Beep! beep! Hannah reached over and smashed her hand hard over the snooze button. "Just five more minutes" she mumbled to herself before turning over and wrapping back up in her blankets. Suddenly there was a loud knock on her door from her mother. "Hannah wake up! your gonna be late for school!"
groaning, she pulled herself out from under the covers and sat up with a big yawn. "Hannah!" her mother yelled again. "I'm coming!" glancing over at the clock she saw that the time was 6:15. oh fudge!. She jumped out of bed quickly and ran to her closet pulling out a short sleeved button up plaid shirt and a pair of jeans. Glancing in the mirror she looked at her light brown hair. It was supposed to be shoulder length but it was so tangled with knots it was barely recognizable. She quickly ran a brush through her hair and put it up into a messy bun, then ran down the stairs. " Good morning Mom!"
"Good morning,make sure you eat some breakfast" "The bus is gonna be here in like five minutes!"
"Hannah" her mom looked right at her. "breakfast, you have a math test today" "don't remind me" she quickly stuffed a muffin in her mouth and got outside right as the bus was pulling up.
Walking into school her friend Amanda came up behind her. "Hey Hannah ready for algebra?" "I guess so. I was up so late studying last night I almost missed the bus" A loud crack of thunder made the whole school shake. "Looks like its gonna be a stormy day..maybe we will lose power and not have to take the test after all" Hannah joked before hurrying off to class.
It was a relief when the bell rang for lunch hour, now that the algebra test was over she realized her stomach was growling. Glancing out the window she noticed how dark the sky was getting. Growing up in Oklahoma she was no stranger to severe weather and just shrugged it off. She took a big bite into her burger. "You know that’s not going anywhere right?' Amanda eyeballed her and giggled. "I know" she mumbled through another mouthful and giggled herself. "I can't believe we are only a month away from summer vacation!" Hannah exclaimed setting down her food."No more waking up early, and my mom said I can start taking riding lessons!" "That’s awesome! I can't wait either me and my family are gonna go to California and spend time at the beach!" Amanda barely got the words out before a message came over the intercom "Attention students. We are under a tornado warning. please proceed to the hallways in a orderly fashion. DO NOT run. Thank you" Hannah glanced outside and saw a sight that churned her stomach. The sky was a deep green color with the clouds rotating in three different directions. A torrential rain beat against the ground as if trying to go through it, and lightening flashed every few seconds. She swallowed a lump in her throat you've been through bad weather before. Everything is fine. She thought trying to calm herself down. Still every time a tornado warning went out her heart lept up into her throat. .Walking briskly out to the hallway she dialed her mom on her cellphone. "Hello?""Mom! There is a tornado warning at school." She looked around and lowered her voice so no one would hear her "I"m scared". "I saw it on the weather channel. Just follow the schools directions and you will be just fine. Remember its just a bunch of wind. I've got to go and get myself into safety OK? love you. I'll see you after school" "love you" she stuffed her phone back into her pocket and slumped down in the hallway by the lockers. "head between your knees and hands over your head!" The teachers yelled out. she glanced over at Amanda who had the same look of fear in her eyes and then did as the teachers told her. The wind screamed louder and louder until it drowned out every other noise.
She turned her thoughts away from the storm. Whenever she felt afraid she always liked to think about horses. She had always wanted a horse of her own. Her ideal horse would be a blood bay. A simple color yet one with striking beauty. Maybe a star or a blaze down its face to break up the monotony.
She felt a hand touch her shoulder and it jolted her out of her thoughts. It was her English teacher Ms. Murphy. "I think the worst is over, You can get up now." The wind had quieted down and the sirens had stopped. She glanced up and smiled a nervous smile. The school seemed to be intact and everyone seemed to be ok. Getting to her feet she breathed a sigh of relief. She pulled her cellphone out of her pocket and tried to dial her mom. riinng riingg rinng, No answer. "Hey mom, I wanted to let you know I’m ok and they have canceled school for the day so you can come pick me up" There was nothing left to do but wait. She sat down in the cafeteria and watched the remaining rain go off into the distance.
