| First, it was the loud neigh then the wing flapping sound and now the two long strips of leather tied around the old tree guarding our house.
Oh well, I guess egging was so last year. I dismiss the neigh and the flapping. However, the leather strips intrigue me. Sturdy, made of quality leather and engraved with fancy symbols they look rather expensive.
I know little about horses, and I could only count on the fingers of one hand the times I have been within less than 5 feet from one.
I've seen movies though and the two long leather strips looked very much like reins, complete with the little metal hooks needed to attache them to the horse's harness.
I search for the tell-tale, made-in-China tag. I gasp when I see, near the tarnished metal clasp, a raven holding a ring, perched on a tree branch. I have seen this before! I thumb feverishly my new gadget and look at the first in the list of results.
The teenagers must love history to include King Matthias Corvinus in their prank.
"What are those, mama?" Saphhira's voice startled me.
Her name drew a few frowns when I announced it and explained it was her great-grandmother' name. I appeased the frowns by adding a name that had been in on the other side of the family for generations. Saphhira Rose had been a good compromise.
Tomorrow though, I was on call to nurse today's release, so I wasn't in the mood for a history lesson.
"They look like horse reins, probably a teenager prank. It is time to hit the sack, sweetheart."
"May I see them, mama?"
I hand her the leather strips with the promise to see her ready for bed in the next ten minutes.
"May I keep them in my room?" I hear as I leave for the last chores before bed.
"Sure, why not?" I answer with a yawn.
This little concession seemed a good price for my peace of mind.
Ten minutes later I tuck her in, ignore the reins in her hand, kiss her good night and turn off the light.
Aahh, the sacred moment of a little me time. I hold my Kindle with reverence, turn the page, and let myself engrossed in the story.
The even breathing of my husband and the excitement of the day soon lull me to sleep and my chin falls on my chest.
A loud neigh wakes me up and I jump in mutiny.
"If I ever catch those teenagers..." I mutter, and I run downstairs. I ignore the front door's chipped paint and the rain that through its pitter-patter made it that way.
"Just another thing to do" I think but my grumble is all forgotten when I see my daughter close to a very real horse. How did she get down here so fast? I always counted on the squeaky door to let me know when she leaves the house.
"He's beautiful, mama" I hear Saphhira and the fear grips me seeing her patting its mane. With her black-and-white polka-dots umbrella in her hand, and her copper-red with orange streaks hair tangled by the wind, she was a sight to behold.
"Get away from it." I yell, as hellish images of a child hit by a scared horse roll through my mind.
She takes her hair band from her arm and pulls her hair back into a messy ponytail. I can see the red ring the headband left around her arm.
Then, as it was the most natural thing in the world, my eleven years old, in her pajamas, clicks the reins through the rings in the horse's harness.
"You look just like her." I hear a voice, and I look around to see who spoke.
"I look like who?" I ask as I don't see anyone around.
Did that horse just wink at me? I don't wait for either of the answers as I see it kneel to the ground so Saphhira could mount him. Where did she learn to jump into the saddle that way?
"Saphhira, get down." I yell after her.
I only see the huge grin on her face as she holds the rains and the horse stands and spreads its wings.
"My name is not Pegasus." I hear a grumble. This time, I realize that it comes from my head.
"Then what is your name?" I enter the game. I don't believe I did that.
"You must only speak my name to find me." I hear again.
"Now I must go; she commands me to."
I see again the amazed grin on Saphhira face, that grin she has when she discovers something. I love her hunger for knowledge and her enthusiasm to discover new things.
"Sometimes, you're too smart for your own good." I mutter.
"Saphhira, tell him to stop." I yell again against my better judgment. I gather my courage and advance towards the horse.
I see Saphhira tightening the reins and digging her slippers in the horse's sides.
A powerful gust of wind throws me to the ground, and I hear flapping of wings. When I come back to my senses, I can only see the silhouette of the horse with the tiny shape of my daughter, sitting straight on it.
Desperation takes me, trying to convince myself it is only a dream, and I must wake up. I scream her name again until I realize she cannot hear me.
I dial 911 and then I hang up the phone. What do I tell them? That my daughter had been kidnapped by a winged horse, which has reins with King Matthias's insignia embossed on them? A horse that reads my thoughts and talks to me in my head?
As it was, it would be hard enough finding Saphhira with full access to plane tickets and the Internet, let alone from behind the walls of a psychiatric ward.
There had to be another way.