Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Here's an outtake from Planning an Addition

When I wrote this, I had something particular in mind. Do you know who Joe Perry is? He's the guitarist for Aerosmith. He and his wife have a farm in Vermont, Sleepy Hollow Farm, and there they raise Friesians. Friesians are very large horses that look a lot like draft horses (think Clydesdales), but instead, they're very graceful and often used as saddle horses and for dressage. As you can imagine, they were in high demand for knights to use in jousting or war because they're so big and heavy but able to maneuver easily through rather iffy terrain.

Anyway, the Perrys are in the process of selling their farm, or at least they were, and it's a historic landmark. This is not part of my story - Sleepy Hollow Farm is actually for sale, and you can see photos there of Joe and his wife on a couple of the horses, as well as their beautiful barns and pastures. I'd love to live there. I think the asking prices is like $4M or something. Ehhhh, probably not going to happen in the next few years (or ever).

But I started to think about the fact that Tony and Vic are big guys, plus they were schooled in dressage while they were living in Italy, and Friesians were just a natural choice before I ever knew about Sleepy Hollow Farm.  I wrote this and liked it, but it served no purpose in the books. But I thought it was fun - so here it is!

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“Do you want me to saddle Trickster? Because I can if you want.” Vic had finished saddling and bridling Vladimir, and the big stallion stood at ease, his reins tied to a ring on a stall door,

“No, no, I want to watch you work Vlad. I’ve never seen you ride.” Laura had been watching Vic move around the horse, completely relaxed and looking like he was in his element. “I’m surprised you remember this stuff.”

“Three days a week in elementary school, third level through sixth level. I was big enough for my age that I had a good-sized horse to work with. I don’t guess I’ll ever forget her. A mare. Her name was Pepe – Pepper. Pretty little gray Arabian. Even right before we left Italy, with everything I was involved in, I still went to the stables at least once a week to see her. I really missed her when we left.” Laura was touched; Vic’s eyes moistened just thinking about that horse, and she loved that after all that time, he still remembered the mare and loved her.

“You guys out here?” Tony’s voice rang down the barn corridor.

Vic called back, “Yep. Down here.”

They appeared in the hallway, Tony carrying Nikki. She looked more than exhausted, and that made Vic anxious. “Hey, sugar! You sure you’re up to this?”

Nikki nodded. “I wanna watch.”

Vic laughed. “Then I’ll make sure the show is worth the trouble!”

“I expect to see my husband show you up,” Nikki laughed and kissed Tony’s cheek.

Tony chuckled. “Oh, wow. Great. I’m sunk!”

“I remember you being pretty damn good. We’ll find out, won’t we?” Vic winked at Tony and Tony laughed right out loud. He pulled up a bale of hay and ducked into a stall to grab a blanket as Nikki stood, weaving a little; Laura moved over and wrapped an arm around her waist until Tony could get back and get her nest made. When he had the blanket over the hay, he helped her get situated, then sat down beside her and pulled her into his side. She rested her head against his shoulder and sighed.

“Okay, big boy, let’s see what you’ve got,” Tony growled, shooting an evil grin Vic’s way.

“Here we go.” Vic unsnapped the lead line and, taking the reins, led Vladimir into the practice arena. Once they were inside with the gate closed, Vic mounted the horse and Nikki watched with interest as the animal shuddered. “Okay, big ‘un, let’s see what you’ve got.” One cluck and his heels into Vlad’s sides, and the horse moved forward.

Nikki and Laura watched wide-eyed as Vic put Vlad through a series of dressage moves, from collected and extended gaits to passage. Horse and rider executed a half-dozen flying changes, all flawless. Tony just grinned. He’d heard from family members about Vic’s skill level in dressage, but he’d never really witnessed it for himself. And it was impressive – very, very impressive. When Vic finished, he cantered to where the three watched. Nikki was the first to speak, and all she could squeak out was, “Oh my god, Vic, that was amazing!”

“You weren’t kidding. You really can ride.” Laura was shaking her head.

Tony just smiled – until Vic said, “Okay, brother, your turn. Put him through his paces. This horse is a champion waiting to ribbon. We get him in the arena, let him turn on the heat, and he’ll be unbeatable.” As he spoke, he dismounted. “You’re up. Show these girls how it’s done.”

Tony laughed. “Too late! I think you already did!”

“I hear you’re pretty damn good yourself.” He held the horse while Tony mounted, then turned loose and joined Nikki on the hay bale, wrapping an arm around her just as Tony had. Tony grinned and winked, then turned the big horse and took off across the arena.

