Disclaimers : See Part 1

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Part 4 of Loose Change Series - The Addy and Karen series.
(01) Turning on a Dime
(02) New Quarters
(03) One Little Bit
(04) Joint Venture

 

Joint Venture

By

K-Morgan

kmorgan.5674@yahoo.com

(Feedback is appreciated)


Part 6

About Alex

Alex's school years were marked with many remarkable events. Alex was indeed an exceptional student. When she started first grade in the new school, she was six years old. Even at this early age, she read with the proficiency of a fifth grader. Because she was ahead of children her own age, the teachers had to give her special assignments and reading materials. Neither Addy nor Karen liked the idea of placing her ahead of her grade because, although she was academically advanced, she was still a six year old and she was not emotionally ready to deal with older kids. So, Alex was under a special curriculum within the first graders.

She was not only ahead academically, but also socially. She could hold conversations with adults that other children her age were incapable to understand. Karen and Addy always included her in their conversations and always explained everything to her as if she was an adult. She was treated as a child, but intellectually she was never excluded. This gave her an advance level of comprehension for her young age.

She also had the advantage of having two intellectual women as parents who were interested in all sorts of activities from visiting the Louvre and the Guggenheim to going to plays in Broadway or the Globe, to visiting the Einstein Planetarium to trout fishing in Montana, going on a llama trek in Argentina, picking grapes in Bordeaux, cruising the Danube, or snow tubing in the Pyrenees. Alex had been everywhere with them and took an interest in everything they did together.

Alex also had many skills that a child her age would normally not have. She was a yellow belt in Karate, she could swim, snorkel, kayak, and ride a horse and she also knew a lot about raising and training horses. She was also fluent in Spanish. Every night after the homework was done, she and Addy practiced her Spanish and often a conversation would begin in one language and end in another.

She could also hold a conversation based on facts and would have opinions based on good foundations. As it turned out, not only did she acquire Addy's love for reading, but she also inherited Karen's love and understanding for numbers. Alex was good at math, and like Addy, loved Sudoku puzzles. She was quite a character, and always impressed.

But, although she was exceptional in so many ways, her most distinguishable characteristic was that she was a humble, sweet, adorable, child. She was, indeed, Karen and Addy combined.

Every Monday and Wednesday after school Alex went to Karate. On Tuesday and Thursdays, she stayed in school and practiced soccer. After school most of the days, she came to the stables and then went home to shower, eat and do her homework.

Addy was always involved with the stables or the distillery social activities and Karen with her law firm, but when it was time to pick up Alex, both women dropped whatever they were doing and ran to their daughter. Whenever they both couldn't go to an activity, they would alternate so that each would get a taste of the diverse activities. When there were soccer games or karate belt testing or demonstrations or any type of competition both moms were always present. They loved to be part of their daughter's life.

**

At school, there were always activities and presentations. Open houses, parent's night, library week, historical celebrations, St. Valentines and Christmas pageants, or school plays. Since Alex had such a wonderful disposition, the teachers always involved her in anything that mattered. Most of the times, she played a major role, or one of the major ones if there were more than one. On this particular occasion, the event was literary week. The culmination of the week's many activities was on Friday afternoon when each grade prepared a small part of a selected play from known authors.

“Oh no! Another pageant?”

“It's not a pageant, it's a play.”

“My ears still hurt from the band recital from last week. Do we have to go to everything all the time?” Karen protested.

“Ssh! She's going to hear you! And yes, whenever she participates in anything, we have to go. We need to support and encourage her. She is the one with the most lines in the play. And this is her first play ever, so we need to be supportive”

“I hope this is better than the band. That child has a deaf ear for music.”

“Ker! She's going to hear you!”

“I think she knows. She's smart kid. Can't those people use somebody else's kid for a change? Why do they always have to pick her for everything?”

“Maybe because she's the only one who can memorize all those lines and do it well?”

“Well, she can memorize, alright. But, I don't know about the –.”

They were in their room getting ready to go to the school play when Addy saw Alex about to enter their room.

“Alex! You are here!”

“Yes, and I hate this costume, M'Addy. It makes me look stupid!”

Well the kid was smart enough to recognize the obvious! Karen thought.

 

Alex had been chosen to perform Titania in the first grade's performance of a section of Shakespeare's Midsummer's Night Dream. Titania was the queen of the fairies and Alex was dressed as a fairy.

“You look absolutely astonishingly beautiful!” Addy exclaimed.

Karen looked at the little one and had to admit that she looked cute. “You look good, baby girl. Suck it up! Next time find out what the costume looks like before you volunteer for the part.”

“I didn't volunteer, they made me do it.”

Both women looked at her. Karen asked. “How was that?”

“Mommy, the play is a disaster. A lot of those kids can't even read! And the ones who can read, don't know what they are saying because it's old English. So, bring your IPod to listen to because this will be worse than the band concert. At least there, no one needed to say anything.”

