Falling Over the Finish Line
by Carrie Ann Watson
For a small town in Kentucky in the 1940s, horse racing is a way of life and the Weldons are considered royalty in the Sport of Kings. Raymond Weldon made himself a rich man through breeding and racing horses. Although his winning record is about to face the impending threat of the Reed family as they strive to take over the races with the highest stakes and go after The Triple Crown. However, as the 1947 racing season approaches, both families are dealing with internal scandals that could ruin them both.
Gloria Weldon and Ben Reed, the youngest members of each family, try to find a way of surviving it all. At the same time they also try to find their own way in life, love, and the world of horse racing.
Chapter 28: Gloria
The next day, Gloria thought about how much she detested when Earl drove her and her mother places as the three of them rode in the truck. She couldn’t let her parents know that she had learned to drive. Her mother had never learned to drive because her husband wouldn’t let her. Once Gloria had forced Earl to try to teach her, but he quickly became frustrated with the task and they ended up arguing. She had been determined to learn though and repeatedly took the truck out on her own at least one or two days a week before everyone was awake in order to master the skill. She wasn’t quite a master yet, but she would do it.
Gloria sat in the middle of the bench seat of the truck. Earl was driving her and her mother into town. Earl parked the car on Main Street and ran around to open the door and assist Gloria and her mother out of the vehicle.
“Make sure you come back at four o’clock sharp to pick us up.” Her mother said to Earl.
“I will be waiting right here, Aunt Faye. You ladies have fun.” Earl said and Gloria shot him a nasty look, since Earl knew that she was dreading the afternoon in town and all that it would entail. It only frustrated her more when he smiled and stuck his tongue out at her.
They had left the house at noon. Gloria wasn’t sure of the exact time when they arrived in town, but knew that she had at least three and a half hours of torture ahead of her.
“Come along, Gloria. We have to go and get you a dress before we go to the beauty salon. We’ll go to the boutique on Farrell Street.”
Gloria reluctantly followed her mother into the elegant boutique filled with expensive dresses, wraps, and lingerie. The store owner instantly came over to Gloria’s mother with a warm and friendly greeting. Behind her fake smile and flattery, Gloria could almost see the dollar signs in her eyes when she looked at Faye Weldon standing in her store.
After showering her mother with compliments, the owner turned to Gloria and made a fuss over what a beautiful woman she had become. Then added how naturally of course she would be a beautiful woman just like her mother. It was quite a shameless display, but Gloria’s mother ate up every word of it.
“We’re actually here to buy Gloria a new dress. She has a very big date this evening.” Her mother said with an excited smile.
“I have a lot of new designs that I just put on display this month. Let me show you some of them. They are quite elegant, I assure you.”
“Wonderful, we would love to see them, wouldn’t we, Gloria?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“You look to be about a size six, so why don’t you go back to the dressing room and bring some dresses back for you to try.”
“No, Gloria has never been anything but a size four, so please bring us some in that size.”
Gloria went into the dressing room and tried on several dresses, all of which were uncomfortably snug. She asked her mother if she could try on a size six, but her mother protested, telling her that it was probably just from her woman troubles and that she needed a tighter dress to pull everything in and make her appear to be slimmer.
Gloria stepped back into the dressing room to try on dress number eleven, but as she changed she thought about what her mother had said. She tried to remember when she last had her “Woman troubles,” as her mother had always referred to it. It had been quite a while. The last time had been the week before the foal Shoreline Sunset was born. She had missed two times having it since she had started seeing Ben behind her parents' backs.
Gloria’s breath caught in her chest and she started to feel faint. She turned and examined herself in the mirror. The dress she was wearing, which was her usual size, was tight and her bosom was almost spilling out of the top of it. She watched the color wash out of her face.
“Gloria, what is taking you so long? How does the dress look? Come out and let me see it on you.”
Gloria tried to bring some color back to her face by pinching her cheeks. Then she stepped out from behind the curtain.
“That one is perfect! Oh Gloria, you look beautiful.”
The store owner looked at Gloria and then turned to Gloria’s mother. “Ma’am, I do have to tell you that the sizes of some of the new dresses run a bit small. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to try the next size?”
“I suppose it wouldn’t hurt. Look at her. It’s probably because she has an ample bosom. I’ve always had the same problem with dresses.”
The store owner brought the next size and handed it to Gloria who gave her a grateful look. She was able to breathe much more freely in the size six, which to her mother’s content still enhanced her bosom. Her mother then asked that the owner show them a few matching wraps in case it was going to be a chilly evening and she quickly obliged.
