A/N: I know I'm not very realiable as far as updating and the like, but I just don't have the time to write much anymore, and if I do, I don't have the time to type it up and post it! But this should be quicker, because a friend volunteered to type up this story for me since I don't have time! She's the BEST!

Summary:

Chapter One

But Break, For I Must Hold My Tongue

April glanced discretely at the new kid. He was sitting alone in a deserted corner of the cafeteria staring at his lunch tray. He was kinda cute too. He was in her first period English class. His name was Noah Something.

She pushed away her own tray and stood up. Jodi, a good friend, looked at her curiously." I'm going to introduce myself." she announced.

Lauren, a not so close friend snickered. "Sit down, April. He isn't worth your time."

April glared lightly. "I think I'll be the judge of that." Ignoring Lauren's comments, April turned away from the table and walked toward the boy. She took a seat at his table with a smile. "Hi, I'm April. We have English together."

He glared up, but didn't make an effort to say anything. April smiled again and he looked down at his tray – beach blonde hair falling into his eyes. April tried again. "I'm a junior. Technically I should be a sophomore, but I skipped a grade."

Still nothing. Was he deaf? April didn't want to try signing anything, just in case he turned out to just be ignoring her. April reached into her purse and pulled out a small notebook and a pen. She wrote across the top of the paper, "I'm April. You're Noah. What's your last name?"

He laughed, but it wasn't a happy sort of laugh, or even condescending. It was bitter. April stood quickly. "Well, I'll see you around I guess." He didn't say anything, glancing back at his lunch tray. April sighed and left him, heading back to her friends.

"How did it go?" Jodi asked softly, pushing her brunette bangs out of her face. She looked genuinely curious.

April shrugged. "Not well. He didn't exactly ignore me, but he wouldn't say anything either."

"What a jerk." Jodi murmured.

"No," April said back quietly. "He's not a jerk. He's just….troubled."

Jodi smiled. "Take it easy. He's new."

"I know." April answered.

For the next few minutes April was content to finish her lunch and answer questions that Jodi had about their biology homework, but her gaze kept drifting back to Noah. He sat calmly, like he didn't care he was alone, but he did look sad. Depressed.

He wasn't exactly April's type. She preferred athletic guys, and Noah clearly wasn't athletic. He was tall and lean – gangly almost. But he dressed nicely, like he cared about how he looked, which certainly earned points in April's book. Suddenly he looked up and their eyes met. Embarrassed that she had been caught staring she looked away, but not before catching the glare he sent her way.

"Hey April, you met the new kid yet?" Drew, Jodi's spiky-haired boyfriend, asked, plopping down in a chair. "We have P.E. together."

April nodded. "He didn't say much to me."

Drew nodded and gave a little grin. "Maybe he's shocked that such a pretty girl is talking to him."

Jodi smacked him playfully on the arm and he ducked his head, grinning sheepishly. "You're pretty too, Jodi. Beautiful actually." Drew leaned over and gave Jodi a slight peck on the lips.

"Or maybe it's because you're a junior."

April glanced up just as dark-haired, porcelain skinned Macy sat down across from her. She smiled softly and April noticed a slight flush to her skin. Grinning, she asked. "How's Ty?"

Macy flushed and ran her fingers over her slightly messy hair. "That's obvious?"

"Honey," Jodi said with a wicked smile, "If you were any more flushed, I'd say you just run a mile."

Macy ducked her head, letting her dark hair fall over her face and hide her blush. Tyee Hill was Macy's boyfriend, a young Indian boy who claimed he was too smart for school, and had a dangerously dark look about him. "He's just…"

April and Jodi laughed as Macy turned even pinker. "I know. Irresistible. So, where'd you guys go for lunch?" Jodi asked, looping her arm through Drew's.

Macy shrugged. "He mad PB&Js. It was kinda cute actually." Macy said with a giggle. "He's always doing stuff like that."

Before the group could say any more on the subject of Macy and Ty, the lunch bell rang and the cafeteria burst into new noise as students pushed out their chairs and stacked their lunch trays on a cart outside the kitchen. April stood and followed suit, slinging her backpack onto her shoulders, before heading towards art.

