Chapter 10:

Practice To Progress

Black and White

(Scene one: Days) 

On the next day or the day after they came back to town, Whitney sent a mail to Brian; saying she wouldn’t be coming to the ranch until next Monday because she was reading the books sent by Roxanne. ‘Wow. She can read books non-stop? I wish I had that skill.’ Brian thought to himself after reading. “Oh, hey Brian. I wanted to talk to you.” Serena spoke to Brian when she was passing by. She gave him a small piece of paper. Brian kept reading it. The closer Brian came to the end of words, the more his eyes got big and metaphorically sparkled. Serena smiled “You see…” Brian grabbed and hugged Serena so hard that she was almost breathless. “Okay okay I understand your feelings. But do you mind gimme some space to breathe…” she said. “Oops. Sorry. But I mean, December DERBY! I never thought I could get invited for that.” Brian’s words were enough to express that he wanted to participate in the race so badly. “But, that’s just an invitation for the…Audience.” Serena mentioned. All Brian’s excitement got vaporized instantly. He started to look depressed. “Hey hey don’t worry. I have another great news.” Serena tried to cheer up Brian. “What?” He sounded apathetic. “Before the December derby, there’s a qualification round. If you could beat the nineteen participants from all over the state, you CAN go to the main event.” Serena said. “Really!?” Brian got back his excitement. “How do I get to the inter-town derby?” he asked. “Only the best two of the town can get to the qualifiers. Which means you need to prepare to beat us senior elites when WE run to our full potential.” Brian’s excitement changed to ambitiousness and competitiveness after hearing it from Serena. But only between elites, they’re all afraid of Phantom’s energy and Brian’s lateral thinking ability. That combination itself is strong when judging from recent experiences.

Surprisingly the next day morning, Whitney came screaming Brian’s name. Whitney came with a piece of paper with a list of items. Written there were; side reins, a lunge line, a lunge whip, a surcingle and a few other items related to vaulting. As she’d written at the top of the paper. “Bri…an…how…one moment…” Whitney said while taking a break to rest after running. “How much does these cost?” he asked. “Ex..actly.” Whitney said and restored her energy. “I don’t think the cost is the worst problem,” Brian said. “Huh?” Whitney didn’t understand. “I don’t think we have any of these in the market or in my dad’s warehouses.” Brian said. “What!?” she was troubled. “How can I practise without these?” she cried in annoyance. “But I think we can order the items. My father knows lots of sellers of the state too.” Brian said and ran to his backyard. Whitney came to the backyard; Brian was putting the saddle onto Phantom and got mounted. “Come on. Let’s go meet my dad.” Brian said and came around to get to the front yard. “I don’t have Luna at the moment.” Whitney pointed out. “Buddy, Just…JUST for today. Please…” Brian asked Phantom to let Whitney ride. Phantom shook its head as if agreeing. “Whitney hop on.” Brian offered his hand. “Thanks Phantom.” Whitney thanked Phantom and mounted behind Brian. “I’m the one who asked him to let you ride.” Brian slightly said. Phantom neighed and shook its head in disapproval, hinting its the boss.

For a couple of minutes, Phantom was standing still. Whitney started to look at her wristwatch. “Brian…why ain’t we moving?” she probed. “Uh…to be honest,  where’s my father today.” Brian grinned. “Arhh!” Whitney facepalmed. She originally planned to give a knock on the head but, if she did that, she could’ve thrown off Phantom, by Phantom. “Oh yeah. Emily knows!” Brian said and Phantom whooshed to the school with two of them on its back. But the speed was too high for Whitney, she almost got motion sickness.

A few short minutes later they came to the school. The place is dead silent. Brian dismounted and went without thinking. “Brian wait! The school hasn’t ended yet.” Whitney’s words didn’t reach Brian. The students and teachers walking in the hallway, while going to their allocated classrooms or club rooms or staff rooms looked weirdly at Brian. Brian ignored and barged into Whitney’s classroom by slam opening the door. “EM…il…y” Brian’s words faded when he saw Mr. Riggy was teaching. Emily was embarrassed. “Will you please leave us for a moment class…” Mr. Riggy took Brian out of the class and closed the classroom door. “How many times in your life have I told you to know where you are!?” Mr. Riggy yelled and knocked on the head. “Ouch! That hurts.” Brian said. “It should. And why did you come all the way here all of a sudden?” Mr. Riggy asked. “Wanted something to ask from Emily. My sister.” Brian replied. “So that’s why she has the same surname as yours. Go and talk to her and make it quick!” Mr. Riggy strictly said. Brian took the chance and again, slam opened the door. He rushed toward Emily and kneeled to get at the same height. “Sis, where did dad go today?” Brian said while smiling nervously. “Why don’t you listen, big brother. He said he’ll be going to attend to the deliveries to the market and a few shops of his because there are lots of items received from the station yesterday.” Emily said it all in detail. “Market place, RIGHT?” “Yes,” Emily was surprised and answered instantly. “Thanks. See you in the evening.” Brian stood up and tried to leave. “Hey look! He’s an elite rider!” a boy shouted and the whole class except Emily gasped and gathered around Brian. They all started to ask different questions so quickly Brian can’t take a break to answer at least one. Luckily Mr. Riggy managed to make every student in class be silent and be seated in their places. The news of Brian being an elite made Emily get more attention. And that helped Emily to loosen being a shy kid.

