I slowly exhale as the truck drives away. I’m still not sure how I kept my cool. If I never find myself in the company of four angry men carrying rifles and guns again, it will be too soon. Anger flushes through me as I recall how they systematically searched my house, the stables, and finally the grounds, sure in the knowledge there was nothing I could do to stop them. Four of them against one of me. Still, they left empty handed. The last laugh is on me.
I hurry back to coral, a grin spreading across my face as I see the horses grouped together around a collection of hay bales, arranged to form a square on the frozen ground. I can’t remember ever seeing them huddled together so closely. They’re not usually this tolerant of each other either, but for once there’s no pushing and shoving or snarling at one another.
It was them who got agitated and thus warned us when the car approached, buying us the time needed to put down the hay. I didn’t believe our hasty construction would provide enough protection from inquisitive eyes, but with my beauties creating a solid wall of horse, Roger had been invisible.
Like the Red Sea they part as I approach. I step over a bale and look down.
“It’s safe, you can get up now.”
“Are you sure?” Roger looks up at me but makes no move to raise himself from the ground. He must be freezing. He’s been lying here for forty-five minutes at least.
“Yes. You can stop worrying. They were disgusted when they left. Apparently they’d been very sure they’d find you here and had no idea where to take their search next. I’d be surprised if we see them again.”
“They’ll kill me when they find me.”
It breaks my heart that he doesn’t sound angry or even afraid. All I hear in his voice is resignation, as if his fate has been sealed. And I’m not sure what to say.
“The horses….” There’s wonder in his voice. “They were so close. And they never touched the hay. They leant over the barrier and put their noses as close to me as they could without touching me. As if they knew I was cold. As if they wanted to keep me warm.”
I look at my horses, studying them one by one. I can neither remember nor imagine a life without them. I’ve always felt connected to them. Until now I didn’t realise the bond is mutual. And suddenly I know exactly which words to use. I cup his head with my hands and rest my forehead against his.
“You’re not alone.” I press my lips against his for a fleeting moment. “We’ll….” I gesture towards the herd before taking hold of Roger again. “We’ll always have your back, surround and protect you. Always!”
“But….” He falters. “They’ve got guns.”
“No buts. You’re safe here. We’ve got horse power.”
497 words this week, and compared to the past few weeks, a relatively bright story. I do hope you enjoyed it. Others flashes inspired by this story can be found on the Monday Flash Fics page. Please join us there.