Riding horses brought Maggie peace. Manson was more of a friend than any human ever could be. Her parents would not understand her naming the horse after an alternative rocker, but there was something about the black and white coloration of his face and how his eyes grew large and wild sometimes that reminded her of pictures of Marilyn Manson. As Maggie and Manson made their way through the valley she was finally able to relax. It had been a long week, dealing with her parents, packing for college, telling all the humans in her life goodbye. This was her goodbye to Manson. Going to college a million miles away meant that her daily rides would be no more. It would be Thanksgiving before she would see the horse again. She had prepared written instructions for her younger brother to follow and she was going over those in her head to make sure she did not miss anything. Because she was not paying attention, she was caught completely off guard as Manson reared up and politely tossed her from the saddle.
Maggie laid on her back, eyes closed, trying to catch her breath. She was doing a mental assessment of whether she was completely intact or if anything was broken. When she felt the shadow across her face she opened her eyes with a start. The man loomed above her, the bright sun blinding her so he looked like a fuzzy shadow. “Are you ok?” She struggled to sit up, “Yes, I think so.How?…What are you…? Where did you…?” Her inability to communicate effectively with the humans was apparent. He interrupted her, “I was hiking. Trying to get in the scenery before I leave for school. Making a fresh memory.” He had a look of nostalgia as his glance went to the landscape, taking in the mountains. It was then that Manson decided that he no longer wanted to share Maggie’s time and nudged the stranger as if to say, “my turn”. Maggie’s eyes narrowed an in her best Charlton Heston voice said, “Get your hands off him, you damned dirty horse!” Giggling to herself because of feeling clever and add to that they quizzical look of the stranger. “Planet of the Apes reference.” He smiled, “Ohhh”. He stuck his hand out and helped Maggie to her feet, she dusted off her backside and reached for Manson’s reins. “My name is Kevin.” He stuck his hand out to shake Maggie’s. When she took his hand she looked up into his eyes and realized what an amazing blue they were. Instantly her face flushed, “I’m Maggie. Did you say you were leaving for school? So am I.I will be a freshman at XXXX.” He looked at her with an air of being impressed, “Nice. I go to XXXX. I spent the summer with my Aunt this year. It is a beautiful place here. I have enjoyed getting out into the outdoors and some alone time.” She looked at her feet and mumbled, “Sorry to interrupt that for you.” Then it was his turn, his ruddy complexion went red as he smiled and looked away. “It is a nice distraction.” After a pause, “Would you like to walk with me for a while.” Maggie was amazed that, for once, she was not coiling away from the humans, that she was eager to know more about this stranger. “Yes.” She took Manson’s reins and walked in front of the horse, Kevin at her side.