The Old Horse and The Hazel-Eyed Girl

     Helena slowly walked along the beach on a cool summer morning, when a storm of memories held her captured inside her head. Her light-brown hair was wing-tangled and her melancholic hazel eyes were gazing with no clear direction at the horizon. Her sky-blue petticoat moved along with the breeze, while her bare feet pressed delicately the sand and small waves brushed them softly. She could see the seagulls avidly flying and looking for small crabs to prey on. So far, they had no success. 

 

     Helena stopped walking and sat on the sand, without minding that her petticoat and beige short gown might get wet. Between the seagull cries and the echo of the wind along the sand dunes, she remembered her father. When she was a child, they used to come together to the same beach in the night and look at the stars. Several times they were able to see shooting stars and her eyes filled with awe and immense happiness. Her wish to the star was always the same; to let her remember her mother’s face, but still, the obstinate star had not granted Helena her wish. Sickness had taken her mother when she was just a baby, though the sadness Helena felt for that loss was lessened by the unconditional love for her from her father and grandmother. 

 

     Helena’s father was a fisherman and he taught her everything about the sea, and everything about the little and big creatures that dwell in it. He always reminded her about the importance of respecting the ocean, for it could provide them with food but also with deep sorrows. The two of them had a secret ritual. Whenever her father went fishing, they gathered purple sea hollies and yellow evening primroses and let them be taken by the waves into the deeper waters. It was an offering to the ocean, asking it to let him return safely back to land and to his daughter. 

 

     The greatest joy that they both shared was during the spring and summer; the months of shrimp fishing on the beach with horses. Besides their love for the ocean, both Helena and her father had formed an unbreakable bond with Kobe, a beautiful, stubborn but playful, docile and gentile chestnut draft horse. His body was incredibly muscular, and his mane and tail were long hairs of  golden blond. Helena’s father would ride with him in the sea, along with other men and horses, catching grey purus shrimps in the nets that the horses were pulling behind their backs. Sometimes Helena rode with her father, and she could feel the water splashing on her body and Kobe. With every step that Kobe took, there was a battle between his strong legs and the water. Though the waves tried to tumble them down, Kobe’s strength was undefeatable. 

 

     Once back on the beach, they sieved the caught little creatures and returned back the small fishes and crabs that were accidentally in the net. Then, Helena and his father would put the shrimps in two large straw baskets. After the fishing, they returned to their cottage where Helena’s grandmother was waiting for them. They celebrated every year the first-catch with a special diner made by her grandmother. Fresh-baked bread, pork stew and boiled potatoes were always on the table. Meanwhile, Kobe was awarded for his laborious work with hay and, as a treat, apples and carrots.  

 

     Those memories filled her head now, as she sat on the beach and gazed out into the water. Helena knew she grew up as a loved and happy child.  Her life changed drastically when she lost her father. She was just 10 years old. One cloudy and cold autumn day, she went to say goodbye to her father, for he and other men were going to fish further from shore. She still remembers how the coldness of the autumn morning pierced her heart, and while putting in the water the flower offerings, her small hands were almost frozen. “Goodbye mijn mooi meisje ”, those were the last words she ever heard from him. After some hours, while waiting in her house, she saw a dark cloud approaching from the horizon, and the wind raged strongly against the dunes and the marshes on the coast. She yearned that her father would enter through that door soon, for a storm was coming. Then the violent and enraged winds arrived and smacked into the cottage. Kobe neighed nervously and despite the disapproval of her grandmother, Helena ran into the stable and tried to sooth Kobe. She hugged him and waited with him to let the storm pass. The night came and then the next morning, but there were no signs of the fishermen that sailed that morning. Then the hours turn into days, until Helena knew in heart that they were never coming back. The sea had taken them to its deep blue realm where she could not follow. She was heartbroken and furious. She could not understand why the sea took her father away from her, why could it be so ungrateful after all the beautiful flowers that she gave as offerings. For many nights she went with Kobe to gaze at the shooting stars, hoping that one of them would grant her wish of letting her father come back to her.  Kobe became the protector and only friend of Helena besides her grandmother. The two grew inseparable after the loss of Helena’s father. She believed that part of the spirit of her father was within Kobe which made their bond even stronger than before. In some small way, when she looked to Kobe, a piece of her father lingered within his eyes.

