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Alone in her room, Carrie's thoughts kept returning to the dinner conversation with her parents, and her homework was getting nowhere. She had read the same sentence three times and just couldn't concentrate on the assignment she should have finished after school on Friday so she could be free all weekend. Throwing her backpack into the corner probably wasn't a good idea, as it seemed to disappear under jackets and jeans. But it was hard to go all week cooped up in class and come home and be expected to do more school work. Dumb teachers. Don't they know that we have lives that are filled with fun things and friends when we aren't moping in our seats listening to them drone on about fractions?
Voices continued to drift up to her room and an uneasy feeling began creeping into her stomach. Her dad would be leaving soon and she wanted to say goodbye without all the drama. She glanced at the clock and closed her book. Sunday evenings were always the same ever since her parents split up. The fighting usually began whenever they discussed bills. And now that she had told them she knew about the letter ... well, this would probably make things worse.
Why didn't she just leave the stupid thing in the trash? But how could she not read it when she saw her name in the first sentence. And besides, shouldn't she be the angry one? Finding a letter from your dad written to your mom should be something filled with love; love letters to each other or something like that, not letters begging her not to move away.
Carrie was still in shock. How could they do this to her? She thought of her best friend, Shannon, and tears began to form. She had ridden her bike straight to Shannon's house the day she found the letter. Was that really only last Monday? It seemed like ages ago. Together they had fretted over the letter, wondering what to do. Shannon said, "Just ask them." But Carrie knew she would be in trouble for reading her mother's private mail so she mustered up her courage and waited until dinner tonight to ask them point blank. What did they say again? She thought about the look on her mother's face and how her dad had left the room. She had been sent upstairs without much of an explanation. They said they would tell her all about it later, but that yes, it was true—she and her mom would be moving away. It was useless trying to get more information. That's how it always ended—a grownup telling her she was too young to understand and that some day she would be told all about it. Some day. When would that be—after they were in a new place in a new town with a new school? She rubbed away the tears and was just about to head down the stairs when she heard a crash of what sounded like breaking glass.
She went down the steps and saw that the storm door was shattered. Her father looked at her in her bare feet.
"Get back, Carrie. There's glass all over the place."
"What happened? Where's Mom?"
"Stay upstairs," her mother called from the kitchen.
Her father was shaking his head in disbelief. "I can't believe this," he said. "You probably need stitches. I'll take you to the hospital."
"No, I'm fine," her mother replied. "It's bleeding a lot but it's only a small nick. I feel so stupid. I heard you hit something with the truck and I guess I banged the door too hard and it just shattered. What did you hit?"
"Carrie's bike. She left it in the driveway again."
Carrie's heart sank as she watched them from her perch on the stairs. Her dad was frowning as he slowly swept up the glass. Her mom's hand was bandaged and her face was pale and she was fighting back tears. "I'm sorry I left my bike in the driveway," Carrie said meekly.
"It's okay," her dad said. "But you'll be without a bike now. It's flat as a pancake."
Carrie felt horrible but somehow watching her parents clean up broken glass together made her forget about the letter. Maybe they would, too. Maybe they would clean up the glass and clean up what was broken between them. Her mom looked up and Carrie went over and hugged her. Her dad took out the trash, grabbed his coat, and after some stalling at the door, said goodnight. There would be no more talk of letters that night. As she closed her bedroom door she thought about her unfinished homework. Her dog, Flannel, was curled up, lying against her books. She smiled, sending Flannel a silent thank you; this was a sure sign she was meant to forget about her homework and go to bed.CHAPTER 2
The sun was slipping behind the Calico Mountains and the sound of an out-of-tune guitar brought Sam to her feet. She crossed the floor and caught the eye of Kelly, the woman who played the piano. Sam made a sign to cover her ears and Kelly grinned and nodded in reply. The guitar player stopped abruptly as Kelly kindly asked if she could help him tune it before they started their evening entertainment.
Sam had been busy all day with her guests at the Musical Mustangs Bed & Breakfast. Lots of tourists had come to Saddlecrest, Nevada, to attend the annual Ranch Hand Rodeo and every time she tried to grab a bite to eat, someone interrupted. She was so happy Brenda and Carrie would be coming soon to help. It would be a few months yet but Sam thought the work would keep Brenda's mind off her troubles and Carrie would make lots of friends in her new school. Everything was all set. They would arrive in June after school ended and move right into the bungalow attached to the B&B.
The music began and people started to slowly gather around the tables. Laughter and the clinking of ice in chilled glasses filled the air.
She nodded to her assistant behind the front counter and headed back to her office. Maybe now she could finish her meal in silence. She sank into the oversized cracked leather chair and began to nibble on her now-cold veggie burger. It wasn't easy being a vegetarian in cattle country. Oh, you could find plenty to eat but the teasing was non-stop. It was just another reason she was looking forward to having Brenda and Carrie come to live. "At least they won't give me any grief," she thought. Brenda and Sam were old college roommates and had abandoned meat around the same time.
