When Sparks Fly by Helena Hunting



1


YAY OR NAY


AVERY

My current state of mind hovers between fascination and disbelief. I adjust my sunglasses and turn slightly, so the warm summer sun doesn’t shine directly in my eyes. Across the field, half a dozen adult men lead their “horses” to the “feeding” trough. Two men bump into each other as they approach the trough, which is full of fake feed, for their fake horses.

As a child I wanted a hobbyhorse. As a very young child. It was a fleeting wish, added to my Christmas list when I was about three years old. Probably because I’d seen one in a movie and thought it looked like fun. But the hobbyhorse wish was quickly replaced by soccer equipment, because soccer became my passion as soon as I could kick a ball.

My younger sister London makes a choking sound next to me as we watch a man in his mid to late forties stroke his horse’s mane. Like the rest of the men here, he’s decked out in full equestrian gear: black riding boots, tan breeches, navy blazer, and red scarf—which matches his hobbyhorse’s scarf—black gloves, and a riding helmet. He props his horse against the feeding trough, cooing all the while at the stuffed animal horse head attached to a broomstick.

Apparently, hobbyhorse riding is an actual thing, and a fairly significant one considering we have more than one hundred hobbyhorse enthusiasts from all across the United States currently practicing for their dressage competition.

In planning for this event we’re hosting, I’ve done quite a bit of research on the sport of “hobbyhorsing” and found that it is indeed a very serious sport. After watching YouTube videos on it, I wrongly assumed our guests would be teenage girls. I soon discovered that this sport is certainly not isolated to teens, or girls, as evidenced by the incredible number of men taking up the entire, sprawling, three-acre field behind Spark House. And this group of men is one of the most enthusiastic, energetic, and competitive bunch we’ve had to date, so who am I to judge?

My sisters and I run an event hotel—Spark House—which we recently took over for our grandmother. She’s most definitely earned her retirement and is currently spending the next six months in Italy on a much-deserved extended vacation.

“How are we on the preparations for the bachelorette party next weekend?” Harley asks. She steps up beside me with her camera poised for a candid shot of a group practicing their routine.

“We’re pretty much ready to roll.” London’s eyes light up with glee. “I put the finishing touches on the penis piñata. I think it’s going to be a real hit with the bride.”

“I saw it this morning. It’s almost a shame they’re going to wreck it.” Harley scrolls through her phone and hands it to me.

I nearly choke on a cough at the photo of London with the glittery masterpiece, giving it a one-armed hug and resting her cheek against the shaft. “You had way too much fun with this one.”

“That is absolutely true. And you’ll be happy to know I was able to hunt down the environmentally responsible penis straws. Everything should be arriving on Monday, so we have plenty of time for setup.” London pulls her tablet out of her bag and flips through the schedule. “And you have that meeting with your alma mater that morning. Declan’s supposed to go with you, right?”

“Yup, we’re taking his SUV and heading there Sunday morning so we can meet up with some friends. We should be back early Monday afternoon.” In my grand plan to expand Spark House’s scope, I’m pitching it to the alumni association of my alma mater to host events throughout the year and possibly see if they’d sponsor us. Declan, my roommate and best friend since college, is coming along to see everyone from our old soccer intermural team.

“Perfect. Harley and I will manage takedown, and Tuesday we can start preparing for the bachelorette party. I think this is going to be my favorite event this year. I had so much fun with the centerpieces.” London waggles her brows. Everything for the bachelorette party follows the same theme as the piñata. She’s had a field day putting together the decorations.

“You should consider selling those on Etsy or something,” Harley says. “I posted a picture of one of your centerpieces yesterday in our story, and I must have had fifty people asking where they can get one.”

“Maybe that can be my side business.”

A ding interrupts us, so we all check our phones.

It turns out to be mine. I make a face when I note it’s a message associated with my dating app. It’s a new thing. London set all three of us up with accounts last month in an attempt to reactivate our social lives. We spend most of our time working at Spark House and hanging out together. My only other hobby is the recreational soccer league I play on with friends.