Winter Circuit (The Show Circuit -- Book 2) (6 page)

BOOK: Winter Circuit (The Show Circuit -- Book 2)
11.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“That was supposed to prepare you for college life.”

We were both quiet for a moment. Then Dad said, “So what do you want? What are you asking for here?”

What was the ask? What terms was I looking for? Dad always saw things through a business lens. Most people who approached him wanted him to invest in their business. They had a strategic plan, a profit-sharing idea. He wanted to know what mine was.

“I don’t want to drop out. I want to take the semester off. I’ve got a job offer in Florida. It’s working for a family whose thirteen-year-old daughter rides. It would be taking care of the daughter, helping with the horses, exercise riding. I’d also be able to watch Logan. I miss him so much and I want to be a part of his development.”

“And you’d be with Chris,” Dad said. Everyone I’d pitched my idea to—Ryan, Mike, Dad—had been quick to point that out.

“Okay, yeah, that’s true but this isn’t all about him,” I fibbed.

“I don’t care if it’s all about him or not,” Dad said. “Your mom’s going to flip out and say she doesn’t want you making decisions based on a man. But I’m not like that. I’m a realist. If this is what you want to do, I’m not going to come up with all the reasons why you can’t. I’m certainly not going to support you as you do it but if you want to pay your own way by having a job and you can make this work with the university, fill out whatever needs to be filled out, etc. then fine. You have my go-ahead.”

I swallowed. So my salary would have to pay for everything I needed down there. Dad didn’t need to say as much but if I was hurting for money or anything, I couldn’t come to him.

“Ask all the right questions when you do the paperwork,” Dad said. “If you lose your spot at school, I’m not going to step in and get it back for you. You’ll have to reapply or take some time off.”

“Okay, I get it,” I said.

“You’re old enough to make decisions like this for yourself but you need to make them in the stark light of day,” Dad said. “You need to realize what you’re getting yourself into and if you do, then that’s great.”

“Okay.” I breathed a sigh of relief. I had gotten what I wanted. So why didn’t it feel like more of a victory? “Will you talk to Mom for me? You said it yourself, she’s going to flip.”

“I’ll email her to tell her what we’ve discussed. But you’ll still have to hear her flapping her wings about it.”

Flapping her wings. Dad’s choice of words made me cringe, for Mom’s sake. Mom was a dedicated bird-lover. Birds were all she cared about, besides Ryan and me. Mostly it was a way to deal with her terrible, pervasive anxiety. Flap her wings felt like a horrible insult.

I hung up with Dad and immediately walked over to Academic Services to fill out the necessary paperwork. I had to fill out a Request for Personal Leave of Absence Form so that I would still maintain my matriculated status. Next I texted Linda to tell her I could start by the end of December. I’d spend Christmas with my mom and then head to Florida, getting there only a week after Chris.

I would talk to my mom soon but before I did, there was a more important person to call.

“Hey,” Chris said, when he picked up.

“What’re you up to?” I asked.

“I’m actually on Logan. Just schooled him and he was super.”

“Aw, I miss him so much,” I said. “But I have really good news. You’re not going to believe it, actually.”

“What?” Chris said.

“Well, I decided I want to be there with you in Florida this winter, watching Logan, and I just miss the horses and everything so much. So I found out about this job—with the Pearce family? Dakota Pearce? I don’t know if you know her but she’s apparently a pony rider just moving up to the big eq and junior jumpers. Linda Maro is her private trainer. They need someone to look after Dakota, make sure she does her homework, help out in the barn sometimes, help flat the horses.”

“I know her a little and I know who Linda is,” Chris said.

“I’m taking the job!” I blurted. “I’m starting after Christmas.”

“Wait, but what about school?”

“I’ve submitted forms for a leave of absence—a semester off. It’s not a big deal—people do it all the time.” I had no idea if people did it all the time. Riders did take gap years fairly often. A year between finishing high school and college to concentrate on riding. “This is kind of like taking a gap year,” I said. “But I didn’t know I wanted to take a gap year till too late in the summer.”

“Till you met me,” Chris said.

“No, this isn’t only about you. I mean, of course, I’m going to love being with you all winter.”

