There’s something special about growing up in a small town, my name for a Main Street town. Like the song says, you know everybody and everybody knows you…and their parents might as well be yours, if you stepped out of line. But they were always there for you, just like your own parents, whenever you needed them. In case you don't know, I write with a group called Authors of Main Street at Christmas time!
I live half a world away from there now, but if I wandered back tomorrow, they’d still be there for me, as I’d be for them.
People are there for each other in a small town. Many I know grew up in cities and never knew their neighbours. Now they’re adults, they still don’t know the people up and down their street. I don’t get it. I couldn’t live with myself—being so close to others and never even knowing them, what’s going on in their lives, if they’re okay. They look at me blankly when I ask.
What I Learned Growing up in a Small Town
I learned gratitude in a small town, and love, respect, and caring. How looking after others was important. Sure, it got me into some binds when I left that small town for the big smoke…but I survived, because I knew there were still many, many people back there in my family, but not of my blood, who loved me. Unconditionally.
I wish more people had the opportunity to grow up in a small town, or in a “small town in a big city”. I’m sure they exist. While people, wherever they live, are getting “closer via the internet”, often it’s merely virtual—further away from real human and animal contact, the thing which makes us “human”. In a small town or rural area, people still get the contact, because their friends and families are still there for them.
Without this contact, it becomes that much easier for people to hide away and not get the care and love they crave, but fear to request. Some retreat from the world, disappear, but others become increasingly capable of “inhuman” actions.
I know, this is more morose than my usual post, but there has to be an answer. We’ve lived in one of the most peaceful times in history, in the States, Canada and New Zealand. I think it blinds us a bit to what much of the rest of the world experiences daily.
Can we help create small towns wherever we are? Grow small towns?
Can we begin to show those around us, city or town, some interest, care, compassion? Whoever they are? Maybe that neighbour who doesn’t talk with anyone is afraid to try? Maybe they just truly want to be left alone, but what if they didn’t? And you made the difference to their life? Go outside and do some fun things together with others…
Starting small, one candle at a time, we can create a small town anywhere…
One candle at a time, we can light up the world.
If we’re willing to take that step outside ourselves.
You never know the difference it might make,
I think that’s why I was so pleased to be offered a place with Authors of Main Street. It felt a little like coming home. A group of people who support each other, cheer with each other, and sometimes, cry with each other. Now we’re putting out another “sweet” romance boxed set for Christmas. There’s a lot of care going out in one big package.
I hope it gives you some positivity and warm feelings as the weather turns colder for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere.
Take the chance to share a little of your light.
Seeing as this is my last blog post before the 12 October release of my group Authors of Main Street's new Christmas Boxed set, I thought I'd post Chapter Three of Once Upon a Vet School for you. It's one of the nine complete stories in our set. No teasers in our sets! The previous two chapters are in my last two posts, in case you missed them!
Once Upon a Vet School #7 is now available for preorder as part of our new boxed set at
It'll be delivered to your Kindle on 12 October! Only a few days away!!!
I hope you enjoy reading all the stories. I sure have loved the ones I got to beta!
All your favorite Main Street authors have stories tucked inside. Remember, we are an international group so everyone's Main Street is a little different. But don't you think that's what makes it fun?
These are clean stories you don't have to hide from the children, and of course the same wonderful quality that you've come to expect from us. They'd make a great Christmas gift for just about anyone on your list.
And if you have any horse lovers in the family, expect your Kindle to vanish while they read my novella!
All though September and October, you've been reading snippets of these stories, which are all complete and brand new stories!
So grab your 99c copy today! It will be delivered to your Kindle on October 12, USA time. There's not a sinker in the bunch, so read them all!
What's Christmas without a little romance?
And here's your excerpt!
Once Upon a Vet School #7 Lena Takes a Foal
Dr. Rye was our lecturer for Wednesday’s Equine Surgery lecture, so I didn’t have to see Ki—Dr. Allen, and my focus in class was impeccable.
It seems all I had to do was think of Kit for my face to heat up, and it was starting to look like I had it bad. Maybe that’s why I nearly dropped a container of colostrum when his voice came from over my shoulder as I struggled to get into a comfortable position, half-kneeling, halfway underneath a mare in the Large Animal ICU stall.