“So, did you know where’s your dad? And why are you so… weird!?” Whitney asked when Brian came back so bigheadedly. “I’m…I mean me and Phantom are now big-time celebrities at the school. Anyway, dad is in the market place. Which is a great opportunity.” Brian said and mounted. Then they quickly left the school grounds and headed to the market place.

Later they came to the overcrowded noisy arena. Brian saw his dad selling items that were ordered by the market shopkeepers. Phantom has no space to run inside the market. So, it walked slowly. The ride inside the market is so boring if you have no interest in what you see there, though you can hardly notice the selling items while in the crowd. “Dad! DAD!” Brian screamed. Mr. Bolt heard and stopped his waggon of deliveries. Brian hurried and made Phantom to approach the waggon. “Oh, Whitney glad I met you.” Mr. Bolt said. “Huh?” Brian was confused. “The items you ordered came yesterday.” Mr. Bolt said while looking at his clipboard with shop names and items. Whitney went speechless but, not for too long. “But I didn’t order anything.” she said while on her thoughts; questioning herself. “That’s uncooperative. We have your items listed here with your address. Says you paid the full price and…” Mr. Bolt looked at his clipboard. “Oh!” he said. “What is it?” Brian asked. “It also says, your items are still in the warehouse…third warehouse.” Mr. Bolt said. “Oh okay, we’ll get them first then…” Brian tried to leave the market but his dad stopped him. “Since Whitney doesn’t know what she ordered, why don’t you two help me with these deliveries.” Mr. Bolt asked and gave them a sheet with shop and item details. Brian couldn’t dodge it. He sighed and agreed to do the work.

When they finished all the deliveries, it was almost hours past midday. “Let’s get you some snacks and water.” Brian said and both he and Whitney dismounted from Phantom. While Brian takes Phantom close to a water source nearby, Whitney asked and got to see Mr. Bolt’s clipboard. And she was surprized seeing that her name was on the customer list. “So, shall we get going to the warehouse?” Mr. Bolt asked Whitney. She nodded. Minutes later Brian came with Phantom. Phantom was now recharged in energy. Mr. Bolt parked his waggon near a shop he owns. He separated the waggon from the Shire which was attached to and mounted on it. “I didn’t know dad have the Shire.” Brian got excited and asked. “Actually, this horse truly belonged to your mother Brian.” Mr. Bolt said. “WHAT!?” Brian asked in confusion. “Yup. This girl's name is, Charisa.” Mr. Bolt said. Charisa is a chestnut colour Shire. Whitney mounted to Phantom and they went out of the market, and toward the warehouses.

Later they came to the store. Mr. Bolt asked Simon to open the third warehouse. “Sorry but, your items took a week to arrive.” Mr. Bolt said with a nervous smile. “A week?” Whitney was stunned. Simon laid a clean mat on the ground. Then he placed the items Whitney ordered. Whitney went even more surprised. “These are the items I wanted to order today…” Whitney whispered in astonishment. “WHAT!? NO WAY.” Brian gasped. “Week ago, I didn’t even hear what these called and yet they arrived on the day before I knew and needed them.” Whitney said. “How much did Whitney pay for it?” Brian asked. “About…hundred silver. More or less.” Simon replied. ‘Even if I ordered today, I couldn’t even make that much money in a day.’ Whitney thought. “THANK YOU!” Whitney forcibly forget all her amazements and grabbed all the items and thanked. 

But the problem is there’s no space enough to hold all the items on Phantom’s back. Luckily Serena came with Luna and Swifty. “Whitney! I was looking for you everywhere. You shouldn’t let your horse stay in her pen all day.” Serena said and released the rein of Luna’s bridle. “Good timing sis. Thanks.” Whitney said and seeing all of this made Brian wonder in curiosity. “Your face looks intense.” Mr. Bolt said. “Could all of this be a coincidence? Items Whitney needed were previously ordered. Serena showed up on time, when she received the items.” Brian said. “True there. By the way, is Whitney doing equestrian vaulting or something?” Mr. Bolt probed Brian. “HOW DI…How did you know?” Brian panicked and asked. “Who me? I didn’t. Your mom got those same set of items when she and I were younger. Actually, a couple of years younger than you are now.” Mr. Bolt recalled his memory. “So, she’s a pro in the field?” Brian wanted to know his mother’s past. “Pro is I guess the most suitable word. She won a couple of competitions. But she didn’t go to those with obstacle courses but she enjoyed watching them more than I did. She even tried to teach me.” He said. Brian caught the part his mother taught his father. Brian gestured his father to lower his ears. Brian trusted him and said the secret. “So, can you help her learn?” Brian asked. “I can teach her the basics…but that won’t be enough to get her to competitions.” Mr. Bolt anxiously said. “Just basics fine. So, would you?” Brian indirectly insisted. “Fine then. First, we have to train Luna on walking and Whitney on gymnastics.” Mr. Bolt thought and said. “Thanks dad!” Brian said.

