What Happens in Texas: Part 4

Ok, so it’s been a while since I posted a chapter of What Happens in Texas. I apologise. I got sidetracked, and also a little stuck. I know nothing about horses. So my friend Sarah, who’s both a trained vet and adores horses, helped me out. Thanks Sarah!

If you haven’t read parts one, two, or three yet, you should check those out first 🙂


What Happens in Texas

Four

Astin entered Pablo’s stables and came across an old friend. She was just as regal, just as beautiful as he remembered. She turned her head to face him. Her ears were forward. He allowed himself to think meant she was pleased to see him, but thenhe did have treats in his pockets. And he was desperate for someone not to hate him. He’d reached a whole new level of pathetic.

‘Hey, beautiful,’ said Astin, running his hand through her mane. Her bay coat was starting to grey around the eyes, her back was a little more swayed than he remembered, but she was still the quarter horse he’d spent his teenage years riding.

‘You can ride her if you want. She’s the better behaved one anyway,’ said Pablo.

‘Thanks.’

Sheila had been his horse when he’d lived with his grandparents. He’d sold her to Pablo when he’d moved to New York. As much as he loved horses, he knew he couldn’t stay in the countryside forever. Sheila would be better off with Pablo than in New York, where she’d have to go through the trauma of moving and he wouldn’t get nearly as much time with her.

They saddled their respective horses. Pablo offered to help him mount, but Astin wanted to do it alone. Just to see if he could. And he did. Without hurting his back. He smiled. Small wins meant everything after what he’d been through.

Pablo climbed onto his horse – a leopardspotted appaloosa called, funnily enough, Spot. The two of them cantered through the fields. The wind blew past them, rippling their clothes and caressing their skin. It was a gentle, soothing breath that took the edge off the Texan heat. ‘Not so bad, is it?’

‘I missed this. I’d forgotten how good it feels,’ said Astin.

‘What else have you forgotten?’ asked Pablo.

Talk about a loaded question…

Astin asked Sheila to speed up. She obeyed. Pablo and Spot caught up with him.

‘Well?’ said Pablo.

‘Can we just enjoy the moment?’ said Astin. ‘Please?’

‘Race you to the trees?’

‘I can’t risk it.’

‘Did the doctors say that?’

The doctors had told him to do what felt right. They said he seemed fine, but his back might hurt sometimes. He’d have to keep his strength up. The stronger his muscles were, the happier his back would be. Horse riding was good exercise…

Astin touched Sheila’s sides with his heels and they raced Pablo and Spot to the trees. The cool breeze hit him in the face. It made him feel alive. He beat Pablo to the trees, but only just.

‘Good race,’ said Pablo.

Panting, Astin slid off his horse and sat down. His back wasn’t protesting. He took that as a good sign, but he wanted to sit down and enjoy the moment all the same. While it was good he’d managed to do so much, he still didn’t want to push his luck. He needed rest, too.

Pablo dismounted and sat beside him.

‘I’ve spent my whole life working towards a career in stunts. When I lost that, I lost sight of who I was,’ said Astin.

‘But you can go back, can’t you?’

‘It’s dangerous. I could end up in a wheelchair permanently.’

‘Like danger has ever stopped you before. Besides, aren’t there other things you could do? Like co-ordinating and stuff.’

‘How do you know?’

‘I read,’ said Pablo. He lay back, resting his head on his hands and staring up at the cloudless sky.

Astin picked at some grass and threw it at Pablo. Pablo ignored him.

‘I don’t know if I could. Plus…I’m not sure that I want to.’

‘How come?’

‘Hollywood turned its back on me. I don’t know if I could go back.’

‘Hollywood is fickle; you know that. Heck, even the horses know that,’ said Pablo.

‘I guess,’ said Astin. ‘I don’t think I could do co-ordinating, though. You know me: I’ve always been more of a do-er.

‘Then do something. Find something to work towards,’ said Pablo. He grabbed some grass and threw it at Astin. Astin stopped picking at the grass and lay back too.

‘Like what, though?’

‘You’re the action man, not me. What have you always wanted to do but never had the chance to?’

‘There was one thing I wanted to do as a kid, but my grandparents told me to never think about it. It was too dangerous.’

‘What was it?’

‘Climbing El Capitan. The Dawn Wall way.’ It was the steepest, most dangerous way to climb one of the tallest mountains in the world. He’d dreamt of it as a kid, but his grandparents had always talked him out of it because of how dangerous it was. His mother had told him to jump back down from the top.

‘Yeah, that is nuts,’ said Pablo. ‘But it’s not impossible. Three guys have done it this past year.’

‘It took them days, though.’

‘Isn’t that what training is for? So you’re unfit and can’t push yourself too hard right now, but it’s something to work towards, isn’t it? Maybe in a year, eighteen months, even two years, you’ll be ready. And how awesome will you feel when you’ve done it?’

Astin sat up. ‘Yeah, you’re right. You’re so right.’

I’m insulted you thought I’d be wrong.’

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