The raggedy little girl, who was really a beautiful princess but didn’t know it, walked into the golden meadow where all the delicate flowers turned their heads to the gilded sun. She called out the name, Glory, twice, and her voice tinkled on the wind like the sweetest bell ever heard.
And so he came.
The magnificent stallion rose to the crest of the hill and trotted, magnificently, into view. He stood for a moment, a black silhouette against the fabulous, golden sun. His eyes cast over the meadow that he patrolled as his own, and he saw his beloved raggedy princess.
And so he was motion.
His flaxen mane and tail crimped and flowing blew behind him in the breeze that was purely of his making. The tensioned body blurred as he thundered down the meadow, his flight lightning fast while his gentle feet never harmed even a single flower head; for they were his flowers. A cone of exertion steamed from each of his wide, soft nostrils, and his eyes never left the little girl who meant everything in the world to him.
And so he was still.
He nickered as he came to a stop in front of her, bowing his head and easing his velvet nose towards her stubby fingers.
‘Oh, Glory, I have missed you.’
The huge white stallion, fully two times taller than the raggedy princess, nuzzled her with all the gentleness of a kitten. She stood on tiptoe to run her hand down his warm, damp neck, his silken mane cascading over, to tickle the back of her fingers, the horse nuzzling his lips over the little girl’s leg. She giggled as the sticking-out hairs stroked her kneecap and she let her face fall gently against his withers, listening to the great lungs as they drew in and expelled out, air.
And so they were loved.
The raggedy princess grabbed a handful of mane that was as soft as spun wool. ‘Ready boy?’ she asked and then she vaulted, light as confetti and as graceful as a ballerina, onto the stallion’s back. She leaned forward and hugged the gentle beast around his pure white neck. He pawed the ground, anxious to be off; flying towards whichever adventure awaited them. The raggedy princess was the best rider in the kingdom. Her hands tingled as she loosely grasped the horse’s mane. She was ready. He was ready.
And so they were ready.
She twitched her calf muscle, almost imperceptibly, into the horse’s flank but it was the only aid that Glory needed to be given. Adjusting her seat, she moved further onto her pubic bone, she lengthened her leg, dropped her heel, became one with him. Child and horse merged into the scenery of the enchanted kingdom and they outran the wind just for the pure joy of flight.
Shortly they came to the King’s Castle. ‘Oh no, Glory, the castle is on fire, whatever are we to do?’
They charged across the lowered drawbridge, a guard of honour of crackling flame overhead. Paying no heed to danger—for together they were invincible—they set about saving people’s lives. One by one the raggedy princess lifted the castle occupants to safety. Again and again they thundered over the blazing drawbridge carrying people home on Glory’s broad back.
The Crown Prince was so grateful to the beautiful raggedy princess that, at first, he didn’t notice her stunning beauty. When he did, he fell instantly in love with her. He held her in his arms and swore that she would be his bride…just as soon as she was old enough!
But for now, the girl and her horse had more adventures to ride and more lives to save in the beautiful kingdom, and so they rode away into the sunlight.
The little girl breathed a contented sigh and snuggled into her father’s deep chest. She kept her eyes tightly closed so that she wouldn’t notice that the enchanted kingdom had vanished. She didn’t want to see the dingy, cold room, lit only by a single naked lightbulb. She wanted to continue riding her horse so as not to notice the fingers that rose from her knee.
She was the raggedy princess; that was her life, in the meadow, with the flowers and Glory. This was only her waking nightmare, something to be endured until the next time her father breathed plumes of whisky and was ‘in the mood’ to take her to the enchanted kingdom. What came after wasn’t so bad really; it was better than the other bad stuff when he hit her until she couldn’t remember anything. No. it wasn’t so bad, because all the time that it happened, he would promise that, one day, she would really own Glory. He would be her own real-life horse.
Glory stayed with the raggedy princess through all the early years, and one day, one wonderful glorious day, she was given a date when Glory would be hers. On her sixteenth birthday he would be brought to the gate with a big yellow ribbon around his neck. That made the thing bearable for a few more years. It bought her silence.
They never found out about the thing. She never talked about that but they did find out about the other stuff, about him hurting her when he lost his temper, and she was taken away. Glory went too, and the raggedy princess and her horse rode in the meadow and roamed the kingdom while the doctor spoke about detachment.
He wrote to her occasionally and there would always be a paragraph about Glory. This was her favourite bit. ‘Have saved a carrot for Glory,’ he would say. That meant that he was going to buy the horse, didn’t it? He wouldn’t save a carrot for a horse that wasn’t coming one day, would he?
She was released from the care of the state three days before her sixteenth birthday.
She was an adult now.
She went to him. It was her birthday. She had dreamed of this day since she was six years old and Glory had first become real to her.
He wasn’t tied to the gate yet. No magnificent white stallion with a pretty yellow bow. Somebody must be delivering him. He would come soon. Today was the day.
Her father was drunk, she made him some lunch. She hadn’t seen him in over five years. And yet he hadn’t changed. She waited for him to mention Glory. Surely he must know it was her sixteenth birthday today. He hadn’t really known who she was, but that didn’t matter, as long as he had remembered to buy Glory.
‘When’s Glory coming?’
He laughed. He laughed until he hawked, and then he spat a huge length of cloying phlegm into the back of the open fire. It hung on the flue-pull like some malignant epiglottis swinging in a blackened throat. She watched it, transfixed.
‘Them, psy…psy … psy-cho wotsits said you was nuts. It was a fairytale, you bloody fool. Don’t you know that? It was just a story. Jesus. You are one stupid bitch, aren’t you? It was just a story. Hey and don’t think you’re staying here, I had enough of you when you were a whining kid. Go on, bugger off. I don’t want you.’
The raggedy princess lay beside the still form of the beautiful white stallion. His chest was stained red from the spear that the black knight had killed him with. The black knight rode away on his black horse, laughing.
The raggedy princess hugged Glory and wept ten years of misery upon his neck.
And… so she was alone.