“What the heck are you doing under there?” he growled.
“What does it look like? Milking a mare,” I said, my voice shaky. It had taken the better part of a half hour to milk this much out of her, never mind having to do it in strange contortions around my non-bending limb.
“Does your supervisor know what your leg looks like?” He frowned.
That got my attention. I whipped my head around to see if my boss had heard him and nearly tipped over, then clambered the rest of the way to my feet.
“Please Ki—Dr. Allen, please don’t say anything to Frank. I need the hours—I can’t feed that horse or me without it.” I was pleading, now.
“You’re a pain in the rear, you know?” Kit shook his head. “But you’re a trier, I’ll give you that. Hasn’t anyone shown you how to milk a mare with a syringe?”
“A syringe? I think she might object.” I had to grin at that. “She’s really been good—hasn’t moved a muscle for me all this time,” I said, wrapping my arms around the mare’s neck and burying my steaming face in her mane. She whuffled softly as she nosed my bottom, then returned to her hay.
He stroked the mare, while he looked over her back at the premature foal sleeping in the straw.
“Is he nursing yet?”
“His suck reflex is improving a little, but we’re still tubing him with colostrum every few hours,” I said.
“Want to learn to milk a mare…a little faster?”
“You bet.” He had my full attention, now.
“Sit down and put that leg up while I do this.”
I sat, thankful to get my weight off it for a moment, while he searched the cabinet drawers for a big syringe and pulled the plunger out.
“You cut off the business end of the clear part, here,” he began sawing at it with a pocket knife, “then turn the plunger around.” When he was finished, he handed the contraption to me.
I stared at it, with no idea how to begin.
“You place the smooth end around the mare’s teat,” he grinned, “and slowly draw down on the plunger.”
“Seriously?” I jumped to my feet with a wince and tried it. With only gentle pressure on the plunger, the golden, syrupy colostrum just flowed into the syringe. I shook my head and swore softly.
“Works, doesn’t it?” He grinned.
“I can’t believe it,” I breathed. “Thank you so much.” If he wasn’t my hero before, he surely was now.
“That should speed it up a little.”
I filled the rest of my container in three minutes flat.
“I’ve spent…you don’t want to know how long…getting that same volume…” My voice dwindled off and I gazed at him. If student ICU techs hugged residents, I would have.
He took one look at me, then backed away, the beginnings of a smile running screaming from his face.
“Good, well—” he muttered, and spun toward the patient bulletin board, his knuckles so white on the pen in his hand, I thought I’d be cleaning up plastic fragments.
I shook my head and filled another container with the precious golden liquid while he stared fixedly at the pink treatment sheets. His fingers had relaxed, and now he merely played with his pager buttons.
“How is that mare, Charlotte, over in C-Barn?” he called across the room.
“I’m on my way over there now, thanks to your milking gadget. Without it, I’d have been ages longer.”
His narrowed brows softened and the corners of his mouth even lifted a little.
“No worries,” he said.
I stifled a chuckle. Sounded like he’s been hanging out with the new Kiwi Equine Repro resident. New Zealand idioms were popping up all over the vet school. I covered the beakers of colostrum, put one into the fridge, and left the other out for the little guy’s next feed.
“So why,” he remarked, under his breath, “the heck are you working? You should have that leg up somewhere, not running around barns making it worse.”
“I already told you why,” I hissed, glancing around. “It’s been up long enough. Time for exercise, Doc. Soon I’ll be a hundred percent again.”
He shook his head.
“You said you were a farrier before you became a vet,” I said, changing the subject.
“Yes, I was. Why?” He looked sideways at me.
“I spend as much time in the farrier shop here as Sean will have me, but they’re all client horses, so I can’t trim them. I’d like to learn.”
He flicked a glance my way.
“Why do you want to trim feet? You’re training to be a vet, not a shoer.”
“Horses depend on their feet for their living. It’s important they’re right.”
“It’s a lot like hard work.” His brow wrinkled, and he looked away for a moment.
