I sat on the fence and watched as Ma and Pa walked through the herd of cattle. They were double checking the cows to make sure we had the right amount. Ma yelled out twenty, and Pa said the total was two hundred and forty three. We were seven short.
I had spent the morning with Pa rounding up the last of the cattle from the fields and bringing them down the hill to the main pen. It had been fun chasing after cattle. There was always one or two which thought it could escape but they never did.
It had been two days since I had spoken with Kara, and I still hadn’t brought up the topic to my parents. I was scared. Scared of what Kara had told me. I would have to leave home. I had to leave everything I knew and I didn't want that. Not if it meant leaving Ma and Pa, and even Gean. I would leave my life behind. Kara wasn’t even sure that I was her partner, or whatever she called it. And I truly didn’t have any interest in joining her. But how did you tell a large black panther that could easily kill a human, no. You didn’t.
Ma looked at me sitting on the fence. She smiled at me and pulled herself up onto the fence and patted my knee. “You okay?”
I shrugged. “Yeah, I guess.”
“Something on your mind?”
I could say yes. There was something on my mind but then I would have to tell her everything. “No,” I said.
Ma frowned. She didn’t believe me, and I didn’t blame her. I was a terrible liar. “Are you not feeling well?” Ma reached up to touch my forehead.
“I’m not sick, Ma.”
I pushed her hand away.
“I’m just tired.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t go hunting as often as you do. You spend most of your afternoons up in the hills chasing rabbits and who knows what else. Today you haven’t even bugged me to go.”
No, I hadn’t. I didn't want to make it a possibility of running into Kara. What would I tell her? Sorry, no. I didn't tell my parents because I’m terrified of what they will say and I don’t want to leave my home. Kara believed me to be some strong young woman who would help save familiars, but I wasn't. How could I be?
I leant my head on Ma’s shoulder, and said, “I promise you I am fine. Just tired.”
“Have Pa and I worked you so hard and that we should give you some time off,” said Ma, her warm smile appearing as she spoke. “My poor baby.”
I nudged her with my shoulder. “No.”
“Good. You can go and clean out the horses stalls and clean the tack. I was just about to do it but since you aren’t doing anything and you are fine, then you can do it.”
I frowned. Ma always knew how to twist things so they worked for her. “What about Gean?” I said as she hopped off the fence.
“Gean isn’t feeling well.”
I snorted. “Yeah, sure.”
“Taria.” Ma frowned at me, but a smile still touched her lips.
“Be nice to your brother.”
“I would be if he wasn’t such a brat.”
Ma smiled and walked over to Pa.
I swung my legs over the fence and landed softly of the dirt. I pulled my bow and quill from my back and carried them to the house. I placed them in the cupboard and pulled on black boots. They were old and dirty. It didn’t matter if they got covered in horse dung.
In the stables my horse, Silver, had her head hanging out the stall. She was nuzzling one of the working dogs. Killer, Pa’s favourite, had the habit of wondering off and making friends. Silver and he seemed to get along.
Silver greeted me with a soft whinny and Killer nudged my leg for a pat. I gave them both a pat before grabbing what I needed. I removed Silver from her stall and let her wonder around the stable. She wouldn’t go far, she might wonder around but she would always come back.
I cleaned out her stall first. I filled the bucket with dirty hay and every time I filled the bucket I would carry it round back and add it to the pile. It took four trips before Silver’s stall was clean. I grabbed some fresh hay and spread it out over the floor and whistled. Silver responded to the whistle and walked back into the stable. She flicked her head at me. I smiled and took her halter and pulled her into her stall. “I know you don’t want to be locked up in here all day,” I said to her. “But rules are rules. Sorry girl.”
She snorted at me and I gave her nose a pat.
The stall next to Silver’s was Gean’s pony. The poor horse didn’t get out much so Pa normally let the pony run free in the fields. Today we didn’t have the time to put her out so she was locked up. I tied Gean’s pony to a hook and cleaned out her stall. I filled the bucket and carried it out to the pile. Pa walked over to me.
“Your mother said you’re not feeling well.”
I frowned. “I’m fine, Pa.”
“You sure?” He looked at me with concern. I told Pa everything and not telling him about Kara felt weird. I wanted to but my fear seemed to be stronger.
