24. Summer Storms

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As forecasted, the skies were overcast the next morning

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As forecasted, the skies were overcast the next morning. The air was humid and dense as dark storm clouds gathered in the distance, promising rain. Every once in a while, great bursts of wind blew dust and sand into the atmosphere, coating our windshield with a fine layer of grime.

At 6:30 am on the dot, Jake and I drove up through a pair of wrought iron gates, intricately welded in the shape of two bucking horses. The Rancho Esperanza was a stud farm that specialized in Arabian stallions. Aware of the impending storm, two men had been waiting by the stables with Beaudry's purchases, ready to be loaded.

"Wait in the car," said Jake, leaving the engine running. He spoke a few words to the men on the ground, then the three of them loaded the horses onto the trailer.

Jake had already shifted the gears when a grizzled man about sixty approached the driver's window. He introduced himself as Randy, the Stud Master, and rested his heavy, freckled hand on the side mirror. "Storm's coming."

Jake looked into the skies, his forehead wrinkling in a way that made me a little dizzy. "I can smell it."

"Reckon you have about an hour before it starts rainin' in earnest." He craned his neck to look over Jake and squinted at me. "She your wingman?"

Jake nodded once. He wanted to get on the road.

Randy looked doubtful, but he shrugged and slapped the ceiling of the truck. "Best be off then. Storm's movin' west so as long as you're out of the zone within an hour, should be smooth sailing. Interstate's jammed up with an accident so the by-road should get y'all out quicker. Give us a holler if you need somethin' more."

"Appreciate it," Jake said, and we were off.

The difference the weight of the two stallions made on the truck was immediately noticeable. The engine roared at the extra load, the instability and sway of the tow obvious with every rut in the road.

Jake was more focused, his green eyes bright and intense as he used the mirrors to calculate the distances between cars before merging onto the road.

Once we were on the main stretch, I spoke. "You're a good driver."

"Been driving since I was eight."

Thinking that he was joking, I laughed, but he didn't.

"That was when my old man got tired of passing out in alleyways and he figured it would be a good idea to have me chauffeur his drunk ass home every morning before school."

"Oh," I mumbled. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be, I'm not. Why dwell on something you can't change? No matter what or who it is, you have to forget about the how-we-weres and move on."

I didn't particularly want to talk about daddies, his or mine, so I put on my headphones and listened to some music.

An hour and a half later, our tire blew.

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