Whitney mounted Luna and placed the items on her lap. “Come on Brian let’s go.” Whitney said. “Oh, OH yeah I’m coming.” Brian said and mounted on to Phantom. He came close to Whitney and whispered their plan with his father. “WHAT!? Why did you tell him?” “Just look, he’ll help you. He promised not to tell anyone.” Whitney and Brian started to talk while their horses were motionless. “What are you two mumbling?” Serena asked. Brian and Whitney panicked because they forgot Serena was still there. They whooshed to the ranch without turning back. “WAIT! WHERE ARE YOU TWO GOING?” Serena screamed but Brian and Whitney were out of sight. As Mr. Bolt agreed, he came to teach Whitney and Luna how to vault. Brian and James helped with Luna, Whitney solely worked on her physique and aerobics and Mr. Bolt tends to supervise them all. And Whitney’s progress is amazing to watch. Day by day she made new tricks. But that’s for ordinary equestrian vaulting. But according to the competition Roxanne was invited. The training and practices going to be intense. Brian and James had to make an entire standard obstacle course in their secret practice zone with buckets, tree branches, vines, fences and rocks.

(Scene two: Meet) 

A couple of weeks of almost everyday practices, the eighth of November finally came. A day full of nerve-racking feelings to Whitney’s mind. She even tried to skip the competition by falling into fake sickness. She curled up and covered her whole body with her bedsheet. “Whitney, Brian is waiting for you. Where do you even going?” Serena asked. “I am not going.” Whitney said. “Huh? Why so sudden?” Brian asked. “Really Brian where ARE you going?” Serena asked. “Oh, us, we’re just going on the trai…m mamom” Whitney put her fake illness behind her and quickly ran toward Brian and shut his mouth. “What?” Serena didn’t understand. “ARE YOU INSANE? I didn’t tell her.” Whitney whispered. “Didn’t tell me what?” Serena questioned with a weird face. “Nothing!” Brian and Whitney said together while grinning. “So, you coming?” Brian asked. “Alright. I’ll come. Gimme a minute to get ready.” Whitney ran back to her room to get changed. Minutes later she came wearing a cold-weather getup. “Okay THAT’S IT. You are not stepping an inch out of this house unless you tell me where are you going.” Serena exclaimed. “Serena, your sister told us yesterday’s dinner. And a week before that.” Whitney’s mother said. “Even I told you,  Serena. We’re going on a trip to Iycehaven town. We’re coming back on eleventh this month.” Brian said. “Safe travels dear. You too Brian.” “Thanks, mom. Good bye sis.” Whitney came out under Serena’s arm (which was blocking the door) with a small smirk. “Thanks Mrs. Ryte. No need to be afraid; James, Emily and my father coming too.” Brian said and mounted onto Phantom. Whitney mounted on Luna and headed to the train station. 

“Hold it there lads! Livestock goes to the back of the train.” A railway guard halted them all. “Wait? We’re separating?” Whitney and Brian asked. “Yup, that's the rule. And it’s for a good reason.” Mr. Bolt said. The railway guard understood Brian and Whitney’s feelings. “Four horses eh?” the guard whispered. “Lucky for you as for this record, there are no horses from the passing towns. So, I guess you and your horses can stay together in the crate before the last. But you’ll have to sit on the hay bales.” The guard said. “That’s fine let’s go.” Brian moved with Phantom. “Take care of Charisa too.” Mr. Bolt and Emily dismounted from Charisa. James, Whitney entered first with Loki, Luna and Charisa. Then Brian entered with Phantom. Then two minutes later, the train began to advance toward the Iycehaven town.

