Chapter Thirteen: The Ones Who Hurt Us

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It's been a few weeks since the first day of school. I have A's in all of my classes except for Algebra, and I have an 89%. Today is November 5th, and we don't have school. Why? Team tryouts are today. Yesterday, I worked Raquel so hard during cross country that I was afraid she wouldn't do well during show jumping, but she pulled through hard, as we were just working on posture. It's 6:30 AM, and I couldn't be more nervous. I'm reading my English book, and I only have about ten more pages. It's about a girl who runs away from a mean foster parent, and she finds an abused horse. She steals the horse, meets a boy who takes her in while his parents are out of town, and now the girl is in a hostage situation. (Runaway Horse anyone?)

I finish the book and call my mom. She is very proud of my grades and can't wait to see me for my week long vacation for Christmas.

"Hi Cameron, how has your week been so far?" she asks when she picks up the phone.

"Great, I'm just really nervous for today. I have team tryouts. They canceled school for them," I explain, nervously twisting my hair.

"Honey, you'll do just fine. Everyone on the cross country team looks up to you," she replies, her voice comforting and soothing.

"I know, but there are almost forty kids trying out, Only fifteen make it to the primary team. They might have to have up to three secondary teams, depending on how many show up," I say.

"Cam! You can do it!" Callie yells in the background of the phone. "I believe in you!" I talk to Mom for a bit longer before talking to Callie.

"I know you can do it," Callie says. "Even though you are only a freshman, you are still better than 90% of the girls there."

"Thanks, Cal. I'll keep that in mind," I reply, smiling. "I need to go. I have to meet my coach at 7:00. Bye!" I hang up the call after she says bye. I get changed into my uniform and walk down to the kitchen. I see Mason there.

"Hey," he says calmly. "Why are you up so early?"

"I have a meeting with Ms. Holt at seven. What about you?" I ask.

"I can't sleep very well," he replies, taking a bite of cereal. I reach to the cabinet to get the cereal and pour some into a bowl. I attempt to pour the milk as well, but my hand is shaking so much that I can't pour any without getting it on the counter.

"Oh my gosh I'm going to fail this," I say, putting the milk on the counter and crumpling down to the ground. Mason stands up and rushes to sit next to me.

"No, you're going to do great," he says, putting an arm around my shoulders and pulling me closer. He whispers into my ear "I'm betting on you."

I smile nervously and say "Thanks. I don't know about it, but thanks." He helps me stand up and pours the milk for my cereal. I eat with a shaky hand and leave the dorm at 6:45. Ms. Holt told me to meet her at the XC course. I'm wearing my glasses for once, because I have to wear contacts for riding. She sees me and smiles, waving me over.

"Okay, I'm not supposed to be doing this, but I have to tell you something. Yesterday during the second secondary class, I over heard Jessica and her friend Sarah talking about you. I had just finished talking about the tryouts and Jessica brought you up. While I was 'talking' to Abby, I was actually listening to their conversation. This is what I heard - they are also trying out for the cross country team, and they think you're too strong and preventing them from being able to be the captain. Yesterday, they saw you talking to Mason about what tack you are using to try out in - the tack that makes Raquel most comfortable.

"Pretty much, what they did, while you were in the tack room, you left your tack on Raquel's stall door so you could clean it. They put little pins in the tack that would go into Raquel's skin, causing here intense pain. Please, don't use any of your tack. You may not see the pins, but they're there. I'm going to get my cross country tack, and I want you to use it. I don't want Raquel getting injured. My horse, Jase, is roughly the same size as Raquel, just a bit shorter. Use his tack, but grab one of your extra bits. Do you have any extras?"

"Yes, it's in my dorm," I reply, thinking of my stash of extra bits in my desk drawer.

"Great. Call Mason or Maggie and ask them to grab one. Tell them to meet you in the barn. I'm going to grab the tack. It's the same colour as your current tack, but you'll be using a black saddle pad and brown jumping boots," Ms. Holt says, rushing off in the direction of her barn. I head to my barn and quickly dial Maggie's number. She answers immediatley.

"Maggie, grab a bit from my desk drawer and meet me in the barn. Hurry- I'll explain later," I say quickly, hanging up when she replies with "Okay".

A few moments later, Maggie runs into the barn with three bits. "Here. Now what's going on?"

"I'll show you," I say as I unlock my cubby door and pull out Raquel's bridle. Sure enough, there is a row of small pins lining her nose band.

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