“Well, Alexandra. What if everyone messes up and it turns out to be hilarious?”

Alex rolled her eyes, making Karen laugh. Even Alex rolled her eyes to Addy's silly proposition. “M'Addy! It's not supposed to be hilarious.”

“You'll do well, baby. You'll see.” Addy reassured her.

“I'm not worried about me, M'Addy. It's everyone else who doesn't know their lines.”

The women looked at each other, and it was Karen who gave the ultimate Advice. “Alex, you can only do so much. Worry about your part and improvise when someone else messes up. Remember - the play must go on!”

As Alex predicted the play was a disaster.

“Who in their right mind would have selected a Shakespeare play for first graders?!” Karen commented on their way back home. Alex had been ranting in the car about how everyone forgot their lines. She was just like Karen with the ranting when she was mad or upset.

“You were wonderful, baby.” Addy commented.

“Thanks, M'Addy. I did what Mommy Karen said, I improvised.”

“And you did a great job at it.” Karen proclaimed proudly having to hide her face not to laugh. So did Addy. Years later, they shared with Alex the fun they had that night listening to her.

Alex had done a remarkable job with her lines, thus practically saving the play and its organizers from total embarrassment. Luckily, most people in the audience did not know or remembered the exact lines of a particular section of the play, but those who did must have recognized Alex's audacity, talent and leadership. As it turned out, Alex knew her lines perfectly well but needing queues from the other characters to interject her own, and not finding them, she created her own new lines, for lack of any other, thus rewriting Shakespeare's play to everyone's delight. Had Shakespeare been present in that auditorium he would have given a standing ovation.

**

Part of the elementary school years was also the selling of the traditional gift wrapping paper in the fall. “Mom, they gave me the gift wrapping paper fundraiser to sell. Here it is. Look at all the pretty prizes. I want these binoculars and if our class sells the most paper, we get a pizza party.”

Karen listened pretending to be interested. She had just picked up Alex at school because Addy was in Edinburgh talking to the realtor concerning the rental of the apartment they had in the city. This was the apartment they had purchased years ago when Alex was born. It was very close to the hospital and they had rented it out, but now after it had become vacant and due for some renovations. Addy took on the duty since Karen hated anything that that to do with selecting paint colors and decoration.

Alex continued to talk endlessly about the events at school. Every year the school had the usual fall fund raiser. Of course the children were enticed to sell the gift wrapping paper in exchange for rewards. Every year it was the same thing. For selling $60 worth of paper the child would get a reward worth, probably fifty cents, yet it was the thrill of the reward and, of course, the enticing pizza party that moved everyone to rip off all their friend by making them buy wrapping paper and things they didn't need. Every year a lot of money went into the paper fundraiser.

Because they didn't want to ask their friend to buy paper, they ended up buying all paper from Alex. Of course, JP and James also bought their share. But the moms bought the most. They bought all the paper needed in order for Alex to ‘win' the desired reward. It got to the point that Karen thought they had enough gift wrapping paper to wall paper the entire Manor house. They had so much paper, that they had to dedicate an entire closet to store it.

And then usually, two weeks later, the priceless reward was found forgotten under the bed, or partially smashed or torn whatever it was.

“If we continue at this rate, soon we will be able to open our own Hallmark store, or maybe we should buy a wood burning stove. We could keep warm all winter long burning gift wrapping paper.” Addy chuckled. Karen hated the fundraisers. Addy did too, but she was not so vocal about them.

**

Part of being a child involves being sick. It had not been unusual for Alex to have the recurrent typical teething fevers, ear infections, regulars cold, stomach virus, and even bronchitis. For Addy the experience of having had two previous children gave her an immense knowledge on how to deal with Alex's ailments. However, for Karen this was a whole new experience.

Every time Alex was sick, she was, of course taken to the doctor and the prescribed medications were immediately purchased. They'd come home and Karen would literally lie next to Alex until she showed some sign of recovery. If the fever had gone down with the Tylenol, it was an immediate celebration for Karen, but when at the end of three to four hours the effect of the medication wore off and the fever was back, Karen was again immersed in grief.

Addy couldn't remember how many times in Alex's life she had repeated the same phrase to Karen. “Karen it's just a fever, as soon as the antibiotic kicks in, she will be fine.” Nevertheless, nothing could remove the gloom in Karen's face. She even went as far as telling Addy that “this was the reason I didn't want to have a kid in the first place, once they are here all we do is worry about them!”

Through all types of diseases and ailments, both women mounted guard next to their little angel, until she showed signs of recuperation. Karen had a whole section on the upper part of the kitchen cabinets dedicated to stock all sorts of over the counter medication to treat Alex when she was sick. And that was in addition to whatever was prescribed for her.

