“Chelle,” he says, trying it on for size. “Canna say I’ve heard that name ‘afore.”
“Yeah, well, it’s just a—“
“I like it,” he smiles. “Now, aboo riding a horse. It’s as easy as, well, it’s as easy as riding a –“
“A bike?” I complete his sentence.
“Oh, um, nothing,” I laugh, realizing my stupid mistake. “It’s easy?”
“Right,” he laughs uneasily. “So, when would you like to start?”
“How fast can you get me able to ride Molly into town?”
“Right now if ya want.”
“Perfect. I’ve gotta show her off to someone. The faster the better.”
“Alright, let me grab a saddle for ye, and we ken be on our way.”
“Never ye worry, milady,” he says as he runs off to a small shack.
He exits the building with a large red cushion in his hands as well as a whole host of other fabrics. Like a man who has done this all too frequently, he places layer after layer on top of Molly in an act I’m certain will completely flatten her under the weight. Within seconds he looks at me with an offer of his hand.
“Whenever you’re ready, mum.”
“Please,” I say, grabbing his hand and placing my foot into the stirrup. “Call me Chelle.”
“’A course. Chelle.”
After one movement I believe to be rather deft, considering my previous experience climbing onto horses, I find myself straddling Molly and grinning from ear to ear. I hear a light chuckle from Lance.
“What?” I ask, wondering if I should feel embarrassed as I notice he is averting his eyes.
“I dunna want ye t’git the wrong idee,” Lance continues, “but ya happen to be showing a fair amount of skin. Naw, I’m not one t’judge, but I dunna believe many in town would—“
“Oh,” I say, realizing my skirt is hiked up a bit in order to allow me to sit on the horse. “Maybe I should get some pants or something?”
“Ye really aren’t from aroun’ ‘ere, is ya?” Lance frowns. “Mos’ ladies prefer ta ride aside instead ‘a astride.”
“I don’t understand.”
“If’n you put your legs on the same side o’tha horse, you may be able ta keep your decency.”
“Oh,” I laugh at myself. “Yeah, side saddle. Why didn’t I think about that?” Much less deftly, I manage to get my legs onto the right side of the horse. “Okay, you can look now.”
Lance looks up at me and smiles once again.
“Well, yer much more covered now, however, ye may be more comfortable if ye were to put yer legs on tha left side o’the pony. Tha stirrups are both over there.”
“Oh,” I giggle, feeling embarrassed at myself for doing so. “I had wondered how long I’d be able to hold myself up like this.” Again I struggle to reposition myself. Lance readjusts his view toward the ground as I manage to flash my ankles and possibly even my knees on a number of occasions during my attempt. Finally, I’m on the side I’m supposed to be, feet both situated within a stirrup, and feeling almost comfortable. “Okay, I think I’m set now.”
Lance looks up. He smiles at me as he walks in front of Molly to stroke her neck. “Good girl, you’ve been mighty patient.”
“Sorry, not used to this, you know.”
“Dunna worry, Chelle. Just gotta appreciate the horse for being so good t’ya. Alright, now, ye may want to adjust yer feet slightly once again.”
“Only a minor thing,” Lance promises. “’owever, you may find it more comfortable to have the toe of your right foot pointed up. There you go,” he says as my toe disturbs the calm of my skirt, making a slight tent. “May not seem like much, but it will allow for a much more steady ride. Feel good?”
“Yeah,” I smile confidently. “I think I could stay up here all day.”
“Alright, well, the most difficult think about riding aside is to stay atop as the horse moves. D’ya think you’re ready to try a wee trot?”
“Sure, I think so,” I grimace.
“Dunna worry. Jus’ keep a tight grip on tha reins. This saddle has a horn on it, so’s you can use that to keep yourself steady as well.”
“Okay, then what?” I ask as I grab onto the thing sticking up in the front of the saddle that I’m guessing is the horn. I hold the reins and the horn together with both hands as though I may suddenly fall off at any moment.
He makes a clicking sound with his tongue and Molly starts walking forward. I let out a little scream of surprise.
“Yer doing fine there, Chelle. Just keep holding on. When yer feeling steady, pull the reins to the right and see if you can get ‘er to turn.”
Molly has gone a good thirty feet before I realize Lance is getting out of earshot. Before losing his ability to help altogether, I decide I need to get up the courage to attempt to turn her. I release one hand from the horn and pull the reins, trying to direct her head to the right. She pulls left. I decide to stick with it as she’s getting me closer to the person who knows how to apply the brakes.
As we near, I hear Lance say, “Hup,” rather firmly, which causes Molly to stop in her tracks. Lance runs to my side, his beautiful smile all I’m aware of as he gets close.
“Ya did good there, Chelle.”
“I was trying to make her go right, but she went left.”
“Ah, yeah,” Lance chuckles. “Just think of it as making her look the way you want her to walk, that should make it easier.”
“You ready to head into town?”
“You think I’m ready?”
“You didna fall off. That’s about all I can teach ya.”
“Will you come with me?”
“I canna do that, Chelle. I need t’keep an eye on the horsies here.”
“Please,” I whine.
“Ah, who am I kiddin’. These beasties ain’t left this field in ages.” He runs to a nearby red-haired horse, tall and muscular. Without a saddle he climbs onto its back and with a light kick to its side, he pulls up beside me and Molly. “Okay, Chelle, you lead the way.”
Go to Chapter Twenty-Six