Soon after Elisabeth’s and David’s birthday, Kate announced to the family her plans about opening the equestrian school. She did some calculations and she realized that this could be the way how to become a sponsor of the Little Pony Equestrian Center and prevent it from closing down. At first, David wasn’t so convinced, but when he saw the enthusiasm in his children, he soon changed his mind. He was a very talented musician with a dream of becoming a famous composer one day. At the moment he was working as the Orchestra Lead in the Teatro Fantastico. David’s secret hope was that at least one of the kids would follow in his footsteps, but unfortunately (or not), both Zac and Elisabeth liked to play with horses rather then a piano.
Kate designed a small training ground to be build in front of the stables, where the jumping skill could be practiced. She had something very simple and practical in mind, but at the same time she didn’t want to change the overall look of the garden dramatically. A little pond surrounded by neatly cut low bushes and a couple of jumping obstacles separated from the rest of the garden by white wooden fencing proved to be the best solution. Zac and Elisabeth were supporting their mother a lot. Helping around the stables and taking care of their horses meant a big relief for Kate. This way, she had more time to plan and organize everything that was needed to be done in order to open and promote the equestrian school. Kate named it the Loewe Equestrian Academy, shortly the LEA.
The training ground wasn’t the only addition to the garden. A little shed was build at the wall of the stables as a storage room for some gardening tools and also a place that could be used to practice the painting and inventing skill without the fear of making mess inside the house.
One night, when everybody was asleep, Zac sneaked out of the house with his genie lamp. He locked the door of the shed and rubbed the lamp with the sleeve of his sweatshirt. The next moment, Tenille appeared in front of him in a purple sparkling cloud.
“I seriously hope you have made up your mind,” she said while stretching her back.
“It’s good to see you too, Tenille.”
“Well, what is your first wish, Zachary?”
“I have been thinking for a long time and…”
“What is your first wish, Zac?” repeated Tenille. “I told you to summon me only when you have a wish for me to fulfill.”
“I wish for beauty!” he said with a big smile on his face.
“Beauty? Are you sure? You look pretty handsome to me already…,” wondered Tenille. “Why would you want to waste a wish like this?”
“I don’t think I’d waste it. Plus aren’t you here to make my wish come true? So? Make me more beautiful so the girls finally like me! I don’t want to be the second one anymore… Please.”
Yes, yes… it might work, Tenille whispered to herself. “Of course!” she looked at him with a big smile. “Get ready to become more beautiful, Zachary Loewe!”
Tenille closed her eyes, put her hand in a pocket, grabbed a handful of the same sparkling powder she uses to make a more dramatic entré when summoned, and threw it on Zac. Suddenly, the purple sparkling cloud filled the entire room.
“That’s it? A sparkling powder?”
“Magic sparkling powder.”
“Wow! I think I feel it working already! Thanks!” he smiled happily, quickly unlocked the door and run to check himself in a mirror. Tenille just stood there totally amazed. Well, that was surprising. I didn’t expect he’d fall for it so easily, she smiled to herself, clapped her hands and disappeared. If someone would put the lamp close to their ear, they could hear her giggle like a little girl.
When the last day of school approached, Kate got a call from George inviting everybody to stay for a weekend in Hidden Springs. Although it wasn’t going to be the same as the super adventurous trip to Egypt, that all the teenagers dreamed about since they’ve seen the photos from the time when their parents spent the honeymoon there, they were still happy to go. After all, George was like a grandpa to them… plus they didn’t know he had two granddaughters of about their age.
“Are we there yet?” asked Finn, but nobody answered. “Are we there yet?” he asked again, but everybody remained silent. “So? Aaa-re we-eee there yet?”
“Oh, can you stop it, Finn!” told him Elisabeth that was trying to enjoy the nature out of the window.
“Yeah, zip it. You’re getting really annoying,” added Zac.
“Look! A deer!” called Elisabeth when she saw the animal behind a tree.
“Where?” asked Finn. “I don’t see it, where is it?”
“You missed it,” said Elisabeth.