One by one parents starting arriving at the school. After an hour Hannah started to worry. Even Amanda had left and gone back home. As far as she could tell the roads were not blocked. She started to pace around the cafeteria. Another 30 minutes went by and she tried to calm down the panic that was slowly welling inside of her. What is stopping mom from getting here? Maybe the roads were bad further down. The school nurse came up to her "Is everything ok?" "I think so. I just haven’t been able to get in contact with my mom." "Why don't you try your cellphone again and if it doesn't work I’ll drive you home" she pulled her phone out of her pocket with sweaty hands and realized that the battery was dead.
So maybe she has tried to contact me. She walked over to the nurse feeling much more confident. "The battery on my phone is dead. Maybe she did try to call me and couldn't reach me" "All right I’ll take you home. My car is the blue one out back" As they got closer to her house Hannah eyes opened wide in shock. There was much more damage here then by the school. Trees lay strewn across fields and roof tiles seem to come out of nowhere. A chill came over her and goosebumps popped out on her arms. this is bad. The car turned the corner towards her house and it was barely recognizable. Where tall gray brick apartments once stood there was only rubble. Emergency vehicles were all over scene. "Oh my.."
the words lumped up in her throat. The nurse looked down at her "Don't assume anything Hannah. I'm sure your mom is fine. Stay in the car for a second OK?" The nurse jumped out of the car and walked quickly over to the EMS. "No outside visitors please." The EMS man said gruffly. "I'm sorry sir, I have a sixteen year old girl with me who's mother lives in there" She pointed towards the rubble with a shaky finger. "We haven't finished searching ma’am" He tried to sound positive in his voice. His eyes told a different story however, she could see the pained look of sorrow. He sighed "I doubt there is any survivors but don't tell her that." "I wouldn't dream of it" "How about you have her some sit in the back of one of the ambulances, We will watch her." "Thank you. I'm sure my family is worried about me"
the nurse walked over to the car and waved Hannah to come out. She slowly came out and tried to hold back her tears. "It's ok Hannah. The EMS are gonna take care of you until they can get your mother" she wiped a tear of her cheek and wrapped her arm around her shoulder walking her over to the ambulance. As they were almost there she heard a voice come over on one of the first responders walkie talkies. "No survivors here" what? NO! she fell to her knees as her vision blurred. She barely felt the cold puddle soaking her jeans. Her hands hit the pavement and scraped up her palms. She tried to breath but felt like she was gasping for air. One of the EMS got down on his knees and looked her in the eye. "Come to the back of the ambulance ok?" he grabbed her hand. "You can do it. its right here"
She stood up numb and cold all over. she starting shaking uncontrollably as she climbed into the back of the ambulance. Her brain felt foggy and her vision was blurry. Her ears starting ringing as she heard the EMS guy talk to his partner. "I think she is going into shock. Start a IV and lets get to the hospital stat" Then it all went black.
Hannah woke up in a hospital room with a IV in her arm and a oxygen cannula over her nose. She was confused for a second on where she was before it all came flooding back. She shot up in bed and cried out. A tall female nurse with black hair back in a braid and wearing red scrubs hurried into her room. "Your ok! calm down. I’m right here" "My mom.." she trailed off and couldn't hold the sobs back any longer. She crumpled into the nurses arms and cried. "Shh. Your gonna be ok" After a few minutes Hannah pulled back and wiped her face. "I’m sorry.." "Don't apologize, its fine. You have been through a lot today. We are gonna keep you here overnight for observation. Is there any relatives we can contact for you?" "I don't know it was just me and my mom...for the past nine years.." she started feeling choked up again and turned away to hide her tears. "Alright I'll see what I can do. If you need anything just press the call button" Once the nurse walked out she stared at the wall. how did this happen? whats gonna happen to me? She reached for her phone to call Amanda. "The hospital must have charged it some cause its at 50%" she whispered. She dialed the numbers slowly. This was one of the most painful phone calls she had ever made in her life. "Hello?" a wave of relief washed over her as the familiar voice came across. "Hannah? Hello?" she detected a hint of fear in Amanda's voice. "Hey Amanda" she tried to calm her shaky voice. "Hey! are you ok? you back at home?" "No..I'm..I'm in the hospital" "The hospital! oh my! Hannah are you ok?" " yeah, I'm ok." What am I saying of course I'm not ok. "Well honestly not really..I didn't have a home to return to" she couldn't hold it back anymore and tears flowed uncontrollably. "Hannah..I'm so sorry! your mom is she ok?" "no" the word came out in a squeak as a huge lump welled up in her throat. "no, she isn't" "Hannah...I'll come up there at once!" "No don't. Please. I'll be okay. I got to go." before she even could think of anything else she quickly hung up the phone. She had wanted to let Amanda know what happened but now she just wanted to be alone. She pulled the sterile white blanket up close to her face. It felt so foreign. Everything felt so wrong. This morning seemed like a lifetime ago.
