Chapter 4: Changes
"Mount up!" John yelled to Katie as she stood beside Sundown in the stable track.
"Dad, I know I told you that I wanted to ride Sundown but I really think you should give JC another chance, please?" she begged as she looked at JC's sulking face by the fence.
"This isnt about JC and this isnt about you. I just want to see how well he does with different jockey's. Now mount up!" he informed her.
"Fine!" she yelled as she jumped up on Sundown.
"Now, just walk him around for awhile. Get used to being on him" John added, watching her riding posture.
"I know what I'm doing. It's not like I have forgotten" she responded, tapping Sundown slowly with her feet, making him trot.
"Now take him a little ways down the track. When I yell go, take him around the track full speed. I will be timing you!" he yelled down the track to her as she turned around and waited for his signal.
"Go!" he yelled again, dropping his arm and starting the clock.
She moved past them quickly. Just a blur as she sped towards the first turn. She missed the thrill of full speed, the thrill of adrenaline from the power beneath her. Sundown wasn't nearly as fast as Comet, but the adrenaline was well needed. She again sped past John and JC with only a blur and then slowed down and came back.
"So, how did we do?" she questioned as she dismounted.
"You are five seconds faster than JC. That time could have beat Palisades in that race last week." he finished, looking again at his clock.
"So, what does that mean?" JC asked with concern.
"Well, she is gonna run in the next race. If she wins, which by the way Palisades will be in this race too, she is gonna run Sundown for the rest of the season until Rocket starts. Then she will have the all the practice she needs." he finished, walking out of the gate with Sundown.
"And, what about me?" JC questioned.
"Nothing. You can have your vacation!" he said and walked away.
"Great!" JC said grumbled as he looked at Katie.
"Im sorry" Katie said as she put her head down.
"Its ok. Its not your fault your a natural." he joked around with her, trying to make her laugh.
"Thanks. Its just that your my best friend and I dont want to lose that, ya know?" she said honestly.
"I know what you mean. I wouldnt want to lose that for the world either!" he said, giving her a hug.
"Well, good!" she replied, as they walked up to the house.
"Time to eat!" Marie yelled out the door as they walked into the house filled with smells of chicken and pasta.
"Its post time!" John yelled as Katie mounted and was led towards the track.
"Wish me luck!" she yelled back to JC.
"Break a leg!" he joked with her as she trotted onto the track.
"We can do this!" Katie whispered to Sundown as she looked at a much larger Palisades in front of her.
Sundown shook his head as in response and started to jump around. Katie pulled back on his reins with no effect. He was jittery for some reason. A bit more excited than usual but Katie enjoyed his willingness to run and couldnt wait to get to the gates. John and JC noticed it too, and hoped Katie would be able to control him.
"I hope she knows what she's doing!" JC said nervously.
"I thought you had faith in her" John replied.
"I did, until I noticed the whip in her hand!" he said, staring at her on the track.
"She'll be fine!" John said reassuringly.
"You know Sundown doesn't like the whip! Why did you give it to her? That's like a death wish waiting to happen!" JC exclaimed.
"I need to know how good she really is. Rocket is two times faster and stronger than Sundown, and if she cant control him then she wont be able to control Rocket either!" he finished.
"I just hope she gets a chance to ride Rocket after this race! She knows nothing about the whip. She won't be prepared!" he yelled once again.
"Everything that happens is a surprise when you are out there on the track. You cant be prepared. She has her skills as a jockey to know what to do. I'm not letting just anyone ride Rocket. And whoever does will have to be the best!" he informed him as Katie was led into her gate.
"And they're off!" The announcer yelled through the speakers.
Sundown lunged out of the gates and charged down the track. Katie felt every muscle in his body tighten as he gathered up speed. He was much faster than their practice run. She moved him up to third around the first turn and stayed there down the backstreach. She let go of her grip on him and let him run faster, passing Magic Man, and gaining on Palisades. They entered the homestreach, but started losing ground to Palisades. He seemed much faster than when JC had run against him. She gripped the whip in her hand and smacked it against Sundown. In a split second, in full gallop, he shyed sideways and started kicking. Katie held on as she tried to straighten him and regain his speed, but had slowed down too much and with no where to go, Magic Man ran straight into them. Katie flew off, but then was landed on by Sundown and trampled on by Magic Man.
"Katie!" JC yelled as he ran down out of the stands and into the track. John and Marie followed behind.
They were met up with some track workers, and gathered around Katie, who was laying on her stomach, her face down into the dirt.
"The paramedics are coming!" they said, as the ambulance raced down the track, lights glaring and sirens at top notch.
"Katie, talk to me!" John yelled to her, not touching her, not knowing where her injuries were.
"Her legs look crushed!" JC said hoarsely, trying not to look at them.
"Give us some room!" the paramedics said as they rushed over. They placed a neck brace on her and turned her over onto a back board. Her face was full of blood, even though there seemed to be no injuries.
"Oh my God!" Marie cried, covering her face, not wanting to see Katie that way.
"We need to get her out of here now!" the paramedics demanded, as they started an IV and placed her on the stretcher.
