Author Topic: Finding Hope at Follyfoot  (Read 17623 times)

Offline FollyFootfan1689

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Re: Finding Hope at Follyfoot
« Reply #30 on: August 15, 2012, 06:08:50 PM »
Thank you so much everyone; Suzy, Gillian G, Marie, Rob, Loopylin, Loopy… everyone really! Your comments really spur me on! ;)

P.S. Green, bold italics are show quotes! 

Finding Hope at Follyfoot

Part Twenty Two – A Spirit Broken

Her heart pounded against her chest as searched for the safety of ‘her’ tree…anything to escape the pain that was threatening to erupt and tear her apart but she couldn’t, it followed her everywhere.

Meg was on her feet, barking softly; she knew something was wrong…she’d seen her mistress like this before…not for a long time. Why? Was she hurt? Meg just couldn’t understand…all she sensed was that she was needed.

Serena finally stopped, her breathing hard…everything was hurting, her fingers clawing through her hair in frustration and grief.
She whimpered and shook…suddenly she smashed her palms against the bark with an anguished cry and collapsed brokenly to the ground; she wanted to cry, scream and be angry…grieve. All the things people (with the exception of her mother) had, not with words, told her not to do.
Meg nuzzled under her arm, trying to lick the stray tears away, her liquid brown eyes filled with worry.
“What have I done?” She sniffed, burying her face in the soft fur.

Not too far away, Steve had seen the scene unfold; where he would usually feel anger and mistrust at her snap reaction, he felt that he understood…emotion was to be hidden, help, your own.
That was why she’d ran; part of him wanted to alert her to his presence but thought better of it…she’d come of her own time, he thought of what he’d said to Dora about Mr Mallet, Glory’s owner.

“Maybe something’s happened to him and he doesn’t want anyone to talk about it.”

Never had a single sentence been more accurate than that…even if the scenario differed a little from the one at which it had been spoken.

Something had happened to Serena and although she’d ‘confessed’ to it…he saw how great the cost was to her…even from this distance, he could sense the pain and misery in her eyes; she looked so small, so helpless, (not that she’d thank him for thinking that), but he knew that fiery, defensive anger was the one thing that kept her strong.

Steve had seen the same tragic condition in horses where finally the beatings and ‘loveless-ness’, if there were such a word, broke their spirits and they trudged on, numbed by it all…he could see that in Serena now. A glass figurine shattered into a million tiny pieces.
With a heavy sigh, he turned and made his way back to Follyfoot.

Serena had no idea how long she’d sat there holding Meg, buried in her fur as it had soaked up her short, quiet yet stormy rush of tears… her head and body felt desperately bruised, almost as if she’d been in a fight.

“I think I’ve made quite the fool of myself…again.” She smiled ruefully as she stroked
Meg. “Don’t you think?” The retriever eyed her with wise concern. “Let’s go home.”

Walking back to the stable, Steve noticed a glint of light; crouching down he picked up the horseshoe necklace…it could have been Dora’s but he knew that it was Serena’s. Carefully, he slid into his jeans pocket; he’d return it to her when she came back.

As the hours ticked by Serena found herself walking the familiar riding route that she had so often taken; deaf and blind to the sights and sounds…she felt lost and alone…and hollow all over again.

The memories, the platitudes, the gossip behind her back….the pitying looks cackled at her through the trees like a coven of witches; the accident had stolen one of her best friends and her sense of identity. That was why she’d hadn’t come back for more than a day or two in such a long time…

A sudden cloudburst drenched her and Meg, making them both cold though Serena did not notice…she looked around herself, realising where she was… the river’s edge, the place where it had all happened. Serena felt sick to her stomach but still she remained as if rooted to the spot 

To others her angry hardness was deemed ridiculous and trivial…it might well be but she had to cope somehow…she’d never let the accident win but it could trick her…trip her up…like revealing the whole bitter saga to Steve…why oh why had she done that? 
Was she without sense?! The anger swirled inside her again…she had loved Follyfoot for the fact no-one knew…and now she had sabotaged herself…maybe she had meant to all along, a kind of punishment perhaps?

She had tried to explain to everyone that the accident was no-one’s business but her that they figuratively patted her head and said it wasn’t that bad…they were listening to her though no matter how hard and often she tried she could not make them hear her…but she was tired, oh so very tired…tired of running…tired of hurting…tired of fighting a battle she could never win…

Night had fallen by the time she finally returned home, she opened the door silently as Meg flopped tiredly onto the rug by the fireside.

“Serena, is that you?” Her mother’s concerned tone was the first thing she heard.
“Yes…sorry I’m so late back…lost track of time.” The low, robotic voice returned.
“Serena?” Sim appeared. “Oh darling, thank goodness you’re safe!” He swept her up in his arms. “It was getting so late, I thought something dreadful had happened to you.” He kissed her hair. “Goodness, you’re wet through; you must get out of those wet things quickly otherwise you’ll catch your death.”
“I’m fine Sim.”
She did not make eye contact with him at all as he released her. “I shall just go and change, excuse me.”  With that, she walked away.
Rita took one look at her daughter and her heart squeezed…she knew that look. The ghosts had escaped from their box…

Thanks Loopy for letting me borrow the caps!

Offline FollyFootfan1689

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Re: Finding Hope at Follyfoot
« Reply #31 on: August 22, 2012, 05:46:43 PM »
Thank you everyone as always for all your kind comments, especially Marie, Suzy, Loopy, Loopylin, Rob and Gillian g. It really means such a lot, I’m glad you’re liking Serena too. ;)

Finding Hope at Follyfoot

Part Twenty Three – Hunted and Haunted

Night time is a funny time; when you want it to slow it flashes by in the blink of an eye, or so it seems but when you don’t it seems to stretch endlessly.

Serena had always been afraid of the dark, it still made her feel uneasy as she lay alone waiting for sleep whisk her off…

She gently stroked the familiar snout, her head rubbing up against his; Duke whinnied softly, as if encouraging her up onto his back and off they trotted through the sunlight.
Serena patted his neck gently as Meg trotted alongside…it was just like before…suddenly the sky turned black as thunder and lightning danced a tempestuous Tango. Everything familiar had gone.

“Now you know.” A voice spoke. “You didn’t make it safe, I trusted you.”
“Duke?” Serena couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“You didn’t make it safe.” The horse began to gallop at a frightening speed.

In an instant it changed, the speed was coming from her; in her dreams, it was always the same…running, running always running…from what? Duke? The accident?
More to the point, where was she running to in this lost world, her arm batting lifelessly at a slippery branch as she stumbled and slid in hills and ditches, with Duke’s crashing hooves only a hair’s breadth behind?

