Several hours later, Nathan came over to join me and my dad. He sat on the other side of Spirit's grave. He looked pretty much like the rest of us: covered in soot, sweaty, and exhausted. My dad tightened his hold on me as I stared apathetically at the ground.
"Fire's out and all the horses are in their stalls," Nathan said in a raspy voice. He coughed a couple times. "Smoke's all cleared out finally. Josh is feeding the horses now. Some of your neighbors have offered to stay overnight to watch over the foal and Little Bit to make sure they're going to be okay. Dr. Mack's down there, too."
"Where are we going to stay?" I asked, speaking for the first time in over six hours.
My dad sighed heavily. "A hotel," he answered. "That's the best we can do." He cleared his throat. He had cried a lot. "We'll go to WalMart or something to get some clothes for a few days and go from there I suppose."
Someone else came over and I looked up. It was one of our neighbors that we didn't see very often. He was carrying a bag and handed it to my dad.
"We... we went through the house," he admitted. "This was under your bed."
My father burst into tears and I put my arm around him. The bag was filled with everything my dad had kept of my mom.
"I was sure it was lost!" he cried and I kissed his cheek, putting my head on his shoulder.
More people were surrounding us and someone passed me five trophies.
"I found them in the trophy room," Nathan said. "They're all that made it."
I held them close to me as almost everyone that lived near us and our friends stood around the grave. No one spoke but they didn't need to. We all smelled of smoke and I stood up slowly.
"Thank you," I managed, looking around at them all. Most of them were crying for us. "We wouldn't have gotten the horses out without your help. We...." I cleared my throat and Nathan put his arm around my shoulders. I leaned into him. "I'll still be down here on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for classes. If you-If you could spread the word to the others, I-I would appreciate it."
"Where will you go?" one of the parents of my students asked.
"A hotel," I answered. "I'll get on the phone with the insurance company and...." I looked at what remained of our house. "Whoever did this should be ashamed of themselves."
"You have our support," a man said and I smiled, trying to keep back my tears. "You lost some feed so my wife and I are gonna go get some tomorrow."
"We'll get you more hay," another said.
"The saddles?" my dad whispered, his voice nervous.
"They made it," Josh said quickly. "It's a good thing you kept them on the other side of the barn."
My shoulders dropped in relief. Those saddles were expensive.
"We'll keep an eye on the foal," Dr. Mack said, gesturing at her nurses. "It doesn't look like anything's wrong with him but I don't want to take any chances. Little Bit's fine. Your older horses are all sleepin'. The scare of the fire wore them out but none of them got too overwhelmed."
"So everyone's still alive," I muttered to myself. "Okay, thank you." I looked down. "Daddy, let's go. We-We need to get cleaned up."
He nodded. The neighbor that brought him my mom's belongings helped him to his feet. Everyone parted as the three of us walked up to our truck that had been parked on the curb.
Thank God for small favors.
"We need a room," my father said.
We were at the nearest hotel, still covered in soot and reeking of smoke.
"You the Turners?" the manager asked and my father nodded. He passed him some keycards. "Heard what happened to your barn; don't worry about payin'. My daughter's won lots of competitions thanks you to teachin' her to ride."
"Thank you," my dad whispered.
"We'll send extra towels and soaps to your room," he added.
"In other words, y'all stink," I joked and we all laughed a little.
My dad and Nathan insisted I shower first and I scrubbed myself until I couldn't smell the smoke anymore. I had bought three outfits and two pajama sets from WalMart. I pulled on the first one from my bag and stepped out, my hair still damp. My dad had opened the window so the smell of the smoke wouldn't linger.
While my dad showered, I sat down and looked at the bottoms of my feet. I had burned then when I went in to save Spirit's box. I dug it out of the shorts I had been wearing before shoving them in the laundry bag. My dad and Nathan would put their clothes in there, too, and we'd throw them away. There was no saving them anyway.
"Looks like I won't have to use bleach on that shirt," I joked.
Nathan had just gotten out of the shower and brought me two cold rags for my feet. He wrapped them for me then sat beside me.
"What's in the box?" he asked quietly.
My dad ordered pizza while I opened it.
Inside was a motley of things. There was a necklace I had made of her mane, a picture of us when she was big enough to ride, some shells, and a piece of horseshoe.
"When I first learned to ride," I said, passing him the picture, "I accidentally yanked out some of her hair. She was not happy." We both laughed. "So I weaved it into a necklace. The shells we found when my dad took us to the beach one year. And this was Spirit's first horseshoe. When she got new ones, I kept a part of the first one. I know it's silly but-"
"It's not silly, Willow," he said softly and put everything back in the box. "Why was it in her stall?"
"I buried it there," I muttered. "Seemed like the right place. I'm just glad it survived the fire."
I found my phone and pulled up the Google app.
"Don't," my father said suddenly and I looked at him. "Don't call them."
"We have to," I mumbled, putting in the name of the insurance company to get the number. "How else are we going to get the money for the house?"
Nathan took my phone from my hands and I glared at him.
"Let me do it, Willow," my dad said, sitting on my other side.
"You have enough to do, Daddy," I murmured.
He scoffed. "Like what? Starin' at the ceiling and countin' sheep?"
"Are you really going to do the classes still?" Nathan asked and I nodded. "I'll join you if you want."
I smiled at him, crying a little more and blushed a little as he wiped my tears away with his thumb.
"That'll give me time to talk with the insurance company," my dad said.
"I was serious about that check, guys," I said when silence fell again. "We're going to the news. This is.... This has gone too far."
"If I find out who did this, I'll kill them," Nathan said through clenched teeth.
We all stared at the wall.
"Never a dull moment," I murmured and they chuckled.