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Staying in the Saddle

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The sun was hidden behind the clouds today. Found that rather odd considering that in two days, it would be June. But I didn't care a bit. I wanted to just get into the arena as soon as possible. I steered my dull green 1990 Chevy Impala down the familiar dirt road towards Trost Stables. 300 acres of meadows and forests. This piece of land is where I have called home since I was nine years old. A 30 stall stable colored blue, two large paddocks, and a small red barn stood in the heart of the property and just about 1000 feet from where it all stood, a white mansion resided. I parked the car right next to the stables and killed the ignition. The moment I stepped out of the car, I was punched in the face by the smell of sweet hay and manure. I could hear the horses in the paddocks whinnying as if they were excited to see me. To see me, I thought. My heart began to ache again. This happened a lot whenever I thought of myself. I covered my eyes and pinched the top of my small nose as I breathed out a quiet sigh of frustration.
"Why now?" I asked quietly.
Just before I could succumb to these emotions, a black Cherokee Jeep began to pull up and parked next to my car. I did not even pay attention as the driver hopped out slam the car door shut. I could hear the sound of the gravel crunching underneath the driver's boots, getting louder and louder. I could not let that person see me like that. I put my hand down, face the person, and give another fake surprised look. I came face to face with Eren Yeager, one of the three riders that rides with me in my lesson group. I took notice that he wore his favorite green polo shirt with the blue and white wings crossing in the back. His light brown jodhpurs were clean and his shiny tall black riding boots hugged his calves in all the right places.
"Hey there, Petra!" he said with his usual positive attitude.
"Hi Eren" I replied with a smile "You're early today."
He reached into the back pocket of his jodhpurs and pulled out his phone. If I recalled from three days ago, him, Mikasa and Levi weren't suppose to ride until four. It was only two thirty.
"Well.. let us just say that Erwin scolded me after I screwed with one of the students' tack trunks last Monday. Guess who got put on shit duty until next fucking month?" Eren asked me in slight annoyance.
"Oh dear... sorry Eren." I said, feeling slightly guilty for my friend.
"Nah... don't sweat it. At least the captain hasn't put me off the schedule for riding. Me and Thorwa can not miss any practices with Greenwood coming up soon. Were going to crush every single one of them."
I couldn't help but laugh. Even though Eren was four years younger than me, he still was immature and let his mischievous nature get the nest of him at times. Reminded me of a kid.
"Why are you here though?" Eren asked curiously.
"Oh!" I gasped at the sudden remark "Well.... Erwin...he asked me to come down and practice the course."
Why the fuck was I lying again?, I thought. I felt like I was kicking myself again on the inside. Eren seemed to have bought it. He took off towards the stables but before he entered, he turned back to eye me.
"Oi Petra, you really should consider changing the attire. I mean... black doesn't suit you." Eren said, taking notice that I was wearing another long sleeved black shirt which was tucked into my cameo green jodhpurs.
"Sorry! I told you all of my shirts got pretty small since my father accidentally put them in with the wrong detergent." I said slightly embarrassed.
Another semi lie. Eren took off to commence his punishment while I headed to my horse's stall. The thirty horse stalls made from the strongest dark oak wood lined up on left side of the barn while the cross ties, shower stalls, and stairs, which lead to the hayloft, lined up the right side. A few of the horses had their heads sticking out of the stall doors looking around. I walked over the 24th stall where a well built gold coated horse with four white socks, a white blaze down its face, and snow white hair resided. She nickered at me as I reached out to pet her.
"Hey there, Elsa" I said.
She nudged my hands, looking for a treat greedily. I flashed a small smile as I messed with her front locks. My champion, I thought, At least someone was happy to see me.
"Alright... time to work."