Greg was really the only person in the class that April knew, so they shared a table and compared drawings and laughed until Mrs. Alexander threatened them with detentions. Of course, she would never actually give either of them a detention or a tardy, but neither of them really wanted to take a chance.

Luckily school was in full swing now – it being the third week of September – so there weren't any boring syllabus' to go over, or even class rules or school pictures. So she and Greg sat happily drawing and coloring their favorite thing for their first official assignment. Greg was studiously drawing a fishing boat complete with crab traps and a family, while April drew Jazz. Jazz was a five-year-old blue roan mare what happened to be April's pride and glory.

April's last two classes weren't terribly hard; Calculus (she'd skipped Pre-Calculus entirely) and Chemistry. Chemistry was fun. She understood the basic concepts and loved her teacher, Ms. Ellis. So far it was an easy "A".

When class let out, April wasn't surprised to see that it was raining. She pulled her hood over her veil of strawberry-blonde curls and headed out to her truck. It was a little beat up and the paint had faded to a light baby blue, but April loved it all the same – it got good gas millage and rarely had any troubles. The only problem was that the radio didn't work all the time – usually only when April really wanted to listen to some good music. Just her luck.

It took her twenty minutes to get from Astoria High School to her house, built it was a beautiful scenic drive through trees and along a little road next to the beach. When she parked the truck and got out she was immediately accosted by a very large puppy jumping at her until he got his paws on her shoulders and could lick her half to death. Leo. He was her mom's gray and white Great Dane – a klutz on four feet if there ever was one. He was followed by a brown (April called it chestnut) and white Kind Charles Cavalier puppy. Holly was just barely four months old. She wobbled and tottered after her huge friend and whined unit April scooped her up.

Together they went inside the hunter – green farmhouse. It had been built in the early 1900s but several renovations had made it stand up to time, even now that it was 100 years old. It was two stories tall with a large wraparound porch covered with wisteria and a basement that was hardly ever used.

"Mom, I'm home!" April called through the mud room and into the kitchen.

Lily Reeves appeared, wearing her work clothes. They consisted of blue jeans and a t-shirt. She grinned. "April, I could hear you coming from a mile away."

April laughed, "I know."

"How was your day? Jazz got out again."

"April grinned. "Again?"

Lily nodded. "You forgot to latch the bottom latch – again- and it didn't take her long to figure that out.

April laughed – she couldn't help it. "I'll go have a talk with her in a few minutes. I was actually hoping to talk to you really quickly about a new student,"

"Is he cute?"

"Mom!"

"Well, you can't blame me! Is he cute or not?"

"He's very cute."

"And you like him?"

"Mom! He just transferred here on Monday!"

Lily laughed. "Ok. Ok. So about this new cute kid?"

"Well, I decided to introduce myself. He was sitting alone at lunch. But he just ignored me – well, he acknowledged that I was talking, but he refused to say anything at all."

" Honey, he's new. You can't blame him for being shy. Just give it a few days and I'm sure he'll come around – he won't be able to resist the temptation to talk to you

*

April got a snack (an apple) and changed into her barn clothes before heading outside to see the herd. Shadow was in the first stall. He poked his dark face out and nickered softly before pinning his ears and darting out into his paddock. Jazz was in the last stall on the left side. April noticed that the top latch on her door was unlocked. With a sigh, April fixed it. "Jazz, you get into way too much trouble. You know that?"

Jazz bobbed her black head up and down as if to say "I know!". April gave her the core from her apple and then ran her hands down the roan's neck. " Let's go for a ride, okay?"

Chapter Two

What A Piece Of Work Is Man

The next day at school, Thursday, April found herself sitting next to Noah in English. He didn't say a word as Mr. Jones passed out worn copies of Hamlet to each student. "Please write your real name.."Mr. Jones' eyes wavered for a second on a senior April didn't know, and the class erupted into laughter, "in the inside cover and the date it was issued to you. As much as I would love to buy a new collection, I would not like to explain to Mr. Thompson why my senior class suddenly fell so in love with Ophelia, they couldn't bear to turn the books back in. " The class laughed again at this.

