When school lets out and June slips into July, the lazy summer days become a flurry of activity

When school lets out and June slips into July, the lazy summer days become a flurry of activity. Those who ready themselves for hours of long car rides and two weeks full of competitive teenagers and adults. Life before State College is hectic, but the car rides seem filled with anxiety and anticipation of what is to come. Five long hours it takes to get there, and another five long hours to get back, nothing to do but watch the cars go by.

In a simpler time, traveling so far away was unthinkable, Happy Valley never called our names, Chester County was suitable for our every need. It was a time when thousands of dollars didn't need to be spent, just to get a ribbon, and a person did not have to work for hours every day just to prepare for a show. But as one grows older, the need to see the world, to have your name known, becomes a desire many cannot beat.

It is what drives us, and it was fills the air of a car while driving to State College. A veritable pink elephant, we may all be friends, but in the end, there is only one first place.

Our travelers come from all ages and all personalities. There are the nervous ones, the happy ones, the relaxed ones, and the obsessive ones. The Junior Rider sits in the back happily jamming to an iPod filled with the latest dance songs, ready for the competition she has been preparing for since last year. She knows the routine, and has finally come into her own, she knows she can win. She doesn't care about the others right now, she is entering the zone and won't emerge until the show is over. This is do or die time, she only has one chance to impress the judge.

The Pony rider sits next to her, in the back of the suburban, always anxious. She is only 13 but she already has her name known. Everything about her riding career has been charmed, somehow everything fell into place. She has become a snob, always wanting to win and never accepting defeat. She bashes her fellow competitors, it's her way of preparing herself, and is fine when she is not competing against someone she knows. One could hardly understand the thoughts going through her head.

And our final traveler, the Children's Rider, sits in the back of the car. She hasn't reached the level or maturity that comes from riding at the top levels, she is still on the cusp. This show doesn't change whether she qualifies for indoors or Devon, or even National Championships, all it does is possibly rack up points for yearend awards. She can't concentrate, instead, she sits in the back and makes funny faces at the people driving around her, occasionally playing pranks on the other kids in the car.

This group is strange, no one quite fits together, and yet the similarities hold them close. Every single one of them has blue in their eyes. Every single one knows the glory of eight perfect fences, and every single one wants to make that moment happen.

The second hour of the drive sets in and boredom ensues, the riders look for something to do.

"What can we do?" The junior rider asked, tired of the music she had.

"Cards?" asked the pony rider.

"Stories!" the children's rider said, she loved listening to stories, especially those that the people in the car told.

"Sounds good to me," I said, it would be better than being at each other's throats the whole ride. "Let's lay down some ground rules though."

"No boring stories!" the junior rider added in quickly.

"And they can't take too long." Said the Children's rider.

"I think that's enough," I said, capping the rules so the stories could flow freely. "Why don't you start?" I asked the Junior Hunter Rider.

The Junior Rider Prologue

The Junior Rider was known for her grades in school as well as her dedication to the sport. Her problems all lay in social cues.

She was short, so short people believed her to still be in Middle School even though she only had one year left of high school. She liked to laugh, everything could turn into a joke to her. Things like songs, names, and even facial expressions could be turned into a lasting memory of sidesplitting chuckles.

Everything about the Junior rider was friendly and polite. It took a lot to push her buttons, she was laidback and casual when it came to issues, but social interactions left her red-faced and downcast eyes.

She loved boys most of all and found them a subject she could ponder for hours, whether it be their looks, personalities, or relationships.

She started her story in typical fashion, saying, "I cannot think of any one particular thing that's interesting. And you all know of my boy problems. Gosh, why can't I just shake my tail feather in the right direction? But everyone has these problems, no one lives a charmed life, it's impossible!"

The Children's rider attempted to stifle a giggle, the strife of the Junior rider's love life was a common laughing point for this group. This earned her a rather sharp glare and a playful slap from the Junior rider.

"Look, I can't handle you today, so I'll just get into it."

The Junior Rider's Tale

A few years back, in a small rural area there was a girl who desperately wanted a boyfriend.

