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The Girl Who Galloped – Story Sample

Story Sample: The Girl Who Galloped

By Deb Gerace

Copyright – 2011

Rachel Renfro loved nothing better than to run through the woods behind her house and feel the wind lift and sift through her hair.  She shook her head and her dark hair flew out behind her back like a horse’s mane.  This made Rachel smile and she ran even faster.  Her feet beat an uneven rhythm against the ground.  Rachel didn’t run like other children did.  Other children’s feet made an even “thump, thump, thump, thump” sound as their shoes slapped against the ground.  Rachel galloped like a horse would.  Her feet pounded along like this:  “thump, thump – – thump, thump.”  She could see herself in her mind as a galloping horse, her hooves making the leaves fly along the path.

Rachel soon ran out of the woods and reached a clearing.  She stopped under the edge of the trees and lifted her head, searching the open space before leaving her sheltering forest.  In her mind, she was leading her band of followers to good grassland for food.  She scuffed the ground with her foot, which was her sign of safety to the herd.  Then she stepped out onto the meadow with her imaginary band trailing behind her.

Rachel wandered through the field, listening to the “swish-swish” of her feet passing through the tall drying grass.  She made a big circle around her herd, which was the way of a good lead horse.  She sniffed the air for danger but, after all, she was only human, so all she smelled were the scents of autumn. That was Rachel’s whole problem.  She was human, but in her mind, she saw herself as a wild horse.  Her own long, black hair was both mane and tail.

Snapping twigs and faint voices made Rachel jerk to a stop.  The voices came nearer and she could see people coming down the hill at the far end of the field.  She turned to her herd and made a low sound in her throat to warn them.

The people came into full view.  They were just little boys in baseball uniforms, but Rachel saw them as round-up riders.  She pretended they were swinging their ropes and closing in on her herd.  She lit out for the cover of the woods, but her herd was too slow.  The Little League team spread out over the meadow to play ball.  To Rachel, watching from the trees, the riders were surrounding her herd, cutting them off from the freedom of the woods.

She turned away and trotted off down the path.  She felt sorry for the herd, but she was also relieved.  It was hard enough to pretend she was a horse without having to imagine a whole herd of horses around her.  Now she could think of herself as the lone, but clever survivor of the round-up.

Rachel’s daydreams were broken by the sound of her mother’s whistle.  Her mother could put two fingers between her teeth and make the loudest whistle in the neighborhood.  It always reached the ears of Rachel and her little brother Benjamin, no matter how far away they were playing.

As she galloped out of the woods and into her back yard, Rachel’s horse-image faded away.  Benjamin saw her coming and made a whinnying sound as he held the back door open for her.  Benjamin knew Rachel’s secret because once in a while, she’d let him join her herd.  But Benjamin couldn’t keep up when Rachel broke into a gallop, so he didn’t often tag along.

During dinner, Mrs. Renfro asked her children how school had been that day.  Benjamin told her about his show-and-tell period, but Rachel was quiet.  She hoped her teacher hadn’t called home about Rachel’s daydreaming in school.

During recess on Friday afternoon, Rachel’s classmates went out onto the playground, joining the younger children who were jumping rope or playing tag.  The girls in Rachel’s class practiced cheers or stood around, chatting in little private clumps. The middle school boys chased each other, tossed a football or teased the girls.  Rachel lingered near the fence, gazing out at the woods through the chain links.  She imagined the younger children playing around her as her lost herd, now corralled by the playground fence.  She listened to their shrieks and laughter and thought they needn’t sound so happy about being captured.  Then she realized she was inside the fence, too.  She erased the captured herd from her mind.  That way, she could remain free.

She sat on one of the swings and watched Marie Graf, her best friend.  Marie was standing near the basketball hoop, cheering whenever Jeff Cornell’s shots went through the net.

Marie wasn’t really Rachel’s best friend anymore.  It had been several months since Marie ran beside Rachel in the woods, sharing Rachel’s horse dream.   Last year, Marie had cut a picture of a tan horse with its wheat-colored mane and tail out of a magazine and taped it inside of her horse notebook.  Rachel had her own notebook.  It had a postcard of a white horse with black mane and tail pasted inside the cover.  She sketched horse pictures in her notebook and the leaders were always Rachel and Marie.

