I don't know where this came from, but it's for Tasha.


The white pony stands patiently under an apple tree in the whirl and sing of snowflakes falling on an empty orchard. His blunt, shaggy head hangs heavy to the ground. Snow dusts the branches overhead and blankets the pony's back, whiter than white. He snorts and shivers, shakes the whitey-grey mane.

The sky is silver and the snow is white, and the pony is worn white, like old lace, and the trees are grey.

Falling snow muffles the crunch of boots to the gate. The old white pony raises his head. His eyes, opened, are blind grey jewels, star-framed, snowflakes melting on the lashes. He has been waiting for the girl who comes with the dawn and the sweet, bright, crisp red apple. She is here every morning, although she knows it is a dream.

The girl closes the gate and tramps through snow to the pony's side. She offers the apple and weaves her hands in the silver-white mane. The white pony arches his neck and breathes diamonds into the snow-bright


outside her window swirls and sparkles, winter morning white.

She wakes with the morning silver light at her window. Dresses, stumbles down the stairs. The old black dog is asleep in the kitchen, breathing heavily in a way that reminds the girl there will not be many more mornings like this. She murmurs a name and the dog raises her head. The girl smiles sadly and whispers kind things as the dog struggles to her feet. Slowly they walk to the door and the girl and her dog step out into early morning silence and gold light.

The morning is dark-bright, colder than stars. The girl bends, picks up the dog, and sways desperately. She is sixteen and slight, and the old black labrador is heavy with the horrid thing that is draining her, eating her alive from the inside out. The girl carries her gently and awkwardly down the stairs, terrified of falling.

On the ground again the girl sobs out a flurry of stars, listens to the slow crunch of her boots in the snow and watches her dog falter along on unseen ice. Her fur is thin and falling out in patches, and her eyes are always empty-dark with pain and the hunger her body is deceived into believing, and more than anything else, she will never run again. The girl dashes stars out of her eyes and looks up.

At the end of the street, a unicorn is standing patiently in the gold pool of light from the streetlamp. It arches its neck and breathes diamonds into the snow-bright air.

She knows the unicorn is there under the streetlamp. That is not the kind of question she has ever needed to ask. But there is not always time for unicorns, she thinks as she weaves her hands in the ruff of dark fur at her dog's neck. She takes one last look at the star-tipped silver horn and the heartbreakingly lovely white silhouette, and she turns the corner, heading home. The unicorn can wait.