try to pair them.” I try again, and this time she opens her eyes and looks at me.
“What time is it?”
“Almost 6. Now come on and get up. I’ll have us two cups of coffee ready when you’re dressed.” I smile, leaning down and kissing her forehead before standing up and heading back to the kitchen, ignoring the glare she’s sending while sitting up in bed.
I wait for her to come into the kitchen, and when she does she grabs the cup of coffee I’m holding, and heads straight for the truck. “Hi baby.” She coos to the little paint foal that’s curled up in the seat snoozing away. He lifts his head with his eyes wide when she touches his neck, and he shoots to his feet.
“Here, I’ll carry him. You go get Lucy awake.” I shoo her away from the truck, handing her my cup of coffee, and wrapping my arms around the colt’s legs, trapping him against my chest. He looks around the place with his ears perked forward, alert and ready to try to jump out of my arms at the first sign of trouble. Stella opens the stall door and I go grab the blanket that was tossed across the top of the still born foal, and rub it all over the new foal, giving him the scent Lucy wants. “This probably won’t work the first time.” I murmur to Stella as I release the foal and he starts sniffing around the stall. Lucy turns her head and looks at the stillborn, and I glance at it too, sorry that I’m going to have to be the one to move her.
“Please be careful.” Stella chokes when she sees what I’m doing. I wrap it back in the blanket and carry it outside. Hopefully we’ll bury it later this morning.
“Maybe now she’ll take to the new little guy easier.” I sigh, walking back into the barn and wrapping my arm around Stella’s waist.
“I hope so.” Stella sighs, wiping away tears with the hem of her t-shirt as we watch the foal sniff around the stall until he reaches Lucy. She sniffs him, before pinning her ears and baring her teeth at the poor little guy. “She doesn’t like him.”
“Give her some time.” I suggest softly, praying that Lucy will take to this little guy.
“She knows that he’s not hers and that hers is dead. She knows.” Stella cries, trying to go into the stall, but I pull her back.
“Babe, just wait.” I try to soothe her, standing behind her and wrapping my arms around her shoulders as I hold her close to my chest.
The little guy shies away from Lucy, and heads to the opposite side of the stall to continue to investigate his new surroundings on his gangly little legs. He sticks his nose in the bucket of water before yanking his head back because of the foreign object, causing him to topple backwards into Lucy’s legs. She spins around, again baring her teeth, and the little guy scrambles to his feet.
“How long do we have to wait before bottle feeding him the frozen colostrum we have in the freezer?” Stella sighs, gripping my forearm as she leans back into me.
“We’ll wait a few more hours. Maybe by then Lucy will let him nurse.” I sigh, and pull Stella down so she’s sitting on my lap on a hay bale.
“I don’t like waiting.” She groans, burying her forehead in my neck.
“You can go catch another hour of sleep up in the loft if you want to. I’ll stay here and keep my eye on these two, maybe try to help pair them a little.” I suggest, and Stella jumps on the idea before pressing her lips to mine and heading up the stairs. I sigh and stand up, leaning on my elbows over the stall wall so I can watch the mare and foal.