A few weeks before Spring Break of his Junior year at Lancaster Academy, Jesse was sitting in his & Dylan’s room finishing some homework when his phone rang.
“Hey, Trevor.” Even after almost a year, Jesse couldn’t bring himself to address his newfound father as ‘Dad’ or ‘Father’. He had come to terms with the reasons for his growing up not knowing Trevor and loved his new family, but Trevor still felt more like a family friend than a parent. “What’s up? How’re Cole and Julia?”
“Everyone’s fine.” Trevor replied. “They’re both looking forward to you and Dylan coming down. I don’t know if Cole’s going to sleep before then, he’s so excited for his big brothers to visit.”
Jesse laughed. “Tell him his big brothers are excited to see him too.” The boys had decided to split their break between Dylan’s family and the Second Chances gang and Jesse’s family in Florida.
“The reason I called is that I was talking to a friend and he wanted me to extend an invitation to you.”
“What kind of invitation?”
“Well, he runs a stable in Northern England that hires out horses for film and tv.” Trevor explained.
“Stunt men?” Jesse asked, intrigued.
“Well, some of the guys working for him are stunt men, but mostly they provide horses and stand-ins who are better riders than the actors.” Trevor chuckled. “They also do shows all over England during the summer months.”
“What kind of shows?”
“Actually, they do lots of different performances. Some are stunt shows, some renaissance with jousting, some pure dressage, all sorts of different styles of riding and horsemanship.”
Trevor paused. “My friend, Joe Carrington, he takes on a few, ummm, interns every summer and he asked me if you might be interested in joining them. He actually extended the invitation to you and Dylan, but I explained about Dylan wanting to do summer school. He was still very interested in having you come over.”
“Wow, that sounds like fun.” Jesse thought for a moment. ‘If Dylan wasn’t staying this summer, I know we’d both jump at the chance.”
“But, the idea of being apart for the summer.”
“I understand it’s hard for you guys to be apart, but I thought I’d pass along the invitation” Trevor explained. “It’s a great opportunity.”
“It sounds like it.” Jesse paused and thought a moment. “Can I have a few days to think about it and talk to Dylan?”
“Sure. Joe needs to know by the end of next week, though.” Trevor answered. “He gets a list a mile long of applicants, but he’s holding a space for you and Dylan, if he changes his mind about summer school.”
“I know he’s not going to.” Jesse sighed. “He’s determined that we graduate together next year. I keep telling him I’ll wait, but he really wants us to go together”
“As long as he’s not pushing himself too hard.”
“No. His grades are ridiculous considering the course load he’s carrying.” Jesse explained. “Some of the kids think he’s skating in easy classes to get through, but he’s in mostly AP courses and pulling all A’s.”
“How’re your classes going?’
“Good. Mostly A’s, maybe a B-plus or two.” Jesse replied. “Dylan’s more the scholar than I am. I’m happy to just make it through.”
Trevor chuckled. “You got that from me. I’d do what I had to to get through school, but I’d rather have been out riding or running around.”
“That’s me, too.” Jesse felt comforted that there was something he was sharing with his father.
“Well, just let Dylan know about the offer and the two of you talk it over. I’ll e-mail you the details and Joe’s contact information in case you have any questions for him.”
“Ok, sounds good.” Jesse replied. “I appreciate the offer and I’ll be sure to follow up with your friend in the next couple of days.”
After he got off the phone, Jesse went back to finishing his homework. About a half hour later, he received an e-mail from Trevor with the information about the farm in England and the apprenticeship offer. He briefly read it and then opened the attached video.
He laughed at the antics of his six-year-old brother, Cole. No one would believe it had been less than a year since the bone marrow transplant that had sent his leukemia into remission. Instead of the pale gaunt, tired little boy he and Dylan had first met in Florida, Cole was now a rosy cheeked cherub full of energy and high spirits.
“You guys need to get here SOON!!” Cole ordered grinning at the camera. “I can’t wait to see you!!”
He wrote back to Trevor to thank him for the information and he recorded a video message for Cole letting him know that he and Dylan would be down in a couple of weeks and they couldn’t wait to see him either.