"Are we sure this isn't you?" the Pony rider asked, interjecting.

"No, now, let me get on with my story."

She was stuck in the same pool of people. She couldn't get away from her group of friends, or make any new ones. Even though her grade was rather large at two hundred people, everyone knew everyone else.

She ran track and that was her life. She skipped classes to be able to go to meets; she ran all three seasons in cross-country, indoor track, and outdoor track. Every wish she ever made was to have some kind of success in her love life.

Apparently, these wishes did not go unheard. Aphrodite was sitting on Mount Olympus, bored to tears, when she heard the wish for love. She smiled and called to her son Eros, this was the perfect opportunity for some fun.

The girl was enduring yet another day as a high school student, the teasing, the rowdiness, and the gossip. She daydreamed in math class, watching a dove fly across the parking lot and land on top of a streetlight, seeming to watch her.

"Charlotte?" her friend asked, tapping her on the shoulder.

"Hm?" She asked, still watching the snow-white bird.

"Have you heard, we're getting an exchange student!" her friend, Lauren said excitedly.

Charlotte went back to watching the bird and pondered the possibilities of a new student.

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, a boy named Ignacio was dreaming about his trip to America. He was hoping for a fun time that could last in his memories for a lifetime. All he wanted was to make some friends, improve his English, and gain the experience that would gain him admittance to an American college.

Unbeknownst to this Argentinean, he too had been watched. Morpheus, the God of Dreams, had heard his thoughts and desires. Star-crossed teenagers were about to collide.

A week later, Ignacio arrived for his first day at the new American high school with the son of his host family. The son was not exactly a gracious host, he felt as though Ignacio would put a damper on his year. Instead, the Argentinean was let loose, and immediately flocked by girls. He was a bit confused by the rapid English they all spoke at once. He had to stop them, "Could you please say that one at a time?"

They all glanced at each other and began talking to him altogether once more. He groaned and looked up. His eyes locked on a tall thin girl down the hallway to a girl struggling with her book bag. Her hair was wet and she was struggling with a plate of cookies. He remembered a girl going up to his host and offering him baked goods because he was on the basketball team.

He ignored the chattering girls around him and walked over to her, grabbing her book bag as it almost slid off of her shoulders, "Are you on the swim team?"

Charlotte looked at him confusedly. Why would she be on the swim team? And who was this kid that had a slight accent she just could not place. She looked down at her plate of cookies, and it hit her. "No I just have friends for my cookies." Realizing she hadn't said what she meant she flushed deeply and grabbed her book bag from his hands, refusing to look at his face, which wore a mask of bewilderment, and ran up the stairs to her first class.

She sat next to her best friend Maria, trying to live down the embarrassment she had just survived.

"Hey Char," Maria said, "Have you seen the new guy?"

"Sadly yes," Charlotte replied.

"Oh god, what happened?" Maria answered, hoping it wasn't that bad, for Charlotte's sake.

Charlotte recounted the story and, as usual, Maria gave her a look full of pity before she burst out laughing. Of course, this was typical Charlotte, never lucky in love.

"What? I know, Cupid obviously doesn't love me."

"Sorry Char, but he doesn't."

Eros enjoyed the moments when he got to string the lines of human fate towards a different course. These humans couldn't seem to manage on their own. He spotted his target sitting in math class, seemingly giggling and sharing stories with her friend. Perfect timing. He wandered the halls of the high school, invisible to mortal eyes, one, though, caught sight of him.

"What are you doing?" the teenage boy asked.

"You can't see me," Eros said, "I'm a figment of your tiny imagination."

The boy suddenly changed into a man wearing a grey robe that shimmered with fog.

"Morpheus, what are you up to?"

These two were old friends, continually playing pranks together, and they often worked in tandem. Their favorite game was twisting a wish into a horrible disaster, but he was on his mother's business this time, and couldn't do that.

"I have an assignment, apparently I haven't fulfilled my quota of making dreams come true this year."

"Well, whom are you aiming for?" Eros asked, if the subject was right, he could use him to bring love to the mortal who couldn't find it.

