Mary’s heart breaks over the pending destruction of a beautiful, but damaged filly. When life is not fair, the courageous challenge the obstacles.
In the year 1952
“Maybe today?” Twelve-year-old Mary gripped the arm of her wheelchair with one hand and the bedrail with the other. Her weight balanced on the edge of the bed, and she inched forward onto her feet. Her legs trembled and buckled. As her knees slammed onto the wood floor, she grabbed desperately for the dresser, but snatched instead the crocheted covering. When it ripped away from the dresser top, her favorite carved horse sailed across the room, careening into the wall. One of the Morgan mare’s legs and its ornately carved black tail snapped off as it ricocheted under the bed.
Ignoring the pain in her knees, she peered under the bed. The rest of the disfigured horse lay out of her reach. Already sprawled across the floor, she scooted to retrieve the severed pieces and cradled them in her hands. “I have to hide you.”READ MORE
Papa would be so angry if he saw Mama’s horse was broken. Heavy footsteps rushed toward her.
“Lame and worthless. Just like me.” She slipped the broken horse into her skirt pocket. She struggled and strained to pull herself up off the floor, but collapsed as Papa burst into her room.
“What happened? I heard a commotion… Mary?” He dropped to his knee beside her. “What happened? Are you hurt?”
“I lost my balance when I tried to stand. I’m fine.”
“Let’s get you off the floor, shall we?” He lifted and placed her on the bed. “I think it would be best to call the doctor.”
“I’m fine!” Mary said a little louder than she intended. “The hot rock therapy didn’t help.”
Papa sat on the bed and took her hand. “Don’t give up. We’ll find a therapy, my Mary. We’ll never stop trying.” He patted her hand. “You sure you’re all right? Maybe you should lie down.”
“I said I’m fine.” But she looked out the window instead of into his eyes. She would never be all right. “Can you take me outside now?”
“If you’re sure. Let’s get you out in some fresh air.” He dropped a paper-wrapped bundle of carrot pieces in her lap.
Mary tucked her long dark hair behind her ears. Gathering her sketchpad and pencils to her chest, she drew a deep breath and nodded.
In a practiced motion, he slung her blanket over his shoulder and scooped her from the bed.
“I want to believe I’ll walk someday, but sometimes, I just can’t.” She tossed him a hint of a smile. He carried her through the colonial house, past the white porch pillars, and across the field. He was so strong it made her feel safe. He was certainly the most handsome papa in all the world.
The white oak had not leafed yet, so he placed her blanket in the shade of the pines out of the warm Texas sun. Mary smoothed her skirt and spread her art materials. “You were right about throwing carrots over the fence to bring the mares closer.” She retrieved an art pencil hidden in the folds of her blanket. “Look. Here they come.” She pointed with her pencil. “They see me and gallop like crazy to get here. The foals buck and kick the whole way. Our new neighbors are so lucky. I’d like to have a pasture full of Morgan horses.”
“At least you get to enjoy them. I have to go now.” He kissed the top of her head. “Have a nice day. Mr. Joe is working in the gardens, so when you’re ready to go back to the house, holler for him.”
“Will you be gone long?”
His face tensed, and his dark eyebrows pulled together. He looked over the meadow, frowning. “Only a few days this time.”
“I wish you didn’t always have to go. I miss you so much.”
“I know it’s hard on you. If it makes you feel any better, I don’t like leaving you either. But I have business in New Orleans, and then I’m going to Destin, Florida. A doctor there thinks he can help you.”
Her temper flared, and she slashed a big ugly squiggle across the sketchpad. “Not another one, Papa! You thought the medicine man would be the miracle cure. He danced and chanted and kept me in a dumb teepee for two days. Magic smoke. And for what?”
“Well… it wasn’t one of my better ideas.”
“I thought Mrs. Tate was going to faint when you told her where we’d been. She walked around the house all day shaking her feather duster and muttering ‘pagan gods’, something about never taking another day off, and praying real loud to God asking him to forgive you.”
“Glad I missed that, but I’m not giving up. I’ll consider any opportunity to heal you.” He straightened his vest and tucked his thumbs in its little pockets. “If this technique can offer us hope, we have to try. The clinic would float you in emerald-colored seawater. Then they’d take you to the ‘Fountain Of Youth’.”
Her shoulders slumped with an exhale. “I don’t need to get any younger. I need to walk.”
“And walk you shall. That is just the name given to the spring by the explorer who discovered it.” He patted her hand. “Sketch me several poses of the filly beside the dappled gray mare while I’m gone. What is it about her that always draws my eye?”
“She’s special! I sketch her the most. The other foals will scatter, but she seems to want to be with me. If she was on this side of the fence, I think she’d be in my lap.” Mary flipped to a clean paper. “It’s her eyes. Our souls connect when our eyes meet. Don’t you think they look like dark chocolate?” Mary warmed at the thought. “She is my favorite. What a character. She hides behind her mama sometimes and plays hide and seek with me.” A frown wiped the smile off her face. “I think there might be something wrong. She limps sometimes.”
Papa checked his watch and frowned. “Hum, that can’t be good. Say, when I get home, I will have a little something special I ordered for you. Don’t ask me what it is and ruin the surprise.”
“No fair! Is it a book on the Lipizzaners?”
“You’re a bad guesser.”
“Whatever it is, I’ll love it.”
Papa grinned, tossed a piece of chocolate in her lap, and left.
“Thanks!” She waved and sailed a few carrot offerings over the fence to the gathered herd. They rushed to grab the bribe. With ears flattened, the horses jostled, shoved, and charged at one another to gobble the carrots. When the treats were gone, the mares went back to grazing. As the foals cavorted in circles around their dams, Mary inhaled the delight of being in their company. To draw a foal, she took a snapshot with her mind and sketched it in a great flurry. After capturing the likeness, she fussed with the details and the shading. A twine-wrapped portfolio she kept in her library bulged with sketches. Each sketch was a secret wish to ride, wild and free, someday.
She imagined herself cantering across a meadow polka-dotted with pink flowers. Her hair streamed behind her. Her arms held wide as if to soar. The palomino horse moved in response to her thoughts. A smile lifted and softened her face.
Mary shifted her useless legs to balance the sketchpad better. “It’s not just a dream.” The filly cocked her feminine head to the side and peered at the curiosity in the grass. Mary stared back, hoping the filly would hold the pose long enough for her to soak in every detail. The dark graphite pencil seemed to flow on its own, and soon the rough outline of the curious baby splashed across the paper.
“I will sketch you every minute until Papa comes home with my surprise. It might be—could be—a horse.”COLLAPSE