Breaking the clearing, Serena sobbed in both fear and pain; Duke was gone but she was still lost…it was too much, she couldn’t run anymore. She sank to her knees at the river’s edge.
The river looked black. Cold…lonely…just like her.
Suddenly the river reared and bound her in its clutches, like a fly in a spider’s web tugging at her right arm….

Serena jerked onto her back as she suddenly awoke; her head and chest ached and she felt exhausted.
Gazing out of her window at the darkness she guessed it was around 3am; as quietly as a mouse she slipped her dressing-gown and slippers on and scuttled downstairs.

Sitting at the kitchen table, she watched the night sky slowly bleed from black to dark blue; this time of night she did not mind…it made her feel as if she were the only person in the world…able to think.

She’d often had the nightmares in the months after the accident but when she’d moved to London they became less and less…fewer reminders, she supposed. Only when she was under stress and certain dates, even little things might cause her to lose a night of sleep or two…now they were back in full force again.

Little did she know that over at Follyfoot, someone else was fighting a battle similar to her own.

The day had been long and hard with all that had occurred; for once Steve felt so utterly drained, he was fast asleep almost as soon as his head had hit the pillow…

It was a pleasant morning for a ride; Alex seemed to agree as he trotted smartly…you couldn’t bottle the feelings of calm this area brought, if you could there was no doubt you would be very rich indeed.

The stillness was suddenly broken by a horse’s cry; Steve’s spine stiffened, he could detect the fear in the tone and ever distancing sound of hooves…a horse in trouble.
“Come on.” Clicking his tongue, he guided Alex into a careful canter.

Steve searched and searched but the horse was nowhere to be found; as they came through the clearing, he sighed heavily, rubbing his lower lip with his thumb…there was no way he could just leave it at that…this horse needed help. Alex snorted urgently, his head shaking.
“What is it, fella?” Steve was immediately concerned…then he realised why the horse was unnerved. “Blazes!”
He quickly dismounted as he saw the creature lying crumpled at the river’s edge; as he came closer, he saw that it was a young woman, unconscious though not obviously hurt. His brow furrowed, whether it was the light playing tricks on him he wasn’t sure but her hair seemed to be growing shorter and darker from the honey colour he’d first seen.
Carefully, he scooped her up, out of the water; smoothing hair from her pale face…her features were unclear, as if his vision were blurred.

“It’s alright.” He murmured as her eyelids lifted revealing an anxious look; she winced suddenly. “Are you hurt?” She nodded and gasped but made no indication as to where. “Alright. I need to go and find help, don’t be frightened.”

Steve stroked her face again; her left cheek was cold whereas her right was strangely warm as he saw her fingertips pressing lightly against his shoulder, (almost as if she was asking him not to leave her.). He felt a sharp pain somewhere in his side…looking down he could see a length of yellow material tangled in his shirt and jeans, it was almost exact match to the colour of the young woman’s jumper…this was all so strange.

Her eyes met with his again; Steve could not explain what was happening...he felt as if he’d met her somewhere before…something in those green depths, her sorrow…he found himself speaking her name but he couldn’t hear.

“Steve.” Her lips quivered as she whispered soundlessly.

Steve sat bolt upright, gasping for breath as sweat poured from his face despite the fact his spine felt like ice. Rubbing his face with both hands, he curved into a ball, waiting for the pounding in his ears to cease.
“What was that about?” He wondered.
He never really paid much attention to dreams; he had had a few vivid ones about his childhood once or twice over the years but nothing quite like that. With a sigh, he got out of bed and walked to the window, staring out at the clear darkness of the night…the silence reminding him that he was seemingly alone in the world.

“Serena?” The far-off sound of her mother’s voice made Serena turn her head, seeing the loving brown eyes and gentle smile; she nestled her head into her mum’s shoulder and clung to her for dear life.

Thanks Loopy for letting me borrow the caps!

Offline FollyFootfan1689

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Re: Finding Hope at Follyfoot
« Reply #32 on: August 29, 2012, 06:33:57 PM »
As per thank you everyone, especially Suzy, Gillian G, Loopy, Rob, Loopylin, Pen and Marie.  ;)

P.S. Show quotes are green bold/italics, flashback in blue italics. ;)

Finding Hope at Follyfoot

Part Twenty Four – Licking Your Wounds

2 days later, the heat-wave broke fully as silvery clouds filled with cool, refreshing rain fell for several hours; some were relieved, others grumbled. For Serena Sullivan it was perfect in a twisted kind of way, the raindrops and early mist suited her mood.

Her fingertips rested against the glass, tracing the same path; being caught…even though she ‘confessed’, that was what it felt like, her secret out stripped her bare, left her feeling so painfully raw…and lost inside her own head. She thought her defences had been strong enough, that she was strong enough…one brush with the past and she was as weak as a kitten who had been pounced by and over exuberant elder sibling.

She swung her legs onto the floor and bent to reach under the bed, Meg nosing around too; Serena slid the item from under the bed…a small, wooden, musical keepsake box in a light wood with trailing magenta roses intricately painted over it. Meg whined softly and licked the box and Serena’s fingers.
“You remember, don’t you?” Serena murmured gently ruffling the dog’s rich golden fur.

Her thumb flipped the catch and gradually lifted the lid; a slow, gentle tune began to play. Serena tried to swallow the tennis ball sized lump in her throat as her fingertips tenderly stroked its contents.

A lock of horsehair, a lilac rosette, a yellowing newspaper cutting and a black and white photograph with a pin mark in the top left corner.

She lifted the photo out between her thumb and forefinger; the image showed her smiling broadly, stroking Duke with her head slightly leaning toward him. Mr. Cartwright had offered to take the photo, in a rare moment of sentimentality, though he was not an unkind man…secretly, he’d always known how attached she was to Duke.

“I’m so sorry, my friend.” A single tear rolled down her cheek as she carefully put it back.

She picked up the horsehair next, bound in a piece of thin, dark brown ribbon that was almost identical to Duke’s own colouring, and rested her cheek against it. Another story of sentimentality but with a much sadder ending…when she had returned to Cartwright’s to apologise, it was just as she was leaving that a familiar face came to say goodbye.

“’Ere lass.” Gilpin beckoned her over. “Tha knows you loved that ‘oss almost as much as Mr. Cartwright did. He pressed a soft little object into her hand. “It’s from his mane, somethin’ to remember him by.”
“Thank you, Gilpin.” Serena swallowed back tears. “For everything.”

She then retrieved the rosette and newspaper cutting…she’d been so proud to win that rosette; it had been a local contest between Cartwright’s and two other riding schools, just a bit of fun really but in the mini jump section Serena had done Cartwright’s proud
‘won by a fair chalk’, the cutting noted. ‘A young rider with a promising future’. It read underneath the picture of her on horseback, holding her rosette high with pride. Her mother had a glossy copy of the same photo framed on the mantelpiece downstairs…another gesture of goodwill from Walter Cartwright.

