(excerpt from Chapter One)
The horse still dances on the horizon.
She holds out her hand. “Come to me,” she says. “Please come this time.”
There is a stillness, the kind that hangs in the air when a decision is about to be made. The the horse tosses his head, and in a moment, he is there by her side.
She mounts easily, strokes his neck. “I will go with you,” she says.
He whinnies once. Then the hooves strike the hard ground. The chestnut flanks shine, muscled and strong. The mane whips lightly against her cheek.
“Faster,” she whispers, “Faster.”
The hooves clatter. The trees, grass blur around them, a dizzy green. A wind rises, whistling through her white gown. It grows colder, but she doesn’t care.
“Faster,” she whispers again. “Faster.”
The hooves make no sound. The sky, so blue it surprises her, meets them. The land is far below. They rip through a cloud. She closes her eyes.
“Jessica, I’m leaving now.”
Clouds all around, blocking the sun.
Losing speed. The ground swelling steeply upward. Falling.
“Jessica, I’m talking to you.”
She gasped, shuddered. Then she opened her eyes. “Am I hurt?” she asked.
“What are you talking about? Of course you’re not hurt?” her mother snapped. “You must have been dreaming.”
“Yes, dreaming,” Jessica said, softly, and was immediately sorry.
“What were you dreaming about?” It was not a question; it was a command.
“Something about a horse,” Jessica said reluctantly.
“A horse! You’ve never been on a horse in your life.”
Jessica said nothing. She was awake now and looking at her mother with sullen disdain.
“You don’t even ride a bike well,” he mother said, and laughed.
Jessica remained silent.
“When I was fourteen, I was the best bike rider in town,” her mother continued. But when Jessica failed to respond she stopped talking.
“Are you going to work now?” Jessica finally asked.
“Oh damn, now I’m going to be late,” her mother said, leaping to the door. “You’re always making me late.” As she hurried downstairs, she called, “Now you make sure you dress warmly today. There’s a can of soup in the cupboard and bread in the bin. And don’t you go out!”
“But I’m going back to school tomorrow,” Jessica said.
“Tomorrow’s tomorrow. Today’s today. And you will do as I say, young lady,” her mother yelled up. “And if that Jack shows his face here, don’t you dare let him in, you hear?”
Then she slammed the door, and soon Jessica heard the car start up in the driveway.
She shut her eyes, trying to recapture the dream. The horse. It had finally come to her. And she had ridden, no, flown on him.
She had dreamed of him so many times before. The dreams were beautiful, although frustrating, because the horse had refused to approach her. But this time he had come. Why had he come? And where had she been going with him? The questions suddenly frightened her as much as the dreams did. For there were other dreams: battles full of shadowy figures; men in patchwork robes walking in a processional; someone–something–shrouded in veils; blood. Sometimes the horse was there and she would cry to him for help. She’d awake, tangled in the sheets and sweating, with the sick feeling she was dreaming someone else’s dreams.
Once, she had tried talking to Jack about the dreams, but it was difficult.
“Did you ever have…funny dreams?” she’d begun.
“Funny ha-ha or funny weird?” Jack asked.
“Sure, lots of times. Everybody does.”
She tried again. “But did you ever feel as if they weren’t your dreams? Sort of like you were looking into a mirror and seeing a reflection that looked a lot like you, but wasn’t you?”
Jack furrowed his brow. “I don’t think so. Do you?”
“That is weird. But then again, everybody has weird dreams. I wouldn’t worry about them if I were you.”
Not even if you think the dreams are sort of calling you, as though there’s something you’re supposed to do, she had wanted to say, but she didn’t. She couldn’t trust even Jack with that confidence. She didn’t want him to think she was crazy and refuse to see her again. Then she’d be all alone with her mother.
Suddenly, a handful of stones rattled against her window. She jumped. And then she giggled at herself and scrambled out of bed to the window.
It was Jack, just as she knew it would be.
She raised her left hand, opened and shut it three times, and then raced down the stairs in her nightgown and bare feet.