With cash in hand for the week’s gallops, Lilith walked to the corner store and bought two boxes of cereal for herself, a half gallon of milk, a six pack of off brand soda, a box of cat food and a bag of cat litter. Trudging back to the track, Lilith thought about what her note to Ann Garrison might say.
On her right, traffic whizzed by at a dizzying pace. On on her left was the wall of the Los Angeles arboretum. Lilith had never been brave enough to visit inside but she could see the tops of the trees over the wall. They swayed in the light breeze and Lilith paused to watch and sway with them.
“C’mon, get in.” A crusty voice surprised her. She looked to see Roxy Ayers parked on Colorado Blvd leaning across the passenger seat and yelling at Lilith. Lilith shrunk, still stung from Roxy’s insults.
“Get your ass in this car before I cause a wreck. You can’t just wander around here slugging all those groceries around. Get in and I’ll drive you back to the track.”
Not knowing what else she could do, Lilith pushed her way into the shabby car trying to gingerly nudge the empty cigarette and chewing gum packages from the passenger seat. She couldn’t suppress a gasp of surprise as Roxy gunned the engine as soon as Lilith had closed the door.
“Sorry about yelling at you this morning. I’m working for that fucker Keenan and he’s always got me in a bad mood. You did a nice job of managing that skinny little gray this morning. He’s sore as a wedding poke and wringy too and you galloped him nice and slow. I know you gallop a few for that old man, but we are going to need some help in Keenan’s barn – want to get on a few?”
Lilith stammered. Words would not come, her body twisted and she thought about springing out of the car but she knew she wouldn’t have time to gather the food she’d bought and still run away and mama cat needed to eat. Her thoughts were jumbled and she fought to make what she’d always heard was “small talk.” Something that would take the pressure off of Lilith needing to answer.
“How-how is Ah, Ann doing?” Lilith took a deep breath, relieved to have made a statement.
“Look here. It talks!” Roxy exhaled smoke through the driver’s side window. “You know, some people think you can’t talk at all.”
“I can talk.” Lilith answered.
“But you don’t and that’s why I like you. Too many people talk all the time. Too much bullshit. Nobody listens and I get the idea that you listen to a lot.
“I like to listen to music.” Lilith exhaled.
“Yeah.” Roxy answered looking sidelong at Lilith who was leaning towards the passenger window, hands wringing the plastic bags holding her groceries. “Listen, I gotta go over to Ann’s house and check on her. She’s supposed to come home from the hospital today. Want to come?
“Don’t panic, I’m not kidnapping you. Yes, right now. We won’t be gone long and then I’ll take you back to the track. You’re staying above barn 101 right?”
Lilith visibly jumped and pulled the groceries closer. “Don’t be so jumpy, I’m staying above barn 104 and I’ve seen you head upstairs. We gallop girls have to stick together you know. It’s rough out there by ourselves.”
“I – I thought you were married to a trainer and lived in some big house around here.”
“Tony? He was my boyfriend, but he’s an asshole and I’d rather have a tack room all to myself than to live with a know-it-all asshole. You know?”
“Yeah.” Lilith forced a laugh because it seemed like a sound she should make at this point in the conversation. She found herself having the first conversation with another person she could remember having.
“What’s Ann like?” Lilith ventured.
“Ann? Well, she’s one of us. Crazy bitch who just wants to ride horses more than anything and pretends she doesn’t hurt when she does.[ how do i write an autistic character who is smart, strong and her resolution is NOT that she becomes less autistic but that her unique world view actually improves the lives of the neurotypicals around her? If Ann rejects her, then Roxy school her (love Roxy) and maybe both jude and enrique – who is the key to unlocking who raped her see her for her special gift with horses then she is a special kind of sage. what else is special about Lilith the Night Owl? ]
Unconsciously, Lilith rubbed her sore hip.
“If it’s okay, can you just drop me off at my barn? There’s something I need to do.” Lilith felt a surge of energy to write her note to Ann.
“Suit yourself. But are you going to gallop a couple for us tomorrow? Be at the barn at 8:45 after you finish for that old man?”
Lilith began to sweat. Galloping for Jude Keenan meant working in the same barn as Him.
“Hello? C’mon. I’ll put you on a couple of easy ones. Don’t worry.” Roxy’s car pulled up to barn 101. Lilith gathered her groceries and sprang out her mind racing for something to say to end the conversation.
“Sure.” She heard herself say before she rushed up the steps the the safety of her room, mama cat ,and her kittens.
She closed the door and locked it. She placed the desk chair against the door and threw herself onto the cot with the kittens.
He heart raced but a smile spread across her face. Was it possible she had a friend? Would Ann Garrison be her friend as well? What would Ann be like as a friend? Could she show them the kittens? What would they think?She didn’t know if she would show up to ride horses in Jude Keenan’s barn tomorrow morning. The thought put a giant burning pit in her stomach. But the possibility that she’d be working with Roxy was delicious.
He would be in the barn. How could she be in the same barn with the man who raped her? She’d seen him around, heard his loud drunken and cruel laugh. He was the one who loaded that brown horse in the trailer the other night.
Could she tell Roxy? What would Roxy do? What if Roxy laughed at her? Lilith replayed Roxy’s bawdy laugh in her head and it terrified her.
She needed a plan. She needed to visit Roxy in her room. She said she lived above barn 104 but there were eight rooms above the barn and which one would be hers?
Tonight she would visit. And maybe she would be able to tell, to smell to discern which room was Roxy’s. Maybe she could find a place to hide and watch Roxy go up the stairs and wait to see which room lighted up. Then she would know.
Lilith curled on her side around mama cat and the kittens and drifted off to sleep with a smile on her face.