Welcome back! 🙂 I hope that your week has gone well. Mine has been pretty crazy – I returned from my mission trip in Ireland on Wednesday (it was absolutely amazing btw!) and have since been trying to get back into the normal routine of school. Not exactly an easy task…! 😀
Today I’m going to share with you the concluding part of the short story I posted last week. If you haven’t read part one, click here to read it. I hope you enjoy! 🙂
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…?” Before I can chase the thought, another something bursts out of the bushes.
But this time, this something is a girl. She storms towards me, hands on hips, dark braids swinging, anger oozing out of every move she makes. I back up next to Fire, poised for a quick getaway.
“You thief! How dare you?!” she throws her words at me, putting a protective hand on the palomino’s neck. The horse nickers and rests her head on the girl’s shoulder. “You know we hang horse thieves in this state?!” Her angry blue eyes throw me a challenge.
I stiffen at her accusation, and draw my small frame up to its full height. I feel my green eyes narrow, returning the challenge, and my hands clench into fists.
“I. Am. Not. A. Thief.” I spit each word out with great disdain. “I was not stealing your horse, I was only wondering why a horse was wandering out in the middle of nowhere, and seeing if I could find out whose horse it was so I could return it.”
“She’s not wandering out in the middle of nowhere, she’s on Carter land, and she’s a Carter horse. See the brand?” the strange girl says, pointing to the mare’s flank. “In fact, you are trespassing on Carter land. Right now.”
“I’m very sorry, I didn’t know I was trespassing.” I retort icily. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll get off your Carter land.” I mount Fire, and we start to walk away from the girl. “And I was not trying to steal your horse!” I toss as a parting shot over my shoulder.
“Wait!” Her voice has a strange sound to it. I pull the reins, and we stop, but I don’t turn around. I’m too mad. “I’m-I’m sorry. I jumped to conclusions.”
Is she going to apologize? I slightly turn my head so I can see her out of the corner of my eye. She’s standing next to the palomino, looking at me.
“Taffy disappeared, and then I heard noise, and when I peeked through the bushes, all I could see was someone standing next to her, and I-I guess I just figured that you were trying to steal her. I’m kind of protective of her, you see.”
I turn around Fire around fully, and stare at this strange girl. One minute hopping mad, the next minute apologising – what kind of girl is she? She smiles apologetically at me, hand still laying protectively on her horse’s neck.
“Umm…” I’m still wary of her, and don’t really know what to say. I haven’t seen anyone as mad as that girl was two minutes ago in a long time. “Well…”
“Mother is always chiding me for my temper.” The girl continues on. “And I know I ought to be better at controlling it. It’s just hard to control it when you think someone is stealing your horse.” She giggles awkwardly, then stops when she sees that I’m unamused. “I guess what I’m trying to say is…” She stops, takes a deep breath, and then starts again. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have shouted at that like you. Will you forgive me?” She looks up at me, her eyes pleading instead of spitting fire.
My mind races. I guess I don’t blame her for getting mad – I would be furious if I thought someone was stealing Fire! I give a small, reluctant smile.
“Sure, I forgive you. I would be mad too if I thought someone was stealing my horse.”
“Oh thanks! I really am sorry.” She shoots me an apologetic smile. “Shall we start over?” She asks.
“Huh?” My forehead wrinkles in confusion.
“You know, start over and get to know each other properly. I’m Andrea Carter, but you can call me Andi.” She sticks out her hand and gives me another grin. Her grin really is contagious, and I find myself shyly grinning back. I slide out of my saddle for the second time in ten minutes, and walk over to where she and her horse are standing.
“I’m Anna Moore. Pleased to meet you.” I shake her hand and then back up, not sure where to go from there.
“Nice to meet you, Anna!” She chirps. “How old are you?”
“I’m 13 next month.” I reply. “What about you?”
“I was 13 in May. So we’re practically the same age!”
“Yes!” I agree, and then silence falls again. I know I should keep the conversation moving, but my mind is still spinning from the rapid transition of events that have just occurred. The girl, or Andi as she calls herself, makes the first move again.
“Your horse is beautiful. What’s its name?” She stretches out her hand and lets Fire sniff it. I can tell she has a natural connection with horses.
“Thank you.” I reply. “His name is Fire.”
“Oh he’s so lovely!” She’s now scratching him under his forelock, his favourite place to be scratched. Fire gives a little grunt of happiness and a smile creeps across my face. Anyone that can make friends with my horse has found a place in my heart.
“And you said your horse’s name is…. Taffy?” I question.
“Yes, it is. I’ve had her since I was 6 years old.” Taffy is still standing contentedly behind her, her ears whiffling at the sound of our conversation. “How long have you had Fire?” She asks.
“Oh, since I was about eight. My Papa gave her to me…” I trail off and shift my feet in the dust. Those words bring back a slew of memories – memories that hurt more than they should.
“That’s nice. My brother Chad gave Taffy to me. I’d been simply longing to have my own horse, instead of a poky little pony. It was so hard being surrounded by horses and having to ride a pony instead.” She stops her flow of chatter abruptly. “Oh I’m sorry, I should explain. My family owns a ranch. The ‘Circle C’.” She gestures to the brand on Taffy’s flank. “So we have a lot of horses. You can imagine how delighted I was to have one of my own! And Taffy is my practically my best friend. We do everything together, don’t we girl?” She turns and strokes Taffy’s nose.