Probably on account of Karen's insistence for her to take this or that, Alex hated to take medications and when she was a baby she constantly spat them out. Even as a three year old, she had to be held to be medicated. Alex had demonstrated her dislike for medicines even as a baby. There was only one antibiotic taste that she tolerated so when the doctor prescribed anything, the women waited expectantly to make sure that it was the ‘good' one. Her pediatrician always chose that one first, considering the circumstances, however sometimes the type of infection called for something stronger and the mood was dreadful from the moment they left the doctor's office.

Hearing them speak, one would have thought that they were preparing for battle. “This is going to be hell.”

“Yes, but it's got to be done.”

They had expectations that when Alex was older, she would swallow a pill rather than drink the ‘yuckiness' as she called them. But that was not the case, medication always remained an ordeal. The first time they tried to teach her to swallow a pill, she choked and threw up claiming that it had gotten stuck in her throat. Then it was worst, because they had to either cut it in halves or crush it for her, with both options producing a worse tasting medication than any liquid one. In short, when Alex was sick it was hard to tell what was worse, the ailment or the cure.

The recurrent ear infections became a serious matter when she had one after another. Her pediatrician decided that it was time for her to see a specialist. After having the same recurrent effects under different treatment, the specialist recommended inserting tubes in her ear canals to allow drainage. When Karen heard the recommendation, the color drained from her face, and she nearly fainted in the doctor's office. She had to be taken out so that Alex wouldn't see her. One of the nurses took her to another examining rooms.

“Ker, what is wrong? Are you okay?”

“Tubes in her ears! Addy? They are going to drill holes and put tubes in her ears? I don't know if I can live through this! What if she becomes deaf? How are we going to deal with a deaf child? I can hardly handle things as they are!”

Addy chuckled and kissed her hand. Karen was lying on a stretcher. “Ker, is not like we are going to go ahead and do it without getting a second and even a third opinion from other specialists! Let's go back inside and listen to what the doctor says.” Addy's words had a temporary calming effect on Karen.

“Come on. She's going to be frightened if you don't come back in. She needs you.”

Upon the realization that Alex might be frightened for having been left alone, Karen got up immediately and marched back to her daughter, Addy followed with a satisfied face. With all her fears and apprehensions, Karen had never turned her back on her daughter. She had always been there for her.

When they got home and put Alex to sleep, Karen stretched out on the sofa in her helpless ‘I'm going to die' attitude, usually reserved for when she was sick, but now also displayed when Alex was sick. Addy instead called Gerry and explained to her what was happening.

“Addy, do you have a humidifier?”

“Yes, we do Gerry.”

“Run it in her room. Sometimes humidity helps to expand the inner tubes.”

“I'll try it. I'll try anything. We really don't want to do the tubes unless we absolutely have to.”

That was all it took. Since the moment the humidifier went on in Alex's room, she got better and from there on she only had an occasional ear infection, but nothing like she had experienced in the past.

**

School outings also always presented concerns. Neither Charles' sentencing nor death was able to erase from their lives the apprehension they had felt for Alex's safety. Karen had always been a security freak on account of how her mother died and later her family's constant threat had aggravated her security concerns. Although with the years she eased some of them, Alex having a school outing was an event that rose to the level of national security.

Consistently, it was decided that either she or Addy would go on any outing. This was fine while Alex was young because she thought it was great to have her mommies come, but as she got older, the situation changed. Alex began to look at the moms' presence as an intrusion on her privacy. The privacy required by an eight year old and her school friends.

“Why do you guys have to come to all the outings, M'Addy?” Alex would always ask.

Addy was trying to put some distance to mediate the matter, but was concern herself

“Karen maybe we can go in our own car and allow her to travel with her friends in the bus.” Addy was able to negotiate certain liberties, but the truth was that Alex went to her first outing by herself when she was in seventh grade and that was after she was given all sorts of lectures of what to do in case of this or in case of that. She also had her cell phone and a back-up phone in case she lost the other one and also a written document with all the phone numbers she needed to call in case of an emergency. Alex thought they were crazy, but knowing that this was the only way things would happen, she did all she was told and carried everything with her. Neither Karen nor Addy had a moment of peace until they saw their darling angel get off the bus when they arrived back at school.

**

In karate, Alex was very methodical. Her movements were always very controlled and her katas were always perfect. The sensei was always delighted to see the feisty, blonde perform so well. When they sparred, Alex never showed any apprehension even when her opponent was taller or older.

Addy was always concerned with Alex getting hurt if her opponent was taller or heavier or older. “Why can't he match her with someone just her size and age? I really don't understand that man. I think he has a death wish of someone getting hurt in his dojo.”

“M'Addy, those things don't matter. The important thing is to be focused and know what you have to do.” Alex would explain every time to no avail because Addy always had the same complaints.

Karen smiled proudly when she heard her daughter's response. Thinking that Alex's reply was exactly what she would have said. In that regard Alex, like Karen, was very pragmatic. “Addy, Alex gets matched with people at her own skill level. If she wasn't, it would not be fair to her or the others because then the competition would not be a challenge, or fair. Alex apparently has the required skills and she needs the challenge of the competition.” Karen further elaborated.

