“Why, hello there, Chiquita! Would you like to see something you’ve never seen before?”
Percy smiled past the rising and persistent headache as Iris skipped up his walk, swinging a basket of carrots. She had a way of lightening his mood instantly, and he was glad to see her- especially today. The headache was harder to ignore today, and he felt a little faint. But that wasn’t going to stop him from sharing this with his favorite little girl.
She stopped when she reached him, and her dark brow wrinkled beneath her wild cap of dark brown curls. She considered every question the same way, as though it needed deep thought before any answer could be given.
“That depends on what it is, I think,” she said, after a moment, and her gaze fixed on him. She wasn’t joking, Percy knew – she was a little girl who had lived through things many adults would be terrified by.
“Well, it’s small, and precious,” he told her. “And, if you want to see it, you’ll have to be very quiet.”
She studied him for a moment, then decided, again, to trust him. That was, maybe, the best medicine for the insistent aching in his head.
Iris smiled. “I can be so quiet, you might forget I’m here.”
“No, Chiquita. I could never forget you’re here. Even when you’re quiet, you sparkle.”
His reward was a bright-eyed grin, and a hug. Percy placed a single finger against his lips, and opened the pasture gate. Iris’s basket swung, bumping her bare knees, and she said not a word. From the first, she’d seemed to know that the miniature horses he raised liked calmness, when they were loose in their fields.
Pequita was standing in a dip at the edge of the line of flowering brush, close to the stream, where the songbirds sing gently. She lifted her tiny, delicate head, and whickered softly at them.
Iris’ eyes were wide, but she spoke not a word. Percy eased up to the little mare, Iris sticking close to his side. She gasped in delighted wonder when she caught her first glimpse of the little red foal, which was no bigger than a teddy bear, and soundly asleep.
Pequita didn’t move away from her baby, but she stretched out her neck, and whickered again.
“You can give her a carrot, Iris, and ask your questions quietly. She’s telling us that she trusts us, and that she’s worked hard, and she’s hungry.”
But Iris didn’t seem to have any questions, now. She eased slowly up to the mare, who stood only to her waist. Pequita was the smallest of his little herd, and Iris’s favorite. Seeing them together eased the pain in Percy’s head, and gave him deep pleasure. He’d always loved children and horses.
Iris fed the mare the carrots, one by one, then reached into the basket for the curry brush Percy had given her. Percy watched her as she groomed Pequita, trying to ignore the growing pressure knocking at his skull from the inside, and the nausea it brought. Iris brushed, carefully, as Percy settled on the orange crate bench she’d made for him to sit on. She spoke to the mare, grooming her with great tenderness and care, until the small horse tossed her head, and the foal woke and stood spraddle-legged before wobbling its way to her teat. Iris didn’t need to be told that she needed to back off.
She came toward Percy – and her figure blurred as an anvil crashed somewhere within his brain –
“Percy!” He heard Iris scream, and then everything was slumping and slipping away from him.