I entered the stall, walked to the small cupboard in the stall, opened it with care to find Elsa's halter and lead rope. She followed me like a little lamb across the aisle way into one of the empty cross ties. After attaching the halter to the chains on both sides, I gave my horse a sugar lump I hid in my pocket before I left the house. She fed on it like some pig. Suddenly, she accidentally nipped my left arm and I gave a small yelp at the sudden pain. I covered my mouth, hoping that Eren did not hear me. I rubbed my arm with disgust. I could care less about the green saliva gift she gave me. I could feel every single one under the thin shirt and sadness began to flood my mind. I had to get moving or else I would fall apart right where I stood. I had to check and make sure that I wasn't bleeding. I made my way down the barn aisle towards the tack room. The four hundred by nine hundred square room was near the back of the room with all of the training barns tack trunks. I counted now 25 lined up like military supplies in a base. My tack room was in the left back corner labeled with my last name on the top. I unlocked the padlock with ease and opened it. I kept a secret first aid kit down at the bottom of it underneath a blanket and a jar full of apple cookies for the horses. I took the first aid kit out, closed the truck, and sat on top. I checked the door to make sure no one would come in before rolling up my sleeve. 37 scracthes covered my arm from my wrist to my elbow line. I noticed that due to the bite, the ones in the middle began to bleed again. As I applied ointment to the wounds, the memories of how I got them came running into my mind. It was like an endless loop playlist and I couldn't even press pause. More tears threatened to fall from my sore eyes. I wrapped the newly treated marks in a sports bandage and stowed the first aid kit back into the trunk. Just as I pulled down my sleeve, I heard two new voices in the aisle way. I tried to think of myself riding Elsa at the State Finals last month to calm myself enough to show my face.
"Ah... about time I would see your face."
I smiled at the sound of the deep voice before being embraced by my boyfriend. His raven black hair which parted in the middle to frame his face tickled my cheeks. I felt this rush of relief as he squeezed me tightly. When he finally let me go, he stroked my cheek with his soft hands as he looked me over with his thin silver-like eyes.
"How are you today?" he asked.
"I'm... well" I lied.
"Your face says a different story."
I pulled out my phone and flipped on the camera app. My tears stained my face and my eyes were slightly red. My heart sank. I have been able to keep the secret for almost seven years and now I feel like it was about to be pulled to the surface. I did not want to burden anyone. Levi never really let anything slip between us. We have dated for two years now and I trusted him with every bone in my body with everything but I could not trust him with this secret cause of his past I do not wish to mention.
"Petra, what is going on?" Levi asked.
"I..." I began.
"Ah Petra! I was looking for you!"
I turned my head to see Erwin, our instructor standing near the 30th stall in the stables. He gave us his smile and signaled me to him.
"Levi, I advise you to go get Laurena from the pastures and have her ready by our lesson time." Erwin said.
"Yes Erwin." Levi said slightly upset.
Levi gave me one last look before he took off towards the entrance of the stables. I decided to hear Erwin out before saddling up my horse. As I lead my horse out to the open arena, I could not help but replay the words that Erwin said to me.
"' I understand the trial will be difficult and I have trained you to the best of my ability. They will test you agility, speed, coordination, teamwork with your horse, and mental state. There will be no one at your side.'"
Erwin's words were true as ever. The mental state part worried me as I mounted Elsa in the ring and began to warm her up. She obeyed every single command of mine. As I posted back into the trot, Erwin came into the arena and I could see Levi and Mikasa following at a safe distance, taking their place along the white fenced railing. I could only fake a smile. Erwin set up a couple of jumps for me. A simple two foot cross rail, a parallel oxer, and finally a gate.
"Now, Petra. I want you to approach the jumps using your judgement and guiding ability. Remember that you and Elsa are a team. You shouldn't gamble on Elsa's ability to carry you over the jumps." Erwin said.
"Of course, Erwin."
I got my horse to a nice smooth canter as we approached the cross rail. She jumped it with grace and then we pursued the gate. I accidentally got her on the wrong lead for the canter after we jumped it. I had to get her back to a trot before continuing to pursue the next jump. The oxer was a jump that was four feet wide and each rail was four feet tall. It takes years to master it. As we approached the fence, a certain memory flashed before my eyes.
"'Think you are going to win?'"
No no no no, I thought. I did not understand what was happening.
"'They will soon figure out that your a complete loser with nothing to be proud of?"'
I pulled my horse to a stop right in front of the jump.
"Petra???" Levi's voice called out.
It sounded so distant. My head felt like it was getting squeezed by an immense pressure. I thought my brains were going to be exploding out like a gusher. I moaned and clasped my head with my hands.
"Petra, what is going on?" Erwin asked concerned.
I didn't even notice that he already ran over to where I was. I wasn't stopping cause of nerves or pressure knowing that I am to be have a trail for the most important team in America. That didn't matter right now. I was having a mental breakdown...
"Come in, Petra! Let's get you off of her." Erwin said.
I slid down and Erwin took me in his arm while he grabbed my horse's reins.
"Petra, what's wrong?" Levi's voice sounded.
I did not even turn to see him, as I began to cry heavily. Up until the point where I couldn't breath.
"LEVI CALL 911!" Erwin yelled in urgency.