Justin helped me unpack the van that night and the extra room at my father’s house, which happened to be right across the street from Gate 8. 12 South Ranch Road was a large home with white brick exterior and a wrap around driveway. Inside, there were five bedrooms, from what Rick said. He had moved Justin into another room and made the second master bedroom mine. The walls had been painted white for my arrival and the bed had no sheets. He told me to make it my own, but he didn’t know I didn’t want it. I wanted my room in Montana back. I wanted the Montana landscape, not the California atmosphere. After the van was unpacked and I told the boys that I wanted to shower and sleep, they left me on my own. I fell onto the bare bed and looked at the bare ceiling. This was seemingly never going to feel like a home. I fell asleep in my clothes and didn’t awake until the sun broke through the window the next morning.
I showered, prepped for my day by dressing in a pair of riding breeches, riding boots, a bright green polo, and putting my blond hair into a messy bun, then went to find Rick and Justin.
“Hello?” I walked into the kitchen, but my voice merely echoed throughout the house. No one was home. I searched the kitchen for something to eat. The refrigerator was nearly empty, except for an apple, a gallon of milk, and a bottle of wine. Rick must have eaten out a lot. I searched the cabinets to find a box of Cheerios. I grabbed the box and the gallon of milk from the refrigerator and poured me a bowl of cereal.
I placed my bowl in the sink before exiting the house, locking the deadlock. Rick had left me a note and a key. “I am at the track. Come find me when you wake up.” I walked down South Ranch Road and headed for South Baldwin Avenue. I was hoping Rick would let me ride today. After a short walk, I found Rick looking over a large chestnut with four white legs and a white face. The horse had to be sixteen hands, at least. I watched as Rick felt the horse’s legs. He finally finished and had the groom put the horse back in its stall.
“Kelly! Did you sleep well?” Rick smiled and walked up to me.
“Not bad. I need to get some stuff from the store eventually.” I looked down at my boots.
“Just let me know and I’ll get it for you, as long as it isn’t outrageous. What are you going to get into today?” He turned to walk toward the barn and I followed.
“Well, actually I was hoping I could get Bumble out of his stall and stretch his legs. He’s pretty stiff from the two day haul and then getting put right into a stall.” I hoped he would say yes.
“I don’t have anywhere for you to ride him, Kelly.” His face showed some disappointment.
“Justin mentioned a training track? Or maybe just around the barns?” I needed to ride.
“I don’t want you riding on the training track until training is done, but I guess that is a solution. Have Justin take you over later this afternoon.” He stopped at Bumble’s stall. “What kind of horse is he anyway?” Bumble walked over to the door and smelled Rick.
“He’s an Irish Sport Horse. Mom bought him for me when I turned fifteen. He took me to nationals last year.” I patted the side of his head and smiled.
“She mentioned you got into endurance and such. That is really awesome. So you can ride really well, correct?”
“Yeah, I am pretty good. Why?”
“Well, school doesn’t start for another two months, and I need an early morning exercise rider. I could pay you, which would help you save up some money. Have you ever ridden a thoroughbred?”
“No. I hadn’t even seen a thoroughbred until yesterday.” I looked at my boots again.
“Would you want to give it a try? I’m sure you would do fine.”
“Can I think about it? I don’t know the first thing about exercising racehorses and all I have ever ridden is already trained eventers.” I looked at Bumble and smiled again. He was my best friend. It killed me that he was all cooped up.
“Yeah, sure. You want to go home and unpack? If not, you can hang out around here. Justin could help you around the barn and show you the ropes.” Rick smiled.
“Okay. This week, can we, or I, go get some stuff for the house and room? I don’t have bed sheets, towels, and some other small stuff.”
Rick nodded and pulled out his wallet. He handed me his American Express. I reluctantly took it from him.
“Go get whatever you need honey.” I smiled and hugged him. He hugged me back before backing away.
“See you tonight?” I nodded and ran off.
I went to the house to get the van and off I went. I found a hardware store. I bought a gallon of baby blue paint for the walls of my room and some wall hooks for pictures, shelves, and ribbons. Then, I found a home goods store. I bought a full bed set. The colors were brown and baby blue, all in a nice floral patter, which would match my soon to be painted walls. I also found some towels to stock my bathroom with. I picked up some other personal goods, such as soap, a toothbrush, and some shampoo. Maybe I could make the house into almost a home, but Montana was still at the forefront of my mind.