Serena looked down at her right arm, the bruises and grazes had long since faded but it served as a constant reminder of what her complacency had cost her, she’d lost a love too.

Five little objects…10000 memories…another person…another life…wait a minute!
Serena counted them by touching each of them with her fingertip; horsehair, newspaper, rosette, photograph…her horseshoe necklace was gone.
She swallowed; the catch must have come loose and fallen off when the horse…it could be anywhere now…

Dora looked out at the rain as she sat at the kitchen window; though she knew it was needed, the grass being so dry, it still made her feel melancholy. She remembered as a child how she had thought rain had meant the sky was upset so she would draw pictures of sunshine and teddies or sweeties to try and cheer it up, even go as far as reading stories aloud or mopping the window with one of her little lace hankies like the mothers did to their children in her stories.
She gazed out a the dark, solitary figure sheltering by the stable, leather jacket pulled around him…if only something as simple as a picture could cheer him.

Steve barely paid attention to his surroundings; today, he had done something most out of character even by his standards, he had just left Follyfoot this morning without a word…he needed to get away, so he walked the hills for a few hours.

He’d had the dream again, several times over two nights; the face was no clearer but now the voice had sound…admittedly it was like a frog with laryngitis but still…she kept calling to him, just his name over and over. It didn’t matter what he said to keep her calm, she wouldn’t let him go for help.
Something else had changed too, when he felt the pain in his side, she touched it and smiled softly, once again mouthing something but all Steve could make out was his name.

Why was he doing this? It was just a dream…it meant nothing.

He soon dashed for the loft, as the rain got heavier; as he dried off his thoughts turned to Serena; reaching under his bed for his ‘safekeeping’ box, right in the middle was Serena’s chain. He lifted it out carefully, gazing intently at the elaborate work put into this miniature replica.

He felt sudden, chilling ache go through him as the memory of Serena curled up tight under that tree, her arms around her dog’s neck…though he could neither hear her nor see her face, he knew that she was crying…alone and in pain.

Hearing her tale had really gotten under his skin, she had gotten under his skin, though he didn’t know why…just like the girl in his dreams.

A sudden flash of lightning suddenly seemed to bring clarity; he remembered what he’d said to Dora the day he had travelled to Liverpool to find his mother.

“She’s alone and she’s in trouble…I’ve got to find her.”

Thanks Loopy for letting me borrow the caps!

Offline FollyFootfan1689

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Re: Finding Hope at Follyfoot
« Reply #33 on: August 29, 2012, 06:35:35 PM »
As it turned out, his mother was alone but by choice now; the girl in his dream wasn’t, she wanted him to stay…? She was asking him to find her…help her.

Another flash; another realisation.

The girl reminded him of Serena; both when she’d looked at him so shamefacedly upon retelling Duke’s fate and when she had run in terror…like a fox gnawing at itself trying to be freed from a poacher’s trap.

Something else he’d said to Dora suddenly came back to haunt him…

‘Gone to pieces and nobody cared…someone’s got to care!’

The pain of those words hit him all over again as in his mind’s eye Serena slid desolately to the ground.

What about Serena? Did she have someone to care? Did her fiancé care?

The thought left him feeling bereft, as he had done since then…how could she have affected him like this, he didn’t really know her so why should it bother him so much?

Dora had seen him disappear. “Thank goodness.” She thought; he loft may be draughty but at least it was dry! She worried at her full lower lip with her teeth…if only he would tell her what was wrong maybe she would be able to help…

Steve sighed as he returned the necklace to its ‘safekeeping’ place; all this dream business, what a ridiculous carry on…though part of him hoped Serena would come back soon…maybe she could help him with this dream. He could’ve just as easily told Dora but for some reason it just didn’t feel…right.
“You’re going daft, Ross.” He told himself.

Thanks Loopy for letting me borrow the caps!

Offline FollyFootfan1689

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Re: Finding Hope at Follyfoot
« Reply #34 on: September 15, 2012, 06:36:11 PM »
Sorry it’s been so long, real life has been so mad crazy lately! :-[
For everyone who reads, especially Suzy Loopylin, Rob, Loopy, Gillian G and Marie, thank you as always and enjoy! :)

P.S.  Show quotes are green bold/italics! ;)

Finding Hope at Follyfoot

Part Twenty Five – Enter Ladybird

The day started out fairly well at Follyfoot; today the Colonel had come to check on everything and everyone. He had been saying a quiet hello to the horses when he had discovered Dora on her hands and knees measuring through thick hay.

He raised his peppered eyebrows. “What are you doing?”
Dora looked up. “Oh, hello Uncle.” She smiled. “Just measuring, we need to create a few more stalls.”
He gave a single nod; he knew precisely what this was leading to!

Later on Callie arrived, much to Dora’s joy, though she did not have particularly joyous news to impart. Callie’s mum had told her that if she did well in exams, she would be going to boarding school and that was not the worst of it, if that happened Magic would have to be sold. Follyfoot was her last hope.

From that moment on this spiralled out of control; what started as searching for accommodation for Magic turned into a rescue mission; Dora was horrified and heartbroken by what she had seen, even begging her uncle to help.  She tried never to remember bad things, for they hurt too much but she knew that the image of poor, malnourished, unloved Ladybird would haunt her forever.

So, perhaps, it was a tragic blessing when they were told a day or two later by Ladybird’s owner, Arnold, that the horse had succumbed; the knowledge upset Dora and Steve greatly but they both knew that, in the circumstance it was the better outcome…and they would have continued to believe it had it not been for one kind but headstrong Callie Holmes.

“…I crept over last night and gave her some of Magic’s oats.”
Steve looked in disbelief “Last night?” His lip curled slightly as it all fell into place.

He couldn’t believe it…the man had lied. All so that he could continue in his cruel and twisted ways…would he not be content until that horse drew its last pained breath? Men like him had no place in this world, those who believed that animals could be treated like a cup or a knife and fork…inanimate. It defied any kind of logic…Ladybird couldn’t save herself so now it was up to him.

Dora felt herself stiffen with fear as she saw something in Steve snap, his eyes darken…all of a sudden it was beginning again; that dark spiral of gentle Follyfoot life spinning out of control….

Steve galloped away at breakneck speed, not altering pace even when on foot; his body rigid with fury.
Dora desperately followed, terrified of what he might do; up ahead she’d seen him dismount and run into the garage.

As she came closer, she heard the sounds of objects clattering and smashing as well as Steve’s raised voice…she knew that Arnold was in danger. Reaching the doorway, a horrendous scene awaited her…oh, how she hated violence. She begged Steve to stop but it fell on deaf ears; although he’d ducked from Arnold’s shot, he now was armed, ready to bring justice for Ladybird.