“Ah, whatever. Just a stupid deer,” commented Finn. Elisabeth and Zac just looked at each other and shook their heads.
“Look! A civilized world! Finally!” called Finn when he saw a town appear on the horizon.
“This must be it,” said happily Kate. “George told me he lived downhill from the wellness center that we just passed.”
“Great!” cheered Finn.
David stopped the car in front of the house thought to be George’s home and everybody got off.
What a lovely place, Kate thought to herself as she walked towards the door to ring the bell.
Hmm… I didn’t know George was a rich guy. This house is huge, thought Finn to himself as he looked around.
Kate rang the bell. When George heard the bell rang, he was in the kitchen still in his pajamas. He was overjoyed to hear his friend arrived. He quickly ran up the stairs to change from the pajamas.
“Mom? Who did you say George lived here with?” asked her Elisabeth.
“His daughter Faith and his grandchildren.”
“Grandchildren?” asked Zac surprisingly.
“Yes, two girls about your age and a little boy,” continued Kate.
“Our age?” Zac’s eyes widened. Kate rang the bell again. I hope, they’re home.
Since nobody was opening, David, Zac and Elisabeth took out their cellphones to try to catch some signal. Kate walked around the porch while Finn leaned on the railing and waited.
“It’s hopeless. There is not a good signal because of the mountains,” said George when he opened the door and saw them with the cellphones in their hands.
“George! It’s great to see you again!” they called when they saw him.
“Please, come inside,” he smiled.
“I’m so happy to see you again, George,” told him Kate and gave him a big hug.
“It’s so nice to see you, too. All of you!” said George and his eyes sparkled. “I’ll prepare something good for the brunch. Please, make yourself at home.”
“Thanks, George,” all said with one voice.
“Reese?” George called at his granddaughter. “Would you mind keeping company to these two young gentlemen?” he said and looked at Zac and Finn who just entered the house.
“Sure I don’t mind,” she said happily and went to welcome the twins.
“Hi, I’m Reese.”
“Nice to meet you, Reese. I’m Zachary, but everybody calls me Zac.”
“I’m Finn. You can call me Finn,” he smiled.
“You’re funny, Finn,” smiled Reese. “Aren’t you two guys twins?”
“Yes we are. How did you know?” Finn continued on making jokes.
“Well, you look alike, so that’s why I guess,” Reese giggled. Zac understood that his brother caught Reese’s attention first, so he just walked away. I wonder if Tenille didn’t trick me, he thought to himself. Am I not suppose to be talking to Reese instead of him?
“I have a twin as well!” called Reese when Zac walked in the kitchen. Twin sisters? Zac thought to himself and he realized his hope wasn’t completely lost.
While the teenagers were getting to know each other, Kate was in the living room chatting with George’s daughter, Faith.
“Wow! My father always wanted to open a horse-riding school, but unfortunately neither me nor my sister was interested in horses.”
“I know… He told me once…,” said sadly Kate.
“You know, when my mother was still alive, we lived in another house and had many horses. They both loved these animals since I can remember. But when she died, he gave away all of them except of one. Bella. She was just a foal back then… my father bought her for my mother for her last birthday…”
“Oh, I didn’t know that… I’m so sorry, Faith.”
“When he told me he gave her to you, I was really curious to get to know you. I have never imagined he’d give away that horse.”
“I feel truly honored, Faith.”
“My mother would be happy to know that someone like you took care of her horse. I heard you two have won many competitions,” she smiled trying to suppress the tears.
“Yes, we did. Bella is truly a great racer.”
“The pancakes are ready!” George called from the kitchen.
“Enjoy your meal,” Faith smiled at Kate.
“Aren’t you coming?”
“No no. I had a late breakfast today. I’ll go to pick Max and we’ll see you in the kitchen in a while.”
“OK! I can’t wait to see him!” said Kate and remembered the time when Finn and Zac were just little babies sleeping in their cribs in the Appaloosa orphanage.
“Mom, do you think we could go to visit the wellness center today?” asked Elisabeth.
“That’s a good idea!” prompted David.
