Filtered moonlight lit only what was necessary, a ribbon of light against dark, the road ahead winding through a tunnel of trees. Then, the clouds completely obscured the moon and there was a sense of where the hard packed two track road was. She trusted her horse, had faith in his animal instinct, his eyes for the night.
They ran hard.
His hooves pounded against the dirt, the sound sometimes hollow as they thundered over huge rocks buried under the ground, their edges poking out here and there along the two worn tracks. Her horse galloped between, trampling the fringe of brown grass in the middle, his stride long and true.
Her cheek pressed against his neck, her body arrow-like along his spine. His black mane whipped her face, her fingers entwined in the flowing hair. Her legs gripped his sides; she felt massive muscles moving under his warm skin, as with a life of their own. He ran as God intended the horse to run, for the sheer joy of it, and with his creature sensitivity he was caught up in his mistress’s escape. He felt the nips of the hounds she ran to escape, the teeth of the ache in her heart raked his fetlocks. In the blackness he stretched out, and his powerful strides ate the ground.
Her husband said he hated it when she left the house after dark. “Why do you have to go at night? You already rode today, why go now? Come to bed instead.” It was the look in his eyes, her own pain mirrored there that made her shake him off and leave the room. She stood by the kitchen window not bothering to turn on a light. The refrigerator clicked and began to hum.
It was that time of night when she became afraid of the long hours ahead. Nobody could help her. Nobody could take the hurt away, or explain to her why terrible things happened. She was alone even while in her husband’s arms in their bed. She put her hands against the hair on her head and bunched her fingers into a fist, catching and pulling. Her face screwed into a knot, not from the sting of pulling her hair but from the thumping of her broken heart.
She leaned her forehead against the coolness of the window pane. Everything about her was tired but sleep brought dreams of her child, his face as it was the last year of his life, sad and sick. Lifting her eyes she saw the horse silhouetted by the barn light. A shadow standing under the bones of the apple tree, its leaves discarded, holding its breath. This time of year was ugly; the empty space before winter, before snow fell and covered the deadness. She loved fall and its bright, glorious colors, the colors of everything dying – only nature can make death beautiful. Not like watching someone you love die slowly, their body withering, consumed by cancer.
The horse raised its head. He blew steam from his nose. Her pulse quickened, he looked a mystical steed, with arched neck, and pricked ears enveloped in white vapor. He was waiting for her. He was the vehicle, the drug that carried her away from the pain.
She grabbed up her coat, tugged on riding boots, and gloves, and quietly closed the door behind her.