Writing by Kyle Freelander
The beach that Lanie and I had ridden across when we were eight years old spread out in front of me. Streaks of pink, purple, and orange joined the rising sun while the salty waves lapped at the receding shoreline, dampening the sand in foamy groups. I could practically see the hoof prints of the ponies we had ridden those many years ago. We had met at our lesson barn, Longbarak Stables, that morning and our instructor told me that Lanie would be joining us today, adding that we were going to the beach because we could both use a break. I hadn’t seen her around before, not even at competitions, but Lanie turned out to be a talented rider. She had given me several pointers over the years, even when she was just that little girl with the big blue eyes and long black hair that never seemed to be brushed.
I stared out at the water wondering why things had to change. Why couldn’t we be those two little girls galloping along, covering ourselves in saltwater and seaweed? Up until about a week ago, it seemed like things really wouldn’t change: Lanie and I had been best friends since that first ride together and had only grown closer over the years. Yes, our interests changed from playing make-believe to obsessing over boys but I had always seen us as those two little girls on the beach who, at that moment, didn’t have a care in the world.
People say that caring about something real is part of growing up, but I never would have thought that this was what was in store for me. Had I known this was coming I would have found a way to be that little girl at the beach, with her newfound friend, forever. If Lanie knew this was going to happen, I’m sure she would have wanted that too.
I thought back to the events of the past week wondering how I had even made it this long. I was so excited on Sunday because Lanie was coming back from her grandmother’s house where she had been for two weeks. Those weeks were tough without her around but nothing compares to what I’ve gone through this week.
I had rushed over to her house when I saw her mother’s minivan pull onto our street that afternoon, knowing that she had been the one to go and get Lanie and her older brother, Garret, from the airport. I ran up to Lanie, engulfing her in a hug when she was only halfway out of the car. “I have so much to tell you!” Lanie squealed, returning my embrace. We grabbed her things and followed her family into the house, dropping her stuff in the living room. “I can’t sit still anymore! First the plane, and then the car…” I sympathized with her knowing that her flight had taken off at 6:30 this morning and that the ride back from the airport was a solid hour at least. “Let’s go riding!” Lanie didn’t wait for an answer before switching into her paddock boots and racing out to my truck. She knew me well enough to know that I would never turn down another chance to horseback ride just like I knew her well enough to know this was exactly what she would want to do when she got back, which is why I had changed into my riding boots and old jeans before coming over.
We had only been out in the field at Longbarak Stables for about thirty minutes when overcast clouds appeared in the distance, telling Lanie and I to go in. “Just one more try!” Lanie said, looping back around to try the jump again. She had been helping train one of the new horses before she had left for Maine and Lanie had wanted to see if any progress had been made, or that’s what she said she was doing. I had a sneaking suspicion that she was really more interested in ensuring that none of her progress with King had been undone while she was gone. King was Lanie’s favorite horse at the moment because he provided Lanie with a challenge, something she never could refuse.
I wasn’t as daring as Lanie; I never had any desire to train a horse –it seemed so scary. In fact, I usually stuck to riding well-trained ponies. I’m 5’2’’ so the smaller the pony the better control I have. Lanie wasn’t as vertically challenged as me, so she was always willing to ride the biggest horses in the barn. I remained convinced that if I could possibly walk under their belly without bending over, it wasn’t a good idea for me to ride them.
I watched as Lanie approached the small jump with King fighting to have his way. They were at the perfect angle, but he kept thrashing his head about. I saw Lanie’s lips move; she was probably trying to coax King to jump. King’s ears twitched back and he calmed down considerably. Maybe they would get it this time, I thought, as the clouds grew darker. The pair took off over the jump, leaping unnecessarily high, something that wasn’t uncommon with untrained horses. I smiled at Lanie’s success but I had smiled too soon; a bolt of lighting shot across the sky followed by a loud rumble of thunder. Everything happened so quickly: King spooked causing Lanie to fly right over his head and under his feet. I screamed but there was no reply. King just kept going, dragging Lanie, whose foot had gotten caught in the stirrup. Everything else was a blur. People rushed out of the barn, hearing my scream and the general commotion. Lanie’s foot got untangled and her lower half fell to the ground with a thud. She didn’t move.
I jumped off of my pony and raced over to Lanie’s side. “Lanie?”
There was no reply. Tears were streaming down my cheek. Someone shouted that the ambulance was on its way. I sat with her until they came while two people went and got the horses. I could barely breathe.
“Lanie don’t leave me.” That was the last thing I said before I fainted, falling alongside my best friend just as the ambulance pulled up.
“She’s going to be okay,” an unknown voice said from a place that sounded far away but, from the cold hand on my forehead, I knew it wasn’t that far at all. I struggled to open my eyes as the afternoon’s event came over me: Lanie’s return, going to Longbarak Stables, riding in the field, the thunderstorm, Lanie’s fall…
My eyes finally opened and I bolted up screaming Lanie’s name. The only reply I got was a hand on my shoulder keeping me on the ground. “Not too fast.” I now knew that this unfamiliar voice belonged to an EMT.
I looked around the field as best I could from my seat in the dirt, but I couldn’t find Lanie. “Lanie!” I cried out again just as my parents crouched down beside me. My mother’s usually obnoxiously white sneakers were coated with a film of dirt.
“Mom?” She just shook her head, her eyes not daring to meet mine.
He took a deep breath, which the EMT took as her cue to leave. “I’m sorry, Becca; she didn’t make it.”
I shook my head profusely. How was that possible? She had just gotten back this afternoon. How could she not be here anymore? No, it just couldn’t be true. My best friend wouldn’t just leave me like that. She just wouldn’t. She wouldn’t leave me alone.
The sound of a seagull’s cry brought me back to the present. The sun was now up and morning joggers were beginning to take over the beach. I wiped away the tears that had formed in my eyes. It hurt to think about Lanie but it hurt even more not to. It was just one of the many things I had to grapple with now. I grabbed my worn flip-flops off of the sand next to me and walked back to my old pick up truck. I had to be strong today. I had to be strong for Lanie.
Want more? Facing the Tide is available NOW! Get your hands on an ebook or paperback version by going to http://kylefreelander.wix.com/author#!books/cnec
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