It was raining when we went down to Spirit's grave. My father brought an umbrella and Nathaniel brought a bottle of rum.
"This time, though, we'll just be having one shot," he said and I chuckled.
"No getting plastered," I agreed.
He poured out three glasses. I was impressed he was able to do it two handed. He passed them around.
"To Spirit," we said in unison and tossed them back.
I handed it back to Nathaniel and put my hands in my pockets. I had showered first and changed into more comfortable clothing. The three of us clustered under the umbrella and my father put his hand on my shoulder.
"I wish you were riding with me on Saturday," I said to the grave. "Flame's doing a good job, though. I just have trouble reading her." I nudged Nathaniel. "Little Bit's got a new friend so you don't have to worry about her. If you ever did, that is.... I'm sorry I wasn't here for your burial," I added in a choked voice and my father squeezed my shoulder tightly. "I couldn't-couldn't do it. I meant what I told you, though. When I see you again, we're going to ride in the biggest pasture forever."
Thunder rumbled and the sky lit up. I sighed.
"We should go inside," my father whispered.
"You're right," I said. "I'll be back later, Spirit."
We trudged up to the house, me staring at the ground. Nathaniel offered to make dinner but I needed to get my mind off of everything. I really hated riding with Matt. Not only was he pompous but he kept criticizing me during each run through. He had steady hands, though, and knew the routine down to the last movement.
Then I had a strange image in my mind that made me put my knife down. Instead of Matt holding me up, it was Nathaniel.
"You okay?" Nathaniel asked, walking by with a book in his hands.
I jumped. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine," I said quickly and went back to trimming the chicken.
"Would you stop it!?" I yelled at Matt two days later. I gripped the saddle horn as I glared at him. "I know the routine!"
"You're not doing it right!" he yelled back.
My father sighed, shaking his head wearily. Out in the pasture, Little Bit was running around and Nathaniel was keeping an eye on her.
"What the fuck are you talking about?" I snapped.
"You're supposed to use your right arm, not your left!"
"We're practicing mirroring it, Matt," my father said and he glared at my father.
"Don't you fucking dare!" I yelled when Matt opened his mouth to argue. "He is our choreographer and we will do as he says!"
"God you're such a bitch," Matt grumbled.
"Just get back in position," my father snapped. "Both of you stop bickering."
I sighed. "Are we still mirroring it, Mr. Turner?"
"No, Willow," he said. "From the top like normal. And please, lessen the arguing. We have to leave tomorrow so I need to know you can do it without any problems."
"Not my fault he's stubborn," I heard Matt mutter.
I wanted to retort but I just pulled Flame to position, glancing at Spirit's grave. I sighed. I missed her; especially now. We had planned this whole routine around her.
Five hours later, we were able to do the routine without Matt opening his fat mouth once. I dismounted Flame and was about to hose her down when I heard Nathaniel yelling. Expecting the worst, I ran out then doubled over laughing.
"Shut up and help me!" he shouted.
Little Bit had him pinned by his shirt and was snuffling his face as if kissing him. She was leaving brown smudges and I knew right away what they were. I rushed over and pulled on her neck. She fought at first but backed up enough for him to squirm out from underneath her.
"She was eating her own shit," he said in a high pitched voice.
"And now it's all over your face and neck," I laughed.
He groaned, his whole body shuddering. "That is so gross."
"Let's get her in and clean you up," I said, still laughing.
"Keep laughing and I'll throw some at you," he snapped.
"Ah, so you're going to act like the monkey you are?" I asked and looked over in time to have a patty thrown at me.
It smacked my neck and traveled down my chest. I gaped at him. He grinned smugly and tapped his thigh twice. Little Bit happily followed him to the stall.
"Bastard," I grumbled, going over to the hose to rinse myself and Nathaniel off.
"I warned you," he said, hosing Flame down with the hose Matt discarded. He frowned. "Why'd he leave the hose running?"
"Because he's an asshole," I said through clenched teeth.
"I heard you shouting at each other," He said. "What was wrong?"
"He thinks he knows everything," I sighed, cleaning Little Bit off who still had some mud and manure on her. "My father came up with the routine but Matt is convinced he can make it better." I shook my head. "Sometimes I wish I had a different partner."
"Have you ridden with Matt before?" he asked as we walked back to the house.
"Twice. He was just as arrogant those times, too."
"So why keep riding with him?"
"Because she's the best female rider," my father said. He chuckled. "You two both need a shower."
"Dibs!" we said in unison and I raced him to the upstairs bathroom.
He got there first and stuck his tongue out at me.
"Just shower, Shit Boy," I said and went back downstairs to get more water. "What time do we leave in the morning?"
"Three," he answered, looking stressed, "so we'll need to get up early to pack everything in the truck. I had totally forgotten about this."
"So did I," I muttered. "When I get out of the shower, I'll get to packing my clothes."
He nodded. "I'll work on dinner."
I scoffed when I heard Nathaniel singing in the shower. I shook my head and leaned against the counter, frowning at the floor.
"Penny for your thoughts," my father said.
I made sure that Nathaniel was still in the shower then turned around and told him about the other night.
"I'm not too surprised," he said. "You get along better with Nathan than with Matt so it's natural you'd rather ride with him."
"He's changed a lot in the last month and a half."
"So have you," he said and I smiled. "Sounds like he's out," he added. "Go shower. You smell awful."
"Oh shut up," I said and he laughed.