As Gloria’s mother paid for the incredibly overpriced merchandise, she looked at the clock on the wall. “Gloria, it’s almost two-thirty. Hurry over to the beauty salon so that you’re not late and I’ll be right there.”
For an hour and a half Gloria let a woman wash, set, dry, and style her hair as many women from around town exchanged the latest news and gossip. Gloria didn’t notice it. In fact, it just combined into a swirling fog around her. There was only one thing she kept thinking about.
Earl was waiting with the truck when Gloria’s mother rushed her out of the salon at ten after four and they got into the truck so Earl could get them home. At six o’clock the doorbell rang and Gloria heard her father give Jimmy a warm and boisterous greeting.
Gloria sat at her vanity looking in the mirror. She then understood what Ben had said the night before and she also wondered if there could ever come a time when Ben would be as welcomed into their home. Her mother stepped through the doorway to her room and told her that Jimmy had arrived.
“I’ll be right down, Mama.”
Gloria walked out of her room, and down the grand staircase. She forced herself to smile at her parents and Jimmy who were all watching her.
“Good evening, Gloria. You look very beautiful.”
Jimmy turned to Gloria’s father. “Mr. Weldon, if it’s ok with you, Sir, I’d like to take Gloria to dinner and then to a picture show in town. Would it be alright if I brought her home at eleven o’clock?”
“Of course you can, Son. We trust that you will bring her safely home, so we won’t be waiting up.”
“Have a good time.” Gloria’s mother chimed in.
Gloria was annoyed that Jimmy didn’t bother to ask her if she was interested in going to see a picture show before he asked her father. She was 19 years old. She did love picture shows and at least they wouldn’t have to force conversation during that time, but that wasn’t the point. Plus the part about her parents not waiting up for her to come home almost made her laugh out loud since her father was already half in the bag. She would be surprised if he didn’t pass out in an hour or two.
“Shall we?” Jimmy asked her as he stepped aside to open the door for her.
“Yes, thank you.” She said before turning and wishing her parents a good night as well.
Jimmy opened the car door for her and she got in. He went around to the driver’s side and slid in behind the steering wheel.
“This is a beautiful car. It was nice of your parents to let you use it for the evening.”
“This isn’t my parents’ car.” Jimmy laughed. “They bought this for me as an early graduation gift when I got accepted to Princeton. Ever since the day I got it, almost every girl in town has asked me to take them for a ride in it. I usually say no though. You’re one of the few lucky ones.”
“I guess I am.” Gloria said through a fake smile. “Congratulations on getting into Princeton. That’s wonderful.”
“Yeah they practically begged me to pick their school. They knew Yale and Penn wanted me too, but I’ve always wanted to go to Princeton.”
“You received offers from Yale and Penn?”
Jimmy was taken aback by her question and Gloria already knew why. “Well, they didn’t have a chance to make offers because I already committed to Princeton, but they were going to.”
Throughout the car ride and dinner Jimmy talked about himself, college, and his new car. Jimmy had a flask in the car with God knew what in it. Gloria thought it smelled like whiskey. He also had two drinks with dinner. Having a drink probably would have made Jimmy’s chattering more interesting, but Gloria was afraid she couldn’t have one.
During pauses in the conversation, Gloria tried several times to change the subject. She brought up the upcoming Bluegrass Stakes and how exciting it was going to be this year.
“Does your father ever let you ride the horses?”
“Not usually, but I do every once in a while anyway. Any work I do is usually in the stable office, but I would really love to be able to assist in training the horses. Then I would be able to own my own horse, train it, and race it.”
“Why would you do that? It’s not a business for women to be in. Plus there is no need for you to work. I’m sure your father takes good care of you with how well he does in the racing and stud business.”
“I didn’t say there would be a need to do it, but I want to do it. I love it. I love working with the horses and being a part of running the stables. My only problem is that my father only allows me to do a little bit here and there and doesn’t consider me part of his business.”
“Well, I would guess not. You’re his daughter. You’ve been going to the races since you were young. Have you ever seen women grooms or women trainers? It was only during the war that you saw women owners accompanying their husbands’ horses to races by themselves.”
“I remember. The women had to take their husbands’ places while they were overseas. I remember some of them doing quite a fine job of it too.”
Jimmy picked up drink number three. “I still didn’t agree with it. I don’t want my future wife to ever work. It’s just not right. If I was going to have a woman helping me bring money home then what would be the point of me even going to college. And what am I going to do, stay at home and do the laundry, cook dinner, and change the diapers? Forget it.”