"A mortal named Ignacio."

"Is he from another land?"

"Yes, that's the one, he's perfect then." Eros smiled, his job would be over quickly. He told Morpheus his plan for Charlotte and they fit them together to allow both sides a happy ending.

Eros and Morpheus worked together, pushing Charlotte and Ignacio together at every moment they could find. Charlotte became more and more comfortable with Ignacio, and Ignacio was having the time of his life in America.

Sitting together at lunch with Charlotte, and now Ignacio's friends he steeled himself and asked her to come to the hallway with him for a quick moment.

"Of course!" she said, gathering her things.

When they reached the hallways she leaned against the wall, waiting for what he wanted to tell her, "So, Char, I know this might seem weird, but, would you like to go to the Homecoming dance with me?"

Charlotte smiled, his English had improved tenfold, and he could get sentences out like that without problems now, and her enjoyment of his company had increased. "I would love to go with you." She said, finally feeling as though something was going right.

The two young gods watched the seen with interest, and, as their victims exchanged a quick hug, and walked back into the cafeteria, they high-fived.

"Say hello to gods of the month," Morpheus joked.

A week later, Charlotte was getting ready to go to the dance, she had found the perfect dress, and Ignacio was coming to pick her up in thirty minutes. He arrived and they exchanged the awkward looks, and photo sessions with Charlotte's parents.

The dance was something she had dreamed of, straight out of a movie. Every song was perfect, and she danced the night away happily. The last song was playing, and Charlotte wished it could last forever.

"Char?" Ignacio asked quietly.


"Would you go out with me?"

Charlotte smiled, she was going to get her fairytale. It had taken seventeen ears, but life was finally working out like it was supposed to. "I would love to."

"So she got her happily ever after?" the children's rider asked.

"Well, not quite," the Junior rider answered.

The rest of the year was perfect, Ignacio and Charlotte stayed together until he had to return home to Argentina.

"Don't worry, we'll go to the same school." He said at their parting.

"But what if we don't get into the same ones?" she said.

"That won't happen," he said, "If it's meant to be, nothing could keep us apart.

She smiled sadly, but was optimistic, every about their year together had been without a flaw, no fights, no jealousy, just adoration.

Eros and Morpheus watched Ignacio get on the plane, and turned to each other. "It's sad they'll never see each other again isn't it?" Eros said.

"Yes, but what Zeus says, goes," Eros said, "There are soul mates out there for both of them, this was artificial."

"Oh well, I just wish we could give them a heads up." Morpheus responded.

As Charlotte left the airport she noticed a boy sitting with a snow-white dove on his shoulder, and smiled at him. Maybe she should get a pet, it might be easier then a boyfriend.

The Children's Rider's Prologue

"Well, I can surely beat that!" The Children's Rider exclaimed, 'There wasn't even any action!"

"But, it's the Pony Rider's turn," I tried to say.

"Oh no, I have to go now or I'll forget it!"

The Children's Rider was not at the top of her game yet, she did not yet base her life on how well she did in a horse show. She had other interests, and riding had yet to consume her every waking moment. Once she did get there, she would realize winning was an addiction that people stopped at nothing to get in the winner's circle.

She had a weird obsession with action, drama, and the paranormal. She was strange, and didn't have many friends at school because of her wacky personality, she found her place in the show ring with friends who needed her as the comic relief, and get them to smile when they were taking themselves too seriously.

"I heard this story from a friend of a friend, it's strange but, you know, it is possible."

And thus starts the Children's Rider's Tale

This story is about a girl who moves to an island for the summer. Her parents had decided to rent a summerhouse and spend the vacation relaxing, away from the land of telephones and television. This girl didn't like that very much; she wanted to be in touch with the outside world.

The family packed up their belongings and moved into the house they would live in for three months. The girl was tired of having to spend time with her parents, and quickly slipped away to find someone to talk to her own age. She wandered to the beach and found two boys about her age. All three were young teenagers, and she introduced herself.

