The Carriage Driver³ - A Woman Like Me
The street jackels smelled the scent of Lisa, and once they had it, they pursued her. She was little, and she was quick. She found a place to hide and pulled the cloak of fear around her. Things went on like that throughout her school years.
By High School, she had mastered the practice of pulling on a dark mask. She now attracted the hyenas and the boars. Baboons and the wild ass crisscrossed her path. The gazelles wanted nothing to do with her, nor did the impalas.
Lisa’s journals filled with thick-lined drawings of frightened eyes and foreboding gothic doorways revealed her mood. Her MP3 headphones carried the music of A.R.E. Weapons, Neurofunk, and the sounds of Electrosexual. Her wardrobe included a black leather jacket with silver studs, heavy black boots, and dark shapeless pants. Her silkscreened tee-shirt always had the name of some band across the front.
It had been weeks since Captain Griffin Chaffey acquired a fare. Daily he woke and groomed Nuelle. He brushed her coat until it glowed. He took to polishing her hoof’s walls. And he talked with her.
Griffin and Nuelle were walking through the woods together the night of the fall equinox in the grayish moonlight. The roar of mayhem thundered towards them preceded by screams. Footfalls beat the ground and approached with panic.
Lisa stepped into view and seeing Griffin and Nuelle tried to change her course, to avoid her blocked passage. Griffin released his hand from the rein he held. “Come here,” he called, and to Nuelle, he said, “Take her to the oracles.”
Lisa looked back; the jackals were hot after her.
Griffin repeated, in a gentle voice, “Come here.”
She ran to Griffin, who immediately lifted her to Nuelle’s back. Nuelle turned and galloped away into the night. Griffin tucked his hat beneath his belt, found a club and went in the direction of the pursuing jackals.
Nuelle reached the cottage by the river. She managed the gate and entered the yard. First one light appeared in the window, then another. The front door opened. Cameron held a lantern high, seeing Nuelle she stepped through, followed by Jennifer and Julie. They rushed to Lisa and helped her down.
Once they had her inside the cottage, the additional lamplight revealed her torn clothes and the layers of darkness which Lisa found herself.
Julie, with a quick assessment, said, “Let’s take her to the river.” The others agreed, they took her to the edge of the river, they removed their clothing and Lisa’s clothing and immersed themselves. They bathed her; they assessed her wounds.
Jennifer washed away layer after layer of mask applied over many years. When finished with this first aid, the three led Lisa from the river, scooped up their clothing and went to the cottage to dry and continue their treatment.
“Here,” Cameron said, handing a gown belonging to Julie to Lisa. “When you are dry, put this on.”
“Sit here,” Jennifer suggested, “I’ll comb your hair out.”
Lisa sat, and Jennifer gently began to comb out years of anger.
“Pull your gown up above your knees. I need to put dressings on two of the wounds on your legs.” Cameron told her. Julie handed Lisa a cup of fresh tea. She returned with more tea for the rest. Then she saw to the fire.
“Where is Griffin?” Julie said innocently.
“Griffin? Is that his name? He threw me on the back of the beautiful horse, and that is the last I saw of him. I have never seen a man with a more angry look on his face.” Lisa took a sip of her tea. She looked at these three women buzzing around her. The gown she now wore was finely woven and soft against her freshly scrubbed skin. She drew her fingers along the side of her face. Her pores seemed to breathe.
“What happens to you, does not define you.” Jennifer pulled the coarse toothed comb through Lisa’s hair. “You need look no further than Nuelle out in the yard. She has dignity; she is in control of her emotions. Her fierce intelligence sees her through many situations. ”
Lisa sat and listened. “Women are the creators,” Jennifer continued. “They are given many hardships, and they carry their sorrow within them.”
The sound of Jennifer’s voice was soothing, and the gentleness of her hands in her hair was comforting. Lisa’s eyes shut as words like wisdom and passion and spirituality washed over her. She eased into Elysian fields of wavering flowers, her burdens and terrors plummeting away, back to the ground.
When Lisa woke in the morning her hair was braided, interwoven was a garland of flowers. A poultice relieved the pain from the bruises. Her body was powdered and perfumed. A cream applied to her hands made them soft. Her blouse had been mended, her heavy shoes cleaned, her undergarments hung dried on a line, strung near the hearth.
Cameron sat by her side. “How do you feel, dear?” Her voice carried compassion, warmth, and friendship.
Julie, out in the yard, saw to Nuelle’s feeding. She had brushed away the signs of her night ride. Julie’s walk around in the woods turned up no sign of Griffin. She returned to the cottage, as she entered, she said, “Nuelle is ready to take her back.”
Jennifer said, “You can keep the gown if you like it.”
Lisa smiled. She gathered her clothes in a bundle. The girls saw her out. Cameron touched Lisa’s shoulder. When she turned towards her, Cameron lifted her hands and placed a gold chain with a charm of a horse, and put it around Lisa’s neck. “I always felt protected wearing this particular amulet. It always brought me luck.” The two smiled at one another. Jennifer and Julie helped Lisa climb up on Nuelle’s back and waved as she rode off.
Nuelle allowed herself to be guided to Lisa’s home. When they arrived Lisa climbed down, dropping her bundle of clothes to the ground. She wrapped her arms around Nuelle’s neck as a way of thanking her. Lisa picked up the bundle of clothes, walked straight to the waste bin and made her deposit.
Once Lisa was safely home, Nuelle returned to their new quarters where she found Griffin. A coat of wax had been applied to the wood trim of the carriage. The leather seats were clean and bright. The brass lanterns were filled and polished. The carriage was as well tended as any proud station’s fire truck.
Griffin went to Nuelle and led her inside. He gathered his brushes, “I am not sure…” he paused, cutting his thoughts short. “This new location is going to present new challenges.” He took an apple from his pocket, cut it into four pieces. He fed two to Nuelle and ate the rest himself. He began to brush her coat.
Lisa returned to school on Monday morning. She had found some slacks that her mother no longer wore and a fresh white blouse. Her hair was put up and pinned in the back. There was no makeup on her face. There were no masks on her heart. There was a blank journal in her bag. There was confidence in her step. The antelope, puku, and roans turned and looked as she passed. The hyenas, baboons and the wild ass’ cleared out of her way.
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