“Way I figure it,” I said, “horse vets need to know about feet—and the fastest way to lose an owner’s confidence is to mangle a shoe removal or basic trim. I don’t want to be a farrier, but I’d sure like to be able to pull a shoe and decently trim and balance a hoof.”
His eyes lit up and his lips slowly formed a twisted grin.
I couldn’t help beaming back. Encouraged, I rattled on.
“I’ve spent a lot of time reading about feet, but I haven't had the opportunity to actually trim them.” I fell silent for a moment, waiting, but Kit didn’t offer.
He turned away and began looking at records.
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, then turned back toward the fridge and stared at it, unseeing.
“Guess I'll have to take a farrier course when I'm done with vet school. Doesn't look like I’ll learn much about trimming here,” I mumbled, half to myself, half to the fridge.
Behind me, Kit sighed.
“I could teach you,” he said.
I spun to stare at him, just as he blinked, as if he didn't quite believe he’d just said that.
“Would you? Would you really?” I was stunned. After his last words, I truly hadn’t expected him to say that.
He swallowed hard, then nodded.
“Yep,” he said. “There are plenty of horses in the research herds that could use a bit of attention.”
“When can we start?” I was so excited, I nearly forgot to breathe.
His jaw tensed as he held his own breath in silence for long moments.
“I’ll make you a deal,” he finally said.
I narrowed my brows at him. This couldn’t be good.
“You do only what you absolutely must on that leg for two more weeks, and then if it’s significantly better, I’ll take you out and teach you to trim feet. Mind you, they’re pretty unkempt, and they’ll be a bit rough to handle—”
“—oh please?” I interrupted. Oh cripes, I was begging to do feet…but I meant it.
“Yes,” he sighed, “but remember the conditions, eh?”
“Got it loud and clear, Doc,” I said, and hobbled on before him, eager to show him the progress Charlotte had made since he’d changed the heel elevation of the shoe on her injured leg.
“Hey, want to go for some pizza?” one of the girls in my class asked the students standing around me.
“Yeah, let’s go. I’ve got room for one more in my car, Miranda,” one of the guys said, and walked past me to steer her in the right direction, without a glance at me.
I took a deep breath and shook my head, riffling through my pack for my schedule to see what else I needed to do before heading home.
Maybe I was just born different.
But horses liked me…and men, until they got to know me—usually too well, too soon. And then they’d disappear. I couldn’t seem to get that one figured out. My female friends usually kicked me from here to Christmas when I did it…again. I only gave the guys what they asked for…and then they despised me for—
—with a shudder, I saw it—in black and white on the page and my heart hits my boots.
Oh hell. My cousin’s wedding is tomorrow.
More people. I closed my eyes and sank down onto the nearest planter box.
“You okay?” Jess walked up and dropped her pack next to me. “How’s the leg?”
I sighed and let my bag slide to the ground, too.
“Okay, but I’ve a wedding tomorrow.”
“Why so glum? I love weddings. I’ll go.”
“Fine, you go in my place,” I said, and gritted my teeth.
“What’s not to like about a wedding?” She scrunched her face up.
“Too many people, all in one place. When your parents and grandparents all have retail stores, it doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert—you still need to serve the customers and act extroverted, regardless.”
“Probably the best thing they ever did for you—probably helped you get into vet school.”
“Yeah, maybe, but it makes my heart hurt.”
“You’re pretty extroverted now,” she said.
“You’d think so, wouldn’t you? I tell myself it doesn’t matter what people think of me…but it’s not true,” I whispered. “Nobody, even you, gets that I’m terrified—of what they might say, what they might do. At least horses and dogs love you when they love you, even if it’s just cupboard love—and they don’t bother to lie or make promises they won’t keep.”
Jess blinked and stared at me.
“The thought of going to a wedding brought out all that?”
“Well, yes. I mean, the ceremonies are all right. I usually even cry. And the dancing’s good, if there’s someone there who can swing dance…but the rest isn’t so hot…drunk people who want to get close,” I shuddered, “and think it’s okay because it’s a wedding.”
“True. You don’t do drunks, period. I’ve seen that.” Jess put an arm over my shoulders and gave me a hug.
“I can usually escape into a kitchen,” I said, with a hint of a grin. “I hate weddings with caterers, though. No escape hatch.”
