Nate grabbed my leg as I was getting out of the truck. One foot on the ground, I looked back at him curiously. “Are you okay? I mean, you seemed really shook up this morning – even worse than normal – and I know you rode out some of your tension, but… You’d tell me if there was something going on, right? Something more than usual?”
I knew he was concerned. It wasn’t like Nate to question something after it was over. He was the one that moved on and flowed with things. I was the overanalyzer. But I wasn’t ready yet to share this situation with anyone, but Star. So I told him something else that was also at the forefront of my thoughts.
“I’m going to talk with social services and see if I can find out any more about my parents and where I came from. For some reason, this is really important to me.” I could see the surprise in his eyes at my words. I had had a strict no talking about the bio parents for as long as I could remember. But what I said was true. I wanted to know about them and it seemed really important to me to find out. Especially with the dreams. Maybe insanity ran in my family and I didn’t know it.
“Do you want me to go with you?” Nate was great that way. He knew that there was more going on, but he would go with the subject that I voiced and support me a hundred percent.
“Yeah, I would like that. I don’t know when yet, but soon.” I put my hand on his where it rested on my thigh and squeezed. I wanted him to know that I appreciated him and the safe space that he helped to provide me. He was a safe space to me.
“Not a problem. Let me know when.” He removed his hand and got out his side of the truck, slinging his backpack over his shoulder as he did so. “Are we meeting in the cafeteria after class? Jarrod and Bryan should be there. I don’ t know what Gabby’s schedule is, but I know that Jodie and Jeff don’t have class today. Jarrod said that Bryan is having some trouble with his economics class and wanted to set up a study group.”
We were walking along wending our way to the two large buildings that held our first class. His was in the one on the right and mine was on the left and one building over. I pulled out my IPod as we were walking and talking. “Yeah, I was planning on meeting in the cafeteria. We have that jackpot coming up and Cheryl left a message on the phone at home saying she’s got another horse for me. I wanted to talk to you about it.” My mind always seemed to stray back to horses. It was a good thing I was planning on working in the industry, I thought.
As we hit the spot where we each went a different direction, I waved, then put my earbuds in keeping the volume low so that I could still hear if I needed to. I was going through my plans for the rest of the day and my other training sessions as I walked to class. I still had two horses to work with this afternoon and evening. My classes ended around five which would leave me time for a quick bite to eat before I headed back to the barn for the rest of my training.
The first horse was easy. Ace was past his initial nervousness about putting on the saddle and bridle and was now working on getting his posture correct to carry a person. Lady was going to be my challenge. I had been working with Lady for only two weeks, but we’d made significant progress considering that she was terrified of absolutely everything when Cheryl brought her to me.
Lady was a trauma victim and her situation was part of the reason that I wanted to finish my business degree and open a horse rescue and rehabilitation center. I was good at what I did having the resources that no one else had. I knew I could make a success of it given the chance.
I looked up, startled out of my thoughts. I glanced around looking for someone that I recognized or who was looking at me trying to get my attention. Everyone seemed to be walking along as usual. No one seemed to be trying to get my attention or was looking in my direction. I shrugged and kept going. I was jumpy these days, what with the dreams and tense feelings I was carrying around with me lately. It was probably nothing, but my imagination.
Ivy Rose, come back.
Okay, now what? I turned around thinking someone was playing a trick on me. I recognized the voice, although I couldn’t seem to place a face to it. I could see one of the gang thinking it was funny. As soon as I stopped and turned, I almost ran into someone.
“Careful.” The kid was obviously younger than me, but spoke sternly, like he was a little annoyed at having almost run into me.
“Sorry, I thought I heard something.” I appologized as quickly as I could and turned back around to continue heading for class. I couldn’t imagine why I was now hearing things, but it seemed like par for the course, lately. I would ignore it. I had other things to keep my mind busy.