Dora was terror-stricken…Steve looked as if he’d been possessed by the very devil; she had to do something before anyone was hurt.  Tears streamed down her face as she continued to beg despite Steve pushing her aside.

In the space of seconds, the fire in Steve’s eyes turned to ice; his voice unnervingly calm and still as he spoke.

“You’re not worth going to prison for.” Steve growled coldly, his eyes locked on Arnold.
“We’re going to take your horse!” Dora assured emotionally as she turned and followed Steve.

That was the straw that broke Arnold’s back…it was all too much to bear alone, not that he expected anyone to listen to his plight with anything other than contempt.

“You think you know it all, don’t you?!”

At this, Dora turned, her eyes still shimmering with tears.

“Well, you don’t! You listen to me! My partner…Douglas were ‘is name…”

They all listened to the tragic tale, Callie and Dora watched Arnold as he paced, his body trembling, his waxen face shimmering with sweat…he looked on the brink of a complete collapse. His life and mind stumbling and repetitive like a stuck record….

Steve braced himself against the doorway, head bowed as a familiar coldness invaded his bones…blazes…he had been right but oh so very wrong all at once.
4 creatures…all with open wounds, raw and bleeding…no malice could ever be validated, not to him. In that moment, he realised he was no different to Arnold but, in anger, he had believed otherwise.

With a last, hooded look behind him, Steve walked out to Ladybird’s shed; he was still numb from the shock of the revelations but upon opening the cramped, dusty, cobweb-ridden place…seeing the vacant stance of the unloved animal, his knuckles barely touching the matted down that covered the all too well-defined skeleton…Steve pulled his lower lip through his teeth as his anger stoked. No matter what the reasons were, cruelty like this was unforgivable. 

Alex grazed contentedly, blissfully unaware of what had come to pass, he looked up as Steve came and stood beside him; the animal whickered softly and nuzzled his master…almost as if to ask what was wrong.

“Come on fella.” He gently stroked Alex’s neck before getting up onto his back and beginning the journey back to Follyfoot.

Thanks Loopy for letting me borrow the caps!

Offline FollyFootfan1689

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Re: Finding Hope at Follyfoot
« Reply #35 on: September 26, 2012, 07:28:26 PM »
For everyone who reads, especially Loopylin, Suzy, Rob, Loopy, Squeakytre and Marie…well everyone really! :) Been a few ups and downs of late in real life, hence disorganised updates, and thank you for continuing to stick with it. Hoping to get back to regular updating soon, hehe! ;)

P.S.  Show quotes are green bold/italics! ;)

Finding Hope at Follyfoot

Part Twenty Six – Humans Hurt Too

Dora couldn’t understand it…there was a horse in trouble and Steve had walked away, not only that, he had practically condemned Ladybird to continued imprisonment over human beings…those who could speak for themselves!

He was like a different person…the unbridled anger, the willingness to hurt another…that was the Steve he’d spoken of when he had told her quite plainly he’d ended up in reform.

She could still feel the nerve-jangling distress at watching him stalk Arnold like hunters did on game drives, weapon in hand…focussing only on the deed that was to be done.

Cold-hearted, threatening…that wasn’t the Steve she knew; she sighed…she didn’t really know him at all…those venomous words, the grim intent…that wasn’t Steve, surely not.
Well, whatever he was or wasn’t, now that they were back at Follyfoot she’d let him have both barrels!

Steve paced the stable like a caged animal; his muscles tense as the adrenaline still surged through his body.

Anger and guilt clashed with one another; anger at that man for whipping that horse all those years ago…anger at Ladybird’s owner for running away and leaving her and her father for neglecting and beating that poor creature, for the lies he had told….most of all he was angry at himself. For allowing his past to overtake his senses…it always did when there were those in trouble…
Moreover, guilt.
Guilt at not having a sense for what was really going on, guilt at frightening Dora…he knew that the ‘red mist’ was frightening to all…even him; it was like an infected wound, when it took over the poison poured from it, threatening to drown anything in its path.
That was why he never allowed anyone too close, his past was on a need to know basis because when people found out or saw the ‘mist’ he was out on his ear…except it was only a part of him, not the definition.

Ironically, the horses were often the ‘fire bucket’ to his temper; they’d gaze at him with
wise eyes and just enjoy his attention, no probing questions, no saccharine words meant to soothe but often only served to make him feel even more hollow than he already did.
Steve could hear Dora’s determined stride coming across the yard…he knew what was coming…
“Seconds out…round two.” He murmured.

And so the row ensued; Steve pushed to the very brink. No matter what he said, Dora continued in her own vein, openly refusing to believe anything he said. “How can I make her understand?”  He thought.

“But the horse…” Dora continued.
Steve rounded on her in exasperation. “Think about people for once in your life!” He implored. “Nothing’s ever straight up and down, there are two sides.”

For the first time, Dora listened; she may not agree but she knew that she had to give him the respect to at least try
She gazed into his dark eyes, so honest and gentle, as he assured her that they were on the same side…this was the Steve she knew.

“I’m so glad you made it up.” Came a familiar voice suddenly. “I couldn’t bear it; you two quarrelling.” 
Steve smiled wryly to himself as he listened to Callie wax lyrical about tomorrow’s exam…that girl certainly had a great sense of timing!

Less than 48 hours later, a horsebox rolled into Follyfoot yard; much to Dora’s delight and Steve’s surprise, Callie lead out Ladybird.

The Colonel smiled as he watched Callie answer Steve’s questions as Dora came and fussed over Ladybird.
Like Dora, he did not agree with the man’s actions, nothing...not even blind desperation brought validity to neglect. Alas, a lot like love, desperation can make a man take leave of his senses…he had seen it several times during the war… there was little he could do for Albert and his wife’s situation but he could help Ladybird at least.

His moment of melancholic reflection was broken by the sounds of Callie chatting as she cornered a highly nervous Steve in the horsebox.

“I wrote a smashing essay about you today.” Callie told him.
“Oh yeah?” Steve’s voice was a smidge on the shaky side.
“It was beautiful; I wish you could see it….”

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” The Colonel chuckled to himself; it was clear to all and sundry that Callie’s crush showed no sign of burning out anytime soon!

Over the next few hours, Ladybird was cleaned and settled into a stall; the vet arrived just after six and gave her a through check-up, prescribing liniments for the broken sores.

“There.” Dora cooed as she fed Ladybird a mash. “That’s nice isn’t it? It will help you get your strength back.” She gently kissed her head. “You’ll be safe here; no-one can hurt you again.” Ladybird gently leant against her. “Yes…safe and sound at last.”

Little did anyone know in the neighbouring field to the garage and Ladybird’s prison, there would come another horse in the next few weeks, lost and alone…in desperate need of a special kind of love.

