She stroked his ebony pelt. It felt so smooth underneath her fingers, so vibrant against her pale hands.
“What are you doing? You’re supposed to be at home, not wasting your time on some stupid fantasy! Come here and we can drive home. I’m not letting you near that…that thing ever again,” A nagging, high-pitched voice cut through her pleasant thoughts. She ignored it, oblivious to everything but her gentle hands rubbing against his soft fur.
“Eliza,” The voice screeched, “Come here now!”
Eliza stopped stroking his black fur, and, peering across his withers, saw a pale-faced woman with close-set eyes and thin lips. Curly blonde hair framed her desperate face.
Eliza ground her teeth, “No, Mum. I’m staying here. You know that.”
Her mother stared at her impassively. Her eyes gradually turning hard and cold, she replied, in a slow, deliberate tone that sent shivers down Eliza’s spine.
“You are coming with me.”
Her Mum was always over-protective, not allowing her to do anything that she wanted. At this point in time, Eliza hated her mother for it, she was about to do the most important thing she had ever done in her life.
Eliza had spent so many hours on the back of a horse, it was something she couldn’t live without. Yet, here her Mum was, telling her to get away from ‘that filthy, disgusting, dangerous animal, or you’ll get all manner of diseases if you hang around it all day’.
Horses and riding was all that she loved. Every time she went to her uncle’s house, as he owned a farm, she would spend every minute riding horses or being with them in the paddocks. Her mother hated horses, and she despised her uncle for allowing her daughter to come into contact with one.
It just had to be this day, of all days, when her mother finally discovered what she had been doing behind her back. Eliza had been training with Storm, her black show jumper, at her uncle’s house, when she had told her Mum that she was going for a weekend holiday program with her friends. At last, she was at the State Show Jumping Arena, and finally getting ready to display her love of show jumping, when her mother just had to greet her with a cold smile. It was a futile attempt at her ambition, for now her mother knew what she was up to, and her dream of becoming a professional show jumper was over. Eliza knew her plan was eventually going to run into a hard, brick wall. It was inevitable that her Mum would ban her from ever visiting her uncle again, or even seeing a horse, let alone riding it after she knew what Eliza was doing. Although, her hopes were never going to go anywhere if she didn’t try.
Eliza stared at Storm, her fingers slowly tracing invisible lines on his raven coat. Her mother’s voice rang in her ears, but she dared not speak, for fear of letting her dream slip through her hands, when she was so close to touching it. It wounded her to see her Mum’s face, desperate and inhospitable, but Eliza knew her Mum was asking something she couldn’t do – to abandon her hopes for the future. It was a poor request, as it brought the both of them down and they would never agree.
Eliza’s heart hammered in her chest as she sought for a reply, a protest. Something that would make her Mum agree with her, and possibly watch her in the jumping arena. She gazed solemnly at Storm, with a blaze of white fur streaking down his long face, searching for answers in his eyes. When she found none, she cursed herself for getting into this mess. Luckily, as she was about to trust her tongue to explain the colliding emotions in turmoil inside of her, her uncle appeared from behind the horse float.
“George! What on earth are you up to? You could get my daughter killed!” Eliza’s mother exclaimed. In response, her uncle guided her away from Eliza, out of earshot. Eliza strained her ears to listen, but even as they were shouting, could discern nothing.
The bell rang for all participants to saddle up and get ready, as the show jumping event was starting in ten minutes. Eliza quickly placed the saddle on top of Storm, sliding the girth underneath his round belly. Hastily, she managed to adjust her stirrups and put on Storm’s bridle. Swinging over the horse’s back, she mounted. As she did, she peered around, as Storm’s height gave her a new perspective, trying to see where her mother was.
At that exact time, Eliza’s mother and uncle were in a heated argument, “George, she’s only 14! She could get killed on that putrid thing! How could you?” Eliza’s Mum accused him.
Her uncle attempted to soothe her, “I did what she wanted. She loves horse riding, and she spends weeks just playing with the horses. It does her good-”
Before he could finish, Eliza’s mother was already stalking off, leaving everything behind.
Eliza saw this. Fear gripped her, she had held onto the hope that her Mum might have accepted horse riding, and Eliza participating. Despair wormed its way into her gut, and she doubled over with grief, letting out an anguished cry.
Except, I still need to compete, she reasoned with herself through a distressed moan. Tears stung her cheeks, all of her air had left her lungs, but despite the pain that seeped through her, steered Storm toward the arena.
Eliza’s Mum stared into an arena lined with jumps almost as tall as she was. She hated being here, and she thought it was absolutely ridiculous that she was, but her brother-in-law had convinced her, and she was there to watch her daughter fulfil her dream of competing in show jumping.
Yet Eliza didn’t know this.
By Charli Read (15B)