Sketch #3: Aurora

I’m not at all sure if bequeathals can operate like this. Another sketch, suspended in that uncertain limbo between scraps and works-in-progress. I imagine this as a longer piece, and can even see a bit of story fleshed out, but whether or not it is worth my effort to pursue will be left to time to decide.

Sunday Langley stepped out into the blaring, humid sunlight with a disappointed squint of her eyes. She was still wearing the black suit she had donned for her father’s funeral, the same heels, and a garish hat with netting that fell in her face. For this last she was soon grateful: the mosquitoes were at least kept from buzzing around her head.

“I suppose being back here brings up a lot of memories,” her father’s lawyer said, closing the Mercedes-Benz door behind him as he peered through the brightness at what remained of North Star Stables.

In the interest of staying silent, Sunday didn’t correct him; she had no memory of this place, this patchy, overgrown tangle of weeds and dirt so unlike the efficient, well-kept home she had once known here. The house and barn were clearly visible, but the paint on both was peeling. The old copper horse weathervane that had once topped the stables was gone, as were most of the shutters from the house (the exception being the one that hung lopsided). The house’s roof was a patchwork quilt of homemade remedies.

All around in the tall grass and weeds grasshoppers and dragonflies darted about, droning endlessly.

“Shall I show you to the stable, then? Your father’s will provided for the horse’s welfare until you officially took ownership of the estate.”

Sunday nodded, turning dejectedly towards the stable. She followed Mr. Chiswick down a rough gravel path, feeling sweat begin to bead lightly all over her.

She was leaving Easton for this? Maryland had never had much magic in it for her; the natural landscapes were beautiful and calming, but they lacked the living brightness, even in summer, which Florida seemed to have. Still, she had envisioned selling the property (which, with the new mortgage her father had taken out and which she had just learned about, wouldn’t have left her with much money anyway) and taking a much-needed vacation on the Gulf. Having to live for an entire year in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by pine forests made annoyingly loud by cicadas and very likely not seeing the beach for as long as she stayed was not what she had anticipated.

She nearly tripped in her heels several times as she made her way to the barn, grasping every once in a while the splintered wooden railing of the pasture. She was grateful that Mr. Chiswick didn’t pursue inane conversation. She had no words to describe how she felt about her father’s obvious lack of capability. If she had known that he had been living in such squalor, with nothing of any kind of value, with everything caked in dust, with such loneliness, she might have made more of an effort to reconcile with him the distance that had grown between them over the years. The regret hurt far more than she would have liked to have admitted.

Still, she couldn’t believe that her father had made that condition in the will: she would have to take care of a horse he’d bought with money he didn’t have in order to inherit anything—which, since Mr. Langley had no other relatives, was everything.

They entered the stables, a modest six-stall structure with an office and a tack room, and at once Sunday heard the snort and stamp of a hoof at the end of the aisle.

“Your father had high hopes for this horse,” Mr. Chiswick said, half-whispering and half-sighing his words. “Nor’Easter. He told me that nobody else could see the potential in the animal, but that you would.”

He looked expectantly at Sunday, who ignored his gaze and searched instead for a glimpse of the infamous creature that was forcing her to live in Florida and care for him for an entire year in order to gain her rightful inheritance. She walked up to the stall door and peered inside.

In the darkness beyond she could see little, and certainly not the silhouette of a horse. She poked her head in over the stall door and whoosh. A great puff of warm breath fanned her head.

She staggered back as a deep gray equine slid his head over the door and sneezed as if in laughter.

“Sunday,” Mr. Chiswick said, “this is Nor’Easter.”

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