Book Series: IRISH BLUE Author: Sheila Willar Copyright: 2021 Sheila Willar ISBN #: 978-0-9867101-4-8
Book Title: THE CHAPEL Chapter #: 12 - THE TRAIL RIDE
Erin went to work on Monday morning with a new energy in her step. She was so relieved that many of the problems at the apartment had been resolved.
However, she was just learning to navigate the people who defined her world of office politics. Some were a pleasure to meet, but others were not.
She looked forward to waving to Dan who always sang “Whaz up?” in return, but she avoided saying “Good morning” to Evelyn who lamented “What’s good about it?”
Sometimes, even though she loved architecture, she wondered if a career in it was right for her. Father Michael once advised, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might be tricked into thinking that you’re already there.”
Erin loved her job but she realized that a good work place was more about the people than the actual work. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that others treated her differently when they heard that she had done work for Mrs. Mancinni.
Her supervisor began to give her less and less to do, and one day, when she asked for time off, he said “Just go!,” whereas other employees had to submit forms.
She tried to do extra work and stay late with the others, but it was evident that people were not as comfortable being themselves around her anymore.
As much as she tried to down play her relationship with the Mancinni's, Erin was glad when Friday arrived and she and Kelly were going to Mrs. Mancinni's wedding.
“Be on your best behaviour girls,” warned Finola as the girls rushed to pack their things.
Finola and her sisters whispered about Astor while the girls got ready.
“Not so poor.”
“What does Astor know about stone?"
“That kind of work is no place for a woman.”
“He won’t leave his girlfriend.”
“Let’s go!” urged Kelly as she practically burst out of the apartment.
When they arrived at the Mancinni's they ran to the barn to see Errin in hopes of going on a trail ride. There was a lot of commotion as the horses were being brushed and saddled. Some were being fitted with bridles and lined up outside.
Mr. Hailey was doing his best to keep everything organized but there were several families visiting and the teenagers were paying more attention to each other than their horses.
“Errin,” yelled one of the helpers but Errin with two r’s did not respond.
However Erin with one r did.
“Here’s your horse. Bring up the rear,” he said as he passed Erin a helmet and reins.
Erin was used to riding and had no problem getting herself into the saddle. “Great,” she thought. “This will be fun.”
“Ride on!” someone called and off they went down the trail.
Rally was Erin’s horse and a perfect gentleman. He did exactly as Erin commanded, responding to the slightest touch of the calves or heels and to the deftest pull on the reins. Rally was a soldier who could read her mind and he anticipated her every move. His training and his pride kept him one step ahead of her intentions at all times.
Everything went fine until they reached a clearing where one of the other horses was bent on challenging Rally. At first Erin remained motionless in the saddle for fear of triggering a run-away, but as the bullying continued, she turned Rally around to avoid a confrontation.
Erin encouraged Rally to pay no attention and he was more than willing to do his part because he had been trained to endure difficult circumstances. He could remain steadfast in motorcades, violent protests, and gun salutes. However, he did have a weakness. While he was naturally dismissive of humans he did not have the same tolerance for aggressive horses.
Suddenly, Rally spun around and pushed the quarrelsome horse backwards, and its rider yelled, “Stand down!”
Erin became flustered and pulled hard on Rally’s reins and kicked him with her feet. She only meant to pull him away from the situation but she might as well have pressed the gas pedal to the floor of a race car, because that is exactly how Rally interpreted her commands.
Rally never second-guessed a rider and therefore turned on a dime, dug his hooves deep into the earth, bound over a rock wall, and charged down the nearest trail picking up speed with every push. His shiny black coat and long wavy mane, flowed like oil as he thundered down the narrow path.
Erin fell forwards and had the presence of mind to duck under the tree branches that smacked against her helmet. Her heart pounded as she looked for a safe place to jump off, but up ahead she could see a bend in the trail so she lowered her body and tightened the reins. However, as they got closer to the turn, a horse and rider suddenly appeared in front of them.
“HALT!” yelled Erin out of sheer panic as they approached the grey steed.
Rally had no problem with the word “Halt” either. He had done it to avoid cars, trains, brick walls and cliffs, and he was good at it. He braced his front legs and dug them into the ground like iron rods and sat down on his hind quarters. Dust and rocks flew into the air as Erin wrapped her arms around his neck. Together they slid across the gravel to stop just in front of the man and his alarmed mare. Rally righted himself and stood tall and proud that he had done exactly what he had been told to do.
“Who are you?” demanded the man.
“I’m Erin,” she answered out of breath.
“No you’re not.”
“Yes I am.”
“What are you doing on my horse.”
“Mrs. Mancinni’s horse.”
“They gave me this horse for a trail ride.”
“Why are you here?”
“I’m attending the wedding.”
