by Emily S. Rose
Out the window I could see the sky, changing colors like tie-dye from the horizon up, with clouds like whipped cream along the skyline. I got up and put on my clothes from yesterday, my drawers were empty and my laundry basket was full; I really needed to do laundry. After I was dressed I examined myself. I had on my boots, jeans, mom’s belt, and a hoody that my brother gave me for Christmas last year. As I inspected myself in the mirror, I threw my long thin mousy brown hair up into a bun on top of my head and secured it with a hair tie. My face would remind my dad of my mother when she was my age, and looking at the pictures, I agreed with him more and more each day.
I grabbed mom’s hat off of the dresser and clomped down the stairs, a huge thud each time the heel of my boot hit a stair. Mom hated me wearing my boots in the house, but I loved the sound of the wooden soles on the tile and hardwood floor. I clomped across the room to the pantry and grabbed a banana off the shelf, and then ran out onto the porch. I listened as the sound of my footsteps changed from short taps to hollow thuds as I stepped from the tile of the entry way to the wood of the porch. According to the kitchen clock, it was only about 5am, so I had time for a ride. I tightened mom’s hat onto my head and hurried across the dirt driveway to the barn. I threw open the big doors and looked inside. “Who wants to go runnin?!” I called out. The cool sweet smell of hay drifted into my nostrils as I walked inside and looked around.
The horses looked out of their stalls at me and started nickering. I grabbed my quarter horse, Tai Pan, out of his stall and attached him to the cross ties. I went into the tack room and shuffled around looking for his brushes. I found them at the bottom of my wooden tack trunk all dusty and moldy. I knew I couldn’t use these to clean my baby, so I lifted up the cover for dad’s trunk and grasped the cold metal handle on his pail of brushes and pulled them out.
I clutched the wooden block of my brush and started up at Tai Pan’s neck like I normally would do, but this was the first time I had been able to reach up to the top of his neck comfortably. When I finished brushing him, I grabbed the height tape out of the bucket to check how tall he is. He was still 15 hands high, but it was so easy to reach his neck… Has it really been that long since I’ve been home? When dad sent me away to school in Colorado last fall, I had to leave all of the horses, and I hadn’t been back since. Every day I would think about the horses and call home to make sure everything was ok.
Brushing Tai Pan’s long, blonde mane was refreshing; it lifted something from me that I hadn’t known was there. I don’t think I had realized how much I missed the horses. I stopped brushing him and stood back. After about 10 minutes I took a few steps back and looked at my horse, the sunrise glinted off of him. His black coat glistened with the morning sun and his long mane and tail flowing in the light breeze that skated through the barn; I realized how beautiful these animals existence really is. Tai Pan’s thick head turned towards me and his ears pricked up. He knows I’m thinking about something, about how much I had taken horses for granted, even him. I had hated coming out and picking through the stalls every morning, grooming all the horses and exercising them, but at that moment I realized this experience is something most people don’t get to do. I couldn’t take these things for granted, because everyone has that one special thing that they do; and I shouldn’t, because at any moment it could be taken away.
Staring at Tai Pan his clean coat shimmered in the spots of sunlight that crept through the holes in the ceiling, now I just needed his saddle. Walking back into the tack room, now fully aware of my surroundings, I noticed that things were different. All of dad’s stuff was moved to the back of the tack room, and my stuff had its own side. I looked around and noticed that even though our stuff had been organized, dad put a lot of it away. All of my bridles were in bridle bags hanging up against the wall instead of out like they normally are, and my saddle was gone.
I guessed that dad put my saddle away while I was gone, so I climbed up into the attic and found it in mom’s tack trunk along with a note from dad:
Be safe baby. Don’t take Tai Pan with you today. I want you to try out Max. I bought him off of one of Hudson’s friends a little over a month ago and he’s been in training with Jen. I want you to tell me how you like him, he’s yours. He’s in the pasture in the back of the barn with the bright white star on his head. I hope you adore him, his saddle and bridle are all on the teal saddle rack and he has his own grooming bucket there too.
I didn’t understand why dad wouldn’t want me to take Tai Pan. He was my horse and I’d been riding him for 10 years, why would I want to ride someone else, where did my saddle go, and why would anyone name a horse Max? That’s such a stupid common name!
I felt strange when I walked back down the stairs. I hadn’t seen any of mom’s riding stuff in a while, not since about a week after her accident at least. I got over to Charis’ paddock and looked in. I couldn’t believe my eyes. With his nose over the wire fence, a beautiful chestnut gelding with straight tan locks and a coat the color of a penny was standing solid and silent, staring at me with his ears facing towards me in wonder. He must have been about 16 hands tall and he looked exactly like Latitude, Mom’s Morgan when she was a teenager.
Tears slipped down my face and seeped into the corners of my lips. I missed her.