She stood in her old tack room, the sight and smell of it like home and hearth. Things left where teenage hands had placed them: oozing pot of hoof treatment, greasy mane comb, bridles sweat-stained and stiff. Traded horses for boys, Mum said with a wink when interest waned, when she still had strength and a sense of humour.
Call in the horses! Your daughter’s failed an exam and she’s going for a ride. Feisty Mum. That seemed long ago. A college degree ago. Wistfully, she wondered if her own child would love to ride.
Images washed over her like seasons compressed. The diagnosis, at first full of promise and hope. The halcyon reunion of mother and daughter, small talk and smiles. The news of the baby, a bittersweet Indian summer.
At last, winter wrapped itself around Mum.
Now Dad was selling the farm. She heard the clatter and clunk of him loading wood. She turned to see him raise one log in the air, bring it down with a muffled crunch on a nest of baby mice.
“What are you doing?” Her voice, sharp and high, startled her like a slap.
“They won’t live,” he said.
“What about the mother, Dad? When she comes back?”
She fled the barn, running from the blow, her heart exploding.
In her childhood bedroom she wept. Inside her, the baby curled tighter.
She vowed to be strong for both of them.
– first published in Flash Frontiers, May 2012