By C.A. Coffing
The trailer is cold; chilled air enters through cracks and seeps from behind the aluminum trim of the windows. Butch lies face down on the couch in the corner of the room, snoring. He’s still wearing his mud and manure-caked boots. His sister, Gwendolyn, sits at the scarred wooden table in the center of the room chopping white powder. Sara sits next to her, her long legs stretching onto an empty chair. On the other side of the table is Layla. She watches Gwendolyn’s movements; her golden hair falls into her eyes. Before them is a rectangular mirror upon which Gwendolyn sculpts delicate white lines of cocaine. Beside the mirror is a red and white striped straw.
Layla wants to give up the drugs, but first, she needs to get through her last semester of junior college. The cocaine helps with that—with the studying. She takes the first inhalation through the straw and puts her head back and sighs. Gwendolyn goes next. She loves the burning sensation it brings to her nose. She rubs some of the powder on her gums; it tingles. She passes the straw to Sara, who stands and stretches. She moves to the window, careful not to put her arms on the moldy sill, and looks out into the pasture. She tells the others the white stallion is out, standing still in the moonlight. She knows Layla is dying to ride him; she’s ridden the other ponies, but not him, not yet.
Sara laughs and points the straw at Layla, telling her, no way she’ll ever get on that pony; that pony hates everyone. Layla stomps her foot and stands tall. “What do you know,” she says to Sara. She grabs one of Butch’s flannel shirts from the floor and heads out the sliding glass door into the moonlight. Gwendolyn opens her eyes wide and begins to make mewing sounds. She shouldn’t have mentioned the horse. She knows Layla can get hurt.
But Layla is determined; she has been in love with the stallion since she started coming to the farm. She has spent two years watching the glorious white horse. Layla knows in past lives they were together, as horse and mistress, maid and beast, riding through the forests and the moors. They are linked together and have been for as long as time can be imagined.
Sara crosses to the sliding door, presses her hand to the glass. She watches Layla walk barefoot through the grass and mud, turn over a bucket, and climb onto the horse’s back. Layla mounts the stallion with grace, like an apparition, floating and transparent. The stallion stays still as Layla lays her head on his neck to caress his mane. They become one, made of the same substance, horse and woman. Sara thinks she has never seen anything more beautiful as she watches the steam rise from the horse’s nostrils.
The stallion has been waiting for her, night after night, patiently beneath the moons; the waning moons, the crescent moons, the full moons; but she has never come to him, not until now. He has longed for her touch because she is his completion; they are two parts of one creature. He waits. He exhales and feels the warmth of her arms around his neck. Her legs wrapping around his center make him feel peaceful and full, as if he could explode and become a hundred stars in the sky.
Sara leaves the window and turns on the radio. She begins to gyrate her hips and sing. She motions to Gwendolyn to dance with her, and they move together. Their arms entwine, molding together in shape and form. They separate, then rejoin, holding hands and twirling faster and faster, until they fall into heaps on the brown shag carpet.
The music and their laughter wake Butch from his dream. It is the dream he has night after night of him running through fields of hay, calling for his father. His father never appears, but still he runs and runs until he falls with exhaustion and is immersed in the green hay. He rolls over and sits up; his body aches. He watches the two women rolling on the floor, laughing. He asks, “Where is Layla?”
Sara freezes and stares at the tiled ceiling. Gwendolyn lies on her back and starts to mew, hands on her face. She realizes she has lost track of time, just like she has lost track of everything in her life. She is too high on the music and the feelings in her body. She tells them in her muted voice that she forgot Layla.
Butch steps over Gwendolyn; she never gets it right; he knows that about her. He walks out the sliding door, breathes in the smell of damp earth and night air. The moon is dipping low in the sky, and stars fill the vacant spaces. He’s never seen so many stars. He loves this pasture, loves tending the horses, and the horses love him, no matter what he looks like, no matter how much he screws up.
He sees Layla’s dark shape and goes to her. She is lying on her back in the frosted field, eyes closed, beneath the moon. Butch picks her up, cradling her. He brings her into the trailer and sets her gently on the table. Gwendolyn begins to stroke Layla’s matted hair. Sara grabs her hands and rubs them between her own to warm them. Butch asks her if she is okay—has she hurt herself? Layla shakes her head no. She looks at each of them with a strange, golden light in her eyes; her pale lips tremble. She tells them she overdosed. She overdosed on magic, she says, and now she is a star.