Riding for the BrandbyColleen Thomas©
Maria Gonzalez sat on the hard wooden bench between her two friends and stared fixedly at the scoreboard. Her time of 16.082 seconds was still holding third place behind Marsha and Kim. Only one racer had yet to ride and she was about to make her run. Kim and Marsha almost always placed top three, but Maria was new to barrel racing and had not placed better than fifth this season. A top three finish here in Austin, the biggest event of the season, would assure her of an invitation to ride again next season, even though she wouldn't have the points otherwise. She was so nervous that her mouth was dry and her heartbeat was pounding in her temples. Her long fingers unconsciously stroked the beads of her rosary.
The final rider thundered down the chute and as she crossed the line the clock began running. Maria didn't watch the girl; her eyes were glued to the clock. The rider chose to go left first, which meant she would have two right turns before the long straight away to the finish. She cut the last barrel very tightly and it leaned over at a dangerous angle. The crowd watched as the barrel slowly tumbled to its side. In racing you could touch the barrels, but if you knocked one over there was a five second penalty. With that barrel falling Maria was assured of holding third and she, Kim and Marsha all jumped up and down and hugged. It was the first one, two, three finish for Valdez Junior College that season.
Maria had been born and raised in Valdez. Her father worked as security advisor for one of the big defense contractors and her mother ran a small clothing shop. The two had met in Mexico City where her father had been an embassy guard. Her mother made a very comfortable living with her shop, which catered to the large immigrant population in Valdez. She sold dresses, skirts and tops in traditional patterns and colors and all of her cloth was imported from Mexico. She also did a small but lucrative business with some of the richest Anglo families in town, to whom showing up in "authentic" Mexican garb was the new Chic. They had two children, the older a boy named Curtis who took after his father and the younger was Maria, who looked like a carbon copy of her mother.
Maria had earned a scholarship to Valdez Junior College for her scholastic achievement. Her real desire was to go to A & M and become a vet, but it was expensive and two years free at Valdez while living at home would make it much easier for her folks to afford her final two years at A & M. Maria wasn't sure she was ready for living so far from her family and friends anyway, so the JuCo seemed the best option. The fact that Kim was going to Valdez too had made the decision easy.
Kim Hall had been her best friend since third grade. Kim was tall and had movie star good looks, she was also very charismatic and Miss Popular both in high school and later at college. She was the first freshman to be Captain of the riding team, based on her scores from high school. It was only though her intercession that Maria had made the college's barrel racing team at all, most of her training had been in dressage. Placing today meant so much to Maria, because it validated her friend's faith in her and let Maria feel like she had proven Kim right when the tall blonde had gone out on a limb for her with the team's faculty advisor last summer to get Maria on the team.
Laughing and joking the three girls waited for the bull riding competition to begin. The crowd grew restive as the excitement built; bull riding was the most dangerous sport at the rodeo and thus the most popular. Kim's boyfriend Bo, and Maria's boyfriend Carlos, rode bulls, as well as Maria's older brother Curtis and most of their male friends. Curtis was tall and lean, with heavily muscled arms, blonde hair, blue eyes and a devil may care "bad" boy image that made him a hit with all the girls. He had even dated Marsha for a while, but with Curt girlfriends only came in flavor of the week.
Maria was short and slight with the olive complexion, brown eyes and thick black hair of her mother. Her figure was lush with a heavy "tear drop" ass, nice legs and large full breasts. No one would ever guess she was Curt's sister and usually assumed they were a couple when they were together. The two were extremely close and shared many secrets of each other's private lives. His decision to keep riding after high school and not go to college hadn't sat well with their parents and for a few months she was his only contact with the family.
Maria held her breath as the competition began; Curt had drawn a cantankerous old bull named Diablo. Maria was worried about Curt because his ribs had barely healed from being gored up in Abilene a month earlier. The doctor had told him his season was done, but now she was watching him settle in on Diablo. Maria just didn't understand the machismo driven need that drove her brother and boyfriend to compete in such a dangerous sport. All she could do now was watch and pray.
