‘Mum quick,’ Amy ran back to the house. She flung open the back door and ran inside.
‘I saw him run out of the garden,’ Amy’s mum was already hurrying down the hallway, pulling on her coat. There was a smudge of bright blue paint across her cheek. ‘Quick, we need to catch him before anything happens.’
Amy followed her mum, glad she was there to take control of the situation and help. Without her mum there, she wouldn’t have known what to do.
‘We need a lead rope, some treats,’ Amy’s mum turned a circle in the kitchen, her eyes darting around the room as if she expected to find what she needed there.
‘The lead rope is…’ Amy couldn’t remember where the leadrope was, or the last time she had used it. She hadn’t been able to get near enough to the pony to even need it. She had a feeling she had thrown it down in the field in disgust.
‘Hurry.’ Her mum said, ‘Go and find it, quickly.’
She turned her back on Amy, rummaging in the kitchen cupboard beneath the sink and pulling out the vegetable rack.
‘Hurry,’ her voice was tinged with panic.
Amy hurried out of the kitchen, across the lawn and into the field. Where had she left the rope? She scanned the wall hoping that maybe the rope had been left there, but there was no sign of it. She hurried around the edge of the field, hoping that she’d find it thrown down somewhere. Then just as she heard her mum’s impatient voice coming from the kitchen she saw the rope, coiled into a bundle in a patch of long grass. She snatched it up and hurried back to the house.
‘Got it,’ she called, hurrying towards her mum.
‘Hurry, please.’ Her mum repeated. Her face was white. Amy looked at her mum, she didn’t even look like she usually did, her eyes were wide with fear and her mouth was clamped tightly shut.
Amy thought about snapping back at her mum, telling her she was going as fast as she could, but one look at her mum’s expression told her that it might not be the time for backchat.
‘He’s gone this way,’ her mum said, unnecessarily. The road outside the house was scraped where the pony’s hooves had slipped as he rounded the corner so fast.
Amy’s mum let out a long breath. Amy could see the fear in her face. While she didn’t care if they never saw the pony again, clearly her mum was very worried about him getting out.
‘I hope he doesn’t cause an accident, or hit a car, or..’ Amy’s mum’s words died as they came out of her mouth as if she couldn’t bear to think about the horrible things that could happen to him.
‘I’m sorry,’ Amy whispered. This was all her fault. If she hadn’t left the gate open. If she hadn’t disliked the pony so much she didn’t care what happened to him she might have taken more care. If anything happened to him it would be her fault. Could she go to prison she wondered? If he hurt someone? It would be all because of her. She began to cry, hot fat tears rolling down her face and dripping off her cheeks onto her shirt.
‘’Stop it,’ Amy’s mum heard her sniff and stopped, turning to face Amy. ‘It was an accident; you didn’t let him out on purpose. We’ll find him.’
Amy wiped her face with the back of her shirt, feeling the damp fabric, cold against her skin.
‘Have you lost a pony?’ An elderly couple in a car slowed down as they passed Amy and her mum.
‘Yes,’ Amy’s mum raked a hand through the tangle of her hair. ‘He got out of the field. We’ve no idea where he’s gone, except we can see the tracks on the road.’
‘We passed him about half a mile up the road,’ the driver said, pulling a wry face. ‘He was going like the clappers though so heaven knows where he’s gone now.’
‘Well thanks anyway,’ Amy’s mum shot the couple a smile and then taking hold of Amy’s hand began to walk on in the direction of the hoof prints.
They carried on, the road seemed to go on forever, stretching into the distance into the green hillsides. The breeze whipped up as they walked, carrying the smell of the nearby sea, the air was filled with the salty smell.
Amy was glad she had her running shoes on, it would have been hard to walk along the road in her wellington boots. She was thirsty, but it didn’t seem like a good time to mention that to her mum. Clearly, she had enough on her mind to deal with without Amy complaining.
They trudged past farms and small cottages, cars passed them filled with families, some asked if they’d lost a pony and said they’d seen him but it was always going further and further away. Amy wondered if they would ever see him again or if they’d just keep walking forever. She knew one thing for sure she’d never leave the gate open again. The road looked as if it was going on forever. Long and straight, with small side roads going off it which led to farms and some to the beach. The pony could have taken any of them, but they kept seeing patches of tarmac where his hooves had scraped the surface, so they knew they were going the right way.
