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A Learning Experience Part 6


Renee tapped the steering wheel as she waited at the traffic light. She couldn’t wait to see David again. They had made plans to meet up in Grand Rapids today at two-thirty. It had been exactly a week since their first face-to-face meeting. Nervousness settled in the pit of her stomach. The green light blinked on and Renee took the turn wide to give her small horse-trailer plenty of room. Her GPS voiced the directions to the address David had given her. After taking a few back roads, she carefully entered a small driveway and pulled up into the wide, gravel parking area. She lined up the trailer, put her Equinox in park, and hopped out of the vehicle. David’s vehicle was not in the lot yet. But Renee had arrived a little bit early. She glanced at her watch. It was not quite two twenty-five.

Seven minutes later, the gray Forrester ground to a halt in the space next to Renee’s vehicle. David slid his lanky body out of the vehicle, offering Renee a small smile.

“I got held up by some slow-moving cars.” David began apologetically.

“Don’t worry about it.” Renee grinned at him. “What’s two minutes?” She approached the back of her trailer and lifted the latch. Cinnamon shifted in the trailer to peer at Renee. She untied his rope and gently led him out into the sunlight.

“This is Cinnamon.” Renee ran her hand along the bay quarter-horse’s shimmering neck.

“Nice to meet you, buddy.” David offered his hand, palm up. Cinnamon stretched his neck forward and snuffled at the man’s fingers. David calmly stroked the horse’s nose and then turned to Renee.

“I want you to meet Murray.” He grabbed his cowboy hat from his vehicle as Renee led Cinnamon into the barn and tied him in one of the grooming bays. After retrieving her tack and supplies from her trailer, she deftly ran a curry comb over the smooth, dark colored hair.

“This is Murray.” David came to a stop near the bay she was in. Standing next to him was a large boned black horse, probably sixteen hands.

“Looks like he’s Friesian and Quarter-horse?” Renee queried.

“You got it.” David beamed. “He’s amazing.”

“He sure looks it.” Renee admired the majestic animal, running a hand over his glossy, black coat. Then she stepped back as David moved away with Murray. Renee resumed grooming Cinnamon as David tied his horse in the next stall over. Her horse’s coat shone. She carefully slid the saddle pad into place and then lifted the saddle over his back, gently lowering the cinch. From the horse’s left side, she reached under his belly, grabbed the cinch, and looped the billet strap through the metal ring on the cinch. She then threaded it through the metal ring on the saddle. After looping it through a couple times and pulling it snug, she tied it to the ring on the saddle in knot just like a man’s tie.

She followed David to the arena, leading Cinnamon behind her. He pulled the wooden, sliding door open and led Murray in. The sand was soft under her feet as she stepped into the arena. White squares with dressage numbers were evenly spaces along the left and right walls. The sunlight streamed in through the screen above the walls. In the far back of the arena, a large gate was the barrier between inside and outside.

“Go ahead and warm him up.” David smiled at her. He loosened his thirty-foot rope in his hand. Renee led Cinnamon to a section of the arena and began doing some simple ground exercises with him. After a while, she placed a foot in the stirrup and mounted. She began riding in the figure-eight pattern she had been working on at home.

“That looks nice. If you want, I could give you some pointers.” David rode over from the other side of the arena.

“Certainly!” Renee beamed. “That would be nice.” David grinned, and then went back to working with Murray. For a while, only the scratch of the sand under the hooves broke the stillness in the air. They were in separate areas of the arena, with silence between them, yet they were riding together. Renee was enjoying this time spent with her new friend. She didn’t know him quite well enough to make a judgement on his character, but he seemed nice.

Renee tied Cinnamon’s rope and then exited the trailer. “Thanks for inviting me to come ride with you.”

“Of course!” David leaned on the side of the trailer as she latched the door. She smiled, and then slid behind the wheel of her vehicle. David waved, opened his door, and lowered himself into his car. Renee watched the Forrester drive away. As she put her Equinox into gear, she hoped he was the great guy he appeared to be.

The small wheels screeched as Renee turned the rickety shopping cart down the soup and pasta aisle. She shopped with her mom every Friday afternoon for groceries.

“What are we getting in this aisle?” Renee turned to her mom. Mama dug into her purse. The piece of paper she pulled out was folded in half and had her list on one side and scribbled numbers and math problems on the other. She always made her lists on leftover scraps from helping Bobby with his homework.

“Spaghetti noodles, chicken broth, and tomato sauce.” Mama tucked the paper back into her purse as Renee resumed moving down the aisle. The young woman grabbed the items off the shelf and placed them in the cart.

“We can’t forget to get gluten-free noodles.” Renee turned the corner and started down the next aisle. Mama nodded.

“Yes, and we have to get some more of your flour. It’s almost gone.” The short lady reached up to grab a jar of natural peanut butter without sugar or hydrogenated oils. Her fingers just brushed the edge of the metal shelf. “Could you reach that for me?” She tossed the words over her shoulder as she walked away.

“Yep.” Renee easily took the jar off the shelf.

“Are you enjoying getting to know David now that you are seeing each other face-to-face?” Mama placed a bottle of organic apple cider vinegar and a bottle of organic extra virgin olive oil in the cart.

