Moving is a daunting task. The physical effort of relocating personal items to a new location is exhausting. The Fatterod family enlisted the help of their friends Joe and Janine, from Tampa Bay, to help with the household move to the condo.
My stuff was easy, fill suitcase with clothes, zip up, and dust off hands. Done. Ready for my cushy digs on the living room floor.
Dick and Tracey haul the horses to the new location while I prepare the stalls. The facility itself is massive. It has seven long barns sitting in a row, with forty stalls in each barn. There are countless turnout stalls in the back, and a racetrack just beyond. On the edge of the stables there is a white rail riding ring and a round pen.
Dick and Tracey had rented one of the forty stall barns, which includes a feed room and a tack room. They also rented a small eight stall barn on the far side of the property. A fancy twenty stall barn with living quarters upstairs stood between the two barns they rented. The caretaker of the facility lived in those quarters— I bet she had a bed.
Sometime during the move the BMW convertible disappeared and a Jeep showed up in its place. The Jeep became my vehicle to commute from condo to barn. I don’t know if the Jeep was purchased? Leased? Or stolen? I drive it regardless.
Joe and Dick act like schoolboys during the move, the hooligans of the classroom who’d been separated from each other for far too long. I prayed for a principal to discipline them. Janine is wary, a gazelle with anxiety. She gives Dick a wide berth and clings to Tracey’s shadow. She will not be caught alone with Dick again.
I’m not as fortunate.
Joe and Janine leave us to finish up at the barn while they pick up supper. We are meeting them back at the condo to eat.
Tracey heads to the smaller barn across the yard, to check on the horses for the night. That left Dick and I, we were responsible for moving the tack into the tack room at the large barn. Lets face it though— I would be doing the grunt of the work.
Dick sat in a lawn chair on the edge of the alleyway and observed me traipse from the trailer, to the tack room, arms full, to arms empty, and back again. I wondered how a person could be so blatantly unashamed at ogling another human being? We all have different standards of decency I guess.
A sheen of perspiration formed on my face, due to both the humidity in the air and the discomfort of Dick’s unwanted attention.
As I exit the tack room for the umpteenth time, Dick taps the lawn chair beside him. “Debby, come and take a break. You’re starting to look hot and bothered, maybe you’ll finally give in to me,” he suggests.
I give my head a shake avoiding eye contact. “ I don’t think so Dick. I’m almost done. I’ll take a break after,” I said, hoping Tracey would be back by then.
“No,” he growls, “I’m the boss. And I said— it’s time to take a break.”
I meet his iron stare and relent.
I reluctantly take a seat beside him. I can barely breathe. My heebie jeebies are slam dancing inside my skin.
“We haven’t had a chat in a while,” he said leaning in towards me. “I wanted to tell you Tracey is pleased with your work. She thinks your riding abilities deserve some coaching, so you’ll be happy to know you’ll be joining Tabby in her English riding lessons.”
He reaches out and touches my arm, “I’d like to give you some riding lessons too.”
I lean away from his hand, but can’t help but smile. Riding lessons? It’s every stable hands dream to be allowed to ride. But riding lessons? That’s the bomb. I can’t help but smile at Dick. “ That’s fantastic,” I gush, “It’s so generous of Tracey to include me.”
Dick nods, “Then you’ll be happy to know, you’ll be taking polo lessons from an instructor across the road as well.”
I beam. My eyes are wide, “What?” I pause for a second absorbing this unexpected news. The heebie jeebies are gone. “Are you for real?” I exclaim.
“Yeah, Tracey made the arrangements.” He said.
I sink back into my chair and gaze at the ceiling. “That’s amazing.” I said with a gasp.
Dick licks his lips, and leans in tightly to me. “It could be better yet,” he murmurs in my ear and drops his hand to squeeze my knee.
I jump up and away from his advances.
“What?” he questions sounding offended. “You know, if you were less uptight and played a few games with me, you might get some other unexpected perks.”
I stare at him feeling my dislike for him rise, “I’m going to tell Tracey that you’ve been making moves on me,” I threaten. Just saying those words feels awful. It’s like I’m back in kindergarten about to rat out Marc for putting a tack on the teachers chair.
He laughs, “I wouldn’t push Tracey too hard. She has a temper you know.”
“Janine was going to tell her too. You know?”
He throws a hand up, “That doesn’t matter,” he dismisses my words. “She knows which side of the bread the butter is on. She married into it.” He pats his leg, “You’d be wise to come and find out just how buttery your bread can be.”
I feel my stomach churn, and the heat of anger in my face, “No thank you,” I spit.