Her thoughts drifted to those long ago years when the two of them dreamed of a future that held so much promise—fancy jobs, fancy clothes, and fancy homes where they would stay friends forever. Yet here she was in her not-so-fancy life grinning about the memories they shared and the friendship that grew stronger every year. The B&B had been in the family for years and now it belonged to Sam, or Samantha, as her parents still called her. They had retired to Florida, where they were sipping cool drinks, swimming in big pools, and playing bingo with their friends every Saturday night. Wasn't Florida where she and Brenda had dreamed of living? Somewhere in the Keys, where they say the water is an amazing teal blue and trees called mangroves grow straight out of the salt water? Yet here she sat in Nevada, where the only teal she ever saw was the turquoise jewelry that was peddled to any passerby looking for a souvenir. "Oh, well," she thought, no use reminiscing about life's shoulda-couldas. Her dad's worn chair seemed to creak in agreement and she sighed, thinking how great it was being her own boss and surrounded by wide-open spaces with plenty of fresh air.
The next morning as she began her usual chore of sweeping the front porch, she stopped to admire the brilliant view. She put aside her work and leaned against the broom. It was dawn and the sky was a color so unlike any other. Gorgeous shades of pink and peach rose from behind the distant Calico Mountains. She sighed and remained silent, absorbing the stillness dawn brings. As she turned to continue sweeping she spotted her cat, Max, walking slowly toward her with the carcass of his recent catch dangling from his mouth.
"Yuck, why do you always dump them at my doorstep?"
He must have changed his mind upon hearing her tone as he quickly scampered and ran beneath the porch. There was a scrap of heather green fabric with pink flowers lying on the rocking chair. Another one? she thought. Someone has been leaving swatches of fabric on my front porch. Was someone making a quilt? I've picked up squares of fabric three times this week. She wondered if Max had found them and was depositing them for her just like the dead mice he treated as gifts.
The smell of coffee and biscuits aroused her guests and they slowly made their way to the dining room. Sam breezed through her morning chores, greeting travelers, answering their questions about the old abandoned mines, and handing out maps and pamphlets. People came from all over to take in the beauty of the desert. Looking at a photo or a brochure could never capture what Sam had learned to love. You can't just read about a place, you have to go and experience it—the smell of the desert flowers in bloom, the calls of red-tail hawks as they flew overhead, and the bright colors of the Calico Mountains as they stood like soldiers guarding the land.
Sam thought of the package she had mailed to New Jersey. Brenda said Carrie had looked over the photos, brochures, and local school newsletter and was utterly unimpressed. Well, how the heck can a desert compare with the Jersey shore? thought Sam. The child had lived near the beach all her life and this would be her first trip out west. Sam knew Brenda was worried about the move and she tried to reassure her best friend. Sure, it would take some time, but it was a lot to expect from a person, regardless of their age, and she knew it. Change was always uncomfortable, especially a family breaking apart and moving to a new state with new people in a new environment. Sam thought back to when she was ten. I had enough problems with my looks and shyness that I can't imagine dealing with my parents splitting up and moving far away from my friends. We'll just have to make it fun for Carrie, she thought, but I hope she's not the crying type. I can deal with kids, but when they start blubberin'—well, that's when I clam up. No, she shook her head; if she were anything like Brenda she would face life head on. Yep, it will all work out. She will love this place and, if I'm lucky, so will her mom. As Sam headed up to make the beds she paused to drop the little swatch of calico fabric into her desk drawer beside the others and forgot all about them.CHAPTER 3
Wednesday, April 6:
I didn't do my homework last night again. Mom thinks I was in my room studying but I was just fooling around. I feel so mixed up because usually I can't wait for school to be over so I can do fun summer stuff like go swimming, ride my bike, sleep outside in a tent, go out in my dad's boat, and go to the rides on the boardwalk—especially the water slide! Now that we're moving I don't want school to be over, except I hate school and dumb homework and tests and I just want to be with Shannon. But now I'm mad at Shannon. I think she likes Nevada because she was really excited about that stupid package that my mom's friend, Sam, sent us. Flannel is the only one I can trust and I know she keeps all of my secrets. I had a cool dream last night and it was about the ... wait, gotta go. Mom's calling, but I'll write soon ... probably after blah-blah land. I hope if they have a test today there is a long fire drill and we all hang outside and have to miss it.
As Shannon waited for the bus she thought back to the photos of Nevada Carrie had shown her the day before; how she had stopped Carrie from ripping them up when her friend, in tears, had thrown them on the floor. Shannon thought the pictures looked incredible—mountains, cactus, and bighorn sheep—and that this move out west looked super exciting. Sure, she was upset about Carrie moving and all, but her parents had promised they would allow her to go for visits. The bus came and she made her way to her usual seat. She wondered what it would be like to travel so far from home. Home. Everything would change for Carrie as her new neighborhood would be miles and miles from the places she and Shannon liked to hang out. Rollerblading and going to the boardwalk to look for cool clothes—and, of course, the beach. Ugh, the beach, she thought. That was the worst ... Carrie had looked in horror at the photos of the desert and yelled, "I'm trading my beautiful beach for this horrible dusty old dirt!"
