by K.C. Bailey
To see him run, so much grace, so much power and beauty. He needs a name, but he’s not mine to call. It’s Autumn and his bay coat has grown thicker for protection. When he’s close enough to touch he feels teddy bear soft and warm, reminding me of a pony I used to ride many years ago. His nostrils flare out steamy clouds of horse huff as he searches for hidden treats, except my pockets are empty. No apples, no polos. He moves on.
Turning away from the field, I walk back down a tree lined avenue. Boot prints in the mud, but they’re not mine. I must have left my shoes by the gate. I thought I heard voices and a faint beeping, maybe a phone, except no-one else is here. I carry on.
I find myself on a beach where I played as a child. The demerara sand gives way beneath my feet, swelling up between my toes like dough. Waves roll into the shore - not with a splash or a clash - just gently lapping forward, each a little further than the last in a sedate race to the dunes, coming in closer until I’m up to my knees in seawater. It’s wintry here, yet I’m not cold. I didn’t bring a towel.
My arms are heavy and the beeping noise is back. Last night I think I was dreaming, I heard more voices - too dark to see and too tired to look. I went back to sleep.
Sunrise lights the land, still I can’t find the field or see the beach. There’s a church on the hillside and a scattering of people. Walking feels like wading through deep mud; the grass is long, though there is nothing holding me. I see only my bare feet. By the time I reach the church the people have gone; driven away in black cars. No-one saw me, no-one waited.
I can see fresh flowers, so many beautiful white roses. There is no head stone by the new grave, just a small wooden marker in the shape of a cross. Night falls in fast. I watch the moon rise and trace the stars. I do not sleep.
The sun is coming up, its early morning rays flooding the horizon, glowing, kissing the earth. I’m wearing my favourite dress, the one with yellow flowers that I thought I’d thrown away years ago. There’s someone else here today, by the nameless grave. She wavers in the breeze, holding something close to her chest; she has long auburn hair like my sister’s, which falls forward as she bends and places something down. I wonder who she lost. She stands up with head and shoulders bowed, then slowly walks away.
I approach the grave. A pair of ballet shoes hangs from the little cross - pale pink satin with long, delicate ribbons. My feet are getting cold now and the light is fading again. I kneel down on the damp evening grass and pick up the dainty shoes. I’ll bring them back as soon as I find my own. I get the feeling no-one will mind.
Walking with my borrowed shoes I feel lighter. I think about who she might have been, down there under the soil, was she like me - my age. We share the same size feet; her shoes fit me perfectly, like a dream. Then I wonder, were they mine?