After an eight-and-a-half-hour-long journey to Iycehaven town, they arrived at the nightfall. The train station was covered with invitation banners for the competition. The roads were lit by gas street lamps. And surprisingly there’s a beautiful night sky. It’s no wonder why Whitney wore a cold-weather-resistant dress. The place is like a fridge at night. And it is just a matter of weeks before winter too. “HOWWWLY! ZZzzZZZzzzz. This place is freakishly freezing.” James yelled while shivering. “You really need to buy a new suit to stay here mate. Don’t blame me because I told you weeks ago to prepare for this day.” Brian reminded. “Big brother, big brother! Look!” Emily called and exhaled to air. Her breath went like a cloud of white smoke from a cigar due to the cold temperature and she acted as a chimney of a steam train. Brian, James and Whitney came out of the crate with their horses. Unless Whitney is troubled with taking Charisa out of the crate. “Come on out…ChaaariiiSaaa.” She started to pull a bit harder on the reins. She was not on Luna and it was with James. There were two ladies and one man. The man was holding a ton of blankets. “Why am I get to hold these again?” The man probed in annoyance. “Because you did it in the last year too.” One of the ladies said and giggled. “That’s not fair!” the man complained. “WHITNEY WAIT! You are pulling too hard.” Brian dismounted from Phantom and stopped Whitney. “You have to gain Charisa’s trust. Apologize and say something that she can trust about you.” Brian said. Whitney did as Brian asked and slightly pulled the reins. Charisa came out of the crate and seconds later the train went ahead. Then they mounted onto their horses. The two ladies approached. “Hello! I am Natalie Burnette and this is Neila Ariss. Over there is…Neila where’s Luke?” Natalie asked. “Is the one collapsed under those…” Brian pointed. “LUKE!” Natalie and Neila shouted together. “I’m okay.” Luke said breathlessly. “He’s Luke Williams. Anyway, Are you here for the competition?” Natalie asked. “Not all of us. She’s the only one participating. Whitney come over here.” Mr. Bolt said and Whitney brought Charisa. Then two ladies wrote down Whitney’s name, age, town, Luna’s name and breed. “Luke, Give this lady a blanket will you.” Natalie asked while Neila wrote down the details. “Please take all of this. So, my carriage reduces in couple of ounces.” Luke gave four blankets to Mr. Bolt. “Is it okay?” Mr. Bolt asked while taking the blankets. Natalie shrugged. “It’s fine.” Natalie said. 

Suddenly Nelia’s clipboard with competitor details dropped to the ground. Neila grabbed and shook Natalie. “Naty Naty look! IT’S A MUSTANG! A REAL-LIFE MUSTANG!” Neila shouted like a child. “Don’t call me Naty!” Natalie exclaimed and took the fallen clipboard. “Never seen a Mustang?” Whitney asked. “There are no records of Mustangs even living in this state. So yeah. Neila really wanted to see one.” Natalie said. Neila instantly approached Phantom. She didn’t even blink and just kept staring; which made Phantom feels edgy. Phantom even stepped back. Neila tried to hug that creeped-out Phantom; to raise its fore legs. Emily hugged Charisa’s neck and covered her eyes. “WHITNEY!” Brian shouted. Whitney ran toward Neila to push away from Phantom’s attack range. Though she didn’t see, Luke ran behind her. “Phantom calm down.” Brian struggled with the reins, trying to calm down Phantom. Whitney pushed away Neila but clashed with Luke. Luckily Phantom’s fore legs landed on far right of them. Brian dismounted and ran toward Neila. She looked scared. “Hey Neila, it’s okay. you could have asked me.” Brian helped Neila get up and he insisted she touch Phantom. Neila tried to refuse but didn’t work. “Sorry, I didn’t see you coming.” Whitney said while rubbing her forehead. “Nah it’s fine. Take my hand.” Luke offered his hand and Whitney got up by grabbing it. Brian made Phantom let Neila just touch it. Phantom as for apologizing lowered its head. Neila touched and her senseless scary feelings washed away. Then she hugged Phantom. Phantom let her hug. “Actually, you didn’t need to apologize. It’s normal for horses to get creeped out by previous actions. Don’t let it get bothered. I like the way you were boy.” Brian whispered to Phantom and mounted back. “You can open your eyes now. Nothing serious happened.” James said to Emily.

Whitney and Mr. Bolt mounted back to their horses. “Ah I almost forgot. Here’s your key. For your cottage. Cottage number is on the key’s label. There are two separate rooms with three bunk beds.” Natalie said in detail and gave a nice glistening key to Whitney. 

At the moment they just stepped out of the train station another train came into the station. “Oh my god! it’s the champion. The champion came!” suddenly a huge group of people surrounded a horse and a person. Some even started to take pictures with that, what they called champion. Then seconds later the crowd let the champion get registered. “Don’t tell me…” Whitney said. The champion just came was Roxanne with Coughi. Roxanne talked with Natalie and Neila and took a look at the clipboard. She said something to them and mounted on Coughi. From that position she got the chance to see who were in front of her. “WHITNEY! You came. I knew you’d.” Roxanne said in amazement. “I didn’t know you are the champion.” Whitney said. “That’s for one reason because I never told you.” Roxanne said without thinking. “Pfff.” James held his laugh. “James…” Brian warned and hinted James to not to laugh. “Where are you going to sleep?” Whitney asked. “With you obviously!” Roxanne said with a grin. “Well actually that’s not obvious.” Brian said but, Roxanne ignored the statement. “Do we have space?” James asked. “There are two extra pens so Coughi would be fine. And if you don’t have space for me to sleep. I’ll sleep on the ground. Follow me. I’ll take you there.” Roxanne said and lead the way. Brian and the others followed her.