Taking the moment’s silence as a signal, Fire prods me in the back with his nose and nickers. I smile and grab his bridle to keep him from pushing me further. “Hey!” I chide gently
“Anyways, enough about me. I do tend to ramble on, unfortunately.” Andi chuckles. “So where do you call home?”
My heart plummets into my stomach at this question. Oh, how I long to go back to the only place I’ve ever called home, the cabin in the Oregon woods. But I can’t.
“Um, I’m living with Whit Hereford right now. He runs the dry goods shop in Fresno.”
“Oh yes, I know the one! I didn’t know he had anyone living with him. But then I haven’t been to Fresno for a while. No need to, now that school is over and done with for the summer. Thank goodness.” She gives a mock shudder and her blue eyes twinkle.
“My mother is going to help Uncle Whit run the shop. We moved there last week.” I shuffle my feet, uncomfortable at admitting this upsetting truth.
“Hey, that’s great!” Andi offers another grin. “And what does your Father do?” The question hovers between us as the warm breeze whispers in the trees. I struggle to keep my mouth from quivering, and furiously blink back tears.
“I… ah. He… um… died.” I manage to get out. “In January. It was a logging accident.” I look down and scuff my boots in the dust, my vision blurred by tears swimming in my eyes.
“Oh I’m so sorry.” Andi’s voice comes quietly, gently. “I’m so very sorry.”
“Thanks.” I manage to choke out.
“It’s hard, huh?” She softly asks.
“Yeah. Really hard.” I can’t stop my mouth from wobbling and soon tears are once again spilling down my cheeks. “I’m- I’m sorry.” I gulp. But floods are hard to stop once they’ve begun, and my tears just keep coming. I bury my face in my hands, and turn away towards Fire, embarrassed to be sobbing in front of this girl I’ve only just met. Fire lets me cry on his neck – he’s been used to it these past months.
Then suddenly, I feel something strange. An arm steals around my shoulders, and I feel the comforting pressure of a hug. It makes me sob harder, but all of a sudden my heart feels warmer. It’s as if a soothing layer of balm has been spread across the recently opened wound. After what seems to be an eternity, I take a deep, hiccoughing breath and look up. Andi’s face is warm with compassion and understanding.
“My Father died when I was five.” She says, simply. “I know what it’s like.”
She understands me. She understands my tears. The thought is comforting, like the final squeeze she gives me before stepping back. Fire whinnies concernedly in my ear and whooshes his breath over my cheek. “I’m alright, don’t worry, Fire.” I smile shakily and pat his neck to reassure him. Taking a deep, shuddering breath, I compose myself, wiping the tear stains off my cheeks, and tucking away the wayward curls of hair that have escaped from my braids behind my ears.
“I’m sorry.” I say. “I didn’t mean –“
“No don’t be.” She cuts me off. “Sometimes you just have to let it all out.” She smiles knowingly at me. “I come here when I need to do some letting off. It’s my special spot…” She gestures round the clearing, and all of a sudden I realize that it is actually quite a pretty spot. A brook babbles off to my left and birds twitter among the trees.
“I can see why.” I say. “It’s lovely.”
“Yeah, it’s good to just come and be alone sometimes. As long as no one tries to steal your horse…” She shoots a sidelong look at me, and I see laughter twinkling in her eyes again.
“Well I don’t think a horse thief would get very far with you on their trail!” I reply. I shoot her a twinkling look of my own, and suddenly we both burst into laughter. It feels good to laugh again.
“I should hope not!” We burst into another round of laughter, and I feel a weight lift from my shoulders. All of a sudden life doesn’t seem as bleak as before. Perhaps it is possible to find joy again. Our laughter dies, and we share a companionable grin.
Then she looks up at the sky. “Oh dear, I must dash. Mother will be expecting me back for supper soon!”
“Yes, I suppose I should be getting back to town too.”
“Do you know how to get back to town?” Andi asks. “If you head straight south from here you’ll hit a road. Just follow that east and you’ll ride straight into Fresno.”
“Oh thanks! I wasn’t exactly following a map when I stumbled upon this place.” I giggle. It feels funny to be smiling so much all of a sudden. But it feels pretty good too.
“Are you free tomorrow?” Andi questions, while climbing easily onto Taffy’s bare back.
“I think so.” I say, putting my foot into the stirrup and hefting myself into the saddle. “Why?”
“Well I figured I might ride out to Fresno, just to see what’s new… And while I’m at it I might stop by the dry goods store and see if anyone there fancies a ride…” She shrugs carelessly, but I can see the grin she’s trying to suppress.
I smile again. “Sounds like a good plan!”
“Right then, see you tomorrow!” She waves and then turns to go.
“See you tomorrow!” I echo.
“Goodbye!” She throws one last beaming smile over her shoulder, and then urges Taffy into a gallop. I watch her ride until she is out of sight, and then pick up my reins.
“Come on Fire, let’s go!” Within seconds we are hurtling faster and faster straight south. I laugh with joy, but the wind that whistles in my face whisks the sound away quickly.
Our speed is exhilarating, but more so are the strange new feelings that bubble up inside, feelings that I haven’t felt in quite a long time – the feelings of thankfulness and joy.
I give a whoop of delight and urge Fire to go faster. I can’t wait for tomorrow.
So, what do you think? I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on the story! 🙂