April printed her name neatly on the inside cover and the day's date, September 20th, 2007, and then peeked to her right. Noah's hand was skillfully obscuring her view of his name. The class was assigned to read the first two acts overnight, without complaint. April looked forward to it; she loved Shakespeare. With that, Mr. Jones left his class to read. April open Hamlet and glanced over the "dramatis personae", hoping to get a grasp on all the characters' names.

After English, April sped down the hall to the science hall where she had biology with Macy and Ty, who, like usually, didn't show up. She took her seat next to Macy at the lab bench. Mr. O' Mally, a graying, slightly grumpy man, was seated behind his desk, watching the door like a hawk.

"How was English?" Macy asked.

April shrugged. "We're starting Hamlet. Should be fun, as long as we don't have to act out any of the scenes…"

"Seen Noah?"

"We have English together."

"Oh, yeah. I knew that. Still ignoring you?"

April nodded. "Yeah. But, that's ok. I talked to mom about it and she said to just give him some time to settle in."

Macy nodded. "Good idea."

"How's Ty?"

Macy sighed. "I like him, I really do, but he just doesn't care about school enough. I wish he would just come once a week…"

"I know. Have you asked him?"

She bit her lip. "Yes, but you know how Ty is….he just sorta distracts me until l I forget about it."

April flushed a little at Macy's tone. "Well, maybe you need to have a talk…Even if he has a good job on the reservation, he shouldn't abandon his education – especially when it's free."

Macy nodded. "I'll do that."

*

By lunch time on Friday, April was definitely ready for the weekend. There was a group coming to the ranch next weekend and it was just what April needed. Being around kids and horses just relaxed her. April finished her lunch and then took a piece of paper from her purse, writing on it in black sharpie. April Reeves – 506-626-1133. April had a plan.

Then she walked to his table and sat down. "Did you finish Act III for English? How do you like Hamlet so far?"

Of course, talking to Noah was like talking to a brick wall ' you weren't guaranteed a response, but if one occurred you would be shocked out of your shell. April sat there glancing at his narrow, handsome face every few minutes. His skin was pale, but it wasn't sickly pale, it was a natural, especially to someone who lived where it rained almost everyday during the year. He smelled good- like a light cologne or body wash, and the smell wafted towards April, almost teasing her.

Finally the bell ran and they both stood. Noah walked past and as he did so it was easy for April to inconspicuously slip the paper with her name and number into his messenger bag. Grinning to herself, April dashed out of the cafeteria toward art. But not before he uttered a single word. "Weston." His last name.

*

After School April went to the grocery store to pick up some things for dinner as it was her turn to cook. She bought ingredients for homemade garlic artichoke pizza and a chocolate cheesecake for dessert.

Holly and Leo were ecstatic to see her when she got home, jumping and barking. Leo proceeded to attempt to pick up a rather large log in his excitement, but he gave up and settles for half a mutilated tennis ball.

"You'd think they were locked up all day!" Lily commented from the flower beds on the side of the stairs to the porch.

April nodded. "I'm gonna go for a ride really quick; I'll take them with me."

"Okay. When you get back we need to sweep out the bunkhouse and clean the barn."

"Alright. What time are they arriving? Where are they from?"

"They should be here around noon next Saturday. They're from Oregon School for the Deaf. Just a small group – five or six – girls and boys."

April grinned. "Awesome. It'll be a good weekend then."

Lily nodded. "We have a lot to do though, so skedaddle."

With a laugh April darted up the steps and hurried to her room. It wasn't very big, but it had enough room for a double bed, a dresser, a desk, and a couple of bookshelves. She changed into a plain black t-shirt and a pair of wranglers. She slid her feet into her worn, well loved Ariats and pulled her curls into a loose pony at the nape of her neck. Sarge, a blood bay quarter horse, stocky and short, was waiting impatiently in his stall. He snorted and pawed, but April only shushed him. "Sorry bud. I'm gonna ride Jazz today."

April pulled Jazz from her stall and the little mare followed eagerly, stopping to say hello to Sarge before Aril set her up in the cross ties. It took ten minutes to brush her, pick her feet, and saddle her – a new record for April. April mounted and called to the dogs and together they started out toward the back pasture at a trot, the dogs barking and running ahead. The grasses were growing tall and green and waving in the slight breeze. Gray clouds hung overhead, but for the time being they held their moisture.