The darkening sky suited Steve’s mood as he leant against the gate, looking out at the practically empty field; Ladybird would be safe now and given a few weeks of Dora’s TLC, the creature that had stood before them today would be an almost ghostly memory.

Arguing with Dora over it all had not been his intention but her ‘tunnel-vision’ with horses could be so maddening at times. It was obvious to anyone that those parents were suffering, especially the father…going out of their minds over the most precious thing and their only link to it…yet for Dora only the horse mattered.
It made him feel suddenly queasy when he remembered how he’d flown off the handle at Arnold; that man had been trying to tell someone, anyone how confused and agonised he was…but no-one listened. 
He was just as guilty as Dora in that respect, making a mistake, however common, was still a mistake, he of all people should’ve known better than that…after all was that not how people had so often treated him?

Some of the things he’d said to Dora today actually had a double meaning, he realised…there was another human out there who was hurting and no-one was listening…someone else trying to ‘work it out their own way’.
Steve looked up at the moon as it gathered strength for the night ahead; it’s not the mistake you make, it’s how you resolve it; he could do nothing to bring Sybil back but, maybe, by trying to heal someone else’s scars he could make it right.
“Come back, Serena.” He murmured softly. “I’ll help you.”

Thanks Loopy for letting me borrow the caps!

Offline FollyFootfan1689

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Re: Finding Hope at Follyfoot
« Reply #36 on: October 04, 2012, 08:19:35 PM »
For Suzy, Loopy, Marie, Loopylin, Gillian G and Sue. Thank you SO much for your lovely reviews. Enjoy! ;)

Finding Hope at Follyfoot

Part Twenty Seven – Picture Perfect

Whilst all the drama had been unfolding at Follyfoot, Serena had been trying to lock her ghosts back up and act as normally as possible.

Gently smoothing her long-sleeved, white crochet dress, she watched Sim move to the left, camera poised.
“What are you doing?”  She laughed.
“Trying to find the best side.”
“For me or the car?”
Serena raised an eyebrow playfully as she tucked a loose hair behind her ear, causing the daisy on her silvery bracelet to jingle.
He clicked his tongue as he shook his head, raising his eyes to the Heavens.

For a moment, he watched her flatten her palm and wriggle slightly to adjust her sitting balance on the Dolomite’s bonnet; she was like a swan, so graceful and stunning. He worried about her with all this hill-walking business…

“Perfect.”  At that moment, the sun hit its mark and he captured the shot. “Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.”
“Again,” Serena slid herself carefully off the bonnet into standing as she wiggled her feet into her criss-cross-strapped, white sandals. “Me or the car?” Her impish grin made Sim’s heart flip.
“Both of you.” He took her in his arms and kissed her affectionately. “I was thinking that tonight we could go out to dinner, the two of us to ‘Il Cibo di Amore’.”
“Hm.” She pursued her lips, pretending to think; this small Italian restaurant was relatively new to the area, they’d had an exquisite family dinner there the day after they had arrived. “Sounds like a lovely idea!”
“I’ll make the reservation in a minute…after…this..”
Sim spun her out then led her in an impromptu waltz around the‘Dolomite’, humming ‘Young at Heart’ by Frank Sinatra; Serena laughed softly…well it was one way to spend an afternoon.

That evening, Serena regarded her flawlessly, subtly make up reflection as she dabbed a touch of perfume on her collarbone; she then stood up to get the full effect of her smart, knee-length glittery black dress which shimmered in perfect time with her ‘rippling leaf’ golden earrings.
“Perfect; just the hair now.” Sitting down again, she brushed the golden mane before sweeping it high, trying to hold it in place with her right hand as she retrieved the pins, holding them in her teeth. Unfortunately, her right fingers splayed causing the hair to spill through.
“Damnation!” She growled softly as she swiftly corrected it; she caught sight of her reflection again, the self-assurance suddenly gone.
“Story of my life at the moment.” She thought, though she knew it would change, in part, when she returned to London. Tonight’s dinner was important to her; it was far more than a thoughtful, romantic rendezvous…it meant she could remind herself that the mask was still safely in place.

The gentle music and candlelight of ‘Il Cibo di Amore’” immediately evoked a sense of romantic grandeur for anyone who stepped across its threshold.
The elegant filigree patterning of the chairs would almost make you feel as if you were in the very heart of Italy on a balmy Summer’s eve rather than just tucked back from a busy-ish country lane in Yorkshire. Serena and Sim shared a bowl of Spaghetti al Pomodoro between them both chuckling as they reminisced over previous dinners in their favourite little Italian place in London but rather over their previous visit to this establishment!

“When they brought out your father’s lasagne, the looks on his and your mother’s face…I thought they were going to faint from shock!” Serena giggled. “Mind you, I nearly did too! The size of that dish would have fed all of us for a week!”
Sim chuckled. “This is exquisite, almost as good as Fellini’s.”
“Is this your subtle way of telling me that you’re already homesick for London?”
She grinned as she ate a forkful of spaghetti.
“Actually, I have been thinking..”
“How would you feel about staying for an extra two weeks?”
“Oh, right.”
Serena sipped some of her white wine, trying to hide her shock. “Well, er, well…what about work, for both of us; I mean I don’t suppose either of our superiors would be thrilled to hear about us gallivanting off more than expected?”
“Don’t worry.”
Sim smiled reassuringly. “I shall telephone and arrange everything tomorrow.” He tilted his head, seeing her expression. “Do you not want to? Would you rather go home as planned at the end of the month?”
“No. I’m surprised, that’s all!”
She laughed lightly. “Usually you tell me that you only come home to Yorkshire if it’s absolutely necessary?”
“That’s true but I thought that perhaps the extra time for the wedding plans would be just what the doctor ordered.”
“Yes, yes of course; you really do think of everything.”
She twirled a little spaghetti absently around the fork, her appetite having disappeared in an instant.

True, the idea of spending more time with her mother preparing for the wedding was a relief in some way…though she had many ideas buzzing around her head, she couldn’t quite ‘bring them to life’ as it were. That wasn’t the only thing buzzing around her head…

Her recent, highly emotional dealings at Follyfoot had left her rattled; the only thing that had eased the fearful agony was that she would be back in London…able to tuck the past away and put the whole ‘Follyfoot/confession to Steve’ encounter down to unfortunate experience.
Now Sim had sprung this on her…she was already beginning to feel helpless as the faint, cold cackling of past ghosts slowly seeped into her heart.

Thanks Loopy for letting me borrow the caps!

