Ch. 4 - Kasubia

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Insect buzzed louder in the heat, like high frequency static. Rhianna lay in the shade of the giant oak tree by the pasture fence. She wondered if the insects were louder, or if the heat was just sucking away every other sound. She listened, trying to hear anything else out there in the oven of daytime.

City sounds were chaos in the summer. Blaring horns, raised voices, electric A/C humming with that drip, drip, trickle of water draining. But the country was very...consistent. And Gran didn't believe in A/C.

Rhianna still didn't know anything about Gran except she talked very little, and her house seemed to be stuck in the last century. And she didn't seem to do anything but take care of her animals. The boredom was already killing Rhianna. Lay low, and stay sane, until mom comes back—how hard can it be?

It all depended on how long she had to be here. And that worried her. She didn't even have anything to compare it to for an educated guess. Mom never left her behind. Anytime she needed to make a break for it, she took Rhianna with her—until now.

Dry grass stalks, trimmed down to stubby sticks, poked into the small of her back. Sweat clung to her body like an ocean on a small planet. She fantasized about floating in cool, clear water. If she knew of a local pond, she would jump in.

She missed the A/C in the car, or just rolling the windows down as they drove.

A snort bolted her upright. Gran?

Pippa wanted her to stay away from this area of the farm, but the oak tree was the only significant shade, except the porch. And the porch meant hanging out with Pippa. Pippa the ungrandmotherly. Rhianna couldn't even tell if the woman liked her.

A horse clopped along on the other side of the fence, and Rhianna relaxed. Not Gran; just a horse. Little puffs of dust kicked up under its feet as it came near. It was the most beautiful horse Rhianna had ever seen. Pure white, with a long wavy mane. Exactly like a unicorn, minus the horn.

Maybe that's why Pippa warned her away. Her mother would have a fit if saw Rhianna so close to a horse. Horses were one of those things that set her mother off: Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

Rhianna stood up and watched the horse tearing at patches of grass with its huge flat teeth. The horse watched her back with dark eyes. Wind blew strands of its mane across its face like a picture on a fantasy poster. It wasn't hard to imagine a golden horn on its head. It was right there, just waiting to be petted.

The white coat gleamed in the sunshine, like satin.

She wasn't afraid like her mother.

She tiptoed forward until she could lean on the fence. The horse went on munching in an entirely predictable manner. Nothing scary about that. She eyed the hooves and the flashes of teeth as it tore up new mouthfuls. No devil horns. No flame breath. Just an animal, like any other animal.

On Rhianna's side of the fence, there were clumps of green grass growing tall in the shade of the oak, much better than the well-grazed patches of yellow scruff on the other side of the fence. Rhianna picked a handful and climbed on the fence.

"Here, Horsey," she called waving the lush green treat. "Look what I have for you."

The horse pricked its ears forward and eyed Rhianna's hand. It took a few steps and stretched its neck toward the treat, nostrils flaring.

"Come on, Horsey." Rhianna tried to mimic the clicking noise in her cheek that people use in the movies. "Mmmmm yummy green grass."

It stepped closer, hot breath wufflling her knuckles. The horse's mouth was big enough to engulf her entire hand if it wanted too. Rhianna opened her hand flat, holding her breath.

The horse gobbled Rhianna's offering like it was candy. As it chewed Rhianna ran her other hand down its neck. Not like satin at all. The white hairs were coarser than she had imagined. Rhianna stepped along the fence, running her hand along the horse's flank. The horse whickered and turned its head to study her.

"Did you want some more?" Rhianna asked.

The horse dipped its head down and then up, as if it were nodding.

"You are a smart horsey aren't you?" Rhianna jumped down from the fence and pulled up some more handfuls of grass. The horse barely let her climb back on the fence before it was trying to root out its snack from her hand. "Easy there..." Rhianna bent down to look underneath the horse, "Girl."

The horse was greedy and Rhianna made several trips back and forth from fence to patch of grass. Each time she gained a few more moments to pet the horse. It was a simple arrangement, but exhausting.

"Are we gonna spoil your dinner?"

The horse shook its head as if in answer. Her mom would have died of a heart attack if she could see her now.

"I'm not scared. You wouldn't hurt me in a million years would you, Horsey."

The horse turned to look at Rhianna again, a mouthful of grass disappearing inch by inch.

There's nothing wrong with being scared.

Rhianna was so startled she almost fell off the fence. She whipped her head around, expecting to see Gran behind her. But there was nobody nearby except the horse. "Who said that?"

The horse stared at her, and Rhianna detected a hint of amusement in the way it chewed.

"Horses don't talk," she said, as if telling it to behave.

The horse whinnied, tossing its head. Rhianna knew when she was being laughed at. It stepped around in a circle, coming face to face with Rhianna perched on the fence.

My name is Kasubia, what's your name?

The horse's mouth wasn't moving except to chew grass. The voice was in her head.

"Terrific. I am going crazy." She said it like a joke, but old fears bubbled to the surface. Her mother got pregnant while institutionalized. Rhianna had crazy on two sides.

The horse snorted again. I don't know about crazy, but maybe a bit rude. Don't they teach little girls manners any more? My name is Kasubia...

"Rhianna. My name's Rhianna," she blurted.

I like that name. It's a good name. Would you like to go for a ride, Rhianna? It's been so long since anyone took me for a ride.

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