She must have fell asleep without realizing it. She woke up to nurse knocking on her door. "Come in." "Hi, Hannah you feeling any better?" "Yes" it was a flat out lie but she didn't care. She didn't want sympathy. She just wanted everyone to go away. "Well I'm glad to hear it. You should be relieved to know we found a place for you to go." She looked up at the nurse with a puzzled look. "You will be flying out to your fathers ranch in Arizona in the morning. We already contacted him and he agreed for you to come and payed for the plane ticket. Is that ok?" Hannah didn't dare say a word. it was all she could do to just nod her head yes. "Ok it's settled then. Get some rest. You have a big day tomorrow" The nurse left with a comforting smile and dimmed the lights before carefully shutting the door. A million and one thoughts raced through her mind. All she had with her was her phone,backpack and the clothes she wore to school that morning. What was really bothering her though was the fact she hadn't seen her father since she was seven years old and had no idea what she was getting herself into.
Not that it mattered much anyway. There was nothing she could do about it. Sleep was almost impossible to come by and she got up out of bed. Carefully pulling her IV pole behind her she walked over to the window and looked out at the stars. "I don't know if you can hear me mom. But I love you. I know I didn't say it enough. Or if I did i didn't think about what I was saying really. Everything is gonna change now isn't it?" She slumped down on the chair beside her. She couldn't even cry anymore. No tears would come out. She just sat in silence watching the clock ticking on the wall.
The next morning at eight AM she was discharged from the hospital and taken by taxi to the local airport. Walking in she clutched the printed out ticket in her hand tightly as if afraid it would blow away to. Once she got past security she tried to freshen up in the bathroom. Her eyes were bloodshot and baggy. Her cheeks were stained with tears. Her hair was a bedraggled mess and her palms were covered in scratches. Her clothes weren't much better looking either. Her jeans had brown splotches all over them from falling in the mud and her shirt had a rip on the bottom left corner. Great. what is my dad gonna think of this. She was out of time though the boarding for her flight had begun. She climbed into a seat by the window and made herself as comfortable as one can be in a crowded airplane. "Would you like some peanuts and something to drink?" The flight attendant looked at her with sparkling eyes and a happy smile. "Sure. Water please." She downed the peanuts in about two handfuls and chugged the water just as fast. She hadn't realized till that moment how hungry and thirsty she was. She had been to upset to eat in the hospital and hadn't had anything since those few bites of hamburger yesterday afternoon. With her appetite somewhat satiated she looked out the window at the clouds rolling by. It was a brilliant day for flying. A sapphire blue sky and white puffy clouds that seemed to form into whatever object your mind could imagine. Such a stark contrast from the stormy skies yesterday. Heaviness fell over her eyes and she leaned up against the window and fell asleep.
"We are now landing at Sedona national airport. Please fasten your seat belts and prepare for final descent" The words of the flight attendant woke her up and she quickly sat upright. As the plane dropped so did her stomach. This was it, She was in her new home state and had no idea what was waiting for her beyond the doors of the airplane. The plane bounced onto the runway and made a smooth landing. As soon as the plane had finished its taxi to the gate she stood up and grabbed her backpack quickly from under the seat and made a dash off the plane as fast as she could, she felt claustrophobic being surrounded by so many strangers. Once inside she felt even more lost. I have no idea who I'm looking for. she thought as she made her way through the crowded airport. She didn't need to worry though. Just past the terminal a tall muscular man with sandy blonde hair and soft brown eyes stood holding a sign that simply said 'Hannah.' She made her way over to him looking down at the ground as she walked.
