The young girl, tip-toed out of her small bedroom, and down the large hand carved oak stairs so she wouldn’t wake her parents, she opened the front crimson door and she squinted as it made the nightly squeak. She turned her head and looked over her shoulders but she didn’t see nor hear anything stir.
She shut the door with another creak and a click, but she was out the door and running across the field. Her blonde hair swayed and flipped with the wind and her blue eyes sparkled when the Moon hit them.
She opened the large red barn door and took a few deep breathes, she continued walking in through the darkness passing a few stall doors and she heard her horse greet her with a gentle and deep nicker.
“Hey girl…” she soothed. “We’re going on another late night walk.” She looked at her young Arabian as she stroked her forelock gently and opened the stall latch with a twist of her fingers. She curried Luna’s shining coat and then slid on a saddle pad and swung on the 18hh horses back with ease.
She made a kissing noise with her lips and the Arabian walked out into the night, Ashley tapped the horse’s sides with her heels and they ran through the shadows of the trees and leapt over shadowy logs without hesitation. Ashley had been riding ever since she was two, and could run bareback without question.
They ran near the blue, gleaming water and Ashley’s hair swept simultaneously with the mane of her horse. Luna splashed in the water one heart beat at a time as the moon made her white coat glimmer. Ashley took a deep breath as she smelled the ocean breeze tickle her nose when the spray touched her face.
She pushed with her thighs and Luna slowed to a walk again and the teenager was as content as a young woman could be. But suddenly, a shadow crept through the night and she tightened her grip on Luna’s mane.
“It’s that fiend wolf again girl,” she whispered in Luna’s ears. “We need to get home… now!” she kicked Luna’s sides again, and the horse went trampling through the black forest as she heard the wolf come trailing up behind them. Ashley’s heart raced along with her horses speed and she clucked her tongue as the horse’s speed quickened, but the wolf was just as fast as the horse, and was quickly catching up.
Both she and the horse looked up, and they saw the barn only a few yards away. The only thing that stood between them and safety was the 5ft. fence that stood tall. Ashley looked over her shoulder and the wolf was hot on their tail, snarling and barking as a few more came breaking through the woods. She could feel the hot breath of the wolf biting at her heels, and she pushed harder for her horse’s concentration.
“Come on girl, just a little faster and a little farther!” Ashley urged, but the horse was just as scared as she was, and Luna’s energy was quickly failing. Ashley hung on tight, her hands trembling as she and the horse leaped over the fence and came swinging into the barn, she hopped off of the horse with her heart rate increasing, and slammed the barn door shut, the wolves were biting and clawing at the door, but she locked in their safety with the wooden plank of birch wood. Ashley listened as the wolves fight and rage to get in, but finally, after a nerve wrecking while, they finally left. She took a few gasping breathes, and hugged Luna’s strong neck, not releasing until she was reassured that they were finally safe.
That morning, she walked into the dining room and sat on one, of the four ebony chairs surrounding a matching table. She looked up at her mother. Her mother’s face gleamed with happiness as she poured milk into Ashley’s cereal bowl.
“And how did you sleep last night?” her mother asked still smiling at her, her eyes bright and delightful.
“Oh,” Ashley said as she stroked her golden hair with her fingers nervously. “I-I-I um… slept fine.” She mouthed truthfully. But when she looked up, she was relieved to know that her mother was washing dishes and wasn’t paying attention to her anxious expression.
“That’s good dear, now… could you please go outside and tell your father that breakfast is ready, please. He should be in the barn.” Her mother asked as she dried her hands on the red cotton towel that was tied to the knob of the door under the sink. Then Ashley’s mom pushed her silky brown hair up and tied it in a bun like she always did each morning, just as gracefully as an angel would.
“Yes mother.” Ashley sighed and pushed herself towards the giant squeaking door, as she could only imagine the look on her father’s face when he saw all of the claw marks and wolf tracks around the barn door… and the hoof marks entering it.
She swallowed hard and opened the creaking door again and got an immediate whiff of that manure barn smell that always filled her nostrils. She slowly walked down the dirt road and sure enough, she saw her father examining the door and feeling it with his hands with his knees on the dirty ground. After he was finished examining he looked over his shoulder and stood, he wiped his big hands on his dirty jeans and then he began to walk towards her, the sweat dripping down his forehead and the heat melting his deep brown eyes.
“Hey dad, mom wanted you to know that breakfast was ready.” She smiled, hiding her afraid expression that was jumbled up inside.
“Take a look at this.” He urged as he put his large and dirty hand on her shoulder and lead her to the tracks and claw marks. “Do you know how this got here?” he asked looking not mad or happy whether the answer was good or not.
“Uh-y-y-yes sir.” She shied as she dug her boot down into the dirt making a small hole. His expression was more soft now as he bent down so that he could look her in the eyes and asked,
“I won’t be mad if you tell me that you were out here again last night, just what happened and the truth.” He seemed to be understanding, yet forceful over the answer. His grip on her shoulder was as light and tender as if he were holding a bird, yet strong and not willing to release if pulled against.
“I uh… went riding last night… and a pack of wolves thought that we were tasty ok!?” she blurted out with tears forming in the pockets of her eyes. Her father loosened his grip on her shoulder, then stood and walked down the dirt path, leading to the door.
“Ashley, you take care of Luna, mom and I just need to talk a little. She was nickering for food, go on now.” He pointed his hand towards the barn, and then turned and walked through the opened door and shut it with a strong smack. Ashley heaved a bale of hay, and dropped it on the ground in front of Luna.
“I don’t get it Moon?” she said as she stroked her mane while the horse took a big mouth full of hay. “I just wanted to have a quiet ride with you.” She wiped the sweat off her brow and went to the well near the barn to get Luna some water. She walked up to the old stone well, and dropped the bucket down the black hole. She heard a splash and felt the rope tug, and then she heaved the bucket to her hands and poured it into the trough that lay next to it.
When she was finished with her horse work, she walked up onto the white porch and just as she lifted her hand to reach for the little knob, she heard her father curse and then, speaks to someone in an outraged voice.
“Why don’t you lock her door like I told you to…” her father’s voice echoed.
“I don’t … she’s not a caged animal … but…” her mother’s voice was afraid but soft as a wing beats.
“I don’t care! She needs to sleep during the night not … are you listening to me!” Ashley’s parent’s voices seemed to reach to her, but then pull away just as soon. She pushed her face against the crack in the oak, and listened closer as their voices became clearer.
“She is a girl, John. She needs freedom.”
Her mother’s voice was still soft, but stern and serious. Ashley pulled herself away from the door as her mind whirled with questions and answers that she wasn’t sure where the right ones. She ran down the steps and back into the lighter barn and started mucking out Luna’s stall which she always did when her parents started to argue.
Why was dad being so mean towards mom? I just couldn’t sleep and love the late night walks with her, what’s wrong with that? And why wasn’t mom walking away or fighting back like regularly? Ashley’s thought wouldn’t stop moving as she sat on a large bale of hay and watched her horse that almost seemed to understand. Ashley looked at Luna, and for a few moments, their minds connected in pure love, understanding, and the same thoughts rose in both their heads.