She resolved not to cry. Not then. Not ever. No matter what he did. He could be mean as he wanted, smash everything into a million little pieces.
“Mustangs are not orange,” her sister said, and wagged her finger at her. They were painting the horse models they’d gotten for Christmas. Her brothers had gotten car models. It was that blank time between Christmas and New Year’s, and they were on their third straight day of twenty below zero. Too cold to play outside so Avis and her siblings were stuck inside, putting models together then running in circles. In between they would gorge on left over ham and Russian teacakes and spritz cookies shaped like pines trees.
“Besides it’s a thoroughbred,” her sister continued. “Can’t you tell the difference? It should be brown with white leggings.”
Her sister waved the box the model came in up in the air as if a whole classroom listened. Avis longed for a mustang, so she had painted her thoroughbred orange and called it a mustang. Mustangs were her favorite horse. All wild and free. Avis blew on the model as if it would dry the paint faster. She lifted the horse model up by its feet to trot it around the house.
“Neigh” she said and trotted by her sister and then her father. She neighed especially long and high, and alternated between loud clicking sounds, and held the horse up high, all proud, because she thought certainly, he would agree her horse looked like a mustang. A mistake though, maybe, neighing to her father. He was an imposing man, given to bouts of darkness but Avis was deep into remembering the Rockies, and the ranch where they camped a summer not so long ago. The one with the boy who took her, and her brothers, and sister horseback riding into the mountains. She was pretending she was riding that horse, imagining those meadows when her father grabbed the model horse out of her hands and threw it toward the garbage can. The mustang landed hard and broke at the neck.
“It’s not a god damn mustang,” he said.
Avis stood quiet until he left. Then picked the horse up and held it tender, neighed quietly, galloped round and round the house and over the hills and far away. She remembered back when she climbed up the round wooden rails of the corral to get on the real horse. Remembered the boy, barefoot and no saddle and the way he turned back to look at them all and grinned before he busted into a gallop. She remembered the moment her horse burst into a gallop. The way she flew through lupine meadow and pine forest, the way all of them, she and her brothers and sister, flew. She remembered grasping at whatever she could to stay in the saddle. Remembered the thunderous pounding. Hooves and dust and her pounding heart. And something else too, just out of sight, or up ahead, or overhead. A glimpse of a world where they could be their own wild selves.
(from a writing challenge – had to include a mustang, a New Year resolution, comfort food, a mountain range, a seventies song, and hope) (was to be 300 words but its more than that )