Friday, November 9, 2012
At times, the hours and days fly by without notice, and before anyone can remember to mark days off the calendar, the trees begin to reveal their true nature and the morning walk to school is clouded with the fog of chattering breaths. In a way, it had flown by this way for Margo--summer seemed like a recent memory, and though she loved fall, she still didn't feel ready to cage her hands into mittens. On the other hand, though, it seemed to move painfully slow--ever since Christina and Rachel had promised her riding lessons at their very own Academy.
So, when the day finally came, Margo awoke like a child on Christmas morning--her face frozen into a smile, and her body humming with both excitement and anxiety. She couldn't get there soon enough... or so she thought.
The drive to Appaloosa Plains was a slow and silent one. Margo had convinced her mother to drive her "just that first time"; it was hard enough to deal with the pressure of riding a horse for the first time, did she really need to endure travelling on a bus with a dozen strangers on the way there?
"I promise, just this one time, Mom," Margo pleaded with her eyes wide, threatening tears. Alesha never had a chance.
Alesha tried to make small talk on the way there, but Margo's repitoire of responses was limited to "Mmmhm"s and "Uh-huh"s. "Just remember to have someone take photos for me, okay?" her mother buzzed. "And call me as soon as you're done, you have school in the morning and I don't want you to fall asleep in Chemistry again, I don't want another phone call from Professor Nielson. Besides, it would really make your father proud if you were able to talk about your class with him..."
Her litany faded away into the gentle hum of Margo's daydreams--dreams that put castles on the rolling hills they travelled, their rooks just barely showing in the thick clouds coating the horizon. The oil pumps bobbing up and down in the middle of fields grew faeries that jumped up and down on them like a rotating see-saw; the trees that shivered in the wind were just shaking hands as they parted ways; the tractor harvesting crops was an insatiably hungry monster trying to switch to a vegetarian diet.
It was a strange but lovely world--instantly shattered the moment Lawrence Equestrian Center's"sign appeared before Margo's eyes.
"Oh there you are, Margo! We're just about to get started!" Margo saw Rachel's arms waving from a large, fenced in area not far from the parking lot as she slowly climbed out of the vehicle.
"Remember to have fun, sweetheart," she heard her mother's voice say behind her as the car started pulling out of the drive. "Call if you need anything."
Margo's heart stopped as she got a good look at where she was heading. She wasn't sure why, but she had somehow expected that it would just be her learning to ride today--or maybe one other person. But as her eyes scanned the small arena, she spotted one, two, three... five horses. And, to match them, five girls her age.
She approached slowly, as if trying to tread quietly past a herd of flighty deer. Unfortunately, Rachel had already spotted her, so she wasn't going to escape, now. "Aw come now Margo, don't look so nervous! This is exciting! I'm so glad we're finally getting started," Rachel said with a smile, sending a casual glance at the small group of girls behind her.
"Margo?" A voice Margo vaguely recognized spoke from the middle of the circle. "Oh, hey, it's Margo! Hi, you!"
It took her a moment, but she finally caught the source of the greeting: a girl that she did not know well, but with eyes that made her family instantly recognizable. "Ch... Charlotte?" Margo whispered, shocked.
"... Oh. That's... cool," Margo responded, unsure.
After a moment, though, the twists in her stomach began to burn, as well as the pale color of her face.
She'd been so focused on Charlotte, that she hadn't noticed the blonde standing next to her.
"Yeah, Josh talks about you lots--I hear aaaall about it from Natasha," Daisy said with a light smirk. "I'm actually surprised to see you, here--I didn't realize your family could afford to eat anymore, let alone pay for riding lessons, what with your Dad's hospital bills and all."
"Daisy, that's quite enough," Margo heard Rachel interject from the side. She let out a small sigh of relief, but Daisy's eyes will still trained on her, full of suspicion.
"Alright, girls--gather round," Christina called from behind them, waving them into a rough semi-circle in front of her. "Looks like some of you have already met, but let's introduce ourselves, shall we? Daisy, since you seem so excited to share, why don't you go first."
"Well--my name is Daisy de Wynter, I'm a Sophomore in High School at Twinbrook High, and my family recently purchased the beautiful Mumba--" she pointed to a gray Arabian a little ways away. "So I have a little experience riding--I'm mainly just here for a refresher course." Margo almost gagged at the fakeness of Daisy's smile.