Gloria was furious. Her insides burned with every continuing word. She counted her blessings that they would be arriving at the picture show in just a little while and Jimmy wouldn’t be able to continue with his asinine opinions. At least she would be able to enjoy a dessert if she just held her patience a little longer.
The waiter walked over to their table. “Would you care for any dessert this evening?”
Gloria looked up at the waiter. “I’ve heard that you have the most divine chocolate cake here, is that true?”
“It’s our most popular dessert, Ma’am.”
“You can just bring the bill. Thank you.” Jimmy told the waiter without looking at Gloria.
“Actually Sir, please bring us the bill after you bring me a piece of chocolate cake if you wouldn’t mind.”
“Of course, I’ll be right back, Ma’am.”
Gloria smiled at the waiter and then smiled at Jimmy. He looked as furious as she was feeling inside.
“Since it seems we will be here a little while longer, I’ll have another.” Jimmy said in a frustrated tone and then held his glass up gesturing to the waiter. The waiter nodded and walked away. Then after a minute of sitting quietly, deep in thought, Jimmy took a deep breath and smiled at Gloria. “I apologize. That was rude of me. With my father being a doctor, I was only concerned about your health, but what could one little piece of cake hurt?”
Gloria was still angry with him, but since he had apologized, she thought it best to also excuse herself for her rudeness. “I’m sorry. I acted rudely as well. It was very nice of you to ask me to dinner this evening at this quaint little restaurant.”
The waiter put her dessert in front of her and Jimmy’s drink in front of him. As the waiter walked away, Jimmy reached over and took Gloria’s hands in his. “You have nothing to be sorry for. I wanted to show you a nice time tonight, so you should get whatever you want. I want this to be a very special evening for both of us, don’t you?”
“Yes, I think we could become very good friends.” Gloria said before taking a bite of cake. She wanted to reiterate that she wasn’t looking to begin a romantic relationship with him and hoped that he would understand what she was getting at.
“I agree. I think we could become very close.”
The waiter brought the bill to the table and Jimmy pulled out his billfold. He looked at the bill and counted his money as he placed it with the slip on the table. When the waiter came back, he handed him cash, and told him to keep the change left over. The waiter thanked him and walked away. Gloria finished her dessert and Jimmy finished his drink. When they got up from the table, Jimmy helped her with her coat before they walked out of the restaurant.
Once again Jimmy opened Gloria’s door and then got into the car. Gloria noticed he was staring at her, so she asked him if everything was alright.
“I was going to ask you the same thing. You seem nervous. You should have ordered a drink with dinner. Are you sure you don’t want some of this?” He asked pulling the flask back out. “It will help you relax and I want us both to have a good time.”
“No, thank you though. I’m fine.”
Jimmy pulled the car out of the parking lot and got onto the road leading back out of town.
Gloria looked over at Jimmy with a confused look on her face. “I thought we were going to the picture show?”
Jimmy laughed. “They don’t show them on Thursday nights! I just told your father that so I would have an excuse to bring you home a little later. I thought we could take a drive out past Franklin Farms and park by the creek. This way we would have more time to talk and get to know each other.” As he said it, he reached over and put his hand on her knee. She was startled and her leg flinched at his touch.
“Jimmy, you don’t want to go and park down by the creek to just sit and talk.”
“I’ve enjoyed getting to know you this evening and I would just like us to get to know each other a little better.”
“But I hope you know that I would only like us to be friends.”
“I want us to be more than friends, Gloria. It’s ok that you’re nervous. I know you probably don’t have much experience, but we can take things real slow if you want.”
“No Jimmy, you have had a lot to drink and I think it would be best if you just took me home. You can turn down this road coming up.”
“I know where I’m going. I don’t need you to tell me.” He turned and looked at her very sternly. “I tried to show you a nice time tonight. I think you could show a little more appreciation.”
“I thanked you for dinner.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about. There are a lot of girls that I could have taken out tonight who would have been more than happy to…”
“Then you should have taken one of them out.”
“I ought to pull over right here and make you walk the rest of the way home.”
“I suppose Princeton doesn’t examine the amount of class the students have before they decide to let them in. Or should I say… let their daddy pull some strings for them.”
Jimmy pulled the car over to the side of the road, put it in park, and turned towards Gloria. “You got a smart mouth on you and I don’t like it one bit. Maybe a nice brisk walk home will take you down a peg or two. You can get out and walk from here after you kiss me good night.”
“Kiss you good night? I’ll just get out and start my walk home. Thank you.”
