What Lies Beneath

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Second Impression

The sun shone through my window Tuesday morning as I forgot to close the blinds the day before. I looked at the clock; it was barely six in the morning. I rolled over and closed my eyes again, waiting until my alarm went off. I decided to get out of bed at 6:15am heading down in my night wear. My father was already down drinking his coffee. The windows and sliding doors were open as a light warm breeze came into the room. I kissed my father on the cheek before grabbing a muffin to eat.

“You are up even earlier than usual,” I smiled.

“I went to bed earlier last night.”

“Well, it looks like it is going to be another hot day.”

“What time did you say Jesse was supposed to be coming?” my father asked as I was about to head upstairs to change into my work clothes.

“7 a.m. He better not be late.”

“I don’t think he will be,” he said standing up and walking towards the window, “I think he may already be here, unless there is a stranger hanging around.”

I looked at the clock that hung on the wall, it was a quarter to seven, “He’s early. I will go change and then start showing him the ropes. You should go and introduce yourself.”

He nodded, “I will.”

Shortly after, I made my way over to see my father chatting away with Jesse. I smiled as I approached them; all I got was a nod. I let my father finish his sentence before leading Jesse towards the barn.

“So this is our barn, these are our ranch horses used for horseback riding lessons and trail rides on the weekends or in the evening.”

“Who’s in charge of the lessons?”

“I’ll introduce you to our other two stable hands after, they do that work.”

“What do you do?” he asked.

I sighed, “I will be helping you. There is another barn so there is plenty to do”

“Another barn?”

“There is another barn behind this one; those horses are those that we train, that belong to our clients.”

“How long has this ranch been around?”

I smiled enjoying the fact that he was curious about the ranch, “It has been in the family for five generations.”

“Wow, that’s a long time.”

I nodded, “Yes it is. Anyways if you come with me I will show you the equipment room.”

Without a word he followed me. We entered a room that was neatly organized; hay on one side, other food and remedies on the other side. The saddles, halters, blankets and ropes were all at the back of the room with the horses names on the chests.

I grabbed a book that lay on the desk in the middle of the room, “This is the most important thing for everyone who works here. This is the list of all the horses and a description of how much food they need to eat, any medical conditions they have, what they are here to be trained for, what type of horse they are, basically all the information you could possible think of.”

He simply nodded as I went on, “So before you feed the horses make sure you know how much you need to give them, you can measure it and put it in one of those pails with water. I have everything written down on the bulletin board just outside of this room in case you or anyone else forgets. So don’t worry if you do. So that is your first job every morning.”

I walked along the side of the room where there was a shelf of grooming supplies, “Here is everything you will need to groom the horses, I will show you how to do it shortly. This is where the saddles are, lead ropes, etc. You are going to need to learn how to saddle the horses, for trail rides, in case one of the stable hands needs your help with it. Here are the rakes you will use to clean out the dirty hay in the stalls, there is a wheelbarrow in the next room and you can dump everything in the back of the barn, there is a hole back there.”

I finally glanced at Jesse, “Do you have any questions?”

He shook his head.

I nodded, “Okay well, I will show you how to groom the horses.”

I grabbed the tools I would need and brought them into Snowflake’s stall. He snorted as I walked in and I laughed as I patted his neck, “Hey there, how are you today?”

Again Snowflake snored putting a smile on my face, “Yeah, I know I spoil you.”

“You talk to the horses?” Jesse asked.

I nodded, “You will too once you get used to the surroundings. Horses are great companions and friends.”

I could see a look of amusement cross his face, “I doubt that.”

I sighed, “Well, this is a special horse. He’s mine, his name is Snowflake.”

He nodded as he reached up and rubbed his side.

“Okay so first you use this brush, it’s called a curry comb, and it’s to rub off any dirt that’s stuck on their hair from being out in the field or going out on one of the trails. Don’t be afraid to apply pressure, they don’t feel much so just do it like this,” I showed him, “always brush left to right, have the comb in your right hand.”