They all went around and introduced themselves; aside from Daisy and Charlotte, there were two other girls, both from the Plains. One was a rather shy Junior named Rena who had never ridden before, and the other a loud but nice-looking Senior named Bridget, who was here more as a 'teacher's aide' since she was a minorly accomplished rider. Both got rather sour looks from Daisy, which made Margo feel a bit more relieved; at least she wasn't the only one here Daisy despised.
"Alright guys, let's go meet the horses you'll be riding!" Christina waved a beckoning arm and started leading them towards the four-legged creatures standing idly on the opposite side of the arena, looking thoroughly bored.
"Except for Daisy--" Christina shot her an annoyed glance. "You all will be riding some of our finest LEC horses. They are all incredibly well trained, obedient, and even-tempered--you have nothing to be nervous about with them. They've all been used many times to teach beginners, so they're used to it. They'll take great care of you, I promise."
"Charlotte, you'll be riding Rocky," Christina said while pointing to a gelding Margo instantly recognized; he was one of the horses she had been taking care of at the ranch in Twinbrook. "He's a bit older, but he was a solid competitor in his prime."
One by one, the girls were paired off--Charlotte to Rocky, Daisy to her own Mumba, Rena to a nimble, shy mare named Harley Quinn, and Bridget to her previous training partner, Easter, a rather odd paint with a pink nose like a rabbit.
Last, was Margo.
"Margo--this is Espresso. Between you and me," she said softly, making sure the other girls weren't listening heavily. "He's the finest guy we've got here. He's incredibly smart, and he'll always do exactly what you want him to, if you know how to ask, right. He hasn't competed yet, but I think he's got a lot of potential to do well... Think you'll be able to coax it out of him for me?"
Margo gave this 'Espresso' a long, hard look.
He wasn't Dusty Dame, that's for sure. Dusty was always blanketed with a thin coat of mud; this guy was so clean he was practically shining. Dusty was... well... fat. This guy? Margo could see the muscles rippling in his shoulders as he shifted weight between his feet. Something about Dusty had always felt secure--like she was just as much an outsider as Margo was--but Espresso was the top of his class, valedictorian, quarterback, and Danny Zuko all in one package.
At least, that's what she thought, before... the face.
As Margo burst out laughing at the weird, tilted smile he gave her--complete with goofy, wiggling ears--Christina almost choked. "Oh, right, I forgot to mention--he's a bit of a bonehead. Thought you might like that." She smiled, tossled Margo's hair, and walked away.
Jock and comedian. Maybe he would grow on her.
"You're goofy," she said to him softly as she grabbed his lead rope. "I think 'Espresso's' a bit too formal for you... You're a bit more of 'Bean', hmm?" He almost seemed to whuffle in approval. "I thought so."
"Alright guys, take your horse's lead rope, and spread out so you have plenty of room," Christina called from behind them. "Walk slow, but commanding. Remember, you're in charge--the horses will know if you feel nervous, so try not to show it. Keep your shoulders up, and lead them like you're the only one that knows the way. They'll respect you more if you don't doubt yourself."
Margo tried to listen, but she could feel cold prickles at the back of her neck. She cast a quick look; Daisy was only steps behind her, impatiently waiting for Margo to get Bean out of the way to give her more room.
"Sorry," Margo mumbled, trying not to look Daisy directly in the eye.
"Now, I'd like you guys to pull yourselves up into the saddle. If you need help, just call one of us over and we'll give you a hand up, but I'd like you guys to try it out yourselves, first."
Margo gulped as she began watching the other students. Bridget pulled herself up into the saddle as if she'd been born there; Daisy took a little longer, but still managed to do it without help. Charlotte, unfortunately, was still a bit too short for Rocky, so she got to stand on a stool to get on him. The last was Rena: try as she might, she kept sticking her foot into the stirrup at the wrong angle, and it was clearly frustrating her.
"Rena, honey--it might help if you put the right foot in," Rachel said softly behind her, trying not to chuckle.
"Margo? Aren't you going to try?"
Christina had snuck up on her. "I, uh," Margo stammered, biting her nails. "I'm just watching everyone else so I can... see how... I guess." She shrugged as well, trying not to betray her nerves to her teacher. A futile effort, at best.
"If you need help, I'm right here," she responded, smiling.
Margo looked up at Bean. Was she crazy, or did he just grow a foot and a half in the last few minutes? "You're... tall," she gulped under her breath, looking up at him worriedly. "Can't you just... sit down?" He snorted--yeah, not gonna happen.
