Storm wasn’t stupid. He had been around long enough to know what the flutterings of love felt like. The mental bond that he had with Zelda told him every little bit of emotional detail, from happiness to melanchloy and everything in between, so it was Storm that first found out about his rider’s feelings for a certain dark-haired stable boy.
‘What are you laughing about?’ Zelda asked her horse. She had decided to let Phantom have a bit of a rest for a few days, and Storm hadn’t been taken out properly for a little while. ‘You’ve been awfully giggly lately whenever we’re in Moorland… which is all the time, seeing as I live here.’
Storm did a mental shrug. ‘Just happy to be out for once,’ he said.
‘Oh, don’t make me feel guilty,’ his rider groaned, ‘I know I should have taken you out more, but at least I let you stay in the paddock instead of staying cooped up in a stall.’
The Jorvik Warmblood shook his head, jangling the bridle, seemingly in amusement. ‘Yes, yes, and I’m so very grateful,’ he replied, pawing at the ground.
‘Was that sarcasm I heard there, Stormie?’ Zelda chuckled, scratching her horse’s neck, ‘has a certain someone been rubbing off on you?’
‘You mean Jack?’ the horse asked, ‘perhaps he has, who knows?’
‘Oh, hey, Z,’ Justin’s voice popped into the frame, ‘what brings you here?’
Storm had been idly wandering over to where Justin stood in his small courtyard where he helped the new girls who had decided to come to Jorvik for the summer. Zelda hadn’t realised it, a habit of hers was letting her horses on a free rein which meant they could walk and graze where they wanted to, and she had been so involved in the conversation with her horse that she hadn’t taken notice of where he was wandering to.
‘Oh… hi, Justin,’ Z said, her fingertips tapping on the horn of the saddle with the nervous, skittish feeling in her belly that she usually felt when she spoke to Justin, ‘what I’m doing here… well, truth be told, Storm just sorta… wandered over here. Guess he wanted to say hello.’
Storm hung his head and seemed more interested in the weeds that were peeking through the slabs of concrete. He lowered his head down to them and seemed intent on pulling them from the ground, rather than saying hello to the stable boy.
Justin watched this display with an amused smirk on his face. ‘I see,’ he said, nodding, ‘well, hello to you too, Storm.’ The horse did nothing in response to the greeting.
Zelda cleared her throat. ‘Well, um, it was nice to stop and say hi, but I’ve, ah, I’ve got some chickens to catch for the Sunfields,’ she said. She pulled gently at the reins for Storm to lift his head up, which he did, thankfully.
‘Oh, okay,’ Justin said, ‘uh… do you think I could ask you something though before you run off?’
Storm pricked his ears, and Zelda paused. ‘Sure,’ she said.
‘Would you… like to go out for a meal some time?’ the stable boy asked.
The Jorvik Warmblood whinnied with delight, stamping a hoof in his excitement. ‘Say yes, you dumb arse,’ he said to his rider, who was staring bog-eyed back at Justin.
Zelda laughed at the comment in her head. ‘Yeah, of course I will, Justin,’ she said.
‘Ring me when you’re free, I know you’re pretty busy with helping people,’ he replied, a big grin on his face.
‘Will do,’ the rider replied, ‘I go and catch those horses now.’ She squeezed Storm’s sides to encourage him into a trot and they left the stables through the gates nearest to Mrs Holdsworth’s house.
‘I thought she was catching chickens,’ Justin muttered to himself with a chuckle.