MaKenna Nilsen stomped down the aisle, ignoring the curious noses poking over the stall doors, and smashed her hard hat to her head. She gripped her stick in her right hand, fighting the urge to smack someone with it. Her temper, always so close to the surface lately, was going to get her in trouble one of these days.
"Kenna, wait!" the older man called, as he started after her. "Kenna!"
She quickened her pace, nearly jogging out of the barn, and headed to the paddock area. Several people took one look at her dark face and practically jumped out of her way.
What was he thinking? she fumed as she continued to stalk further away from him. How could he?
"Good luck, MaKenna," Lydia Streeting sneered as she hurried to catch up with her. "Have a good race."
"Just bite me," Kenna snapped. She veered to her left and found the trainer and owner saddling a large, brown horse. She inhaled deeply, cleansing her body of the red hot anger burning her insides. "Hey, boy," she said, smiling as she stroked the horse's long nose. "We're going to win today."
"Are you ready, Kenna?" Walt the trainer asked as he checked the cinch and the stirrups.
"Yeah," she said. "How about you, Hero?"
The horse bobbed his head, lifting his feet as if the ground were scorching his hooves. Kenna managed a weak smile and ran her hand down his neck.
"Let's go," Wally said as Kenna moved closer and allowed him to hoist her into the saddle. He helped her slip her feet in the stirrups and handed her the reins. She clutched them tightly, her whip hanging off her wrist, and nodded. Wally led her out of the paddock and out to the track for the post parade.
Her horse, Hero Worship, shook his mane in anticipation as he stepped lightly on the track. A boy around her age on a spotted pony grabbed Hero's bridle and together they walked in front of the stands.
Kenna squeezed her knees as she yanked her goggles over her eyes and felt a fine quiver rush through the colt's veins. He was ready to run.
The parade came to an end and the hands began shoving horses into the gate. Hero Worship drew the fourth post and Kenna watched the other horses carefully. None of them fought the gate as they all went in docilely – which she thought could be a good sign. Maybe the rest of the field wasn't as hyped about the race as Hero. But then, Hero was excellent at not showing his excitement which could be true of the others. You just never knew with thoroughbreds.
The doors slammed behind her and she crouched over Hero, holding her breath. The horses in the stalls on either side of her were stomping their hooves, their ears pointed forward, waiting.
The bell trilled as the gates swung open and Hero broke cleanly. She held him in with little effort – she'd ridden him before and knew he was a stretch runner who loved to turn on the speed in the final stretch. But she didn't want him falling too far behind, either.
She kept her eyes on the colt in front of her – a promising two year-old with an arrogant rider – and scooted closer. Hero liked to ride the rail but she didn't want him to box himself in as the entire field was still too clustered.
When they passed the halfway point, the field broke up and she let him ride the rail. The colt in front of them was tiring while Hero hadn't even hit his stride. She went to the whip and Hero let go, cranking up the speed. She ducked under her arm as if checking a side mirror on a car before making a move but another horse was quickly gaining ground.
"Damn it," she cursed.
The colt in front of her was starting to lag but Kenna was helpless to move around him. The horse next to her had her boxed and didn't seem to be in any hurry. Kenna glanced to her right and was a tad surprised to see Lydia grinning madly at her. She ignored the other woman and concentrated on getting her horse out of the jam. But Lydia made her move and bumped her horse into Hero.
Hero knocked heavily into the rail, grazing his side, and panicked. He thrashed and tried to rear even though Kenna was shouting words of comfort at him. He bucked and her right foot slipped out of the stirrup. She slid to the left as Hero's anxiety increased. She clutched the reins and dug her fingers into his mane but it was no use – she tumbled off the horse and banged her neck on the rail, her helmet flying off. She screamed as Hero's hind legs kicked her side, sending her briefly up before she finally landed with a hard, sickening crack on the packed dirt of the track.
"No," she whispered incoherently as the rest of the field thundered toward her. She lifted her weak hands to cover her face as the world went mercifully dark.
A/N: Just a few things. One: I hate (absolutely) the summary for this story.
Two: For those of you who asked, Brett was Casey's best friend in A New Paige. This story was supposed to be first but I started posting Casey's first and it wasn't thought out enough. So, here's Brett and Kenna's story. Hope you all like it.
YAY! Baseball season has officially started!!!!!!!