Margo looked back over her shoulder at Christina, who shook her head. "You're doing fine, hon. Take your time." She gave a reassuring smile, that didn't reassure Margo one bit.
Alright. Foot in...
... arms up...
... leg over...
"Bout time, Margo," Daisy groaned, herself looking boredly perched atop Mumba. "Thought we might be riding in the dark by the time you got your ass in the saddle."
"Well, I... Hnn." With a small whimper, Margo turned her eyes away. She had no idea how to retort at something like that, even if she had had the courage to.
The next few moments, while ingrained in Margo's mind as the most wonderful, defining moments of her life, were a bit of a blurry, goopy mess.
She had always heard that the first few moments you ever ride a horse are the most amazing thing to ever experience--but at that particular moment, it was... not. As Christina instructed them where to go and how to tell their horses to turn and move forward, Margo's heart was pumping blood so hard to her body that everything was throbbing. Eyes, hands, toes. Her nose itched, but she clung so tightly to the reins that she couldn't raise her hand to ease it.
It was pure joy, but pure discomfort.
The party moved forward in a single-file line; Bridget, much more experienced than the rest, took point. Charlotte, having trouble getting Rocky to stop searching for carrots, took rear. Slowly but surely, they began circling the arena, like a square carousel without music or a pole to cling to. Margo felt lucky that Bean knew what he was doing; she was having enough trouble just figuring out how to hang on.
Pretty soon, it was apparent. With a brave glance over her shoulder, Margo saw it happen: Mumba, who had already been acting a bit strange around the other horses, suddenly had had enough. Stopping right in her tracks, she began tossing her head, and--when her rider couldn't seem to figure out what to do--decided that there was only place to put her.
On the ground, knocking the air clean out of her.
"Daisy!" Christina called, her eyes instantly full of panic. "Daisy, are you alright!?"
"I'm... fine..." Daisy choked, coughing and sputtering as she tried to gain her bearings again. "Just... ow."
As Rachel ran to Daisy's side to help her up, Margo carefully began sliding herself off of Bean's back.
"Are you sure you're alright," Rachel asked worriedly, gently poking Daisy's ribs and the back of her head and neck. "Nothing broken?"
"Ugh, stop, stop," she grumbled, waving her off. "I told you, I'm fine."
"It's her, fault," Daisy added, as soon as Margo took a few steps forward. "I told her to get out of the way, but she wouldn't listen! She just sat there, looking stupid."
"But I... why did I have to move?" Margo asked, hushed.
"Haven't you met Mumba? I thought it was your job to take care of her at the ranch," Daisy snarled. "But I guess if it hasn't got through your thick head--Mumba doesn't like being boxed in by other horses. She needs more room to move, and you weren't giving it to her."
"Daisy, that's not her job." Rachel's interjected, her face lined with fury. "Margo's job is to mind Espresso, not accommodate you and your... horse," she snapped, sending a sour look Mumba's way. "If you absolutely insist on using Mumba during these training courses, it's your job to make sure that you can control her, and if not, make sure she's not a risk to the other students. I've already given your mother my protest to allowing her in these classes--she's not fit to be a training horse, and she shouldn't be here. We made an allowance on the condition you could handle her--do I need to change my mind?"
"I... no, but..." Daisy struggled to find an argument, but Rachel hadn't left her much wiggle room. "Fine, I'll be more careful."
As Rachel and Daisy continued discussing ways to accommodate Mumba--begrudgingly, on Rachel's part--Margo began wandering away... away from Daisy, away from Rachel, away from Bean, her heart heavy in her chest.
"Honey, where are you going?" Christina said, stopping her and holding her in her tracks. "It wasn't your fault. Why don't you hop back on Espresso?"
"I know it wasn't, I just... I don't want to be in the way," Margo sighed, shrugging her shoulders up tight. "I'm not sure I'm good enough to ride him."
"Sweetie, do you think I would have paired you and him together if I didn't think you were the best fit?" Margo shook her head at Christina. "I asked you here because I know you can do this. All it takes to be a great rider is love for your horse, hard work, and cooperation--three things I know you can do. Don't listen to Daisy, or anybody else that wants to tell you you aren't good enough--with Espresso's help, I know you're going to be the best rider here."
Christina looked at her, puzzled. "Bean?"
"Yeah. Espresso Bean. That's what I've decided to call him."
