Maple Dale ~ My Forever Home (Maple Dale Series), page 1
My Forever Home
Also by the author
~ * ~
Call Me Lydia
Favored to Win
Maple Dale Revisited
The Frog, the Wizard, and the Shrew
A Thoroughbred’s Dream
Odds on Favorite
Barn 14 ~ Meg’s Meadows
Maple Dale ~ My Forever Home
Book Three of the
Maple Dale Series
Sunrise Horse Farm
11872 Chillicothe Road
Chesterland, Ohio 44026
Copyright © 2013 by MaryAnn Myers
Cover photo © Sunrise Horse Farm
Cover design by Flair Graphic Arts & More
All rights reserved. Printed and bound in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
1. Fiction 2.Horses 3. Love Story 4. Young Adult 5.Sports
Formatted to save paper
Maple Dale ~ My Forever Home is the much anticipated continuance of Maple Dale & Maple Dale Revisited
Maple Dale Series
~ * ~
My Forever Home
Maple Dale has a long history of weathering harsh storms. The big house withstood two tornados, three floods and an earthquake, and would probably still be standing today had it not been burned to the ground for no good reason by the infamous Klaus Bukener who was the owner at the time. Leah never forgave the man. Fortunately he was long gone now, but then again so was she. Given its history of destruction and even death, Maple Dale has flourished. It is once again healthy and alive. That is, or was…until today.
“What are you doing?” Mindy asked the utility workers. Why were they spray-painting fluorescent yellow X’s across the frontage of the Maple Dale Equestrian Community and pounding little yellow flags into the earth? “What’s going on?”
“Oh,” one of the men said, taken aback at the sight of her. She seemed to have materialized out of nowhere and was so pretty. “We’re preparing to do seismic energy readings. Who are you? Where did you come from?”
“I’m Mindy Morrison. I live here.”
The older of the two men laughed. “Nanu nanu.”
Mindy frowned. At the age of nineteen she was too young to appreciate the Mork & Mindy reference to a TV show from the 80’s. “Do you have permission to do this?”
“Yes. Obviously.” The younger one dismissed her and moved on to the next area to be marked.
“By whose authority?” Mindy asked, following him.
“The authority of GP Industries.”
“Who are they?”
“Yeah, well they don’t own Maple Dale.”
“Yes. But this easement belongs to the county.” The young man pointed to an area the other side of the embankment. “Maple Dale starts over there.”
Mindy looked from one marker to the next and continued following his trail. She was dressed to ride, boots, breeches, turtleneck, and helmet. “So let me get this straight. If you get a definitive reading, you only tap into what is available from there to here?”
The young man stopped and looked at her. He appeared about to say one thing, but changed his mind. “Don’t you have a horse to go ride or something?”
“As a matter of fact I do. Four of them.” She marveled at his know-it-all stance: tall, cocky, tool belt hung low on his right hip like a gunslinger. She stared. Is that chew between his cheek and gum? “Well, have a nice day and make sure you stay off my land.” She almost laughed at herself saying that, but couldn’t resist, and turned on her heels. “Sure is a poor way to make a living.”
“I heard that,” the young man said.
“That’s good, Cowboy. Because that’s why I said it out loud.” She climbed the hill to the north paddock, slid between the fence rails, and disappeared.
The young man watched her until she was out of sight. His partner nudged him, laughing. “Hey, Cowboy, can we get something done sometime today?”
Bethann looked up from her desk when Mindy entered the office.
“What’s the matter?” Mindy asked.
“I don’t know. My stomach’s a little queasy.”
“You’re pregnant. It’s supposed to be.”
Bethann chuckled. “I’m about to give birth. I haven’t had morning sickness in months.”
“Maybe it’s something you ate. What did you eat?”
“The same thing I always eat. Ouch.” Bethann winced.
“The baby kicked.”
Mindy glanced at the schooling schedule posted on the wall behind the desk. “You’re kidding me. Don’t tell me Julia’s not coming in again.”
Bethann sighed. “No. And don’t start.”
They’d had one too many run-ins with the Maple Dale Homeowners Association and Mindy had long since given up feeding wayward critters, but this was different. This was a young girl they were talking about, one of their riding students - an extremely overweight sweet girl whose mother was practically starving her to death.
Bethann held up her hand. “Not today. Okay? I’m in agony. It’s not like we can call Social Services. Julia’s family is rich. Her mom thinks she’s helping her. She said she’s practicing tough love.”
“I’ll bet she told her we had that pizza last week.”
“More than likely.”
Mindy shook her head and glanced over her shoulder when someone entered the office. It was the seismic-reading guy. “I think you dropped this,” he said.
