This must be what love at first sight feels like, Bethany Resmon thought to herself as she watched the flashy red filly galloping with tail held high. The young red horse looked like a mythical creature as she floated across the green pasture, flipping her head as she ran. Bethany felt as if her heart would burst from her chest. She memorized every inch of the filly as her mom drove their 1978 Ford F150 up the long, winding gravel road that led to the house and the main barn. All the horses were beautiful at Kuhaylah Arabians, but this filly stood out from the rest, red gold in color accentuated with flaxen mane and tail. Her delicate, dished face adorned with a white star and strip, sat atop a long sloping neck and her exquisite, curved ears danced above her head as she ran.
“Mom, stop the truck!” Bethany shouted.
Another pickup moved toward them as it exited the ranch, so Helene pulled into the grass on the side of the gravel driveway before pulling their old truck to a stop.
“Mom! Look!” Bethany was still shouting.
Helene stuck her hand in Bethany’s face flat and palm side down. The signal that Bethany was being too loud. Bethany’s eyebrows scrunched down for a second because she really hated when her mother did that. But instead of getting in an argument, Bethany placed her left hand on her mother’s chin and turned her head toward the filly.
Helene immediately dropped her hand and watched the filly too, mouth agape. Bethany knew that when her mom was young, she had read the Black Stallion series of books and had dreamed of one day owning her own Arabian. In fact, Bethany had followed in her mom’s footsteps when she started reading the worn paperback copies of the books her mom had kept all her life. They were the only things Helene had kept from her childhood.
“You see her, Mom?” asked Bethany.
“Yes…she’s beautiful…,” Helene’s voice quivered.
Bethany saw tears in her mother’s eyes. Her mother never cried.
“Are you okay, Mom?” Bethany asked.
“I’m fine.” Helene laughed. “I’ve just never seen anything like her before in my life.”
A sleek, black, Ram pickup pulled up alongside them. The young man driving it lowered the passenger side window as his tires ground to a stop in the gravel, and dust floated out behind his truck. Their windows were already down because…no A/C and late spring in Texas.
“Hi!” said the young man.
“Hi,” responded Bethany and Helene in unison.
“I’m Tyler. I’m the trainer here. Are you my new student?” he asked while looking at Bethany.
“Yes,” said Bethany.
“Are you excited?” he smiled through perfect teeth.
“Yes,” Bethany said again.
“She’s just nervous,” said Helene, “I’m Helene and this is my daughter, Bethany.”
“Well, it’s nice to meet you both,” said Tyler.
“I’m looking forward to riding with you, Bethany,” Tyler said directly to the young girl.
Helene poked Bethany and she responded, “Me too.” And smiled.
“It was nice to meet you both,” said Tyler again.
“It was nice to meet you too,” Bethany and Helene said in unison again.
Tyler raised the passenger window and pulled away. Helene pulled their old truck back onto the gravel drive, the air was full of the sound of the tires from two trucks grinding over gravel as dust misted about them both.
“Mom, you don’t need to make excuses for me. I didn’t say anything wrong,” said Bethany.
“It’s just that you don’t seem friendly when you just give one-word answers,” said Helene.
“Mom, you worry too much about me. My answers were just fine,”
“Mom, please just drop it. Please. You always do this. This is a good day. You just saw a beautiful red filly. Just enjoy it. Please,” said Bethany.
“Okay, you’re right. I just can’t help but worry. You’re my only child and I love you.”
“Mom, I love you too. Just relax,” Bethany said with a smile.
When they pulled up to the house, a tall, attractive woman with long, rich brown hair flowing down her back was standing in the driveway talking to a young man. The woman, who appeared to be around the same age as Helene turned toward them and waived as Helene pulled their truck to a stop. Bethany waved back.
“Mom, that must be Antonia Silva!”
Helene and Bethany both stepped out of the truck. Bethany ran straight to the woman and gave her a hug, while Helene was left standing by their old pickup, tugging at her baggy, full length skirt and equally baggy top. Her stuck in the seventies look was complete with big gaudy earrings and necklace and un-pedicured toes in sandals.
“Hello, Bethany’s Mom. I’m Antonia Silva,” said the exotically gorgeous woman, complete with lovely accent.
“Helene, and…and, hello, nice to meet you,” Helene stuttered, meeting her eyes as she reached out her hand. “I’m sorry my daughter ran up and hugged you like that, she’s not normally that affectionate with strangers.”
“Mom! Stop apologizing for me!”
“It’s okay, Bethany, your mother is just looking out for you, as mother’s do,” said Antonia. She then turned toward Helene, took her hand in both of hers and said, “Helene, what a lovely name.” Antonia then turned back toward Bethany and said, “Bethany this is Strider, he’s my right-hand man. He’ll show you around the place. He graduated last year from Dale City High, so maybe he could give you a few pointers for when you start there in a couple of years. He’s taking classes at community college right now,” said Antonia with a smile. “I’m going to take the lovely, Helene inside to sign some paperwork. Bethany, Strider, you two enjoy yourselves.”