“I don't know. I'm beginning to think she should have gone into dancing. After all aren't all those katas like dance moves?” Addy knew that it bothered Alex to even consider the possibility that she would do any ballet or tap dancing.

Alex rolled her eyes every time. “M'Addy, we've already discuss this! They are not dance moves. I would have never done ballet or tap, and you know it!”

Then Addy would mock her, by imitating some of the moves and converting them into some sort of ballet or tap move. Alex loved the mockery and laughed.

When they had competitions, Addy loved to watch her blonde fireball. Alex would get all ruffled, sweaty, and pinkish but still she looked adorable. Before and after the match, the moms would fuss all around her, making sure her uniform and belt looked perfect and after the match was over they'd check her looking to see if she was hurt. In the idle time between matches, Karen would run to her and bring her a water bottle or to rub her calves or wipe her sweat, or give her some encouraging word or tactical advice, while Addy smiled and blew kisses from her sitting position. Alex learned to smile, after overcoming embarrassing moments.

“M'Addy, you can't be blowing kisses!”

“Why not? I didn't read any instruction prohibiting it. And you win, don't you? Maybe it's my kisses that help you win.”

As she got older, Alex would never start a match without looking to Addy for the winning kisses. Invariably, Addy would throw her the biggest kisses ever and smiled when the beautiful, kick ass, karate girl smiled back at her. That smile was worth more than any victory to Addy.

**

There were a couple of times when she didn't do too well, but the little one was never discouraged. While someone else might have blamed the opponent or the judge or any other possible thing, Alex concentrated on what she needed to improve upon. The car was always very quiet on the way home when things had not gone well.

Karen would always try to soften it up. “Well, there's always the next one.” Addy dared not say anything because once she suggested that maybe she had not blown enough kisses and Alex was furious. So she always remained quiet in those situations. With the years, whenever Alex didn't perform well, to get Addy to talk, she'd say something like, “it wasn't you, M'Addy, I did get enough kisses.”

Addy would immediately start to talk and to find some fault on something other than Alex. Addy even went as far as blaming the sun reflecting on a distant mirror, or the mat not being supportive enough, and of course there were the environmental issues such as the temperature being too cold and the muscles being too stiff or too hot to even think right. To which Alex would reply something like, “M'Addy, I love you too.” That would always end the conversation on a happy note. Karen just drove and smiled.

**

Because of the skills learned practicing karate, Alex developed strong motor skills which helped her succeed in other sports. Soccer and basketball were her main sports. Since the day she started to play both, she excelled. The school won if she played and lost if she didn't. Alex was a vital asset to the school team all through high school.

In soccer, she ran fast and was able to have great control over the ball. And when she kicked the ball, the girls on the other teams were afraid because of the force of her kicks. And when Alex had the ball and ran towards the goal, her moves were calculated and controlled and when she kicked, she scored. The women would camp out at the soccer field every Saturday morning to see her play. The same was true in the winter when it was time for basketball. Although she was tall like Karen, for basketball standards she was a midget. However, she was fast and her movements were solid. She always managed to be at the right location and when she shot, she scored.

Later in high school, she dropped basketball. She said she didn't like to be pushed around, and instead concentrated in soccer and karate. She obtained her black belt and after wards she continued practicing it. However, she stopped competing and sparring claiming that she didn't like the ‘closeness' of the people. Karen and Addy respected her decisions and left it at that, after all these were things she did for enjoyment and if she had reached a level or a point in her life when she was no longer enjoying them that was the end of that. All and all, excelling in sports had been good for her as it raised her level of confidence and self-esteem.

Also, in part because of sports, she was very popular at school. Alex was loved by the jocks as well as the nerds because she was both. She could score all the goals in a game, get an A on the physics test, and solve tough equations and win at chess with a nerd. There was a time when the chess club tried to recruit her for a competition, but she declined.

Karen inquired for her reasons. “Why? Playing chess doesn't make you a nerd?”

“No, Mom, I didn't decline for that. I know I'm not a nerd, I also know I can win. I just think there are some things I should let others do. Cassandra and William are very good. I don't want to compete with them.”

Karen looked at her daughter who was smiling. “Because you can beat the hell out of them?”

Alex grinned and looked at her mom. Karen smiled back and drove. They smiled all the way home.

**

Through the years Alex attempted to play several musical instruments, the flute, the violin and the clarinet. But she was terrible with all of them. Karen was of the opinion that all the ear infections of early childhood had deteriorated her hearing and that was why she was musically impaired. While in fifth grade, Alex concluded that music was not her thing and, to Addy's dismay, she quit the band. Karen was overjoyed with the decision.

