Thoroughbreds and Trailer Trash

By: Bev Pettersen

He smiled then, a real smile that made her hands squeeze the steering wheel, and part of her fervently hoped he would land that job.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Jenna, Jenna Murphy.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Jenna.”

The raw promise in his voice jolted her more than the Neon’s aging clutch, and the little car bucked twice as it rolled from the parking lot. Definitely a cocky guy. But oh, so cool.

She was still smiling as she sped down the winding driveway, her heart thumping a tad faster than normal. Her gaze drifted to the rearview mirror and she blew out a sigh, inexplicably disappointed to see he’d already vanished.

Chapter Two

“Vitamins, glucosamine, flax. Nothing but the best for you,” Jenna said as she moved her hands over Peanut’s hindquarters, concentrating on the large gluteal muscles at the top of his rump. The pony stretched his shaggy neck, as usual loving his massage.

A pity Thoroughbreds weren’t as tiny as Peanut. It was easier to work on a pony, less than twenty minutes for the little guy, and his massage didn’t leave her shoulder throbbing.

She gave Peanut an affectionate pat then led him across the driveway to graze. Technically the grass on the other side belonged to Three Brooks but it hadn’t been harvested in years, and it saved on buying hay. In better times, her chief worry had been that Peanut might overeat, but now his teeth were worn and his tattered coat hung in chunks. The poor fellow used to be a good-looking pony.

She returned to her sun-dried yard, trying not to look at the ragged shingles hanging from the trailer’s roof. Peanut was showing his age, so was her home. Last year Emily had helped her patch a portion of the roof. They should have fixed it all.

A diesel pickup rumbled over the hill. She shot an anxious look over her shoulder, relaxing as the big vehicle slowed fifty yards out. Wally. A couple of the maintenance men for the Three Brooks mansion drove too fast, but Wally knew to watch out for wandering ponies.

He lowered the window with a wry smile. The fading sun emphasized the deep lines bracketing his mouth. “I need a beer, Jenna.”

It was getting late and her shoulder ached, but Wally looked even more drained. Besides, it probably wasn’t beer he wanted but conversation. Sometimes she thought him lonelier than she was, if that were possible.

She nodded a welcome, slipped into the kitchen and grabbed a couple cold beers. By the time she stepped outside, Wally was stretched on the porch swing. Flies buzzed over the brook but thankfully stayed off the cooler porch. They didn’t seem to bother Peanut who chewed contentedly, swishing his tail and looking like a pygmy in the tall grass.

“Talk to Emily lately?” Wally asked, his gaze fixed on Peanut.

“Today, just for a minute.”

“She should get a part-time job. Her college support is wearing you down.”

Jenna waited a beat, trying to control her annoyance. Wally was like an uncle, but he was always much too critical of Em.

“I don’t want her worrying about money,” Jenna finally said. “Not while she’s studying. She’s barely twenty.”

“You’re only six years older. Look at you.”

Jenna leaned her head against the swing. Yeah, look at me. A crumbling trailer, an ancient pony and a sister who no longer needed her. She felt old, alone and rather scared. But at least one of the Murphy girls was going to college.

Wally tilted the bottle. Glug, glug. He swiped his mouth and glanced longingly over his shoulder. “Got another beer in there?”

So much for studying her massage book; Wally seemed really down. She rose, clicked open the screen door, grabbed another beer and filled a plate with spicy pepperoni. This was better anyway. Wally was always good company—as long as he didn’t snipe at Emily.

“You’re a sweetheart,” Wally said, gratefully accepting the second beer along with the sliced meat. “There’s something damn special about this front porch. Looking over the valley makes me feel like a king. Your dad sure set things up right.”

“He was a lazy asshole who spent more time in jail than out, and made Mom miserable.”

“Agreed, but he sure built a nice porch.”

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