I did one side and moved to his other side, “When you walk behind them, rub your hand along them so they know you are behind them. They cannot see what is directly behind them so it’s important that you tell them you are there so they do not randomly kick backwards. You wouldn’t want that, believe me, it hurts.”

“It’s happened to you?”

“Five times,” I said.

“I guess you didn’t tell them you were there.”

“Nope, so you can see why it’s important that you don’t forget. I was younger though and not as careful. Anyways, you could also talk to them, if they hear your voice they know you are there as well. Our horses are very trained so they do not usually act up but it is possible. If they do, usually they are in pain so if you see something odd, it’s important to come talk to me about it.”

“What does your dad do?”

I frowned, “He will be helping us but he does a lot of the paper work that needs to get done, he’s more involved in the business side of things.”

He nodded, “Okay, so what’s next?”

“You use this brush next, it mainly gets rid of any residue that you may have missed. The hooves come next; this is tricky, especially their back legs because of the way they bend. You have to bend over like this,” I said crouching down, “squeeze their ankle and they will lift it up for you, then you use this tool and dig the dirt stuck in the hoof. You move it in the shape of a V. You do not want to dig in the middle, which would be their foot and would hurt them.”

When I stood back up to look at him he nodded, “Do you want to try one?”

He grabbed the tool and mimicked my earlier actions. I was surprised at how well he did it for the first time. I smiled at him when he finished, “That was good.”

He nodded, “I told you I could learn fast.”

Again with the attitude, “I guess you did. You don’t seem the type to enjoy this type of work. What made you want to apply for it?”

“I needed to work, I saw the ad, and I figured I could give it a shot.”

I nodded, “What other work did you do before?”

“Mainly business related things, accounting and finance.”

“So you are completely changing fields, you can’t be happy about that? Did you get fired or something?”

“Does it matter?” he asked.

“No, I just like to know about the people who work for me.”

“It was my choice to leave, like I said, I like to travel.”

I nodded feeling as though there was something strange about Jesse, “Okay, we’re pretty much done with the grooming. You can go get the saddle, it has his name next to it, bring it here and I will show you how to do it.”

Moments later he showed up, “I wasn’t sure whether or not you needed this so I brought it.”

I nodded, “Yeah, we need that; the blanket goes beneath the saddle.”

Step by step I talked him through the process of putting the saddle on the horse. I also showed him how to properly dismantle it. I then watched as he did it. I occasionally reminded him of the next step, it wasn’t unusual for someone not to remember, it wasn’t easy but over time it gets to be second nature. I could saddle a horse with my eyes closed with the amount of times that I did it.

By the time we finished up it was already noon. I headed out with Jesse and spotted Mary carrying a basket of blankets into the equipment room washed and folded.

“Thank you,” I told her when she came out, “Mary, I would like you to meet Jesse.”

Mary shook his hand, “Welcome to the team, I hope you like it here.”

“I’m sure I will,” Jesse simply said.

“Where is Luca?” I asked.

“In the ring with Blackjack, I think he wants to start working with him today.”

I nodded as I brought Jesse towards the ring, “This is one of our training rings.”

“What are you training this one for?”

“Luca is training him to be a race horse.”

“That guy is going to race on him?”

“No, he’s just training it; Mary will be the one who actually tests him out, checks his speed and stuff like that.”

Luca walked over towards the gate, “You must be Jesse, pleasure to meet you.”

“Pleasure is mine.”

A while later my father came out with a basket of sandwiches, everyone took half an hour and ate on the picnic table near the house.

“So where are you staying?” Luca asked Jesse.

“I’m renting out a basement about ten minutes away.”

“The Brady’s place?” my father asked.

He nodded, “Yeah.”

“We know that family, we are good family friends. They are really sweet.”

He nodded, “That’s the impression I got.”