He reviewed the e-mail a second time. It looked like a really great way to spend the summer, but he knew Dylan wouldn’t let summer school go and he didn’t want to spend the summer away from him.
He picked up his phone and hit the ‘1’. Almost immediately, there was a connection on the line, and he heard a familiar voice.
“What’s wrong, Jess?”
“Ace, why do you assume something’s wrong?” Jesse replied. “Can’t I just be calling to say ‘hi’?”
“In the middle of a Wednesday?” Ace laughed. “I don’t think so. It’s great to hear from you, but something’s up.”
“How’s Kaya?” Jesse asked, trying to sound nonchalant.
“Kaya’s fine. You should see Idgie just crawling all over her. He toddles all over the place and she’s right there with him. I feel badly for anyone who ever tries to hurt that kid.”
Jesse chuckled. “She was like that with Seb and me, too.” He paused for a moment. “I miss her and Idgie and you guys.” He sighed.
“And we miss you, every day. You know we’re always here for you, so why don’t you go ahead and SPILL IT!” Ace barked.
Jesse inhaled deeply and told Ace about Trevor’s phone call and the summer in England.
“Jesse, that’s so cool.” Ace said. “Maybe your scrawny ass will be in a movie.” He laughed.
Jesse giggled, leave it to Ace. “I don’t think so.”
“But, you’re going, right?”
“Jesse, you’re going…right??”
“I don’t know.”
“How can you not go?” Ace asked, the exasperation in his voice obvious to Jesse. “This is a great opportunity; you can learn so much and see how another farm operates. What does Dylan have to say?”
“I haven’t told him, yet.” Jesse sighed. “I just got the call and he won’t be back for another hour or so, he has his bio lab this afternoon.”
“He’s still planning on summer school, isn’t he?”
“And that’s why you’re hesitating, you don’t wanna leave him alone?”
“I don’t want to be away from him all summer.”
“Think of it this way, he’ll be so busy with summer school, it will give you something to do.” Ace suggested. “I know you’re not any more interested in going to school in the summer than I am.”
Jesse laughed. “Nope.”
“See, this would be like ‘summer school’ and ‘summer camp’ all rolled into one for you.” Ace suggested. “Plus, you know, Dylan would want you to take advantage of this.”
“I guess so…”
“You know so.” Ace interrupted. “So just talk to him about it.”
“Yes, sir.” Jesse replied sarcastically. “Thanks, Ace. Love ya.”
“And I love your scrawny ass, too, Jess.” Ace said as he disconnected the call.
There was a knock on the door as Jesse put his phone down.
“Hey, Nick, what’s up?”
Nick and his roommate Bryant were Jesse and Dylan’s next-door neighbors and they had all become very good friends.
“I was just headed over to the stables and wanted to see if you and Dyl wanted to come along.”
Nick came from a wealthy family and had been excited when the new equestrian team had been started the previous fall. He was good rider but knew he was not at Dylan or Jesse’s level. The three had become the nucleus of the small team.
“Well, Dylan’s in lab for another hour or so and I’ve got two papers to finish so I guess it’s just you right now.”
Nick shrugged. “Ok.” He stood quietly in the doorway with an expectant look on his face.
Jesse looked at his friend and grinned. “Yes, you can take out Jupe.” He laughed. “He needs the exercise.”
Jupiter was Jesse and Dylan’s 18 hand Hanoverian gelding. They were very particular with whom they let ride him, but he and Nick got along famously.
“Thanks.” Nick grinned as he bolted from the room.
When Dylan came into the room after classes, Jesse was laying on the bed contemplating the conversations with Trevor and Ace.
“Hey.” Dylan said quietly leaning down and kissing Jesse. “You napping?”
Jesse shook his head. “No, just thinking.”
Jesse sat up as Dylan crawled next to him on the bed. They had given up the ‘roommate’ pretense early on and pushed the two single beds together. Most of their friends didn’t care and already knew about them being a couple.
“I got a call from Trevor.” Jesse said.
“Everything all right? Cole’s not sick, again is he?”
