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Rebel Ferguson pulled the currycomb across the mare's broad back. Fine specks of dust floated in the early morning air. A mockingbird sang outside the stable. A lump the size of a barn owl lodged in Rebel's throat. How could the bird be so happy when her life had been shattered into millions of pieces? Don't think about Mom, she told herself. Keep busy.
And she tried. She brushed and brushed Sunrise's coat, until the hair shimmered like a new copper penny. One by one--she counted them--she untangled three sharp burrs from the mare's coarse mane.
The sudden vroom of a car engine rumbling to life made Rebel's chest tighten. Even though the driveway was not visible from the stable, she darted to the stall door anyway and looked out the open top section. Rain lingered like teardrops on the red tile roof of the white stucco house nestled among mesquite and cottonwood trees a hundred yards away. Last night's storm was past, at least the storm outside. The clouds had drifted east, leaving behind a clear blue sky.
But the storm between her parents was etched on Rebel's heart forever. Oh, they never yelled or fought or said horrible things to each other. They were much too civilized for such childish behavior. Sometimes she wished they would. Anything would be better than the unbearable silence. Except for what had to be said, her parents simply stopped talking to one another. They were polite strangers, and she was caught in the middle, loving them both.
She listened to the hum of her mother's Jaguar until it faded, leaving behind only the chatter of that annoying bird, the swishing sound of the mare's tail as she swatted flies, and Rebel's thoughts. Everyonesaid she was a carbon copy of her mother. She had the same smoky blue eyes, the same long dark hair, and the same slender build. But outward appearances could be deceiving. Their personalities were complete opposites: Liz Ferguson was a city girl who liked fancy dresses and parties and crowds. Rebel Ferguson was a country girl who preferred jeans, T-shirts, and a few close friends.
She turned back to the mare. She licked her tongue over her dry lips, finally accepting what she had denied up until the last minute. "Mom's gone, Sunrise," she said, careful to keep her voice under control. "Like the storm. The difference is, the rain will return. Mom won't. She went to ... him."
Sunrise swiveled her ears, snorted.
Rebel rubbed the mare's velvet-soft nose. "Right. Him. Bo's his name. No, I haven't met him and don't plan to."
She swallowed the lump in her throat that was growing bigger and bigger. She chewed on her thumbnail. "I have to tell somebody, so you're elected, Sunrise. It was really bad last night. Mom admitted she had met someone new. Dad was so pale. I thought he might have a heart attack. He reminded me of Lucky the day I found him on the highway, hit by a car, in pain, frightened, and totally helpless."
Sunrise closed her eyes and bent one leg to rest it.
Rebel rested her head on the mare's neck and fiddled with the coarse hairs of her mane. "This morning, Mom packed her bags, announced she was leaving. I didn't believe her. Moms don't run away."
Rebel lifted her head. "But they do. When she told me good-bye, I couldn't deal with that scene, so here I am, spilling my guts to you. I thought Mom would come after me. She didn't. Neither did Dad."
Rebel dumped a pail of oats into the feed bucket. "I don't understand it. One day everything was fine." She set the empty pail outside the stall. "We were the typical family--mother, father, daughter, house in the country. Then it all fell apart. What have Dad and I done to make her hate us?"
The mare shifted to rest another leg.
Rebel sighed. "Right. You know it. I know it. Things have been bad for a long time, but I never dreamed they'd go this far. They're talking divorce. What an ugly word. I just want things to be the way they once were, when Liz and Phillip Ferguson were the perfect couple. How can they split up after seventeen years?"
She considered that for several minutes. Sunrise's tail swished. A fly buzzed Rebel's nose. She flicked it away and came to a conclusion: "If it's that easy to fall out of love, I'll never fall in love. It's less painful that way."
Sunrise opened her eyes and gave Rebel a dreamy, faraway look.
Rebel ran a hand over the sorrel's swollen belly, smiling a little when the foal inside the mare jumped. "It won't be long now, girl. Two or three days at the most and you'll be a mommy. I hope you're a better one than mine."
She choked back the bitter taste that filled her mouth every time she thought about her mother with him, the guy called Bo. She almost threw up just thinking his name. "It's all his fault," she said, her face heating up with anger. "I'll never forgive him for stealing Mom away. Never."
She gave Sunrise a swift stroke with the currycomb. "You know what hurts the most, girl? Mom doesn't want me. She didn't say it in so many words, but she'd have taken me with her if she cared, wouldn't she? Of course, I wouldn't go if she asked me to. I wouldn't leave you, or Lucky, or Cleo, or Redtail. Who'd take care of you?"
Sunrise bobbed her head.
"Exactly." Rebel lifted the mare's right foreleg and checked her hoof. "Did I mention that he ... Bo ... plays the drums?" she asked as she dug out a small pebble wedged in the sole of the hoof. "Well, he does. Would you believe in a rock band? Which leads to my next question. Why did she choose a drummer, of all people? He probably has tattoos in hidden places and rings in his navel."
Sunrise turned liquid brown eyes on Rebel.
Rebel gave a helpless shrug. "I haven't a clue either. What's more, I could care less. I have my friends, Josie, Will, and Sully. I have Dad. I have my pets. Who needs Mom?"
She tucked a stray wisp of hair back into her French braid. "Who am I kidding? I need Mom. So does Dad."
Sunrise pawed the ground, stirring up bits of hay and dust.
"You agree then?" Rebel planted a kiss on the mare's muzzle. "So what I have to do, I suppose, is think of a way to convince Mom she's made a horrible mistake. Then she'll come home. I'm open to suggestions."
