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"Pa?" Esme whispered. She looked back at me and pursed her lips. "I know he's gonna be very angry." She bit her lip and looked down.

We were standing outside a small house surrounded by nothing but sectioned off fields and a small barn to the side.

The ground was still soft and my trouser bottoms, which were too long for my short legs, had a fine layer of wet mud on them. I felt like a mess and I just wanted a warm shower along with an even warmer bed.

"I can just walk to town. Just point me the right way." Esme had told me on the hour ride towards the town that she actually lived a little ways from the town itself, being a farmer and all, they needed the space. Also, as she said, the townies didn't much like the smell of manure and animal.

She was funny. She had then rolled her eyes and said that they didn't mind when her brother and pa rode into town and they ate the vegetables, fruits, and meats that her family provided.

She shook her head and scoffed, "Are you mad? My pa and Olly have never let me ride into town on my own." She leaned in close and lowered her voice as if we were discussing a very serious matter, "'Tis very dangerous. I even heard there're bandits just laying in wait on the only road into town." 

I hummed as I took in her words and examined her. She was young. Probably in her early teens. 

"I don't think they'll be mad that I brought you here, well, they might, since yer a stranger and all, but..." She trailed off as she glanced up at me with worried eyes, "I was supposed to be home so long ago, and, oh, I'm gonna be in a heaping of trouble." She squeezed her eyes shut and called out for her 'pa' once again.

I looked around, "Why don't I just leave you to it then?" I turned away from her. I needed to find a place to stay and as I currently have no money the place I am thinking of is a nice cozy ally where I can tuck myself away from the world. Then tomorrow I would need to find a job, something so I could at least afford some food. 

"No! You can't leave. I'm...I'm scared." I paused in my leavings and looked back at her.

"You're scared?" It didn't make any sense. She had been riding by herself before she happened upon me and she didn't seem scared then. Now, we reached her home and she was scared. 

She sighed, "Well," she blew a raspberry and brushed her short fringed out of her eyes, "I was scared." She planted her fists on her hip and narrowed her eyes at me, "I'm no coward, but the dark is just so dark and I knew I wasn't gonna make it home in time." She narrowed her eyes at me and raised a challenging brow. 

I held up my hands defensively, "Hey now," I backed up a bit, "I have no place to judge, especially after the past couple weeks I've had." 

I muttered the last part under my breath. 

Her form physically relaxed as she lowered her hands, "Good. Well, lets go find Olly and my pa then." She rushed forward, gripped my wrist, and started to tug me along. 

"Wait, what?" I didn't want to go find this girl's brother and pa. I had been walking since early this morning and I could currently think of a couple things I wanted to do, as mentioned before, and that list did not include finding people I didn't even know. 

But when I looked down at Esme, I couldn't do it. Her grip tightened around my wrist as we set out in the dark towards the small barn set off to the left of the house. 

"The barn always frightens me." She looked back at me and I could see a slight streak of fear in her eyes.

I couldn't just leave her. 

As we walked my feet and trouser bottoms became increasingly mud-logged and gross. I hadn't gotten a new pair of shoes from Lady Harringson when she packed my belongings and I was still in my flimsy ballerina slippers I had worn to the picnic the day prior.

So, you can imagine how well they were faring.

"Esme, wait." I removed my wrist from her hand and reached down to remove my shoes. Better to just go barefoot when my feet were already muddy and the shoes weren't doing a damn thing. 

Esme didn't wait for me. She rushed forward to the dim entrance of the barn. I watched her as she pushed the door open and peered inside, "Olly, Olly!" She looked back at me, "Come on, hurry up." 

I flicked my slippers, trying to get as much mud off of them as possible, "Hold on, I'm coming." I reached the entrance and dropped to my knees, "Okay, " I looked up and around as I tucked my shoes into my bag, "You go right and I'll look left."

The barn was actually a decent size, which surprised me since there was no indication from the exterior that it was anything more than a single room. But as Esme made it sound, her family was the main source for the town's dairy, meat, and grain products. 

The entrance was dimly lit with two candles situated on either side of the main door. It lit a small space and the odd layout of the barn. There was a courtyard right in the middle. I could see it from the low-rising wall opposite from the doors.

I glanced around and noticed that there was a single candle at the opening of every stall or pen. And there was hay everywhere. 

"Okay, we'll meet up at the back." She shot me a smile before turning to go right. 

"Alright then." I stood and started to the left. 

I walked past a couple of empty stalls, which I thought was odd, but then probably three or four stalls in I came upon an old pony. At least, I think he was old. I never thought about the aging process of a pony, but his silver speckled coat and the way that it seemed like a chore for him to lift his head to give me a look seemed to imply that he was up there in years. 

"Hey old boy." I patted his nose as I paused, "You haven't happened to see an Oliver or a pa have you?" I smiled up at him as I scratched under his chin and then slowly moved on. 

The next stall I came to actually wasn't a stall at all,  it was a pen with two large pigs in it. They were laying on their sides and when I stopped to look at them only one raised its head to give me a lazy stare. The other continued on with its snooze as if I wasn't there. 

I smiled as I leaned against the high pen, "Hey guys, how're you doing?" The first pig gave me a look that suggested that they were perfectly fine before I arrived. 

"Well, I am doing absolutely horrid if you must know. Let me tell you, I have had the worse couple weeks that a girl could have. You wouldn't even believe me if I told you the half of it. I guess I should just start from the beginning." The pig plopped its head down disinterestedly, "That's exactly how I feel, now imagine feeling like that and then being run over by a car."

The pig snorted, "I know, and before that I was fired. Like, right before that." I slumped against the pen, "It sucked. And I'm pretty sure I lost my phone in the river. Not like it would be any use to me here." 

I paused before continuing, "Do you wanna know what's even worse than that?" 

"No, I do not." A deep voice that obviously did not come from the pigs spoke behind me. 

My heart leaped. 

Before I could turn something round and distinctly horrid settled right between my shoulder blades and my stomach sank.     

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