Jane Florence gritted her teeth as she galloped around the empty stable. Her dark auburn hair billowing in the wind.
“Last one Callie” she whispered to her horse. Callie neighed and trotted to a halt. Jane sighed as she slipped off Callie’s sleek back. Patting her head she led the horse to the stables. It was just getting light as Jane slipped back into her carefully made bed. Her parents didn’t approve of her horse riding,
“sew a dress” they would tell her pushing her towards the waiting cloth. Jane would argue but her parents wouldn’t budge.
“A prince doesn’t want a jockey as a wife” her father would retort. “You will disgrace this families name.” Jane would hang her head but slip away in the early hours of the morning.
Just as Jane closed her eyes a rough shake awoke her.
“Miss Jane, hurry up or you will be late for breakfast” the perky voice of her handmaid, Tilly, pierced her ears.
“Tilly, close the curtains for god’s sake!” she said suffocating herself with her pillow. Tilly grinned and laid out a dress on the brown armchair beside her bed.
“Come on miss.” Jane groaned and shuffled out of bed, her limbs aching from the early morning ride. “Miss Jane!” Tilly shrieked pointing at Jane’s legs. Jane looked down at her knees. Dirt. She had forgotten to wash after her ride.
“Uh, I….” she faltered. Tilly rolled her eyes and pressed her lips together.
“Whatever, just clean up before your father sees you or he’ll have a fit.” Jane grinned in appreciation.
Half an hour later Jane sat quietly at the breakfast table sipping at the steaming cup of tea in front of her. Her father, King Lionel III, sat at the head of the table, her mother, Queen Helena, sat on the opposite side and her sister and grandmother sat on either side of her. Her sister nudged her and pointed to the bread left cold on her plate. Jane nodded and slid it over.
“Girls your mother and I have some exciting news!” Their father said his voice bubbling. Jane sat up curiously. “For the first time ever, the kingdom of Treeton will be hosting the Grand Cheval” Jane’s mouth dropped to the floor. The Grand Cheval was the biggest horse race in the world and people came from far and wide to participate.
“Seriously!” she squealed. The king nodded. Jane couldn’t believe, could she possibly race? “Dad..I was wondering…” she stuttered. “Could I, maybe race this year?” The king frowned and glanced at his wife.
“Jane, we wouldn’t want you to get hurt, I mean you don’t even know how to ride and the competition is for boys only!” Jane leapt up.
“But I do, I practice every day and…” she broke off as she heard Tilly squeal quietly and she realised her mistake. The king stood up, his face red with anger. “YOU WHAT!?” he thundered. “I -“ Jane faltered and glanced at her mother for support. Her mother and sister had disappeared.
“Jane Valentina Florence! How dare you disobey my orders! Your mother and I specifically told you not to go to the stables, ever!” Jane stood firm, tears threatened to spill. “You are not to leave this castle unless accompanied by myself. Do you understand!” The king was fuming. Jane nodded her face beet red.
She slipped quietly out a cautious Tilly shuffling behind her. As she got to her room she threw herself on her bed.
“I hate him” she screamed. Tears flew out and she sobbed uncontrollably.
“Don’t cry miss.” cooed Tilly patting her head. Suddenly her eyes lit up. “Hey, I have an idea!” Jane looked up curiously. “What if you disguise yourself and go and race anyway!” Jane’s eyes sparkled a bit.
“That could work, Tilly will you help me?” Tilly smiled.
2 hours later Jane got a knock on the door. Tilly walked in dragging a bag behind her. “I just popped down to the markets for some essentials.” she giggled. Jane leapt up and ran to help her. “Ok first off, remember you must be a boy because girls aren’t allowed to race.” Jane nodded. “And that means cutting off your hair…” Jane nodded again, her mouth set in a hard line. “Right then, lets begin.” After what seemed like forever the transformation was complete. Tilly nodded approvingly. “Well I’m no fairy godmother but gee I’m good!” she squealed. Jane laughed and ran to a mirror. She gasped as her reflection stared back at her. A young man with short auburn hair and black eyes stood in front of her.
“Wow”. Suddenly the door was flung open.
“Jane?” Jane looked at Tilly and cringed. Her sister, Clementine was at the door. Tilly held up a hand and motioned for Jane to stay.
“Princess Clementine!” Jane heard Tilly exclaim.
“Tilly, where is my sister?” Clementine asked folding her arms.
“She – she went to the bathroom.” Tilly lied.
“Ok, well tell her thanks for putting dad in a crappy mood. Now I can’t go to the party I wanted” Tilly ushered her out the door.
“Ok will do, see you later, bye!” She shut the door quickly. “Phew that was to close!” Jane gulped and nodded.
The day after was competition day. Jane managed to go unnoticed by staying in her room and refusing to see anyone but Tilly. She snuck out to the stables before daylight the next day so she would be able to ‘arrive’ with everyone else. Riders pooled in as the clock struck 9. Jane slipped into line leaving a disguised Tilly to hold Callie. The line was long but Jane had joined early so she was at the front quickly. A man sat at the desk with a pen in his hand.
“Name?” He asked. Jane froze.
“Jan-Jake” she said quickly. “Jake Crawford” she nodded, pleased with herself. “Age, height and weight?”
