In which Grace still doesn’t… get the whole were-horse dealie.
Odeon did not make any other excuses for his horse as the evening went on. That made things begin to be… uncomfortable, somehow.
“What’s her name?” Grace smiled up at him later from where they sat munching on apples in the grass. Odeon and the woman leaned up against an apple tree, while their two horses grazed in the distance. A basket of apples he helped her pick sat between them.
“Why does she need a name?”
“Why…? Well, what do you call her?”
“Why do men need to name everything? If she is the horse that I want I go and I get her. When I have her, she knows who I am and I know her…”
“But… you have other horses… when you talk about one of them, how will other people know which one you are referring to?”
Odeon thought it over a moment. “I suppose they would not be entirely sure.”
“No they wouldn’t, and it’s tiresome saying ‘the white mare’ over and over again.”
“I should name her then. She will be Lucy.”
“Lucy? Why Lucy?”
Odeon thought this woman was incredibly stupid, but he kept that opinion to himself.
“Well, it is a name isn’t it?”
“I would have named her snow, or winter, or dove… something like that.”
“Because those things are white?”
“Yes… Lucy is pretty, and convenient, but… don’t you want to put some thought into it first?”
Odeon thought for a moment, but couldn’t think of a better name. She was a lovely creature, and quite enchanting, but so were all the other mares in his herd. Nothing he could think of seemed to fit. He supposed that he did not have a large enough human vocabulary.
“What is a good name for a mare who is kind and gentle, but also fierce for her stallion?”
“My goodness. This is specific. You must love your horses.”
“Why wouldn’t someone love a horse?”
Grace smiled at him. “She sounds like some kind of warrior, the way you put it… I don’t see how something could be gentle and fierce at the same time. And not a lady, either.”
“Tell me, how do women tend to their husbands?”
Grace flinched at the romantic question, but made herself work through being shy. “Women… good women are dutiful, and gentle, like you said, and kind. They take good care of the children and support their husbands in whatever they do.”
“I expect the same from my mares.”
Grace stared at him oddly for a moment. Odeon realized his mistake, and changed the subject.
“Why don’t you find me attractive?”
“I… It was only because we weren’t very well acquainted, in town. I couldn’t very well say the things I wanted in the street. So, you see… I am. You are…” she blushed.
“Well, we are no longer in some street.” Odeon reached for another apple, and watched his horse out of the corner of his eye.
Grace hesitated, but when Odeon looked to her again, something inside of her melted.
“Well, it is not that you are unattractive… you are very, very handsome…” Grace cleared her throat self consciously and went on, “But, you look to be a man of a very high station. Even talking alone here like this—well, my uncle is due back to the orchard soon… I should show you the way back…” she left off the rest.
“What? What difference does my apparent wealth make to you?”
“Since the wars, our family is spread thin. My uncle wants me on this orchard while he moves the other farm. He comes here in the evenings. It is unusual for a lone woman to manage, I know, but soon it’s going to be mended. And, there’s Jerald, a boy who helps me from time to time… It will all be mended in another week. But I shouldn’t be telling you all this, how I am alone.” Now, she did get up. “My goodness, why did I let you in here with me?”
Odeon laughed at her.
“Please, excuse me if I was rude, for you to be rude to me now, in exchange.”
“No, it’s not a matter of etiquette, Grace. You risk your chance with me, challenging my choice to be here with you. Do you mean to convince me of what you believe, that you are not worthy of me?”
Grace just opened her mouth and stared. Odeon did not like the expression, it made her look wholly unattractive and he was beginning to feel that she was right about his reasons for being with her.
“I… I think you should go.”
Odeon watched her sideways.
“Go. This is uncomfortable all of a sudden, please do go!”
Odeon stood, taking care to manage each of his two legs, one at a time. Then, he looked down at Grace. His white mare, who had been grazing, inserted herself in their hug, and could have knocked Grace over by nuzzling her hard in the shoulder.
“Get out!” Grace screamed and shooed both of them. Then, the woman ran across her own field. Odeon waited patiently as he watched her flee from him. Grace tripped and fell a few times in her rush, but eventually, she made it to her cottage, and closed the door. Odeon sniffed the air and listened. Nothing.
“We’ll be back tomorrow… Milk.”
“I don’t like that name.” said his horse.
Odeon stroked his smooth chin thoughtfully. “Well, Jasper was named by a human, but I suppose in the end he did choose his own name. What would you like to be called, love?”
“Radiance. I have heard this word before in my travels… my old master would look to me and say this with his arms spread out.”