 

     Ten years have passed since that cold autumn morning. Now, a beautiful woman, she has forgiven the sea and her pain has dimmed. The memories from her past vanished, when Helena suddenly heard the agitated scream from the seagulls. They had finally succeeded in catching the elusive crabs. Then she heard the neigh of Kobe and he appeared between the sand dunes. Sometimes Helena would let him wander freely when they were at the beach. He was much older, his long mane and tail have lost a bit of their gold, now replaced with a few grey strands. As she watched him approach, he looked slower and his steps were heavier compared to his youth years. Helena stood up and walked towards him, with her feet sinking in the sand. She caressed him gently on his head and flanks. Kobe started to slowly gallop along the beach with Helena on his back, and then turned gently landwards to disappear in the middle of the dunes and go back to their home.

 

     The Woman and The Horse 

 

     Helena was not like the other young women in the village. She spent most of her time riding her horse, or making long walks in the sand dunes and salt marshes. Helena needed silence, and the only moments where she could find peace was when she embraced her loneliness between the cries of seabirds, the buzzing of bumblebees, the rustling of marram grass and reeds, and the breaking of waves. Time to time she also gathered seashells and different marsh flowers. She made a quite large collection at her home, and Kobe often neighed at her as a sign of approval when she brought new items.

 

     Helena wanted to never forget her father and the way to honour him was by being a shrimp fisherwoman; that is how Helena now calls herself.  The grandmother was utterly worried about Helena. Not only did she not have any friends besides the horse and the marsh, but for her to be a  fisherwoman was seen as madness by the villagers. Most of them believed that the purpose of a woman’s life was to become a wife and form a family, and they could not tolerate the idea of a woman fishing, particularly shrimps. For them, it was a man’s work and a proud father-son tradition. Even when Helena’s father was alive, they considered that it was not appropriate that a young girl was taught this fishing technique. They constantly persuaded Helena’s father to leave the child with the grandmother. But he never listened to them, for he was as reckless as his daughter. 

 

     Helena’s grandmother insisted her to stop fishing and get married; that way she would not be so lonely. Helena furiously rejected that idea but she could never be angry with her. This cheerful, wrinkled and loving old woman was taught from a young age the hardships of not following the expectations of the village. Odette had a beautiful voice and wished to play the flute. For her, the music that came out from this instrument resembled the melodies of the bird's songs and she wanted to sing along with them. She was courageous and challenged her father by secretly  learning to play the dissonant and old flute of her grandfather. But her dream never came true, for Odette’s father in a moment of rage tossed the wooden flute into the fire. That is how the ashes of a burned flute was the only thing left of her dream. After that, an arranged marriage to a fisherman’s boy sealed her destiny. Odette dedicated her life to her son and husband. There was no room for dreams anymore with a small child and she learned to hide her grief. Now she is in her mid-sixties, her voice has lost its colour and her shiny blond hair has turned grey. Nonetheless, she doesn't regret her life, for she was given her greatest gifts which were her son and granddaughter. The only wish of Odette was that Helena stopped feeling more pain and she believed that the only way to avoid it was by Helena marrying a young man in the village. Helena knew that the worrisome thoughts of old Odette came from a place out of love but in her heart she felt that the meaning of her life was more than just being a wife. 

 

     Despite the weird stares and gossiping from the villagers, Helena went every spring and summer to catch shrimps with old Kobe. She proudly wore a pair of old  worn breeches from her father with a dark-brown coat as fishing clothes. Those breeches were more comfortable than her long and useless petticoat when she was in the water. She was always barefoot and her curled hair was delicately put on side-braid. Old Kobe had lost some of his strength over the years and for moments it seemed that the water was going to tumble both of them. His strength might have been decreasing, but his willingness was as strong as the ocean. The fisherman stared at them strangely but Helena pretended that she was not bothered by it. Deep inside, her heart ached because she could not understand why she could not just be like the other young women, and she started to believe that there was something seriously wrong with her. Helena longed to not feel as an outsider. Rapidly, these thoughts disappeared  when Kobe turned his direction in the water.  

