I woke up the next morning to Rick knocking on my door. I sat up and rubbed my eyes.
“Kelly, I just got a reminder that I need to get you enrolled for the school year. You’re going to be a senior, right?” Rick seemed clueless.
“Uh, yeah.” I was dead tired for some reason.
“Well, get dressed. I have Justin doing morning workouts so we can get you all set.” He closed the door as he walked out of the room.
I crawled out of bed, threw on my old pair of jeans, my old shoes, and the shirt I painted in the other day. I felt like a bum, but I didn’t want to look snobby in all my riding gear for a new school. Even thought it was Arcadia and everyone in California is supposedly rich, I didn’t want to come off that way. Rick drove us through town and eventually, we pulled into a large brick building that read Arcadia High School. We walked into the lobby and turned directly to the right for the office.
“Hello, can I help you?” The old woman was cheery.
“I’m here to get my daughter enrolled for her senior year. She just moved here from Montana.” Rick glanced over at me. I smiled at the woman.
“Oh, yeah. Kelly Mitchell, correct?” She stood up and walked over to the filing cabinet.
“Yes ma’am.” I answered kindly. I was a straight A student in Montana and had taken extra classes, hoping I could graduate early.
“I just got your transcripts this morning. You were a fine student in Montana, I see.” She shuffled through some papers. “Now, Mr. Mitchell, I need all of these filled out.” She handed my father a very thick stack of papers. He grunted and sat down in one of the empty chairs that surely were for kids who were sent to the office for misbehavior. I sat with him and answered some of the questions he needed to answer. The paperwork took forever, but we finally got it finished.
“Okay, thank you. Kelly, you can pick your schedule up anytime during the week before school begins. When you come pick up your schedule, the school will be open for you to walk around and find your classes and your locker. We start school at 8:00 every morning and dismiss at 3:15 every afternoon.” The woman smiled as she informed me.
“Okay, that is fine. Thank you.” I took the little information packet she had laid on the counter.
“We start school August 20th. I will see you then! Have a great day, the both of you.” She waved us off and resumed her task. We went back out to the truck and I was quiet for most of the ride home.
“Rick.” I looked over at him.
“Yes?” He didn’t take his eyes off the road.
“I don’t have anything I am going to need for school. A bag, clothes, supplies, and all the good stuff stayed at my mom’s or I just don’t have it.” I hated asking him for things.
“You have my card. Go get what you need. You don’t have to ask.” He looked over and smiled. I returned the gesture and looked back out my window. I hated shopping. Rick pulled up to the house and dropped me off.
“Have a good day. There is food in the kitchen to make for dinner, if you feel up to it.” He smiled. He was trying to be a dad, but he wasn’t very good at it, which was not his fault. I knew he didn’t leave because of me seventeen years ago. I closed the truck door and walked into the house to get the keys to my van. I hated having a van, but it was useful for when I was showing Bumble. Maybe I could save up and get a new car once I started working for Rick or somewhere in town. I headed back to Nordstrom Rack and the mall in Arcadia. I found a lot of clothes, which I readily purchased. I wanted to fit in here, which was strange to me. I didn’t want to move here and now I was trying to fit in. After hours of shopping, I headed back to start dinner for Rick and Justin. I unloaded the van and realized that the two were already home, but there was also an unwelcome car. May was here.
“Kelly!” May was so excited to see me. Sadly for her, my feelings were not mutual. Rick looked up and forced a smile. I just continued to my room to unpack the multitude of bags. Knock Knock.
“Come in.” I glanced over my shoulder to see Justin standing there.
“Hey. How did your day go without my dad?” I turned my attention back to filling my closet with the new clothes.
“Good. The chestnut colt got out for his first jog since the race. Everyone else had their routine works. Your dad’s star, Penny Pincher, shipped to Churchill Downs this morning.” I turned to look at him.
“That’s the horse everyone was buzzing about when I got here, right?” Justin nodded and looked at the bags on the floor.
“Is he running in the Kentucky Derby?”
“No, another race, but your dad leaves tomorrow.” My eyes shot up. Leaving? I just got here!
