AN: Sorry for the long delay. Uni worms into your life pretty quick!

This is so short because this is where I've written up to. This is where I have to decide what I want to do with the end of the plot so please look for the questions at the end and I would be really grateful for anyone's answers and opinions!

Again, sorry for the choppy time frames - its the style I was trying out to skip things that don't matter in the plot.


"And the colder the winter, the warmer the spring,

the deeper the sorrow, the more our hearts sing"

~Alison Krauss: There is Life


The academic year passed steadily. Elena and Marie decided to visit the grandparents in Venice for the half term break and because it was only a few days, Sidney came with them as normal. The old couple were as strong and active as ever, taking them around and cooking full meals. Freda called Elena to tell her Jesse was going to Colsford at the end of next week but he wouldn't tell her because he didn't think it was a huge deal.

Elena phoned to wish him luck and hung up before he could try to fathom how she knew.

Winter break stretched out for three weeks. Lucca e-mailed photographs of the ranch in the snow, and the summer haven had transformed into a winter wonderland with incredible picturesque views. Elena saw snapshots of the gang around the barn and out on the trails, and even ones of the developments of the guest cabins. They were almost complete and the insights made her miss it all the more.

They spent Christmas in the suburbs, with the grandparents visiting from Venice and a few days before New Years, borrowed Rocky's lorry again and packed their bags. Raja loaded with little trepidation, Tank waved them off and Elena, Marie and Sidney got on the road.

The drive was just as long as always and when they arrived, the changes could be seen straight away. The tap did not drip, icicles hung from it instead; dust did not swirl around their feet and the earth was much harder; the crooked door and the fly doors were both closed against the cold air and Lux's usual spot at the top of the askew steps was empty.

Raja was unloaded and Elena set her loose to the unlocked usual paddock in a quilted field rug. They knocked and Jonah answered the door with a wide smile, hugging them all in turn before leading them to the kitchen where the usual argument was going around.

Freda was stood at the aga hitting the extractor fan with a wooden spoon and Lucca was chopping at tomatoes, cucumber and carrots like a master chef while Jesse leant against the counter smirking in amusement. An unfamiliar woman in her late thirties with a facial resemblance to Freda was laying the dining table while a young girl no older than Louise had been read in front of the fire. Lux lifted her head from the kitchen tiles, her tail wagging happily as she stood and trotted over to greet them. Sidney was rapidly falling in love with the dog.

The woman and girl were introduced as Henrietta and Laurel, Freda's family who lived in the nearest town with Henri's husband. Freda, Jesse and Lucca shared round hugs when the dinner was ready and the meal passed quickly before beds were found. Henri and Laurel left in their little car for their home, Marie took her old room and Jonah rolled a mattress into Elena's for Sidney.


Days passed. Having Sidney there was different and Elena wasn't sure how she felt about it. She shared her time with everyone and helped out, hacked, schooled Raja and joined back into the rota for cooking. It was not nearly so much effort to get back into the swing on this end of the road, but she knew it was getting harder and harder to leave.

They shared Christmas presents at New Years in the wood panelled Ranch House with Freda and Mrs. Murdem cooking an elaborate meal that would feed them for a week with leftovers.

Elena opened a huge box, with a curved top and was speechless as she recognised it and opened the chest to find Costa's old side-saddle perched inside with a red bow around the two horns. Mrs. Murdem had insisted.

"I don't use it anymore," she'd said. "And you could do something amazing with it."

They left so that they had a couple of days to get back together before college started again. Marie spent the last day with Jonah on horseback taking pictures all over the land and in the heart where she snapped the people as well.


College slipped by sluggishly again, and at the problem yard, Rocky went home with his owner. He was once again keen in the face of the resolute natural cross country fences and did not back off the leg in the slightest with his owner on board. Raja enjoyed the days in the paddock, despite the thick layers of snow but Elena rugged her up in the stable at night.

They stayed in the suburbs for half term and Elena hung out with Sidney at the yard, worked with Raja and even entered into a dressage competition nearby where they placed second. Raja's jumping was being improved greatly and she enjoyed being taught how to work around courses in the spare paddocks. She had a bold jump but was not impatient and she lifted neatly over the poles giving herself space so that in essence, her natural ability meant she could look to show jumping competitions in the near future.

Jesse and Freda continued to call on a weekly basis; Elena e-mailed pictures of Raja in the dressage and received ones of Jesse and Picolo in the most recent reining competition. They made plans ahead for the Easter break when calves and even a foal were expected. Jitterbug, had been carrying since Late May.

The break arrived quickly once the promise of the ranch had been made. Rocky's owner handed Elena the keys to the lorry with a smile and they packed again for two weeks. Sidney had pleaded with her mother that she was on top of work and would be back with a week to spare. She had been allowed to come.


AN: So...Its the start of the Easter Holidays. It's Elena's last year at college.

Here's the questions:

1- Does she go back to the ranch to spend the summer or move up there indefinitely?

2- Does her mother or sidney (or both) go with her?

3- Does her friendship with Jesse stay that, or should it 'go further'...?

4- Where does Louise stand with Raja? Still attached or moved on?

I only have thoughts on a couple of these, some I have no idea what to do with, so any input is great input!

The next chapter may take a while because I'll have to sit and write it, not just post but Reading week is approaching so fingers crossed.

On the other hand, I am almost done with the final chapter of Changing Steps, so hopefully that will be up before the end of the week! (Then its just the seven epilogues...)