“She talked to me today, Storm,” Javan said to his horse as he hobbled into the barn. “She knows my name and everything. I thought playing football would get her attention, but it turns out all I needed to break my leg.”
Storm snorted, and Javan laughed. “I guess I do have you to thank. Had you not thrown me off of you, I never would have broken my leg, and she never would have asked about my cast.”
The black horse kicked his front legs in the air and spun around in his stall.
“What’s that?” Javan asked. “You want me to take you for a ride so you can break my other leg?”
Storm glared at him.
“Okay. So that’s not what you’re thinking. You do want to go for a ride, though, right?”
Storm shook his head and stomped his feet.
“I guess you haven’t gotten much exercise since I broke my leg.” Javan rubbed the horse’s neck. “To be fair, neither have I thanks to this cast. I had to watch football practice from the stands today. Gavin might be taller and stronger than me, but he’s stupid and slow and doesn’t throw with much accuracy. I’d be a much better quarterback than him. I just can’t prove it until next season.”
He couldn’t even practice throwing as long as half his right leg was covered up by a heavy cast. Unless…
Javan looked at the bag of footballs sitting in the corner, then at Storm. What if Storm could be his legs until he got his cast off? Besides, how much fun would it be combining his two favorite things: riding his horse and throwing footballs?
Within fifteen minutes, Javan was in his practice field and discovered that throwing footballs from atop Storm was way more fun than he had imagined. He felt like a giant from the back of the beast, and being able to throw at his scarecrow targets from above them rather than parallel to them made him feel powerful.
Only throwing at stationary targets from a stationary horse wasn’t enough of a challenge. After a few days of practice, he was hitting every target he aimed at every single time. He wanted his targets to move like actual receivers on a football team, but that wasn’t an option for his scarecrows. So he decided to see how fast he could ride Storm and still hit his targets.
Mastering his ability to hit whatever target he aimed at while riding a sprinting horse became his new obsession. Even after he got his cast off, he couldn’t wait to get home from school, snag his footballs and hop on Storm.
They would ride through the field and into the mountains. He would throw at the scarecrows. Then trees. Then branches. Then leaves. He would try to ride faster and hit a smaller target every time out.
When the snow began falling in the winter and slowed Storm’s ability to run, Javan used the environment to his advantage. Being able to throw with accuracy in the cold became the new challenge, but he was ready for the warmth of spring when the snow finally began to melt.
He was also ready to talk to Julianne again. Other than exchanging nods and waves in passing in the hallway, they hadn’t spoken since that first day of school. But now eighth grade was almost over, and their last dance of their junior high career was approaching.
So this time he would start the conversation, and this time he was going to ask her to go to the spring dance with him.