“Didn’t you used to work for a catering company when you were an undergraduate? How’d you deal with that?”
“They didn’t maul the kitchen minions. Hey,” I grinned, “that’s an idea. I can take along a black skirt and white blouse…and just disappear into the woodwork.”
“So where is it?” Jess said, shaking her head and chuckling.
“At my Aunt’s ranch.”
“What’s wrong with that? She’s the one with all the horses, right? If the kitchen trick doesn’t work, you could always head for the stables.”
“That’s why I love you so much, Jess. You get it.”
“Yep,” she said. “Are you done feeling sorry for yourself? Because I’m hungry.”
“Aren’t you always?”
She beamed back at me. She’s a tall, gorgeous beanpole and eats whatever she wants. I am eternally jealous.
“Oh, Lena, how’s Sunshine been?” The new resident, Dr. Masters, nodded at a post-op colic horse standing with one hind leg cocked, his tail lazily twitching at a fly in the ICU stall beside her.
“He’s looking good,” I said, with a smile, and reached for a second fluid bottle. “He grazes well, ate his feed tonight, and started my shift with a full flake of hay. It’s half gone now.”
“Good, so he’s eating again…” Dr. Masters looked down at the horse’s record in her hand and cocked her head, brows coming together a little. “Have you been writing up the records?”
“If I can squeeze in the time, I do.” My face heated, and I bit my lip.
Did she mind?
“As busy as it is today? You don’t have to do that,” she said. “It’s my job to write them from your treatment sheets entries. You have enough to do.”
“Seriously? You residents never even get time to sleep. If you’d rather write them up, that’s fine, but if not, I’m happy to help.”
“Thanks Lena,” she said, with a sigh. “It’s appreciated. Make you a deal. If you think it’ll be good for your training, go ahead and do them if you want. I’ll critique and sign them off.”
“Sure. Happy to.”
“I’m after all the practice I can get,” I said, as Dr. Masters picked up a stack of records and ferried them toward the office. I jumped when I saw Kit already there, head down over his papers, scribbling for all he was worth. I hadn’t seen him come in. Butterflies bashing to escape my stomach walls, I shivered and turned on my bad leg with two, five-liter glass fluid bottles in my arms. I only just managed to keep my feet, and keep the profanity under my breath on my way to the barns. I really must learn to pay attention, even if the illustrious Dr. Allen was present.
Our residents, all of them, made me smile. For people, they’re pretty awesome, especially after my exposure to the wedding crowd last week. I’d survived, but only just. Ended up grooming horses in my silk dress. By the end of it, I could have come out of the pages of a Thelwell book—the sequence of drawings where a tidy rider begins all dressed for a show with the shaggy, muddy beast she’d evidently just pulled from the paddock…and their magical transformation to a gleaming, braided pony beside an exhausted and filthy ragamuffin with a trashed riding habit.
In C-Barn, I pulled the rope to raise the caged fluid bottle high above Cotillion. The palomino swung her head around and whickered at someone’s approach.
Kit. My heart jerked and I swallowed hard.
He reached out to the mare and she lipped at his fingers as our eyes met and held.
“How’s she going?”
“Her IV drip had stopped, but I’ve fixed it,” I said. “She’s looking a lot brighter than yesterday.”
“You know, you don’t have to write up records.” Kit looked at me sideways.
“I don’t have long until I get to be a real vet…and I need all the help I can get.”
“You’re doing pretty damn well already,” Kit said, his brows lowering. “Most third year students haven’t even tried procedures you do every shift as an ICU tech.”
“Yeah, well, that’s why I wanted to work here,” I said. “Even with this hospital’s big equine case load, the time in clinics is too short for me. I seem a bit slow to learn things.”
He rolled his eyes at that.
“You’re doing just what you need to be doing, and makin’ a good job of it.”
“It’d be nice if other people thought so,” I said, biting my lip. The black plastic cap from the new fluid bottle clicked into place as I shoved it onto the empty one.
“Who doesn’t think so?”
“Nobody,” I said, to my feet.
“I’m a pain in the neck, apparently, to my class.”
“I’d bet no resident or prof would say that,” Kit said, but he squirmed a little.
