By Aline Soules
A girl stands on tiptoe to stare at the china horses behind the glass display case of her mother’s best cabinet—Shetland pony, Clydesdale, Appaloosa, Roan.
“No,” says her mother, as the girl reaches to open the cabinet. “Don’t touch.”
The girl leaves them alone, but feels sorry for them, frozen in porcelain, immobile, doomed forever to a trapped existence. She pictures them running across a meadow, legs touching down in tall grass, bodies leaping and stretching as they move, manes flowing up and out. If only she had four legs, if only her body soared when she ran, if only the wind lifted her dark hair to stream behind her.
One day, when her mother is out in the garden hoeing their vegetable plot, the girl opens the cabinet to set them free. The glass shelf tips, and they tumble, too fast for her to catch them. Brown and white and black blur together in the speed of their fall. Their splintered shards clink and snap. Jagged gray-white edges of broken legs and necks slither across the oak floor and scatter—in the hallway, under the wing-backed chair, on the slate hearth.
So many pieces, too many to pick up. She throws out the larger fragments, sweeps the smaller slivers into the dustpan. Each time she thinks she’s gathered them all, she sees more. Her mother comes in to find her sitting on the floor in tears.
Her mother sends her to bed without supper. Lying awake, the girl can hear the clink of knives and forks and spoons, smell the kibbeh and grape leaves her mother serves for supper, but it doesn’t matter because she isn’t hungry for food. She eats resentment instead. If her mother had only let her touch them in the first place.
That night, she dreams—a slice of mane, half an ear, her proud mother’s Arabian eye staring at her from a dark shadow.