The darkening sky is lower, pressing down, as the car bumps over the gravel drive to the barn. The lights are all on and it would otherwise be a cheery sight, but tonight it means something else. A distress call.
The vet’s truck is parked alongside the entrance to the barn, under the floodlights. Past it, I see people standing around a large dark mass on the ground.
I fling open the car door and run. It’s too late? It can’t be too late. The air, now cool and damp, is sucked into my lungs, burning my throat. A water balloon of tears presses behind my eyes, but I won’t let it burst.
Sarah’s voice ghosts across the evening air. “I wish he’d hurry. Get this over with.”
I know who she means. The vet—the one who will put Octavia out of her misery. She looks up when I appear around the back of the truck. My horse, my beautiful mare is splayed on the ground, her belly round and exposed. Her legs scrabble in the dirt, then stop when she lets out a moan. I don’t want to see her like this but can’t look away. My knees give out, and I crumple at her side and lift her nose onto my lap so she won’t have to breathe in the dust. Her sides are damp, heaving. The white of her dark, dark black eye shows as she rolls it back to look at me.
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