The two of them watched as the two women walked toward the house. Bethany turned toward Strider and said, “Your name is Strider, like in The Lord of the Rings?”
“Yes, my dad loves those books,” said Strider.
“So, he went with Strider instead of Aragorn?”
“He thought Aragorn would be too weird.”
Bethany laughed. “Well because Strider is so normal, right?”
“Yeah, he didn’t think it through.” Strider laughed too.
Bethany opened her mouth to respond, but Strider interrupted. “Hey, I know you. I thought you looked familiar. You go to Samuel James Middle School, right?”
“Yes, how do you know that?”
Strider laughed, “I’ve seen you when I pick up my twelve-year-old sister from school, plus you’re in the same grade as her right?”
“Oh, your sister is Loreth Castillo. Wow, your dad really likes Lord of the Rings!”
“Yes, he does.” Strider laughed again.
Strider put his arm on Bethany’s shoulder. “Come on, let’s take the jeep to the stallion barn, I’ll show you Antonia’s prized black, Arabian stallion.”
“Like the black stallion in the books and movie?!”
“Of course,” said Strider. When they got to the jeep, Strider removed his arm from Bethany’s shoulder and beckoned toward the passenger door. “Get in.”
Bethany obeyed and could hardly sit still in the passenger side she was so excited. She hoped Strider didn’t notice that she flapped her hands a couple of times outside the vehicle before getting in. She managed to force herself to stay calm once seated inside. She was very aware that most people did not do such things, but she was so excited that she couldn’t help herself.
Strider backed the jeep out of the garage and headed out the same gravel road Helene and Bethany had driven toward the house, but instead of turning right to exit the ranch, he veered off to the left where the road split. They rode in silence and arrived at the stallion barn in five minutes, but it had seemed like much longer to Bethany.
Strider pulled up near the barn and stopped the jeep. They both stepped out and Bethany froze in place when she spotted the magnificent, black stallion peering at them over the white, pipe fence just past the barn. His nostrils flared as he whinnied shrilly at them.
Bethany was awestruck by the beauty of the stallion. He’s perfection. Solid black, just like the one from the book series, save a small white star planted in the center of his wide forehead, Bethany thought to herself. She was mesmerized by his glistening black coat and four perfect black legs which ended in four black hooves. His thick black mane and tail rounded out his perfection. Atop it all, was a chiseled Arabian head complete with delicate, curved ears and ending in front with the sculpted, flared nostrils. He looked just like the picture of the stallion on the cover of her mother’s copy of The Black Stallion, the first book in the series.
“He is beautiful, isn’t he?” said Strider.
“Yes! Will I get to ride him?” asked Bethany.
Strider laughed, “Maybe one day,” he said. “You want to pet him?”
Bethany snapped out of her reverie and followed Strider to the fence. A small gasp of glee escaped her mouth and she reached up to rub the black stallion’s soft nose.
“His name is AV Olympic Spirit, but we just call him Spirit. His sire is Affirmativ, another beautiful black stallion,” said Strider.
“Spirit,” Bethany repeated as she continued to rub the stallion’s nose.
“So, if I can’t ride Spirit, can I ride the red filly out front?” asked Bethany as she continued to pet the colt.
“What filly out front?” asked Strider.
“The one with the flaxen mane and tail,” said Bethany.
Spirit grew impatient and stomped his foot. The stallion still let Bethany rub his nose though. Animals were always drawn to her.
“He knows it’s feeding time,” laughed Strider. “And I think you’re talking about Fyrestorm,” said Strider laughing again.
“Why are you laughing?” asked Bethany.
“Nobody has ridden her yet. She arrived here with her dam, Fyrelite, from a ranch in Montana,” said Strider.
“Why hasn’t she been ridden? Is Firestorm, one word or two?” asked Bethany.
“She was never touched in Montana apparently, so she’s completely wild, and Fyrestorm is one word and it’s spelled with a y,” said Strider.
“But she can be trained right?” When she had seen the red filly, it had immediately become Bethany’s dream to ride her. She felt determined to do so.
“Well, theoretically, yes. But Antonia has just let her run free in the mare’s pasture so far. I’m not sure she’s planning on training her. Fyrestorm has excellent bloodlines, so she might just be planning to use her as a broodmare,” said Strider.
Bethany dropped her hand from Spirit’s nose and her eyes filled with tears. The stallion snorted and stretched his muzzle toward her demanding her attention. Bethany smiled through her tears as she reached out and rubbed his nose again.
“Don’t cry, Bethany. See, Spirit doesn’t even want you to cry. Maybe the filly can be trained eventually. You will have to gain her trust first, though. She doesn’t come near anyone,” said Strider.
“I can do it! I can gain her trust!”