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‘Am I dead?’
‘What are you?’
He looked down at himself in surprise. ‘I’m a horse!’
We regarded each other for a while.
‘Why are you here?’
‘To be your friend.’
This seemed too good to be true and I refused to let myself believe it. Friends were not something I had.
‘How did you get in here? Can horses climb stairs?’
‘I can go anywhere you go. Because I’m your friend.’
I sat back down on the bed and stared at him. He was right. He was a horse. He was the most beautiful horse I’d ever seen. And certainly the biggest. He was golden and glowed slightly in the lamplight. His mane was long and cream, as was his gently swishing tail. His forelock hung between his ears, slightly obscuring a white star on his forehead and two very large, dark eyes.
He twitched his ears and shifted his weight slightly. I had a sudden vision of enormous piles of horse poo all over Aunt Julia’s expensive gleaming wooden flooring.
He snorted. I got the impression he was laughing and it was funny, but I was still trying to get to grips with an enormous golden horse in my bedroom and a so-far-uncompleted suicide attempt. I was therefore actually feeling a little bit aggrieved at the interruption. Suicide is a big thing.
‘I think we both know the answer to that one.’
‘Have you come to stop me?’
‘I don’t have to,’ he said, calmly. He lowered his head and began to examine the contents of my bookcase.
‘Why don’t you have to stop me? You can’t, you know. I’m going to do this.’
He turned back from the bookcase. ‘No, you’re not.’
‘You can’t stop me,’ I said, trying not to sound petulant.
‘Jenny, let’s not start off with an argument. You can say anything you like to me. In fact, I wish you would. All I ask is that you’re truthful with me. If you lie to me then you’re lying to yourself.’
I was angry. ‘I want you to go away.’
‘No, you don’t.’
‘I do. Go away. You’re frightening me.’
‘No, I’m not.’
‘I’ll call my uncle.’
‘And tell him – what?’
That stopped me. I’d already had more than my fair share of ‘doctor’s appointments’. The last thing I needed was to bounce downstairs announcing there was an enormous talking horse in my bedroom.
‘Jenny,’ he said, gently. ‘Pick up the packets and throw them all out of the window.’
‘No,’ I said, clutching them to me.
‘You’re not going to do this.’
‘I am. I am.’
‘No, you’re not.’
‘You don’t know that. How do you know that?’
‘Because you’ve done your homework.’
‘You’ve done your homework for Monday. It’s over there. An essay on Julius Caesar, two pages of German translation, and what looks like … yes … a page of simultaneous equations. You’ve got the second one wrong, but all the others are right. Well done.’
I stopped dead, wrestling with the implications. He was right. I had done my homework. Even though I’d planned to kill myself on Sunday night I’d done my homework for Monday. And now, as I looked around the room, I could see my stuff ready for Monday. My uniform would be hanging in the wardrobe. My shoes were cleaned and ready. I told you I was thorough. I tried to think about what this meant and ended by bursting into tears.
I heard him move across the room towards me. His breath was warm and comforting in my hair. I could smell ginger biscuits again. He stood between me and the door. My shield against the world.
‘It’s all right,’ he said, gently. ‘It really is all right, Jenny. You just wait and see.’
I wiped my nose on my sleeve. ‘Why are you here? Why me?’
I never forgot his reply.
‘Because, Jenny, you’re special.’
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