Offline FollyFootfan1689

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Re: Finding Hope at Follyfoot
« Reply #37 on: October 10, 2012, 06:42:59 PM »
For Marie, Loopylin, Pen., Gillian G, Loopy, Suzy and Jean Dawson; thank you and enjoy!  ;)

Finding Hope at Follyfoot

Part Twenty Eight – Mother Knows Best

Sat under the apple tree in the front garden, Serena hugged her knees, gazing pensively, almost sightlessly ahead whilst Meg slept at her side.
Earlier on that morning, Sim had asked her if she wanted to accompany him to visit some acquaintances of his; she had politely declined, though she’d sensed immediately that Sim was probably not best pleased.
She needed to be alone, time to think…besides, she wasn’t entirely sure she would be able to paint the mask on so convincingly today.

From the kitchen window, Rita watched her daughter; it made her feel so…helpless and guilty were the wrong terms but something akin to them. As a child, Serena had been a happy, friendly but quiet and grew up into a fiercely intelligent young woman with a very clear outset on what she wanted from life, which she was achieving. Even though she was getting married soon, she had no intention of immediately becoming ‘homemaker’; she still wanted to work for a while at least. She had no idea what Sim thought of that, though she could hazard a guess!

Yes, Serena was still happy and friendly but Rita knew sometimes that her quietness meant that she was in the sad place…people didn’t really understand what the accident had done to her; her body had changed whereas her mind had not…there was a disharmony of which her heart bore the brunt…to all others she was no different but to a mother, her deep scars were all too obvious.

Rita sighed; she could see the grief had not dulled with time…it was only when she was alone that she allowed herself to feel it…no-one else knew…Sim didn’t really know…

Things came to a head at roughly 4:00 the following morning; Rita padded downstairs and saw Serena at the kitchen table staring out at the moonlight.

“Another bad dream?” She asked softly.
Serena jumped, turning her head at the sound. “Mum. You made me jump.” She chuckled softly.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
She raised an eyebrow. “The dream…you’ve heard it all before, though…”
“Any of it.” The words open and book sprung to Serena’s mind as she saw the knowing and sympathetic look in her mother’s eyes. “I think we might need some cocoa, don’t you?”

A mug of warming cocoa as they sat together was as comforting to Serena now as it had been when she was a child; neither said a word, knowing that the words would come…

“Steve knows.” Serena murmured. “At Follyfoot; he knows.”
“I see.”

She laughed bitterly. “My dark secret’s out.”
She recognised the saddened tone with the squeeze of her left hand.
“I know, I know…but that’s how I feel about it, you know that.” She swallowed.  “Coming back here, seeing people again…there’s a lot of happiness here but there’s so much sadness. People catch up with me, I know they mean well but the first thing they always say is how glad they are that I seem better…always the accident."
“People just say what comes naturally.” Rita knew exactly what her daughter meant.

So often as people we say things without even thinking, although we only mean good by them, it is not always the right thing for the receiver.

“Everywhere I go here, there’s memories…they’ll always be there, I know I can’t run from them…that’s why the nightmares have come back…it is as if...”
“Time’s stood still here?”

Serena nodded.  “I feel safe in here; at home.” She reassured her mum. “It’s like a bolthole. I’m just me.”
“Your home should always be that.”
“And, strangely enough despite being faced with horses, I felt the same at Follyfoot…before anyway.”

For a while, there was silence between them.

“I’m so careful all the time…I know no-one else would notice.” Serena sighed, pressing her thumb into her right palm. “But I do.”
“I know.”
“It’s not about what other people think...”
“It’s about what you think.”
Rita finished.
Serena nodded, the lump swelling in her throat. “It still hurts.” Her voice a cracked whisper as she squeezed her eyes shut. “Mum, it still hurts so much.” She let her head fall into her hands as she wept painfully.
“Shhh.” She hugged her and rocked her tenderly. “Sweetheart, I wish I could take this away from you.” She kissed her head.

After a while, Serena’s tears finally stopped but she remained in her mother’s warm and
protective embrace as she finished her tale.

“I don’t know why I went to Follyfoot, or kept going back...just standing at the wall, being near but not too near…and then meeting Steve…I keep going around in circles over it and I’m not sure why.”
“Steve’s the stable hand, yes?”

As Serena continued, Rita realised what it all meant…perhaps…possibly, the key was becoming clear.
“For the first time, I didn’t feel so scared stroking its neck…maybe because it was similar to Duke, same dark brown, the first one anyway.” Serena felt oddly gauche talking about it, even with her mum. “Just being there.”
“Back with the horses.”
“I never go in, when the horses are around freely…silly isn’t it, behind a wall or a fence, I’m not quite so scared…”
Her mum smiled.  “You were absolutely besotted over horses, all through your growing up…couldn’t keep you away from them.”
Serena smiled briefly too. “I know I was…I think, maybe, deep inside somewhere a little bit of me still is.” She looked up through misted eyes. “It feels just like before when I wasn’t…” She gestured up her right arm. “Like this… I didn’t mean to tell him.” Her voice cracked again. “Well, I did but I didn’t…oh I don’t know.” She swept her hand up her forehead.
“I know what you’re trying to say.” Rita hugged her daughter a little tighter.
“Do you? Could you tell me then?” Serena laughed softly.
“You already know.” She looked into her eyes. “In your heart, you know you do.”
Serena sighed, clasping her fingers together. “I think that’s why I’m frightened; I don’t want to find out if it has changed…”
“Serena, sweetheart.”
She stroked her cheek with her thumb. “I know how much it hurts you…maybe this place, this Steve fellow can help you finally fight your ghosts…”

Thanks Loopy for letting me borrow the caps!

Offline FollyFootfan1689

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Re: Finding Hope at Follyfoot
« Reply #38 on: October 17, 2012, 07:22:50 PM »
For Suzy, Rob, Marie, Loopylin, Loopy, Pen and Gillian G thank you and enjoy! :)

Finding Hope at Follyfoot

Part Twenty Nine – Fear and Friendship

Serena walked steadily up the hill; Meg trotted close to her side, she knew that her mistress was strangely sad about something…she’d been that way for a few days now.

Leaning back against the tree, Serena ran a hand through her hair; if truth be told she’d actually much prefer to be curled up asleep at home…with everything going on a good night’s sleep was a long forgotten memory and it was starting to catch up with her.

Closing her eyes, she sighed heavily…what was she going to do?
The simplistic answer was to forget about it and move on…admittedly near enough everyone else thought she had…if only she was clever enough to fool herself.

Meg nudged her legs. “Is that your subtle way of telling me to wake up?” She chuckled.

As they walked further, it dawned on Serena where she was headed, a strangely queasy feeling unfurling in her stomach; she stopped and then turned around. “Homeward bound methinks, come on.” She tilted her head back in the direction they’d come, clicking her tongue and tapping her leg.
The dog cocked her head curiously and whined softly.
“No. Home, come on.” She tapped the top of her leg again.

