An Unfortunately Fortunate Day (5)
The more teams went in and came back out successfully, the more my gut seemed to twist in agony. It felt as if everyone was unbeatable, and the shortest time seemed to get lower and lower every time, until it seemed impossible to reach it.
We were already sitting on our frantic horses (by ‘our frantic’, I basically mean ‘my frantic’), Maisie couldn’t keep still, and the first thing that Leila had asked when I climbed onto Maisie was, “Jesus! Is that the crazy pony that started broncing about the arena in one of the classes? That was mad!”
I wanted to spit at her; I just glared.
“I won all of my classes! Danny here was a star!” she declared proudly, gracefully patting her grey pony (who looked rather unimpressed and bored to the skull), just after she had insulted my precious pony.
“Look, I don’t think she wants to hear that right now, Leila. Leave her alone - no-one cares about your stupid classes. You’re just a big baby; this is what matters most: winning the team competition,” Harry butted in right on time; it turned out he wasn’t so bad after all, even though he kept staring at Carissa. In fact, he seemed impressed by Maisie (“And you can actually stay on that thing? Wow, you must be a great rider!”), even though he had his own beautiful palomino thoroughbred that could jump miles higher than any of ours. He never once mentioned that he had also won all of his classes.
“Right, Team 17, would you like to come this way please!” a staff member broadly waved at us to follow her. We all exchanged worried but excited glances at each other, and walked on, me behind Carissa. Just seeing her long, relaxed back, swaying to the horses’ movement, calmed me down a little.
We had to wait in a wide corridor right behind a gate, with audience seats surrounding us. We could just catch glances of Team 16’s eventful round.
“Right,” Carissa started, and Harry snapped to her direction immediately. Her voice didn’t sound so gooey anymore; it sounded painfully serious. “The most important thing that will drive us to win is believing. Yes, it sounds soppy, but trust me, we are a strong team, and this year might just be the year. Look out for every jump–”
“–and for the next person in line,” added Leila. Carissa nodded.
“And, you know, try not to crash in to the horses when you finish your round, okay?” We all chuckled, though we weren’t entirely confident yet.
“Just try your best,” Harry said. Then, when he saw my petrified face, reached out and grabbed my shoulder. He looked deep into my eyes and said, “You will do this… whether you like it or not.” There was a pause, and then I burst out laughing.
Somehow that really helped.
A burst of clapping and cheering from the audience soon interrupted our thoughts. The riders inside were cantering with their fists up in the air.
“Great,” Leila grumbled. “Looks like someone had just beaten the fastest time.”
My heart dropped a little.
“No worries,” Carissa casually comforted, sounding just like my Nan.
They all burst out through the gate, squashing us on the way. The team consisted of three rowdy boys, and one small girl who was beaming. As the boys passed us they stuck their tongues out, leering, “Good luck beating us, losers!”, and the girl politely wished us good luck.
Now I felt more worried than ever.
As we entered, the audience fell quiet again after all the fuss, sensing something more serious was just entering the arena. Carissa and Harry with their elegant horses probably set the mood.
“Now, one more recap,” Carissa seemed to be in charge. “Leila, you first, then Harry, then me, and finally you, Freya. We are counting on you, because your horse can be pretty speedy.” She winked.
Suddenly, the bleeper went off and, clutching the whip tightly, Leila sped off, with the audience starting to cheer.
Mum and dad were in the front row, and I saw their gleaming eyes, their proud smiles, and I knew I could do it. For them. For Maisie.