That fall, however, Marie’s Palomino left the herd.  When school first started, Rachel had stopped by Marie’s classroom door to meet her old friend and gallop home together after their first day of school.  Marie’s class had dismissed a little later than Rachel’s, as Marie was now in Junior High and had to change classes.  Rachel stood outside the seventh grade hallway until she heard the sound of chairs scraping and footsteps nearing the doors.

Marie was the third person to come out, but her long mane had disappeared.  Instead, her hair was styled and spiky.  Marie didn’t see Rachel waiting because a boy walked besides her, carrying her

books.  Marie’s hand was fluttering around her head, testing her stiff locks while she talked to the boy.  Her voice sounded lower than Rachel had remembered it as she overheard Marie asking the boy to go home with her and help her with her math homework.

Rachel backed away from the door and left the building another way, feeling very much alone.  She wondered why Marie was now more interested in boys than in horses.  For the life of her, she couldn’t figure it.  When a boy ran into her while playing ball on the playground, he would just laugh in her face or yell at her like it was her fault for getting in his way.  If she out-ran them in a game of tag, they would call her My Little Pony™ because she galloped in that one/two rhythm.  The only boy who had ever shown her any kindness at all had been an eighth grader who helped her to her feet after a seventh grade boy running after a ball knocked her down.

That eighth grader had a sister in the fifth grade that Rachel knew slightly and she could see the resemblance in the two.  The girl was very tiny for a 5th grader and had once asked Rachel to reach up and retrieve her book-bag from the top of the row of lockers by the door when a bigger boy tossed it up there on their way out to recess one afternoon.  When Rachel handed the little back-pack to the girl, she was surprised when the child thanked her with a quick hug, but before Rachel could say anything or pull away, the little girl ran out onto the playground and disappeared into the throng of kids.  So niceness sort of ran in that family, Rachel supposed and wished it would rub off on the other kids, like maybe Marie, who now acted like she didn’t even know Rachel existed.  Did hanging around with boys give girls tunnel vision, like blinkers on a horse’s racing bridle, she wondered?  Or maybe amnesia, since some girls forgot who their first friends were?

Marie once told Rachel that she needed to just grow up.  She had said it just like that, like Rachel was a child and she, Marie was so very cool, so very far beyond her that she couldn’t be bothered with her horsey little friend anymore.  Couldn’t Rachel see what was happening?  Marie slid her hands down her own sides, especially where her middle nipped in and her hips flared out. Then she turned sideways and stuck out her chest and Rachel could see that definitely was different.  She suspected the same thing was beginning to happen to her, but she didn’t want to think about it.  Changes; they were too scary – too adult.  That was part of the reason she galloped; to run away from the changes which were now occurring in her own body; the body she thought she knew like she knew her own soul and had trusted all through childhood.  She never thought it could change and betray her like Marie’s was, but it was true.  Her mother even left a little book about it on her pillow on her eleventh birthday, but she hid it between the frame and the horse picture on her dresser so she wouldn’t have to look at it or think about the frightening information it might contain.

Oddly enough, boy-crazy Marie seemed to be proud of her changes and Rachel simply could not understand it.  After all, Marie was kind of swelling and, well, jiggling now.  Horses didn’t jiggle – they were smooth, sleek and muscular.

Marie jiggled all over the place; in fact, she made a big deal about her jiggling, especially when boys were around.  Boys!  There it was again.  What was so magical about boys?  Rachel wondered about this as she trotted home without her palomino pal.  She knew that Marie was no longer interested in the herd, so she never again waited by the seventh grade door.

Benjamin knew, too, when he saw Rachel run off into the woods alone on that first Saturday morning in September.  He had seen Marie up in the schoolyard every afternoon, practicing cheers for Jr. High cheerleading try-outs.  Last fall, she and Rachel would have been out of the school building at the sound of the bell like horses bolting from the starting gate.  They would run home, hand in hand to drop off their books and then head for the woods.