 

     Once in the beach, Helena sieves her catch with nobody’s help. Some days three reckless and naughty young boys laughed at her for wearing those old breeches. Helena tried to ignore them and continued putting the shrimps inside her basket. One particular day, the boys were extremely annoying, by calling Helena names such as “the worn-out breeches girl” or “the shrimp girl”. This almost brought her to tears but a young woman named Aemilia fiercely defended Helena, and started to throw seaweed at them. She also threatened them with telling their parents about their nasty doings. Two of the boys were Aemelia’s brothers while the other one was their partner in doing misdeeds all around the fishing village. Aemilia apologized for their behaviour and offered her help in the sieving. Helena did not know how to behave or what to say; she was extremely surprised that someone besides her grandmother was speaking to her. She felt awkward when trying to make a conversation with Aemilia, she avoided making eye contact with those two big blue eyes that were staring at her and nervously played with her braid. Helena did not want to be rude, but she felt the urgent need to run away. Helena with an anxious voice thanked Aemilia and told her that for now she did not need help. Aemilia smiled back at Helena and left to join the other women in finding baits for the men. When she turned back, Helena saw that Aemilia’s black hair was neatly put in a bun, and that she was wearing a pale yellow short gown and petticoat with a white neckerchief. Aemilia’s alpron was completely dirty from all digging in the wet sand to search for worms. Helena was amazed by Aemilia's kindness, for the other people made unpleasant remarks about her or they just ignored her. 

 

     When Helena returned back to her home with Kobe, she could not stop wondering if maybe one day Aemilia and her could become friends. She had her grandmother, Kobe, and her cats but it would not hurt to have another person in her life. Maybe she could collect together flowers and plants from the salt marshes, or she could teach Aemilia to catch shrimp and become another fisherwoman. She was sure that Kobe would not dismiss the idea and would be a docile horse and teacher. Suddenly, Helena’s grandmother entered abruptly to the house with a huge smile on her face. Helena asked her why she was so happy; the old Odette answered her that the villagers were going to organize a feast on the beach in a fortnight to celebrate the good catch from that year. At that moment Helena knew why her grandmother was overflowing with happiness, it was the perfect place to find a suitable husband for her beloved granddaughter. The idea of going to that feast with people that clearly did not like her repulsed Helena, but there was no way to escape from it, for her grandmother made her promise that both would come. “How can you deny one of the last wishes of a poor, old woman?” were the Odette’s binding words. 

 

     Secret Places

 

     The days after the news of the feast Helena could not stop thinking how clumsy she would look nor she wanted to be disheartened by the gossiping of the villagers. No matter how many times she stroked Kobe, a turmoil of thoughts imprisoned her. What was she going to wear? Most of her gowns were old and had holes on them. Worst of all, to whom was she going to speak? She even thought to run away with Kobe and her cats, but how could she leave her grandmother alone? She could never forgive herself. Many times she wished to just turn into a seagull; she would be free and fly high and away from the village. Helena went to the only places where she could find comfort and refuge from her thoughts, the beach, the dunes and the salt marsh. 

 

     The salt marsh was no place for people with no experience. Helena was taught by her father about the safest places in the marsh to venture through and which mudflats to never to approach. She had secret spots from where she could watch different birds such as oystercatchers with their smooth black plumage, and long and strong orange bills to open molluscs.  Also, there were white spoonbills with their imposing dark legs and black bills next to the white storks with their red bills and legs. One of her favourites were the shelducks due to their striking coloration. Their dark green heads and necks contrasted beautifully with the white and chestnut patches in their bodies and their reddish bills.  There was so much life, from the honks of geese to the majestic songs of the nightingales and the wailing of falcons. The birds’ sounds intertwined with the chirping of grasshoppers which hid between the reeds and grasses, creating a sweet melody that echoed across the marsh. 