Jazz was glad to get out and was a little full of herself, tossing her head and kicking out when April asked for a canter. April only laughed before letting Jazz have her head as they raced the dogs to the pond.

April thought about Noah more than she should have. She didn't understand why he hated life so much, why he was so upset he wouldn't talk to anyone except his teacher, and even then he spoke quietly and only when he had to. The idea made April sad. Life was just….wonderful, even if it did have its ups and downs. How could someone waste it like he was?

April decided then that Noah Weston would talk to her. He would have to eventually, and then – then she would help him. No person deserved the sadness that seemed to toll off of him in waves.

Holly and Leo suddenly came dashing towards her and Jazz, soaking wet and grinning like mad. April laughed, "You two! You get in so much trouble!" The two wagged their tails happily before turning and charging off towards the house. Jazz turned her head to watch and gave a little snort, as if to say "Aren't they hilarious?" April chuckled to herself and gave Jazz's neck a quick pat. Then she turned her back to the barn and they set off at a trot.

*

The bunkhouse was two rooms and a running bathroom, installed by April's grandfather when he bought the farm in the 60s. Originally he just wanted a family farm to keep them connected, but he began to give riding lessons and breeding for sale. Eventually he grew too old to care for the stick any longer so he sold his stud and most of his broodmares and settled down to give his only offspring, Lily, a chance to try things her way. As a therapist, Lily was interested in how animals could help unstable children get a grasp on life.

She started Helping Hooves Ranch when she was twenty-five and it went surprisingly well. The Ranch survived mostly off donations, since it was a non-profit organization, and from Lily's inheritance from her father. He left them over a million dollars, the entire ranch, and its horses, when he died.

April swept out the bunkhouse, cleared it of cobwebs, and cleaned the bathroom. She stocked it with toilet paper, soap, and towels, and then went back to the barn. She cleaned stalls, all eleven of the, which took a good chunk of her evening, and fed the horses before heading back inside.

Lily was watching the news with Leo curled up next to her on the couch, his eyes closed. Every few seconds he would whine and his paws would twitch. April grinned. "Holly!" she whispered sharply to the little dog, curled up in the Laze boy. Leo jerked awake and let out a bark, leaping off the couch and running past April towards the front door. Lily and April laughed. "Leo! It's just me!" He came slipping and sliding back into the room, his legs a spindly mess on the hardwood floor. His ears perked up curiously as he let out a low whine. "Ok! Ok – let's go out." April put the two dogs out, careful to watch them closely so they didn't run off in the dark.

When they came back in April took Holly back to her room and she sat down to read Hamlet so she would be free to relax during the rest of the weekend.

*

It was late on Sunday night that April's phone went off and she received a text from an unknown number. Her heart thudded as she pressed the "view".

LEAVE. .

It could only be Noah. Quickly she replied, Why should I?

It was a while before he responded. Because I DON'T want YOU for a friend.

His words stung, bringing slight tears to her eyes. I just want to help you.

I'm not a charity case. Leave me alone!

April didn't text him back.

Chapter 3

The Play's The Thing

The next day was unusually warm out and April was overjoyed to be able to wear a deep purple t-shirt with a white lacey top, blue jeans, and flip-flops, and forgo a sweater.

She for to class early and set her things by her desk before hurrying out to find Jodi. She was at her locker, rummaging through her backpack while Drew stood off to the side grinning, He held her phone for April's entertainment and then put his finger to his lips. April giggles and Jodi looked up suspiciously. "Drew! Give me back my phone! I know you have it!"

Drew just smirked, gave a little laughed, and turned to catch up with Dan who just walked past. Jodi slammed her locker shut and sent her boyfriend a glare. "Her, April. What's up?"

April quietly explained about leaving her name and number in Noah's bag, and his weird, discouraging response. "It was really….harsh."

"I think you've bit off more than you can chew, honey."

April shrugged and gave a small smile. "Don't I always?"