I swallowed hard. Guess he thought so, too. Must be my questions in class. I truly didn’t do it to show off. I just wanted to understand. If I learned it wrong the first time…
“Maybe if you kept your head down a little in cla—” Kit started.
“Seriously, you too?” I shook my head. And I’d thought…but that wasn’t worth thinking about, clearly. “Is there anything else you’d like to know about this horse, Dr. Allen?” In my iciest tone.
“Now don’t go gettin’ all huffy, I’m only trying to help.”
“Thank you for your concern.” I don’t imagine it sounded overly grateful, coming from between gritted teeth.
He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply.
“Okay, if you want to be that way about it,” he said. “Thanks, anyway, for taking such good care of the horses.”
“Any time,” I spat out, tucked my bottles beneath my arms, and bolted for B-Barn, the hemostats and stethoscope clipped to my scrubs swinging with every hop.
My alarm shocked me out of whatever pleasant dream had cocooned me. I smacked it on its head, then lay blinking at the sunshine streaming through the jasmine vines that waved in the open window. Their sweet, heady scent heavy in the early morning air. I rolled over, then sat bolt upright.
Today was the day.
My two weeks of penance were up. I had an appointment to make with a certain resident to trim feet. I stilled, though, thinking about our last meeting. I’d certainly have to apologize. I should’ve done it last week, but what can I say? I was gutless. After a deep breath to settle my butterflies into place, I shot out of bed and leapt into my clothes.
“What’s the hurry, girl? It’s early yet,” Tamarah said, dodging the gooey tennis ball the Lab spat at her from two feet away.
“Susie’s aim is improving.” I laughed. “Soon she won’t miss. I’m off.”
“You really are better,” she said, looking down at my leg.
“Amazing what a little water, sitting in the sun massaging, and jumping rope has done.” Most of the odd colors were gone and it was down to nearly normal size.
“So can you ride your bike yet?”
“Did it yesterday,” I nodded, pouring uncooked oats into a bowl. “Felt fine.”
“One lucky girl,” she said, and disappeared into her room, followed by the bouncing dog.
I wolfed my breakfast and shot across town. The only fly in the ointment was my treatment of Kit the other day. I chewed my lip over it while I waited outside K—I shook my head at myself—Dr. Allen’s office door. He arrived after only a few minutes, so I didn’t have long to stew.
“You all right?” He gave me a quizzical look.
“If I were any better, I’d be twins.” Cocky cover-up, with the butterflies bashing away inside me and my face doubtless bright red. “Um…Dr. Allen,” I groped for words, while I fisted the sides of my shirt, “I’m sorry about my attitude last week.” I dropped my eyes to the linoleum. “I had no call to jump down your throat like that—I’m…just a bit sensitive about the topic.”
“It’s okay, I understand.” Kit tried for a smile and shook his head, then he glanced down at my leg, below my running shorts. And froze in his fumbling with his door key. “What have you done with it?”
“Worked on it? It’s much better…” My heart sank. I thought it looked better…but maybe I was getting ahead of myself.
“It’s amazing.” He blinked, and stared again. “I’ve never seen bruises change that fast. How’d you do it?”
“I had motivation,” I said, resuming breathing again, and told him how, then continued. “I…I wanted to see if we could please make a time to go out and do feet.”
“You sure you’re ready for that?” He winced, glancing at the offending leg.
“I can jump rope, I rode my bicycle over here, and I’ve been working.”
“There’s still swelling on the front of the shin.”
“It seems to be a split muscle—it now sits over the top, see?” I propped my foot up on a handy chair and showed him.
“You’re right,” he said, his face coloring. “Well, I guess we’ve got a date.”
I gulped, at the same time he shuddered and stepped backward.
“Ah…” I said, backpaddling.
“Let me check my calendar,” he said in a rush, then tried a few more times to get the key into the lock.
If we weren’t both so uncomfortable, it would have been comic. As for me, tempting as he might be, it was time to take care of myself—and that didn’t include getting my heart burned again.
For quite some time in the foreseeable future.
Again, if you wish to preorder Christmas Babies on Main Street, by Authors of Main Street, click here! It's only 99c$ What a deal!
Merry Christmas, early!