The gate swung open and old Diablo came out bucking. The fans cheered as the big bull spun around before going on high, but Maria was silent, her eyes were glued to Curt's face and the grimace of pain. When the buzzer sounded, he came off smoothly and was out of the ring before Diablo could get zeroed in on him. The bull had done pretty well, but the score of 65 was a dissapointment. Bo and Carlos both failed to do any better, each being thrown early in the ride. Surprisingly, Curt's 65 held up throughout the competition. With one rider left it looked like he might win, despite his seemingly poor score. By then Bo, Carlos and Curtis had joined the girls in the stands with some of their friends and girlfriends.
"Up next, the state's only girl bull rider, Connie Robinson, riding Hellbent," the Pa announcer called.
"Girl bull rider?" Maria asked incredulously.
"Yeah, that he-bitch from hell won her court case last year," Curtis said.
"Bull riding, perfect sport for a bull dyke," Bo said and the guys burst out laughing.
"Si, she is muy loco," Carlos added.
Maria was barely listening as the string of insults continued. Her eyes were focused on the chute and the lanky cowgirl settling in on a mean looking black bull. She wore a red shirt and red chaps with silver fringe that caught the light. Apparently someone other than the boys thought she was gay, or it was a strange coincidence because she had the number sixty-nine today. She finished cinching up and put one hand on the rail as Hellbent stirred, once she steadied herself she put her free hand up and nodded.
When the gate swung open Hellbent took a single prancing hop and then bucked. Both his font and rear legs seemed to be off the ground as he exploded like a coiled spring, trying to dislodge the rider. His feet barely hit the ground before he twirled violently sideways and kicked again. The bull's feet never seemed to be on the ground at the same time and there was a point where Maria would have sworn by the Virgin that his nose and tail were pointed in the same direction, he was twirling so violently. Through it all the rider kept her hand and feet free. Maria was amazed at the way she seemed to absorb all of the motion with her hips. At no point in the ride did she ever seem to be off balance, and even the jerking motions of her arm and shoulders, and the losing of her hat seemed contrived, more for effect and points than out of actual necessity.
Eight seconds. It seemed such a short amount of time, but to Maria it seemed hours. The entire ride played across her mind in slow motion. She was still staring when the buzzer sounded, the girl dismounted and the world returned to normal speed. The crowd was cheering as the clowns got Hellbent back into the chute. The girl retrieved her hat and then looked into the crowd and raised her hands in triumph. In that instant she seemed to be staring into Maria's eyes. If the eight second ride seemed to last hours, that instant of a glance seemed to last an eternity. Maria noticed how tall the girl was, her long clean-cut arms, the heavy black glove she wore and even the red bandanna tied around her boot. Every detail of her face and body were impressed on the small girl's mind, as if she had been staring at the girl for hours. She had high cheekbones, an aquiline nose and strong chin, thin lips and the most haunting gray eyes.
"Fuck," Curt said. The sudden curse seemed to break the spell and the world returned to normal time. When the score of 83 came up the crowd went wild, but the girl just tipped her hat and walked away. Maria's heart was beating wildly and she felt flushed. Her clothes seemed to be too tight and her breathing was heavy, like she had just ridden herself.
Maria watched the girl as she walked away, she was tall and lanky, but there was something about her that kept the little Hispanic girl's eyes on her. Once she was away Maria returned her attention to her friends, but her mind kept returning to the strange cowgirl. The girls decided to go get some food and use the restrooms while the guys went off to get ready for the bronc busting competition. As they walked along the concourse Maria noticed the girl bull rider walking out of the bathroom. Up close she was even more impressive. She was tall, about five ten or eleven Maria guessed, and lanky, with a lithe build and rugged face. Her hips were slim, as was her waist and her breasts were small.
"Hi, Congratulations," Maria said impulsively. The girl's gray eyes turned to her and Maria felt a little thrill pass through her body. It seemed to emanate from the pit of her stomach and suffused her whole body.
"Fuck off spic," the girl drawled before walking away. Maria felt as if she had been slapped. She knew there was a lot of prejudice out there, she had received more than her share of it growing up, but this was totally unexpected. She was hurt deeply and had to fight back tears.
"What a rude bitch," Marsha said while staring at the cowgirl's back.