Later that day Brian and James were on one bunk bed, Emily and Mr. Bolt were in the other bunkbed in the same room and Roxanne and Whitney were on another bunk bed in the other room. The horses were in an open, sheltered pen outside the cottage but within its premises. The cottage’s exterior and interior were all plane wood. From floor to the roof. Only the small fireplace had bricks and iron bars, to make sure it won’t set the whole cottage in flames. They spent their night calmly.

In the next day morning at nine O’ clock, they prepare to head to the indoor stadium. It was massive as half of a football court and in a perfect circle shape. The audience is huge as well. In the middle of the stadium was the arena to perform. The ground is plane dirt in just the right condition. As of today, the ninth of November was scheduled for the opening ceremony and last year's champions’ and alumni members’ performances. The next day was for senior competitors, where Whitney comes in. And the last day is for junior competitors, aged below eighteen and for the award ceremony followed by the closing ceremony. And for a fact, champion’s round doesn’t have any age limit last year juniors and seniors both compete together.

An hour later the opening ceremony commenced. All the competitors ride their horses into the stadium and stood in lines. There were horses with every possible colour its breed can get. From plane and brightest white to darkest black; either with or without stripes or spots. The whole stadium was half filled by the competitors. Each and every participant got their own performer’s or vaulter’s badge. Whitney’s one, looked like a white petal of a flower, with a beautiful icon of a Pegasus and her first initial; ‘W’. When the opening ceremony ended, one by one left the stadium, one after the other in a thread-like formation. In that formation Luna was eye-catching for the single colour and most beautiful horse in its breed and not only that, Coughi has its own title; ‘Coughi the tigress’. Though it doesn’t make any sense at all by equalizing a mare to a female tiger just because of how it looks. But the newcomers to the audience can know it very soon on the very same day.

At five o'clock in the evening, the alumni members’ performance round came to an end. Up next was the champions’ round. Whitney and the others were with the audience, at the bottom-most row. She watched all the amazing performances done by the alumni and got really excited to stay and watch till the end. All of a sudden, the crowd went crazy. Except for Mr. Bolt, everyone was looking here and there, searching for clues, in confusion. “Here’s your favourite, the champion of Iycehaven Equestrian Vaulting Contest for four times in-a-row, ROXANNE and COUGHI!” the announcer screamed and the crowd’s cheer went to its peak. “Holy chickens! Whitney, you slept with the CHAMPION!” James exaggerated. Brian pulled him over by grabbing his collar. Emily joined Whitney to watch Roxanne’s performance up close. Then unexpectedly (for visitors new to the contest), all the lights in the stadium were switched off and four spotlights from four points directed the beams to the place where the competitors enter the arena. 

Roxanne entered riding Coughi and went around the arena standing on the saddle and waving to the crowd. She did a small acrobatic stunt like a jump-turn and landed on one foot, and came to the original standing position. The audience went even wilder. In the moment Roxanne stopped at the judging panel because, before the contestants perform, they have to show their gratitude and agree to a fair play by bowing to the panel of judges. The moment she stopped there, the stadium went dead - silent and all the lights turned back on. Whitney brushed her eyes to prepare to see and detail her actions during her performance. Roxanne dismounted from Coughi and that solely surprised Whitney and the others. No one so far ever dismounted from their horses until their performance came to an end. Roxanne’s beginning was jumping to the saddle from a trampoline, vertically rotating in mid-air and landing on the saddle in a standing position, AT the moment Coughi jumped over the fence directly in front of the trampoline. And it was terrifying to think, ‘if she misses…’. But hopefully, she was on time. That was again one moment the crowd turned wild.