One instrument that Alex never tried was piano. There was a beautiful piano in the manor house which had been there even before the house was transformed into the Inn of Scotland. While the Inn was operating, Addy had it rehabilitated and on Friday and Saturday nights they'd hire a pianist to come and play in the evenings. The Inn 's guests and many people from the surrounding towns came often just to sit and listen to the “Melodies of the Night” as the event was called. While the music played, tea, coffee and after dinner cordials were served along with the fanciest desserts. Since the sound of the piano was so astonishing and the acoustics so wonderful in the room where the piano had always been, the music could be heard from anywhere in the surrounding area and often people sat outside or by the pool or under some tree to listen to the wonderful melody.

The piano was a beautiful Steinway white Grand piano. Addy knew it was a very valuable piece and never got rid of it, even after the Inn closed. It remained at the manor house for years. She dreamed that Alex someday would learn to play it. “Maybe one day you will decide to take lessons and play it.” She'd say to Alex, more than once.

“I don't think so M'Addy, I'm sorry. I'm done with music. I don't have the patience.”

Still, even though it was never played, Addy had it tuned every two years.

“Why don't we get rid of it? We can donate it to a school. At least someone would benefit from it.” Every two years, Karen would always ask the same question.

“No. This piano is here for a reason. Someday, there will be music back in this house because of this piano. I think that someday someone will walk through that door, and we will know why this piano was here. It will be a sign of something. I don't know exactly of what, but this piano stays where it is!”

Karen and Alex kidded Addy for years and every time they met someone new they'd ask them, out of the blue, if he or she played the piano. The joke went on for years. They stopped asking because no one, in all those years, ever said yes.

“Someday, you will all be astonished.”

“Are you going to start piano lessons, M'Addy?”

Karen chuckled while Addy made funny faces in Alex's direction.

**

It was customary for Alex to go to the stables at least twice a week after school. She loved the stables but didn't have as much time now due to her many obligations at school, sports and karate. At the stables, she continued to help Marshal with whatever needed to be done. Either Karen or Addy took her and stayed there with her. It was not until the ordeal with the family was over that they began to leave Alex for brief periods of time, with Marshal and Carol and James and JP. When Alex was at the stables she was under Marshal's constant watch. Marshal and Carol had no children, so they came to love Alex as their own. Alex was the type of child that made herself lovable. She took intense interest in all of Marshal's instructions regarding the keeping and the training of horses. As the years went by, Alex became quite the expert and could carry on an adult conversation regarding horses and racing with much authority.

At eight years old, and barely in third grade, Alex saw her beloved Alejandro finally head for the racetrack. While Alejandro had been training, Alex had been a constant spectator and participant. She knew all about the horse. Alex had come to the stables every day before school to watch Gyro ride Alejandro. She had to wake up at the crack of dawn, but she didn't care. Going to see Alejandro run was something she looked forward to every single morning. “Like the wind, Mommy. He runs like the wind! You have to come and see him.” She'd zoom by them as if she was Alejandro wanting to show off the horse's speed. Every weekend the women would show up early at the track to watch.

“So what do you think, Mommy?”

“Wow! He's good, Alex. He's amazing!” Karen exclaimed. Alex and Addy were the ones always keeping an eye on Alejandro's training and development. Karen was kept abreast of any happening, but she was not very much into the whole horse thing. Karen kept busy working with Phil at the law firm. She'd bring Alex by the stables in the mornings, but usually stayed in the car reading the news on her tablet and drinking her coffee while Alex spent a few minutes watching Alejandro run. She had been to the stables occasionally, but she had never seen Gyro race him.

“Mommy, he is a winner. I just know it.”

Marshal was concerned with Alex's high expectations. “Well, Alex, there are many other good horses also.”

“Yes, Marshal, but he is the best. I've recorded his time every day and have it on a spreadsheet which I've compared to all the current horses his age and I'm telling you he is the very best.”

The women all looked at each other. “You have a spreadsheet of his times and you've what?”

“Yes, Mommy. Just because I talk to him and keep it personal doesn't mean that I'm not keeping track. Racing is hard and difficult. I wouldn't allow him to run, if I wasn't sure he was ready. He is as good as the best!”

Again, the women looked at each other and grinned. It was obvious that Alex had taken her role as owner very seriously. The problem was that no one could say anything to bring Alex's expectations down because she had all the numbers and the facts spoke for themselves. When Alex pulled out all her data, the women were amazed, including Marshal who never thought that the little one was keeping such a close watch on Alejandro's numbers, or that she had taken on the research of other historically well-known thoroughbreds to compare Alejandro's times to them.

“Good grief! This is amazing, Alex. You have done a remarkable job keeping track of Alejandro's performance.” Marshal acknowledged her work.

Alex looked very proud.

“And look Ms. Marshal, when you compare his performance, historically, with other famous horses at his age, he is way ahead by a lot. I say we have ourselves a winner!” She proclaimed triumphantly.

Karen was stunned. She sat down in front of the charts to study them. Alex had not only kept Alejandro's time but she had compared his record with other horses his age and had drawn a historical chart of other winning thoroughbreds to compare Alejandro's numbers with them. By far, Alejandro's numbers exceeded all of them, current and past.

