Two sets of perfectly beaming smiles met me at Allie-Baba’s door, and I wondered why Harry hadn’t also greeted me. Inside, I stomped slush from my boots and started to take off my coat, but Baba stopped me. “Keep it on, dear, we’re going out.” She pulled on hers as well. Turning to Allie, she said, “Be a dear and bring some hot chocolate to the barn.”
Curious, I followed her through the mud room and out the back. The new snow made their place glow like a Christmas card. But why the barn? It would be just like Harry to order some ridiculous quantity of one of my favorite foods—like several cases of whipped cream—and have it shipped to arrive on Christmas. With enough money, you can arrange stuff like that. I smiled. He’d be wherever the gift was.
A large pine wreath decorated the Brown’s red board-and-batten barn. Each white fence post from the barn to the road was topped with a red bow. It wouldn’t surprise me to know they’d hired Martha Stewart to consult on the decorations. “Where’s Harry? I mean, Michael?”
Allie caught up with us and wrapped my cold fingers around a steaming mug. “He’s…away.”
I felt my brows draw together and a question form, but I knew I wouldn’t get more out of him unless he wanted to tell me, so I didn’t ask where or for how long, although I was a little put out Harry hadn’t informed me himself.
Baba opened the door and hurried us inside where it was measurably warmer. I love being in a barn on Christmas. The cozy warmth, animal smells, and the sound of horses munching…the first Christmas was in a stable, after all. It made me feel right with the world. Baba stopped at the first stall. The only horses here were Harry’s ancient pony, Thelwell, and Baba’s retired hunter, Grace. Allie didn’t have a horse. He’d been happy to pay the bills but never rode.
The horse in the stall was neither Thelwell nor Grace. She or he had his back to us and head down in a mound of hay. A new green blanket trimmed in red wrapped the horse from shoulder to tail.
Like a Christmas present.
The horse turned to us.
My breath caught in my chest.
From the show.
I looked at Baba. She grinned. “Her name is Calypso.”
Her shoulders hiked to her ears, the grin widened. “There’s an envelope pinned to her blanket. Maybe that explains.” She replaced the hot cocoa with a leather halter and matching lead, then took Allie’s arm and left.
I hung up the halter and quietly entered the stall, slipping to the mare’s shoulder. She curled her neck around to sniff me. I ran my knuckles over her cheek, barely making contact, feeling like I’d stepped into a dream, afraid she might poof into nothing if I touched her or spoke. It might be a dream, but tired cliché or not, I never wanted to wake up.
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