Mindy looked at the cellphone in his hand and touched her hip where the phone should be. “What? Did you pick my pocket?”
The young man laughed. “If I picked your pocket, you’d know it.” He handed the phone to her and turned to walk away.
His hand brushed hers. “Thank you,” Mindy stammered.
Bethann looked from one to the other and was surprised to see her sister blushing.
“You’re welcome,” he said, and out the door he went.
“Who was that?” Bethann asked.
Mindy hesitated. “He’s on the utility crew out front.”
“Who do you have tacked?” Bethann gripped her belly again.
Bethann nodded. Figaro was a bit of a handful and no one rode him better than Mindy. “I think I’m going to lie down for awhile. Okay?”
Mindy started out the door. “Do you want me to call Benjamin?”
“And worry him to death? No. I don’t think so.”
“What about Mom?”
Mindy smiled. Their mom was the biggest worrywart in town. Bethann‘s thirty-fourth birthday was fast approaching. This was her first pregnancy, her first child, and their mom was a nervous wreck about it even on a good day. She knew all the risks and the joys of later-in-life pregnancies.
Mindy worked him at a trot on a long rein. When she sensed a buck coming on, she picked up his head and urged him into an extended trot. His owner Angela was an account executive with the local bank chain and was over-mounted to say the least. Her husband doctor bought her Figaro for their 25th Wedding Anniversary. When he’d phoned Bethann to set up the surprise, she tried talking him out of it to no avail. He wanted the absolute best for his wife and the absolute best she was going to have. What Angela needed at the moment was a reliable, quiet mount. Though an eager and talented rider, she had been riding less than two years. Figaro quickly sucked the heart right out of her with his antics.
“Why doesn’t he act up with Mindy?” she asked, from the sidelines that first week.
“He is. Watch,” Bethann said, and could have added, “See, the fact that you don’t see it….”
Figaro tossed his head and gave a mighty Mac-Truck-sized-rocking-horse buck. “Nice try, big guy!” Mindy said, smiling as she urged him back onto the bit. “Okay, let’s see what else you’ve got.” He pricked his ears back and forth like radar as she talked softly to him. For all his orneriness, he was a kind, gentle horse, a big teddy bear used to having his say and getting his own way. His canter transition was way too big, way too animated. Mindy praised him for the effort, brought him to a commanding halt, and asked for the transition again. “Good boy! Good boy!” Perfect.
Bethann’s horse, Easy To Do was next to be ridden. A Thoroughbred, high strung but sensible, he was always a dream to ride. Bethann had schooled him well over the years and had been considering elevating him to the Hunter Jumper Classic when she found out she was pregnant. This coincided with Mindy being grounded from showing when her grades took a nosedive the final quarter of her high school senior year. Too much “horsing around” her mother said. In addition to going to shows every weekend, schooling horses all week, braiding the show horses’ manes and tails and giving lessons, she was getting requests to guest ride horses for opinions on what was going right or wrong with the horse. That was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” It wasn’t just the horses stabled at Maple Dale. The requests were coming from outside barns as well.
Her father agreed with her mother for once. “Enough. You’re being exploited for your psychic abilities.”
“I’m not psychic, Dad. I just know. I don’t know what you’re worried about.”
“You don’t know what I’m worried about? Does the six o’clock news ring a bell?”
Mindy laughed. “That was a fluke.”
“What about the first time with the deer?”
“Are you kidding me, Dad? That turned out wonderfully. Even you have to admit that.”
Richard Morrison smiled. He adored both of his daughters. In his eyes they could do no wrong, until they did do something wrong that is. Mindy and her friends, Becky and Yolanda, along with Bethann and Mrs. Butchling had helped save a small herd of deer from being targeted by sharpshooters. They even broke the law transporting them across the state line in a snowstorm when their whereabouts became a feature on the local news.
By the time Mindy had Easy To Do warmed up, Bethann’s stomach pains had subsided somewhat and she joined them in the arena. “How’s my boy?” Bethann asked.
As Mindy urged the horse down into a walk, he turned his head in Bethann’s direction. “I know, I know,” Mindy said. “She looks like she swallowed a beach ball.”
Bethann smiled and patted him on the shoulder. She’d purchased him a few years ago during the deer-rescue-transport-blizzard adventure. When it was all said and done and she saw him standing in a stall at Sassie Susie’s barn, head down and with a rather menacing look in his eye that softened instantly, it was love at first sight.
“Do you want me to pop him over a few jumps?” Mindy asked.
“No. I want to make sure you have time to ride Malaki.”
“Why? Why wouldn’t I? What do you mean?”
“I don’t know. I feel really strange. It’s like I’m in a dream or up in the clouds. I think I’m going to sit down a minute.”
