"You have to eat," my father said, sitting by me on my bead. "Come on. Nathan's cooked dinner."
"I'm not hungry," I mumbled. "Just leave me alone."
"I can't do that, baby. It's been two days. Please. You have to eat."
I sighed and got out of bed, still in my pajamas. I didn't even bother to brush my hair. I walked downstairs. It smelled like some kind of meat and I sat heavily at the table. He had made steaks with baked potatoes and green beans. He was bringing in plates and stopped when he saw me. I didn't say anything. Over the last two days, I had only left my bathroom to go to the bed and I'm sure I looked like a mess.
My father filled my plate and I stared at it.
"I'm not hungry," I repeated.
"Just eat it," my father said. "Please. Nathan worked hard."
"Aaron," Nathaniel said. "It's not-"
I sighed and cut into my steak. It was cooked at well done, my favorite. I took a bite and nodded at Nathaniel, indicating it was good. He just nodded back and started eating. Despite my grief, I seemed to be hungry and finished what was on my plate. I took a long drink of my Sprite and looked out the window, wondering where they buried her.
"Under you tree," my father whispered and I saw the yellow ribbon.
"Thanks for telling them, Daddy," I whispered back.
"It wasn't me, angel." I frowned, turning around. "It was Nathan."
I looked at him but he was staring at his baked potato. I didn't know what to say so I excused myself, putting the plate in the sink. I looked around in the cupboard until I found the bottle of Bacardi.
"Where are you going?" my father asked but I didn't answer.
I closed the back door and wandered down to Spirit's grave. I sighed when I got there. The mound still looked fresh and the yellow ribbon fluttered in the spring breeze. I sat down at the head of the grave.
"Here's to you, Spirit," I whispered, opening the bottle and taking a long drink. "Not gonna be the same without ya.... Daddy's real upset, too. You were my best friend." I started crying again and drank more of the rum. "Remember when I tried riding you for the first time?" I asked, laughing through my tears and drinking the rest of the rum.
I frowned at the grave and looked at the empty bottle.
"You talkin', Spirit?" I mumbled.
"No, it's me," Nathaniel said, sitting beside me.
"Oh.... I'd offer you a drink but Spirit and I finished it up."
I tossed the bottle to the side and sighed.
"What happened when you tried riding her for the first time?" he asked and I looked at him.
"You're real blurry," I mumbled and he chuckled. I sighed again. "I had just broken her. She was nervous. Hell, I was, too. I had never ridden before, see, and I was worried I didn't put the saddle on right. 'There's only one way to find out!' my daddy had said so I climbed on up." I smiled. "We got to a trot and we both panicked. She sent me flying onto my back."
"That sounds painful," he said.
"Aw, she was just about three feet off the ground at the time so I didn't fall far."
"She was a tall one."
"Yes," I said, popping the 'p'. "Her mama was seven feet tall."
"How many is that in hands?"
"I dunno," I mumbled. "It was n't the first time she threw me, ya know. It became our thing."
"What do you mean?"
"I spent a lot of time with her," I said, staring down at the mound. "We.... It was like we could read each other's minds. I was teasin' her and she threw me. I know it sounds stupid, but it was like she really understood me. We won a few competitions together, too. There was one we were in and we were doin' awful. And I mean real awful. I was embarrassed and, when we messed up with the barrels, she-" I paused to laugh. "She threw me head first over the barrel. It's like she wanted to end with a bang."
He chuckled again. "That'd be a sight to see."
"Oh man, people freaked out. I got up laughin' and she did what she always did: she nudged me with her head and nipped on my shirt. I used to say she was part goat. She would eat paper if you left it out without watchin' it."
"Was she ever bred?"
"Nah," I said. "After her mama died while givin' birth, I was too scared. I was worried the same thing'd happen to her."
I scoffed. "No it ain't."
"What else did you guys do together?"
I frowned at him. "Why do you care?"
He shrugged. "You're drunk off your ass and grieving for your best friend. I've never lost anything like that but I've heard it helps to talk about them."
"Eh, I guess it couldn't hurt," I sighed. I rested my head on my shoulder, propping my hands up behind me, and staring out over the pasture. "I broke my arm once and couldn't ride her for a while. I was depressed so I went down each day. She'd always be waitin' for me and would nudge me with her head and nip at me. It was like she knew I was hurtin' and wanted to show me she loved me. When I was able to ride again, she started gallopin' before I even got the chance to tell her." I laughed. "She tossed Daddy. She wouldn't let anyone else ride her."
For the rest of the evening, I told him stories of Spirit and I. The sun was setting, bringing cold air, but I didn't care. Spirit couldn't feel the cold air anymore so I wanted to feel it for her. Around 9, the fireflies came out and I watched them through cloudy eyes.
"Don't get these much where I used to live," Nathaniel said, seeing me watching them.
"Nope." I sighed. "I used to catch them in jars and shake 'em up. Pissed my daddy off."
He laughed loudly and I giggled. He picked up the bottle and helped me to my feet.
I looked down at Spirit. "I love you, old girl. You rest easy. I'll visit when I can."
I blew it a kiss and stumbled up to the house, Nathaniel beside me just in case I fell over.