When we arrive at the farm, Chase offers to take Rose into the stable for me, but I hold the reins away from him, offended. I ignore him and walk into the stable, angry that he thinks I’m so weak and can’t do anything for myself. Maybe I’m being too harsh, but I’m feeling strangely defensive, and I don’t really care. I lead Rose to her stall, untack her, and put the tack away, while Chase does the same with Simba. When I start to walk toward the house and find Chase following me, I wheel on him and let loose a barrage of angry words.

“Watch it! You’re a hired hand. I can easily have you fired, so why don’t you back off? I don’t need your help around here, so why not go home?” I yell. I’m not sure why I’m so mad at him, but I am, and I can’t help it. Whatever this anger is, it’s strong, and it won’t be ignored. He rubs the back of his neck, obviously thinking about this reaction, and seems to come to some kind of rude conclusion, because he snickers a little. When I realize what he thinks the cause of my anger is, I feel like smacking him in the face, but instead I turn back around and sprint to the house, my face on fire. Ms. A is waiting in the small, under-furnished living room, looking very pleased with herself. When I enter, she smiles and leads me up to my room, showing me a small cardboard box sitting on my bed.

I stare at it. “For you,” she says, her smile growing even wider.

“You didn’t have to…” I smile, then tear into the box. I feel my eyes go wide, and Ms. A claps and laughs. I pull out a white polo shirt, a riding shirt, no doubt. Inside is a note reading:

Surprise! You’re competing in the Annual Jorvik Young Hunters’ Competition!

I nearly pass out. In only a few seconds, my terror turns to confusion, and my confusion to rage. I turn on Ms. A, yelling, asking how she could do this, how she could enter me in a competition without asking me. She looks deeply hurt, and tells me she’s seen me jump and thought I’d like to enter, but I’ll have none of it. I yell for her to get out, and as she’s turning, I throw the polo at her. She catches it, looking more hurt than ever, and closes the door, tears in her eyes.

For a long time, I lay on my bed, staring at the ceiling, until I hear Ms. Ashton’s old car driving down the road, and I know she’s gone to the market. The fact that she left me behind hurts a little, but I suppose I deserve it. I find a note under my door that says Ms. A will be home late tonight, that she’s staying to watch the young hunters compete and that Chase will look after me. Right on cue, there’s a knock at my door, and I open it, only to feel the sudden urge to slam it shut. Chase stands there, looking at me expectantly. I ask what he wants, and he tells me Ms. A wants me to feed the pigs after dinner, which is ready right now.

Dinner is cold beef and milk. Nothing fancy, but then again, we do live on a farm. After supper, I wash the dishes while Chase brings the animals in, then I go to feed the pigs, and when I return, I find that it’s already 5:30. My skin and hair is dirty, but I’m also exhausted, so I decide I’ll take a bath tonight instead of a shower.

Chase comes back in just as I’m about to run upstairs. “Where you going?” he asks casually, and I hope he can feel me staring daggers into his back as he takes off his boots. I tell him I’m going to take a bath and then go to bed, and that I don’t appreciate him acting like a babysitter to me. I remind him I’m only a year younger than him, and that he better watch it, or I’ll have him laid off. He laughs a little at this, but not in a mean way.

“Well…when you’re done, don’t go to bed. I brought a movie.” He waves a DVD in the air, then goes into the kitchen.

Safely in the privacy of the bathroom, I pull off my dirty riding clothes and stare at the thin, scraggly girl in the mirror. Who am I? It seems that this question will haunt me until I find the answer, and there is no way I can live with myself until I find that answer. I relax in the warm water, letting it soak me through before scrubbing violently at my skin. After a minute, I stop mid scrub. I must be daydreaming, I must be, because an image pops into my head. I’m in a car…out the window, I see a truck…it’s getting fearfully close…I hear screaming…a horn… Blackness. Nothing more. I jump in the tub, startled, returning to reality. I saw all that in a split second, and I’m not sure what it was. I dismiss it.

Chase is watching a ball game when I come down in my nightgown, a towel in my hair, and sit down on the other side of the couch. He brings popcorn and we watch The Conjuring. When it’s over, I don’t want to go to bed, I’m so terrified, but he just laughs. I guess he thinks it’s cute that I, a mature 16 year old, am afraid of the dark, but I yell saying he can’t blame me after showing me that movie.

There’s a knock at the door, and I wonder who it is. It’s 8:45…unless it’s Miss A, who would be visiting at this hour? It turns out to be Rachel, my best friend. Her medium length blonde hair is tied up in a bun, and her green eyes have ugly, unusually dark spots under them. She looks like she ran all this way from her house three miles away.

“Jamie,” she pants, “I need to talk to you. It’s serious.”

______________

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