Winning the Game: Ch. 6

Karissa’s last exam of the day was for English, and when it finally came around, she was more than ready for it. As she wrote her final essay, she could hear Abel’s voice in her head, giving her the advice she would need to succeed. By the time she finished, she was confident she would make an excellent grade, even though she had gotten home really late the night before.

She had stayed at Abel’s place until around one in the morning. Time had flown by so fast while they were studying, and neither one of them had realized just how late it had gotten. Abel had driven her home when they finally checked the time, and she had promptly fallen asleep, grateful that Joyce was already asleep when she arrived. 

It had been an early start this morning, but somehow she had managed to muster up the energy to make it to all of her exams on time. Now that her finals were over, she realized she still hadn’t made any time to pack. She would be leaving the next day for the ranch. It was a long flight she wasn’t looking forward to, but she was actually glad she would get to see her parents. All the ranch chores she’d have would be a bummer, but she really did miss the serenity of her home life. The break was very much needed.

“Please tell me you’re not staying here,” Joyce said with a disgusted look on her face as soon as Karissa walked through the dorm room door.

“I’m not,” Karissa said as she set her backpack down.

“Thank God you’re going back where you belong.”

Karissa rolled her eyes and decided not to respond to Joyce’s antagonizing comment this time. Instead, she pulled her giant suitcase out from under her bed, and began packing everything she would need for the couple weeks she’d be at the ranch. 

By the time she was done packing, she was exhausted and ready to shower and go to bed. She knew she would have another early start to catch her flight, and she couldn’t be late. The last time she had been late, she had to sprint to catch the plane that had nearly left without her. It had been a humiliating disaster she didn’t want to repeat.

She showered and dressed quickly, and then immediately went to bed. Joyce was still awake, and making quite a bit of noise, but she was too tired to care. She fell asleep instantly, and yet she still felt like she had just closed her eyes when her alarm alerted her to the morning’s arrival. She wanted so desperately to hit snooze, roll over, and go back to sleep, but she knew she couldn’t. She stretched the sleep from her tired body, quickly dressed, grabbed her bags, and rushed to the shuttle stop on campus that would take her to the airport. Thankfully, she made it in time, and was even a little early for her flight this time.

The flight was agonizingly long, but she spent the time listening to music, and napping as much as she comfortably could sandwiched between two strangers in a plane seat. When the plane finally landed, she was so excited to see her parents that she almost forgot to retrieve her luggage first. She remembered at the last minute and had to backtrack to get her bags, grabbing her suitcase and practically running to meet her parents. She spotted them immediately, holding a big, pink sign with her name written on it in gold glitter. It was a little embarassing, but she didn’t care. She ran right to them.

“Welcome home, hun!” her mom exclaimed, pulling Karissa in her arms for a squeezing hug while her dad took her bags from her. “Oh, hun, we missed you more than a horse can miss hay!”

“Speaking of horses, Sunny boy ain’t doing so well without you. You should plan on takin’ him for a ride when we get to the ranch, and see if you can perk him up some,” her dad said.

Sunny boy was the palomino gelding she’d had since she was ten years old. She was there for his birth, and helped raise him and train him as he grew. It hurt her heart to leave him, but he was better off at the ranch where he was loved than at some expensive boarding house near the university.

“I will, daddy. I’ve missed him! I’ve missed ya’ll! I’ve missed home!” Karissa said.

“We’re glad to have you back, hun,” her mom said.

“Alrighty then, let’s get going. We’ve got work waiting for us, and a good, homecooked supper. Haven’t had that in a while, huh?”

Karissa patted her flat stomach. “I sure haven’t! That sounds so good! I can’t wait!”

She was so excited, she practically skipped to the car, and the whole way home, she couldn’t contain her enthusiasm.

“Slow down, girl. I can’t understand a lick of what you’re sayin’ you’re talking so fast!” her dad had to tell her several times during the drive.

The two and half hour drive to the ranch seemed to fly by as she described her classes, all the new friends she had made, and the stress of exam week. She skipped over the particular details of her and Able’s awkward encounter the other night, and instead enthused about her new best friend who was destined to be a famous author someday.

“You sound mighty keen on this boy. You gonna bring him to the ranch so we can meet him?” her dad asked.

“No! Daddy, it’s not like that. Able and I are just good friends.”

“Uh huh. That’s what I used to say about your daddy,” her mom said, and Karissa blushed.

Thankfully, she was spared having to continue the conversation because they finally arrived at the ranch. She stepped out of the car, and inhaled deeply, taking in all the wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) smells of the ranch.

It felt so good to be home.

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