‘Oh thank goodness, look.’ Amy’s mum gripped her hand, squeezing the fingers with excitement. As they rounded a corner in the road, there in the middle of the road, being led back towards them was the lost pony, being led by Cait, who was riding her own pony.
‘Oh look how well behaved he is.’ Amy’s mum breathed, her voice filled with relief.
Amy’s mum moved to the side of the road and sank down onto the verge with exhaustion. ‘Thank goodness,’ she said. ‘I thought we’d find him dead, that he’d be hit by a car.’
Amy clung to her mum’s hand, sniffing, wanting to cry but not wanting to be seen doing that by Cait. The pony looked so well behaved trotting beside Cait who sat relaxed and comfortable on her pony, she looked such an expert. Amy could never imagine being so confident on a pony. ‘I think this is your pony,’ Cait said, as she reached them.
‘Oh thank you,’ Amy’s mum’s face was pink with relief, she was smiling as if she couldn’t stop. ‘Oh I didn’t think we’d ever see him again,’ She patted the pony who rubbed his head against her ribs in delight. ‘You are bad,’ she said, rubbing her hand up and down his neck.
‘Thank goodness, aren’t you delighted Amy,’ Amy’s mum stood back to let Amy come closer.
‘Yes,’ she nodded. She was glad the pony was safe, but she still didn’t think she liked him very much. She reached out to stoke his neck. He was very hot. His hair was damp beneath her fingers. The pony went to rub his head across her body, Amy jumped back with a squeal. ‘He won’t hurt you,’ Cait said, laughing. She patted her own pony. ‘He’s a lovely pony,’ she said to Amy’s mum. He’s got a lovely action, you should show him next year.’ She glanced at Amy. ‘When your daughter has got a little more experience.’
‘That would be a lovely thing to do,’ Amy’s mum smiled at her. ‘Would you like that?’
Amy nodded, she didn’t really even know what they were talking about.
‘He’s really nice,’ Cait told Amy. ‘You’ll love him when you get to know him better.’
Amy nodded, she doubted that. She just wished her dad would come back and tell her mum to get rid of the pony, she really didn’t want him.
‘Might be a good idea to keep him in the stable though for a while until he’s a bit more settled.’ Cait said. Her leather saddle creaked as she eased herself in it, stretching her legs in the saddle. ‘You’ve got one in the paddock haven’t you?’
‘We have.’ Amy’s mum agreed. ‘But we’ve not got any straw or hay for him to stay in the stable.’
‘I can help with that,’ Cait said. ‘Shall I lead him back to your house for you. I’ll call my dad and see if he’ll give you a lift home.’
‘Oh, that would be so kind,’ Amy’s mum was nearly in tears of relief.
Cait wriggled her hand into her jacket pocket, pulled out her telephone and pressed the screen before holding it to her ear.
‘Dad?’ Amy heard her say, ‘I’ve found the people who own the pony, I’m going to ride Drizzle with him to their house, but they’re here. Any chance you could come and give them a lift back to their house? They’ve walked miles.’
Amy’s mum met her eye. She smiled, her face filled with relief. ‘Thank goodness,’ she said for the hundredth time. ‘I really couldn’t have walked home.’
‘It’s ok, my dad is coming, he’s on his way.’ Cait told them. Drizzle, her pony began to dance on the spot, eager to be on his way. Amy stepped quickly out of the way, afraid of being too near the big animals.
In the distance, behind them they could hear the sound of a car coming along the lane. ‘Here he comes,’ Cait said. ‘Look, I’ll get going, see you at your house.’ With that she gathered up the reins which had been lying loosely on the pony’s neck and began to trot up the road, Amy’s pony trotting politely beside her as if he had been doing that all of his life.
As Cait trotted away down the lane, expertly managing the two ponies, Amy looked at her with admiration. She really was the coolest girl Amy had ever met. As Cait disappeared around the corner her dad drove up in his car.