Fifteen minutes later, judges announced she reached her fifteen-minute time limit. She finished her performance dramatically. She stood on the saddle and bowed to the crowd and again to the judges. She was soaking wet with sweat like a paper soaked in water but she managed not to show she was exhausted. “And that’s the champion’s performance. Give it up to Roxanne and Coughi.” The announcer commented. But Brian and Mr. Bolt had a suspicion about the commentaries as if they were hiding something. Whitney tried to leave for the cottage. “Where are you going?” Emily asked. “I’m going to check on Luna and if I had some thoughts, do some practices may be.” She shrugged and went outside the stadium. Mr. Bolt and Emily stayed and watched the entire day’s performances. There were only three performances left but, Brian and James also went back to the cottage. “James, did you find anything fishy with the commentators?” Brian asked while on the way. “Not actually. I was looking at the performances.” James said. “Performances or the performers?” Brian said with a smirk to make James forget the topic. “PERFORMANCES!” James startled and yelled, but his tongue almost twisted. Brian laughed and entered the cottage. The fishy thing Brian and Mr. Bolt caught was that the announcer never spoke Roxanne’s full name or at least the surname. Brian eventually forgot about it to stay calm mind. Whitney checked on Luna and gave her an evening snack; a pair of carrots. Later, an hour and a half before midnight. Whitney, under extreme caution and silence, went out of the cottage and did practices, without Luna. Instead of Luna, she placed the saddle on a fence. She intended to trip off the saddle if her footing was inaccurate. She imagined Luna walk slow around and doing a run and jump over the fence and then she jumped aiming to land on the saddle. She tripped dozens of times, and her suit was all covered in dirt. But she accomplished it the last three tries. “You better sleep now, lassie. It’s past midnight. You need to stay full of energy after you just gain enough confidence. Come on let’s go.” Mr. Bolt was looking at Whitney practicing and he saw Mrs. Bolt’s spirit (not the ghost) and courage right through Whitney. “Thanks for not interrupting. You are right. Thanks Mr. Bolt.” Whitney said and went inside the cottage and sleep to rest. 

(Scene three: Break-a-leg!)

 Whitney woke up drowsily. She couldn’t walk straight. Roxanne had to hold her feet. James saw Roxanne struggling to hold her. “Let me hold her.” James said and tried to hold. But he also barely kept both of them standing. “Damn. Whitney, you are heavier than you look.” James said breathlessly. That’s the moment Whitney suddenly gained energy and punched James. “Don’t talk about ladies’ weights. Jerk.” Whitney yelled. Brian and Emily were surprised by the sudden energy boost. Mr. Bolt gave a cup of coffee to Whitney so she could stay more awake. “Senior competitors, please report to the stadium and prepare for your performances.” A public announcement was broadcast around the town to inform the relevant parties. “AM I LATE!?” Whitney panicked and her anxiety increased. “Whoa whoa Whitney calm down. The announcement was to get prepared. By the way, what is your number?” Roxanne asked. “Two…” Whitney said in a nervous whisper. Roxanne was speechless for a second. “Then you should be at the stadium. Otherwise, you don’t have time to get ready.” She said. Whitney rushed to Luna. On the way,  she grabbed her items. “Whatever god-forsaken thing happened, DO NOT ever get surprised by them.” Roxanne advised. “WE’LL BE CHEERING YOU!” Emily screamed. Mr. Bolt asked Brian to escort Whitney to the stadium. Roxanne, James, Emily and Mr. Bolt were delayed but be on time to the stadium because James was still asleep as a dead stick.

On their way, town’s people started to stare at Phantom and Brian. Brian was slightly shivering and tried to get less attraction. “Brian? What happened to you?” Whitney probed because it was unusual to Brian to be that nervous. “I don’t like to get loads of attraction.” Brian said while lowering his entire body to Phantom’s neck. “I heard my grandma saying a trick to my sister when she feels nervous before a race. First, imagine that you and your partner are the only things alive. If that didn’t work, imagine the entire audience or the thing that makes you feel nervous, as an object that makes you not nervous or something that can boost your confidence.” Whitney was been wised to the moment. Brian wondered and secretly smirked. Then he straightened his backbone and went confidently. Whitney was happy that her trick worked.

They went inside the stadium. Some riders were already there. Feeding their horses, grooming, double-checking whether all were in order and so on. Brian went on foot and talked to a staff member of the stadium. He then came back and mounted Phantom. “Whitney, I talked to that staff guy. You don’t need to worry. You ain’t going there alone” Brian grabbed Whitney’s hand. Whitney slightly blushed. “You mean you are comi…” she thought Brian coming with her but that was Brian interruptedly said, “Luna is with you.”. Whitney’s small hope was washed. “Oh, and by the way…” Brian started again. “…I wasn’t nervous at ALL, on the way here. I wanted to make sure you know something or a way to stop that kinda terrible feeling before your performance. I’m relieved you know. Then good luck. Dad said you have strength and courage, enough to beat Roxanne.” Brian was accidentally speaking to Whitney’s heart. Those words really inspired and gave a bit of confidence to her. 

