Hi there, welcome back! I’m so excited to be sharing the first part of a short story with you all today. I wrote this story to enter into a fan fiction contest, and though I didn’t win anything, I still had a lot of fun writing it, so it was definitely worth it! If you want to learn more about the books behind this story, you can go here. And now without further ado, my I present to you, the first half of Friendship from Tears!
The wind whips my hair into my face, and the pounding of Fire’s hooves echo like drum beats in my head. I lean further over Fire’s neck, urging him to go faster. Maybe I can outrun my unhappiness.
“I hate it here!” I shout, but the wind snatches the words from my mouth and they melt into nothingness.
I never wanted to move, it was all Mama’s idea. Ever since Papa died she’d been restless. Grief does that to a person I guess… So when she got an invitation to come help out in Uncle Whit’s dry goods shop, she took it up. Now don’t get me wrong, I like Uncle Whit. But not where he lives. Fresno, California is a hot, dusty, out in the middle of nowhere place. And to top it all off, it has no forest near it for miles.
Up in Oregon, I’d spent my whole life in the forest. I loved it. It was my native habitat, my home. No place else could replace the cosy cabin in the woods where I lived with my Papa and Mama.
But now, I’m here, in a strange place without my beloved Papa. And I hate it. At least I was able to bring Fire with me. I don’t know what I would have done without him this past week. Every day, as soon as I can escape from the shop, I ride. I don’t know where I go, just out into the dusty country and scrubby hills. When I’m alone on Fire’s back, I can try to forget the weight of loneliness and grief that hangs heavy on my heart.
I love to ride. When I was little, Papa used to toss me up in the saddle with him and we’d ride through the woods together. When I got bigger, he gave me my own horse, a black gelding I named ‘Black Fire’. I called him Fire for short. He and Papa were my constant companions – whenever I had a free moment, they were the two I wanted to be with. We’d ride together through the towering pine trees and across the lush, green fields, talking about everything and anything, and laughing at the slightest provocation.
When dusk would begin to fall, we’d turn towards home. Tired but happy, we’d eventually come through the trees and into the clearing where our cabin stood. There Mama would be standing in the lighted doorway, waiting for us to come in. Oh the love and joy that I felt, surrounded by the people and place I loved! Papa’s ever present laughter filled our house, and Mama’s gentle smile lighted it. Our house was an island of happiness.
“It’s a puddle of heaven, Anna girl” Papa used to say, as he’d hug me tight.
Then, this past winter, all that had changed. A freak accident took Papa, and in one swift blow, everything I knew and loved fell out from beneath my feet.
I felt like I was falling forever though a thick, black mist of sorrow. When I finally hit the ground, everything was different.
It seemed that all joy disappeared that day Papa never came home, and heartache came in to take its place. Mama didn’t talk much. She seemed to withdraw inside herself, like a snail into its shell. The silence in the house screamed out that something was missing.
Fire was my constant companion in those dark days. Every day, as soon as school and chores were over, I’d take off on Fire, wandering the woods and remembering happier days. Many tears fell and my heart throbbed until I wished I could die too. But the woods were like a healing balm to my soul. The familiar paths and hills, the never-changing beauty and the pine-scented breezes soothed my heart. The grief that had at first stabbed me with sharp pain, slowly but surely subsided to a dull ache.
In my own way, I was happy again. Never as happy as before, but still, I was content. I had Fire, and my beloved woods, and our home was again lighted by Mama’s quiet smile.
Then Mama announced that we were moving to Fresno, and once again everything changed. I fought the decision with everything I had in me. I couldn’t fathom leaving the home that I had known my whole life. But despite my pleadings and tears, Mama had remained steadfast in her decision.
And so, a week ago, we had taken the long journey down to Fresno. Leaving the cabin in the woods tore yet another wound into my already aching heart, and this time it felt like it would never heal…
All these memories and thoughts flash through my head, as Fire and I gallop over the open country.
But one thought pounds in my head above everything else, even louder than Fire’s pounding hooves. I hate it here! I want Papa back! Tears leak from my eyes and are immediately are swept away by the wind that whistles in my ears. My breath comes in great gasps, and sobs tear through my body.
“Why? Why?!” I shout.
But there is no answer.
I slowly become aware of Fire’s sides heaving, as he struggles to keep up the fast pace I’m urging him to. I slow him down, easing him out of the gallop into a lope, then trot, then finally a walk. “I’m sorry old boy,” I say, patting Fire’s wet neck. “Guess I wasn’t thinking about what I was doing. Did I run you too fast?”
Taking a heaving breath, I scrub my tears away and take note of my surroundings for the first time. We’ve galloped out of the open country, into a sparsely wooded area. Nothing like the woods back home, just some trees here and there.
Fire whinnies softly, and looks back at me with his dark, gentle eyes. He seems to know my pain, and his eyes are filled with pity. “Oh, I love you Fire!” I lean down onto his neck and hug him, ignoring his sweatiness. He whinnies again, and then walks forward deeper into the clearing.
It’s actually not that bad here. There isn’t a lot of dust and it’s quiet – something that town never is. I miss the silence of the woods back home. Fire pricks his ears back and forth, listening for something only he knows.
Then, the silence is broken by a rustling noise coming from the far edge of the clearing. I sit up straight, gripping Fire’s mane with one hand, and the reins with the other. The realization suddenly comes upon me that I have no idea where I am. I’ve galloped for miles, and I have no clue who, or what, could be out here. The quiet clearing becomes eerie to my nervously listening ears, and the silence that I welcomed a moment ago now becomes unfriendly. My eyes dart quickly around the circle of trees, I feel like I’m being watched. “Wh- who’s there?” My voice comes out in a quaver.
Suddenly, something bursts through the trees, and then stops. That something is a horse. I let out a shaky sigh of relief and grin at my nerves.
“Whew, that scared me. Did it scare you Fire?” He snorts and walks toward the other horse.
It’s a beautiful cream palomino, perfect from head to toe. I can tell it’s a horse of good breeding. The question is, why is it alone here out in the middle of nowhere? I slip out of my saddle, and hit the ground in a puff of dust.
Walking forward towards the horse, I reach my hand out and start sweet-talking. “Hey, beauty. Whatcha doing here all by yourself? You sure are a pretty horse to be all alone out here… Come on, I won’t hurt you.” I reach the horse, and stretch my hand out to stroke its face. Its nose flares as it delicately sniffs my hand, then it turns its attention to Fire. They touch noses, and have a little conversation in horse language, punctuated with little snorts, sniffles, and whinnies.
As they talk, I run my hand over the palomino’s creamy side down to the flank, feeling its strong muscles beneath the soft skin. I can see now that it’s a mare. And a very beautiful one at that. “You are the most gorgeous hunk of horse-flesh I’ve ever seen.” I croon to the horse.
A jealous nicker sounds in my ear and I turn to see Fire behind me. “Oh do pardon me. I meant excepting you, Fire.” I correct myself with a giggle. “You are the prettiest horse ever!” I give him a scratch underneath his forelock.
“But I wonder who you belong to …” I muse, turning back to the palomino. My eyes are caught by a brand on the horse’s flank – a ‘C’ inside a circle. “The Circle C… Have I heard of that before…?”
Come back next Saturday to read the concluding half of this story! 🙂