Flash Fiction · How to be British · Language · mystery

Secondary school

Tuesday, July 25, 2017. Daily Brit Wit.

Secondary school:

Noun

A school for children between the ages of eleven and sixteen. From primary school, it is the second level of education in the United Kingdom. Generally broken up into four sections (levels) of education, with multiple subdivision types.

"Three weeks before the end of secondary school for summer hols, I witness my first hands-on experience with death. Not that I was a direct result of it; I wasn't even meant to be involved, I imagine. Nor did I have anything to do with it. I just so happened to be the unfortunate soul who stumbled across my instructor.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Since I turned five, I've been riding horses. I probably could have come out of the womb riding; but Mum has an aversion to animals of all kinds and it took that long for Father to convince her otherwise. My riding lessons began once a week and would increase to a compromised thrice weekly by the age of fifteen. Not to sound arrogant, but I'm an excellent horsewoman that my trophies and ribbons would more than prove. It's my connection to the horses that truly comment on my skill.


On a Wednesday morning I'm attempting to pester my mother enough to agree to an extra day of practice (I have learned that requesting one at a time instead of all week will most likely result in not obtaining my request and grounded), because I have a tournament in ten days.
'Please Mum?' I beseech. 'Come on, you know I never fall behind in my studies. I won't risk the loss of riding for grades slipping.' I cross my arms and fight down the urge to scoff.

She's busy wiping down the counter and frying scrambled eggs for my younger brothers to pay me much heed. I know she hears me, though, because her shoulders edge toward her neck and ears.

'Thea, we've talked about this.' She replies airily.

I groan and shadow her movements toward the kitchen table. 'But this would be on my own, it wouldn't be with Scott! I'd be practicing on my own and it wouldn't be a proper lesson!'

'It still costs to practice,' she grits out.

I bite back the immediate "only because we didn't factor it into my lessons" comment and clench my fists, counting under my breath. I wish Father is home- not because my affection for him, he travels too frequently and cheats on my mother for me to yearn for him that way- because he's the closest thing I have in my life to sway my pigheaded mother. And he's the reason I ride in the first place. I spare a glance toward my brothers and sigh.

'I can pay for it,' I offer like always. I stopped asking for any type of a handout from her recently but that's due more my age; when my youngest brother Ronny was born three years ago, I would only ask for the most basic and mandatory school supplies. My age and hours riding makes it tricky to hold down a part-time job. Also, I don't want any of my father's tainted quid in a misguided attempt to make up for lack of attention.

'The answer remains no, Thea.' She snaps. 'Stop asking.'

My jaw locks and I have to squint to stem off the stubborn tears that pop up at her denial.

Before I can brainstorm further arguments, she sweeps out of the kitchen and back upstairs.

'Do you have horsey practice today, Thea?' Ronny asks around a mouthful of eggs and his slight lisp on my name.

I peer over at the little blond and grin despite my poor attitude. I ruffle his hair. 'Sure do, kiddo.'

I press a kiss to his forehead and swipe a piece of Adam's toast, knowing the darker it is the less likely he'll eat it, as I finish packing their lunches. Since Mum put me in such a foul temper, and judging by her stomping round upstairs, I may as well take my brothers today.

I shoulder my bag and motion the boys out the door. 'Out we go before we're late, chickadees.'

ᏪᏪᏪ

I arrive at the ranch round tea time. And I'm startled to see the place so deserted, especially in the middle of the week and close to tournament season. Warily, I call out and receive no reply. To see it like a run over ghost town, I pull out my phone to see if I missed an important message explaining that all activists have been cancelled for the day.

My phone only shows the time and no missed messages.

I shrug.

I wander off in the direction of the main building, where the offices are held. On the rare incidents when I arrive before everyone else shows up, I can find my instructor Scott holed up in there with the others.

I'm yanking open the main building's door and inside in a flash; but it's empty here, too.

'Hello?' I shout out, fear pricking at the base of my spine.

A noise from the back right corner nearly rips a scream from my throat. I just barely manage to slap my hand across my mouth.

'Missy? Allison?' I call out for the ranch's owner and daughter.

A head pokes out of the first office door and I jump back in fright upon seeing Missy's grey bob. 'Oh, hullo there, Thea! I thought I heard something. How are you?'

I force a smile, body shaking. 'I'm well, thanks for asking. How are you?'

'The same, thank you.'

'Have you seem Scott?'

'He ought to be outside riding,' she replies with an obvious tone. 'Didn't you spot him coming up?'

Tentatively, I shake my head in denial. 'No. I am a little early. But nobody's out riding currently. That's why I'm in here.'

Missy hums and shrugs. 'Perhaps he's out in the far back tending to the new colt?'

I perk up at this new information. 'Awesome! I'll check there. I'll see you later, Missy!' I call out over my shoulder and pivot around to bound back outside.

I don't listen for her reply.

Just to make certain I don't miss my instructor on my way toward the back, I peek inside each of the five stables as I pass. And wave hello to a couple other trainers I know, namely Linda and Al, ask if they've seen Scott, and amble along.

The commotion coming front the furthest barn should have been my first induction something's amiss. My second should have been the barn door's ajar, which is never how we leave them during opening hours. The third missed hint is the hair on the back of my neck sticking up. They all flicker by quickly that I do not think anything of them.

As I approach, calling out for Scott as well as trying to project a soothing tone for the nickering colt inside, I am too focussed on shimmying the door open and getting inside to see if I can help soothe the unnamed horse inside. My body is practically vibrating with the thrill I'm anticipating at bonding with the newest member of the ranch.

'Scott, what's wrong-' my question turns into a deafening scream.

Because the moment I set foot inside my boots splashes in blood and my head jerks toward the source of it: where my riding instructor lays in hay with a hole in his lower abdomen."

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