“I didn’t know that. Are you going with him? How long is he going to be gone?” How could he leave me less than a week after I get here?
“Oh.” Justin sat quietly for a while as I put my clothes away.
“So, listen. Rick is taking May out to dinner since he is leaving tomorrow. Do you want to stay here and I can cook us dinner or would you like to accompany me to a nice dinner?” Justin’s smile reemerged.
“Like a date?” I smiled as I hung up a dress I had gotten at Nordstrom Rack.
“If you want to call if that.” Justin smirked and looked at the black skinny jeans on the bed.
“Yeah, sure. I’ll get ready.” He stood up and started for the door.
“Half hour, be ready.” He tried to be stern, but I could hear the excitement in his voice. I wondered if Rick knew that Justin had a thing for me. I got dressed in the black skinny jeans that Justin had been eying, and a sheer floral blouse that required me to wear a white camisole underneath. I slipped on some black open toed heels and ventured into the bathroom to apply some makeup. I went with the smoky eye look and glittery pink lip-gloss. I put some mousse into my blonde waves and let them fall naturally. My hair was down to the middle of my back and it was time for a haircut. I gave myself the once over and ventured into the foyer with my clutch in my hand. Justin was sitting in the kitchen, ready for dinner. He was eating some potato chips that Rick must have picked up.
“Are you hungry?” I giggled and noticed that he froze. He was looking me up and down. It felt good, actually, to be looked at by a man. I had never had this experience before. This was my first date. He quickly packed away the chips and straightened his shirt out. He was wearing a steel grey button up, a white tie, and some very nice blue jeans. We were dress casual and we looked good.
“Yeah, are you?” He opened the door for me as grabbed his truck keys.
“Yes I am. Where are you taking me?” I climbed into the truck and looked at him as he did the same.
“You’ll see.” He winked and brought the truck’s engine to life. I was excited, hoping that this night would be amazing. We didn’t have to go very far. Justin pulled into the mall right behind Santa Anita. He circled until he parked right in front of the entrance of Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill.
“Barbeque?” I looked at him, surprised
“Yeah, you’ll love it. Come on.” Justin hopped out of the truck and met me at the front of the truck before offering his elbow for escort. I slipped my hand around and rested it onto his forearm as we walked up to the building entrance. Entering the mall, we quickly found the restaurant and were seated. The restaurant was gorgeous will exposed brick and wood, with a very western theme. The booths were a crème brown and soft. We got situated and ordered our drinks.
“Nice, right?” Justin smiled.
“Right.” I chuckled and looked at the menu.
“So your dad told me that while I am overseeing the Santa Anita string of horses, to have you start working horses. You were supposed to work today, but the whole school thing came up.” Justin glanced up from his menu, as did I.
“Uhh, yeah. He saw me gallop Bumble once you left, and told me I had to start working horses. I can’t do it with short stirrups though. Regular or medium length is good, but the short ones, I can’t safely balance that way.” I had hesitation in my voice. I wanted to ride, but not like Justin wanted me to.
“Fine with me. I trust you. I’ll have you work with some more experienced horses first and then we’ll work our way down to the babies. Is that okay with you?”
“Yeah, I’d like that. Thank you for understanding.” I touched his hand and smiled. He was really very sweet. The rest of the night, all we did was talk about horses and races and I asked him about the racing form I had tried reading. I asked him about all sorts of subjects in racing. Dinner went fast and I never wanted it to end, but it did, and we ventured home at eleven. He escorted me up the walkway and stopped at the door.
“Will I see you again ma’am?” His southern accent seemed more potent. It was kind of sexy.
“I think we can arrange that.” I smiled and looked up at him. He slipped his hands down and into mine. I looked down, smiled, and then reconnected with his eyes. He started to lean down but I suddenly looked away.
“Umm, it’s late. We better get in. We have to be at the track early.” I left him standing there as I rushed to my room. I closed the door and leaned against it, letting out a sigh. Why had I freaked out? I liked Justin. I beat myself up the rest of the night and had trouble getting to sleep. Tomorrow was going to be a long day.