He was every bit as good as Vic. The horse responded easily to his cues, and they watched as he not only performed a whole series of flying changes but also executed four three-sixty pirouettes in rapid succession at a full canter. His mount carried out every command with grace and ease, and Vic watched, awestruck. This was it; this horse would be a champion. Tony returned to the entry point and dismounted. “My god, this horse is amazing. I can’t believe how easy it was to lead him through all of that.”

“Like second nature for him,” Vic replied, nodding.

“Absolutely. We need to try out the mares, see if they’re close to as good as him. If so, we’ve got a winning breeding program in the course of time.” Tony affectionately slapped the sweaty horse on the neck, then scratched behind his ears. Vlad stretched his neck out and curled his lips. “I think he likes that a little.” Tony chuckled as the big head shook and Vlad snorted, then stamped one foot.

“By the way, I know where they came from. Did you get to actually talk to . . .” Nikki had been a fan of their famous previous owner most of her life.

Vic grinned. “Yeah! Nice guy. Talked to his wife one day too. She’s just as nice. But I think the farm is up for sale. They’re keeping their saddle horses, but they’re selling off all the rest.”

“Want a farm in Vermont?” Tony asked and winked at her.

Nikki snorted. “No! I like this one just fine. I’m not going to Vermont. Too cold in the winter.” Before anyone could say anything, she stood and walked up to the Vlad. He looked even bigger with her tiny, thin frame standing before him. She reached up and scratched his forehead. “Hi, buddy. That was very nice. You did a good job. I wish I could ride you someday.”

“You’ll most definitely ride him. I’d love for you to be the one to show him.” As Nikki continued to scratch his nose and Tony scratched his neck, he tried again. “You could handle him easily. He’s a dream to ride. Want up? I’ll help you.”

Nikki shook her head, then dropped her forehead to the horse’s face. Vlad responded by standing perfectly still as she wrapped her arms around his neck and just stood, motionless, like she was passing some kind of information to the big beast. “He wants to stay here, not go back to our barn. Can he stay here? In the big barn?”

“What do you mean, he wants to stay here?” Tony didn’t understand.

“He wants to stay here. More horses. Near the arena. He misses that and he wants to be here.” She didn’t turn loose of Vlad, just continued to stand and lean into the big horse.

“Nope. He needs to go back to our place. And you need to get back to bed.” Tony handed Vlad’s reins to Vic, then lifted Nikki easily and carried her toward the door. “You guys want to walk back with us?”

“Sure. Nikki, why don’t you just get up there and ride him back?” Vic pointed to the saddle.

Tony smiled at her. “I’ll get up there with you, precious. It’ll be fun.”

Nikki shook her head. “No. He’s going to get upset when you try to take him back.”

They got as far as the big barn door and stepped through, only for Vic to almost stumble backward when Vlad stopped. “Come on, bud,” Vic told him and patted his withers. But when he stepped forward again, Vlad just stood there. “Come on. Let’s go.” He clucked to the horse and slapped his shoulder, but Vlad wouldn’t budge. Vic turned his head and gave Nikki a scorching look.

She wilted. “Not my fault. I told you he doesn’t want to go back to our barn.”

“Well, how ‘bout you tell him he has to go,” Vic snarled.

“Won’t do any good. He doesn’t want to go. I can’t make him change his mind.” Nikki shrugged.

Laura walked right up to Vlad, put a hand on his neck, leaned into his ear to whisper something, and told Vic, “Okay. Take him on out.”

Vic took tried another step and, to his surprise, the horse stepped forward and followed. “What the hell?”

Laura just smiled. “I’m the horse whisperer,” she chuckled.

Tony stared at her. “What the hell? What did you say to him?”

Laura laughed outright. “I told him Nikki and I hang out in that direction. He wants to be with the girls!”

“Seriously?” Vic’s eyes went wide. “You did not. You’re making that up.”

Laura shook her head. “Think whatever you want. He’s moving, isn’t he?”

“That he is.” Vic’s free hand reached for Laura’s and she took it in both of hers, then kissed the back of his hand. Vic smiled at her and those same little butterflies she always felt when he was around flitted around in her chest.

“How did you know he didn’t want to go?” Tony couldn’t figure it out.

Nikki gave him a tiny smile. “Because he told me.”

Tony started to say something, and then he stopped. He didn’t understand, and he decided in that moment he didn’t need to. Some things about his wife were still a mystery to him, and that only made him love her more. He wanted to see her on that horse; he wanted her well enough to be on that horse. As he carried her with Vic and Laura trailing behind them, he wondered what else he’d never know about her. He was afraid there might be a lot he’d never get the chance to know. His life had become full of flying changes, some of which he hoped would stop.

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