Benjamin had tried to follow Rachel into the woods that weekend, but she had vanished by the time he reached the edge of the lawn.  He sat down on a stump to wait for her return, but his mother came by with her gardening tools.  She asked Benjamin to collect the weeds in a big plastic bag as she dug them up from her orderly rows of pumpkin vines.

She had asked where Rachel was and then sighed as she saw him nod towards the woods.  She worried about something he had once overheard her call “Rachel’s Fantasy Life.”  Benjamin wasn’t sure what that meant, but he knew his mother feared the woods.  He thought she must be afraid of Rachel getting lost in the woods.  He had often heard her say, “That girl is too much alone.”

He had wanted to tell her not to worry and that Rachel had lots of imaginary horse-friends following her.  Rachel had made him promise never to mention the horse thing, though.  Sometimes she let Benjamin run with her and he knew if he told, that would be the end of that.

When Benjamin ran with Rachel, she told him he had to be a newborn colt.  That was because he couldn’t keep up very well.  He wanted to be her colt, but she said the leaders had no colts. He had a hunch she just told him that so she could be free of him.  She made up a story that Benjamin’s horse-mother had been rounded up by cowboys, but he had escaped.  Benjamin had to settle for that, so he tried to frisk alongside Rachel like a colt would.  He always wound up tripping over roots and once he was snapped in the face by a branch that Rachel had bent back as she passed by.

Finally, Rachel created a new story to cover Benjamin’s clumsiness.  She explained that he was a domestic horse that was used to being in a warm barn.  He had always walked on smooth pastureland, so naturally, he tripped in the rough woods.  She told him he had been ridden quite a bit and that was why he couldn’t run fast and free.  Benjamin liked the first story better, but Rachel stuck to the second one.

Now Rachel galloped alone most of the time.  After school, Marie disappeared into the gym for practice and even Benjamin couldn’t run with her.  Mrs. Renfro worried when he went in the woods with Rachel.  He always came home scratched or bruised.  Rachel, however, never had a mark on her, but Mrs. Renfro wondered about Rachel’s scrapes and bruises on the inside, because she, too, noticed that Marie was missing.  No mother likes to see her child without friends and Mrs. Renfro knew Rachel must be lonely, even though the girl never complained.  Her mother once visited Rachel’s teacher to ask her if there was something she could do about Rachel’s lack of friends, but Mrs. Ashe told her that anything a mother or a teacher might try to force friendships would simply make Rachel’s classmates resent Rachel and maybe even try to get back at her for involving adults.  She did suggest however, that Mrs. Renfro enroll Rachel in an after-school activity so she could make new friends. Mrs. Ashe had also noticed that sometimes Rachel and Benjamin played together before classes started in the mornings, so she mentioned that maybe Rachel could spend more time with her brother.  Sometimes Mrs. Renfro wished Benjamin was older so she could feel more comfortable about letting him play in the woods, but as little as he was now, she knew Rachel was probably too caught up in her fantasies to keep an eye on him.

Finally, Mrs. Renfro enrolled Benjamin in the local Cub Scout troop which met after school.  She wanted to put Rachel in Girl Scouts, but Rachel wasn’t interested. When Benjamin put on his blue uniform with the yellow scarf, Rachel told him he was back in harness.  He was no longer part of the herd.  Benjamin had cried at first, but afterwards he told her he would learn rope-tying knots so that he could catch horses.

He knew he’d never be able to catch Rachel, though. In a way, he really didn’t want to catch her.  She truly was a wild thing in Benjamin’s eyes.  She proved it by escaping her mother’s plans for her like a horse would dodge a lasso.  He secretly peeked in her horse-notebook when she was gone and tried to trace Rachel’s drawings.  They came out like his Boy Scout knots did—full of wayward lines and tangles and clearly nothing like the examples he was copying.

End of Sample

(End of Excerpt and one-third of the story)

This eBook will soon be available on Amazon.com.   Check this blog for release date in late August

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