Mindy expected Bethann to head back to the office. Instead, she just gingerly sat down right then and there in the arena. Mindy and Easy To Do stared down at her for half a second - sitting cross-legged Indian style in the arena dirt. “Oh my!” Mindy whipped out her cellphone and dialed Benjamin.
Bethann wrapped her arms around her belly and looked up at her sister. She seemed as tall as a building. When she felt a rush of warmth gush out of her, she stared at the puddle between her legs. Mindy seemed even taller now and Easy To Do far, far away.
“Don’t move,” Mindy said, down on her knees at her side. “An ambulance is on the way.”
Easy To Do hovered over them, nuzzling Bethann’s hair. Bethann touched him lovingly, savoring the softness of his skin against hers. “I’m okay. I’m okay,” she kept saying, trying to reassure him as he started licking her face. “I’m okay.”
“Are you in pain?” Mindy asked, attempting not to sound in a panic. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
When Easy To Do nickered, as if answering for her, Mindy placed her hand on her sister’s chest. “Are you breathing right?”
“I think so.” Bethann looked up at Easy To Do. “He’s worried, isn’t he?”
“A little,” Mindy said. “But that’s okay, so am I. Why do you always have to be so dramatic?”
Bethann chuckled and then gripped her stomach. “Oh boy, now this has to be a contraction. I need to get up and walk.”
Mindy studied her sister’s expression. “No. I think you need to wait. I hear the ambulance. It’ll be here in a minute.” The fire station was less than a mile away. Mindy looked out the open end of the arena. “They’re here. They’re coming up the hill.”
Bethann let out her breath with an agonizing sigh. “If they get worse, I’m begging off.”
Easy To Do chewed the end of her braid.
One of the firemen entered the office and saw the two women and the horse in the arena through the huge glass window. He motioned “out and around” to the rest of the crew. Next thing Mindy knew they were backing her and Easy To Do away and putting Bethann on a stretcher.
“How far along are you?”
“I’m due,” Bethann said.
“Not for a week or so,” Mindy said. “I think her water may have broken.”
The paramedic at her side nodded. “We’re going to take you in and make sure everything’s okay.” His partner showed him her blood pressure reading: 90 over 72. They started her on an IV and wheeled her out to the ambulance. Mindy and Easy To Do followed. Benjamin came barreling down the driveway in his ancient VW Beetle just as they were about to close the ambulance doors.
“I am husband,” he said, climbing in.
“I’ll call Mom and Dad,” Mindy said, staring into the back of the ambulance. “We’ll be there soon.”
Benjamin nodded and smiled bravely, worry in his eyes as he watched the paramedics.
“I’m fine, Mindy… I’m f…ine.”
Maple Dale had undergone major changes over the past year in regards to the number of horses they boarded and how they operated. Even though the cost of grain and hay had increased, Bethann didn’t want to increase the fees for current boarders. So, she decided to not take on any new horses and switched things around. Extra stalls were built in the main barn to accommodate the horses that had been stabled in the pole barn. Once empty, the pole barn was gutted of stalls, tack rooms and wash-racks, and the entire interior of the barn was turned into two huge separate indoor turnout paddocks. Drop-down side panels allowed for ventilation and plenty of fresh air year-round. They onl
Tough decisions were made, less over more, but it worked out for the better. A traveling stall-cleaning crew came in early mornings Monday through Saturday to clean stalls and horses were turned out for longer periods of time. This practice saved on bedding, and the horses were happier with plenty of time to kick up their heels. Feeding was easier too since all the horses were stabled in the main barn. Customarily, Bethann fed breakfast, a shift Mindy had taken over for her during these last two months of her pregnancy. Mixing grain was one thing; hauling around bales of hay, quite another. Bethann fed lunch, Mindy fed dinner, and Mrs. Butchling did night check. She was always at the barn anyway, enjoyed the task, and got a discount on her board for helping out. She was the consummate professional horsewoman and Bethann trusted her implicitly.
Mindy rubbed down Easy To Do and put him in his stall and glanced at the clock on the wall. It was way too early to feed the horses their dinner. She stood at the front of the barn, debating what to do. Other than her, there was absolutely no one else around at the moment. It was times like these that she missed her friends Yolanda and Becky even more. If they weren’t both already at college, one of them could feed.
Mindy topped off all the water buckets and phoned Mrs. Butchling.
The woman answered on the second ring. “Yes, Mindy. What can I do for you? Is everything okay?”
Mindy smiled. Mrs. Butchling was always so formal and much like her mom, a worrier.
Other author's books:
- Maple Dale Revisited (Maple Dale Series)Call Me Lydia
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