It was test day and all of the kids in the class were miserable. Carrie looked about and saw the grim looks on her classmates' faces. Great, she thought, just what I need—another bad grade. The meeting she had attended with her mom and her teacher was supposed to help boost her spirits and her grades. All that talk was flowery words to Carrie. Adults always seemed to think it was all so easy but when you have stuff on your mind, well ... school just didn't seem so important. Her entire world was about to change. That was what really bugged her—no one even bothered to ask her, they just went ahead and made the decision, saying it was for her own good. Nothing about this felt good and besides, it was her life, too. Carrie was ignoring Shannon's attempts to cheer her up. Not today, thought Carrie, still feeling hurt and angry that her friend didn't share her hatred of those awful photos of the Nevada desert. She sank down into her seat and chewed on her pencil, wishing the test and the photos were all just a bad dream.
That night Carrie did have a dream. She thought about it the next morning as she sat munching her toast.
"Well, you look like you're a million miles away," Brenda said.
"I had a funny dream. Wanna hear it?" Carrie asked.
"I always love hearing your dreams. You have a pretty vivid imagination."
"It started with shimmering water all glittering before me and then, well, I was flying. I was way high up like a bird looking down. And all I could see for miles and miles were these rolling hills made of calico fabric."
"Cool," her mom said. "Just like patchwork."
"Yeah, only as I was flying overhead, it all kinda suddenly stopped and I was directly overhead looking down on this field of fabric and then something odd happened. The fabric kinda, well, I don't know how to describe it exactly ... it sort of was ripped open by a black oozing ... um, like black paint ... it was shiny and it slowly spread over all of the fabric until all I could see was black."
"Anything else?" her mom asked.
"No, that's all I can remember."
"Hmm. What do you think it means?"
"I'm not sure, Mom. I liked the flying part, and it was really awesome seeing all those rolling hills made of calico fabric. I just don't get the end part."
"Carrie, I know how upset you've been about all of this, and I wish I could make it all better."
"So you think it's about us moving?"
"Maybe," said her mom, "or maybe it's just an odd, unexplainable dream. We all have those."
"Well, whatever it was," said Carrie, "I hope I have another one about flying. I can't wait to tell Shannon."
As she rode the bus to school she thought about the dream. Calico fabric was what her aunt had used when sewing quilts. What did her mom call it again? Patchwork. Yeah, patches sewn together to make a design. That's just what those fields looked like. She was daydreaming about this when Shannon slid into the seat next to her.
"Wait 'til you hear my dream!" said Carrie, forgetting all about her cold-shoulder treatment of the past day.
Shannon said nothing and pretended not to hear.
"What?" asked Carrie.
"You know what," said Shannon angrily.
"Sorry," mumbled Carrie.
"I'm allowed to think that those desert photos are cool, Carrie. It doesn't mean I want you to move," Shannon shot back.
"I know. I was mad at the world. You're the only one who even gets it. My parents sure don't."
"Yeah, well okay, but you shouldn't be so cold to me. Never mind all that; let's get back to important stuff—about this dream. Was I in it?"
The weeks flew past and as moving day approached, mother and daughter viewed the calendar with mixed feelings. Carrie looked with sadness and Brenda with hope and anticipation about what was around the corner. They had become closer packing up their belongings; their teamwork had brought them to an understanding. They decided to agree to disagree about it being both horrible and wonderful. They learned a lesson about themselves and how, although they shared a bond as mother and daughter, it was okay if they didn't agree about moving away. This made Carrie feel as if her mom respected her opinions and it also made Brenda frown less. Saying goodbye to friends and family wasn't easy and each farewell made their love grow stronger for people and places they used to think would be with them forever. There were going-away gifts and cards, mixed with tears, and yet somehow they were able to still find the laughter.
Excerpted from Calico Horses And The Patchwork Trail by Lorraine Turner. Copyright © 2013 Lorraine Turner. Excerpted by permission of IDW Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted March 11, 2014
Calico Horses and the Patchwork Trail was a wonderful story about real-life issues our children are facing each day; divorce, moving away from friends and family, dealing with parents, bullying and caring for animals. The book weaves together the beautiful message of our responsiblity to one another, the land and all creatures. Another element of the story is the natural ability of the young characters to tap into their inner strengths. The children use meditation to problem solve and set themselves on a mission to save the wild horse. Throughout the story a mystery evolves that eventually links all the characters together and ends with a message of love and concern for the wild horse of the great American west. The plight of the wild horse in America is a real tragedy in our country and one that deserves our collective attention and intervention. The author has gone as far as provding the reader with resources for further investigation into the story of the wild horse.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 20, 2014
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