Ann exhaled, pounded her forehead into the steering wheel and wondered what to do next. With no other ideas in mind, Ann continued driving and was not surprised that the parking lot did not contain Johnny’s shiny Land Rover. Re-dialing his number sent her straight to voice mail. As did Mark’s number. She had to imagine that they were either together with their phones off, or apart and making up or fighting on the phone – somewhere. And there she was, sweating in her car in a parking lot with an angry boss calling on the phone, a doomed horse moving to the barn of an unscrupulous trainer, a co-worker mad as hell at her, a gallop boy and a groom short at the barn, it was three o’clock in the afternoon and she hadn’t had a decent meal all day. She desperately wished she was sitting her her backyard, drinking a cold glass of iced tea with the dog at her feet and a good book in her hand.
Ann parked the car and did her best to just breathe for a minute before making any decisions. After a few good inhalations, the one clear choice – was an enchilada plate.
Eating alone was never a burden for Ann. It was a blessing. Even more if she would leave the phone in her car away from her hearing. It pained her to think that the Jude, Enrique or Johnny or her Dad might be calling, but she also knew that if she didn’t manage to eat at least one hot meal today, it would catch up with her sooner or later. Refusing to look left or right in case somebody was watching the curly haired muscled girl bolt her food like a starving dog, Ann polished off a sizable plate of greasy food in record time. She bought a second Coke to wash it down with, committed herself to an extra ten minutes of quiet before going to her phone to face the music that her absence at the barn had no doubt engaged. Curiosity and sense of duty got the best of her and she stomped her way back to the parking lot after just less than two minutes. There were only three text messages and no voice mail on her phone.
“R U allrite” from Mateo
…and “Where the F*** did you go?” from Jude.
“we WON!” from Charlie Clahain, Pax Kristie’s jockey.
Nothing from Johnny. Nothing from Mark. Somewhere between relief and disbelief, she started the truck and made an agreement with herself not to take a phone or an email message from either Johnny or Mark for at least 48 hours. Looking at her watch, she realized she would make it back in time for evening feed if she didn’t hit any traffic. She dialed Enrique.
“Hey, it’s me. Listen, sorry I had to run out of the barn like that. I had some business to take care of.”
“Que?” Enrique asked.
“Just personal stuff. But maybe I can make it up to you if I do all the evening meds and feed for you this afternoon.”
“But you gotta go to dinner with Pax Kristi’s owners tonight. I heard the Boss make plans for you guys.”
“Enrique, there is NO WAY I’m going out with those guys tonight. I have to get some rest.”
“Talk to the Boss, Patrona. Abe and the boys are excited about that mare’s win today and they claimed a horse in the sixth. They want more horses. Julie’s going too. So you know it’s some place fancy.”
Dinner with owners meant getting to bed sometime around midnight. She knew it was going to take more than four hours sleep to recover from today.
“I’ll call Jude. You tell the grooms that I’ll be there in 30 minutes and you take off.”
“You better call the boss first. I have the horses covered. You go and have a fancy dinner and bring old Enrique back a doggie bag.” There was cruelty in his laugh.
“Great. I’ll call him. Ciao.” she groaned as she hung up. The spicy lunch was playing havoc with her stomach. She made her next call.