Sailing Light was the devil in the shape of a horse. She had refused to even let me saddle her for almost an hour and by the time our practice for the day was over I had only just managed to get up in the saddle. When I led her back to her stall I had tears in my eyes and I wondered if the others would make fun of me because of my failures. Most likely.
“Hey hey! Calm done now, will’ya? I ain’t sayin’ it will be easy, alright. But I know you can do it.” He took a firm grip of my arms and looked at me, “None of them others could handle her. But I can feel that you can. Just go slow and steady, okay? Sailin’ likes you, she’s just darn stubborn, like I told ya.”
I relaxed a bit because his hands against my upper arms felt good. It made a calm feeling spread in my body and I sighed, “Okay.”
She liked me, he had said. I never even wondered how he could know such a thing, it just felt good that he had said it. She liked me. And he knew I could handle her. He put trust in me and that was such a rare thing to happen that I found myself with a strong will and determation for success. I didn’t come all the way to Appaloosa for failure. I would learn how to ride and I would manage to tame Sailing. I would!
“Are you alright?” Laila asked me when later that day, when we were sitting in our shared livingroom. Her voice was filled with honest worry. “I can’t believe they let such horses be on a riding school! They should have kind and calm horses!” She was upset for my sake and she felt truly sorry for me.
“It’s alright” I said, and felt surprised when I realized that I actually meant it. “She’ll come around eventually.”
“Yea… I suppose. But I know I can do it.”
“Oh yea, that’s not what I meant” Laila hurried to explain. “It’s just, you know the first experience and all.”
I liked her. She was kind and friendly. I wonder if she would be that way if she knew what my life was like at home. She reminded me a bit of myself, before I changed my appearance. Ordinary, friendly and somewhat weak and eager to please others.
“Thanks Laila” I said and meant it. Before she managed to say anything else there was a loud sound coming from the stairs. Someone was walking with heavy steps. Judging by the sound of it, the person coming up was doing its best to make as much sound as possible. It didn’ come as much of a surprise to Luna when Nyx’s multi-colored hair came in sight.
Even though I didn’t know why, I was scared of this girl. Perhaps because Brick had warned me about her, perhaps because she had been so negative at the introduction. Whatever reason, the pure presence of Nyx sent shivers through my body and both me and Laila was suddenly unable to speak.
When neither me or Laila replied, Nyx scowled, “One could at least hope here would have been decent people, but no!” I looked at Laila, who looked about as scared as I felt. We had indeed lost the ability to speak.
Nyx slammed the door to her bedroom and left me alone with Laila in the livingroom again. The three of us were the only students living at the centre this summer since the other two students lived in Appaloosa already. “What’s her problem?” Laila whispered when we were sure Nyx couldn’t hear us anymore and I shrugged, “Who knows?”
Fake Goth. The words echoed in my head as I tried to fall asleep. Fake, fake, fake. How could she possibly have me figured out already? How could it be that Nyx already knew that this wasn’t me? That the black make-up, the short skirt, the broken stockings and the short dark, cocky hair was as far from my personality we could come.
I was fake, but I had to be, right? It was survival instincts, right? Not everyone noticed, right?
I haven’t always loved mornings. Every new day used to mean more tormenting, accelerating bullying. But here, in Appaloosa Plains, on Bloomsville Equesterian Centre, a new morning meant more riding and more stuff to learn. And as I opened my eyes this morning, I just knew that this would be the day that I finally managed to reach Saling Light.
I had started going down to the stable early in the morning to help Brick with the morning routines. It basically involved feeding, brushing, clean their hooves and sometimes cleaning the stalls. I thought it was the perfect idea on how to get closer to Sailing and Brick just seemed happy to get some company.
“Here you go, girl. It’s carrots, your favourite” I said and petted her muffle. I was glad that we had come this far. That I was able to pet and hug her. She even let me saddle her without too much fuss.
“See, she’s startin’ to come around. She likes you, I told ya so” Brick’s accent heavy, sleepy voice was like music to my ears. Usually we did the morning feeding in silence but occassionally he said a word or two. Mostly it was about how happy he was that I was the one riding Sailing this summer.
“Yea, I think so. We’re getting there with the riding, too” I said and smiled towards him.
Saling seemed to be in a good mood today and didn’t nibble or stomp at me a single time during the morning routines. I had a good feeling when it was time for the day’s class to begin. “What do you say Sailing, are we actually going to focus on riding today?”