The smaller of the two boys nodded, he was thin and looked like the kind of kid who would go for the jugular in a fight. He was wearing a hat the resembled Peter Pan's, but otherwise looked normal.

"That's William, I'm Toby," the bigger boy said. He had already started filling out, and had black hair, and, something that shocked the girl, violet eyes.

The girl shook herself out of her thoughts and responded, "I'm Stephanie, is there anything to do around here?"

"Not really, but, have you heard the story yet?" Toby asked, he smiled at her dumbfounded look, "I guess you haven't, everyone on this island is a prisoner."

"What are you talking about? We're just here for vacation!"

"So were we," William answered, finally speaking up. "At night, the guardians awake and patrol the island, hopefully you never have to see them."

"What do they look like?" Stephanie asked, excited by the thought of guardians, possibly supernatural guardians.

"White tigers with red eyes, and they show no mercy, so don't anger them." He answered.

"Oh can we please stay late?" she asked, "I want to see them!"

William and Toby looked at each other, Toby sighed, taking the lead as usual, "Fine, but only so you know what you have to stay away from, never go out after dark unless you are with one of us."

That night the trio sat in the bushes awaiting the guardians. At around 9:30, the guardians made their appearance. They were impressive beasts, and, when Stephanie saw them, she let out a gasp.

Toby and William heard the nose and glanced at each other worriedly. The guardian swiveled its ivory head and turned, red eyes glowing, towards the bushes.

Toby began to back out slowly, a hand over Stephanie's mouth. William was still watching the tiger. Toby gestured urgently for William to follow and he began to do so slowly.

The group heard a low growl and three other guardians flocked to the first. All four looked towards the spot the trio had recently vacated and walked towards it.

Toby and Stephanie were hiding in the courtyard of a house nearby; William was strolling up to them as if it was daylight. "Are you an idiot?" Toby asked.

"They didn't notice us, now let's get home." William responded.

As they began to turn away they heard a low growl, three heads spun back towards the opening of the courtyard and saw one of the guardians.

"They noticed us, god, why did we have to be so stupid?" Toby looked at them and screamed, "Run!" He grabbed Stephanie by the hand and pulled her into a sprint. They ducked around corners and back tracked, staying in the shadows.

"Where's William?" Stephanie asked when they took a minute to rest.

Toby looked around, a frightened boy suddenly took over, before he smothered it, "He'll be fine, he can take care of himself."

Stephanie didn't believe him, but let it go. She was worried right now. "Why can't we just go home?"

"Because the know where we live." He answered, turning from her and looking at the house behind them. "Come on, let's try and find an opening, maybe they won't notice us in there."

Stephanie followed Toby into the yard of the great house in front of the beach. They poked around at the back doors and windows, but could not find a way in. Toby went around to the front, a last resort. "Hey, it's open!"

The pair walked into the house, furnished in pinks and reds, and overly luscious, the walls were covered in velvet and the paintings were ornate depictions of Aphrodite flanked with Eros, and Ares, fighting off Athena. They looked around and didn't see anyone; they walked up the stairs and into bedrooms, looking for help. They finally reached what seemed to be the master suite, and stepped inside.

"Hello my dears, I've been waiting for you." A woman asked, garbed in a robe, seated on a chair just as luxurious as the furnishings downstairs.

The pair looked at each, confused by her words, and waited for more.

"The guardians always let me keep the one's like you," she responded carelessly.

"What are you talking about," Stephanie boldly asked, "And have you seen William?"

"Oh yes, he was their dinner tonight," the woman answered with a wave of her hand, "Now, Toby you may run along, thank you for bringing her to me."

Toby nodded and backed away, his face an unemotional mask. "What are you talking about?"

"I protect him, in exchange for someone to help me in this house."

Stephanie felt betrayed, he had taken her trust and thrown it out the window, along with William's life. This had all been a ploy.

She spent the rest of her life folding underwear for the woman in the red robe, and never saw the sunlight again.

The Children's Rider finished her story and the rest of the car just looked at her.

"Do you actually believe that?" I asked.

"What? It could happen," she said, without shame.