“If he continues to perform like this, he will win.”

Karen spoke astonished. “Marshal, can you verify these numbers?”

“Yes, Karen. I will get started right away. ”

“What do you think? Is our boy good enough for the majors?” Addy's question was directed to Marshal.

Karen looked perplexed looking at Addy and Alex.

“Well, Gyro and I agree that he is fantastic, but now that I see Alex's numbers and comparisons, I'm flabbergasted.” Marshal was excited. She was very good at training horses, but she was a working woman. Numbers and calculations were not her thing and she never thought to do what Alex had done. However, she recognized the value of the statistics the minute she saw them.

“You guys are all serious, aren't you?” Karen was the only one who didn't seem quite convinced.

“What do you mean, Mommy?”

“I mean that you guys are serious about racing Alejandro professionally.”

“Well, of course.” Addy commented. “That was always the point, Ker.”

“I always thought you guys were in love with the horse and that's why you were doing everything for him. I never thought that you were serious about racing him professionally, I mean, maybe recreationally, but professionally?”

“You don't want him to?” Alex asked.

“Baby, is not a matter of me wanting to. You just don't walk up your horse to the Derby and say I want to race him.”

Everyone listened attentively. “She's right.” Marshal commented.

Karen continued. “There are requirements to meet, paperwork to fill out, and a lot of money is required to enter the races.”

Addy and Alex had the gloomiest faces. Marshal pursed her lips.

Karen gave in as usual when she saw the disappointment on their faces. She could never see her loved ones unhappy. “Let me look into it. You guys better make sure that horse runs like the wind and wins!” There was an immediate group hug around Karen.

“Okay! Okay!”

As they left, Addy and Alex could hear Karen mumbling to herself, as she walk ahead of them, “I have to be crazy! I don't know how I let myself get dragged into all this crazy stuff! Here I go again!”

Addy and Alex looked at each other and smiled. “Alex, on three….One, two, three…We love you, Mommy!” This was not an unusual happening. They had done this chanting many times before whenever Karen gave in to their wishes.

Karen continued to walk ahead of them shaking her head left to right and grinning from ear to ear.

“I'm going to have to give her a lot of kisses tonight Alex.”

Alex got in the back seat of the car, as Karen held the door open for Addy. “I think you are going to have to do more than that tonight, Ms. Addy.” Karen whispered and Addy chuckled.

**

As Alejandro entered the racing arena in the lesser races, he consistently began to win by ample margins. Alex was overjoyed with her very accurate estimations and expectations. As he continued to win, his rise to fame began. The women then wondered about what to do. Surely they expected him to do well, but not this well, and now they were faced with the unknown.

The question before them now was of what to do next. They had a major meeting. Although Alejandro had become famous at the track, there were other horses whose lineage and fame preceded them. Alejandro was of no particular great linage and none of the big horse racing promoters took an interest in a horse without a great ancestry. It was evident that Alejandro's future was for them to decide. It would take a lot of money to enter him in the big races and if he lost, they would be losing a lot of money, on the other hand, if he won, it would be like hitting the jackpot. All the money would be theirs alone, not only from the wins, but also from breeding rights.

After winning one of the lesser races, it was Alex who noticed what was happening. “Marshal, look there's blood in Alejandro's nose.”

Marshal and Gyro immediately reacted. They both examined the horse and looked at each other with panicked faces. “I'll go call Dr. Ferst. Peter Ferst was the local veterinarian. He treated all their horses and other horses in nearby farms. Dr. Ferst came immediately. He was well aware of Alejandro's worth and potential.

Dr. Ferst asked everyone to allow him to examine the horse and to wait outside. Only Marshal and Gyro stayed inside with the doctor. The three women went outside.

“Is he very sick? Is he going to die, M'Addy?”

“Alex, we don't know what is wrong yet. We have to let Dr. Ferst check him and then we will know.” Addy gave Karen a worried look. Karen, in turn, looked at Alex.

“Let's just hope for the best, okay, Alex?”

Alex nodded. “Yeah.” She leaned to Addy who was sitting on a stack of hay. Karen stood and walked about. It was her usual pacing when she was worried or upset. Addy knew and she pursed her lips and looked at Alex who also had a worried face.

“When Mommy paces like that, I know she's worried.”

Addy smiled, realizing that Alex was very perceptive and obviously knew her mom well.

“We are all worried, Alex. We all are.”

Marshal, Gyro and Dr. Fester came out. “I think this is a case of EIPH, Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage, also known as bleeding or a bleeding attack.

“Oh! No!” Alex exclaimed. Everyone was surprised. She was the only one who appeared to know what such an ailment was.

Dr. Ferst bent to talk to Alex. “Now, Alex, you know this happens to horses who engage in strenuous exercise.”

“Yes, but if it happens frequently, it will hurt his chances to race.”

