Ch. 10 - Saved by the Thunder

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Rhianna awoke with one thought in her head. She would give anything not to have to do laundry today.

Gran did not believe in using the dryer when the sun was out. So besides putting loads in, changing them over, and folding, she would have the added step of lugging a basket of sodden clothes out to the line and pinning them up to dry.

Just before noon, as Rhianna was making a sandwich, the sky darkened with piles of gray clouds and thunder rumbling much closer than Rhianna was used to.

"Well, so much for laundry," Pippa said.

Rhianna breathed a sigh of relief, squeezing some mayonnaise out of the bottle onto a slice of rye. She squirted some mustard precisely on the blob of mayonnaise and then used the tip of the knife to mix it around a bit to make a yellow tinged mayo-sauce before spreading it. She hated getting mustard directly on the bread, for no particular reason other than that was the way she liked it.

"But tomorrow the weather should be perfect for it."

Rhianna blew a strand of hair from her face. Of course it would be. She slapped the last piece of fluffy rye on top of her perfect mix of lettuce, cheese and roast beef slices, and sucked a bit of mayo from her thumb. She never knew bread could be so soft and delicious until she had tried bread from the Murderkill Saturday Market bakery, a gift Barton had left last night.

Pippa scooted a placemat over to Rhianna's side of the table before she set her plate down. She had said nothing about Barton's visit. Rhianna didn't know what she was expecting. She and her mother used to talk about things like that, when her mother managed to have a normal evening with a man.

"But instead of laundry," Pippa said, "maybe you could bring Kasubia into the barn before it rains. She hates getting wet."

Rhianna paused with the sandwich inches from her mouth.

Pippa noticed and said, "I thought you liked Kasubia—wanted to help with the animals?"

"I do." Rhianna took a bite and used the long space of chewing to consider her words. She didn't want to admit that she was afraid Kasubia might start talking to her again. "I've just never really handled horses before." It was the truth.

Pippa waved her hand, dismissively. "You'll be fine. She's a good horse. Just take a lead and clip it on to her halter, she'll know what it's for. All you have to do is open doors for her."

Rhianna swallowed another bite of sandwich. "Okay."

Rhianna walked toward the pasture flicking the clasp of the lead in her hand. Kasubia was waiting by the gate, with her tail swishing. When another crash of thunder rolled across the sky, the horse dipped her head as if signaling Rhianna to hurry up.

Maybe she is as afraid of the thunder as I am of getting locked up in the funny farm? Rhianna hurried her steps, wondering if she wasn't already in the funny farm.

Rhianna opened the gate and attached the lead to Kasubia's halter. Just as Pippa predicted, Kasubia fell in step beside Rhianna and they walked toward the barn together.

Kasubia still had not spoken, and Rhianna relaxed a bit. When Kasubia's flank trembled at another crash of thunder, she reached out and smoothed the horse's fur, and hushed her fears. "It's alright, love. Thunder can't hurt you. It's the lightening you have to watch out for, and you have a nice big barn to protect you from that."

Kasubia paused as Rhianna opened the barn door. They went inside and Rhianna led her to the stall prepared with fresh hay, according to Pippa's instructions. She had decided she would just go once the stall door was secured, but Kasubia blinked her wide brown eyes at her, and Rhianna stayed.

She really was a beautiful horse. So what if she talked. Was a talking horse any more harmful than thunder? Besides it was so obviously her imagination. She stepped closer to the stall and ran her fingers along Kasubia's nose, as soft as her mother's favorite velvet dress. Rhianna closed her eyes as she remembered snuggling up against her mom, just so she could rub her cheeks on the sleeve of her dress.

Tears misted her eyes, but she blinked them back. All this time mom had been warning Rhianna about the bad people who would take her away if she gave them the slightest chance—the government, social workers, police, teachers, doctors, psychiatrists, just plain everybody some days—now they were separated, and it was her mom who had done it.

What was there to worry about anymore? The worst had happened. And nobody would come take her away from Pippa. Her grandmother had a house, and food, and would probably end up sending her to school if she was here too long. Rhianna shuddered and buried her face in Kasubia's mane. She wasn't sure school was any better than a mental institution.

"Why?" She asked, her throat thick from unshed tears. "She said she would always take care of me. Why did she leave?"

Katrin's mind broke when she stole you from Faerie.

"Wha—?" Rhianna jerked her head up, but she held onto Kasubia's mane, determined not to be afraid. "Ok I am not crazy. You are talking. That is ok. Faerie?"

It was all my fault. My My My fault. I shouldn't have been afraid. Thunder shook the barn and Kasubia's ears flattened. Pesky Fae and their weather ways.

Rhianna was going crazy in an entirely new fashion. Faeries were a big jump from talking horses, much too big a jump to make any sense.

She took a deep breath. Her was imagination running ragged. Kasubia was not talking. There were no faeries. Raisen had been talking about faeries. It made more sense that Rhianna's subconscious was weaving some kind of fantasy out of that memory, rather than any of this being real.

But it wasn't like her imagination regularly did this. Was she losing it? Maybe it was the stress of her mom leaving. She thought she was tougher than that.

Kasubia let out an anxious whinny.

"Shh, Kasubia, it's just a little thunder. No wicked Faeries. I promise." Just because the talking horse was in her imagination, didn't mean she couldn't talk back. As long as nobody saw her. But even then, what would they think? People talked to animals all the time.

Yes. Wicked. Very wicked. Kasubia shifted from foot to foot. You should believe me.

Rhianna made herself laugh. "Alright, Kasubia. I believe you. I will watch out for the wicked Faeries. But for now, I think I have to go do some dishes or something before Pippa comes looking for me."

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