Without blinking, Christina began to laugh--so heartily that even Rachel and Daisy paused to look over and see what was wrong. "And a Bean he is," she said, wiping a tear from her eye. "See... I knew it: you guys will get along just fine."
But Bean, not missing a beat, raised his head and gently butted the side of her cheek with his nose. What he was trying to say, she wasn't sure (though she was sure he was trying to say something); but, if she knew anything, it was that he, like Christina and Rachel, saw more in herself than she did.
"I guess we're stuck together now," Margo smiled, rubbing the length of his nose. "So I guess you should know--I kinda suck at a lot of things, and I might suck at this, too. But if you help me, I'll give it all I got. Think you're willing to give it a shot?"
In his own, Bean-y way, he smiled in response.
This was starting to become a problem.
Granted--it was a problem when it first started. Korva's delight in causing mischief is something that no one but her seemed to understand, but it had started to get progressively worse since her first little 'prank'. Whoopee cushions, shower dye, smoke bombs--you'd think those were the extreme, but that was just where it started. A little embarrassment was forgivable. But this...
... this was getting out of hand.
Alesha had given up nail biting in second grade, when Amelia, her then and forever best friend, had started painting them every sleepover. It had been a long time since those sleepovers, but the habit-break had stuck--until Kory.
It was something that hit her as she began chewing her nails on the way down the stairs to the principal's office. It was her daughter that was being called in--why did it make her so nervous? She couldn't explain it, but this time, she had a gut feeling Korva had finally gone too far.
"There you are--" Principal Clark ran up the Alesha the moment she turned the corner towards the main offices. "Sorry, I don't mean to be impatient, I just..."
"What's she done, this time," Alesha asked in a tired, unsurprised voice.
"Well, I... I don't even know how to say this without--"
"Just tell me," she asked, impatient. After being called down from her classroom 10 times so far this year, she was no longer shocked.
"Well, it started this morning--they brought in a bunch of animals for a science exhibit: mice, reptiles, some large rabbits... it was all fine, until Korva decided to let them out of their cages..."
Alesha sighed. "Nothing new."
"Yes, well--that's not the worst bit. While the adults were trying to track them all down to return them, Korva... stuffed one of her fellow students in one of the cages."
"It was rather traumatizing for the poor girl--apparently she had made some sort of comment about how her mother had a fur coat just like one of the rabbits, and that... put Korva over the edge, so to speak."
"I wish I was, Alesha. I know your daughter has some rather interesting perspectives on animal rights and green energy and the like--all rather remarkable for a girl her age--but... this has got to stop."
"I know, Chris, but..." Alesha sighed. "I've tried everything. She simply won't listen. Brad's illness has had a really hard toll on her... she idolizes him a great deal, I think she sees everything she's doing as a punishment to what caused him to become sick. It doesn't quite make sense to any of us but to her..."
"I understand Alesha, and I empathize with your family a great deal--but you have to realize, if this behavior continues any longer, I won't have any choice but to expel her. And for a child her age, that's not going to be easy to recover from."
Alesha sighed. "I... I know. What do you suggest?"
"I know this is the last thing you want to hear, but have you thought about boarding school?"
"Chris, you know I can't move her that far away from her father--"
"Yes, but that may be part of the problem. Seeing him constantly the way he is... it may be a trigger for these emotions."
"I just don't know. I've thought about it, but Kory... she's so fragile. It could make things worse."
"Possibly, but you really should give it some consideration, Alesha. What if it were one of your own students? What would you tell their parents? Just keep it on the table. That's all I'm asking."
Alesha slowly nodded, then carefully patted her colleague on the shoulder. "Thanks, Chris. I appreciate your honesty."
Down the hall, Kory could hear the adults murmuring. She couldn't hear exactly what they were saying, but she knew they were talking about her--knew what they were saying couldn't be good. It infuriated her--shouldn't she at least be kept in the discussion? She wasn't an infant; she could handle hearing what they had to say...
They were stupid. All of them, stupid. If they all would just listen, if they would all just do what she wanted them to--
"Kory," came her mother's voice above her. "It's time to go home."
Korva sat completely still, refusing to move or respond.
After a few moments, Alesha became impatient. "Korva, come on. You can't just sit here all night."
"I can if I want to," Korva finally responded, lifting her head just enough to glance at her mother through the corner of her eye. "If I go, you're just going to yell at me. I'm not going anywhere."