With a single, short bark, Meg ran.

“Meg!” She turned to see the dog running off in the other direction. “Meg come back!” She used her familiar whistle but still that did not halt her; there was no choice but to dash off after her...she couldn’t understand it, Meg had never run off or disobeyed her before…

“Meg!” Serena came around the wall, hurrying to crouch at the animal’s side. “You
naughty girl.”
She scolded gently as she rubbed her neck fur.  “You must never run away from me like that. What make you do it, hm?” She kissed her head. “You’re my best friend; I couldn’t bear it if I lost you.” Her lips continued to rest against the silky head.
Only then did Serena look up at the sign on the gate…

The two black colts stamped their feet and whickered in impatience as Steve tended to Ladybird.
“Pay no attention to them.” He clicked his tongue reassuringly as Ladybird ate her meal. “No respect for their elders, that’s their trouble.” He laughed softly.
Soon though, the colts got their wish and were almost submissive under Steve’s handling, apart from trying to nibble the brush several times!

He glanced from them to Ladybird next door; such similar creatures, very different life paths, not unlike him and Dora. He sighed; their relationship was complicated at the best
of times but so much had changed since he’d been gone. She was such a stubborn dreamer and perhaps his recent travels had hardened him further…making them more and more at odds with each other…

Although Follyfoot was quiet, there was always a sort of buzzing going on as everyone went about their business and Steve knew every sound by heart, it was almost like clockwork.
His ears pricked up immediately at the gruff sound of a dog’s gentle bark…then a voice…a girl’s voice…Steve was sure he recognised it. Patting the horse’s neck, he went outside to investigate; he saw Serena at the closed gate with her dog…she’d come back!

“Hi.” He smiled but immediately saw her stiffen, green eyes sad yet oddly wary.
“Hi.” Serena straightened but still rested a hand on Meg’s neck, (though she realised it was more for her security than Meg doing anything else.). “Meg didn’t scare the horses did she, by dashing up? She doesn’t usually do that…”
Steve rested his arm on the gate. “I haven’t seen you around for the last few days…”
Serena gave a single, nervous chuckle. “No, places to be and all that..” She trailed off. “Uh, I’ll go and settle Meg by the tree, it’s not far.”

A few minutes later Serena was crouched under the tree with Meg.

“…you knew, didn’t you?” She murmured, gently ruffling the dog’s ears. “That’s why you ran, you brought me back. You’re a wise girl.” She kissed the golden head. “Thank you. Now, you stay here...I think I’ve got to do this next bit by myself, hm?” She kissed her head again as Meg licked her cheek. “See you soon.”

As Serena walked back toward Follyfoot, she took a deep breath, trying to send the fear away but she knew it wouldn’t go…was she ready to take this leap of faith? Well…she’d soon find out…

Thanks Loopy for letting me borrow the caps!

Offline FollyFootfan1689

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Re: Finding Hope at Follyfoot
« Reply #39 on: October 24, 2012, 06:18:25 PM »
For Marie, Loopylin, Loopy, Suzy, Pen., Dave, Gillian G and anyone else who is kind enough to read! :)

Finding Hope at Follyfoot

Part Thirty – Someone to Care

Steve watched Serena coming back up the hilly path; though he’d never believed in the ‘sixth sense’ as such, he sensed a change coming to Follyfoot with her. He felt into his jeans pocket for the chain..he’d fetched it while she was gone.

She smiled honestly, as she came to the gate, leaning her left elbow against it. “Hello…again.”

For a minute or two, they looked at each other in silence.
“Er, I found this by the stable.” He lifted out the chain and trailed it into her palm. “I think it might be yours.”
Serena gasped happily. “You found it.” She brushed her thumb across the horseshoe. “Thank you Steve! It is incredibly special to me…I realised the catch was loose…I thought I’d lost it forever.” She buttoned it firmly into the pocket of her denim jacket. “Thank you so much.” She gently squeezed the top of his hand.
“That’s alright.” He shrugged his shoulders bashfully.
“So, do you need any helping hands today?”
“You really don’t..”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
She replied laughingly.
“The yard needs sweeping again.” He chuckled, running a hand over his hair. “You spend an hour tidying then 5 minutes later it needs doing all over again.”
“Hm, yes I remember from the old days.”
A fleeting pang of sadness flitted across her eyes “Sweeping it is.” Steve let her in. “Dare I ever ask?”
“Yes, only 1 I’m glad to say; Ladybird’s her name…”

As they worked, Steve told Serena all about her.

“She was in such a state.” Steve shook his head. “Half-starved and frightened.” 
“Lucky you found her when you did then.”
“She belonged to their daughter…he’d practically gone off his top with worry.”
“Poor things.”
Serena arched her eyebrows knowingly. “Regardless, that isn’t the way.”
“No, never. People think of horses as just things to own and use how they see fit.”
“Most people do, not everyone but most. I’ll bet they would have given anything to get away from it."
“Rarely solves the problem, though, running away.”
Steve replied. “You have to face it anyway.”
“No-one ever said otherwise.”
He raised an eyebrow at the sudden sense of sharpness in her tone. “It is neither right nor wrong as long as no-one else is hurt…sometimes it’s all you can do…” The subject was about to be broached, she knew that.

Steve watched her tilt her head away from his; the familiar defensive anger, the need for self protection…even if it is from yourself.

“When I told you know …I wanted to stop but I couldn’t. I wanted to disappear, pretend that it was some G*d-awful nightmare, yes I know you probably think me cowardly for that…”
A few days ago, he might have said differently. “It isn’t my way…”
Serena’s eyes widened briefly in surprise. “I’m sorry.” She said softly. “No-one else has
ever really known those things…I realise that.”
 “Why me?”
He asked.
“Honestly?” She sighed. “Because I knew I could trust you…I just knew.”
“Why did I run away? I wasn’t running from you, Steve.”
  She pressed her palm against the top of the broom handle.  “I don’t talk about the past…it’s painful, though far less than someone knowing…people can be so unpredictable yet that in itself makes them pre..” She chuckled ruefully, her cheeks turning to a nervous blush. “Sorry, I’m babbling, aren’t I?” She cleared her throat softly. “Please, Steve…just between us?”
“I would never say anything.”
He murmured. “We all have our secrets.”
“That we was a silly thing to ask, really.”

Steve knew by the fearfully honest look in her eyes that she did not trust easily and she was still holding back, as he often did with people too…now it was his turn to take a leap of faith.

“I could help you; get your nerve back around the horses if you like?”
Serena smiled warmly for the first time. “Oh, it’s very kind of you, truly but you’re busy enough as it is..”
“I’d like to…no-one should ever have to be afraid.”

Serena looked deep into his soulful, brown eyes; so much mystery. “You’re a runaway too.” She thought. “Something tells me that you’re as broken and scarred as I am but you’ll never say.”