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“Okay.” Pa patted my shoulder and walked away. Killer at his feet.
Why couldn’t I just talk to them? A voice in my head kept nagging at me to just do it while another told me not to. I didn't know which to listen to.
By the time I had cleaned the stalls and the tack I was still no closer to deciding what to do. Pa had stopped by to tell me that the first load of trucks would arrive in the morning. The first half of the cattle would be shipped off and the rest the day after. I had always wanted to go with the trucks to see where they took the cattle, or even drive one, but they were driven by soldiers. Soldiers and the wealthy were the only people who drove cars. The rest of us were left to ride horses or walk, I much preferred riding but you couldn’t take a horse everywhere.
Soldiers were often seen driving large four wheel vehicles that could carry up to twenty men. Two in the front and the rest in the back, they were like the trucks they transported cattle in but not as large. The trucks that moved the cattle were tall and made terrible groaning noises. You could always smell a truck before they arrived. The smell of the fumes it ran on was strong with a horrible stench that took hours before the air smelt normal again.
The wealthy were given sleek and flashy vehicles that were often silver. They were long but could only hold five people at the most. I had never seen one though. Vehicles didn't leave the capital, and I had never been to the capital, but I had heard that the wealthy didn't even drive them; they paid someone else to drive them around in it. Talk about lazy. I wouldn’t mind getting a chance at a vehicle but it would almost certainly never happen.
Everyone was asleep. Gean had gone to bed straight after dinner, his face hot with a fever. For once he was actually sick and not lying. Ma and Pa had turned in not long after. I had tried to sleep myself but failed. Instead I went back downstairs and out into the cold night. I wrapped myself in a warm coat and sat down on the porch steps. The air was chilly, but the cold didn't bother me. It never had. Most nights the cold air would help clear my head; whatever was bothering me we work itself out or I could find some sort of peace of mind. It hadn’t worked though. The conversation with Kara kept running through my head.
I looked up at the moon and watched as the clouds slowly swept past it. I sighed. What was I going to do? I needed to talk to my parents.
“I take it you haven’t spoken to your parents yet.”
I jumped. Kara stood beside a tree to the left of the house. Her black coat blended her in with the dark of the night. The only thing you could see was her yellow eyes. “Kara, you scared me.”
She walked closer. “I apologise, I didn’t mean too.”
“It’s all right.” I sat back down on the porch.
Kara sat beside me. “Have you spoken to your parents?”
I shook my head. “No.”
Kara sighed. “Why not? We need to leave soon, Taria.”
I ran my fingers through my hair. “I can’t tell them.”
“Why?” She sounded angry.
“Because they won’t believe me.”
Kara’s tail flipped aggressively. “How do you know?”
“You need to tell them,” she snapped. “I need to know what they know.” Kara stood and paced in front of me.
“They don’t know anything,” I said.
“You don’t know that.”
“And you don’t know if they do.”
She sat back down. Angry slipped from her eyes.“Taria, look. If my kind wasn't in danger, if there was a possibility that you weren’t the girl I have been looking for then I wouldn’t push you on this. But I haven’t found anyone who looks like you or can understand me. The only one who could ever understand me is my bond mate. You are her.”
“Are you sure? Is there even the slightest chance that maybe I have some sort of ability to talk to animals?”
“Have you ever spoken to other animals?”
“Then do you really think that is true?”
“No.” Kara was right. I had to talk to them.
“Why haven’t you spoken to them?”
“Scared of them not believing you?”
I nodded. “Yes.” But that wasn't the only thing. “I don’t want to leave my home. My family. I am terrified of what will happen.”
Kara eyes held sympathy. She clearly knew what it meant to leave her life behind. She had done so to find me. To help her own kind. “I understand, Taria. I do. I can’t force you to do this. This will only work if you decide to help.”
“I just don’t know.”
“I will give you a few more days. When you have an answer for me then come and find me. I will wait by the river until the end of the week. If you haven’t come by then, then I will know your answer.” Kara turned and walked away.
I needed to talk to someone. But I didn't know anyone who would help. I had no choice. I needed to talk to my parents.ns 18.104.22.168da2