'Hello sweetheart" His voice came across tender and soft. Don't call me sweetheart. "Hi" she responded shyly. "Can we go to the car now please?" "Of course, right this way." The drive home was spent mostly in silence. She watched in awe at the red rock formations and huge cacti rolling past the window. The terrain here was so different from Oklahoma. Finally she turned towards her dad and noticed a tattoo of a white and black horse on his left forearm. "You like horses?" She said in a low tone of voice. "Love them." He responded "That right there is June. A horse I had when I was in my teens" He gestured with his arm. "Probably the grumpiest mare you'd ever meet. Well maybe besides Sassy""Sassy?" "Yeah she is a older appaloosa mare that came with the farm when I bought it. You can ride her if you like but be warned she has quite the attitude." He said with a slight chuckle. "Here we are"The truck pulled up into a long gravel driveway surrounded by barbed wire fences on both sides. They pulled up through a metal gate that had a figure of a cowboy on a horse roping a cow carved into it. As the truck came to a stop Hannah jumped out and looked around. To her left was a wooden mailbox that seemed to have been built crooked and leaning. Right in front of her was a good sized two story house, the bottom half was made of wooden logs and the top half was made of cobblestone. A rustic looking wooden porch wrapped around 3/4th of the house. With two rocking chairs on the front by either side of the door. A cobblestone chimney jutted out of the roof which was made of simple logs. Farther off in the distance to her right was a small wooden barn with a white roof and a small paddock with the only grass she saw anywhere on the property. Right next to that was a round pen made with solid concrete walls in a large circle. The air had the pungent smell of horses. Yet it was something Hannah liked. Ever since she could remember she had always loved them. "You coming inside?" Her father asked with a raised eyebrow. "Yeah." She walked inside slowly taking in her new surroundings. The inside of the house seemed very cozy. A cowhide rug covered half of the hardwood floor in the living room. A simple blue couch and two tan chairs weren't far away from a crackling fire and overhead was a dim light bulb that probably needed to be changed. "Your room is upstairs and to the left" Her father pointed to the staircase. "While you get settled I’ll make some lunch." She walked up the creaking stairs and found her bedroom easily. There wasn't much to see. It was a rather small room with just a bed and a desk in it. Regardless she loved it because it was a space that was her own to get away from everything. Setting her backpack down on the bed she started pulling things out to see what few items she had left from Oklahoma. Her schoolbooks,A pencil case with a few pens and pencils in it,A phone charger and a red notebook. As she pulled out the notebook to set it on the desk a small thin picture fell out of it and onto the floor. Tears welled in her eyes as she picked it up and looked at it. It was a picture of her and her mom. Her mom was riding a big blood bay horse and she was in the saddle behind her, Not more then five or six years old. She gently tucked the picture into one of the drawers under her schoolbooks. She wanted to keep it a secret. She walked back down the stairs and her father gestured for her to come join him at the table. "I wasn't sure what you like to eat but I was thinking ham and cheese sandwiches would be a safe bet?" "Yeah that’s fine" She took a small bite out of her food. She wasn't really hungry, In fact her stomach was still churning from the car ride home but she didn't want to appear rude. "So I assume we are gonna need to go shopping?" her father said as he tucked into a second sandwich. "Oh..Uh..Yeah" She had completely forgotten she was still wearing mud stained clothes. "Lucky for you I have a friend who has a daughter about your size. You can borrow some of her clothes till tomorrow. I'll swing by later and pick a few things up. You ok staying here yourself?" she nodded. She knew her father was trying to be friendly but that didn't just erase the awkwardness of the last nine years he had been absent. She pushed her food away after only a few bites. "Are you ok?" "Yeah just not hungry. May I go see Sassy?" "Sure, I'll go get the clothes while you do that"
She walked out of the house and headed towards the old barn. Of course I'm not ok. My whole life has been completely turned upside down in 48 hours and I am in a strange state with strange people. She dug her fingernails into her palms to avoid crying again. She was so tired of doing that. Walking into the barn the comforting scent of horse came over her and she felt calmer instantly. Hooves shuffled in the corner as a petite mare stuck her head over the wall of the stall. She was quite the pretty horse, a leopard appaloosa. White with black spots all over her body. The mare looked at her puzzled. Hannah burst out laughing for the first time in two days. "You look like you've seen a alien!" She commented to the mare. "Guess you were the one here first huh?" She stretched out her palm and the mare sniffed it cautiously. The whiskers tickled her palm and a smile cracked over her face. Horses always made everything better. She reached over and scratched the mares neck under her mane. "So your Sassy are ya? You certainly don't seem to live up to your name." She grabbed a bucket from the corner of the barn and sat on it right outside the stall. If she could she would live in here. She felt a slight tug on her hair. "Hey now! Don't go proving me wrong. Eat your food not my hair" The mare appeared not to care and grabbed at her pony tail and gave it a tug. "You rotten little!" before she could finish the sentence the mare let go and pawed at the floor as if proud of herself. "Well I take back what I said earlier. But you made me smile so thank you." She grabbed a brush and went into the stall with the mare. Brushing her shining coat she felt her pent up stress melt away with each long stroke down the mares back and side. Sassy seemed to enjoy it to as she lowered her head and drooped her bottom lip falling asleep. The rhythmic motion made time slow down and help her focus her thoughts. So much she had just shoved away in the back of her mind focused on surviving one minute at a time. A wet dot appeared on the mares back as a tear fell from her eye. She instinctively reached up to brush it away. Annoyed at herself for not stopping the tears. But as another wet dot appeared she just wiped it off the mare with the next stroke of the brush. Finally she let herself cry. She had held it in for so long. With just her and Sassy in that quiet barn in Arizona she let her emotions come out in full without holding back.
