Callie’s Star, Chapter 1. ARRIVING
By Patty Wilber
So, I wrote a book a long time ago. Of course, it is a horse book. I thought to update and serialize it and post one or two chapters a month. So, here is chapter one…
It took a lot longer to get Chapter one in order than I thought it would, so this may be a bad idea…
Chapter One. ARRIVING
Callie was afraid she was going to barf.
She held the motion sickness bag near her mouth, but the white smell of the bag took her back to the hospital. The flight attendant with the rattling drink cart was a hurried nurse with squeaky white shoes. The gray of her mother’s face against a wrinkled hospital pillow case floated in front of her. Sometimes the afternoon sunlight had lighted her mother’s hair, reviving its past gold, and she had almost looked well.
She squeezed her eyelids tight and drew in gulps of cool air streaming from the airplane vent overhead. She crushed the bag in her fist and pressed her head against the seat in front of her until she could feel the fabric making ridges on her forehead. She dozed off.
Callie felt a soft nudge on her shoulder. “Please put your seat in the upright position. We are getting ready to land. Wait in your seat after we have stopped and I will walk you out.”
Callie fingered the ID around her neck. She was a minor travelling alone.
The plane felt as though it were sinking beneath her. Callie held down the sudden rising of her stomach as the plane’s tires bumped the runway and its engines roared suddenly loader as the thrust-reversers slowed them down.
She and the flight attendant climbed down the gangway, out of the shadow of the plane, into the early summer sun. The light on the woman’s hair shone gold . The clear blue New Mexico sky and the adobe colored earth seemed to spin together and Callie threw up on the pavement, the motion sickness bag useless in her left hand.
When Callie emerged from the rest room, she didn’t feel much better, but at least the awful taste was gone from her mouth. The flight attendant gave her a small hug and she saw her Uncle Bob walking toward her in his big-strided way. He put an easy arm around around her shoulders and pointed with his chin at a woman, Aunt Martha, followed by a boy about Callie’s age.
“Welcome,” said Aunt Martha, and she smiled just a little bit. Her green eyes were crinkled at the corners, as if she smiled often.
Callie brushed at her dark bangs and her own smile flew over her face. She moved a little closer to her uncle. “Thank-you,” she said. Uncle Bob gave her shoulders a slight squeeze and she felt a tiny unwinding of ache in her gut.
“Jeff?” said Aunt Martha, with a little frown between her eyes.
He peeled himself off the wall. “Hi,” he said to the toe of his scuffed boot. Callie could barely hear him. Her stomach coiled up.
“Callie!” Aunt Martha touched Callie’s leg and pointed out the window. “Callie!” she said again. Callie opened her eyes slowly, and Aunt Martha said, “Hurry! You’ll miss them!”
“What?” Callie looked out and saw small house of adobe brick with a door that used to be blue. The pasture land around it prickled with a few chollas and clumps of grass that still held some left over spring green. There was a small herd of black cows and their calves, lying under some juniper trees.
“Over there!” said Jeff, redirecting her eyes toward an arroyo snaking out between the low hills. “Wild horses!”
“Wild horses!” she echoed. Then she said, “For real?”
“For real,” said Jeff. “Didn’t your mother tell you about them?”
“No,” said Callie. “She didn’t like horses much.” Callie leaned her head against the truck window. She could hear the tight sound of her mother’s voice each Wednesday as she dropped Callie off for one of the five riding lessons she bought with money she had saved from Christmas and her birthday. “Please be careful, dear. Please.” And then Callie saw her face, thin and gray in illness, and heard her voice, “Be careful at Uncle Bob’s, Callie. Please be careful.”
Callie felt her throat close and silent tears made shiny cold streaks on her face. She watched as a yearling flicked its tail, stretched out its neck and galloped after the herd disappearing up the draw.
The sun was just edging down behind a sharp ridge when they turned into the graveled drive. Long spears of sun lay on the ground like stage lights, framing a long-legged jackrabbit with black-tipped ears. She gathered her arms around herself and let a small sigh leak out. Even the rabbits looked wild. The truck braked to a stop in front of the white two story ranch house.
Aunt Martha opened the door and a black and silver Australian cattle dog put his front paw on her leg for pets. “This is Jake,” said Aunt Martha, rubbing his ears. Jake tipped his head and looked at Callie with one blue and one brown eye. Callie opened her door and Jake barked. Callie shut the door.
“Go on Jake,” you can meet Callie later. Callie waited until the dog had moved away before she finally got out and shuffled to the back of the truck to get her suitcases.
“Jeff and I will get those, Callie. You go on in,” said Uncle Bob.
Jeff frowned at her, but Callie didn’t notice. She just nodded and rubbed her eyes. Then she followed Aunt Martha up the flagstone path to the big porch. Through half-closed eyes she saw the lavender plants bordering the walk. Their sweet smell was soothing.
Then, Jake brushed up against her leg and she jumped, caught her toe on the flagstone and landed in the lavender. Jake barked and before she could move, he was there. His fur rubbed on her neck and his tongue was all over her face in long, wet licks. She pushed his nose away and covered her face with her arms.
“Jake!” Uncle Bob’s voice was sharp and the dog looked up at him. In two of his long strides, Uncle Bob had Jake by the collar and pulled him away, so Callie could get up. She stood and rubbed her elbow. Pieces of dirt and lavender fell to the ground. She looked at her skirt and tried to wipe off the dog hair, but it clung to her hand. She let her arm fall by her side and tears slid down her cheeks.
Aunt Martha led her out of the lavender and on to the porch. “Let’s get inside,” she said.
Uncle Bob nodded and with Jake still by the collar, half-led, half dragged him to the dog run and locked him in.
“Aw, Dad! He was just trying to make friends,” Jeff glared sideways at Callie’s back disappearing into the house. “It’s not his fault she’s afraid of dogs.”