They talked for a few more minutes, mostly about school, before the warning bell rang and the two went their own separate ways. Noah was, to her surprise, sitting in his normal seat next to her. He was reading ahead in Hamlet, like she had. When she looked down, he glanced up briefly but quickly looked away again. April wondered if she was finally breaking through his shell, but before she could think about it anymore before Mr. Jones quieted the class for roll.

"Today I'll be passing out the information on your so called midterms. I know that November seems like a world away, but you'll need all the time you can get to work on this project." Whispers of curiosity spread rapidly around the room. "And yes, this is a partner project and no, you will not be choosing your partners – I already have."

Groans of annoyance broke out, but Mr. Jones started passing out the project papers before anything else could be said. "We have to act?" a senior guy, Matt Reagan demanded.

"And dress up?!"

"And perform in front of all the English classes?" Casey Beauford said dejectedly. He groaned. "Perfect. There goes my reputation…"

"what reputation?" Matt asked. The class laughed – even Noah.

"Settle down!" Mr. Jones demanded. "Sit down Casey. If you have an issue with your 'reputation', you can see me after class. Now, your partners. I had the computer select at random, so keep in mind that it wasn't me in particular, alright? Hate the computer, not me folks. Okay…Casey, you're with Matt and Shelby, You guys will do Act 1 Scene 1. Julie and Brandon, you will do Act III Scene IV. Let's see…next April and …" April held her breath. It wouldn't happen – it couldn't possibly – "Noah. Act III Scene I. Start at Hamlet's soliloquy and end at…the entrance of the King and Polonius. Next are Michelle and Jessica…"

April peeked at Noah. He was staring at her. He didn't look angry. Just thoughtful. They stared at each other until Mr. Jones' voice brought them back to earth. "…November 29th, people. You have until then." He paused, "And no, I'm not changing groups or assigning different scenes. You have the remainder of today to work out the details, but tomorrow we start discussions, so be prepared!"

The class was full of noise, students discussing costumes and who would play who. Suddenly Noah gripped April's desk and turned it so she faced him. April blinked in shock. A smile tugged at his lips. "Finally, you're speechless. " His voice was smooth and quiet, like his cobalt eyes.

"Um," was all April could manage.

"I'm busy Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and the weekend, so Tuesdays and Thursdays, right after school, at your place."

April was still gaping at him. Finally she managed, "Ok."

Then Noah turned her desk back and settled back in his seat without another word. April thought she was in shock. Did he really just…talk? He didn't say another word for the rest of class.

April met up with Jodi after class and told her what had occurred. "So, he not only spoke to you, but he flirted."

"What?!" April questioned. "He didn't!"

"Oh, come one, April. 'Finally, you're speechless.' That's flirting if I ever heard any."

"He didn't flirt with me and he's not my type."

Jodi scoffed. "You're kidding, right? He's totally your type! Gorgeous, quiet, smart, troubled…tall."

"You forgot dreamy." Macy added, coming up behind them. "You have to admit, April, he is dreamy."

"He's mysterious not dreamy. And he's not my type."

Macy and Jodi laughed. "Denial."

"Ugh!" April muttered, storming away. There was no way in heck that Noah Weston had been flirting with her. No way on earth.

*

"And this Noah kid – isn't he the new boy?" Lily asked later that afternoon as she untacked Sarge. "The cute one?"

"Mom!"

"Honey, admit it and I'll stop bugging you. It's the first step away from denial."

"I'm not in denial!"

Lily laughed. "April,"

"Ok – Ok! Whatever! He's cute – gorgeous – and he is my type. But I'm not interested in him! This is for English, Mom."

She laughed again and patted Sarge on the neck. "Ok, so he's gonna be coming around a lot then?"

"Every Tuesday and Thursday after school." April wasn't sure if she was excited or if she dreaded the opportunity to spend time with him. Alone.

"Well, maybe this will be good for the both of you. Noah seems like he needs a friend and I can't imagine why he wouldn't like you as a friend."

April shrugged as she led Sarge back to his stall. "I know he needs a friend. I want to help him, but I don't want him to hate me."

"Honey, no one hates you. It's next to impossible."

"Heather Shore hated me in the fourth grade."

"You made fun of her braces, April. It's completely understandable."