"Yell at you? Yell at you?!" Alesha voice was hushed, but carried no less anger for its lack of volume. "If I want to yell at you young lady, I don't need to take you home to do that. I am... I am so disappointed in you. How could you do something like that to someone else?! How could you--"
"Pippin made me do it."
"Pippin? You're blaming your doll?"
"She talked me into it."
"Korva... I have seen you say some pretty immature things, but I think that is the absolute worst. Another girl is not only grievously upset, but injured, and you have the nerve to try and shift the blame onto your stuffed toy? That is low. Now come on--we're leaving."
As slow as possible, Korva carefully lifted her backpack off the ground, slinging it over one shoulder after withdrawing a large, happy looking doll from within. Alesha tried not to tap her foot with rage, but her daughter was clearly taking every step to make this as painful as possible.
"Ready?" she asked, trying not to blow smoke.
"Yes." Korva's lips snarled.
As they climbed into the car, no more words were spoken. Alesha knew, nothing she could say would make a difference; Korva knew, nothing she said would be understood.
They both tried turning on music, but as soon as it began to play, it left them feeling worse in their thoughts--so it was instantly shut off, leaving them in intolerable silence.
As they neared home, Korva pulled Pippin tighter against her chest, trying to capture any emotion that wasn't anger--but failed. It was all emptiness. Just a stuffed toy, in the enclosed space of the car.
"You hate me, don't you," she whispered, her eyes glued to the window opposite her mother.
Alesha bit her lip, closing her eyes as long as she could without veering off the road. "No. I could never hate you. You're my daughter, and I will always love you." But as her eyes opened, a tear escaped her eye.
They spoke no more words to each other; Alesha exited the car before Kory, slamming the door and walking to the house without even checking to see if Kory was behind her. She wasn't, but Kory watched her mother leave with a confused hatred, one still completely devoid of shame.
She returned to her room above the garage, tossing her backpack in the corner, and gently setting Pippin on the center of the floor. "Well... I guess that coulda been worse," she snarked to the empty room.
"I dunno, Kory... I think we mighta gone too far, this time." Behind her, clear as day, Pippin spread her hands in defeat, looking oddly sad for what was supposedly "just a doll".
"Nonsense--they don't listen. They never listen. The only way to make them is actions... they say they speak louder than words, right? So we make loud actions, and we make ones that can't be ignored."
"Yeah, but... are you sure they're even hearing what you're trying to say? All they seem to be is angry at you, not anything else."
"... I guess. Mebbe we'll just have to do something that's a bit easier for them to understand."
Pippin's head-bobble fell to the side, her face falling into confusion. "Huh? Like what?"
"Oh, I dunno yet... But we'll think of something. You'll help me though, right, Pip?"
Pippin smiled, her eyebrows wiggling in delight. "Of course, Kory. Friends forever, right?"
"Yup. Friends forever."
He's a tramp, but they love him
Breaks a new heart ev'ry day
He's a tramp, they adore him
And I only hope he'll stay that way
You can never tell when he'll show up
He gives you plenty of trouble
I guess he's just a no 'count pup
But I wish that he were double
He's a tramp, He's a rover
And there's nothing more to say
If he's a tramp, he's a good one
And I wish that I could travel his way
- He's a Tramp -- Disney's Lady and the Tramp (Click to Listen ♫) -
I really, really need to talk Mom into a spa membership, Margo thought to herself as she tried--and failed--to find a position comfortable on her bed. Back, stomach, side--no matter where she was, it all hurt. All she wanted to do was take a nap before going to work, but at this rate, it looked like it wasn't going to happen.
Apparently, the horse riding course had failed in it's advertising. "In a 12 week course, come learn how to ride, join the Academy team in beginner's dressage, jumping, and cross country competitions, and form a callous on your backside so large it can be seen from outer space! Those that are terminally out of shape need not apply."
Margo was laying in her pool of painful self-pity when the worst thing possible happened: the doorbell rang.
Crap, she thought as she struggled to bring her feet over the edge of the bed. Alesha was still at the school picking up Kory, which meant she was home alone--and though she hated answering the door, after one-too-many missed UPS packages, her mother insisted she learn to answer the door. Maybe I could just tell her I'm disabled from the waist down... Yeah, that wouldn't work.
Margo eased herself to the front door with a mixture of socially anxious dread and muffled whimpers--careful to avoid eye contact with whoever was at the door until she'd opened it all the way.
She wasn't sure who she was expecting--a solicitor, maybe one of Kory's friends--but him... him she wasn't expecting.