Later, five-minute break after fifteen-minute performance of the first player came to its end. “UP next, is a player new to the game. All the way from Broken Willows!” for some reason, the crowd cheered just a bit less than Roxanne’s initial cheer for the fact that the announcer just said. “Dad why are they cheering for our town?” Emily asked. “Don’t tell me…James put it together” Brian said while pushing James who was drowsily falling onto Brian’s shoulders. “For reasons actually. One is for hospitality. And second, your mom was an alumna and a champion in this contest.” Mr. Bolt mentioned. “The first and ONLY competitor, competing with a Lipizzan. Here’s Whitney Ryte and Luna the white Lipizzan.” The announcer called her name. Whitney entered while on the back of Luna and went directly to the judging panel with no show-off tricks and bowed. The judges gestured to start the performance. Whitney dismounted and went back toward an ordinary fence in the arena. She stood on the leftmost pole of the fence. She signalled Luna from her first finger to go around. Luna walked halfway around the arena and accelerated in the second half. ‘Wait, wait, wait, wait for it damn it.’ Whitney thought and tried to stop her from jumping before Luna got close. And she saw Luna was closing up fast. Whitney miss - calculated the moment and jumped too soon. Her right leg hit the right-side vaulting roller and slipped. The crowd gasped and Roxanne in champions and alumni’s room suddenly stood up. In dramatic slow motion, ‘is this it?’ Whitney thought. At that very moment, she remembered what Roxanne said in the morning. She took it into account and acted swiftly. Whitney grabbed the right vaulting roller from her left hand and bent her knees so the legs won’t touch the ground. “ATTA GIRL!” Roxanne settled down and yelled. “What happened to her?” an alumnus asked. “Try to think.” Roxanne said without taking her eyes off Whitney’s performance. Whitney saw Luna riding toward a show-jumping fence. She took it to advantage. Whitney vertically climbed the right-side pole of the fence and did a perfect turn and sat on the saddle. The crowd went wild and started cheering her by shouting her name out loud. “Looks like someone trying to steal your spotlight.” The junior champion said with a smirk. “That’s fine by me. I’m lucky to know her.” Roxanne replied. “How so?” the junior questioned. “That’s a secret till the closing ceremony.” Roxanne gestured ‘hush’ followed by a wink. Whitney did lots of astonishing acrobatics with Luna running wild on the obstacle course. She performed an extra one minute without knowing because the judges were mesmerized by her performance and forgot to alarm her.

Whitney signalled Luna to go back to the place where players get prepared. When Whitney reached the gate to exit the arena, she stood on the saddle and bowed to the audience instead of waving. The audience cheered even more for that. “James come on let’s go.” Brian said and ran with James to the place where now Whitney was. Roxanne also went out of the room to meet Whitney. All of Whitney’s energy was gone she was unconscious on Luna’s back. Third to sixth competitors, who were preparing, admired and applauded Whitney’s performance when she returned. They didn’t seem to notice what was wrong with her. Then Brian and James barged into the place. “Hey HOLD IT!” Few guards tried to stop them but Phantom and Loki blocked off the guards. “Whitney!” Brian shouted and dismounted her off Luna. “There’s an infirmary a few blocks to the right from here. You can get treated for both mare and the rider.” One of the staff members of the stadium said. “Thanks.” Brian said. “I’ll bring Luna. Go!” James yelled. Brian mounted onto Phantom and rushed to the infirmary. James slowly brought Luna while riding Loki. Loki somehow felt bored walking. Loki walked faster than, what’s its speed now when he ploughs the dirt for the farmers.

A couple of minutes later Brian came to the infirmary with Whitney. And another few minutes later James arrived with Luna. The doctors diagnosed them both. “Both of you have got panicked for no reason. These two ladies need to rest for some time. If any of these two didn’t have enough endurance, that’ll be troublesome. But thankfully nothing serious. Just let them rest.” One doctor advised and the infirmary accepted no payments. Brian and James brought them back to the cottage and let Luna rest on its pen and laid Whitney on her bed. Then suddenly Roxanne barged into the house with a large bang. “SHHHH!” James figured. “Oh! Sorry. Is she asleep?” Roxanne slowly closed the door and came to the room. “I need to get back to the stadium. I’ll leave her in your care then.” Roxanne said and left for the stadium. Since Emily needed to watch everything, Mr. Bolt had to stay with her until it ended for the day.

(Scene four: Congrats)

After a long sleep, Whitney woke up in the evening. Brian and James were playing checkers. “Oh, you’re finally awake. Good evening.” Brian greeted. “Good evwnnning.” Whitney said while yawning and brushing her eyes. “You better rest well, because tomorrow is the closing ceremony and award ceremony. HA HA! KING ME!” James said while moving one of the checker discs. Later in the day in night, Whitney was sleepless, because she slept from morning to evening. She went to meet Luna and started to look at the stars and wonder. “Stargazing eh? I used to do that when I felt empty.” Roxanne said while joining Whitney. “I wanted to surprize my sister, mom and dad by getting an award. But now it’s all gone because I left the stadium.” Whitney said. She thought she was disqualified. “But there’s no such a rule saying you’ll be disqualified like that. Besides you did an outstanding performance.” Roxanne cheered up Whitney. And they kept chitchatting till midnight until James came and exclaimed them to sleep because he couldn’t sleep with all the giggling and voices.

On the next day afternoon, after the junior competitors’ round ended, the judges let the audience decide which performers from the junior and senior categories were most popular. Judges went busy with finding the top three of the two categories in this year’s contest. An hour later, the voting session stopped. For the next fifteen minutes, staff members collected and counted the votes and gave a long roll of paper to the judges with the number of votes and names of competitors. The contest will be awarding the top three in the two categories and the two most popular contestants.

