(Trying a new title . . . what do you think?)
Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here! Please feel free to leave comments with suggestions, title ideas, etc.!
Sylvia spotted a sign saying Jensen Racing Stables; this was the barn she had been looking for. She sank to the ground on the dark side of the barn to wait. She was still so excited, so proud of herself, so alive with the nearness of the horses, but so very, very tired. Her head slowly dropped to her knees and she slept.
Sylvia was awakened by the sound of hooves, shouts, and the clanking of stall doors. The horses were back. She lifted her head to watch their muscles ripple magnificently under their sweaty hides. Their nostrils still flared with excitement, and the eyes of some horses were still very wide. She drank in every part of those beautiful horses she could see . . . those long delicate legs that somehow propel 1000 pounds at 40 mph . . . the neatly cropped manes . . . the long swishing tails . . . it was like food for her soul.
Sylvia watched until every last horse had been taken into his respective barn. She listened carefully as the horses were cared for and bedded down for the night, until she no longer heard any more sounds other than the rustling of the animals. Eventually she felt it was safe to go inside the barn she had been resting against.
It was warm inside. Low, soft lights made the barn so cozy and comfortable, just like grandma’s house at night with the small warm lights here and there to guide you to the bathroom. Sylvia floated down the main hall, peering into each stall to take in its occupant. Most of the horses were dozing peacefully, some with hips cocked to the side to rest a hind leg, some laying down in the deep shavings like perfect life-size figurines.
Sylvia walked down both of the barn’s main hallways, drinking in the peace that horses bring that she so desperately needed. One dark bay stuck his gigantic head over the stall door when she approached. Sylvia let him smell her, stroking his neck and putting one hand under his muzzle. His black whiskers tickled her hand and she couldn’t resist planting a kiss on his big soft cheek.
The instant companionship felt so natural, so right, Sylvia wondered why she had ever let herself fall away from horses. She knew it wasn’t a good idea, that she could get in mounds of trouble, that she could go to jail, that this giant could cause serious harm to her, on accident or on purpose, but she found herself unhooking the latch to his stall. She slipped inside, petting him and reassuring him all the while, and he pulled his head back to be entirely in the stall with her. Sylvia hugged his big strong neck, feeling so safe with this giant stranger that she felt she’d known all her life. After a couple more strokes and kisses, Sylvia nestled into a corner where she couldn’t be seen immediately by someone walking by. The shavings felt so springy and fresh, and she felt so at peace that sleep came almost instantly.
It was the deepest sleep she’d had in a long, long time, and it had been without the assistance of whiskey. The sound of morning feeding finally awakened her, and Sylvia took a few seconds to remember where she was. When it all came back to her, she panicked. They might find her in this multi-thousand dollar racehorse’s stall, where she had absolutely no reason or permission to be! She slowly peeked over the edge, spotting a wheelbarrow two stalls down and someone feeding down the opposite side. She had to take her chance, and slipped out just in time before the person feeding turned around from the stall he was at. She tried to look like she had just walked down the hall, although shavings still clung to her clothes. Her bag still hung off her shoulder where it had been all night.
The man studied her suspiciously. She had to say something . . . what? What should she tell him? Sylvia began wishing she’d solidified even some sort of story. Finally she managed to fumble out a barely coherent sentence that included the words “trainer”, “work”, and “horses”. He seemed to understand, despite the apparent language barrier and Sylvia’s jumbled communication.
He nodded toward the training office at the end of the barn and turned back to his feeding. Out of the corner of his eye he watched her head the direction he’d pointed. She was so thin, haggard-looking almost, but there had been a spark of something hopeful in her eyes. He hoped the trainer wouldn’t dismiss her like he often did people looking for work.
“Excuse me,” Sylvia said, with a mixture of boldness and hesitation. A wiry, gruff-looking man stared hard at her through the office door without answer. He pushed back his chair, leaving it out from the desk, and stepped out to the hallway with her.
She wasn’t sure what to say next. This man looked like he’d said no many times and would have no problem saying it again.
To be continued . . .