“Yeah.” She pushed her long, blond hair back from her face. “I’m thinking I will invite him to walk around downtown Fremont and visit the various shops.”

“That sounds like a good idea, as long as it’s not too cold.” Mama stated matter-of-factly.

“Yeah. Then we’re going eat supper with everyone.” Renee turned onto the gluten free aisle.

“Good idea.” Mama placed a bag of gluten-free flour and a box of gluten-free spaghetti noodles in the cart. “That way he can meet most of your siblings and June.” Andrew and Julianne had returned home a few days ago.

After finishing with the cashier, Mama walked next to Renee as she pushed the cart out to the car. They loaded the groceries into the cargo area of the vehicle.

“Let’s get home and make some supper!” Renee drew her keys from her coat pocket and slid behind the wheel of her Equinox. Mama slid into the passenger seat and fastened her seatbelt.

“Spaghetti here we come!” They both laughed.

David pulled open the wooden door and paused, allowing Renee to step through into the general store before him. She smiled at his chivalry. There were not many men in the world who were willing to be kind and unselfish.

“This is one of my favorite shops here.” She slowly moved through the shop. David followed along behind her.

“I can see why.” He stopped at a painting hanging on the wall. “I’ve been to this place.”

“That’s the lighthouse in Grand Haven, correct?” She let her gaze linger on the image. Waves crested onto the golden sand. The red lighthouse stood at the end of the docks, casting a beam of light across the water. “It’s beautiful.” She smiled up at David and then resumed strolling among the merchandise. Hand-crafted dishes and mugs were set up on tables in the middle of the shop. Renee moved past them towards the scarf and gloves section. She trailed her fingers along a satiny, pink fashion scarf.

“If you would like to buy something, I’ll get it for you.” David’s voice came from behind her. She turned around.

“Thank you.” She turned to him and smiled gratefully. “It’s very pretty, but I don’t think I’d wear it very much.”

“Well, if you find something, don’t hesitate to ask.” He returned her smile. They continued meandering through the shop but left empty-handed.

“The last shop for today is the chocolate shop.” Renee grinned. She loved Sarah’s Sweet Shop. The bell jingled as David opened the door. The scents of chocolate, cinnamon, and peppermint filled the air. David meandered towards the chocolates section.

“What are you looking at?” Renee queried. He pointed at the fudge.

“I don’t eat sweets much, but I love fudge.” He looked down at her.

“Ooh, I love fudge too.” She grinned. After talking with the cashier, they each chose a few flavors to try and then headed to his vehicle. David had picked her up from her house for their outing.

“I think we should wait until after Christmas to officially start dating.” David turned towards her as they reached his Forrester.

“Yeah, that sounds smart.” Renee hesitated next to the car as he opened the passenger door for her. “I am old fashioned, though. So, you will need to ask my dad if you can date me before you ask me to be your girlfriend.”

“I totally agree.” David reassured Renee. “I was going to ask your dad first, already.”

Renee and David stepped through the front door and were immediately swarmed with Renee’s family. Dad stretched out his hand to the young man. “Nice to see you again.” He gave a welcoming smile as they shook hands. George stepped forward and stuck his hand out next.

“Hey, I’m George.” He took shook David’s hand exuberantly. “I’ll take your coat.” After Jay introduced himself, Renee led David into the living area to introduce him to her youngest brother. Bobby was playing Mario Kart on the Wii.

“Hey, bud.” Renee tussled the boy’s hair.

“Hi. I’m Bobby.” The young teenager bounced on the couch as he shook David’s hand. He launched into describing his game and had nearly convinced David to play with him when Mama called them for supper.

“Looks like I’ll have to play next time.” David winked at Bobby.

“Yeah!” His eyes sparkled with anticipation.

Renee stepped into the dining room. The table was laden with steaming food. Delicious aromas filled the air. She quickly pulled out a chair and sat. David sat next to her.

“Let’s begin with prayer.” Dad held Mama’s hand at the head of the table. Everyone bowed their heads. “Dear Lord, thank you for this food and this beautiful day. And thank you for allowing us to spend some time to get to know David. Help our conversations to glorify you. In Jesus precious Name, amen.” As soon as Dad finished praying, George began passing the food around the table. Renee took the plate of chicken, placed a leg and a thigh on her plate, and passed it to David. The food continued around the table. Everyone piled meat, mashed potatoes, and veggies on their plates. Renee handed the last dish to David, but he passed it on without taking any food from it.

“Do you not care for green beans?” She inquired.

“Nope. I don’t like any vegetables.” He took a bite of the chicken. “I don’t like fruit either, except for apples. And I’ll only eat those if they’re peeled and sliced.”

“Wow.” She took a bite of her beans. Well, even more for me, I guess. She smiled to herself.

After supper, David took his leave. He had a long drive back to Grand Rapids. Renee said goodbye to him at the door and then waved to him as he drove away. She really liked him a lot. She realized that if he asked her after Christmas, she would agree to be his girlfriend. It scared her a little, but not in a bad way. She really was ready for this.

© 2020 Tori Leumas

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