I made my way into the building along with the others that were heading to classes here. I went up the two flights of stairs to the second floor and walked down the hall. I actually liked my Marketing class. There were so many great ideas that I could utilize. Starting college later than most of the kids in my class, I knew what I was here for and what I wanted to get out of it. Most of the kids in my classes were straight out of high school and were just following some laid out plan.
I sat at a desk in the middle of the room. I didn’t like to be up front, but if I was in the back I had to put up with those that were here to goof off. The middle was a good spot for me to observe from. I pulled out my notebook and one earbud from my ear. The remaining earbud would help to cut the noise of others in the room.
As the instructor moved to the front of the room, I heard it again. I pulled out my earbud and glanced behind me. No one was looking in my direction. I was getting a creepy feeling that there was something wrong with me. Why was I hearing things? If I told someone that I was hearing a voice say my name, they’d think I needed counseling or drugs for psychosis. I really didn’t need this right now.
As the instructor talked about marketing and the benefits of public surveys, I spaced out thinking about the weird things that were going on. The dreams were one thing, but now the feeling of anxiety and terror that was coming along with them and, most recently, the voice calling my name. I needed to talk with someone to assure myself that I was not, in fact, going crazy. Something was happening with me and I needed help handling it.
I didn’t know if I was ready to talk with Nate, but if not him, then who? There was no one else that I was as close to. I refused to talk with a professional. They would just think that I was crazy. A sudden thought struck me: maybe I was crazy. Maybe that was why this stuff was all hitting now. I thought back to try to figure out what would have been the trigger to set off the psychotic episode. I didn’t see that I was doing anything new or different. Unless I had ingested something, psychosis wasn’t the right answer.
But if not, then what was? There had to be someone I could talk to about this, but who would have gone through something like this? I couldn’t think of anyone. Maybe this was just an added incentive to push up my timing to check into the records with social services. Surely there was something there that they would be able to tell me. Maybe there was family somewhere that had experience with this type of thing. Maybe they would hold the answers I was looking for.
This line of thought felt right. I would have to let Nate know that I wanted to check into those records sooner than I had originally thought. I wondered if he would let me get away with not telling him the reason for the shift in timing.
As the others in the class started to shift, gathering their books and bags, I realized that I had spaced off throughout the entire class. Crap! That just meant that much more homework. With my scholarship, I couldn’t afford to let my grade slip. I needed that money to help supplement what I made training.
I gathered my stuff and headed out the door to my next class. I made sure to pay attention in this class. It was two hours of lecture, but at least I had plenty of notes when I was done. It also helped that I didn’t once hear my name during that time.
When I finally made it to the Quad, there seemed to be hundreds of other students there. The tables were upstairs next to the cafeteria. I made my way with the crush of bodies upstairs. I needed water and really wanted an apple, so I walked over to the lines in the cafeteria. After purchasing the items that I wanted, I started to make my way over to the mass of tables that were emptying and filling with students who were either on their way to class or had just gotten out of class. As I stood there for a moment, it occurred to me that it almost looked like schooling fish, the way the bodies moved this way and that.
I jumped, hearing my name again. Then breathed out in a rush as I realized that I had actually heard my name being spoken. Bryan was standing in the back corner of the room, waving frantically to get my attention. I smiled slightly and headed that way.
Bryan was one of the more outgoing members of our group of friends. With his accept-anyone attitude and striking black hair, green eyes combination, the girls really liked him. He was one of those guys that never seemed in want of a date. Nate and I joked that he had a black book that women begged to be added to.
At the moment, he was flipping a chair around to straddle it. He was talking to two other people. Nate’s blond head was nodding and Jarrod was looking around the room. When I reached the table, Jarrod pushed a chair out with his foot.
“So, we were thinking that Friday we’d head out to Wahoo. That’s where you both used to compete, isn’t it?” Bryan was obviously making plans for this weekend already.
“Yeah, we’ve both competed there. I’m kind of surprised that you want to go, though. Aren’t you like the original city boy?” Nate smirked at Bryan.