Sunrise reached her head over the closed section of the outside door and nudged the board holding it shut. The bolt came loose. The mare pushed the door wide, whinnied, and trotted into the connecting corral.
"Okay," Rebel said. "I got your message. I'm on my own."
Sunrise kicked up her heels and dashed to the far side of the small enclosure. Ignoring the hay in the feeder, she stretched her head between the fence posts and grazed on the tender shoots of spring grass on the opposite side.
Rebel pulled her denim jacket tightly around her, leaned against the doorjamb, and watched the mare. So that old cliché is true, she thought. The grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Is that what happened to Mom? Was she so bored here with Dad and me that she reached out for something new and exciting?
Rebel's chest tightened. She found him, I suppose. "I hate you, Bo."
She retrieved the shovel from the tack room and proceeded to fling dirty hay into the wheelbarrow, ignoring the twigs that caught in her hair. She worked like a woman possessed, trying to block the vision of her mom and him together. But she might have hit on the truth. "Mom hated the isolation of living miles from town," she said, though no one was listening. "She loved the city, the theater, the music."
Rebel paused, rested her arm on the handle of the shovel. "Maybe Dad should have taken her places more often. Would that have made Mom happy? I could have gone shopping with her, the way she wanted me to. Would that have made a difference?"
Rebel's brain spun as she hashed over the possibilities of what had gone wrong. She hurled hay into the wheelbarrow. "I ought to have seen what was happening."
She tossed more hay. "The phone calls when Dad was out."
She slung shovel after shovel of hay. The pile grew higher and higher. "The more frequent trips to Dallas she took. Clue, Rebel, clue. But you were blind because...."
Hay spilled over the sides of the wheelbarrow. She rushed outside to dump it.
"Because you trusted her."
Rebel did not see the puddle of water until her load of hay suddenly came to a standstill. She tried to lift her foot, only to discover that her boots were mired in mud up to her ankles. She gritted her teeth and shoved, straining to free the stuck wheelbarrow. Brown water splattered and coated her jeans with a layer of muck. Frustration at the world in general seeped from every pore of her body. She pounded a fist on the handle of the wheelbarrow. "Soggy cotton bolls!"
"Whoa, Rebel. Thanks, but I've already had a shower this morning."
"I told you she was a reckless driver, cuz."
"She does look cute, though, all covered in mud that way."
"I don't know. I prefer girls who take a bath with clean water and use that good-smelling bubble bath stuff."
The sound of the familiar voices broke through Rebel's tantrum, and she glanced up to see her neighbors, the Garret cousins, Will and Sully, with the silliest grins on their faces. Oh, no, she thought. Not now. Please. In no mood for their teasing and unfunny jokes, she stuffed her hands on her hips and prepared to blast them away.
"Your sense of humor is pathetic, Garrets. And for your information, mud baths are considered fabulous for the skin. I'll wallow in mud if I want to, so go home and stop bugging me." Her tongue-lashing apparently went over the boys' heads, as usual.
Will's grin spread across his whole face. The dimples in his cheeks deepened. "Can't do that, Rebel. We came over to keep you company today." He spread his arms. "We're all yours, to do with what you will."
Sully waggled his eyebrows. "You lucky girl."
"I don't want your company," Rebel snapped. "Take a hint. Go away."
Will and Sully shook their heads simultaneously.
"Judging from the grumpy expression on your face and your less than enthusiastic welcome," Sully said, "I think you want us whether you'll admit it or not. What do you think, cuz?"
Will, his thumbs hooked in the front pockets of his jeans, circled Rebel. He eyed her up and down. Mischief pushed out of his forest-green eyes. "I agree, Sully. Rebel looks as mad as that calf that got its tail tangled in the barbwire fence last week. I'd say she needs some special attention about now."
He stopped circling and ambled toward her. So did Sully.
Rebel lifted her foot out of the muck with a swooshing sound and shook it. She took a step back, her hands in front of her in a posture of self-defense. "That's close enough," she warned. "Stop, or I'll sic Lucky on you."
The boys halted and exchanged amused glances. Rebel inched back another step.
"When Rebel's eyes steam up that way, she's dead serious," Will said. "You think we should?"
"I don't know," Sully said. "Lucky's one tough pup. He chewed right through that marshmallow the other day without blinking an eye. Still, I'd say it's worth taking a chance."
"You wouldn't dare," Rebel said, judging the distance to the stable. It wasn't far. She could outrun them.
Two pairs of green eyes twinkled at her. Two blond heads--Sully's hair shoulder length, Will's hair shorter, a sprig hanging in his eye--nodded at each other. Two tanned faces, with identical dimples, got that look.
Too late, Rebel realized the Garret boys considered those three words a challenge.
Posted December 26, 2011
Rebel Ferguson¿s life has changed drastically. Her mother has left Rebel and her father for a drummer in a band. Rebel¿s two best friends, Will and Sully have decided to do everything in their power to cheer her up. As her father tries to deal with the situation, taking credit for part of the break up, Rebel feels her life is spinning out of control. First there is the strange behavior of Will and Sully, especially when it concerns college boy Rick. Next there is the mandatory visit with her mother and new boyfriend Bo.
Rebel is determined to make her mother pay for choosing Bo over her and her father. She begins to call her mother Liz. This is a book that you must read. It rang so true. I have seen my middle school students go through these frustrating stages just like Rebel as they deal with a divorce in their family. I can only imagine if they were older and had to deal with the ¿boy¿ issues Rebel is dealing with. I sat with the book and read it from cover to cover. I have so enjoyed it. I am so glad I had the opportunity to read and review this book and I¿m looking forward to reading a lot more by this author.
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