Love, radiance and birdsong…
It was a rainy day when Odeon surprised Grace next. She was busy picking apples, and saw him waving at her from afar. He was drenched. She was tempted to run, but even from at her distance, she could tell that he was shivering. Against her better judgment, she invited him inside.
“Where is your horse on this day? What is her name again?”
“Her name is Radiance.” Odeon smiled. “We decided on it after visiting you the first time—she just couldn’t stand not having a name like your horse.”
And the elegant white mare came galloping across the field then. She kicked and danced, then marched up directly behind Odeon, who hadn’t turned his head through any of the spectacular display. As if, near mythical creature or not, he’d seen it all from Radiance before…
“Yes, Daisy has… a good name. But yours is beautiful, Radiance.”
Radiance let her muzzle be painted, then danced out of Odeon’s grasp a little, pleased at her ability to be so charming, she could get treated as well as any talking sort of animal.
“Where is Daisy?” Odeon asked, as Grace helped him inside, and near to the fire. She added logs to it and stoked it so that the flames rose after a time. She put a blanket around her guest’s shoulders. Odeon nodded intimately, for Radiance not to come inside the house. She was pounding her hooves against the bottom of the door from outside.
“Daisy is a dumb carthorse who won’t stay in her stall this morning, though I keep tying her in there… so she wants to go out in the rain?”
“Usually, the rain doesn’t hurt horses.” Odeon sneezed. “Oh, or maybe she sensed Radiance and myself coming back to visit you another time… our mares don’t get along, I fear.”
“How do you know?”
“Your Daisy tried to follow us home the first time we visited—after you ran screaming across the field, into your house, you silly thing—Radiance ran her down and had Daisy pinned on her back. After that, those mares, well, just Daisy, really, she avoids my Radiance.”
“And then your white mare was kicking my door… I’ve never seen a female thing so jealous, Lamont.”
Odeon was startled that Grace had got it exactly, though she only seemed to make use of half that thought, “Yes, ours is a powerful friendship. Radiance is also my protection.”
Grace just nodded, giddy, through that.
Grace later got lost at interesting points in their conversation. Odeon learned that Grace could pick up on human things—social things, etiquette, feelings, very well. But beyond that she didn’t really have good… well, horse-sense about the way of the world. For, villains did exist. He knew this because he was one.
After sipping old cider that made him feel funny, they stopped dull conversation and listened to the fire for a while.
“I admit… I am flattered that you keep coming to see me. At first, I thought you meant me harm.”
“I mean you no harm.”
Grace nodded politely. “I know that now. You know, I don’t believe what you told me earlier, about where you are from. You are not from around here at all… I don’t think you know the way we do things around here.”
Odeon smiled at her, and wrapped the blanket tighter around himself.
“Doesn’t it rain where you are from?”
“… No.” Odeon answered carefully. It was just that he never suffered from the rain before. He sneezed.
“You’re catching cold. Next time, you should wear a cloak, or else stay out of the rain. And where is Radiance, when you go on those long walks, like you did today? Why don’t you ride her? Do you honestly walk ahead while she plays around like that?”
Odeon flinched. He’d forgotten about that, how humans always rode their horses if they could manage it. He’d wanted to enjoy the feel of walking on two legs this morning. “Well, sometimes, she does irritate me. So, I try to leave her at home.” It was a lie. Radiance was most certainly always within earshot.
“Radiance is a free horse, she doesn’t do what she is told… And how, could you… tell her? As if words could really force a creature, ever.”
“Wait–and you walked all the way here!”
“It is not too far… a good walk, but an enjoyable one.” He beamed, “I find I like using my two legs.”
“Well, I have one last question, then I will stop being so impolite, Lamont, and leave you to relax.”
“When you said yesterday, that you do not offer me marriage… I understood that because we hardly know each other. But, what are your goals then? Do you need a friend, Lamont?”
Odeon smiled. This woman amused him. She deftly avoided the obvious. And, he’d forgotten the name he gave her to use.
“Why do you fear being with me if I do not wish to marry you?”
“Well, it’s not respectable for a man—”
“Who says it’s not respectable? What does that matter to us? You are a woman, I am a man. I’ve implied that we are neighbors. We fit together. Aren’t you curious?”
“I don’t know you… what if I—”
“There is that risk.” Odeon finished up for her. Procreation was… procreation after all.
“Besides… I want to be in love, married.”
“What does it mean to be in love?”
“Well…” Grace sat on a bench across from him. She looked at the little fire she was using to dry his clothes and thought. “Love is when the birds sing for you, and the sun shines for you and that person alone. It’s the most wonderful feeling in the world, to be so close to someone. You can depend on that person for anything. They’ve got love, where you’re from, don’t you?”
Odeon wanted to shut his eyes at her, when it should’ve been so obvious, but it was working in his favor, after all. “Yes, I can protect you.”
Grace froze. It felt like a declaration of some kind, but she was confused. She was sure Lamont said he had no intention of making a commitment.
“You look to be strong… I am sure that you can. But, for how long? I would like to find a man who will protect me for the rest of my life.”
Odeon looked down at the wooden floor between his feet. “I suppose I see your point. I cannot promise you that.”
“Lamont… you are a mystery to me. I feel… so many things for you. Honestly, that is why I welcomed you into my home. I am also curious about you. I’m… I’m not sure that we can do what you are thinking, and just walk away from it.”
“I will be in the area, there is no need to walk away.”
“But… I don’t want it to be like that. I don’t want you to walk away. I like you.”
Odeon looked at her for a long time. Something about her bust and hips mesmerized him. He didn’t know what…
And then he was breathing again, after having kissed her. “Would it really be so terrible…” he heard himself saying between kisses.
“No…” Grace conceded at last.
And the rest was not unfamiliar. It left them glad and in one another’s arms, on the floor.
“Will you come tomorrow?” Grace asked, hugging Odeon. He smiled and laughed that he would. Then, “You’ll like my Uncle. When he’s finally returned, then I can introduce you.” Odeon yawned out of a frown, then mumbled something incoherent.
The next day, Odeon trotted Radiance along the line of apple trees closest to Grace’s house. Eventually, the sound awakened Grace and she leaned clear out of her bedroom window.
“My, don’t you look lovely this morning? And, isn’t this the first day of the rest of your life?” he called to her.
Radiance grunted her disproval. Odeon pinched the mare’s haunches with his heels.
“Thank you Lamont. What are you doing riding out here so early? Just to see me?”
“I have a surprise for you.” He waved his arm out in front of him indicating the line of trees.
“I’m not sure that I see what you are pointing at? Those are just my apple trees.”
Then, Odeon gave the signal, a mere wave of his hand, and countless songbirds roosting in the treetops burst into song.
It was then that Grace fell in love with the man who was not a man.