As soon as he heard the word “wedding” the old man’s demeanour changed.
“There isn’t going to be a wedding,” he announced.
“Yes there is.”
“No there’s not.”
“Oh my! You’re John!” Erin gasped when she realized who it was.
“Be on your way.”
“But your wedding is today. We repaired the chapel for you. You have to go.”
“I don’t have to do anything!”
“Mrs. A said this is her last chance,” offered Erin.
“Is that what she told you?”
“No. I heard her say it to Fenton ... that she’s ill.”
“I’m sorry. I heard Fenton pray for her. He’s the monk.”
“I know who Fenton is!” growled John as he kicked his horse and galloped away.
Erin wasn’t sure what to do next. She was too afraid to stay on Rally so she gently dismounted and gathered the reins in her shaking hands. She took off her helmet to let the breeze dry the sweat from her forehead, and took off her jacket and tied it around her waist.
Rally was unfazed and unimpressed and tugged hard to rip mouthfuls of wild flowers from the sides of the trail. As they walked back to the stable, spears of light shot down through the canopy and Erin felt a sense of remorse. She wished that she hadn’t given away Mrs. A’s secret.
Erin looked up through the tent of leaves and thought she saw a bird. She raised her hand to shade the sun from her eyes to get a better look, when a swirling wind rushed down the path and sent eddy currents of leaves into the air. Rally neighed and shook his head and they both froze in place as a cathedral of light enveloped them.
Straight ahead Erin saw a young girl walking a horse. The vision was a mirror image of herself and Rally. To one side was a monk with his arms held out as if he was flying. On the other side was a woman curled in a fetal position, and the monk was praying for her. Quickly the scene changed and the woman stood up and danced, but the monk continued to fly into the fierce wind.
She stood as still as a statue until she realized that Kelly and Errin had come to take her back to the stable.
“Are you alright?”
“Did you fall off?”
“I heard that Rally did a sitting stop.”
“That must have been fun.”
“You sure you’re OK?”
“I told Mr. Mancinni.”
“Told him what?”
“Nothing. Let’s go.”
Rally was happy to see Errin with two r’s. He liked people who were good at taking charge, even though it meant the end of eating whatever he wanted.
Back at the stable Mr. Hailey gave Erin a stern look. “You should not have been given that horse,” he cautioned. “He’s quite a handful.”
“Sitting stop, eh?”
“Did he favour his right knee?”
“Not that I noticed.”
“Mrs. Mancinni wants to see you,” said Mr. Hailey with a sad tone to his voice.
“In the cedar garden.”
Erin sighed as she watched Kelly and Errin brush Rally’s neck, the very spot where she had hung on for dear life.
Erin tidied herself up and walked slowly towards the field of perfectly pruned topiaries where Mr. and Mrs. Mancinni sat on one of the benches.
“You overheard a private conversation,” began Mrs. A.
“Yes, but I didn’t mean to.”
“Fenton has been helping me through my illness and I’ve been helping him through his.”
“I didn’t tell Mr. Mancinni because I didn’t want him to know about it,” explained Astor.
“Don’t be. He’s ill too.”
“Both of you?"
Mrs. Mancinni removed the beautiful floral scarf from around her shoulders, and placed it around Erin's neck.
"Keep this as a reminder of today."
“We’ll see you at the wedding then.”
“You did a great job with Rally I hear.”
Erin shuddered and walked back to join the other girls for the evening.
The next day the wedding went ahead as planned.
Mrs. A wore a neon yellow dress and matching hat, with a Monet sky-blue coloured scarf and gloves, and Fenton performed the ceremony with a sublime glow on his face, as if, like Moses, he had been in the presence of God.
The Irish Blue stone had bonded well and held strong under the weight of the wedding party, and under the gaggle of grandchildren who chased each other through the chapel before, during and after the service.
The reception was held in one of the gardens among rows of peonies and potted hydrangeas. There were several toasts, roasts and cheers for the re-united newly-weds, and Mrs. A made a special invitation to her grand-children, to get to know her better in the years ahead.
All was smooth sailing, until a large crystal punch bowl, full to the brim with orange sherbet, developed a crack and leaked down over the edge of the serving table.
No one noticed it until the younger children had crawled under the table to catch the river of sticky sugar in their mouths and to let it dribble down their chins and clothes. Next, they wiped the foamy dessert away with their hands and then wiped their hands on anyone and anything they could find. From that point on, most of the wedding pictures included small, orange finger-prints on people’s faces and clothes, a detail that didn’t bother the kids one bit.
Erin, Kelly, and Errin spent the evening laughing and getting to know new friends and making plans for the remainder of the summer, which was quickly coming to a close.
While standing around a fire, under the open night sky, Erin made a wish that when she left, she could take her new friends with her back to Ireland.