Winning the Game: Ch. 7

Her dad followed Karissa to her room with her bags. With a small smile, she noticed that everything was exactly as she had left it. The quilt on the queen sized bed up against the wall was still slightly wrinkled from where she’d sat to do her homework the last time she was here. The World Cup advertisement poster from several years ago was still hanging above her bed, and a faint footprint amongst the dust on the windowsill still held evidence of her frequent late night excursions to the roof where she liked to stargaze.

“Now I s’pose your mother is going to be cooking supper soon, so why don’t ya get changed and let ol’ Sunny boy know you’re here?”

“Of course. I’ll be right down.”

Her dad nodded his head at her as he left the room, closing her bedroom door behind him. She sighed as she changed into her riding pants, an old t-shirt, and boots. Seeing Sunny Boy was going to be difficult. 

After changing, she exited through the door in her room that led down to the pool. Her room was supposed to be like a pool house loft area, but she’d insisted that it be her room. It was the brightest room in the house during the day with a perfect view of the green landscape of the ranch, and at night, it held the most beautiful view of the stars. It was her happy place.

The main barn was located a couple hundred feet from the right of the house, and was large enough to hold thirty horses in individual stalls as well as they’re equipment. The red paint was worn out and faded, but the inside was well kept up with. 

Sunny Boy’s stall was one of the first stalls when you walked into the barn. He whinnied exitedly when he saw her.

“Hey, boy. You miss me?” Karissa asked him as she stepped into the stall with him.

Sunny Boy blew a breath out before turning toward Karissa, nudging her with his head. Karissa chuckled softly at this as she ran her fingers through his mane. Then, she took a treat out of her pants pocket and fed it to him.

“You ready to go for a ride, Sunny Boy?” she whispered in his ear.

Sunny Boy nudged her again in response. She smiled, and started preparing him for a ride, making sure he was brushed, picked, and that the saddle was snug on his back. Then, holding the reins lightly, she led him out into the main area of the barn where there was a stool she could stand on to mount him. Sunny Boy walked to the stool eagerly and got in position, stamping his foot in impatience as he waited for Karissa to mount him.

Karissa took a deep breath once she was in the saddle. It had been so long since she had ridden a horse. She wasn’t sure if she would remember how to. But once they were out of the barn, heading across the large, green field toward the creek, she realized she didn’t need to be worried.  The feeling of the wind against her face, the power of the horse moving gracefully beneath her, and hearing the steady thump-thump of the hooves on the ground was a heaven she hadn’t realized she’d missed.

She rode around enjoying the feeling for as long as she could, but eventually her stomach began to protest the lack of food, and she headed back to the barn. She settled Sunny Boy back in his stall, and promised him another ride before she left. Then she headed to the main house for dinner.

Of all the things she missed about the ranch, her mother’s cooking was what she missed the most. It had been way too long since she’d had a great home cooked meal, and her mother had always made the best in her opinion. Her mother’s dishes made your mouth water in eagerness for the next bite, and kept you filling up your plate with more until there wasn’t any food left on the table.

“Slow down there, hun! You’re going to get a tummy ache!” her mom laughed as they all enjoyed dinner together.

“I’m sorry, mama. It’s just so good!”

“I’m glad you like it,” her mom said. 

“So, about this Able boy you were talkin’ about earlier…” her dad started.

“Dad! I told you! We’re just friends, I swear!”

“You remember that promise you made me before ya left?”

“Yes, I remember.”
“Oh stop it, you!” her mother said, swatting playfully at her dad. “If she wants to love, let her love for goodness sake. There ain’t nothing wrong with that!”

“Dammit Darlene, don’t be telling her that! She needs to focus on her studies! She doesn’t need no stupid boys gettin’ in the way of her future!”

“Oh hun, she’s plenty strong enough to take care of herself. Ain’t that right, Karissa?”

“Yes, mama. Of course.”

“Fine, but ya better bring the guy home before things get serious, ya hear me? I wanna know my baby girl is in good hands first.”

“Yeah, okay, daddy. But I’m not that interested in dating really, so you don’t need to worry.”

Her parents exchanged glances, but Karissa was too engrossed with her food to read too much into it. She imagined they were probably worried about her, but they didn’t need to be. She was perfectly fine.

At least she thought so.

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