Two hours later the results were ready to be delivered. All contestants were called to the arena. The president of the organizing committee addressed everyone inside the stadium and everyone who supported to the contest. He thanked all the ones she addressed. She wished all the competitors good luck in their future in their fields and asked them to not give up by listening to a mere result. Because the results will differ according to the panel of judges for that change in perspective. He also asked the competitors that will be called winners to step on the slightly elevated stage in the arena.

After awarding all the competitors from the junior category, it was finally time for THE moment Whitney and others waited. “Here are the results for the senior competitors’ category.” The announcer prepared the audience. “Third place goes to…” the announcer held the words for a moment. “…horse Brook and rider Hilda Stevens, from Vyshkine town.” The crowd cheered. “The SECOND place goes to…horse…Luna and rider Whitney Ryte from Broken Willows.” Announcer called. The audience went crazier and cheered. But suddenly, gradually, reduced. Whitney wasn’t moving to the stage. She never thought she’d win a place and she was motionless after hearing her name. Luckily, she was awoken by a friendly male competitor next to her, who poked her on the shoulder and applauded. Whitney nodded to thank him and went to the stage with Luna. “The first place goes to…yup! The one you thought. Goes to horse Coughi and rider…” the announcer paused and asked something from Roxanne and she nodded. “I apologize. Horse Coughi and rider Roxanne Ryte. The unbroken fifth streak of hers in this very contest.” The announcer said and the crowd went wilder and cheered louder. “That’s it!” Brian said. “What’s it?” James asked. “Remember I said something fishy going…It was the announcer not speaking Roxanne’s surname! The mystery revealed.” Brian said. Emily clapped so hard; she was happy seeing Whitney winning a place. Though Whitney was completely and officially jaw dropped. “I wanted to surprise you. I am actually, your father’s younger brother’s only daughter. Nice to meet you cuz.” Roxanne reintroduced herself to Whitney as her cousin. Whitney hugged her while they were on their horses as for thanks, for introducing her to equestrian vaulting. The event ended with small light show followed by a group dance performance of the alumni with their horses and a firework show.

When they get out of the stadium to head to their cottage… “Looks like all yours and Brian’s effort paid off from practices eh? Congrats sis!” Serena congratulated while coming out of nowhere with Jessica, Jane and Natasha. “Wha…how…YOU TOLD HER!?” Whitney interrogated Brian in confusion. “No! Really. I honestly didn’t tell her.” Brian panicked and said. “Then how…” Whitney asked. “We came along with Serena hiding in a bale of hay in the crate you travelled.” Jane said. “Besides that fact, I saw you and kept a close eye on you since day one. You can’t walk away from the house without letting me notice EVEN if it’s the middle of the night. LIKE on the day Brian was on ranch’s night duty in sheep hutch. On the day we three met in the market…” Serena said while winking three times for the ends of the last three sentences she said. “You should stop winking for every statement. It looks scary.” Jessica said. “She has a point.” And Jane supported. “What is your jaw dropped for?” Natasha asked James. “I was just surprised by her memory and details.” James said in amazement. “Oh, so you’re the one hiding in the tree…that’s funny.” Brian said. “You saw her TOO!” Whitney snapped. “It was the darkest spot of the hutch. I saw something. I tried to stop you from blabbering but you continued it. Then since Serena didn’t move much, though she was a part of the tree.” Brian excused and overstated. Whitney calmed down and sighed. “Ever since that moment, I was in the shadows, looking at your progress. I stopped ranchers in Gold-key when you practised there, hid behind trees and rocks in your ‘secret’ area in the forest and so on.” Serena stated. James, Brian and Whitney went dumbfounded. “To be honest I do the same kinda stuff with ma sis too. Remember the time I came to ranch in the afternoon and stayed overnight? Those are the times Emily felt alone, nervous or any bad feelings before going to school. I watched how she works at school in those days, secretly.” Brian said. “Awww…” all of them said in an adoring way at the same moment. “Big brother…” Emily slightly pulled Brian’s trousers. She then gave me a really small box, wrapped up with a ribbon. Brian opened it. There was a good luck charm. “Happy birthday big brother!” Emily and James wished together. Brian smiled. “Let’s have a party! Celebrating both of Whitney and Roxanne’s victories and Brian’s birthday.” Serena cheered up. Mr. Bolt and Emily went silent. “I’ll skip the party with Bri…” Brian halted James. “Maybe we all should celebrate this.” Brian said and agreed to join the party, despite the fact he just remembered his mother. They went to the cottage and celebrated the occasions and later in the night. Headed back to the town on the train after saying goodbye to Roxanne and Coughi. Again Brian, James, and Whitney had to come on the last crate with their horses.