 

     Soon after visiting this magic place, Helena went to the beach and inside the water to remove the sticky mud from her legs. Then she let the cool breeze dry her while the blazing sun touched her skin. She enjoyed just staring at the swirling sand in the water; it just moved freely like small ballerinas that dance along the ocean rhythm. Helena submerged herself into her reveries; imagining herself as a mermaid and living among all the sea creatures. Her imagination was always abruptly stopped by Kobe, when he softly pressed his forehead on her shoulder to let her know that he wanted to go home. She tricked him into staying longer by giving him his delicious treats. Helena swears that he smiles proudly when he sees Helena taking out from her pocket those orange sweet carrots. 

 

     A hot summer morning before the feast, the reveries of Helena were interrupted not this time by Kobe, but there was Aemilia standing next to her with her bun and blue eyes. Helena was startled and wondered how she found out about this place. -

     “I was walking when I spotted you sitting here. Sorry if I am disturbing you.” said the black-haired girl. 

     Helena nervously and with hesitation answered -“Not at all.Why are you talking to me?” Helena exclaimed after a short silence; inside of her she deeply regretted asking that; now Aemilia was going to believe that she was rude. – 

     “I am really sorry. I see that I am making you uncomfortable. I better go.” replied Aemilia. 

     “Sorry Aemelia. I didn't mean to say that. I just find it strange that you want to talk with me when everyone in this village finds me weird.” said Helena with a sad tone. 

     “I do not believe that you are weird. I really enjoy seeing you fishing with your horse; especially I find it amusing how that annoys the small-minded people in this village. They cannot bear that someone is different from them.” Both  smiled.

      “You have a lot of courage Helena; I wished I had it so I could leave this village.”  

      “Why do you want to leave?” –

      “I feel I do not belong here. Sometimes I feel this village is too small for me”. 

      “I understand you. I could never leave the sea but I just wish I could become part of it. I thought you were happy here; my grandmother always says that girl for sure could marry very well.” 

     “Yes. That is what everybody from my family is expecting of me. They cannot wait until the feast so their charming daughter finds her man”, said Aemelia with a sarcastic tone. There was a long silence broken by Aemelia

      “- I can show you something if you come with me.” 

     Helena agreed and Kobe and her followed Amelia through the sand dunes, then a path through the polders that led them to a small wooden and abandoned shack. Helena was amazed when she entered the shack; it was all covered with pale yellow papers with beautiful delineated figures. These were drawings from the village people, mussels, worms, seagulls and the sea. 

     “You made all of these ?”- asked Helena with surprise. – 

     “Yes. This is my secret place”.  

     “You are so talented Aemelia; all of them are breathtaking.” 

     “Thanks, I do not find them that great.” – 

     “They are! You should come with me to the marsh. Then you can draw unbelievable creatures. Would you like to?” 

      “Sure. I really would like to do it. I do not know the marsh well and I am always afraid to get lost and get caught in the mud”. 

     Helena fulfilled her promise and took Aemelia to the marsh where she was able to draw birds, colourful insects and the  green vegetation with its flowering plants. Helena was tremendously content in having a friend, even Kobe liked Aemelia and let her ride him. After longing for a friend, life put Aemelia on her way Aemelia and for the first time in many years she did not feel so alone anymore. 

 

The Feast and The Marsh

 

     Every morning for the last 10 years, Helena would enter the stable to look for Kobe. - “Hello mijn paardje.” she would say. Kobe came to her and looked for Helena’s hand asking her to caress his forehead. “Maybe do you want this red and tasty...apple?”. The horse always neighed with happiness and took the apple rapidly from Helena’s hand. While he ate, Helena grabbed a brush and started combing the long golden mane of Kobe. - “Je bent mijn mooie jongen.” said Helena and gave him a kiss on his left flank. 