"What brought that on I wonder?" Kim said as she put an arm protectively around Maria's shoulder.
"I don't know, I was only trying to be nice,"
"Don't worry about it," Marsha said as they walked away. Maria tried, but for some reason the words had cut her a lot more deeply than they should have. The small thrill that had passed through her when the girl's eyes made contact with hers was perhaps even more disturbing than the words had been.
During the bronc busting competition Maria was distracted. She told herself she was still smarting from the girl's words, but it was more than that. The arena seemed unbearably hot and stuffy and she felt a rising excitement that was almost painful. She nearly died of embarrassment when she noticed her nipples were hard and clearly visible through her bra and blouse. Excusing herself she left the arena and walked out into the gravel parking lot. The night air was still and hot, but it seemed better than the air inside the arena and the stars were beautiful.
"Hey, you, girl," a voice called. Maria turned to see the tall cowgirl approaching her. Connie had changed out of her riding garb and was now wearing a sharp red top and black jeans that seemed to be painted on. Maria turned and started to walk away quickly, but the girl over took her and put a hand on her shoulder.
"Wait a minute, I want to talk to you," she said as Maria spun to face her. The girl seemed ill at ease and pushed her hat back up on her head.
"Look, I'm sorry for calling you a spic earlier," she said.
"It's too late to apologize," Maria said and started to turn away.
"God damnit girl, let me finish," the cowgirl nearly shouted.
"Maria, my name is Maria, not girl," Maria said angrily. Her brown eyes locked with the girl's gray ones. In those eyes she saw embarrassment, regret and a lot of pride that the girl was trying hard to swallow.
"Okay, Maria. Look, I am not real popular with the guys who ride, they all know I'm gay and last weekend they got a couple of their girlfriends to come on to me. It was a real big joke, real funny, everyone had a good laugh at me. Anyway, I thought you were doing the same thing and I snapped. You don't have to accept my apology, hell I probably won't ever see you again, but there it is," she blurted out. Before Maria could respond the girl spun on her heels and stalked off. Maria watched her go, not even noticing that her eyes stayed glued to the girl's shapely ass in those tight jeans.
The whole of the long ride back to Valdez those measuring gray eyes filled her thoughts. She kept seeing the cowgirl whenever she closed her eyes and found herself increasingly agitated. When she got home she hurried to her room, stopping only to peck her mother on the cheek, she always waited up for them with a candle burning. Once in her room she took a long hot shower and crawled into bed. She just couldn't get Connie Robinson out of her mind. She tossed and turned and suddenly was able to put a name to the restless energy she had been feeling. She was horny, hornier than she had ever been. Her slim hand slid down her flat tummy and into her thin cotton panties and she began to rub herself. She moaned quietly as the most powerful orgasm she had ever experienced rocked her small body. In her mind she saw only those haunting gray eyes.
The next week passed slowly for Maria. She spent most of her time in classes and her free time working out with Blue. He was a great cutting horse and Maria's slight frame made her a natural for the sport of barrel racing, but she had a lot to learn and her cuts were nowhere near as precise as Kim's, who often brushed the barrels. Even when riding, she thought of the girl with the gray eyes and long legs. Twice she woke from incredibly erotic dreams that she couldn't remember except that her lover had haunting gray eyes that seemed to look right through her. It was disconcerting, but also kind of nice, in a strange way.
The long ride to the state fair at Waco was ahead of her, but she made sure Blue was taken care of before returning to her home to pack her gear. Curtis was there already, having a quickie with his current girl judging by the sounds coming from his room. Maria didn't particularly like Shelly, but she tolerated her, knowing that Curtis never stayed with the same girl long.
"Ready sis?" Curtis called from his bedroom a short time later.
"Yeah, lets get going," Maria called as she shouldered her overnight bag. The two of them were going in Curt's truck. Maria had turned down a ride with Carlos, Marsha, Kim and Bo in Carlos's van. She was in a very contemplative mood and felt like the cab of the pickup would be more condusive to thinking. She also didn't want Curt making the long drive alone, he was still not one hundred percent healed. They loaded Blue up in the old trailer Mr. Johnson had given her when he moved his family to Houston for a better job. Once they were on the highway Curtis tuned in the New Country station and for a long while they rode in silence.