“Nah, that’s Jarrod. I’m not sure he knows what grass is,” Bryan looked over at Jarrod to gauge his reaction.
Jarrod just shrugged. He was not a particularly vocal person, but he was a great guy. I looked across the table to Nate. “We’re going to Wahoo?”
“Sounds like it. Have anything you want to compete or are we just going as spectators?” Nate was always up for competing in rodeos. I swear he loved getting thrown around by irate horses.
“Spectators. Who else is going besides city boy over there?”
“Good question.” Nate looked to Bryan for further information.
“I was thinking about inviting Jodie along. She always seems to like these things. Oh, and there is a friend of mine from my evening marketing class, Turq, that I wanted to invite.” Bryan turned his green eyes to me before opening his mouth again. “In fact, I was going to talk with you. Turq and I could both use some help with marketing. Think you could fit us in for a study session? There’s a test next week.”
I looked at Bryan with disbelief. “Do you understand how tight my schedule is with work and my own studying?”
Bryan looked almost sheepish as he answered. “Well, yeah, but it could be a study session for you too. Wouldn’t it help you to tutor us on the subject?”
I thought about it for a moment before I answered during which time Bryan started silently begging giving me a puppy-dog face.
“Oh give him a break and squeeze in an hour somewhere. Otherwise, we’ll never hear the end of it.” Nate was laughing at both my pained expression and Bryan’s antics.
I looked over to Jarrod for support, but he was looking across the room and not even paying attention to what was going on at our table. “Fine.” I said it grudgingly. “But it is on my time. You two will have to come out to the barn so that I can work while we study.”
“Awesome. I love you, Ivy.” Bryan leaned across the table and kissed my cheek. “Tell me when and we’ll be there.”
Once Bryan was back in his seat, I said, “Tonight. Call it ten. That way, I can finish up with Lady before you guys get there. I don’t particularly want to end up injured, but I need to clean my tack while we study.” I glanced at the clock on the wall. “I need to move. Nate?” I got out of the chair and looked to see if Nate was heading to class with me. We had the next class together.
Jarrod finally looked back at the table. “Wait up, Ivy, I’ll walk with you guys.” He grabbed his bag and stepped over to where Nate had joined me to head to class. As we walked, Jarrod looked away at the people still milling around. Nate looked at me questioningly and I shrugged. I had no idea if there was something that Jarrod needed or if he was just wanting to walk. “Do you think I could join you guys this evening?” he finally asked, still looking around.
My brow arched as I looked at his profile. His hawk-like features were in sharp contrast to the colors around us as we walked out of the building towards our next class. “Sure. Do you need help?” I realized that he probably wouldn’t want to talk about needing help with classes. He was a straight A student and prided himself on that fact. “Or if you just want to come hang out, that’s cool too. You might be able to help me help them.”
“Cool. You said ten, right? I can give you a ride home if Nate will be gone before we’re done.” Jarrod looked over at Nate and I. I wasn’t sure what to make of this statement. Did he really need help or was something else going on? I would have to find out later.
“I appreciate the offer. We’ll see how it turns out.” I reached out to squeeze his arm. “See you later then.” Nate and I moved away towards our next class as Jarrod strode in the opposite direction. “Well, that was kind of weird. What do you think was up with that?”
Nate glanced behind us. “I don’t know. Not that he’s not a great guy, but he’s never been all that close. Him and Bryan were super close and he’d hang out, but he never sought out anyone else on his own. You’ll have to tell me what’s up.”
I looked at Nate with confusion. Why would I have to tell him? “Ivy… he obviously wants to talk to you about something. So you’ll have to tell me what is going on when he does.”
“Oh.” I didn’t know what else to say. I hadn’t even thought of that. I wondered what he would need to talk to me about. Was he interested in one of my female friends or was something more serious going on? He was so quiet, almost standoffish, that it was hard to know what Jarrod was thinking. As we arrived at class, I thought again that I would have to find out later.