Morning came as a surprise because I accidentally fell asleep. I must have dreamed of good things for I was in a pretty good mood when I heard Mamo calling. Then I remembered. I was going to the stables that morning, and all the anxiety came flooding back.
Worse, I didn’t get the chance to try the suddenly-ill story I’d concocted to tell at breakfast because they woke me up too late to have any! But Mamo had packed a generous lunch and sent me out to the porch where grandma impatiently waited.
I didn’t say a word on the short drive to the stables, though grandma tried to cheer me up with chatter. She left me in a huff and a puff of tired engine smoke, standing in front of another Indian; this one dressed like a cowboy. He said his name was Chance, and would I like to take one? Not really, no. I thought, miserably. Not even the fact that my horse’s name was Midnight Star could cheer me.
I had to climb atop a bale of hay to reach the saddle. I was prepared to have a nosebleed. Or at the very least, one of Mamo’s dizzy spells.
“What if I get lost?” I whimpered, hating my misty eyes
“It’s okay,” Chance replied “The horse won’t.”
He handed me my lunch bag, tightened a couple of straps, slapped the horse on the rump and we were off at such a bouncy gait I bit my tongue. Twice. I hunkered down and turtled my head when Star began to run at full speed through an open meadow dotted with blue and yellow flowers.
When I opened my eyes again I was nearly knocked out of the saddle by a tree branch as we entered a dense wooded area where the trail was barely visible. I could have been decapitated and suspected that Star was trying to kill me. If panic didn’t do it first.
In the eerily quiet woods I was sure I’d hear a ladybug sigh as Star slowed to a walk and came to a stop beside a shimmering stream that gurgled like chipmunk laughter as butterflies waltzed in the air. Star seemed content to stand around awhile so I seized the opportunity to greedily gobble my first sandwich. I couldn’t have told you what was in it. I didn’t care.
As if by a wall-switch the treetops swayed and thunder rumbled in the distance. Star became antsy as fat drops plopped into the stream, slow, at first. We were moving again, right before the rain came down in thick sheets you couldn’t see through. For half a second, I thought we might head back to the stables, given the weather. But that would have been too easy.
Instead, Star proceeded to run like the wind itself as I hung on for dear life, through stands of gnarly trees with moss and squirrels who looked surprised and across broken fences, slicing between fragrant vines that stuck in my hair, and passed a small cabin from where I hoped someone had seen me streak by on a runaway horse. And at a resounding boom overhead that shook the very ground, he stopped. Just like that. The sun gleamed through a space in the clouds as we stood there, dripping. The birds resumed their chatter and I could still smell the vines in my hair. I don’t know when I lost my other sandwich, but I hadn’t died.
Star meandered the rest of the way to the stables, which was good because I suddenly wasn’t ready to return. Strange. I thought if I saw my own reflection where the sun was setting on the lake, I would look like a different person.
Chance somehow knew when we’d return and was there, waiting for us. He helped me dismount and asked with a wry smile “See you tomorrow?”
“You bet!” I beamed.