Someone had gotten black spray paint and painted LOL on the driveway and the garage door. But that wasn't what upset us.
The barn was on fire.
Willow was the first to recover. She took her flip flops off and tore down the slope to the barn. Aaron and I followed. I could hear people shouting and the sounds of frightened horses. My first thought was of Little Bit. When we got down there, Josh was frantically opening the back of stalls and letting the horses escape into the pasture. I saw Little Bit running down with Flame and then looked around for the foal. One of Josh's coworkers was trying to carry him on his own.
"Here," I panted, helping him carry the foal.
It was just learning how to walk and we had to get him as far from here as we could quickly. Aaron was shouting and I ran back when the foal was safely in the corral where it couldn't be trampled. Willow had snatched up one of the hoses we used for cleaning the horses down and I got the other one. Aaron and Josh opened the rest of the stalls and 50 horses tore through the pasture, frantically bucking and whinnying.
The heat from the fire was suffocating. Willow and I turned the hoses on full blast and she went to the far end of the barn. Suddenly, I heard an alarm and sirens. Distracted, I looked at the house just as a small explosion forced us all to our knees. My jaw dropped as their house erupted into flames.
Two firetrucks were speeding down the road, one going to the house and one coming to the barn. They weren't the only ones, though.
Men and women were running over with bridles and reins. Other had leads and, when the fire was out, ran in to save what food had mad it. I tried to stop Willow from going in there barefoot but she ignored me. She threw open the door to Spirit's old stall and looked through the hay frantically.
Before I could ask her what she was doing, a familiar car pulled up to the curb. Anger surged through me as my parents and Polly got out, their jaws dropped in shock and horror.
"What the fuck are you doing here!?" I roared, storming over to them.
Polly was crying. "We- We didn't- What happened?"
"Look!" I shouted, pointing. "What the hell do you think happened!?"
The looked around at the devastation. Behind me, I heard Willow scream in anger.
"GET THE FUCK OFF OF OUR PROPERTY!" she screeched. I turned in time to catch her around the waist before she could throw herself on Polly. I saw a small box fall to the ground but held tight to Willow. "WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE!? GET OFF!"
She was furious, more than I had ever seen. Her hands clawed for Polly who had backed up in fear.
"Calm down, Willow," I said.
That was a mistake.
"DON'T YOU TELL ME WHAT TO DO, NATHANIEL BANKER! LET ME GO, DAMN IT! I'LL KILL THEM!"
"Willow!" Aaron shouted, running over just when she slapped me. "Willow, deep breath." He glared at my parents and Polly. "What are you doing here?"
"We heard about the barn," my mother said in a small voice. "We came to-"
"That's it," Willow snarled and took the check out of her back pocket. "I'm taking this to the nearest news station. If you even try to buy their silence, we will out buy them, do you understand me!? I'm going to make sure everyone knows what you have done to Nathan and us!" She pointed behind us. "This wasn't just a prank! My house is destroyed all because you assholes decided to act as children instead of just cutting him off! Now get the hell off our property!"
"We'll really sue," my father threatened.
"I don't give a shit what you'll do!" she snapped. "Now get off before I push out of this asshole's arms and tear you to pieces!"
They stared at us for a second longer then got back in the car. They drove off and I loosened my hold on Willow. She was shaking as she picked the box off the ground. She stuffed it in her pocket and handed the check to her father.
"Keep that safe, Daddy," she whispered. "Let's go."
She led the way back down to the barn and I sighed.
"I'll be down in a second," I said when Aaron stopped to see where I was.
He nodded grimly. I looked around me. The firefighters were still working on the house. Down at the barn, the fire had been contained. Dozens of people had come to help Aaron and Willow. It was touching to see. Even Matt was down there helping.
"Is it safe to put them back in there?" I asked Josh when I went down, watching as people led the calm horses back into the stables.
"Yes," he said. "Most of the smoke has cleared out thanks to the Turners having plenty of windows and they always keep their doors open during the summer."
"Where did the fire start?"
He beckoned me over. "It was inside the barn," he explained as we walked. "Whoever did it at least had the courtesy to start it away from the horses. Unfortunately, they started it in an important room."
I groaned. All of Willow's medals and awards were destroyed. The ribbons had burned to ash. I knelt down and he passed me a glove to handle the hot metal.
"I'll be here for a while," I said. "I'm going to salvage what I can; especially anything with Spirit on it."
"All right. I'll let Aaron know."
"Hey, where's Willow?"
"I don't know."
"If you see her, tell her to go spend some time with Spirit," I said. "If she argues, make her."
He nodded. "I will."
I sighed and pushed through the melted metal. Five of the trophies had survived. I looked at the engraved plates and they all had her name and Spirit's. I put those next to me carefully and sorted through the medals. None of them were legible, sadly.
Footsteps announced a man's arrival and I looked up. He was a firefighter and covered in soot.
"You Nathaniel Banker?" he asked and I nodded. "Aaron Turner's up at the house and wants you there."
"Okay. I'll be there in a second."
The man nodded and, wincing at the heat still radiating on the trophies, I picked them up and carried them there with me. I looked to Spirit's grave. Willow was sitting there with her head in her hands. I sighed.
Aaron was talking to a police officer, looking ten times older than he was. The officer was holding a champagne bottle and I rolled my eyes.
"A Molotov cocktail?" I said. "Really?"
"Found it in the kitchen," Aaron sighed.
"It came in through the back," the firefighter that got me said. "We'll start the investigation tomorrow, Mr. Turner. I'm very sorry about this."
"What are those?" Aaron asked me.
"The few trophies that made it," I answered, putting them down on the driveway. "The fire in the barn was started in the trophy room. They're all for Willow and Spirit. I looked for anything else but nothing survived."
"Thank you for getting them," Aaron said.
I sighed and hugged him. "I'm so sorry for this, Aaron."
He hugged me back tightly. "Where's my Willow?"
"With Spirit," I answered. He started to cry. "Go join her and I'll keep an eye on the barn."