‘You need a life?’ he grinned, winding down his window to smile up at them.
‘Oh, yes please,’ Amy’s mum acted being exhausted, letting her knees sag as she held onto the car door. ‘We’ve walked for miles after the pony.’
‘How did he get out?’ Cait’s dad swung open the passenger side door for Amy’s mum to get in.
‘Did he jump?’ He continued as they got into the car, Amy’s mum beside him, Amy in the seat behind him.
‘No,’ Amy’s mum said.
Amy could feel her cheeks burning bright red with embarrassment. She was sure Cait never did anything as stupid as leaving their field gates open.
‘I left the gate open,’ Amy whispered, her eyes filling with tears.
‘Ah don’t worry about it.’ Cait’s dad turned around in his seat to look at her. ‘If I had a euro for every time I’ve seen that done I’d be a rich man. Easily done and no harm done, the pony is safe and you won’t make a mistake like that again in a hurry. Closing the gate will be burned into your mind now. Forever.’ He laughed, putting the car into gear and drawing away in the direction Cait had gone.
‘Thanks.’ Amy felt a little better. If he could do it, then maybe it was alright. And he was right. She wouldn’t ever forget the gate again.
He drove slowly back to their house. ‘Oh my god, I left the doors open.’ Amy’s mum’s hand flew to her mouth. ‘We could have been burgled. I was in such a state about the pony.’
‘Not likely that would happen around here,’ Cait’s dad laughed as he pulled his car onto the driveway. Ahead of them Cait was riding her pony through the open gate with Amy’s pony walking calmly beside them.
‘Go and help Cait,’ Amy’s mum said as they got out of the car. She looked back at Cait’s dad thanking him. Amy had no choice but to walk down the path behind Cait.
‘Better shut the gate.’ Cait grinned, sliding out of her saddle, while deftly keeping hold of her own pony and Amy’s.
Amy closed the gate, making sure to put the bolt across so it would not come open.
‘Can you hold my pony and I’ll take yours into the stable.’ She handed her reins to Amy who stood fearfully, afraid of what Cait’s pony could do if it began to move.
‘Don’t be scared of him,’ Cait put her hands gently onto Amy’s shoulders. ‘He won’t do anything.’
Amy nodded, swallowing nervously.
‘Come on,’ Cait encouraged Amy’s pony into the stable. He followed her happily inside. She clipped off the lead rope and put it in her pocket and then went back outside, pulling out her telephone.
‘I’m going to arrange for some hay and straw for you so you can keep him in here until he gets to know you better.’ She tapped a number on her telephone and began to talk to someone giving them Amy’s address.
‘There, that’s sorted,’ she said turning off her telephone and smiling at Amy. ‘Do you know how to make him a bed with the straw and how much hay to give him?’
Amy shook her head.
‘I’ll come back when they’ve been delivered. Dad will drive me over. I’ll show you what to do.’
‘Would you ever be able to give Amy some riding lessons too?’ Amy’s mum came across the field towards them.
‘Yes, of course I could, with pleasure.’ Cait grinned. ‘Would you like that?’ She turned to Amy, who quickly turned her lips up into a smile.
‘Yes, of course.’ Actually she wouldn’t. She didn’t want to ride at all, but now it looked like she had no options. She was going to have to, now that her mum had asked Cait to give her lessons.
Later, when Cait had gone after the hay and straw had arrived and they had put some into the stable and put the rest in the other stable so it would be dry, and Cait had shown her how to feed him and how to muck out the stable – they’d wheeled Amy’s mum’s garden wheelbarrow and tools for the job. Then Cait had gone and Amy could head back into the house with relief.
After dinner she got into her pyjamas and curled up on her bed watching something on her ipad. She heard her mum’s telephone ring and her talking. She could hear her father’s voice too. Amy got up and went to her bedroom door and began to listen.
‘No,’ she heard her dad say. ‘I can’t come back. You know it just doesn’t work any more.’
‘Please,’ Amy heard her mum say and realised she was crying. She wished she could go and comfort her mum, but knew her mum would know she’d been listening if she did. She wished she wasn’t always so mean to her mum and vowed not to be.