“Um, 18, 70 inches and 148 pounds.” Jane mentally went through what she and Tilly had rehearsed earlier. The man nodded and pointed Jane towards the tents. “Good luck kid.” he said with a grin. Jane let out a sigh of relief as she headed towards the tents. Tilly quickly appeared next to her dragging Callie behind her. “I got through!” Jane squealed. Tilly laughed.
“I heard, Jake Crawford.” Jane blushed.
“First thing that came to mind.” she said walking into the tent.
As Jane was getting ready she felt a hand on her shoulder. She spun around. Her father stood there his hand outstretched. Jane gulped.
“Hello young fellow, I am just here to wish the participants good luck!” Jane grasped his hand but turned her face away from him. He squinted at her. “Hey you look familiar, do I know you from somewhere?” Jane mumbled and shook her head. The king laughed and walked off ruffling her hair as he left. Tilly quickly trotted over to her.
“Did he recognise you?” Jane shook her head.
“All racers to the starting line.” the voice called. Tilly grasped her hand in encouragement.
“Go girl.” she whispered. Jane gulped and took her position. She quickly surveyed the competition. Only 10 other boys had made it through the gates. There was the crowd favourites, young men with long black hair. “Princes” she thought. Then there were the villagers who came to earn a bit of money for their families. She focused her attention onto Callie. Leaning down she whispered, “run like the wind princess.” the horn sounded and Callie flew off. Jane gritted her teeth as she rounded the first corner. 8 of the men were still in the race including her. She pressed forward, overtaking three other riders. As she approached the last corner she noticed she was head to head with only one other rider. The Prince glanced in her direction his black hair sailing in the wind.
“See you at the finish line peasant boy.” he grinned kicking his horse. Jane scowled and turned her attention back to Callie.
“Now or never girl.” she muttered. Callie neighed with one final effort pressed forward. A horn blew and Jane shut her eyes. Had she won? Suddenly she felt hands gripping her legs and her eyes flung open. People were crowding around her patting her on the back and congratulating her. Overwhelmed she searched for a familiar face. “
Tilly” she said in relief, seeing her blonde haired friend racing towards her.
“You actually did it!” she screamed helping Jane off her horse. Jane shook her head in disbelief.
Suddenly she felt a hand on her back. Spinning around she came face to face with her family. Bowing her head she tried to look anywhere else but in their eyes.
“Impressive race son, fastest I have ever seen. where are you from exactly?” Jane went red and her heart swelled. Her dad thought she was impressive. No Jane, she thought to herself, dad thought Jake was impressive. She turned to the king. “Snowden” The king clapped his hands and laughed.
“Great place.” He remarked leading Jane towards the presentation tent.
“Yeah” she muttered. She noticed Clementine looking at her weirdly and hid her face with her hair.
“Hey daddy?” Clemetine’s voice broke through.
“Yes princess?” replied the king.
“May I speak with this young fellow for a second, I, would like to congratulate him for a, fantastic race.” She smiled sweetly. The king laughed and nodded. Jane groaned as Clementine grabbed her arm.
“Give it up, I know its you Jane.” Clementine’s face was set in a hard line. Jane grimaced.
“How did you find out?”
“I saw Tilly then I finally realised where I had seen that horse before.” She cocked her head.
“Please don’t tell dad” Jane begged. Her sister smiled.
“Of course I won’t, but i can’t believe you didn’t trust me enough to let me in on it, I totally would have helped you.” Jane grinned.
“Sorry Clem, I didn’t even think I was going to do it.” Clementine giggled and slipped her arm under Jane’s.
“Come on, you’re about to get your reward!” Jane laughed. They ran to the tent and took their seats.
“The winner of the Grand Cheval is Jake Crawford – Snowden!” The crowd went crazy as a grinning Jane went up to collect her prize.
“Wait!” Jane frowned. Everyone turned to see where the voice came from. A little blonde haired girl ran up to the stage.
“Tilly!” Jane exclaimed in surprise. “What are you doing?” she muttered quietly. “These people should know the real person who won this race, not Jake Crawford, you.” Jane faltered as Tilly stepped up.
“Ladies and gentlemen, your highnessess.” she said referring to the royal family at the bottom of the stage. “Today is an extraordinary day. You just witnessed the first ever girl to win a Grand Cheval!” The arena was silent. Tilly nodded to Jane encouragingly. Jane took a deep breath.
”My name is Jane Valentina Florence of Treeton” There was whispering in the crowd. Jane heard one of the riders whispering to his friend.
“We got beat by a girl!” Suddenly the king stood up.
“Jane-“ he broke off. Jane saw thunder in his eyes as he approached her. As he reached out the grab her off the stage and hand stopped him. Queen Helena stepped out and turned to her husband.
“Lionel, why is this such a bad thing? Why can’t she race?” The king narrowed his eyes.
“Girls are not allowed to race!” The queen rolled her eyes.
“Your daughter won far and square, be proud of her not disgraced.” The king blushed and turned to Jane.
“You did well” he announced. “but don’t think you wont be punished for leaving the castle.” he whispered to her. Jane smiled. She didn’t care. She turned Tilly and hugged her.
“Thanks Till.” she whispered. Tilly giggled.
From that day forward girls were allowed to race every year at the Grand Cheval. Jane Florence won the title for another 5 years in a row until she married and had a daughter of her own. Tilly Clementine Florence Crawford.