THE SECRET LIFE OF ZURRIE DRESDEN

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Chapter Three: Xavier- My Story

I’ve got to clear my head. Anger has a hold on me at this moment and I know if I don’t get a grip on my emotions, I’m going to say something to father that I’ll regret for a really long time, if not for the rest of my life.

The only thing that can calm my anger and nerves right now is some time alone with my girl. I head in the direction of the stables. Dusk is settling in. Along with it, a cool breeze rides on the air. It pushes against my thin, white, cotton shirt, causing it to cling to my chest. Goosebumps take their course down the length of my arms. I release a shiver. As much as I wish I had my riding coat to wear, there’s no way I’m going back to retrieve it. For now, I’ll just have to make do.

The moment I slide the heavy door open, she greets me with a grunt. I can’t help but smile. She’s been just about the only stability I’ve had throughout my life. She was a gift for my fourteenth birthday. It was the best one I’ve ever had. Memories of that day come flooding back.

Told to go to the old barn to gather wood for the stove, I kicked my shoe against the floorboard in defiance. I knew enough not to say a word, for if I dared when my father found out, there’d be hell to pay. After all, it was my birthday.

Not realizing how much energy I put into that kick, I looked up to catch the eyes of my mother bearing down on me. “Xavier, do you have something you want to say?”

Breaking all visual contact, I looked down at the floor. “No, just stretching my legs before I head out mother.”

With her head still tilted down and her hands knuckle deep in the bread she was kneading, she shifted her eyes in my direction. “Hum, better get on with yourself.”

We both knew it was a line of bullshit. I’d have said anything to keep her from telling my father.

More motivated now that my actions were witnessed, I quickly tossed on my coat and headed out the front door.

At that age, anything and everything was an unwelcome chore. Being it was so close to dinnertime and the fact that he’d be home soon, I decided it best to keep in line.

The wind whipped through the open field and its touch was bitter that January day. Plunging my hands deep into my coat pockets, I bowed my head and pushed on against the frigid late afternoon air. Standing in front of the enormous barn doors, I recall scanning the immediate area to ensure no one was in eyeshot. Feeling confident my actions weren’t going to be witnessed, I pull my right leg back and give the old door a kick. The sound of something grunting and scratching on the floor was loud enough to reach my ears as I stood just on the other side. I was instantly hit with fear, and my stomach did a flip-flop. “What the,” trailed from my lips. A large cloud of exhaled, steamy breath swirled in the air around me.

“For goodness’ sake, Xavier,” echoed through the air as my mother stepped up right beside me. “What on earth is taking you so long? I could have had the wood in the stove by now,” she spouted out in a bit of frustration.

“Well, go on in.”

Still shaking from the menacing sounds that had just occurred a few seconds ago, I’m frozen.

“Xavier, open the door! What on earth is wrong with you? Stop dilly-dallying. It’s cold out here. Her frustration was clear by the way in which she gave me a light push on the back. “I said open the door!”

The grip of fear that had a hold of me broke when she raised her voice and spoke in such an aggressive tone. Without another thought, I wrapped my fingers around the icy-cold barn door handle and gave it a hard tug.

That’s when I saw her. Well, father was there holding onto her rein’s, but everything around me faded into the background. Well, everything but her. There she stood, the most beautiful creature I had ever set eyes on. Without hesitation, I approached her and slowly placed my right hand out in her direction. She didn’t flinch at my advancement but rather took a step towards me. As I gently stroked the length of her face, her eyes met mine. Letting out a gasp at her exquisite beauty, there was no mistake that she had already captured my heart.

To this day, twelve years later, she’s still, and always will be, the number one girl in my life. Just like all those years ago, I take hold of the numbingly cold metal handle and pull open the barn door.

Strolling down to greet my girl, I can hear the clicking of her hoofs against the flooring. There’s not a doubt in my mind that she doesn’t know it’s me. Before I can make it to her stall, she’s already at her gate, looking in my direction. Approaching, I reach out instinctively to greet her. “Hello there, my Miss Blue Eyed Beauty.” I look into those big round eyes of hers and all the weight on my shoulders seems so insignificant now.

