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Heartland #18: New Beginnings

Carey looked at Amy for a moment, and Amy held her gaze. It suddenly occurred to her that Carey was a little like an ungentled horse – wild and mistrustful, keeping her distance even though deep down she might be longing to make contact.

“Right now, you can help by leaving me alone,” Carey said abruptly, startling Amy out of her sympathetic thoughts. “I’m going for a ride.” She turned on her heel and strode away.

Amy hesitated, then marched after her. “I’m coming with you,” she announced.

Carey stopped and glared at her, her eyes bright with frustration.

“I’m your guest,” Amy pointed out. “You can’t just leave me here.”

Carey pursed her lips and looked away. Then she started striding to the tack room. “You can ride Sandy,” she called in an ungracious tone over her shoulder.

It was hardly reconciliation, but it was a start. Feeling relieved, Amy followed her and looked for Sandy’s tack. Without saying any more, she hoisted the saddle onto her arm and went back outside. The two girls tacked up in silence.

To Amy’s secret delight, she saw that Carey was going to ride Albatross. She hadn’t seen much of the lovely paint horse since her arrival. She mounted Sandy and followed Carey out of the yard.

They took a path that skirted the woods and walked in single file for a while. Amy watched the other girl ride, thinking that, in the saddle, Carey looked more like Huten than ever. It was a shame that she didn’t seem to have her grandfather’s easy patience right now. Amy wondered if Huten had always been so measured and wise. Perhaps he hadn’t. Sure, he was a natural with horses, but if he had been anything like his granddaughter, it might have taken him a long time to find himself. He might have had to learn how to see life in his own special way. Amy found the thought oddly reassuring.

Carey soon pushed Albatross into a trot, and Amy quickly asked Sandy to follow. Like the mare she had taken out yesterday, Sandy was a lovely, eager ride. If anything, her stride was even smoother than Brandy’s, and Amy allowed herself to relax for a while to enjoy the even rhythm. Then, when the path widened, she gritted he teeth and pushed the mare forward to ride alongside Albatross.

“Seeing you on Albatross reminds me of Huten,” she began, hoping she wouldn’t somehow offend Carey. “I can still remember watching him ride bareback around the training ring. It was really something.”

Carey gave a shrug. “Everyone says that,” she said.

“Well, it’s true,” said Amy, but Carey had already turned Albatross onto a narrow uphill path. Frustrated, Amy fell in behind her on Sandy, and they trotted between the trees on a winding trail that took them deeper into the mountains. When they reached the top of an incline, Carey reined Albatross in and looked out over the tops of the trees. The folds of the mountains rose and fell away with dark green pine trees that were sliced through here and there by plunging silver streams.

She drew up alongside Carey and decided to try another tack. “I was surprised to see you down in the village,” she said. “How long have you been working there?”

Carey looked at her sharply. “I’m not working there,” she said. “The village elders who work at the community center asked me to do a storytelling hour for the kids now and then. That’s all.

“Well, it looked impressive,” Amy told her. “Those kids couldn’t get enough of you.”

Carey gave one of her derisive snorts and said nothing.

“Listen,” said Amy. “I’m sorry about what I said earlier. I know it’s tough for you right now. You must be really missing him – Huten, I mean.

Carey reached down to adjust one of her stirrup leathers, and her hair fell forward so Amy couldn’t see her face. “Of course I miss Huten,” she said.

“Well, I’m sorry,” repeated Amy awkwardly. “Things must be really different around here without him.”

Carey looked straight at her. “You don’t know how different,” she said. “And the sooner I leave, the better.”

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