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Eight years earlier
To my dear and quite honestly my only friend Kelsey,
I didn't mean to sound so dramatic up there but ever since I received your penpal letter those few months ago, I have found peace and longing by it. The way you described your family ranch was a great contrast from this mausoleum I call a home. As you know today is my eighteenth birthday. Not much to celebrate when life has been planned for you since you were sixteen. I envy you Kels. I know you do go through the same pain of loss as me but at least you have somewhere to go, something to do when you feel trapped.
It's been three days. It feels like forever. Around this time daddy will be barging into my room and dragging me to the stables or sneak us to the mall or something. He wanted me to grow up as he did back in New Jersey. It still surprises me that he built all of this to make his family back then happy and kept at it to make my mother and myself happy. I miss him so much. I magically hoped that mother and I will get closer because we lost someone so close and dear to us but I was wrong.
My schedule got longer and much more tedious. I found out yesterday that she applied to Princeton for me to attend my college years. I did not dare tell her that daddy and myself sent in applications to Cornell and the University of California. Only he knew my love for animals led me to be a vet. If she knows, I won't hear the end of her tirade. I still sneak out to go to the clinic. Hiram said daddy put things in place for me to go.
I'm engaged. Well about to be at my birthday ball tonight.
Yes, that should have been the first thing to tell you but it isn't a happy moment for me. Mother's best friend 'chose' me to be her son's 'perfect wife.' Look up the name Dominic Heath and you will know why. Apparently, I am the type of girl her son needs to settle down with. They both have it all planned. Court for two years and by my 21st birthday I am to be married. Don't worry, you are invited. You're my only support through this. If daddy was alive he would have forbidden it. No one messes with Michael Rysdale's daughter. I'm laughing yet crying at that memory when he exploded at a ball. Mother was mortified. The boy who began to spread rumors about me never knew what hit him.
I have to be strong now Kels. Daddy is no longer here to fight my battles. I'm no longer daddy's girl.
Now enough about me.
How are you? I watched your competition. Congratulations!! (Your gift should be accompanying this letter.) I'm so proud of you and pretty impressed you nailed my signature jump. You looked great. Was your father shocked? I know you told me he was begging to see your practice sessions. Did Corey tag along with you? Is he still ignoring you? Give it time. He's probably intimidated by the fact that you are his boss' daughter. That's a sure sign of respect. Take that in stride sweetie. Give your heart and his some time. From your description of his kindness to your father and the older ranch hands including Mama Roarke he's a keeper. He didn't return your gift so I count that too as a plus. I'm actually smiling now the first real smile since daddy's funeral. Thinking of your ranch and all that open space to ride makes me happy somewhat. I promise to visit. I have to go now. Mother just reminded me of my dance session. One can never tire of the waltz she said.
Your Dutiful paper friend,
P.S. Don't forget to write your brother. He will like to hear about the competition.
To my best friend miles away,
You are an engaged woman at the age of eighteen. Very 15th Century isn't it?! I saw your 'intended' on the internet. Handsome but full of himself. They say you can't believe anything on the internet but you will sure as hell believe it when there's an R-Rated video of it. I'm sorry Mik. I wish you can come to the ranch to escape but your mother probably hired guards for you.
You're sad and I'm not there to help you through this ordeal. I felt your pain when you called and told me the news of your dad. It took me back when I lost my mom freshman year. You will survive. I know you can. Your father is right Mikel. You are stronger than you look. Don't let anyone change that. Not even your mother. I know you're not this high society chick, the type of girl your mom wants you to be. You are your father's child through and through. I can tell how close you two were by the way you talked about him and the pictures you shared. I saw that love so clear in the pictures. It's similar to the one I share with pops. Oh and yeah he was hella shocked. He kept on nagging me wanting to know who taught me that. Poor old man.
I LOVE MY NEW SADDLE!!!
You're the best Mik. I will use it on Black Dahlia every competition. Custom made. WOW!!! Now I gotta one up my gifts. Can you believe that we have been only friends for a few months but seems like ages? I like that. I wish we were going same colleges. If Princeton accepts you will you go? Do they have a veterinarian department there? What I want is for you to go with your choice. Not hers. I got accepted to Montana State. Close to home and I can keep competing. I want to learn more about ranching. Pops was proud. Have you ever seen a grown ass man cry? That was my pops. Deep down I know he feels I applied there because of Killian no matter how many times I deny it. Big brother really hurt pops. His signing up for the Army caused a rift leaving me in the middle. Killian loved the ranch but loved the world more. I hope he's safe.