A week had passed since Hannah arrived in Arizona. She had been spending the majority of her time in the barn with Sassy. She was in there now grooming the mare when her dad walked in. "You have really bonded to that horse haven't you?" he said and walked over to the mares stall. "Yeah,Sassy is great" She looked up and said with a smile. Her father reached over and patted the mare between the ears, She responded by nuzzling his shoulder with her nose. "Do you think maybe we could go to the tack store and get a saddle so I could start riding her dad?" her father looked up surprised. That was the first time she had actually called him dad. "I suppose soon probably but.."
"What is it?" She could tell he was holding something back. "Well I think its time for you to go back to school so you can finish out the year" She stopped grooming Sassy stunned. She had never considered that she was gonna go back this year after everything that had happened. Maybe summer school, but not this. Not now. "I won't even know anyone! Why can't I just go to summer school to finish?" Her dad looked at her in the eyes "You won't know anyone in summer school either. It's already final. You are starting school tomorrow. If you want after you get home tomorrow we can go to the tack store and get a nice saddle" "Ok." It was all she could say. She had no choice in the matter anyway.
That night she slept fitfully. She had never really had many friends at school anyway but it was different when it was your hometown. Even if you didn't know anyone that first day you could make friends just by hanging out in the area together. It had been a small town so you saw people other places like out shopping. Here she had never felt so alone. She didn't have any idea how to get around the area and she had never even left the house since arriving,
The next morning Hannah woke up early. It was a stark contrast to her usual get up and hurriedly get dressed but she hoped to make a good impression. She selected a light gray pair of jeans and a three quarter sleeve orange shirt that had a sunset picture on the front. She carefully braided her hair and topped it all of with a baseball cap. She looked in the mirror and was pretty happy. She had stayed true to her style but was more put together then normal. She had plenty of time for breakfast and her father was not even up yet. She decided to keep it simple and threw two pieces of toast in the toaster and poured a glass of orange juice. After eating she glanced at her watch. She still had twenty minutes before the bus would be here at 7am. She walked out in the warm morning sunlight and headed over to the barn with a carrot in her hand. When she opened up the door the mare stuck her head over the stall door to greet her. "Here you go girl" She held her palm out and the mare took the carrot and crunched it happily "Just got to get through the afternoon and then I can ride you" She patted the mare on the neck and then headed out to wait for the bus.
The bus ride was probably the most awkward one she had ever taken in her life. She sat near the back of the bus in a seat she could be alone in and just stared out the window. Everyone else sat laughing and joking with their friends. It was just a normal day to them. Arriving at the school she was overwhelmed. It was much bigger then the one back in Oklahoma. The whole front of it was glass windows stretching from floor to ceiling then wrapping around to tan bricks along the sides. There seemed to be at least a thousand students going in every direction. Taking a deep breath she walked in and tried to find her way to class. "Hey you new here?'" She looked up to see two twin boys blocking her way in the hallway. They both had black short hair and brown eyes,But the similarities stopped there. One was wearing a dark blue hoodie and saggy pants. The other was wearing a bright green T shirt and khakis."Uh..Yeah, I transferred from another school" The one in the green T shirt raised up his hand "Well my name is Micheal and this is my twin brother Aaron." He gestured over to his brother. Aaron just stared at her with a half smile. "Nice to meet you, I got to get to class now" She walked quickly to get around them but they blocked her path again. "You never told us your name' "Oh its Hannah. Really I got to go" They stepped aside finally "See ya around Hannah!"
