The air was crisp at four A.M. Smiling grimly, I briskly rubbed my hands together before bending, gripping the shovel and burying it in the pile of manure that stood high in the horse stables. Sadie Charlington was late. Only fifteen minutes, but still. Late is late. Matt wasn't very happy about it, but me? I was glad I wouldn't have to deal with her. I hate stress, and knowing some rich girl was trying to do honest farm work stressed me out. Expecially when it involved my uncle's house being rebuilt. Some of the guys had already started on it. My older cousins Matt, Tommy, Danny, Cooper and Owen, and my younger cousins Brice, Billy, Leon and Abel. And that was only those cousins working on the ranch. I have a huge family.
By the time I finished my morning chores (I had been up since three), it was a quarter past five. To while away the time, I'd started grooming one of my uncle's horses. I'd just moved the brush to its flank when a shiny red car drove up the lane. I watched in disapproval as Sadie emerged, wearing those big sunglasses again, and wearing-what the hell?-a skirt and blouse. What did she think she was going to? A party?
She didn't even acknowledge my existence as she strided past me, heading straight for Matt, who was currently busting his back lifting piles of feed out of his truck. She cleared her throat to let him know she was there, and he turned. The anger in his eyes made me let out a low whistle, which Sadie also ignored.
"You're late." Matt didn't say it as a question.
"Yeah," was all Sadie said in return.
I observed Matt's expression carefully. He didn't seem in danger of losing his temper. He only closed his eyes, briefly. When he opened them, he said, "Alright then. You'll stay late."
"What?" Sadie made a noise of disbelief, which I echoed. Did she think she wouldn't have consequences? She was almost two hours late! "How late?"
"How late you are." He glanced at the watch on his wrist. "Which is an hour and twenty minutes. You would've left at four. Now you'll stay until five twenty."
I saw her fists clench, and for one wild moment I wondered if she was going to hit Matt. Then she relaxed. Her voice was tight as she asked, "Where do I go now? Or, what do I do now?"
Matt gestured toward me. "Go to Luke. He's done with his chores, so he can babysit you for the day."
My mouth fell open. "What? I don't want her!"
Matt shot me a look that quieted me. "You were the one watching house when she crashed into it."
I dropped the grooming brush in indignance. "So what was I supposed to do, stop the car with my body?"
Matt glanced at me over his shoulder as he walked off in the direction of the pond. "Maybe."
I gritted my teeth and picked the brush up again. This time, I was the one to ignore Sadie as she came to my side. We both said nothing as I finished brushing the horse. Finally, while I was walking back to the barn with her shadowing behind me, I spun and exploded, "Are you just not going to do anything today?"
She looked at me with literally no emotion on her face. "You're the babysitter. You tell me."
I growled as I turned once more. I changed direction and headed for the chicken coop. When I pointed, Sadie only stared at me blankly. "What?"
"This is your first job from now on. When you drive over here, first place you go is here. I want you to collect all the eggs and bring them into the house."
"The house I crashed into?" she said in surprise.
"Yes. You only crashed into the living room. The kitchen works just fine. So every morning, take the eggs in there. It might take more than one trip. You should collect at least thirty."
Her nose wrinkled in distaste as she poked her head into the coop. "It smells."
"There's chicken shit in there, genius. Of course it stinks."
It took her almost thirty minutes to collect all the eggs. I'm not even kidding. Once, I even heard her squeal. Because she'd touched shit by accident or something. I don't know. Either way, it was pathetic. When she finally came out, her arms filled with the baskets of the eggs, she looked at me with a half revolted, half wondering expression and said, "That was the first time in my life I'd ever touched a live chicken."
I gave her an incredulous look as we started walking toward the house. "You've never touched a chicken? Ever?"
She shook her head. "No. And I had never planned to. Gross."
I rolled my eyes.
The rest of the day went by...well, not smoothly, but not as bad as I thought it would be. It wasn't until it was time to start working on the house when things got kind of rough. She'd gotten paint in her hair. I spoke over her squealing, "It's your own fault! Why would you come to work with your hair down? And why would you show up wearing that?" I gestured at her clothes. "Tomorrow, wear something...else. Something smart. Otherwise we're all going to have to start calling you Princess."
She definatly didn't like that. Her porcelain cheeks flushed a deep shade of red. "Shut up! Just because I have to work out here doesn't mean I have to go around ugly like you people!" She threw down the cement she was holding. "It's five twenty. I'm leaving!"
As she stormed off, I glanced at the clock on the wall. Actually, it was only five eighteen. Bitch.