He lurched across the front seat and pinned Gloria against the passenger door. All she could taste was stale whiskey as his tongue protruded her mouth. She turned her face away from him as he pulled back away from her. “I don’t pay twenty dollars for dinner without getting at least a kiss good night. In fact, first date or not, any other girl in town would have probably gladly let me under her skirt. I’m sorry I wasted a night on you, Gloria Weldon.”
“Not as sorry as I am.” Gloria said as she got out of the car and slammed the door.
Gloria didn’t look back once as she heard him turn his car around and head back down the road. She was only about a half mile from her house. She could still taste the whiskey in her mouth. It was nauseating. Luckily it wasn’t very cold out, but as she stepped up onto the porch, she could feel redness in her nose and cheeks from the slight chill of the wind hitting her face as she walked.
She was glad to be home after such an awful evening. She opened the front door and stepped into the foyer. As she walked into the sitting room she saw her mother and father sitting on the edge of the loveseat staring at her.
“Your mother just got off of the phone with Fran Callahan.”
“Did she tell you that her son made me walk home?”
“Don’t you dare interrupt me! She called your mother to say how surprised she was that you weren’t a better-behaved young lady. That she was disappointed to hear how rude you were to her son. That you were very uninteresting to talk to and that you were very cold to him all night.”
As her father scolded her, she could tell he had had more to drink after she left the house earlier. She knew it would be better not to argue, so she tried to approach the subject in a different way. “Daddy, he lied to you. He didn’t want to take me to see a picture show after dinner. He just told you that so he could take me off somewhere to park.”
“I know they don’t show those things on Thursday nights. Do you think I’m stupid?” Raymond got up and walked up to Gloria.
Gloria was so angry with her father. She couldn’t believe that he would encourage a boy to take advantage of his only daughter. She was too infuriated to even think of a response, so her father continued on his rant.
“Besides, I’m sure he wasn’t planning on taking you anywhere to park since you wouldn’t even kiss him good night.”
“I didn’t think I had to!”
“When you accept an invitation from a gentleman and he takes you out to a fancy dinner, it is only polite that a lady kisses him goodnight.”
“I didn’t accept the invitation. YOU did. You should have gone out with him and kissed him goodnight yourself.”
Her father slapped her face hard. She looked past him to her mother who got up from the loveseat and walked out of the room. Then her father brought his face close to hers. “You don’t speak to me that way. You will show me respect.” He stopped and smelled her breath. “Have you been drinking? No wonder you acted the way you did tonight, you ungrateful little shit!”
“No Daddy, listen… He was drinking and…”
This time her father’s closed fist struck the other side of her face. The pain seared and her eye felt as if it were about to explode.
“He forced me to kiss him good night and the alcohol was on his breath! Please, I didn’t do anything wrong!” But her father hit her again and then again once more. She stumbled backwards, but luckily landed on the couch.
“I have spoiled you! I’ve given you everything! And this is how you act! What do you have to say for yourself?”
She could barely see straight, but she looked up at her father. She knew it would be best for her not to respond, but she was so angry with him. She refused to give him the complete satisfaction of knowing how much he was hurting her. “Is that all you got?”
He hit her once more in the mouth. The taste of blood slowly became stronger, but she swallowed and tried to ignore it.
“You will never get married if you can’t find a man and make him happy. You disgust me. Now get out of my sight!”
Falling Over the Finish Line is a wonderful book, full of real characters with natural flaws that will make you either love or despise them! Despite its length, it is a quick read because of its suspense and excitement; Carrie set an impressive pace in Chapter 1 and eloquently carried it through her entire novel. Each of Carrie's characters comes to life and plays a very pivotal role in her plot. It is a page turner that will keep you on the edge of your seat with multiple plot twists; nobody could guess what would happen next! Falling Over the Finish Line has left me chomping at the bit in anticipation of its sequel...make sure you're caught up before the sequel hits Amazon!
About the Author
Carrie Ann Watson is from Oaklyn, NJ. She attended Camden Catholic High School in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. She earned her Associate’s Degree from Camden County College and then went on to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Writing Arts from Rowan University. Carrie began her writing career in college when she published a poem in the literary magazine Bridges in 2004. She later published another poem in the poetry anthology Poetry Vibes in 2005. Carrie published her first piece of literary fiction with her novella At Low Tide, which was released in September 2012. Falling Over the Finish Line is the first of her full length novels to be published.
Carrie states, "I want to be a writer, but not a starving artist. I want to excel in more than one aspect of life because I want my life to be well-rounded as well as successful ... and everyone has their own definition of 'success'."