If you enjoyed Matilda's Run, keep reading for a sneak peak at my upcoming WIP...
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Sam stared out over the paddock. It was lush for this time of year, and she watched as the sheep grazed; puffs of white against a field of green, their fleeces still thin from shearing. It was that fleece that kept the farm at Grandview running, Sam knew. That, as well as the prime Hereford cattle that had been bred here for even longer than the sheep. But it was fine merinos that Grandview had become famous for, and it supplied plenty of funds for the estate’s far more important ventures.
Sam bent down and stroked the neck of the horse she was riding, a fine thoroughbred mare that had won many races in her time. It seemed an indulgence to spend such a lavish amount on a well-bred animal simply to ride her around the fields, but Sam had simply had to have her, and she was proving to be a calm and sensible mount, and brave in a hunt.
Grandview had another purpose, besides producing wool and beef, and that was the rehabilitation of returned soldiers and their families. It had been some years since the estate’s owner and now Sam’s friend, Matilda Bryce, had used her inheritance - Grandview - to help those displaced by the war, and life had settled somewhat on that front. No longer were there new faces turning up at the imposing sandstone gates every week, as life moved on and people found ways to heal. Indeed, some days, out here in these fields, Sam could almost convince herself that the war had never happened. Until she looked at the faces of men she passed in the street, and saw the familiar weariness behind their eyes of a fight that would never truly leave them. Until she gave riding lessons to the local children, and had to remind herself that they no longer had a father to go home to. Until she went to sleep at night, and dreamed of horrible things.
Sam had been a nurse in New Guinea during the war, and coming to Grandview was as much a blessing to her as a chance for employment. Helping people was in her bones, it seemed… but there were less and less people needing her help these days.
At least the horses still needed her.
Matilda hadn’t wanted to sell off the stable of fine horses her Great Aunt had acquired over the years, even though she herself did not live on the estate to ride them, so she had hired Sam to run the stables and keep the horses in work. The horses had proved useful in many of their cases over the years, and given her nursing background, Sam had fallen easily into the role of mentor for the workers they took in. They did not like to call them patients. She nudged the horse into a canter now as they made their way back to the stables.
Sam had started up a pony club of sorts that ran on the grounds of the estate. A few weekends a month, many of the children in the district brought their ponies out to Grandview, or borrowed one if they had none of their own, and a jolly good time was had. Sam would teach them how to care for their animals, as well as the more exciting things such as jumping and mounted games. The summer heat was piercing, so they’d broken up for the year before Christmas, and Sam missed it. She closed her eyes against the thought and gulped. She could hardly wait until the children all came back in a few weeks’ time to start back up for the year.
She thought about the children as she cooled the horse down and led her back to her stall. Their dear little faces and their giggling, sparkling eyes when they popped over a log or ducked their head into the water trough to bob for apples. Smiling children, happy children… even in their worst moments she loved them. For the briefest of moments, as they always did when she let it, her thoughts wandered to another child, with shining eyes and rosy pink cheeks. A child that did not exist. A flicker of sorrow crossed her brow, until the horse pressed her muzzle into her hand and smoothed it away. It was an ill wind, Sam knew, that whispered with fortunes forever untold.
At least today was relatively cool. A soft breeze blew from the south, bringing with it a welcome change from the sweltering, bursting heat of the summer months. Sam hated it. As long as it was dry, she could cope well enough, but the humidity gave her sweats that had nothing to do with the temperature in the air. Her collar clung around her neck, slick with the memories that oozed from her skin.
But this was a time for happier things, and she and the world must look to the future. The war was long gone, and the children she taught and doted on had filled her life with joy. Sam must hold onto that, she thought, and hope that the nightmares would never plague any of the children whose dear little faces turned up to the sun.
Sam trunched across the lawn back towards the house, her stomach grumbling heavily. Cook had roasted one of the young cockerels yesterday, and she hoped there might still be some leftover. How Cook got the birds so tender, Sam would never know, flavoured with hints of rosemary and apple, and other secrets that Cook would never share. Even the thought of cold leftovers was enough to make Sam’s mouth water.
The house was alive with activity as Sam reached the side entrance, and she swallowed a another gulp. She’d almost managed to forget the party.