Author’s Note: So I decided to add some variants into the themes for the snippets. Sometimes my mood gets in the way of finding or writing something for the day’s themes, and while it really shouldn’t be that hard to come up with a piece in all my completed but unpublished or incomplete stories, it has been.
I need to come up with the full list of them, but I’ve found one, officially, that I’m going to use now. I consider this a Monday Meeting, as it is when Dillon first met Larina.
“It was my turn to name the horse, you know.”
Dillon looked up from Hope’s mane, frowning as he did. He didn’t know why the girl scared him. She wasn’t bigger than him or older, and while he’d never been around other kids much, none of them had hurt him, not like his father had. She was just there, all sudden like, and that spooked him.
He didn’t like being so easily spooked. It was better to know that his father was coming, but it hadn’t changed anything if he knew or not. He shook his head, tightening his grip on the brush in his hand. “Who are you?”
“Who are you?” she countered, and he wished he knew how to ride because he’d jump on Hope’s back and go far away from this place, far away from her—from all of them. They scared him, and he didn’t like being scared. The girl looked at him again and shrugged. “I’m Larina. Burditt calls me ‘little bit,’ but that doesn’t mean that you can.”
“Wouldn’t call you anything,” he said, and then he winced. He didn’t want to provoke her. He would never have dared say that to his father. He wouldn’t have said it to anyone a few weeks ago. No, he wouldn’t have said anything. It was better not to speak.
She came over to his side, not shy, not even a little. He didn’t think anything scared her, and he could almost hate her for that. He didn’t like being afraid, but he was always afraid.
“They said that you got to name the horse because you needed hope.”
“I didn’t name her. Morely did.” Dillon shrugged, though the memories trying to replay in his head made him gag. “He did say that I needed hope, though, so that’s what they named her.”
Larina reached up to touch the horse’s head, and Hope met her hand, nudging her to do more than just pet her. Dillon bit his lip. He’d thought the horse liked him, but she seemed to like Larina better. He tried to give her the brush. She shook her head, leaning her head against the horse. “I like listening to their heartbeats.”
He frowned, but she took his hand and pulled him over to Hope’s side. She waited until he nodded, having heard the rhythm of the horse’s heartbeat and felt it under his fingers. “I like that sound. It reminds me that I’m not alone.”
He shook his head. He hated knowing that his father was near him. He didn’t like the smell of his breath or the sound of it. “Sometimes it’s better to be alone. Other people can’t hurt you if you’re alone.”
She studied him with a frown. “You must have known the wrong sort of people before because you shouldn’t have to be scared to be around the rest of us.”
He didn’t want to be, but he didn’t know how not to be afraid. He had spent too long with his father, and he watched all of them, thinking they’d become just like him if he stopped watching for even a moment. That would be when his father would attack.
“We’re not that bad. Not even me, and I’m supposedly a troublemaker.”
Dillon gagged. “You shouldn’t call yourself that. He’d hurt you if you were. He didn’t want little kids that caused trouble around him.”
She lifted her head from the horse. “Who is he?”
“Oh.” She took his hand from the horse and wrapped her fingers around it. “You don’t have to be scared anymore. I don’t know your father, but I know mine’s gone, and Burditt… Well, he’s like a dad, and he’s not going to hurt you. Ever. That’s not who he is. He won’t let you be hurt.”
Dillon looked at her fingers in his. He wanted to believe that more than he thought he should. That kind of thing was how he ended up hurt the most, trying to hope and trying to trust. Any time his father had seemed good, like he could be decent, he’d rip all of that away. “How do you know that you can trust him?”
“Hope,” she answered, laughing when he frowned at her. She smiled back. “You have to have some, and they gave that to you, didn’t they?”
He looked at the horse. “She isn’t mine.”
Larina shook her head. “She doesn’t have to belong to you. It’s not even about her. Animals know things about people. If an animal can trust someone, it usually means you can, too. Hope trusts Burditt. Hope also trusts you.”
Dillon glanced toward the horse. “And she trusts you.”
“Maybe you can, too,” Larina said, giving his hand a squeeze, and he swallowed, refusing to cry this time. He had already cried too much.