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…no apologies, no comments, it is what it is.

“Wow, you’ve been through a lot,” David exhaled as the car reached the end of the dirt driveway.

“Crazy, isn’t it?” Jessica stopped the car, and Dinah stirred from her place on Jessica’s lap, where she had napped the entire drive.  Jessica undid her seatbelt and cradled Dinah under her right arm like a football.  “It was weird at first, not being able to Shift, but then I realized that I couldn’t keep trying to be something that I’m not. And eventually I didn’t need to. Charley taught me that. Here, I want you to meet him.”

They stepped out of the car and she led the way past several buildings and fenced paddocks, greeting a few stray dogs and donkeys in the yard, until they reached the edge of an open field. There were a few dozen horses scattered throughout the field, munching on grass or contemplating equine mysteries. A large bay cut away from the herd as soon as Jessica stopped walking and made a beeline for her and David.

She offered her hand for the bay to sniff, but Charley had other ideas. He ambled leisurely toward David and firmly hip-checked him. For the first time since he had seen her that day, Jessica tensed and Dinah curled up defensively with a soft hiss.

“Hey,” she said sternly. “Be nice. We have a guest.” As she said it, she realized the problem was hers, that for all her supposed detachment she still wanted to get into David’s emotional space and gauge his response to her, just as Charley was imposing on his physical space and waiting for his reaction.

David stood his ground, however, and pushed against Charley’s flank to steady himself. The horse snorted in surprise and Jessica knew she had to regain control over her intentions. She breathed in and wiggled her toes in her boots, tensing then relaxing the muscles of her legs from the ankles to where they met her body. I am me and no one else. I am here and nowhere else.

As she did this, Charley turned toward her and pushed his muzzle under her chin. She scratched behind his ears and whispered, “I am here. Thank you.” Pulling back a bit, she held Dinah up for Charley’s inspection.

“Charley, this is Dinah. We’ve been waiting for her, haven’t we?” The kitten looked ludicrously small beside Charley’s enormous head. The horse stood stock still as the kitten stretched a paw toward his face, then relaxed as Dinah withdrew.  She mewed in protest as Charley blew a whuff of air in her face.

Jessica smiled at them and tucked Dinah into her half-zipped sweatshirt. “I guess these two—well, all three of us, really—need to get acquainted.”  Bracing herself against Charley’s withers, she swung herself lightly onto his back. He started gently, and she patted his neck soothingly.  “Hey, hey, it’s still me.” She turned to David. “You coming?”

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