“Maybe you could ask Reese and Amanda if they’d like to go with you,” suggested George.
So her name is Amanda, I hope she’s as beautiful as her name, Zac thought to himself.
Faith walked in the kitchen holding Max in her arms and put him in the high chair.
“Aww, he looks so sweet,” said Kate when she saw him.
“Don’t get fooled by the cute face. He can be a very naughty baby sometimes,” said Faith, looked at her son and gave him a bottle of milk.
“We’re going to the wellness center later, would you like to join us?” Kate asked Faith, but she didn’t say anything.
“Maybe we could join them as well, what do you say, George?” asked him David.
“Well… I don’t feel so well to go swimming today…,” answered George and looked at his daughter that was looking out of the window. Then he went to pick up the dirty plates. When he passed close enough to Faith he whispered: “You and Kate can go to take a walk instead. I’ll go with them.”
“You don’t have to swim! Please come with us to keep us company!” begged Elisabeth both of them.
“Yes, yes! Please, grandpa, come with us!” begged Amanda that just entered the kitchen and picked up her little brother from the high chair. Zac looked at her and his heart almost stopped. To him, she looked like an angel.
“Well, then I guess I have no other option,” smiled George at the kids. Amanda went in the living room and placed Max in his walker. Zac followed her.
“Hey… I’m Zachary,” he presented himself.
“Pleasure to meet you, Zachary,” said Amanda and shook is hand.
“Please call me just Zac. Everybody does,” he smiled.
“So, do you like taking care of your little brother?” Zac asked Amanda. Oh, man. What a lame question, he thought to himself.
“Yeah, but only because he likes me,” she giggled at looked at her little brother. Maximilian was happily playing with the buttons on his walker, not understanding what were the two guys standing above him talking about.
Gosh, she’s so pretty, Zac thought to himself while he was literally staring at Amanda. How much I’d like to kiss those full rosy lips…
“Maybe we should go and prepare to go out. Did you bring your swimsuit with you, Zac?” Amanda interrupted his thoughts about kissing her.
“I hope I did,” he smiled and they both left the room. Kate picked up Max from the walker.
“Let’s dress you up so Mommy and aunt Kate can take you for a walk, ok?” Kate was almost expecting an answer, but then she realized, that Max hasn’t learned to talk yet.
She told to David, that Faith asked her to go out for a lunch and she agreed. David was happy to hear that, because Kate didn’t have much time for herself in the past few weeks and making a new friend in Hidden Springs could also help to spread the voice about the recently opened Academy.
“So how is your riding going, Liz,” asked her George.
“Well, I have just started so it will probably take me some time before I’ll be able to enter my first equestrian competition. Oh, I almost forgot to thank you for Freya… Thank you, George. It was the best gift I got for my birthday,” blushed Elisabeth.
“Oh, you don’t have to thank me, Lizzie. I’m glad Freya has such a lovely jockey.”
“I’m happy I’ve got such a beautiful horse. I think Freya will be a great racing horse. Just like her mother!”
“I am sure of that! By the way, how’s Bella?”
“She’s getting old. My mom doesn’t make her race for quite some time anymore… Sometimes she takes her for a ride in the hills… but she tires quickly…”
“Well, Bella and I have many things in common then!” laughed George. “C’mon, go grab your swimsuit so we can go to have some fun!” he said and blinked his eye at her.
George, David, Elisabeth, Reese, Amanda, Zac and Finn headed towards the wellness center…
… while Kate, Faith and Max took a ride in a taxi towards the main square.
“Hidden Springs is a very beautiful town. I love the lake and the mountains,” Kate told Faith on the way to the town square.
“I love the mountains. Plus the air is so fresh,” smiled Faith at her, but Kate saw in her eyes that something was wrong.
“Faith…,” Kate put a hand on her shoulder. “Is there something I should know? When I asked you to join us before, you turned your back to me…”
“I’m sorry, Kate. I didn’t have to behave like that. Please, forgive me…,” she said and remained silent for a moment. Then she took a deep breath and said: “My sister drowned in this lake during a swimming competition the same summer our mother passed away. She was only seventeen.”