The women were amazed that Alex knew so much on the subject.

“Is this correct, Dr. Ferst?” Karen inquired immediately, as Addy placed her hands on the little one's shoulders.

“Yes, I'm afraid so. Alex seems to be well-informed.”

Addy's heart sank thinking how Alex must feel.

“Is there any treatment? Anything that can be done to prevent this from happening again?”

“Yes, there are new treatments, but I'm afraid I'm not familiar with them. There's a doctor in Dunner who has conducted a lot of research and is a specialist in that area. I will call Dr. O'Mally to come and see Alejandro.”

“Thanks, Dr. Ferst. The sooner the better.”

“Yes, I will call immediately. In the meantime, I've left some medication with Marshal. Keep him rested for now. No training.”

Gyro looked at Marshal very seriously. At this stage in Alejandro's life, a day lost from training was a day counting against his odds of winning.

Marshal said nothing. No one said anything, they just followed Alex. She went in to see Alejandro.

“You will be fine, boy. We will take care of you. You are just a little bit sick. Dr. Ferst is calling another doctor and the other doctor will cure you.” She patted him in the head and Alejandro nudged her. She patted him again and sighed. Then she hugged him. The horse appeared to respond to her.

Going home, you could hear a pin drop. Karen attempted to break the silence. “Melanie called from London . We need to go pick her up at the airport. She'll be arriving in Edinburgh in two hours.”

Alex remained silent. She liked it when Melanie visited. Melanie loved her and always brought her presents from New York . This time Alex didn't say a word. She was very quiet. She was sitting in the middle seat of Marshal's pick-up truck. Marshall suggested Karen take the pick up because it had rained a lot and the road out of the stable was very muddy. She could drop it off in the morning on the way to take Alex to school.

In the truck, Alex leaned to Addy and cuddled close to her. Addy immediately placed her arm over her daughter to comfort her. Addy caressed her back and kissed her on the head. “It will be fine, Little Bit. Have faith!”

Karen was worried also. She looked very serious as she drove focused only on the road. She looked at Addy. They didn't need to say anything to know how worried they were. Just one look was enough.

**

They picked up Melanie at the airport and Addy immediately explained the gloomy faces. In the car going back to the cottage there was conversation but everyone's mind was focused on the next day when Dr. O'Malley would come to see Alejandro.

The next day Marshal called. “ Addy Dr. O'Mally is coming today at 1 pm. I scheduled the initial appointment at that time because I thought it better that Alex was at school in case we get bad news.”

“Well thought, Marshal. Thanks. We'll be there.”

They were there at 12:30 talking to Marshal, when a yellow and very muddy pick-up truck approached the main stable house. A red haired woman got out of the truck. She was most likely in her late forties and wore faded blue jeans and a dark brown sweater. Her face was full of freckles.

“Good afternoon. I'm Victoria O'Mally and I believe you are expecting me.” She gave a slight smile.

When Dr. Ferst mentioned Dr. O'Mally, he did not mention that the doctor was a woman. And even thought her appearance was somewhat ragged, she was attractive.

“Hi.” Addy replied. “Sorry we were not expecting a woman. Dr. Ferst didn't—.”

“Yeah, I get that a lot. I guess most women vets are out tending cats and dogs and none of them care to mess around with horses or cows, but what can I say? I'm a country girl?”

They all laughed. Especially Melanie, and the doctor noticed.

“Well, let me introduced ourselves. I'm Addy, this is my partner Karen, this is Marshal and this here is Melanie our friend who is visiting from the States.”

Melanie immediately extended her hand, much to the doctor's delight. All others said their greeting as well.

“Yes, Dr. Ferst told me about you and about the situation with Alejandro. May I take a look at him?”

“Sure, come this way.” They all walked inside the stable towards Alejandro's stall. She went inside and patted him down.

“Beautiful horse.” She kept feeling him. Alejandro seemed to like her touch, although he twitched a bit. “Easy boy, easy.”

Melanie appeared to be transfixed as she watched the woman feel her way around the horse. Karen noticed and smiled.

“I'm going to have to run some tests on him. I came prepared for everything since Dr. Ferst had already told me the situation. I'd like to get started and begin treating him immediately. The sooner we start the sooner he will be up and running again.”

Addy and Karen looked at each other surprised.

Dr. O'Malley began to speak. The more she said the more the women smiled. Melanie continued to be mesmerized. This horse doctor appeared to know what she was talking about and everyone was feeling better already.

“Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH) also known as bleeding or a bleeding attack happens to horses that engage in short periods of strenuous exercise. It's the presence of blood in the airways of the lung in association with exercise.” She paused. “It could be serious if recurrent, but all race horse usually have isolated episodes. So yes, it's treatable. There are a wide variety of treatments from resting to the use of anti-inflammatories, like corticosteroids, bronchodilators, anti-hypertensive agents, conjugated estrogens, like Premarin, antifibrinolytics, aspirin, vitamin K, bioflavinoids, diuretics, nasal strips, concentrated equine serum and omega-3 fatty acids , and even snake venom. Some of these treatments are non-effective, others are not recommended and others are illegal.” She chuckled.