“No, he’s great.” Jesse chuckled. “We’ve been sending video messages back and forth all afternoon. He’s a little excited about us coming down next week.”
“So, what did Trevor have to say?”
Jesse told Dylan about the farm in England and the offer of an apprenticeship. He explained that the offer was for both, but Trevor had told his friend about Dylan’s summer school.
When Jesse finished, Dylan leaned into him and hugged him tight. “Do you want to go?”
“I don’t want to leave you?” Jesse replied.
“I know that.” Dylan said quietly. “But, do you want to go?”
Jesse was silent for a few minutes. “I don’t know.” He finally said.
Dylan got up from the bed and walked over to his desk. “What’s the name of the place?”
Dylan quickly googled the farm and then spent a few minutes looking over the website.
“Jess, have you looked at this website?” He asked excitedly.
Jesse shook his head. “No.”
Dylan looked at him sitting quietly on the bed and shook his head. “Get over here and look.” He ordered grinning at Jesse.
Jesse walked over to Dylan’s desk and sat on the half of his boyfriend’s chair that he had left.
“Look at all the different breeds they work with.” Dylan said excitedly. “Look, there’s some video links.”
They spent the next hour watching all the videos that were posted to the site. Most featured a handsome young man with light brown hair and warm brown eyes. Both boys were fascinated watching him work with the various horses in the video.
When they finished the last video, Dylan closed the browser and turned to Jesse. “You have to go.” He instructed. He placed a finger over Jesse’s lips as he started to protest. “I’m going to be so busy here this summer. I’m carrying a big class load. You’d be bored. This is such an amazing opportunity. If our places were reversed, I’d go. I love you and I love that you want to stay, but I don’t want to be the reason you don’t go.”
“Ace said you’d say that.” Jesse sighed.
“He’s right.” Dylan grinned, “He’s always right. Show me the e-mail Trevor sent.”
Jesse got his laptop and showed Dylan the e-mail from Trevor.
“Hey, this is for the whole summer.” Dylan said excitedly.
Jesse nodded. “Yah, so…”
“So, summer session is only six weeks from Mid-May to the end of June.”
Jesse looked at Dylan confusion in his eyes.
Dylan laughed and shook his head. “We were gonna spend the second half of the summer at Second Chances.” He stated. “Why don’t I just fly over and spend it with you in England.”
“That would be great, but we’d still be apart for six weeks.”
“Jess, I hate the idea of being apart, but this is too great an opportunity to turn down.” Dylan said emphatically. “There’s too much you could learn and do; you’ll be bored stiff here with me. I’ll be in classes all day.”
“I was gonna work with Tony in the barn while you were in class.” Jesse protested.
“Tony will be fine.” Dylan countered. “He’d tell you to go.”
Jesse shrugged. “ok, I’ll e-mail Trevor’s friend, if he says it’s ok for you to come halfway through then I’ll go.”
A month and a half later, Jesse found himself disembarking a plane at Gatwick Airport.
As he walked off the plane, he saw a young man holding a sign that read ‘J. Osterman’. As he got closer, he recognized the man from the videos he and Dylan had watched countless times online.
“I’m Jesse Osterman”. He said as he approached the taller young man.
“Welcome to England.” The man said with a bright toothy grin. “I’m William Carrington, but everyone calls me Liam.”
“Nice to meet you.” Jesse said as he shook Liam’s outstretched hand. Liam was a little over six feet tall, slender with broad shoulders. He had a healthy bronze tan, medium length light brown hair and deep brown eyes.
“And you.” Liam replied. “I’ve heard a great deal about you from my Dad and yours. They tell me you’re quite a horseman.”
Jesse blushed. “Probably not a good as you if your videos are any indication.” He shrugged.
Liam laughed. “You’ve seen those, huh?”
Jesse nodded. “Yes, my boyfriend and I watched them when Trevor told me about your dad’s offer to come over for the summer.”
“Then you have some idea what we do at the farm.” Liam stated as he led Jesse to the baggage claim. “Let’s get your gear and we can talk more on the way to the farm.”
“Ok. How far is it from here?”
“A few hours’ drive.” Liam explained. “So, we’ll have plenty of time to talk.”