“Oh my god, Faith… I had no idea. I am so so sorry.”
“That summer was the worst in my life. I lost everything. Even my father.”
“Wait… are you saying that…”
“Yes. He left me. My dear father left his nineteen years old daughter on her own. He left me the house and some money… but… all I had left was him and he left me. Since he moved to Monte Vista we have interrupted every contact… He didn’t see his granddaughters grow up… He wasn’t there when I got married… He wasn’t there when my husband left me… He was never there for me.”
“I don’t know what to say…,” told her Kate and she suddenly felt guilty. She almost knew George for a longer time than his own daughter. She was given the horse on who’s back Faith’s mother was supposed to win all those golden cups. She felt the love from him that only exists between a father and a daughter. Her children considered him their grandfather. He spent all those Christmases with them and there was more that Kate didn’t even want to remember…
“Where would you like to go, Kate?” Faith asked her a simple question but Kate wasn’t able to find an answer. “Oh, come on, Kate,” she encouraged her when she saw the look on her face. “All these things are deep in the past, you don’t have to be sad. I made peace with my father and we are a family again,” Faith continued.
“Very well then, take me to the local bookstore. I can never find some time to go shopping for books.”
“Bookstore it is then.”
While the mothers were shopping for books, the kids were having fun in the outdoor pool.
“Grandpa, didn’t you say before you wasn’t feeling well?” asked him Amanda.
“So why are you getting in the pool?”
“It’s the only way how to get to that island with the big umbrella and the lounge chairs.”
“You know, the same lounge chairs and umbrella are even there,” she said and pointed a finger towards the opposite side of the pool.
“I know, but I’ll have a better view from here,” said George and lied down on the blue lounge chair.
Amanda shook her head and joined everybody in the water.
“Hey, Mandy! We’re having a breath-keeping contest over here, wanna join in the fun?” called her her sister.
“You bet!” called Amanda and swam towards them.
When the lunch time approached, Faith took Kate to the best restaurant in town. It was a nice day, so they decided to eat outside.
Before they’d ordered, Faith gave a bottle to Max. They sat at the table and browsed the menu.
“I’m on a diet, so I’ll have only the Eggs Machiavellian,” decided Kate.
“You and a diet? Gosh, Kate! You don’t need any!” smiled Faith.
“I do. It’s because of the diet that I look the way I do. I’m getting old, Faith, and having a younger, handsome and successful husband can get dangerous if you don’t keep yourself in shape!”
“You’re probably right,” smiled Faith. “But since I don’t have a husband, I’ll go for the Dim Sum. When I first tried it in China, I completely fell for this dish. My ex-husband even learned how to prepare it at home, but… whatever. Let’s not ruin this beautiful day even further.”
“Can you at least tell me the name of the idiot that left such a gorgeous woman?”
“THE Sebastian Vanderburg?
“Yes, the royal womanizer, as everybody calls him here.”
“Ah, now I can understand why you’re not married anymore. No need for explanations,” said understandingly Kate.
After the lunch, Faith got a call from George, that the girls would be taking the Loewe kids to see the outlook and that he’d go to have a beer or two with David. The same moment, Kate got a message on her phone. Oh my god, no! Kate thought to herself as she read the message.
This isn’t happening.
“What is it, Kate?” asked her Faith when she noticed something bad happened.
“It’s… It’s… Bella. She passed away.”
“That can’t be. Oh, Kate. I’m so sorry,” said Faith and hugged her.
“A friend of my son… Malika… she offered to check on the horses and feed them today… she found her in her box… she wasn’t moving.”
“Poor girl, it must have been terrible to be the one to find out. I’m really sorry, Kate.”
“I need to go. We have to return to Monte Vista.”
“Of course. Let’s go,” said Faith, picked up Maximilian and called a taxi.
While Kate, Faith and Max were on the way home, all the teenagers were headed towards the outlook located near by the waterfall.
“Wait for me!” called Elisabeth at her brothers. Finn wanted to reach the top of the hill first, but Zac slowed down so Elisabeth could catch up.