I still couldn’t help but feel as though there was something odd about the way Jesse behaved. There was something about our conversations, some points were interesting and I felt as though he would enjoy the work here but at other times he seemed really cold and I felt as if he couldn’t care less about the work he had to do.

“Thank you for lunch,” he stood up, “I think I will go start on another stall.”

I nodded and stood up, “Me too.”

“Oh Jesse, everyone is going to be staying for dinner Friday night, we like to have dinner together once a month, so we hope you can stay.”

He looked pensive but finally nodded, “Sure, that sounds great.”

We walked into the barn together, I went into one stall and Jesse went into the next. He had a couple questions he asked and I politely answered them. Throughout the day he had other work related questions and at 5:30pm he left.

Mary and Luca left shortly after. When I walked into the house a quarter after six, my father already had dinner on the table so immediately after I showered, we ate.

“How do you think it went today?” he asked.

I nodded, “I think it was okay. He seems a little weird to tell you the truth but I think he just needs to get used to it. He’s used to travelling and business stuff, makes me wonder what he’s doing here. I mean ranching is completely different than business.”

He shrugged his shoulders, “Well we will just try to make him feel comfortable and a part of the team. I am sure once he gets the swing of things he will be fine.”

I nodded, “I think so too. He did a good job though and he was a big help, I would have never gotten through all of the stalls on my own today. I will have a lot more time now.”

He nodded, “Well that gives you the chance to hang out with Sara, I haven’t seen her around for a while, you have been so busy lately.”

I nodded; Sara was my closest friend from high school. We usually got together once a week but lately there has been so much to do and I had to cancel on her for the past two weeks.

“I will call her tomorrow; maybe she will come by for a bit. Maybe we will go riding,” I said wanting to see my father’s reaction.

He nodded, “I think that is a nice idea. The weather looks good so you guys could go on a trail ride, just walk with the horses though, if it’s too hot they shouldn’t run.”

I was surprised that he agreed to it, but of course there was a condition, I could only walk with the horses.

I sighed, “Dad, we’re going for a trail ride, the horses are trained.”

“I know but you haven’t been riding for a while.”

“A year dad and I haven’t sooner because I know you don’t want me to.”

“I never told you that you can’t go riding.”

“You never encouraged me to get back on a horse either.”

What I really wanted to tell him was that I wanted to start training the horses again in my free time but clearly it was too soon. I would get him used to the idea of me riding the horses first.

“Honey, I only want what makes you happy. I think you should go riding tomorrow with Sara.”

I nodded as I began to clear the dishes. I wanted to start training again this summer, without training horses, I haven’t felt like myself. Training horses and riders was my passion, it was what I wanted, and it was what I was good at. I needed to work with different horses. I wanted to take Snowflake cantering through the fields. I wanted to ride bareback through the forest but I haven’t for a year. It was time my father accepted the fact that I missed it and wanted to get back into it. Slowly I would tell him.

After cleaning up I went to call Sara, she answered on the second ring, “Hi stranger.”

“I know, it’s been too long but I was wondering if you want to come by tomorrow, we could go for a ride.”

“A ride?”

I smiled, “Yeah, I know. I can’t not go riding anymore; my dad said it was fine. I think he’s fine with the idea if you come with me.”

“Yeah well of course I will come.”

“You can meet the new stable hand too.”

“So you found someone?”

“Yeah, he’s a little peculiar but I think it’s because it’s all new to him.”

I could hear Sara’s laughter on the other end, “Weird eh? I guess a little weird never hurt anyone, might even make your life more interesting.”

“Very funny.”

“It was a joke, so what time should I come by?”

“Maybe noon? That way I could help Jesse out with the stalls in the morning.”

“Sounds good, I will see you then. I can’t wait to see you; I have a lot to tell you.”

“More boy drama?” I asked.

“Of course!”

I laughed as I hung up the phone. Sara had the craziest boy stories; she kept me entertained at all times.

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