“Like this?” Odeon stretched his arms out wide with the embellishment of embracing a lost lover.
“Yes, Master. That is exactly how he did it.” And Radiance chewed at Odeon, and nudged him forward, threatening to knock him down too, until he laughed and agreed.
“That is good, then. Grace will be happy to hear that you have a name tomorrow. I will have to tell her that I named you, however.”
Radiance nodded her approval, tossing her long wild mane all over the place.
“As for you,” Odeon turned to the young bay mare still grazing a few feet away in the grass. She looked up curiously. “You are far too young and impulsive to join us. Perhaps if you grow more wise… you are cute afterall, but Matriarch Cirra does not like cute. That won’t stop us playing together, however, if you desire it.”
Confused, the bay mare staggered back a few steps. Radiance charged after her, and the little horse galloped away.
When Odeon and Radiance returned the next day, a few crows came and sat in the trees above them. Odeon laughed and waved at them, but then looked around for Grace.
Radiance found Grace before he did. Grace was startled to see the big white mare wandering around riderless, and thought to run inside, but her master was nowhere to be found. Grace was fascinated by the beautiful horse, and silly as she was, followed her around, unsuspecting that she would lead the unwitting woman to her master. Radiance trotted far across her property, trying to be inconspicuous by stopping every now and then to munch on some grass and apples. The bay mare Daisy kept a wary eye on Radiance and kept her distance, even when Grace called her over.
“What a stupid horse,” Grace muttered to herself, frustrated. Radiance neighed her agreement.
Finally, they came to the shade trees around the pond on Grace’s land. Radiance lowered her graceful neck to the water’s edge and took a long drink.
Grace cringed at the familiar voice.
“Hello sir,” she said timidly.
“Please don’t run into your house. I want to apologize for scaring you yesterday. It was rude of me.”
“I accept your apology then, sir. I didn’t know you were here… where are you?”
Odeon waved to her from the water. Grace gasped. He was swimming naked in her pond.
“What sense have you! You perverted man!”
“What does perverted mean?” Odeon began swimming toward her. “Why don’t you join me? The water is cool on a hot day like this.”
“How dare you! I will do no such thing… and I have not invited you to my property.”
Odeon sighed. What complex creatures female humans are!
“Alright, I give up. What do women want?”
Grace was horrified. She folded her arms across her chest.
“I’ll admit to my motivations. I am trying to impress you. I like something about you, but I am not exactly sure what that is. I would like to get closer to you so that I can figure it out.”
Grace didn’t know whether she should be offended or charmed by this awkward man.
“Who are you?”
Odeon got dressed again, and leaned against one of her shade trees as he explained it to her. Radiance idled in the field nearby keeping an eye on both the human woman and the equine one.
“I find myself rich, and very curious about the world. I would also like to find a nice woman to spend some time with.”
“Oh.” Grace said simply to his fantastic story about coming into wealth and adventuring in far off places. It was an alias Odeon had carefully woven over the course of several years, as he perfected the art of being human.
“Are you looking for a wife then?” Grace clutched the bark of the tree nervously.
Odeon stared at her. “I understand now.”
“What do you understand?” Grace smiled hopefully, but Odeon did not return the kindness.
He paced around a little bit, pondering his situation. Then, he came to a conclusion.
“I suppose… you have a great deal at risk if you get involved with me. You haven’t any men to protect you, have you? And, I am not offering you marriage.”
Grace frowned almost instantly.
“Then what are you doing here with me then?”
Odeon looked her over. Something about her was intriguing, though he found her a difficult, and boring woman.
“You must be beautiful.”
“Is there any way at all… that I could see you without your dress?”
“Oh no! No, don’t ever come back here! I mean it!” and with that, she ran back across the field to her house. Again.
Odeon exhaled, frustrated.
“Why are you wasting your time with her? She is not exceptional in any way.” Radiance came trotting back over to him.
“Is your need of sex so great? I could oblige you…”
“You are not a human woman. I am too curious… I cannot rest until this urge is sated. Never before have I been denied.”
“She is unwilling.”
“That is of little consequence in the animal kingdom.”
“Master, females who mate unwillingly resent it later… this will be your first human contact in the world… do you wish it to go so poorly?”
Odeon thought it over. “You are right… so far she has been strong enough to elude me. That strength must count for something. There may be a lesson in this.”
Radiance shook her head impatiently. “And we will return tomorrow?”
“Yes. Remember, you are my protection. This is nothing personal.”
Odeon looked up to see the crows from earlier circling above their heads.
“The crows mock you, master.”
“They are right to. This female makes me look foolish.”