YA - older teens, 15+First chapter excerpt:
Hi, my name is Alecia Mueller and I will be your narrator for this story. Let me start by telling you a little about myself. I am five foot five, not tall by any stretch of the imagination but not short, either. I have long blond hair. I usually wear it braided into pigtails, even though my sister tells me it makes me look like I am twelve. I don't really care what she says, it's both pretty and practical at the same time.
If I had to describe myself in two words it would be those two: pretty but practical. I am very feminine but I don't let that stop me from doing stuff I want. Now my best friend Sam (she's the tall girl leaning up against front of the school next to me, the skinny six-foot girl with the short dark hair. She's reading a book if that helps), well let's just say that if you wanted to describe Sam you'd just use the word practical.
Sam and I have been best friends for most of our lives. We are country girls. That might not mean much to the city kids at the school, or to some of the readers, but to Sam and me it's important. Country kids aren't quite like town kids. It's little things, but sometimes the little things are important.
Take the way we dress. City kids wear faded torn blue jeans. They actually go out and buy jeans that have been purposely worn and faded. Country kids wear faded and torn jeans, too, but we buy nice clean blue jeans. The tears and fade marks are put there by our lives. I have a huge scuff mark and tear on the rear thigh of these jeans, well below the butt crease (I am not trying to show anything off). I took a spill while helping my uncle break horses a couple of weeks ago and that's how the scuffs got there. I got up, dusted myself off, got back on that horse and broke her, too.
Sam's got a huge tear on her right knee. If you look closely you can still find the matching thin scar. She got her leg caught up in a downed barbed wire fence. One of her dad's cows was stuck in the fence. Sam was wading in tall grass with a pair of wire cutters when it happened. I was there, too, talking gently to the cow so it would stay still while she worked.
“Hey girls, I was hoping I would run into to you,” Mrs. Terrance said at my left. Mrs. Terrance teaches Algebra 1 and 2 as well as coaching the girl's track team. She has dishwater blond hair and a round face. Her body is thin, a runner's body. It does not match her face at all. She was wearing a green track suit, a whistle around her neck and was holding a clipboard. “Are we going be blessed by your presence at tryouts?”
“Sorry, Mrs. T,” Sam replied, putting the book down for a moment. It was The New Goat Handbook; figures. “We would love to but it's almost time for the kidding.”
The thing about Mrs. Terrance is that she was born on a farm not far from here. She understands us country kids because she is country, too. She didn't miss a beat. A city teacher would have thought we were the ones kidding. Mrs. Terrance knew that by kidding, Sam meant our goats were about to give birth to their young, or kids.
She also knew we weren't trying to duck tryouts. We had responsibilities. That's a fact of life when you are a country kid. We both wanted to go out for track, but 4-H came first.
She nodded and made a mark on her clipboard. “Okay, well hopefully they'll drop and we'll still have time for a few practice runs before the first meet. Keep me posted.” Sam assured her we would.
With that she went on her way. You might be thinking that she gave us special treatment because she was biased in favor of country kids. I know some of the town kids felt that way but it wasn't like that at all. She understood that our responsibilities came first. Besides, she knew we weren't going to be sitting around inside playing video games or something like that. We'd be working and when we found time to make it to track, we'd be in great shape as always.
Okay, maybe there was a little favoritism going on. We were her two best distance runners by a long shot. Sam set the school record last year, as a sophomore. I was hard on her heels when she did it, too.
That was another difference, a pretty big one. You ask a city kid to run a mile and they act like that's so far. I mean come on. Sam's parents live a solid three quarters of a mile down the road from my home. I must have been five the first time I looked up and saw Sam running full tilt down the gravel road. She pulled to a full stop inches from me, nose-to-nose.
“Lambing,” she said, a smile spreading across her face, “First ewe is about to drop.” With that she was gone, back down the gravel road at full tilt again, me hard on her heels. It had been like that ever since. God knows how many times we tore back and forth on that strip of gravel, to see the birth of calves, lambs, baby chicks or to watch the vet give shots or the farrier trim the horse's hooves. So our fateful run at the end of last year had been the result of more than ten years of running, me chasing my friend, Sam.
“Hey,” a man's voice said. I looked up. It was Jeremy, so scratch that, a boy's voice. He was my boyfriend of the last three months.
“Hey,” I replied.
He nodded towards the distant track field. “Boy's tryouts don't start til tomorrow. Want a ride home?” Jeremy was a city kid. He was quarterback of the football team and he was fast, for a short distance. He ran four hundreds and did some field events, mostly to keep in shape for football.
He asked me to the winter dance and I said yes. We'd been going together ever since, casually. We weren't going steady, yet, and he'd not gotten past second base. I wasn't that kind of a girl.
I looked at the field, weighing my options. The bus was awfully slow. You had to stop at every farmhouse with a kid so it took almost an hour to make a less than fifteen minute drive. That extra forty five minutes meant I could be finishing chores by the time I would have normally been starting.
“Sure,” I replied. “Come on, Sam.”
Sam cocked her head at Jeremy. He gave her a sour look. She shrugged. I knew the two of them didn't like each other.
I also knew that Jeremy had only intended to ask me. But you know what? That's rude. Sam lives right along the way and there is no good reason to give me a ride and not her. Besides she was my best friend and she was willing to play nice with him for my sake. If he couldn't do the same, he'd become history. I know where my loyalties lie.