I turn and stomp out to the trailer. For the record, cement is not very satisfying to storm out on — it is practically silent. It’s just like soft close doors when you really want to make a cracking noise— and it slows down at the last second to a poof. It’s ridiculous! Most of the satisfaction from storming away from an angry situation is the noise you leave behind.
All I can hear in my wake, is the sound of Dick chuckling.
I stalk towards the far barn planning to tell Tracey everything. I’ve had enough of Dick’s nonsense— Damn the consequences. She is a reasonable woman.
I come upon Tracey halfway back to the main barn.
She comes to a quick halt as she sees my face. “What’s wrong?” she asks.
I look at my feet and kick at the sand. I haven’t even planned what I was going to say. I lift my eyes suddenly remembering the good news.
I smile widely at her, “Well, first of all, I want to thank you— Dick told me about the lessons and polo. I can’t believe it!” I place a hand on my heart, “You have no idea how much this means to me,” I babble.
Tracey returns my grin, “It’s no problem Deb,” she said, placing an arm around me to guide me forward in the direction of the large barn. “I’m planning for your future with us,” she said giving me a squeeze. “You’re a capable rider, and we’re going to make you even better.”
We walk as friends, and I feel my guts clench knowing I still need to tell her about her husband. I stare at the ground while we walk biting my lip.
Tracey stops abruptly bringing me to a halt.
She steps directly in front of me. “What’s the problem?” she asks, “I can see somethings still bothering you.”
I lift my head and attempting to gather my courage.
She puts her hands on her hips, and stares me down, blue eyes on blue eyes. “I need to know what’s going on,” she demands. “If you don’t spit your troubles out they fester into something worse. What’s up?”
I exhale heavily, “Dicks been coming on to me.” I hesitate, and then power through. “It happens a lot. He is always asking me to mess around with him.”
Her face freezes.
I feel my wonderful riding opportunities slip away.
All at once Tracey bursts out laughing. “Are you kidding me?” she snorts. “That’s why your shorts are in a knot?” She slaps me on the shoulder, “He’s just joking. He does that with every woman.”
I force a smile, “Oh. Okay then.” I say, and think about Janine and how he put his hands on her.
We enter barn together.
Dick jostles himself out of the lawn chair, and makes his way over, “Ready to go Trace?” he asks with a grin.
“Sure,” she said, “I’m ready to call it a night.”
“Deb?” she says turning back to me, “We’ll take the Jeep. Can you finish unloading the tack, and then drive the truck home? Joe and Janine are probably wondering where we are.”
“Yes of course I can do that,” I said.
Dick throws his arm around Tracey’s shoulder, and tosses his head in my direction. “See you at home,“ he said with a wink and a sly grin.
Joe and Janine arrive at the barn the following Sunday afternoon. They are leaving to go back home.
I’m taking Charlie for a trail ride across the road, and leading a yearling colt. It’s good experience for all of us.
Janine exits the vehicle and holds up her hand to gain my attention. She’s wearing a lacy tank top with a fitted skirt, her heels dig into the sand as she makes her way over to me. Never a lack of style with that lady.
“Hey Deb, we’re on our way out,” she calls, coming closer.
She glances back at Joe who heads towards the barn to greet Dick.
Knowing Joe is occupied she returns her focus to me, “ Everything was fine this time with Dick. I thought you should know,” she said quietly.
My yearling tugs on the lead shank anxious to be away. I reach down and pat Charlie. He’s a trouper for ignoring the impatience beside him.
I shield my eyes from the sun, and give Janine a slight nod. “I mentioned something to Tracey on my behalf, but she just laughed at me,” I said, “Maybe we’re making too much out of it?”
Her mouth tightens, furrow lines appear on her brow, “No,” she hisses. “I know men like him, and it’s not just joking.” She leans closer. “Last time he pushed me up against the wall and grabbed my breasts,” she seethes. “I was more careful this time. He never had me alone for a second.”
I bob my head and rub my forehead at the same time. “I know, he’s a pig.”
Janine pats the side of her leg a few times with a nervous twitch, then she straightens her shoulders. “Okay then, take care of yourself.”
“You too.” I reply feeling awkward and useless.
I make my way to the trails with Charlie and the colt in tow. I leave all my cares behind, right beside Charlie’s last dump.
I ride the wide sandy trail, I am serenaded by horny toads and rambunctious finches. The trees sway as the breeze whispers secrets to the leaves. The thick tangled undergrowth releases a pungent sweetness into the air with a hint of mint. Wild vines creep up trees— the thongs of the forest. My life in this moment is perfect. It doesn’t matter I owe money for my student loan and my car. It doesn’t matter I have no bed. Nothing feels bad, not even Dick’s shady behaviour. Right now, right in this moment— I am full of appreciation for the forest, the path, and my horses back.
This is the lull before the storm.