The next morning everything seemed to be back to normal. Owen and Tracey had disappeared to the stables before first light while Caitlyn, appearing to be her usual cheery self, had followed at a more respectable hour after a decent breakfast.
At the stables Caitlyn watched the horses being put through their paces as she made her way to the hospital where Jackknife was recovering.
"Caitlyn!" Harry greeted with a cheery voice.
"Good morning Harry. How's our patient doing?"
"Come and see for yourself." He waved her over to the stall where he was standing.
Jackknife was standing in his stall with his head over the door watching the activity around him with bright eyes. An almost identical horse was also in the stall.
"Who's this?" Caitlyn asked indicating Jackknife's stallmate.
"That's Trailor, Jackknife's twin," Harry replied. "They're inseparable."
Both horses stretched their needs closer to Caitlyn and blew warm air at her. She laughed and scratched them both between the eyes.
"Seems you've made two new friends," Harry joked.
It was long past dark when Tracey, Owen and Caitlyn finally made their way back to the house.
The following morning found Tracey and Owen again trying to sneak out of the house before dawn without waking anyone. But someone had risen before them.
"Stop right there!" a voice commanded and got the reaction only a mother's voice could, utter obedience.
The kitchen table lamp was clicked on revealing a bag on the table and Leo standing next to it.
"Here." She thrust the bag at Owen. "Now scoot. I've got plans for your sister today."
"Thanks Mom," Owen replied as he dashed out the door.
Traitor, Tracey thought to herself as she watched him leave.
"There's coffee in the pot," Leo said as she sat at the table.
An hour later Caitlyn came down the stairs to find Tracey sitting sullenly at the kitchen table while Leo puttered around the kitchen, generally getting in the way of her staff.
"Morning Caitlyn," Leo replied. "Come. Sit. Eat some breakfast," she said putting a plate on the table next to Tracey. "What'll you have?"
Later, as Caitlyn nursed a cup of coffee, Leo joined them at the table.
"Devil and Top are at the house stables," Leo started. "Here's lunch." She dumped a pair of saddle bags on the table. "You," she indicated Tracey, "Need to take a break so I want you to take Caitlyn out and show her more of the farm. I don't want to see either of you before supper." She took the coffee cups from Caitlyn and Tracey. "Now go! Shoo!"
Tracey knew better than to argue with her mother, picked up the saddle bags and indicated that Caitlyn should precede her out of the kitchen.
The walk to the stables was made in an awkward silence.
At the stables Tracey dropped the bags outside Devil's stall before leading the way to the tack room, where she handed Top's tack to Caitlyn before fetching Devil's.
Caitlyn stood there for a moment. "You don't have to do this if you don't want to."
Tracey merely walked past and began saddling Devil.
"Oh well, I guess we're going riding."
A short while later Tracey led the way along a riding path that guests normally used.
It wasn't long before Caitlyn's nature got the better of her and the silence was filled with chatter.
At first Tracey found Caitlyn's endless talking quite annoying but as she listened she realised that it wasn't just mindless talking. By lunch she found herself beginning to relax and she started pointing things out to Caitlyn: a herd of springbuck in the distance, the farm's infamous albino ones among them; interestingly coloured birds; a kudu hiding in some brush.
The next morning Tracey and Owen were allowed to sneak out to the stables. There was even food prepared for them, but the following morning the light clicked on as they entered the kitchen.
Resignedly Tracey waved Owen on before dropping into a seat at the table.
Two days later only Owen came down before dawn and as Caitlyn finished her breakfast Tracey showed up at the door with Devil and Top already saddled.
As they rode off Leo allowed her smile of delight to show.
She had seen Tracey begin to relax around Caitlyn and Caitlyn was losing the haunted look that had appeared with the inspector's visit. Leo felt that while she might not have gotten anywhere with either of the girls, hopefully they would help each other.
This ritual continued on, with Tracey and Caitlyn unknowingly growing closer.
At first Caitlyn found that she started getting grunts to some of her comments. Then Tracey started to smile at some of her jokes.
When Tracey realised how much Caitlyn enjoyed the bird life around them she started to carry a bird book on their rides so that she could point out anything interesting to Caitlyn, showing them to her in the book.
And so it continued. Tracey and Caitlyn went out riding every second day exploring the farm and growing closer as friends.
Over a week passed and Tracey began to worry. Everything was too perfect, something had to happen. And happen it did.
To be continued…