She murmured. 

Soon the yard sweeping was completed and Serena had given the donkeys some attention.
“Not that she had much choice in the matter!” Steve chuckled to himself; upon sight of her, their comical bray had increased in volume ten-fold!

He decided that now was the right time to begin; he’d seen people with a fear of horses before, knew how they reacted…Serena didn’t fit that…she wasn’t a novice who had had a scare, she’d had horse experience…it was a quiet kind of fear.

Serena was propping the broom up against the stable as Steve spoke. “Why don’t you come and meet Alex?” He suggested. “He’s a calm lad, wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

She froze at the threshold, the world seemingly shrinking toward her…she’d been in here before, she hadn’t been scared then…admittedly, the stable had been unoccupied at the time. She felt as if she was about to step back in time…she closed her eyes and swallowed.

“They won’t hurt you, you know.” Steve murmured, seeing her shaky expression.
She chuckled. “Of course I do.” She then admitted bashfully. “I feel safer when there’s a fence or a door in this case, the stable…oh, never mind.” She blushed at her sudden inarticulacy.
“It reminds you of Cartwright’s, doesn’t it?”
“I suppose so; it is similar but nothing like it, if you see what I mean? Here is…homelier.”
“Come on.”
He held his hand out to her; gently she rested her left fingers against his palm.

He led her along to Alex’s stall and introduced them.

“Ah, so you’re the famous Alex.” Serena clicked her tongue as the horse ‘nodded’ in response.
Steve fussed the horse for a few minutes then looked at Serena. “Go on.” He encouraged. “He won’t hurt you.” 
“Just a minute.”
For a moment, he thought she was about to bolt then he saw her gently ease her engagement ring off with her mouth and nestled in securely in hr pocket with her chain. “Wouldn’t want hurt him.” She explained.

He watched her fingertips curve, belying her apprehension; slowly they met with Alex’s dappled coat and as those few short minutes ticked quietly by he saw her palm relax against the horse’s neck.

“There you go.” Steve smiled.
“It’s a start.” She murmured shakily, returning his smile.

Thanks Loopy for letting me borrow the caps!

Offline FollyFootfan1689

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Re: Finding Hope at Follyfoot
« Reply #40 on: October 31, 2012, 06:03:41 PM »
For Gillian G, Suzy, Marie, Loopylin, Loopy and Pen. Also special mentions to Dave, Nokumarie and everyone who is kind enough to read! ;)

P.S. The blue italics are in flashback. ;)

Finding Hope at Follyfoot

Part Thirty One – Parallel Lives

The night air was still but not uncomfortably hot as Steve lay awake recalling the day’s events.   

Watching Serena with Alex he’d seen a person who instinctively knew her way despite the apparent scars of yesteryear; instinct played a pivotal role in horse care…in some it was natural, others it could be learned with the help of time.
Steve realised that somewhere in those moments he had watched a ghost flicker into life…a window into the past.

He raked his hand through his hair as he felt the painful queasiness of guilt pinch his gut again…
Today Steve Ross had done something that he’d promised himself he’d never do again…lie.
Alright it wasn’t an outright one, rather a lie by omission but still…he and Serena had talked about their awkward meeting at the village fete a little while back. She still thought his reaction had been because of her perceived upper class, Steve smiled wryly to himself…not her but the man at her side; that same window of her past he’d seen into had been partly his own.

The grandeur of Cartwright’s Riding School overawed most; its glossy extravagance made it seem almost untouchable by mere mortals…never mind a newly freed jailbird.
Steve Ross squared his shoulders and walked up the smart pathway; he had learned the hard way in life…now it was time for a fresh start, no more mistakes. He spotted a mature lady at the door, a housekeeper quite probably.
“Excuse me?” He caught her attention. “I’m Steve Ross; I was looking for Mr Cartwright…about the Groom’s job?”
“Mr Cartwright is busy at the moment.” Mrs Merrigold replied. “He shall be back later if you wish to wait.”
“What’s going on here?”  He raised his eyebrows as a young man came toward them; he was a little older than Steve, with sandy blond hair, guiding an elegant grey horse.
“This young man is in interested in the groom’s position.”
“Thank you, Mrs Merrigold, I shall take it from here.” As she hurried away, the young man looked Steve up and down, his lip curling slightly in snobbish distaste. “Looking into the groom’s job are you? Hm. I take it you have experience with horses?”
There was something about the surly look and haughty nose of Master Cartwright that immediately put Steve’s back up.
“Enough.” He replied levelly.
“Hm, yis.” Simeon took in the sight of this ragamuffin in ill-fitting clothes, trying to seem the part at least; Simeon was glad it was he who was dealing with this…creature; certainly not of the usual standard.

That ‘young man’ of course, he now knew to be Simeon Cartwright…Serena’s fiancé; watching him that day with the mare as much as he, Steve, had disliked him, he knew that was no cruelty in him…snobbishness, yes and a detachment from the animal but not cruelty.
Needless to say, the interview, such as it was, was short and sour, though Steve did have ‘better’ luck will the next place he tried with ‘The Squire’ and, well…you know what happened next!

Swiftly, Steve was sent on his way; as he walked back down toward the narrowing pathway he looked over at one of the training paddocks; he saw an older man there whom he assumed to be Mr. Cartwright Snr.
“Bring her ‘round a little tighter.” The blustery tone confirmed it. “That’s the ticket; now keep her at that strong pace and take her to the jump.”
The fawn coloured mare was well trained and seemed to know what was expected of her, with or without her rider’s direction; the rider, a young lady dressed in black and white, tartan-style trousers with her ponytail of dark blond hair tucked into the collar of her royal blue shirt, guided her competently through and jumped the fence freely and trotting over to Mr Cartwright.   

“Very good.” Walter Cartwright noted, gently patting the horse’s flank while he addressed her rider. “You need to take more control, though my dear but there is promise in you, a good year or so of training and you’ll be just right for the County Trials.”
The rider bowed her head, obviously shy and disbelieving of such praise. “Thank you, Sir; I appreciate your time very much.” She then turned and patted the mare
’s neck. “Good girl.”

Steve knew it unlikely but he did wonder, just for a moment, could that young, shy rider have been Serena?
If it had been, in light of what she told him about the ‘deal’ she and her family had made with Walter Cartwright, Steve understood what the man had seen in her…she was and would have been an excellent show jumper..

Seeing her anguish at the very mention of her memories at Cartwright’s was understandable…so why was she about to marry into something that bore such a painful and scary past…it was a mystery, though it wasn’t his to solve.

There were many unanswered questions…some would come to light in time, others were determined to remain unknown but even they could not be hidden forever.

Thanks Loopy for letting me borrow the caps!