On Saturday, we went to Tractor Supply and rented a brush hog for a week. We wouldn't be able to see Vince until Tuesday so, while I would be teaching on Monday, Nathan was going to take the brush hog in the back with my dad.
We got to the barn for lessons early Monday morning. My dad drove the brush hog to the back and, before anyone should see or show up, Nathan kissed me deeply on the lips. He winked then jogged after my dad. I smiled and went into the barn to feed the horses. To my surprise, Josh was already doing it.
"I didn't expect you to be here so early," he said when I asked him why he was here.
"Dad and Nathan are going to work on the back pasture so we came early," I answered. "What brings you here?"
"Just helping out," he said and I opened the gate we used to block off the hay. "Dr. Mack, Mark, Peter, Jason, and I are making rounds with feeding and cleaning the stalls."
I sighed. "Thank you very much. We couldn't do this without you guys, even with Nathan joining us now."
"It's our pleasure," he insisted. "How are things going with Nathan?"
"We're going to see our lawyer tomorrow," I answered, cutting the wire that held the square bales together. "It was Nathan's suggestion instead of going forward on our own."
Josh grinned, leaning against the wall. "You know what I'm talking about, Willow."
I shrugged, getting a pitchfork. "No I don't."
He snorted, getting a pitchfork, too. "Sure. He seems like a down to earth guy."
"He is now," I said with a laugh. My phone beeped. "Well, everyone will be here soon so I need to get the horses prepped."
"Sounds good," he said. "I'll get the hay taken care of. What'd you name the foal?"
"Dragon," I answered, pulling my hair into a ponytail.
"Why?" he asked and I cleared my throat, explaining. He smiled and hugged me briefly. "I think it's a great name."
I went out to the front and waited for the first student to turn up. Unfortunately, it was Matt. To my surprise, though, he passed me a check.
"What's this?" I asked, frowning.
He rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. "Payment."
"For what? You've already paid for... your... classes.... Holy shit, Matt!" I gasped when I saw the amount.
He put his hands deep in his pockets. "I thought about what Nathaniel said," he grumbled. "Don't tell him I said this but... I think he's right. And after seeing what people did to your barn and house... just showed me how lucky I was and how... ungrateful I've been."
I smiled. "Well, thank you. We can definitely use this to help with the repairs for the barn. Eagle's ready for you if you want to get him warmed up."
He just nodded and went into the barn. He had given me and my dad over $8,000. I folded it and put it carefully in the pockets of my jeans. The weather was cooling down and shorts weren't an option anymore. Matt was putting Eagle through his rounds as everyone else showed up.
"Miss Turner!" Millie said, running to me happily. I smiled and hugged her back. "Where have you been? I've missed you!"
I ruffled her hair. "Doing boring adult stuff," I said with a laugh. "Go get on Carson."
She giggled and nodded. Her mother, Olivia, hugged me.
"How have you been?" she asked seriously.
I sighed and put my hands in my pockets, watching while the students got their usual horses and put them through the paces.
"I've been okay," I said honestly. "It's hard, Olivia."
"I see you've got people coming already," she said and I looked over at the house.
"Yeah, they leveled the destruction yesterday," I answered. "They're only working on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and when we don't have classes." I shook my head. "I don't want them working while we're having classes and causing mayhem with the poor horses. They've been through enough."
"So have you," she said quietly.
I smiled and went to pay closer attention. Everyone was doing great today except for my second hardest student after Matt. She was 16 and thought she was perfect because she grew up around horses. Never mind the fact she never touched a horse until she was 13. At least Matt has experience.
"Kelly, you need to fix your posture," I said, leaning against the fence and pointing at her back while she led Kite around the corral. "And your left stirrup is too loose."
She rolled her eyes. "It's fine Willow!"
"Miss Turner," I corrected with a snap in my voice. "And no, it's not fine. If Kite were to start running or buck, you'd go flying or break a bone. Now pull over and fix it."
"It's fine," she snapped.
"Just do what she said," Matt said suddenly, surprising both me and Kelly. "Don't argue. She's right. I nearly broke my ankle during a competition two years ago because I thought it was fine."
Kelly rolled her eyes but pulled Kite over to the side and did as I told her. I nodded once to Matt but he didn't respond.
"Next let's work on barrels," I ordered. "Break into two groups. Group A will go clockwise and Group B will go counter clockwise."
"Yes, Miss Turner," the said in unison.
I smiled. They were all doing great, even Kelly who did it with a bit of an attitude. Near the end of class, my dad came out from the back to see if they could bring the brush hog through.
"Fifteen minutes," I said.
"Good," he laughed, "because Nathan looks close to death."
"That bad, huh?"
He chuckled and nodded. "We'll be back."
"Okay, folks," I said five minutes later, "time to bring them in. Millie, don't worry about the saddle. I'll get it."
The horses were safely in their stalls just as my dad and Nathan came back through the back pasture. I hurried to our mini fridge and grabbed some water. My dad was holding back laughter while Nathan looked like he was about to fall off the brush hog.
"You okay?" I asked, passing him the water.
"I'm gonna die," he groaned and drank the water all at once. "I didn't know how hard it would be just sitting on a tractor."
I giggled and gave him another water bottle.
"How were things down here?" my dad asked and I showed him the check from Matt. "Oh my God. What in the world is this for?"
"Nathan made an impression, I guess," I said, nudging Nathan but he just stumbled with a whine.
"No," he groaned. "Leeme alooonee. I wish to die in peace."
"Don't be a baby," I rolled my eyes. "Matt even stood up for me when Kelly was being a brat."
"Wow," my dad said, impressed. "Yeah, I'd say Nathan definitely made an impression."
We looked at him as he flopped himself on the ground and onto his back. I laughed again as another tractor pulled up but to the house. It was time for them to start digging and we watched for a while, waiting for Nathan to recover.
"Six months," I groaned. "Six months!"
"Now who's bein' the baby?" Nathan grunted from the ground.
I laughed. "Let's go get you cleaned up and get some dinner. We have to meet with Vince tomorrow."
"Meeeehhhh," he groaned as we dragged him off the ground.