April didn't comment. She gave Sarge a kiss on the nose and the n bolted his stall door shut. "Good boy Sarge."

On her way to see Jazz, she stopped to see Remington, a tall thoroughbred gelding, He was shy around people he didn't know – a result of being weaned too early and left by himself without much human contact. But he loved kids. He was solid on his feet when he had a kid on his back, almost as if he knew. He bonded deeply with each rider, especially the ones who were mentally challenged. He was experienced around kids and he trusted them more than any adult rider, even Lily and April.

*

April had a pop quiz in Pre-calculus the next day and she was sure she failed it. Almost one-hundred percent positive; it had been too easy. Jodi felt the same exact way, but considered that she was a math genius, April felt sure she failed.

At lunch April sat with her normal group, trying not to notice that Noah's gaze flickered to where she sat every couple of minutes. "Just go see what he wants already." Jodi said, exasperated. "It's obvious he has something to say. Check your phone, maybe he texted you."

April took Jodi's advice and checked her phone. Sure enough: 1 new message from Noah.

We need to talk.

Why did Jodi always have to be right? A little nervous, unusually for her. She stood and walked over to his table. "Hi." She said.

"Hey." His voice was quiet. "I need your address."

"Oh, right." April wrote it down and handed him the piece of paper.

"I'll see you late then."

"Yeah." April said with a nod, assuming he didn't have anything else to say.

"You can stay!" The words came from his mouth in a harsh quick blurt. April turned around and he looked down somewhat sheepishly. "Ere...I mean you can stay – if you want." Was he blushing?

April took a seat, expecting him to say something, but he remained silent as he finished his lunch. It wasn't as awkward as she expected it to be, to her surprise, and the bell rang before she realized they had sat silently together for half and hour. She went to art relatively happy, but no one seemed to notice because April was always happy; she's never had a reason not to be. She and Greg chatted while they finished their drawing, and half way through the class Mrs. Alexander allowed April to plug her iPod into her speakers and play David Nevue and Enya.

"I can't believe you like this music." Greg said who happened to be a closet classical lover. He took piano lessons twice a week from the choir teacher, Mrs. Hurley.

"Just because I ride horses doesn't mean that I love only country music, you know. I love all music." April told him.

Greg laughed, "April, I've know you since you were old enough to throw mud pies at me. Believe me when I say that you love country music more than the average person does."

Pretending to be offended, April scoffed and turned away from him. "I'm going to ignore you now."

*

Noah was late. By an hour. April wondered if he got lost. At four-thirty she glanced out front and saw an older Hunter Green Jeep idling by the garage. It was Noah. April hurriedly slipped on her boots and went out to greet him.

He was looking around curiously and skillfully ignoring Holly and Leo who sat staring at him so piteously it was a wonder he hadn't stooped to pet them yet. "Hi." April said. Je jumped slightly and turned to face her.

"Oh hey"

"Come on in." April fell into step next to him as they headed back to the house. "Holly, Leo, come on!" The two were a yipping mass of white, gray, and chestnut as they stormed past, nearly knocking Noah off his feet. "Sorry. They can be a bit of a handful."

"No harm, no foul." He murmured as they crossed the threshold and stepped into the mudroom. April kicked off her boots and waited while Noah slid his loafers off, pushing them neatly against the wall.

"April, I'm doing laundry. I got your basket from the bathroom, if there's anything else, let me know." Lily said as they entered the kitchen. "Oh, you must be Noah. Nice to meet you, Noah. I'm Lily, April's mother."

Noah smiled softly. "Nice to meet you, Mrs. Reeves."

"Oh, it's Ms. Reeves. I never married, but please call me Lily."

"Nice to meet you, Lily."

'Ok, you two get to work. I'll be in the garage if you need me."

April led Noah upstairs to her room and turned the computer at her desk on. Noah took a seat on the end of her bed. "So," he began, "Obviously, I think you should play Ophelia."

April smiled. "Maybe I wanted to be Hamlet!" He gave her a wide-eyed look and she snickered. "Just kidding. You'd play Hamlet well. Maybe we should go to Goodwill at some point and look for costumes…maybe around Halloween?"