Maybe they were just trying to be friendly. I shouldn't be so quick to leave when people talk to me.
The rest of the day passed without incident. No one really seemed to notice her and she preferred it that way, As the last class of the day got out she was excited as her mind turned to Sassy. She hadn't ridden since she was about nine but she couldn't wait to get back in the saddle! She hopped off the bus at home and ran inside. "Dad! Can we go to the tack store now?" "Hey! Not even a hello?" He said with a gleam in his eye "But yes we can go now." She ran upstairs and threw her backpack on the bed. She quickly changed from the flats she was wearing to tennis shoes and then raced downstairs again. "Ok I'm ready" "You sure you don't want some lunch first" He teased. "Yes I'm sure" she said back playfully. It was nice to be able to loosen up around her dad some. At the tack store Hannah couldn't believe her eyes at all the different choices. She ran her hand down the soft leather of the many bridles and saddles. She was looking for a western saddle, She had always hoped that one day she could learn how to barrel race. Her eyes rested on a brown saddle with a red seat and red stirrups. She looked at the price tag and cringed a little bit. $400. That was out of her dads price range for sure. "Hannah how about this one?" Her dad stood by a simple black western saddle. Nothing flashy about it for sure but it would work for its intended purpose. "It's on sale for $150. Better price then I was hoping to find." "That is perfect, Thanks Dad" It wasn't the saddle she wanted but she was grateful. It would allow her to be able to ride and that's all that really mattered.
Upon arriving home she got out to the barn as fast as possible. She picked up a old dusty helmet out of the corner of the barn and jammed it on her head. It was a bit of a tight fit but she would make it work. She wiped down the bridle with a cloth to clean it and then carefully fitted it on the mares head. So far Sassy was being compliant. She led her out of the stall and over into the round pen. Then finally put the new saddle on meticulously, making sure the girth didn't pinch. well only one thing left to do. She breathed a deep breath and put one foot into the stirrup. "Good girl that’s it" she patted the mares neck then grabbed a handful of mane and swung herself into the saddle. "Alright girl lets try some circles" She gently squeezed on the mares sides with her heels. Instantly she knew something was wrong. Instead of the soft forward motion she was used to she felt the mare tense underneath her and refuse to move. "Sassy walk on" She tried to make her voice stern and squeezed harder. Sassy let out a small buck. Uh Oh, This is not gonna be good. No sooner had the thought crossed her mind then the mare exploded underneath her. Kicking up bucks that would make a rodeo horse proud. She did her best to hang on but it just wasn't enough and she landed face first in the dirt. "Owww" She picked up one limb at a time. Well at least nothing is broken. Slowly standing up and spitting out a mouthful of dirt she looked at the mare now peacefully grazing in the corner tugging at little grass shoots growing up through the Arizona soil. "I thought you were supposed to be saddle trained" She reluctantly walked towards her and grabbed the reins. I remember mom said you are supposed to always get back on. "No I won't do that. Not Today" She said her thoughts out loud to the mare. "Come on lets just go back to the barn" She untacked Sassy and put her back in her stall, Throwing in a handful of hay before latching the door. She walked into the house with a slight limp. Her right knee was aching from twisting when falling but she was trying not to make it obvious. "What happened to you?!" Her dad exclaimed with a look of shock on his face. "Did you decide to take a dirt bath?" "Haha very funny dad" She tried to joke back "Sassy and me apparently had very different ideas." "Well are you ok?" His eyes had softened with concern. "Do you need to go to the hospital?"
"No. I am fine. Honestly" "Alright then" She half limped up to her bedroom to get rid of her dirt stained clothes. She hadn't been prepared for how much the word 'hospital' would shake her up. Just the thought of the place made her skin crawl and sent a shiver down her spine. She never wanted to go back to one, That was for sure. She opened her desk drawer and took out the photo of her and her mom on the horse. "Oh mom, It seemed so easy back then. What am I doing wrong now?" She set the picture back where it belonged and went to go take a hot bath. Maybe soaking the pain away would make her feel better.