The boy by the fire...
... the man in the moon...
... the most beautiful human being she had ever seen.
"Hi," he said.
No, not said. Oozed. In just one word, Margo's already weak knees collapsed, leaving her clinging to the doorknob helplessly.
She could already tell--he was foreign. Even just the word "hi" sounded more like "hoy"; she couldn't place it--not yet, anyway--but it was just enough to make him all the more handsome. Boys with accents? They always are one step ahead of the game.
Suddenly realizing that she'd done nothing but stare for the last 10 seconds, she gulped her painfully dry mouth, and simply said, "Hi."
"Well den, now thet dat's out of the way--name's Dylan, by the by--Oy'll just... tis way to the kitchen, yeh?"
"Um... yes...?" Margo watched helplessly as the boy--Dylan--walked right passed her into the hall, his eyes carefully analyzing the entire room with a childish wonder.
"Wow, tis place is grand... Got a nice 'omey feel to it, bit too clean for me own tastes, though. Say, you never said yehr name--it's?"
"Margo... Margo May..." Her eyes were hyptonized as she watched him carefully tiptoe around the room, picking up objects and inspecting them from every angle. The clock, picture frames, vases: everything. It was almost as if he'd never seen the like before, and couldn't fathom what he was seeing--that, or he enjoyed leaving his fingerprints on everything he saw.
Suddenly, Margo snapped out of it. "Hey, you know, you can't just... walk into people's houses, and... touch their stuff..."
"Um, yeh, dat does seem abet rude, but if Oy recall correctly, a little lass about your build 'n color came into may home recently and started snappin' pictures o' my family wit'out askin'..."
Margo's face turned bright red. "Oh... yeah. Point taken."
However, the boy's face lit up with a smile. "S'alright, darrrlin', I gots a beautiful family, 'n I don't mind sharin', so long as you don't."
With the word 'darrlin', Margo was finally able to place it. Irish, she said to herself under her breath, as Dylan turned his back on her and ambled towards the kitchen. He's irish. ... But what are irish gypsies doing in Twinbrook?
"So um... You don't sound from around here," she finally got the nerve to ask, just as Dylan reached for an apple off the counter and took a bite with what she could only describe as 'playful carelessness'. "How... and why... did you get here?"
"Eh, we're what you'd call travellers," he spoke through a mouthful of apple. "Don't like stayin' no place too long. Start gettin' homesick for teh road. Few years back, we took the biggest move yet--'aven't looked back. Love this wee little country you got here," he said with a wry, amused grin. "It's full of alllll kinds of beautiful tings."
"Okay, so... why are you... here? You know... in my house?"
"You sure ask a lot o' questions, mm?" Dylan laughed. "Well, I came to offer you... a... proposal, o'sorts."
"A... proposal?" Margo almost swallowed her tongue, it was so dry. "What... kind of proposal?"
"Well, you sure seem to love Mud--"
"Aye, me dog. The one you've been luring to your house every night?"
Margo groaned--she'd completely forgotten what had even led her to Dylan's campsite, that night. "Oh."
"Well, Mud's a right pain in me behind, and me family's in need of a littow coin, so I was thinkin'--if you like him so much, why don't you buy him off me?"
Margo's eyes grew wide. "I... I... I don't know--I can't make a decision like that without asking my parents--"
"So what about your parents--it's your house too, isn't it?"
"Come on, he's a wee bit dirty but 'e's got a harrt of gold and you won't find a pup more loyal den he--"
"No. I'm sorry... But no."
"... Oh." Dylan's face fell--along with Margo's stomach. Great, she thought to herself. I've gone and made him hate me... and all he wanted was to sell me an animal he loved so he could afford food or... something.
"I... Can I talk to my parents about it? I'm sure they'll say yes... We're just not doing so well ourselves right now, and a dog... it's a lot of responsibility, and I don't really have time, and--"
"Sssh, I get it, I get it, lass. You don't have to explain. I admit, I've been watchin' your house a bit--nottin' creepy, just curiousity--and I noticed, yehr Dad... he's left yehr Mam, hasn't he?"
"Well, no--he's sick... Hasn't been able to leave the hospital for the last couple months."
"Oh. Dat's... dat's really rough." Dylan's face fell into the first genuine, plain smile she'd seen him make, yet. "Oy'm sorry."
And, for a moment--it was. It really was. As many times as people had said they felt sorry--that they understood, and sympathized--she had never really believed them until this boy. Something about his eyes told her: he'd been through worse. Much worse. Loss, separation... something.