They were impressed with her knowledge, but the truth was that no one understood a thing she said.

“So, are you saying that he can recover from this?”

“Of course!”

That is all Alex needed to hear as she walked into the stables. It had been a short school day and since they had the doctor's appointment, Karen had asked James to pick Alex up from school. Only James, JP and Marshal were allowed that privilege. The school had special permission for her release to them only. All of them took the matter very seriously as they felt privileged.

“So he's going to be able to run again?” Alex asked the doctor with her cute little voice, but sounding a lot like a grown up.

“I guess you must be Ms. Alexandra?”

“Yes, but you can call me Alex. Alejandro is my horse.”

“And a beautiful one he is. Yes, Alex, I will run some tests and will start treating him. By the way, I'm Dr. O'Mally, and I will be very glad to take care of Alejandro. Now what I would like everyone to do is to leave me alone with him, so that I can get started. Marshal, I may need some help from you to run the tests.”

“Is he going to be in pain with what you are going to do to him?”

“Well, of course not, Alex. I'm here to make him feel better not worse.”

“Good. Can I talk to him for a few minutes to tell him? He likes it when I tell him things.”

Dr. O'Mally chuckled. “Sure Alex. I'll give you guys some privacy. I'll come back in a few minutes when you come out, okay?”

“Okay. Thanks.”

The three women were by the door and heard the entire conversation. Marshal had gone off to tend the other horses in order to come back later and help Dr. O'Malley.

“Thanks, Dr. O'Mally. Alex thinks she can talk to him.” Karen then looked at the other women.

“I actually think he understands her. He sort of reacts to her talk.” Addy commented and everyone laughed.

“Addy, Alex is adorable. I'm sure Alejandro is crazy about her.” Melanie spoke and looked at Dr. O'Mally who couldn't take her eyes of her.

“So, Melanie where about in the States are you from? I need to get stuff from my truck. Would you help me?”

“Sure. I'm from the DC area.” Melanie walked with her toward the doctor's pick-up truck. Karen and Addy looked at each other and smiled. “Umm, I wonder what happens when a vet and psychiatrist get together? Do you think that she might be family?”

Karen chuckled. “I don't know, and although I find the question interesting. I don't think we need to find out just yet, Ms. Addy. I think we need to let things flow and see what's going on. Especially, because we know nothing about the doctor and we shouldn't start assuming anything”

Addy chuckled. “Why! Ms. Larsen, are you insinuating that I might meddle?”

Karen gave her the look raising her eyebrows in jest. “Don't!”

Addy spun her around and laced her arm through Karen's to walk toward their car. Both were smiling as they held on to each other. They were waiting by the car when they saw Alex come out of the stable and walk directly to the doctor to speak to her.

“I just want to let you know that he's scared. He said he feels fine now, but his chest hurt when he ran the last bit of track and he is afraid that you are going to hurt him.”

Dr. O'Mally looked very serious. Melanie was closely watching.

“You know what, Alex? I would like you to go in there with me and tell Alejandro what I tell you, Okay.”

Alex was overjoyed with the doctor's response.

“Thanks, Dr. O'Mally. I think people don't believe me when I tell them that I can talk to him.”

“Well, Alex, that's because most people don't have the love for horses that you and I have. I think they are very special intelligent animals.”

“Alejandro sure is!”

Melanie was delighted with the conversation going on. She stopped and headed towards Addy and Karen.

“Where are they going?” Karen asked.

“If I didn't know she was a vet, I would have thought she was a child psychologist. She is going to have Alex reassure Alejandro that she will not hurt him while trying to cure him. You see, Alex said that Alejandro told her that he was afraid.”

Addy and Karen chuckled. “That child has a way to get to people.”

Karen looked at Addy and thought ‘just like you!' She took her arm from Addy's and wrapped her arms around her bringing her closer and then kissed her behind her ear.

Melanie smiled. She loved to see her friends always so loving and happy.

“Bye, Dr. O'Malley.” Alex came out of the stable and walked towards her moms.

“Bye Alex.” Then she talked to Addy and Karen. “I'll stop by your house later to talk some more.” She spoke to them, but then addressed Melanie. “Are you staying with them, Melanie?”

“Yes.”

“I guess I'll see you there as well.”

In the car, Karen kidded her. “Looks like the doc doesn't like to waste time.”

“No she said the sooner she gives him medicine, the sooner he will feel better. I like Dr. O'Mally. I think she's a good doctor.” Alex thought that Karen was talking about the doctor and Alejandro when in fact she was talking about the doctor and Melanie.

“Yes, I think we like her too, Alex.” Karen looked in the rear mirror at a very smiley Melanie sitting next to a very smiley Addy.

**

To be continued in Part 7.

 

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