I was hot from running, out of breath and had a painful stitch in my side so I bent over and tried to breathe But the blasted tears kept filling my eyes and snot in my nose and sobs making me hiccup
I hated them so much!
I hated them for not believing me! – I can do handstands and rolls and cartwheels and sprigs
I hated them for laughing at me – them watching me made me nervous and I fell!
I hated them for not coming after me – they expect me to go back like I always did
‘Well I’m NOT GUNNA!’ I turn and shout back up the track ‘YOU HEAR ME?! I’M NOT GUNNA COME HOME EVER!’
Then the rain set in.
There was a bit of an embankment on the side of the track under a tree and on it was a rock with a flatish top. So I sat on it and waited out the rain. It still made me wet through and I felt miserable but still they didn’t come looking! I can’t have been that far from them but I couldn’t even hear them call for me or anything! They just didn’t care if I lived or died!
Well I didn’t care about them either!
Eventually the rain stopped and the sun came out. It was close to dusk and it made everything shine sort of golden. I thought I’d sit here all night and in the morning they’d find me turned to stone in defiance of them! But I couldn’t sit here all night, I was wet through and my teeth were trying to chatter together except I held them, clenched in anger!
I wouldn’t have minded a cave and a bit of a fire right now, maybe a rabbit roasting on a stick over it. I could catch a rabbit, Pa showed me how! He showed me lots of things Ma said he’d been raised by the gypsies and they’d taught him to be the best bushman ever! He was teaching me too and he always watched me and clapped when I did a cartwheel right or stood on my hands for ages! If he wasn’t dead he would be here now helping me with a fire and a shelter and a snare for a rabbit for tea.
That made me feel hungry and I didn’t want to go home but food would be good.
Just as I went to get up I heard hoof beats galloping my way down the track the way I’d come.
Runaway horse I thought
And then he turned up and on seeing me danced to a stop.
He was black, all black, with just a touch of a star between his eyes.
He was wild like the gypsies, Pa would have called him a Romany horse! They were supposed to be from the ancient Summation Fighting horses set free so that the men wouldn’t be forced to kill for the Roman’s any more!
This big black beauty stood and stared at me for ages! It scared me and I tried to hide tucking my feet up on the rock with my bum and wrapping my arms about my knees.
He snorted then sniffed then stepped towards me his ears twitching and his nostrils flaring
I sat perfectly still.
Horses had big feet that hurt when they stood on you or worse kicked you and worse than that they had huge teeth that could bite your finger off, bite your whole hand off, your whole arm off, if they didn’t like you! Horses were very dangerous, Pa told me so, but that was so that you remembered to respect them cos if they took you on a freedom ride that meant they had befriended you and that it was for life and that was really special!
He came right over still sniffing and I tucked my face down onto my knees with my arms around my head. I didn’t want him biting my ears off either!
He snuffed in my hair then sort of snorted like he sneezed down my neck and it tickled!
Then he booffed me with his nose trying to push me off the rock! I nearly fell too!
‘Hey quit that!’ I shouted at him grabbing the rock to stop myself from falling.
The horse sniffed at me again and then danced back a few steps.
I looked up and he pawed at the ground nodding his head.
‘What?’ I asked looking at him realising I wasn’t really scared of him any more.
He stepped up the track a few steps then came back towards me
I reckoned he wanted me to go with him
‘Well I can’t run as fast as you so you come over here and carry me!’ I told the stupid thing
And blow me down with a feather he did!
He came over and stood sideways to me on the rock. I reached and touched his hair on his neck and he twitched. He was trembling sort of but I reckon I was scareder!
But I sort of jumped and got my belly on his back and then swung a leg over his bum and sat up.
He walked a few steps and seemed to be happy that I wouldn’t fall off. Then he started to walk faster and I grabbed his hair with both hands and next thing he took off!
We were flying!
The trees flashed past and the stones on the track kicked up each time his hooves landed and took off again! This had to be a Freedom Ride like what Pa told me about! I was riding him and he was taking me to my freedom!
I realised I was laughing like I thought an owl would laugh, sort of hooting and haha-ing and all sorts of other silly happy noises snatched away on the wind that rushed past us!
It went on for ages through the trees and the fields, over the brook Pa and I fished in and through the town Ma dragged me to the shops in.
We were racing the sunset and we were winning!
And then I was getting sleepy his gallop was rocking me to sleep and I felt my eyes getting droopy
Finally I went limp on him and the last thing I remember was him slowing and me slipping off him
‘Thanks Pa, I’ll get him to bed now” I heard Ma say softly and I forced my eyes open. She was patting the big horse’s cheek and turning away carrying me inside the house Pa had built just before I was born.
I looked at the big black horse over Ma’s shoulder and swore he winked then the sun slipped away and he suddenly wasn’t there.
‘I’m goner miss Pa too’ Ma whispered to me as she cuddled me close and carried me to bed. She pealed my wet and dirty good church clothes off me and rubbed me over with a towel before tucking me into the warm covers. ‘Sleep now baby, tomorrow is a new day’ she said and I knew she loved me by the tone of her voice, sort of sad and yet relieved and tired.
Pa used to say that, “Tomorrow is a new day” and I wondered how long Ma had heard it. I liked how Ma said it but Pa used to sound excited. I’ll say it like Pa, I decided and wondered if I’d ever see the Romany horse again.
And if we’d have another Freedom Ride again.