Once they were underway, Jesse asked “So do you mainly do work for tv and movies?”
“I do some,” Liam replied. “But my main focus is dressage and liberty work. I train mostly and then we do some shows at local fairs and gatherings.”
“Oh, I thought you guys supplied horses for films and stuff.”
“We do, at least my father and uncle do.” Liam explained. “They started years ago and I did some stunt work and a few films when I was younger, but as I trained, I became more interested in dressage and liberty, so I train in those areas and dad focuses on the film part of the business. Sometimes we overlap, like if a project needs a ‘wild’ horse, I usually step in with one of my boys since they’re used to working at liberty and can play ‘wild’ for the camera. We’ve got about 50 or so horses right now, most are used for the stunt stuff, I have my own ‘herd’ that I train, and I’m always ‘stealing’ new ones from Dad if I see the potential.”
“So, what will I be doing?” Jesse asked curiously.
“You’re gonna be working with me mostly.” Liam stated. “I know you’re quite the dressage rider and your dad tells mine you’ve quite a knack with horses, so I want to teach you to work at liberty.”
“Sounds like fun.” Jesse replied. “I’ve seen some performers work at liberty, but I’ve never done it myself.”
“Well, now’s your chance.” Liam said. “And when your boyfriend…Dylan?”
“When Dylan gets here, he’ll work with us as well, unless you want to work separately.”
“No, we work good together.” Jesse said quickly.
Liam laughed. “Just teasin’, ya.” He grinned. “Trevor already told me how close the two of you are and how well you work together. He even sent me some videos of you from a couple of shows, you both have a really good foundation. That’s what made me want to offer you two the chance to come over and play this summer.”
“I thought it was your dad that called Trevor.”
“It was, but I was the one who asked him to.” Liam explained. “You see, every summer my dad takes on some working students, but none of them ever seem to work out for me. They do ok with the basic riding, but I’m always looking for something special. A spark. And I saw it in you and Dylan. When I saw the videos of you two, it was the first time I ever asked dad to invite someone. He’s always after me to take on some students so he jumped at the chance to bring you over.”
“So, it will be just Dylan and I working with you?”
Liam nodded. “Yup. My dad has a couple of boys working for him this summer, though, I’m not sure they’re what he needs.”
“He’s got a big shoot coming up and he needs some western type riders.” Liam replied. “What he’s got are a couple of hunter/jumper types who want to play at cowboy, but what he needs is the cowboy.”
“What does he need the cowboy to do?”
“Well, the shoot is for a new American television series. They’re shooting the pilot over here because they got a better tax deal. Dad needs a rider who can double for the star. The kid they hired can ride, but the insurance will only let him do so much, so we need someone who can ride like they were born in the American west.”
Jesse’s eyes lit up. “I think I might be able to help you there.”
“No offense, Jess but you’re a little too small to double for this guy.”
“Not me”, Jesse laughed. “I’m not a cowboy by any stretch, but my friend Ace is, a real-life Texas raised cowboy and he rides like it too.”
“Tell me more.”
“Well, he just graduated High School and is getting ready for college in the fall, but I think he’d be available for the summer.”
“How good a rider is he?”
“The western equivalent of me and Dyl.” Jesse grinned. “He has a big black quarter horse named Bullet and he’s a cowboy through and through.”
“Excellent,” Liam said excitedly, “When we get to the farm, you can give him a call, if he’s interested the quicker, we can get him here the better.”
“I’m sure he’ll come. Will he be working with your dad or you?”
“Actually, both.” Liam replied. “The story is about a young pony express rider who survives an Indian attack and has to make his way back to civilization. He rescues a mustang while in the wilderness. That’s where I come in. I have a buckskin gelding I’ve been training for the part. Ace would work with us and Pico, learning his tricks and getting used to him and then work with my dad and us on the set. We have another buckskin who’ll play the horse for the star, but he’s not liberty trained like Pico is.”
“So, we’ll both get to work on a real movie set?” Jesse asked excitedly.
Liam laughed, “You’re going to have a very full, exciting and, hopefully, educational summer, my friend.”