"How's it going?" he asked finally.
"Fine," Maria replied automatically.
"Yes, why? What's up?"
"You have just been real distracted lately. How are things with Carlos?"
"Honestly I don't know, I haven't seen much of him this week," Maria said thoughtfully. That was suddenly strange because she realized she had been increasingly horny for most of the week, but had never even thought of calling her boyfriend. What's wrong with me? she thought.
"Yeah, well… That's kinda why I wanted you to ride up with me,"
"What's going on?" Maria asked suddenly suspicious.
"Look sis, you shouldn't have to hear this from me, but no one else seems like they are going to tell you and you don't seem to be too concerned anyway, but Carlos is sleeping with Marsha,"
"It's true sis, I saw them out at Cotton Eyed Joe's last Tuesday and confronted Carlos, he admitted they were sleeping together,"
"And you didn't kill him?" Maria said.
"Aww, come on sis, he's my best friend," Curt said defensively. Maria smiled and leaned over to kiss her bother on the cheek.
"It's not a big deal," she said as she settled back into the corner of the seat and door.
"Thank God, I had the feeling it wasn't but, if you had been pissed I would have had to whip his ass," Curt said with a sound of relief in his voice. Maria smiled and shook her head thinking brothers were such strange creatures. When they were young he tormented her mercilessly, from pulling her ponytail on the bus to flying one of her training bras from the flagpole at elementary school. Now he defended her honor even when she didn't feel it was threatened and she had no doubt he would have fought Carlos if he thought it was needed. She could never tell what he was thinking or what he would find necessary, but she was glad he had asked before acting this time.
Maria and Carlos had been dating for over a year, but she had been thinking of how to end it for the last three days. He was full of the same bravado that motivated the other boys and she knew it hurt him that she didn't want sex with him more often. She hadn't really ever enjoyed it, but had done it with him a few times. Their relationship had become more like that of good friends than lovers and she knew it stung his pride. She knew she should feel betrayed or something, but all she really felt was an overwhelming sense of relief. She had started dating him because all of the rest of her friends had boyfriends and it seemed the thing to do, in actuality she had never really had much interest in guys. Maria wasn't sure what had been wrong with the relationship, but she promised herself her next one would be real, meaningful, and not just for show.
She dozed most of the trip, not really realizing until then that she had been loosing sleep over her relationship with Carlos. She was a sweet girl and the thought of hurting Carlos had kept her from trying to end it. She just couldn't bring herself to dump him, but if he was seeing Marsha it meant she could end it without hurting him. Even in her deepest dreams she had not consciously admitted to herself the reason for her sudden desire to end the relationship.
Maria again sat with Kim and Marsha, but this time several other girls from school were with them. The barrel-racing event was on the schedule for tomorrow so they were just here to watch Bo in the roping contest and the other boys riding the bulls. Bo went early and after his turn Kim went down to talk to him. The other girls went to see who was riding first, which left Maria and Marsha alone. Maria felt like she needed to say something, but wasn't sure how to say it.
"Marsha, I now about you and Carlos," Maria said. If she had expected Marsha to look shocked or even upset she was disappointed, the dark haired girl just stared at her coldly.
"It's okay, really, I wish you both the best," Maria said.
"Really?" Marsha asked with an unreadable expression.
"Really, I hope it works out," Maria said earnestly. Before more could be said Kim returned and as if by mutual ascent they dropped the subject. After the roping contest came the bull riding. Maria excused herself and made her way back to where the contestants were waiting. She wanted to find Carlos and tell him that it over. She didn't want him worrying about it while riding.
She turned a corner and came face to face with Connie. The cowgirl smiled instantly and Maria colored when those intriguing gray eyes roamed appraisingly up and down her body. Connie wore her ropers and tight jeans with a faded flannel shirt, her red chaps and had her heavy glove tucked into her belt. She wore the number thirty-four today and her black hat partially shaded her face. It didn't matter, those fascinating eyes were plainly visible and Maria wouldn't have noticed if the girl was missing all her teeth.