This is an excerpt from a novel/short story/I’m not sure what yet that I’ve been working on for the past few months. I think my plan is to take NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to really kick it into high gear and finish at least a solid draft of this thing. It’s going to turn out to be a pretty personal story (although yes, it is fiction) for a few reasons and I think that’s what’s been holding me back from finishing the damn thing. Either way, I remain optimistic.
The rafters in the main barn filtered the light coming in. Tessa could see dust floating in the air, lifting and falling as though of its own will. She thought of treading water in the lake out by the old oak tree, kicking her way up and drifting down and then back again. She wondered what it would feel like to tread air. The water always felt safe somehow. If she lost her balance or fell over, the worst would be lake water in her face. People naturally floated a little bit in water; with the air there was no such guarantee, no safety net, no promise of anyone breaking your fall. Feeling slightly off balance, she walked through the glowing cloud into the barn.
Before going to the back of the barn, she walked down the row of stalls. There used to be three horses, but when her father died, her mother had sold his horse to Mr. Manning. It broke her heart to even look at it, much less care for it, and the horse was young, with many good years left in him, her mother had said during her sales pitch. What she didn’t tell Mr. Manning was that to keep him, feed him, brush him, and take him out for rides herself would have been an acknowledgment of her husband’s absence, a realization and a declaration, if to no one else than herself and the horse, that he really was gone.
Now there were only two horses left, and they occupied the first two stalls. The third stall was used for storage and the last stall remained empty and, in spite of Mary’s best and swiftest efforts, as persistent a reminder of her husband’s absence as the stamping of hooves would have been.
As Tessa stood outside the third stall, the storage unit between vitality and death, she felt as though she were somehow standing outside of time itself. She was neither in the past, where her father lived and rode horses and brought her presents from town – charming music boxes and fans and little dolls with painted faces – and neither was she in the present, where the stall was empty and her world quiet without his gentle but deep voice filling her ears and her heart. She could stand here and wait for an hour, a day, until the sun set and rose and set again, and the quiet would persist.
But Tim was here now, and try as she might to resent him for replacing her father, she simply couldn’t. She’d known him, if not well, for her whole life, but was never really sure where to fit him into the family. He was much older than she was, even older than Cora, and yet he was her half-brother. He had always seemed more like an uncle. She certainly didn’t feel as close to him as she did Cora, and she knew that wasn’t just because of his age. But he’d always been kind to her and her sister, and their mother, and now he was their father. She was grateful to have a man in their home to take care of her mother and she knew that without him to work the farm, they might be out of their home. But his marriage to her mother, especially so soon after her father’s death, seemed more of a business move than one based on love. And now, more than ever, Tessa just didn’t know where to place him in her life. She thought of him as neither father nor brother nor benefactor and yet somehow he was all of these things. Thinking of his incredible presence in her life made her feel claustrophobic. Just as there was no amount of waiting that would bring her father back, there was nowhere to turn were Tim was not now in complete control.