“Where are you staying?” Chris asked.

“On the farm—they have housing on the property.” Was Chris worried I was going to stay with him? Was he not excited I’d be in Florida this winter? He was supposed to be overjoyed.

I said, “You seem… I don’t know, skeptical. Like, not entirely happy.”

“I’m in a little bit of shock, I guess. I just never thought you’d drop out of college—”

“I’m not dropping out! I’m taking a semester off. That’s it. Not dropping out.”

Chris’s voice was tinny in the acoustics of the indoor arena. “Okay, I never thought you’d take a semester off because of me.”

“This isn’t because of you. It’s everything. I miss everything. Logan, the horses in general, the shows. I haven’t been happy here at school.”

“Okay, but I can’t help but think that if you’d never met me this wouldn’t have happened. You’d have gone off to college and been a regular, happy college student. Maybe we should have broken up at the end of the summer. Because I feel like you’re not living life there because of me.”

“You wish you’d broken up with me?” I said.

“No, I didn’t say that.”

“That sounded like what you were saying.”

“I just don’t want all this to be because of me,” Chris said.

“It’s not, I promise.”

“Your dad’s really going to be happy with me now. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wants to find a new rider for Logan.”

“No, he’s fine with it. He is, I swear.”

Chris was quiet. I could hear the fabric of his jacket as it moved while Logan walked. I could picture him on Logan, his reins in one hand, the other hand holding the phone to his ear. I couldn’t wait to be there with Chris and Logan—to see them myself.

“Give Logan a mint for me,” I said. “I can’t wait to see him. This is going to be good. Trust me.”

Chris still didn’t speak.

“Be happy,” I pleaded.

“I’m happy,” he said, his voice sounding loud coming out of the silence.

“I love you,” I told him.

“I love you too,” he said.

He might have been a little shocked, or not sure about the idea, but I knew he would change his mind once I was down there and he saw how great it was to be together all the time again.


Chapter 8

The days passed achingly slowly as I finished out the semester and went home for Christmas. It was weird to pack up my stuff from my dorm room. I didn’t have all that much to bring home, but it felt—and
—premature. This wasn’t May when Kate and Katie, or Jen and Jenny, would be lovingly packing their cute dry-erase boards and shoe-racks, exchanging hugs and shedding the occasional tears. This was me, alone, packing up like I had been kicked out or cracked up. Van was packing too, but just for winter break. She stuffed a few things into a nondescript gray backpack and that was it. She was getting a ride to the airport. She wasn’t thrilled that I was leaving her with what would probably be a new roommate. If she got really lucky, she’d have a single for the rest of the year but it was more likely she would get someone who couldn’t get along with her first semester roommate and had requested a room change.

Christmas day was quiet. We watched a movie in the afternoon and ordered take-out. Ryan had decided to stay in California—he had a lot of work to do on the next round of venture funding for one of his businesses. Mom and I got along fine. My plan wasn’t what she would have chosen for me but she seemed to have gotten comfortable with the idea. She turned any anxiety she had into helping me online shop for clothes I’d need for Florida, which I wasn’t complaining about since, as Dad had made clear, I was going to be paying my own way down there. In fact, I’d gotten a letter in the mail while I was home saying my credit card that Dad paid for had been canceled. Yup, financially this one was on me.

If my mom were a normal mom we would have gone to an actual store to shop. But my mom was different and had been since I could remember. She suffered from serious anxiety, which limited everything about her life: where she went (hardly anywhere), what she did (only bird-watching and blogging about it), and whom she did it with (basically no one). But you wouldn’t be able to tell she had so much anxiety from looking at her. She didn’t have any of the telltale signs you’d associate with anxiety. She didn’t look like she hadn’t showered in days; she didn’t wear sweatpants; her nails weren’t bitten to the quick. No, she looked good. Even though she didn’t go out much, or ever, during the day, she wore nice clothes that she bought online. She had become a champion of online shopping. The UPS guy knew her by first name and she knew exactly which sites had solid return policies with bags that you could easily repackage and send back with said UPS guy, equaling no trips to the post office.