Noah smiled a little at her humor and nodded. "Ok"

"You like Shakespeare much?"

He shrugged. "Yeah, I like the language."

"Shakespeare was a pretty intelligent guy. So poetic."

He pulled his copy of Hamlet out of his brown messenger bag and opened it to their assigned lines. "How should we start?"

"Maybe just start reading them – get to know the parts."

"Sure." He waited until April got her book out before he started. "To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the…the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…"

April listened intently to the soliloquy, perhaps Hamlet's most famous, but she could tell that Noah was still uncomfortable. His fingers were tapping the outside of his right leg and he kept licking his lips. "Listen…" April had been about to suggest that they do something else until they were more comfortable with each other, when Leo came crashing into the room. He was carrying something white in his mouth and he held him head high, even as he tripped over the shredded remains of straps. Oh god. "Leo!" April cried.

The puppy wagged his tail, and then trotted over to Noah depositing the fabric into his lab. It was April's bra. A white, lacy, and now nearly strapless bra. In his lap. Mortified April snatched the fabric from Noah's lap and shoved it into her dresser. "Bad puppy! Bad boy, Leo!"

When she looked back at Noah he was grinning – actually smiling. She gave him a timid half-smile, and that was all it took for him to burst into laughter. He laughed alone for a few minutes just laughing his rear end off, until April couldn't resist it any longer and joined in, collapsing on the floor to play with Leo. "Funny dog." Noah commented with a silly grin.

April blushed again. "I'm so sorry about him – he usually doesn't…doesn't..."

"Doesn't try to eat your delicates?" Noah questioned, winking.

Did he really just? Wink? Was this the real Noah? April wondered. Thinking about it for a few minutes, April lay on her bedroom rug until Holly came scampering in, shaking widely with excitement.

"So the bra-eater is Leo and this is?" Noah leaned down and picked up little Holly." Her name is Holly. My grandpa gave her to me before he died, about seven months ago, when she was just as puppy puppy."

"Oh, I'm sorry about your grandpa. I mean, not about H-holly – that- I'm sorry." Je finished quietly, stroking Holly's ears with his long elegant fingers.

April laughed. "Heaven's a better place- no smog or acid rain. I'm just glad he left us all this – everything – the entire ranch was his."

"It's beautiful out here."

She nodded." Beautiful and amazing!"

"Is – did I hear your mom?"

"Oh! Hold on." April got up and dashed to the stairs. "Yeah, Mom?"

"Jazz is out! And she unlocked Sarge too!"

April groaned. "Ok! I'll be down!" she went back to Noah. "Sorry we didn't get much done today, but, well – my horse got out and she's letting her buddies out too, so I gotta run."

He shrugged, picking up his bag. "That's ok. Uh, my dad will probably want me home too…"

April almost missed the way his voice dropped and he looked away…like he was lying. She didn't say anything about I, instead giving him a grin. "I'll show you out."

*

The rest of the week went by quickly. April would eat lunch at her table and then go talk Shakespeare with Noah until the bell rang. Thursday progressed much the same way that Tuesday had, although thankfully without any more inappropriate interruptions by Leo. Slowly but surely, Aril was getting Noah to seem like a regular old high school kid.

Chapter 4

You Speak Like a Green Girl

Saturday came quickly, and April was really glad. She was really excited to meet the students from the deaf school and make new friends. She woke up earlier than intended, but went about her usually morning routine anyway. She showered and let her curls do their thing, ate cereal, and put on clean blue jeans, a dark blue polo, and her Winter Rompers. It was raining when she went out to feed ( a full horse is a happy horse), but the news said it was suppose to be sunny, or dry at least, on Sunday, perfect for a trail ride with the group.

Three other volunteers, Dan (from school), Mrs. Montegomery, and Mr. Lucus, both regular volunteers for events at the Ranch, showed up at eleven. Lily joined them soon after and they headed out to the barn to choose their horses for the day. "Grace and Sarge are out of the question," Lily said absently. "We can use Pemmy, Lady, Baby Tucher, and…Shadow. That way you can give Jazz the weekend off and put some time on Sarge, April. Okay, let's get out brushed and saddle pods and saddles. Dan, grab those saddle stands, would you? They're right inside the tack room behind the door." Folding saddle stands, donated by Nancy Greer, possibly the wealthiest woman in Astoria, were quite helpful. Saddles could be placed outside a horses stall and be well away from curious noses. Noses like Sarge's, who loved to knock things over and play with everything in sight.