 

     However, a few days before the feast, Helena noticed that something was wrong with Kobe. He reluctantly went for walks, he became grumpy when Helena tried to comb his mane, and even the once irresistible carrots and apples seemed to be indifferent to him. Helena did not understand what was happening to Kobe and tears dropped from her eyes when she saw her unrecognizable friend. Helena felt a piercing chill in her skin and a sting in her stomach while submerging into dark thoughts. A raging storm was forming inside of her; one that would fiercely unveil at any moment. 

 

     Odette tried to comfort Helena but all the efforts were in vain. Helena was most of the time with Kobe and would barely talk with her grandmother. The day before the feast, the old woman called for Helena. She entered inside the house, annoyed as she wished to hear no more about the feast. - “Mijn schat, I have a gift for you”. She opened an old, big  wooden coffer, where a gown was lying inside. Helena took it out; the petticoat and upper gown had a lovely pale pink colour and the linen neckerchief was white with drawings of purple flowers on its border. –

“This dress was from your mother. I promised her I would give it to you when the time came.” Helena looked with melancholy at the dress while tears came out from her eyes. She hugged her grandmother and thanked her. Helena had few things from her mother, but nothing that could compare to the gown. Despite never seeing her face, she imagined how her mother would have looked in  it. The happiness that she felt from Odette’s gift quickly turned to sorrow when Kobe and the stable crossed her mind. 

 

     On the day of the feast, there was commotion in the village. People strode  down the cobbled paths, with stacks of fresh food teetering in their hands to put on the wooden tables at the shore. Helena saw through her window how the angry and desperate mothers were trying to bake bread and cook stews, while their naughty children misbehaved, taking advantage of their busy mothers. The mixed smells of freshly made food overflowed all the houses and lured curious dogs to them. They patiently waited for the humans to be unaware so they could get one bite of the delicious food. Some men were preparing their last fish catch, while others had already started drinking mead and at the same time complaining about wives, sons, daughters, neighbours, the catch, the weather and any other thing that came into their minds. 

 

     Helena was on the verge of desperation at her house. Odette was in a grumpy mood because she felt they were not well-prepared for the feast, despite the constant reassurance of Helena that the food and drinks that they were going to bring were enough. - “Oma, all this food can feed the entire army” Odette calmed for a brief moment, but then she began again to klagen like Helena says. 

 

     Helena went to see Kobe before leaving with her grandmother. When Helena entered the stable, Kobe approached her and he weakly ate the carrot that Helena was holding in her hand. She looked into his eyes and felt again a piercing and cold chill in all her body.  Helena rushed into the house and screamed – 

     “I am not going. Kobe is not well and I want to stay with him.”  

     “Helena, you promised that you will come! You cannot do this to me!.” - exclaimed Odette. 

     “I know I promised but… I just can’t Oma.” 

     “You are behaving like a reckless child and you are now a woman. I won’t force you to come with me, but you should  know that I am extremely disappointed.” Odette left the house, while Helena stood there with her pink gown, saddened and with an exploding pressure on her chest that almost suffocated her. 

Helena  ran again to the stable and caressed Kobe. The old horse answered her back with a gentle jump on her head. -      “I cannot let Oma go alone but I will never forgive myself if I leave you here by yourself.” said Helena with tears in her eyes. It seemed that the horse understood her, and gently looked at her as if he was telling Helena that everything was going to be alright. 

     The face of Helena was somber when she reached the beach, and the anguish that she felt left her gasping for a breath. She remembered this feeling; it was the same one when her father disappeared on the horizon. She felt a strong knot in her throat and tears were heavily building up in her eyes. She did not let them come out, not tonight. Aemelia saw Helena’s grim face and knew that something was wrong. 

     “Helena is something happening?” 

     “No. Everything is good. I am just nervous about being surrounded by so many people. I need some time to breath before I join all of you.” – 

     “Are you sure you are feeling alright?” – 

     “Yes, please do not worry about me. I just need a moment alone.”  - 

     “I will be right there when you want to come.” 

     “Shrimp girl” squeaky voices came from Helena’s back. – 

     “Breeches girl”. 