“I’ll have to start working out,” she sighed. “I seriously have no idea how Finn can be faster than me. It’s not that he’s been ever working out, right?”
“Don’t ask me, I don’t understand that either,” answered Zac and shook his shoulders.
Finn ran as fast as he could, but Reese and Amanda got to the top first anyway.
It didn’t take too long and also Zac and Elisabeth finally reached the outlook.
“Come on, slackers!” sneered Finn. “Three more steps and you made it!”
“Shut up, Finn!” called Zac. “Was you farting all the way up that you got here before us?”
“Yeah, now that I think of it, I felt a bad smell while coming here,” laughed Elisabeth.
“Funny,” he answered.
Finn was admiring the beautiful panorama that opened in front of him. Elisabeth was on her way to see it for herself, when Zac called her over.
“Hey, Liz. I wasn’t sure if to ask you or not… but… the thing is, that I really like Amanda.”
“Well, I think she’s cute. You’d look nice together,” she smiled.
“Yeah… I guess. Do you think it’s stupid to ask her if she likes me?”
“Yep. I mean, you just met her this morning. Just wait and see how it develops,” advised him Elisabeth.
“You’re right, you’re right. I’ll not rush anything. Thanks, Liz.”
“Isn’t this amazing?” asked him Elisabeth when she approached the railing.
“Yes, I really like this place.”
“I love the lake and the mountains,” said Elisabeth. “I think I’ll give a closer look.”
“OK, try not to hurt yourself.”
“Zac, I’m going to look through the telescope. Did you think I’d jump over the railing?” she laughed.
“Ahem, of course not.”
“Right,” she smiled. “You better watch where you step. I wouldn’t like to see you crawling down from the hill.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll go and sit at the table over there.”
“OK, I’ll just keep an eye on you in any case,” said Elisabeth and blinked her eye. Let’s see what I can see through this thing, she said to herself and looked through the telescope.
“So, how do you guys like this place?” asked her Reese.
“I really adore it. You know, I’m the kind of person that really enjoys the nature. This place is perfect for me. I could stay here all day long and I wouldn’t miss anything. My brothers would probably be bored, though. Especially Finn. He’d rather spend the afternoon in some art gallery criticizing everything.”
“Hihi,” giggled Reese and looked in Finn’s direction. “Finn is totally adorable I must tell you. Does he have a girlfriend?”
Whoa! Pretty straightforward… Shame you’re not Amanda, Elisabeth smiled to herself. “Well, unfortunately for both of you… YES, he does.”
“Why do you say unfortunately for both of us?”
“Because even if he liked you more than he likes his girlfriend, she has an advantage you don’t have. At the moment at least. She lives 10 minutes from our house.”
“And Finn is not one that likes to travel… often.”
“Hmm, shame… And what about Zac?”
He loves your sister, Elisabeth immediately thought to herself. “He… He’s a…,” she absolutely didn’t know how could she tell to Reese, that he’s not available for her without saying he’s got a girlfriend. Because then Amanda could get to know it and maybe, if she liked him too, the fact that Zac would already have this nonexistent girlfriend could complicate his situation. When suddenly, Elisabeth got a genius idea. “He’s gay,” she smiled innocently.
“Zac is GAY?” Reese asked aloud.
“Not so loud… nobody except of me knows. Promise me, you won’t tell anyone. Neither your sister.”
“I get it. Don’t worry! I won’t tell anyone. Promise!” said Reese and walked away giggling to herself.
Finn walked towards the campfire while an idea to scare Amanda came to his mind.
“There’s a werewolf behind you! RUN!”
“Whaaat?” Amanda screamed with a frightened, high-pitched voice that even Elisabeth turned around.
“I’m just making fun of you,” laughed Finn. “Every little child knows that such creatures don’t exist.” At first, Amanda gave him the offended look, but the next second they were both laughing.