"The track workers opened the track gate and the ambulance rushed out, lights and sirens still blaring. JC looked at the official results on the board in front of the stands. Palisades had won again.
"Hey you! How are you doing?" JC said to Katie, who was sitting in her room window, watching the horses in the pasture.
"Im doing good, but I really want to get outside. Its been a month now and I've been stuck in here!" she exclaimed, covering her leg braces up with her robe.
"You know, I still feel bad about what I said before the race!" JC said, honestly.
"What did you say?" she asked, puzzled.
"Well, when I said break a leg, I didnt really mean for you to do it!" he replied.
"Aww, you're such a caring person, but I know you didnt mean it that way! Dont worry! It's ok!" she finished, trying to cheer him up.
"Thats good! And by the way, you will get out soon! And hopefully back in the saddle!" he said, sitting beside her.
"I hardly doubt it! The doctors said that I would probably never be able to walk again, let alone ride again." she said, depressingly.
"You cant give up! You will walk again and you will ride again! Just have faith!" he said, trying to cheer her up.
"There is no point in trying. I'll never be able to ride Rocket now!" she yelled in anger.
"Well, about Rocket...." he was interrupted.
"What about him?" Katie barged in.
"Your dad hired a new jockey for him. He will be here today. He will be living here and staying in one of the guest rooms." he finished.
"What?! No one is supposed to ride Rocket but me!" she exclaimed.
"Well, John cant let a good horse go to waste! It only makes sense that someone else ride him!" JC added.
"I am going to walk again! I will be the one riding Rocket!" she proclaimed.
"Now thats the spirit!" JC said, happily that Katie had some faith.
"You have just given me my inspiration!" she finished as she looked back out the window towards Rocket's pasture.
Chapter 5: First Impressions
Three hours had passed since JC had visited Katie and she was still sitting in the window watching the pastures and the horses in the track when a fancy Mercedes-Benz drove up into the driveway. A man in a suit got out of the drivers side and came around and opened the back door. A young preppy dressed looking man got out and was met by John and Marie. Almost immediately JC knocked on Katie's door and walked in.
"Is that the new jockey?" Katie quickly asked as she watched the cute blonde haired boy that was standing in front of her house.
"Yea, his name is Justin. He's some big time jockey from the west coast" he replied, looking out the window, too.
"Well, then why haven't I ever heard of him?" she questioned.
"Nobody has for some reason. Its some big secret. He seems a little too stuck up for my tastes around here. He doesnt seem to fit in with us country folk!" JC joked.
"Hey, we dont even know him. Maybe he's a really nice guy!" Katie tried to reassure herself.
"Well he sure dont seem to making that first impression to me" he finished, turning away from the window.
"He's coming into the house! Darn! I wish I could get downstairs!" she yelled as she heard the screen door slam.
"Don't worry, I'll make sure pretty boy comes up to say hello!" JC said sarcastically as he walked out her door.
"Ha! Ha!" she snobbishly replied back.
A couple minutes later, she heard footsteps coming up the stairs followed by voices. She quickly put on some makeup and jumped into bed, making sure her legs were covered.
"Katie?" Marie called to her as she knocked on the door.
"Come in!" Katie yelled.
Marie opened the door and came in. Behind her, Justin and JC followed. JC looked at her strangely, knowing she didnt have makeup on earlier. Katie noticed his eyes roll as she tried to impress Justin.
"Katie, this is Justin Timberlake, the new jockey for Rocket." she finished.
"Hi, Justin!" she said as she leaned over and shook his hand.
"Nice to meet you!" Justin replied.
"Very nice to meet you too!" she replied as JC shook his head.
"Well, sorry to cut this short, but I must show Justin the rest of the house and show him to his room" Marie jumped in as she opened the door.
"Which room will you be giving him, mom?" Katie questioned curiously.
"The one right across the hall here by the stairs" she answered.
"Oh, ok" Katie replied, knowing how close that room was to hers.
"Ok, Justin, lets get going!" Marie said, walking out the door.
"Talk to you later, Katie!" Justin finished as he followed Marie.
"See ya!" she yelled down the hall.
"I cant believe you!" JC said as he closed the door.
"Why? What did I do?" she said, innocently.
"You are such a flirt! he answered.
"So! Whats wrong with that?" she asked.
"Oh, nothing. But, dont let mommy catch you!" he snapped back.
"Oh, stop being a baby!" she yelled.
"Sorry! Im just protective! You're like a sister to me!" he said, as he walked over to her.
"Yea, well I wish Lance acted like you" she added.
"He does. But he cant show it. Thats why he picks on you all the time. Thats his way of giving you attention." he explained.
"Anyways, I have more important things to worry about than Lance at the moment!" she smirked.
"You better watch yourself! I'm telling you! There is more to him that what you are seeing!" he said as he walked to the door.
"How do you know? You dont even know him!" she asked.
"I can just sense it. And by the way, you dont know him either! So you better be careful!" he finished.
"Yes, daddy!" she joked as JC left.
She got up from her bed and made her way back to the window. Justin was again outside looking at Rocket with Marie and John. At a glance, Justin looked up at Katie's window. They looked right at each other. It was love at first sight.