Not only is she beautiful, but she’s also the definition of regal. She’s as white as falling snow and has the most magnificent eyes. One is blue and the other brown. Horses don’t have varying eye colors like humans. Most have brown eyes but, in some instances, they have blue. My Miss Blue was born with one of each color, hence the name of Miss Blue Eyed Beauty. It may be a long name, but it suits her just fine.

She nudges her head into the palm of my hand, her way of communicating she’s ready to go. Opening the gate, I saddle her up and jump atop. After so many years together, she knows that once I’m in position., it’s time to ride.

The moment my foot slides into the stirrup and rest on the tread cover, Miss Blue takes off towards the wide-open door. Once her back legs clear the flooring, her pace picks up. The cold air presses against my entire form. Second-guessing my decision on returning to the house to gather my riding jacket does me no good. It’s late fall and the temperatures drop quickly. At the pace we’re moving, we cover a good deal of distance in a short period of time.

We’re close enough to father’s hunting shelter that I can push on a bit further. With the deteriorating conditions the way they are, there’s no way I can make it back to the house without freezing to death. Although it only takes around twenty minutes to reach the rickety old shack, I couldn’t be more grateful that it’s still upright. Although it’s a dilapidated mess on the outside, it’s a dry place to stay for the night. This worn-down hovel consists of only two rooms, if you can refer to them, as such.

With my two feet planted firmly on the ground, I make my way to the stable portion of our shelter for a security check, prior to escorting Miss Blue Eyes into her sleep quarters. Her safety is my top priority.

To my surprise, the door pulls open rather easily. Taking a quick glance at the roof and the large stall area, I feel confident we can bear the accommodations for one night. It’s got everything it needs; hay, a water supply, and wood-burning capabilities.

After a few minutes of making sure it’s not going to fall down around her by dawn, I head back in her direction to find her in a frenzied state. In all the years we’ve been together, never once did I see her act like this. Her gaze is locked onto the wooded area just off to our left, her ears are pinned back, and her neck is arched. Her heavy breathing causes her chest to expand and retract with each loud snort she makes; eyes are locked onto the surrounding darkness in a precision-like fashion.

I make sure to use caution when I approach her, as her full attention is directed elsewhere. One wrong motion or step on my part could exacerbate her fear and turn the situation into an extremely dangerous one.

“Hey there, Miss Blue,” flows upon the air in a soft-spoken tone. Slightly turning her head at the sound of my voice, she hastily moves in my direction; it’s like she’s attempting to protect me from something. Of what, I’m uncertain. I quickly scan the surface area for any signs of coyotes or wolves. It’s now pitch black out with minimal visibility. I don’t see or hear anything out in the thick brush that surrounds us.

She leans into my form in a true protective state; this time she lowers her head and begins moving it in a snake-like fashion. Getting in a rearing stance, she stands on her hind legs with her forelegs off the ground, batting at the air, baring, and snapping her teeth.

I reach my hand out and gently touch her shoulder. “Calm down girl, it’s ok. It’s ok.” My heart races, as I hate bearing sight to her fear.

Her breathing starts to slow as I stroke her mane. With her anxiety diminishing, I allow the taut muscles in my chest and back to loosen. Feeling confident she’s got herself once again under control, I lead her through the door and into the covered stall. Once she’s secured behind the gate, I can’t help but wonder what the hell spooked her like that.

Leaning her head down, she places her large, white face just in front of me. Almost nose to nose, she locks her eyes onto mine, almost as if trying to communicate with me. She doesn’t move or break her gaze. “It’s ok Miss Blue. I’m not going anywhere tonight. I’ll stay right over there,” I whisper, pointing toward the piled-up bales of hay and the stone-walled fire pit.

After she nudges my cheek with her cold nose, she circles the area a few times and places herself on the hay-covered floor.

It’s not until I turn around that I notice the walls. Line after line of bows and arrows, along with gun paraphernalia, greet me. Before the thought even forms in my brain, the words trail from my lips. “What the hell….”


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