Aunt Sophia drops me off at Cory’s barn before her job interview. Says she hopes to earn a little extra while she’s stuck in Maryland babysitting me until Angela’s release date. She didn’t call it stuck, but I knew what she meant. For me, the only good thing about being back is seeing my best friend again.
“Oh, my God, I haven’t seen you in forever!” Cory lopes down the barn aisle and tackles me in a hug. Horses spin in their stalls. “I’ve missed you so much.”
The smell of horse sweat mixed with liniment drifts off her coat when I wrap my arms around her and squeeze back. We start to tip. She lets go, just in time before we both crash to the floor.
“And your hair!” Cory rubs the flat of her hand over the top of my shorn head, like she’s petting a dog. “So, how long have you been back?”
“Got here yesterday.”
“What’s with your hair?” Her face scrunches. “I like it,” she lies.
“Right.” I run my hand over the spiky short curls.
Cory cocks her head. It’s a familiar habit. Last year, when we rode on the jumper circuit together—well, not together, against each other—I figured out she does the head-tilting thing when the course is especially hard. Seems like a million years ago when we were riding together, but in reality it’s only been a year and a half. Something tightens in the back of my throat. In the end, she went on to the big shows, and I got packed off to East Texas. Everything here looks so familiar and at the same time different. Stuff went on while I was gone. Cory had good stuff happen, I had…
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