The way his eyes looked into hers--dark, but with a heartening warmth--she had never felt quite as at peace with everything as in that moment, when he reached out and took her hand into his.
"Well... if you change yehr mind... you know where teh find me," Dylan said with his boyish half-smile, suddenly lifting her hand, and--with the gentlest of movements--brought her hand to his lips.
She was struck instantly with how rough they were. It may have been his stubble--he did have a bit of beard, making her estimate he was at least two years older than herself--but his lips felt harsh, too. Weathered. He was no pampered brat or city slicker--he'd seen rough things, and had no need to polish it off his exterior. His hands were calloused and his fingernails hadn't been scrubbed in weeks, but they were more tender than anything else she'd ever felt.
"Yeah... I guess I do." Margo melted.
"Margo, have you seen my--oh." Margo had been so absorbed in Dylan's eyes, she hadn't heard the front door open.
Alesha stood, frozen, as she watched the rather... surprising scene before her. "Uuuh... what is going on, here?" she asked, snapping Margo out of her fixation with Dylan's gaze.
"Oh, crap, Mom--Hi," Margo sputtered, spinning around so fast she nearly lost balance. "We were just--"
"--Making a business arrangement, as Oy'm sure Marrgo with tell you about, latehr," Dylan finished. "You must be the Missus," he added with a warm, smarmy smile.
"Yes--and... who are you?"
"Dylan O'Malley, at yehr service Mam." To Alesha's surprise, Dylan not only introduced himself like a gentlemen, but gave her a slight bow, as well. She was so taken aback she did nothing but stare as Dylan, without blinking, began guiding himself towards the door. "Now, I should be gettin' home before me own Mam starts callin' aftehr me--it was a pleasure to meet teh bot of yeh."
With another slight dip, he turned towards the door and let himself out, trundling down the front steps and out of sight.
"Uuuuuhh..." Alesha blinked a few more times. "What... was that?"
"It was... a boy..." Margo tossed a sidelong look at her mother, trying to smile innocently. And, failing.
"Yes, I saw that much," Alesha sighed. "Explain."
After a deep breath, Margo began to recount the last few months--how she kept feeding the dog, "Mud", and drawing him closer to the house; how she saw him run to a boy riding a horse on the hill above the house; how she followed the dog home one night to see who he was... And, of course, the conversation that had just happened. Althroughout, Alesha's face remained blank and tired.
When Margo finally finished, Alesha simply shook her head, rubbing her temples. "Margo..."
"Yes, I know--we can't keep a dog," she sighed, scuffing the floor with her boot.
"No honey, not that--you can't... you can't just act so recklessly like that. I know your curiosity gets the better of you sometimes, but between your Dad's illness and Kory acting out, I just need one person in this house to try and keep their head on straight for me... I am so overwhelmed right now, honey--just please, promise me, you won't do anything stupid?"
"So--so you're saying... we can buy Mud?"
"Maybe," Alesha sighed. "I have to talk to your father about it, first. But that's not what I was saying."
Margo nodded deftly, trying to give her mom the biggest, most reassuring smile she could muster. "I know, Mom. I'm sorry. I promise--I won't do anything stupid."
With a weak, exhausted smile, Alesha pulled her daughter close, and planted a kiss on top of her head. "Thank you, honey. I know I can count on you."
And yet, the more Margo thought about it, the more she realized--she wasn't entirely sure what she'd just promised her. What exactly would be stupid?
Would it be stupid to see him again?
To hold his hand again?
To look into his eyes again?
To dream about more?
Indeed, the longer she laid there--her body tired but her heart more alive than ever--Margo realized there was only one thing for certain:
If that was the case, she had just made a promise she couldn't keep.
Notes: As of this moment, I am officially moved back into our old house! It took a good 3 months longer than it should have, but better late than never!I can't make any promises that Desperate Sims will return to a "normal" schedule--it seems every time I promise to start posting more often, life finds a way to get in the way--but I am hopeful that being home again will help my enthusiasm to increase to where it was before I moved to Winnipeg and had all passion sucked out of me, haha.Thank you--all of you--for your continued support, as well as some of the messages I've received while I've been on break. You guys are an amazing bunch... I know I say it all the time, but I feel like I can never say it enough. I am constantly baffled by your kindness and patience. ♥ I could not be more thankful to have all of you stick by me!Cheers, guys! :)