I lowered the stirrups and careully placed my one foot in it. It was still a scary thing to do, since you could never know if Sailing would approve or not. I slowly placed more and more weight on the foot in the stirrup and watched closely for any kind of reaction from my horse but she was standing still and calm. I took a shot and threw my one leg over, straddling her. And it worked! It worked!
But then, once I was up in the saddle there was another obstacle to conquer: Actually riding her. She didn’t look this big from the ground but it felt like I was an eternity above ground. “Good job there Luna” Molly shouted somewhere in the distance. “Now give her a push with your heels to get her to move.”
I did start her up though and I held on to the reins so hard that my knuckles turned white. The world around me was nothing but a blur. I couldn’t focus on anything else than staying on Sailing’s back and I realized that I didn’t trust her for one bit. It sways more than you would think on a horse’s back.
Brick was filling up water in one of the horses vats and as we passed him he waved towards me, while smiling widely. “I knew you could do it! You go, Luna!” he yelled.
I could feel the change in my entire body when the mouth formed a smile and I started to relax a bit in the saddle. I was riding Sailing Light, the darn stubborn mare, and it was going well. I loosened the grip of the reins and decided to use my one hand to wave back to Brick.
I shouldn’t have done it. Losing the hold of the reins caused me to slip right out of the saddle and I landed with a thud on my bum on the hard ground. Dust swirled up around me and maybe that was what caused tears in my eyes, or maybe it was the pain in my bum or the shame and humiliation.
“Just get up there again. It was going fine, you can do it Luna” Brick, who had hurried up to me, whispered in my ear as he helped me back on my feet. “Unless you’ve fallen off at least once you haven’t put enough effort in.”
I smiled towards him and pretended to wipe some dust off my face, when it really was tears. I hoped he hadn’t seen.
I was back up in the saddle within no time, even more determined to get the hang of this whole riding thing. I was the only one of the students who had fallen off, and if you should believe Brick (and I did in this matter), that meant I was the only one who had put enough effort in. That must mean something, right?
I had just fallen asleep on top of the bedspreads when a familiar sound woke me up. It took me a moment to realize it was my phone. I looked at the screen to see a dozen of notifications. 9 missed calls. 15 texts.
Calum. I had totally forgotten about him! We had talked on the day of my arrival but ever since then I hadn’t brought my phone with me at any point and once it was time to go to bed I was usually so exhausted that I fell asleep right away.
All the texts looked quite the same: “Luna! I miss you, I hope you’re fine”, “I hope you not responding means you’re having fun”, “I miss you Luna”, “Luna, it feels like it was forever since I spoke to you. Can’t you at least answer on my texts?”, “Are you mad at me or something? I miss you. Please just write something.”
I sighed. Calum belonged to another life, one wehere I wasn’t allowed to feel happiness or be good at stuff. One where I couldn’t work in a stable all day long. One were Brick couldn’t give me extra tips on how to improve my riding. There was no room for Calum in this life. But, a little part of me did feel sorry for him and that little part decided to answer to one of the texts: “Calum! I’m sorry, it’s so busy here. I barely have any free time. Riding is fantastic and the horses here are beautiful. Not as Silver, but still. See ya in a couple of weeks.”
Once the message was sent away I felt a bit sad. I don’t really know why, but maybe because his name reminded me of that disgusting kiss and the life I had back home. Maybe because I realized I had to go back there at some point. Maybe it was shame for not missing him.
I didn’t have time to dwell in it too long because mom entered the room shortly after. “Luna” she said. “That young guy was looking for you. He wondered if you wanted to help him wash the horses off?”
I was used to the smell in the stables by now, but it made me happy non-the-less. It was a special atmosphere in the stable, different smells mixed with the sounds of the animals. Sailing Light neighed recognicially as I entered. Brick said it was because she was starting to trust me.
We worked in silence next to each other. The heavy physical work with spreading hay in the stalls pretty much demanded silence. The only sound I would be able to get out would have been grunting anyway. But once we were finished, Brick asked me to sit down in the further end for a chat.
“There’s a horse race comin’ up this weekend” he said once we were seated. “You ever been to one?”
I shook my head no.
“I was thinkin’ maybe you’d like to come with me?” he wondered and I looked at him surprised. Let it be that I was a different person here, but a cute guy asking me to go with him for a date? Was it even a date? Who cares, of course I wanted to go!”