By the time they got the brushes and tack set out it was a quarter past noon and a white can, obviously from the Deaf School, pulled into the driveway in front of the barn. April and Dan were the first two out of the barn to greet the new arrivals (Lily was still inside triple-checking they had everything). Five kids exited the van, signing to each other and looking around in awe and amazement.

Their instructor quickly got their attention and began to sign, speaking presumeably for April and Dan's benefit, as she did so." Please remain quiet while we introduce you."

"Excuse me," April said, signing clearly so that the students could see. "Everyone here knows and is fluent in ASL. Hi, I'm April. This is Dan. Welcome to Helping Hooves Ranch!"

The students grinned widly, barely able to contain their excitement. April continued, "Let's go into the barn. But first, horses are fight or flight animals. This means that when they get scared they'll most likely run anyway. Anything else can scare a horse and cause them to run or spook. Loud noises, waving your arms," April flapped her arms in an overexagerated manner and the five boys and girls laughed. "Anything. It may seem funny to us, but to them it's all business. Any questions?"

A short girl with dark curly hair and light, olive colored skin, shot her hand up into the air. "Can we take pictures?" she signed and then held up a rather expensive camera.

April smiled. "We recommend it, but don't leave anything breakable within reach of a horse."

April and Dan turned, motioning for the group to follow, and they enetered the barn. It was a huge barn. Thirty stalls in all, fifteen on each side of the aisle. Lily quickly took over and started introductions of horses, starting with Shadow and ending with Jazz, So far, Lady, a gray quarter arab cross, and Remmy, the throuroghbred, were the most popular.

The girl with the camera was Sophie Louis, not much taller than April's five-foot-two-inch frame. She wasn't very shy and seemed pretty adventurous. The tallest boy in the group was Seth. He seemed kinda nervous and kept running his hands over her short dark hair. Maya was the other girl present. She was tall and thin and looked to April like she could have been a model. Luke, Mark, and Jon were the other three boys. Luke and Mark were twins with bright red hair and freckles. Jon was small and hyper.

April paired up with Sophie. "Hi, Sophie. How are you?"

Sophie grinned. "Great." She signed back. "Ready to meet new friends."

"Have you ever ridden before?"

"No, but I've always wanted to. It seems fun. It seems like it would feel like you're flying"

April smiled, " Sometimes it feels like you truly are."

"How do you know sign language?"

"My grandma was deaf so I learned it when I was little. Mom helped a lot and I took classes at a community college."

"You're pretty good."

"Thanks."

Then Lily came over to ask Sophie questions about her personality to see which horse she would work best with. "I think…Tucker. If that doesn't work, we'll try King."

April nodded. "Come on, Sophie, let's go meet Tucker."

"I love the name Tucker." Sophie commented as they walked to his stall. Tucker was excited to see them. He leaned his white and palomino head out of the stall, stretching until his nose came into contact with Sophie's hand. He wiggled his lips until she giggled. "Hello, Tucker."

Noah has lost everyone; his aunt and mother in a horrible car accident, and his sister to lukemia. His father has reatreated into his job to avoid the only thing that reminds him of his wife--his only son--leaving Noah to fend for himself when they move to Astoria, Oregon. Quiet, shy, and clearly depressed, Noah is not quick to make any friends or even attempt in the matter. Enter April, smart, bubbly, energetic cowgirl. She knows that Noah needs help, just like the kids that her mother works with at the ranch, and she knows that she has to help him before he's given up completely by those around him. But April didn't realize how deep his hurt went and how long he's been suffering. She doesn't want to hurt him any more than he already has been, but she can't help as her feelings for the new student grow. With help from April and the horses at Helping Hooves Ranch, Noah slowly opens up and accepts their friendship. But just when things get better, tradgedy strikes again and Noah is thrown head first into a downward spiral.