     Laughter burst out from the boys that were terrorizing Helena. People that passed by barely greeted her and Helena felt that she was not welcomed. Two drunk fishermen approached Helena. One had a long beard with a corpulent body while the other one was ugly, skinny and red-haired.  Both of them began to harass Helena.  

     “Girl come here with us. We will make you a real woman.”- shouted the corpulent man

     “Yeah. Such a pretty girl. ‘Tis not fair that all this beauty goes to waste. Little shrimp girl you need to know that you cannot be one of us.”

     Helena was frightened and she could smell the stinky and filthy breath of alcohol of both men. 

     “I know what you need. You need a man that knows how to put on you some bridles”- said the heavy man.

     “I need NO man”. -exclaimed Helena angrily.

     “Ho! We have here a fierce mare. I believe you need to be tamed”. - 

     The red-haired made a signal and grabbed Helena’s arms and twisted them behind her back. Then the corpulent man approached and she felt the disgusting beard touching her skin while he forced a kiss on her lips. When he went backwards, Helena spat on his face and he fiercely slapped her and forced another kiss. Helena couldn’t release herself from them and her instinct was to kick the corpulent man between her legs. Just like a bucking horse. The man growled in pain. The skinny man lost the grip of her arms so Helena was able to escape from him.

     “You better run away whore! You don’t want to be catched by us!”- shouted the skinny man.

 

     Aemelia heard all the commotion and saw the two men on the ground while Helena was running in the direction of the marsh. Aemilia tried to catch up with her but she was moving swiftly across the sand and then entered the marsh. It was almost dark and the tide was rising up. Helena all of a sudden disappeared and Aemelia was alone next to the reeds and long cordgrasses. She became worried because she did not know how to return back. She walked in different directions without knowing where she was going, at the same time, she screamed Helena’s name hoping that she would hear her. She did not notice that she was dangerously approaching the mudflats; unexpectedly she got stuck in the mud and every step she took was harder and she was burying herself deeper until she could no longer move and the mud reached her waist. Aemilia shouted for help but she was there all alone, only accompanied by the chirping of the grasshoppers.  She believed that she was going to die; the water was almost near her and she knew that the tide would reach her at any moment, drowning her forever in the marsh. She kept calling out for help, when a figure suddenly appeared from the reeds. It was Helena. Helena rapidly pulled Aemelia’s arms until she was out of the mud.  

     “Are you alright? What are you doing here? You could have died!”. – 

     “I was following you and then I got lost and could no longer see you. I saw you ran away and knew something was wrong. What is happening Helena?” said Aemelia gasping.  –

     “I just did  not want to be there. You wouldn’t understand” –

     “Let me understand I am your friend.”- 

     “Please don’t ask me more. I just can’t.” – 

     “Don’t close yourself up Helena. I almost died following you, talk to me!.” – 

     “You really want to know?!” exclaimed angrily Helena. “Kobe is dying! I can see it in his eyes. I am not prepared for that; I am not prepared to lose him. Not him. He is the only one I have left. But I know he will leave me soon and I will be alone again. I would lose him like I lost my parents and I can’t bear that anymore Amelia. I will be left here surrounded by people that hate me and harass me when I have never done anything to them. Tell me why they have to be so cruel?    What do they want from me? What do you want from me Aemilia? – 

     “I just want to be your friend Helena. Not everybody is cruel. You cannot enclose yourself and don’t let anybody help you. I am here.” Aemelia paused and then said “I promise to be there when you have to say goodbye to Kobe.” 

     Helena kneeled down and covering her face she cried disconsolately, all the tears that she was holding, came out as a river stream. She groaned and screamed with pain. A pain that stinged her entire soul, like roses’ thorns. Aemelia embraced her and cried with her. Helena was trembling and could not stand up so Aemelia supported her to not let her fall.

     “I’ll take you home Helena.”

 

     Slowly the two of them returned back to the village. From the distance they could hear the thunderous music coming from the beach, as well as the laughter and talking of people. Aemelia took Helena to her house and gave her a strong hug before leaving her. Helena went to the stable and layed down with Kobe between the hay. Little by little she fell asleep with her dear Kobe by her side, still crying and sniffing. 