Zac was observing them from afar. Why does he have to be drawing attention to himself all the time? Zac thought to himself. You already have Malika, don’t you Finn? Leave Amanda to me! Eventhough Zac wanted to stand up and approach Amanda to apologize for the behavior of his stupid brother, he only sighed and turned the page of his book. Listen to your sister Zac. If she likes you, you’ll know it first. The moment Zac convinced himself about doing the right move, or rather about not doing anything, Amanda walked towards the table he was sitting at.
“What are you reading, Zac?” she asked him a simple question. Here we go, just don’t mess up, Zac, he said to himself.
“Just a little something I wrote,” he smiled at Amanda.
“The Adventures Of Raymundo? ” she read the title. “Wait, you didn’t write this,” Amanda looked at him. “Mom used to read this book to us when we were little.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I didn’t write this book. I only wrote this,” he said and pulled out some pages out of the book.
“What is that?”
“Well, it’s not finished yet. I’m writing my first novel. These are the first 80 pages,” he said proudly.
“Really? Wow! What’s it called?”
“Warp Factor Infinity. ”
“Sounds like a title for a science fiction novel.”
“Exactly. But it’s not finished yet…”
“So that’s why you carry it around in The Adventures Of Raymundo?”
“No… Actually, I’m just hiding it.”
“Because of him,” said Zac and pointed at his brother, who was trying to open a fire.
“Because, if you haven’t noticed, Finn really enjoys making fun of others… Everytime he sees me reading my story, he starts singing that stupid little song…”
“A stupid one… One of his own invention. Just let it be.”
“So that’s why you carry it around in this book?”
“Yep. Time from time I just have to switch to another one, or he becomes suspicious. Finn doesn’t really care about books… if you see him holding one, he’s probably just making a very intelligent statement about it.”
“I can imagine,” giggled Amanda.
“It’s getting chilly. Do you want to get closer to the fire?” proposed Zac.
“Why not,” she smiled. “Could I… could I give a look at your story?”
“Well, it’s not finished yet… but since it is you… here,” he said and passed the book to Amanda. “Just make sure to keep it away from Finn.”
“You can trust me, Zac,” she told him and they both went to sit at the campfire.
Elisabeth got inspired by the beautiful panorama and decided to bring it down on the canvas.
She started depicting the mountains.
Reese started to feel cold as well so she joined the others at the fire.
“Do you want to roast some marshmallow?” asked her Finn.
“You have some?”
“Sure. I always bring them along. I like them raw as well.”
“Cool,” said Reese and took three from him. Zac’s marshmallows unfortunately caught on fire. He tried to save them, but it was hopeless. They all turned black immediately.
“Urgh! They suck!” he said when he tasted the first one.
“Of course! They are completely burnt,” said Reese.
“I don’t mind them neither burnt,” commented Finn. “If you don’t like them, give them to me.”
“With pleasure,” said Zac and passed the burnt marshmallow to his brother. Reese just stared at him. She probably thought, that Finn wasn’t the right one for her after all. When Elisabeth joined them, Amanda was still reading Zac’s Warp Factor Infinity camouflaged in The Adventures Of Raymundo.
“What are you reading, Amanda?” asked her Elisabeth. Amanda was about to say Warp Factor but luckily she skilfully changed it to Raymundo’s Adventures.
“Isn’t it a children’s book?”
“Yes. I totally love it,” she said and looked at Zac. Reese looked at her sister staring at Zac, then at Zac staring at Amanda and she had the feeling of missing something. What is going on here? she thought to herself but Finn’s loud crunching suddenly brought her to different thoughts.
When Finn ate all his burnt marshmallows, Zac and Amanda were still staring at each other.
“What’s wrong with you two?” asked them Finn and looked at Zac.
“No, no, no, no, no!” called Reese when her marshmallows caught on fire. “Here. More burnt marshmallows for you,” she said and passed them to Finn who gladly accepted them.
The next morning during the breakfast Kate told everyone about Bella. Elisabeth and Zac couldn’t hold their tears. Also George shed a few of them. With this said, everybody knew it was time to go home. They said goodbye to the O’Connors, exchanged hugs and with sad faces got in the car.
However, it was George who suffered the death of Bella the most. It brought him back his memories… unfortunately only the sad ones.