"Caleb! Hey!" Soraya called to the cowboy who was walking down the street to Maggies.
Caleb looked over, grinning when he saw who it was.
In typical Caleb style, he stuffed what was left of the donut he was eating into his mouth, waving to Soraya.
Soraya rolled her eyes and laughed. "Didn't your mom ever teach you any manners?"
Caleb smirked, pieces of icing falling from his mouth, "Yeah, but when I'm not around her, I could care less."
Shaking her head, Soraya walked up to him, brushing a piece of chocolate off his stubbly cheek.
Looking at his reflection in a nearby window, he smiled with satisfaction at his now clean face. He looked back at Soraya. "Thanks."
She nodded. "No problem. Are you heading in there?" She asked, referring to the Maggies sign above their heads. "Cause I'm just about to start a shift and could get you something."
Caleb nodded. "Sure. Yeah, the food is so much better when you're working."
They started walking towards the entrance, Caleb holding the door open for her. Soraya smiled gratefully.
"You do know it's always the same cook right? I just, deliver the meal."
Smiling, Caleb sat down at the counter, Soraya going behind it and washing her hands. "I know. But when I see that beautiful smile of yours, it makes the food taste that much better."
Soraya hid her face and blushed. "So, uh…" She stuttered. "What will it be?"
Caleb grinned at her change in subject. "The Ranchman's Special with an extra side of bacon please."
Nodding, Soraya scribbled it down and hung up the paper on the holder, just above the kitchen window for the chef.
Caleb took the glass of water she gave him and began chugging.
Soraya smiled. 'He will never change his ways will he?'
She looked down at her phone. It hadn't buzzed with the notification of a new text yet. She sighed in frustration.
Caleb looked at her in worry. "What's the matter?"
Ripping her eyes off the screen, Soraya focused back on the cowboy, realizing her internal struggle had been noticed.
"Amy still hasn't replied to my text yet."
"Well, when did you send it to her?" He asked, finishing off his glass.
Soraya sighed again, "Only an hour ago, but still."
He shook his head. "She's probably taking a shower or off working with a horse Soraya. I wouldn't worry about it."
"Yeah, but she always has her phone on her. What if, she's ignoring me?" She asked with hesitation.
Caleb gave her a questioning look. "Why would she do that?" He didn't get it. 'Girls are so confusing sometimes.' He thought.
"I don't know. I don't recall doing anything that would make her mad at me," she reasoned, thinking over the past couple of weeks. "She's always really blunt. Returning short answers to my questions. When I'm on the phone, it sounds like she's waiting for me to quickly finish what I'm saying so she can hang up."
Caleb sat quietly in thought. 'Just like Ty.'
He nodded mentally. Ty had been acting exactly the same way that Soraya had described. But why? What was going on?
The horse's black hooves thundered over the ground, eating up anything that came between him and his destination.
His rider laughed out loud, pushing him faster until they reached the top of Clairdale Ridge.
Amy pulled Spartan to a stop, scratching his neck furiously.
"Good boy!" She praised, her horse snorting in reply.
She laughing, kicking him back into a walk through a tunnel of trees. She loved this spot. She came up here every time she went on a ride.
The trees towered over her, coming together at the top, forming a twenty-foot high tunnel that opened up towards the river.
Amy sighed in relaxation, all her current struggles forgotten. She didn't think about school, or her parents, but of her, her horse, and the beautiful Alberta landscape she called home.
She couldn't think of any life she'd rather have. She was here. Now. Working with traumatized and neglected horses. Healing them from their damaging pasts and finding a new and forgiving life for them to live peacefully in.
She had a boyfriend that loved her, and cherished all the time they had together. He was kind, funny, smart, athletic, and understanding. All traits that she had ever hoped to find in a person.
Amy smiled. 'Now if only my family would stop worrying and making assumptions about me, life would be perfect.'
She sighed, trying to forget about it.
Spartan snorted, pulled her from her deep thoughts. The gelding took a nervous step to the side, shying away from something. From what, she didn't know.
Amy squeezed him on. "Come on, it's probably just a squirrel."
Spartan reluctantly walked forward, every step filled with caution.
The teen looked around. Up, down, left, right. She hadn't heard anything. Spartan usually never spooked. 'Hmm. Maybe it was just a squirrel.'
The black horse suddenly squealed, turning on his heels in the opposite direction. Acting on pure instinct from all her years in the saddle, Amy quickly reached forward on the left rein, pulling him back around.
"Hey, what's wrong?" She asked in a soothing voice, trying to calm the frightened horse.
She scratched his neck softly, pushing him forward again, only to have Spartan whinny, shaking his head and backing up.
When he stopped, Amy paused, listening and looking for anything, but to no avail.
"There's nothing there," she leaning forward and smoothed his mane, rubbing his neck. "You're fine."
Amy scanned the forest floor, eyes moving up the trees before looking past the opening to be make sure she hadn't misjudged things and her horse in fact did see something that she had missed. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary, so she squeezed him with a hopeful effort, finally getting the horse to walk on.
Amy sighed in relief. "See? There's nothing to worry about," she assured, patting his neck.
But she was wrong.
Spartan reared, whinnying frantically.
Amy lurked forward to prevent falling off, clasping on the horn for the first time she thought in years. "Steady! Whoa Spartan!" She called, desperation creeping into her voice. But Spartan only reared higher. "Spartan! Steady boy!"
When he landed, and had all fours on the ground, Amy looked up, gasping in fear.
A black figure stood, not twenty yards in front of her at the opening of the tunnel.
Amy's body, still not recovered from Spartan's bout, shivered in horror.
She wheeled the gelding around, kicking him in the direction of home before a hand stopped her cold in her attempts, grasping her back and hauling her off the horse.
She landed with a heavy thud, seeing Spartan taking off in panic. Amy screamed in terror. Her cry was quickly silenced, feeling a rough fabric being forced over her face, before everything went black.