 

     Goodbye

     The following days Helena took care of Kobe. They went for daily short walks to their favorite places when he had enough strength and she also made sure to give him the best treats. Helena could see how life was slowly leaving his body; he was skinnier and his vigorous muscles were decaying, even the glimmer of his eyes was fading. Helena stayed every night with Kobe at the stable, she wanted to let him know that she was not going to abandon him. 

     Odette could see the immense suffering of her granddaughter and tried to console her by taking her warm knitted blankets to the stable. When Helena was asleep, she covered her with a blanket and gave her a kiss on her forehead.  Odette felt she failed in preventing the pain of her granddaughter and she blamed herself for insisting Helena to come that day to the feast. If it wasn’t for her maybe Helena would not have had that breakdown. She could have just stayed with Helena taking care of Kobe that night instead of pressuring her into doing something she did not want, just like her parents did to her forty years ago. Odette lashed out at the two men that attacked Helena and she was surprised by the support that she had from some of the villagers. Despite Helena's weirdness, they could not stand the harassment of young girls and condemned strongly the men’s actions. Both men were barely seen again in the village.     Aemelia visited Helena often and from time to time, she joined her and Kobe for the walks. They avoided talking about what happened the night of the feast; it was still a painful memory for Helena. 

 

     One morning in the early autumn, Helena and Kobe went for a walk along the beach. It was quite cold but the sun shined over them. Helena sat on the sand as always, while Kobe was roaming around near her. Kobe approached Helena and she stood up. - “Mijn paardje do you want to go inside the water?” Kobe neighed with excitement and Helena carefully mounted him and went into the sea. The water splashed over their bodies and even though Kobe was weakened, every step he made against the waves was powerful and majestic. Time stopped at that moment for the hazel-eyed girl and her old horse. 

 

     When the night came, Helena wrapped Kobe with a blanket and laid next to him. The rustling leaves deafened the waves, and the wind crashed strongly against the stable. Kobe was breathing slowly and his eyes hardly remained open. Helena felt a sting in her chest; she knew it was time to say goodbye to Kobe. - “You will always be mijn paardje Kobe. Please find papa and mama and don’t leave them alone.” Helena, broken in tears, embraced Kobe so he knew that she was next to him. Kobe made a long neigh and then he sighed his last breath. Odette heard her cries and stormed into the stable and held Helena into her arms.

 

     The next morning, Kobe was buried near their house with the help of some neighbours and Aemelia. Helena picked flowers from the marsh and decorated the grave with them and with shells from her collection. She did not know how to deal with the pain that she was feeling; Helena felt that she was drowning in unbearable sadness. Not even the song of birds and the chirping of grasshoppers could make her grief disappear. One day Aemelia searched for Helena at the beach. –

     “I want to show you something Helena. Can you come with me?”. 

     Initially, Helena hesitated but she went with Amelia to the abandoned shack. 

     “These last few days I did not want to disturb and I kept away. I’ve been working on something. I cannot bring back         Kobe to you but I can give you a piece of him.” 

     "What do you mean Aemelia?”

     “Close your eyes. Now you can open them again”. 

     When Helena opened her eyes, in front of her, there were drawings of a girl and a horse. They were riding on the marsh and the beach, sleeping on the stable or just walking side by side. But the most astonishing drawing was of a girl with old breeches and brown coat, on the back of her golden hair horse, catching shrimps in a summer month. –

      “All of these are yours so you will always remember the precious moments you had with him”. Helena was speechless and she just hugged Aemelia and both cried. 

 

     Time passed and the deep wounds of Helena healed. She continued fishing for shrimp but now together with Fiona; a young and powerful black draft mare. Helena’s love for Kobe and her father never faded. When Helena comes to visit them at the beach, she takes her flower crowns  and puts them in the water, continuing her childhood ritual. The crowns became one with the sea, and she swears that she can hear Kobe’s neigh and her father’s laughter behind the sound of the crashing waves. 

 

     The End. 

Submitted by: Laura Del Luca

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