• The alarm clock’s insistent beeping awoke me. I rolled over, still half asleep, to hit the “off” button. Then I silently slid to the floor. I scowled into the mirror across from me, remembering the events that had transpired the day before: The Worst Friday of my Fourteen Years. My best friend Jessica had fought viciously with me, my first crush had dumped me. And to top it all off, I had completely flunked my math exam. I pulled my unkempt black hair into a short ponytail and shoved on my glasses. Only one thing could calm me down.
    I crept silently through the house, and, though no one was up, started on some breakfast. I wolfed it down ravenously. The door creaked as I left the house and hurried out into the early morning chill. I knew where I was going; yet I found myself surprised at the fact that I had wandered into the stable. My parents owned and operated a small farm, there were four horses that we owned and two more were boarded. I felt something rub against my leg and looked down to see the barn cat. I wanted to kick her. She had no idea of my troubles. I stomped down the isle, my boots echoing off the walls. I could feel my anger, life was so unfair, and I wanted to scream. Then, suddenly, my fury evaporated. A shaggy head with comically huge and lopsided ears had poked out at the end of the row of stalls. It was my pony, Shadow. He was old and maybe a bit dumb, but he was my baby. I grabbed a grooming kit and slipped into his stall. This time it was excitement I felt, and not anger.
    * * *
    When Shadow was all tacked up, I silently led him from the stall. I hooked him to the crossties in order to pick his feet.
    As I forced up the first hoof, memories flooded over me. My first riding lesson…
    “Come on, you can handle it. He is only a pony, after all!” my instructor had encouraged. I had been trying without success to pick the school horse’s feet.
    “But he keeps putting them down! All I can manage is a tiny bit… you made it look easy!”
    “All right. We can do more grooming after you ride. Lead him this way, to the ring.”
    As I mounted, I accidentally kicked the pony in the rump. He took off, and I fell off.
    “Are you all right? You took a pretty bad fall!” The teacher called.
    “I’m fine, but let’s try that again…”
    “Sure! That’s the right attitude! You always want to get back on the horse!!” The teacher quipped.

    Now, trotting around the ring and out to the trails on Shadow, I sensed his urge to go faster. He tugged impatiently at the snaffle bit. All right, let’s go! I thought. Taking the half-seat, I urged him to gallop. As the wind whipped my hair, I knew that I would call my friend Jessica to apologize, knew that there was always extra credit, and that true lovers didn’t dump. After all, you should always get back on the horse.