Do you like horses? I swear, they listen more than people do. I help out at a stable near my house and it's amazing.
Ever ridden before?
When Evelyn Flynn (though she preferred Evie) returned home with her father from Albion, she hadn't really thought about what would happen afterwards. There hadn't really been any need to. Eriu and Dag Dia - two of her closest (and only) friends were always there for her. Dag Dia was always at the stables waiting for her and Eriu often swung by to pick Evie up and they'd go into town or to the movies.
But, every once in a while, Eriu would be unavailable. Sometimes Evie could go spend time with her dad, but he was pretty engrossed in his physical therapy lately, and she more often then not spent time with Dag Dia. She had friends, she had two loving parents, she had a whole world of magic and adventure that was just for her, but -
Evie was lonely.
One day in class, she was doodling in the margin of her reading book (A Tale of Two Cities) when the bell rang, signalling the end of the day, and the start of spring break. The usual scuffle of shoes and books being shoved into bags ensued before a loud BANG cracked through the air. Twenty-some twelve-year-olds froze.
"Now that I've got your attention," Ms. White said with a cool smile as she put down the chalkboard eraser, "I'd just like a moment of your time to hand out your vacation assignments."
"Aw, c'mon teach!"
"It's nothing you can't handle," the teacher replied firmly over the wails of her charges. "First, a short essay discussing the themes of A Tale of Two Cities. Minimum, two pages. Second-" she reached into her drawer and pulled out a packet of large brown envelopes. "This will count towards your final grade at the end of the year. In here-" she wriggled the packet in her hand, "is an email address of a boy or a girl in another class in Europe. At least once a week, you have to email them and keep them up to date. As most of you are going to the Oak, you'll no doubt be aware that there's an exchange program in your Sophomore and Junior years. These students will be coming here and you'll be going to them, should you choose to participate in the program."
White Oak High, affectionately called 'The Oak' sat right next door to White Oak Middle school, known as 'The Acorn' by everyone in Cedar Creek.
"Do we get to pick who we email?" Billy asked, pushing his glasses back into place.
"No, it's completely random. Who you get is who you email. No swapping," Ms. White said sternly, glancing at Brittany who pouted and tugged at her braids in annoyance. "Now, I think I've held you all back long enough. Line up and take an envelope before you leave. And make sure you email your pen pal! I will be checking with their teacher before break is over."
Evie packed her books and took her place at the back of the line. While her face remained blank, she wondered if her pen pal would be nice. Would he or she like horses? Would they like her?
"Here you go Evie." She was startled when Ms. White pressed the envelope into her hand. "You were daydreaming again, weren't you?"
"Er, yeah. Sorry Ms. White," she muttered, her cheeks burning.
"It's all right. You head on home and say hi to your dad for me, 'kay?" Ms. White smiled, waving a hand at her. "Go on, get."
Smiling in return, Evie dashed out of the classroom and emerged from the building, squinting in the bright afternoon sunshine. Spring break meant more time at the stables with Dag Dia and Eriu, more time with her dad, and...
She glanced at the envelope in her hand, hope blossoming in her chest. Maybe she'd be able to make a friend after all.
The fragrant air of the garden drifted in lazily through the open window, the rainshower only a few minutes prior enhancing the scent. After sitting in a hot car that reeked of artificial pine spray, Lia James was more than happy for something more pleasing to smell. Her sea-green eyes shut as she stood at the kitchen window and took a deep breath. For her, the garden always smelled -
"Did you say something, pet?" her grandmother asked as she set down the tray of tea and biscuits.
Turning at the sound of the familiar voice, Lia took her seat at the table again. She'd been looking forward to this trip for weeks, and now she had the chance to spend the whole weekend with her grandmother in Scotland. She'd always hated her father's job, but now since he'd be going up to Scotland at least once a fortnight (and disliked the idea of a babysitter), and taking his only child with him to dump at his mother's. For him, it was free childcare, but for Lia, it was to spend time with her beloved Nana.
"It's so green here Nana," Lia smiled, taking a biscuit from the tray. "Not like back home."
"Aye, it's been a 'Fairy Spring' round here."
"What do you mean?" her granddaughter asked curiously as she poured a large dollop of milk into her tea cup.
"Ah, it's one of the saying's in these parts, when the wee fairies were busy earlier than usual. Your plaits are all crooked - was your father tying them with his teeth this morning or what? Let me see there..."
Taking a sip of milky tea, Lia allowed her grandmother to unbraid her hair and tug a brush through it.
"What d'you mean, Nana? Daddy says there's no such thing as fairies."
She didn't have to look as she could tell Nana got that look in her eye; all cold and frosty like she'd turned into the White Witch from her Narnia books.
"Your father's a wonderful man my love, but he's a twit when it comes to some things," Nana said sagely, her fingers flying with ease to plait her granddaughter's hair into two neat braids. "Just because he's never seen a fairy in his life doesn't mean they aren't as real as you or me. In these parts, you should always believe in what you see and what you can't. It could save you when the time comes..." She paused, her hands stopping their movements as memories that were best left forgotten rose in her mind's eye.
"Nana?" Lia asked, a little scared when her grandmother trailed off.
"Just one of the tales you hear in the Highlands, dearie," she soothed, continuing. "Now, tell me about school. What did you do this week?"
That night, as Lia was playing around on her father's laptop, an email popped up addressed to her. With a smile, she clicked on it and read it eagerly, almost falling over herself to tap out a reply when she had finished. Her father appeared when she was half-ways through.
"What are you doing, Lia? You should be in bed," he scowled.
"School project daddy. I'll be done in a few minutes," she assured him, still typing as he huffed.
"One minute," he allowed, disappearing into the ensuite. Her little fingers flew and she clicked 'send' before her father emerged from the bathroom.
"I'm done!" she hollered. "Night!"
Not hearing a reply from her father (and in all honesty, not really expecting one), she closed the laptop and skipped down the corridor to her room, dressing into her pjs and brushing her teeth in record time before diving beneath the covers.
She fell asleep that night with a smile on her face.
I love horses! I've had a couple of lessons, but my parents got fussy when the horse threw me off. It wasn't his fault, and I was okay, but they haven't let me near one since. You're really lucky!
People do listen, but horses don't talk stupid at you.