She was cold and needed to potty. So badly that she didn't think she could possibly get up off her cot in the barn isle without wetting herself. And, it was so dark. The seconds ticked by like forever. She finally hoisted her shivering body off the wobbly cot and ran for the barn door grabbing for the roll of toilet paper but dropping in her haste. The horses in the barnyard startled and snorted in surprise. Relief came quickly. Back on her cot, listening to the breathing of her brother and sisters, sleep finally found her again.
"Time to get up."
She jumped up, smoothed the cover up to the pillow grabbed her clothes and ran to the front of the barn. Her older sister, already washing at the spigot, was pink and shivering from the cold.
"Lets Go, breakfast is almost ready."
She wet the washrag and began the teeth chattering chore.
Skinny little sister ran naked up to wash, fear on her face at the prospect of punishment for being late. The girl's heart melted at the sight of her baby sister, she did love her so. She threw her shirt over the thin body and shot her an understanding quick smile.
She had been twelve now for only a month, the same amount of time she had been living in this foreign place. In her past, she had slept in a warm bed. In her past, her toilet flushed. In her past, she had sat around a table in the early morn to have bacon and eggs, swinging her legs under a table with her family. In her past, no one got beat for no reason. In her past, she had been tucked in by her father…
Out to dig fence post holes she has to get it done. Each hole must be two feet deep it's marked on the handle of the shovel. The pick axe helps with rocks. She feels defeated by the hole but her tears don't make it easier.
Bone tired she settles into her cot and wraps her hands behind her head. Ritually, she rocks side to side as quietly as she can. It works, no-one yells at her. Maybe they are all asleep already.
A gentle nudging causes her to open a sleepy eye. Gentle is not much a part of her life. This is strange. Another nudge and both eyes are open as she rolls over. Two velvet nostrils in front of her face blew warm breath, heating her cheeks.
Sub-consciously she thought, "The horses are out!" She jumped up and reached for a shock of mane to grab in order to lead him back out of the barn. The horse nudged her pushing her to his shoulder. She tugged on his mane, harder this time, "Come on, you need to get out before you make a mess and I get in trouble." Another nudge, more persistent sends her up against his warm, sleek …weird shoulder.
Suddenly wide awake she knows that something is very, very different about this horse. From his back, magnificent wings are folded above him. Only in her wild imaginings has she seen such an astonishing creature. He nudged her again. Finally understanding, she deftly leapt onto his back. He turned, then, and silently glided out of the barn window. "Whew, she thought, I was afraid I had left the door unlatched and would get whipped."
It was the only unhappy thought she had that night.
And they flew. Up and through the clouds he soared, determined, as if on a mission. Her body reveled in the familiar feel of equine muscles rippling beneath her flesh. She knew no fear.
"Time to get up."
Wash, eat, work, it all went by quickly as thoughts of equine magic and flight filled her soul. Even the cutting remarks and degradation by her mother's 'significant other' were imbedded less deeply into her psyche than usual.
Riding her pony after dinner brought back the surge of freedom from the previous night's adventure as, in full gallop, she just let go and raised her hands and face to the sky. She and her pony were as one as her twelve-year-old troubles seemed far away.
Each night he came, nuzzling her to swing aboard. They pressed onward progressing in their venture. They flew past Cassiopeia, Orion, and the big and little bears. Flew through the middle of Pegasus and jumped into the Milky Way.
She named him Astrolabe, a way to measure the heavens.
The two would fly ever upward and onward searching, on a quest. To him she could tell her secrets and all of everything that her heart could hold. She could tell how she felt like nothing, or maybe even less. She could tell how she just could never, ever seem to be good enough.
And Astrolabe flew on.
On a fateful night, their destination close at hand, the night sky opened up to a glorious light. Blinded by its brightness, Astrolabe jerked and tumbled earthward.
Separated, Astrolabe recovered and went on.
She jerked with a start upon that old army cot and lay for a moment in shock. Astrolabe never came again. His mission was complete.
It wasn't yet her time.