Today she had on nice jeans and an open front cardigan. Her hair was a rich brown color and she kept it shoulder length. She hosted a haircut and color club with a few women from the neighborhood every six-weeks at our house. Mom did well at home—it was out in the real world that she came to pieces. She had crafted a workable life for herself as long as, for the most part, she stayed home.

“Ooh, look at these colors,” she said, as she clicked on a pair of breeches. “How about one in the blue, one in the brown, and one in the dark gray?”

“Three pairs?” I said. “I don’t even know how much I’m going to be riding.”

“It’s better to have a few extra,” Mom said. Sage advice from the woman who never wanted to run out of anything that would force an unplanned trip into the outside world.

She moved the breeches into the shopping cart and deftly auto-filled the necessary information. Once we had finished shopping for breeches, she clicked over to Vineyard Vines and picked out polo shirts. Then, on to Patagonia for a raincoat, and a down vest for the chilly mornings.

“Mom, what was it like when you met Dad?” I asked. Totally random out of the blue question.

“What do you mean? When I first met him, like the day I met him when he came into the store?”

“No, I mean like when you were first dating and falling in love.”

Mom drew back from the computer. She smiled a nostalgic smile. “It was perfectly lovely.”

“Because you two seemed right for each other?”

“Clearly we weren’t right for each other,” Mom said. “But being in love… well, I don’t have to tell you, do I? It’s like the world is a sunnier, happier place when you’re in love.”

I nodded. I did know what she meant. Or I used to know. Now my days were anything but sunny. I hoped the color would come back to them soon.

“And then you fell out of love?” I said.

I hadn’t talked to either of my parents much about their divorce. In a way it seemed like ancient history, a kind of family story that had been told so many times there was nothing else to add to it. Of course, I hadn’t told it that many times to people in reality. But I’d probably told it to myself again and again in my head, trying to make sense of it. They’d fallen in love and quickly after getting married had Ryan and me, then realized they were all wrong for each other, and my father had asked for a divorce. Somehow I knew that part, but I couldn’t remember being told it. I couldn’t remember any TV-like scene where the parents sat the kids down and told them they were splitting up and one kid cried and the other yelled, “I hate you both,” and ran out of the room.

“One of us fell out of love,” Mom said sadly. “But I guess I understand why.”

The “why” that she was alluding to was her anxiety, which she’d had somewhat under control when she met my father. But it had surged back, and he had left her. But had more happened that I didn’t know about? I thought about Mary Beth.

“Did Dad… I mean was there someone else?”

“It wasn’t because of someone else,” she said.

But that didn’t mean there
someone else. I wanted to know more but I also didn’t want to upset Mom, making her relive painful memories of when Dad left her.

“We were too different,” Mom said. “We lived in different worlds. Your father’s life is the business world. I couldn’t be more different than that.”

So that was why they’d divorced? It made sense in a way. Dad’s relationship with Monica seemed to work because they both lived business lifestyles and understood the sacrifices that way of life involved.

Mom returned to the computer. She opened her email, reviewing the confirmation emails from the stores. “You are going to have such a good time in Florida. It’ll be so nice to have good weather. I always thought Ryan was smart to go to college in California. Maybe you might want to transfer to a warmer climate. That might make school better for you?”

We hadn’t really talked about why school was bad for me. But I guess it didn’t take a genius to figure out it wasn’t going swimmingly if I was suddenly taking a leave of absence and heading to Florida.

“I don’t know. We’ll see.” I couldn’t think beyond April right now. Getting to Florida and getting my relationship with Chris back on track was about the only thing on my radar. “Do you think you’d ever move somewhere warmer?” I asked her.

More than anything, she loved being out in our yard, with all her bird feeders and roosting boxes, watching birds. But in the winter there weren’t as many birds to watch. Somewhere warmer she’d have more varieties of birds all year round.

“I don’t think I could move,” she said.

I understood why she wasn’t the type of person who could pick up and move across the country. But not much beyond birds made her happy so it was hard to hear that she couldn’t move even if it would mean two times more happiness.

BOOK: Winter Circuit (The Show Circuit -- Book 2)
11.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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