I groaned at the sound of my alarm. It felt like I had just fallen asleep and yet, here I was getting ready at 5 AM. I threw the blankets off me and stretched as I stood up. I stumbled to my closet where I picked out a pair of ripped jeans and my favorite plain green sleeveless hoodie. I tied on my work boots, making sure to stuff my black and white converses in my backpack, just in case I ran a little late. I brushed my hair out then pulled it up into a ponytail. I grabbed my bag, walked out of my room and made my way downstairs. I threw my bag at the front door and hurried into the kitchen to make breakfast.
"Hey, Mama," I greeted, taking a seat at the large rectangular table.
"Hey, baby. I'm making breakfast this morning. How's waffles sound?" she asked as she whipped up the batter at the kitchen counter.
"Good. Can I get chocolate chips in 'em?"I asked hopefully.
Mama playfully rolled her eyes. "You always want chocolate chips. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were addicted. But who am I to deny my baby what she wants?"
"Thanks, Ma, you're the best," I grinned cheekily. I got up and kissed her on the cheek before heading over to the back door. "I'll be back. Gotta go feed the chickens and take Atticus out for a ride."
"Be careful," Mama warned. "It's still dark out so just make sure you're safe when you ride."
"I will, I will," I waved her off as I exited the house.
I jogged across the expansive yard to the horse stables, hurrying to see my favorite gray and white horse.
"Atticus! Wanna go for a ride, buddy?" I asked him as I got his saddle down off the wall and secured it on him.
Atticus had been my one and only wish when I was five years old. I had dreamed of having my very own horse ever since daddy and Beau had brought one home the year before. Well, my wish came true that Christmas and Atticus became my best friend on the farm. Every week, I take him out for a ride at least once before school.
I grabbed hold of Atticus' rein and led him out of his stall. I hopped up on him, securing my feet in the stirrups, and clucked to get him going. We set out at a slow trot, enjoying the scenery of the woods which surrounded the far end of the farm. We stopped in front of the chicken coops where I stopped and made sure their food and water was filled up. Then we moved on to the pig pen where I checked on the piglets and continued on to the cows.
"Come here, now, Buttercup. That's it," I coaxed her over to the fence. "Well, old girl, looks like you're gonna have them calves any day now. Gotta let Daddy know, just in case, huh, big girl?" I gave her a bit of extra hay as a treat then got back on Atticus.
"C'mon old boy," I sighed. "Time to go eat breakfast and get on to school."
I rode him back to the stable and took off his saddle. I gave him some water and checked on the other two horses, Coal, an all black female, and Oasis, a yellowish tan male. I gave them more hay and went back to the house, bidding them good bye.
I entered the kitchen and immediately went to wash my hands.
"Mornin', my darlin's," Dad said as he entered the kitchen.
"Oh, hey, Daddy," I sat down at the table as Ma set a plate of waffles in front of me and offered a greeting of her own. "I went out and checked on the horses. They're all fine. Atticus and I fed the chickens and checked on the piglets. Paid Buttercup a visit, too. She's gonna have 'em any day now, you gotta keep an eye on her. I left you the goats, though. You said you and Beau were taking care of the vaccinations this weekend, right?"
"Yeah," he nodded. "Me and Beau'll take care of it. Dr. Stanton is out of town but I heard from Billy that the father of the new family is a vet though so maybe he can come help out."
"Mm," I said through a mouth full of food. "Maybe I'll see the girl today and ask her for help. Shouldn't be too hard. Anyway," I swallowed thickly. I gotta be off. Hailey's takin' me to school 'cause ol' Lukey broke down again."
"You and that truck. I told you we'd buy you a newer one," Dad sighed.
"Nu-uh," I protested as I put my dishes in the sink. "I know we don't have the money for it. 'Sides, Beau is a free mechanic. He loves fixin' him up. Stop talking about it." I ran over and hugged both my parents and ran out the front door, grabbing my bag on the way. I checked my phone for the time. 6:55. I gotta haul ass or Hailey will be upset that we're late, like yesterday. She has to be there before 7:15 so she can do drama club stuff. I sprinted down the street, my phone shoved back into my bag. I approached Hailey's driveway, and, seeing that no one was outside, walked into the house.
"Hello?" I called.
"Ash? Hailey's not coming to school, she's got a fever and is throwing up. You're welcome to take her car, though," Mrs. Jones explained from the kitchen. I walked in there and grabbed the keys from the bowl on the counter.
"Thanks, ma'am. And tell Hailey I hope she feels better."
"No problem, dear! You don't have to call me ma'am, you know?"
"I know, Ashley, but it's more respectful," I winked at her as she laughed and said farewell. I hopped into Hailey's car and drove the 10 minutes to school. I finally made it there, early for once in my life, managing to switch shoes and get all my proper books ready before the late bell. In fact, I was so early that I had time to just chill out and listen to music on my phone before homeroom started.
I zoned out, jamming to All Time Low in my own little world before being startled out of it by someone tapping me on the shoulder.
"Oh, sorry, Ms. Lincoln," the vice principal laughed. "I didn't mean to scare you."
"That's all right, ma'am. Just wasn't expecting it." I pulled out my headphones and turned my attention to the blonde girl stood next to her. She was wearing a gray t-shirt and a pair of black jeans. Her blue eyes were surrounded by round black glasses and her black hair was pulled back in a long braid. She had a lip ring and a nose ring. She's beautiful. Part of me already is crushing on her. Mrs. Sanchez followed my gaze.
"My apologies, Ash. This is Mae-Ellen Proctor. She just moved in and I was hoping you could show her around for a few days. Help her get settled, you know?"
"Of course, Mrs. Sanchez. I'd be delighted to help out," I said politely.
"Great," she beamed. "Mae-Ellen, Ash Lincoln is our brightest student and a great role model. You'll get along just fine. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have business to take care of elsewhere."
Mrs. Sanchez left the now full room which meant the other kids could now avidly stare at Mae-Ellen.
"Hiya," I began. "I'm Ash. Can I see your schedule?"
"Sure," she handed it over. "And, uh, you can just call me Mae."
I nodded in acknowledgement.
"Hey, we have the same exact schedule. That means you're stuck with me all the time," I smiled and handed back the paper.
"Cool," Mae said awkwardly. Then the bell rang.
I gestured to Mae to follow me to our first class, which went by super quickly. Even the classes that would have dragged on without Hailey didn't seem so bad. All day I helped her out, discovering her personality and quirks. She's very witty once she got over her initial shyness. We have a lot of the same music tastes, too. We ate lunch together and grew fairly close. I learned a lot about Mae, like the fact that she's an only child, she's practically drowning in money because her mom is a world famous fashion designer and her dad's a brilliant vet, her favorite color is purple and she got her piercings at the age of 15. She's also some kind of soccer superstar. At the end of the day, she followed me out to Hailey's car.
"Wow," she sighed. "Today was pretty overwhelming. Especially the classwork."
"Well, I can help you catch up with classwork, if you want," I offered.
"Thanks. I'd appreciate the help. Could you, uh, help me out now?"
I shook my head. "No can do. Gotta help out on the farm, especially since the vet is out and our cow may give birth any day now. Maybe this weekend, though. My brother will be home to help out so I'll be more free."
"Hey, why don't I give you my number? That way you can call me and my dad for help whenever your cow goes into labor."
"Hey, thanks, that means a lot," I said as she wrote her number in my phone.
"See you later?"
"Yeah, see you later." I waved goodbye as she walked to her own car.
What we didn't know was that later meant in the middle of the night.