The sun was slowly sinking in the sky while Blythe trudged along, her head clutched with her right hand. The bleeding had stopped some minutes ago but the agonizing throbbing had not. As much as she could, Blythe kept searching from side to side, sweeping the long grass horizon for her grey mare. She knew Julip wouldn't go too far. That mare was fed and taken care of far too well. Placing her left hand in a salute and raising it above her eyes, Blythe looked to the sky to check the placement of the sun for an estimate of time. Shit, it's probably already almost 4, Blythe worried in her mind.
From her right side she heard a rustling in the bushes, she groaned outwardly. This could either go really well or really bad. This could potentially be her horse meaning she could hop on, they could ride into the sunset, and she could make it back to her fathers in time to dress her wound and help with supper. Or, the sound coming from her side could mean that there was an animal in the shrubbery that was inevitably out to get her and she would be let out here to rot until the scavengers picked her away piece by piece. For all that is holy, she prayed it was not the latter.
Gentle snorts became louder and louder while Blythe exhaled with enormous relief. She whistled once to snag the attention of the mare. Julip came trotting towards her as if nothing happened. The horse came to a stop shortly before Blythe then sniffed the top of her head. The mare nudged Blythe's hand holding her head and jumped back in surprise when the yelp came from her rider.
"Damn it, Julip. Yes, it hurts!" Blythe sighed exaggeratedly, silently chiding herself for still having conversations with her horse. With as much effort as she could muster, Blythe slung her foot into the stirrup on the left side of her mare. Grabbing the saddle horn with her free hand she hoisted her pain-laden body into the worn leather seat. She gave Julip a gentle, barely-there tap on her back flank and held on as the horse began to slowly turn towards the house and take them both back home.
As she was riding atop of her horse, Blythe took a once around glance at Julip double and then triple checking that the animal didn't have any signs of major concerning injuries. Once satisfied she felt content to finally release her head from her hand. She grimaced at the dried blood caked on her fingers. At least she didn't have to be concerned about bleeding out here in the open country. The smooth trot of her horse pulled Blythe into a trance, ebbing away the pain radiating from her head and her left shoulder blade. She was soon tucked away into her subconscious while the sounds of nature played her a gentle melody. The breeze that blew earlier had come to a stop allowing crickets to sing their song around the easy footsteps of her horse through the tall blades of grass surrounding them. It seemed like no time at all before she could see the outline of their barn coming up over the horizon.
Both rider and animal were relieved to pull up next to the newly stained barn doors, each heaving out a grateful sigh. Blythe let herself slowly slide off the left side of the horse and after taking a moment to let the spinning in her head soothe she pulled the barn doors open with a loud creak. It took Blythe considerably more effort to lead the horses back to the stall after luring Cornelius back into the arena. The stubborn stud trying to convince Blythe that he was, in fact, not done playing in the pasture. Once corralled, both horses begrudgingly took painfully slow steps making their way back to the stalls they bed in. With a gentle pat on each horse's head and a faux kiss on the nose, Blythe dragged out of the barn and shut the doors behind her.
Oh, what she wouldn't give for a hot shower and a bowl of the steaming vegetable soup her father had planned for supper.
Stripping her dirt riddled boots off at the back door before she entered the house, Blythe was surprised not to see her father in the kitchen. Perhaps he had waited for her to make dinner with him as he knew it was one of Blythe's favorite time of the week. She slowly made her way through the door hanging her coat on a peg along the way. She grabbed a glass of water at the faucet, chugging the cool liquid down her throat and closing her eyes in the blissful feeling it provided. She set the glass down and moved her way towards the living room where she could hear his radio quietly updating the people of Birmingham on the current horse races.
"This race brought to you by the renown Mr. Mackenzie Thomas, leading in being not only the best-thoroughbred breeder in Birmingham but as well as the Thomas family law firm..." The radio droned on giving thanks to their sponsors for today's flat races.
Blythe loved listening to the radio as the races were on. She would close her eyes and imagine herself being able to sit and watch all of the jockeys ready their animals before taking off across the flat track. Making it to watch one of the races, perhaps even the 1000 or 2000 Guineas, had always been one of Blythe's biggest dreams. Growing up and taking care of equine had led Blythe to be very partial to the races, always dreaming of being apart of the massive crowd cheering in the stadium seats. She would imagine herself clapping delicately with gloved hands under her parasol. If only.
It was odd that she couldn't hear her father, who shared an equal amount of excitement for the races, cheering on the riders. He was usually sitting in his worn leather chair rooting for one jockey or another and then throwing his paper down in frustration when his pick came in second. It was illegal to bet on the horse races, even though there were many black market gambling halls in the center of the city, but that never stopped dad from gambling in his head.
That was when she had seen it. A single shoe leading into the living room. A shoe that her father had been most definitely wearing this morning. Red flag. Blythe crept forward carefully and silently as to not disturb the atmosphere around her. Her eyes followed the lead of the shoe. Next, her eyes landed on a sock that was clad on a foot. Slowly trailing up the foot, then the leg that followed. What she saw, she couldn't comprehend. It was as if the air rushed from between her lips leaving her lungs hollow and raw. She was frozen in this single moment in time, questioning the reality of the situation.
In front of her lay the body of her father, face down on their family rug.
"Father..?" Blythe barely managed to whisper, so quietly even a butterfly wouldn't have heard her.