Bryson urged the horse into a quicker pace, and settled into the rolling canter. It felt good to be here, to get away from everyone else. He settled a callused hand on the horse's smooth and sweaty withers. It was almost as if that simple touch connected him fully with this graceful creature. With every breath the sturdy mare took he filled his own lungs until they were fit to burst. The contact between horse and rider allowed him to be free, to go racing over the hills and meadows.
A glance up showed an obstacle ahead, a small stream, normally only a trickle, but quickly swelling from the pounding rain. Bryson's heart filled with joy as he felt the mares muscles tighten and bunch, then stretch as she made the jump. The pair of them seemed to soar, as did his spirits. They landed hard, jarring the young dark haired man back to reality. Intense, sudden pain flared up again, causing him to pull back on the reins to recover. They remained still, while Bryson gathered his thoughts and composure.
This was not the first time he had experienced such pain, and he doubted the sharp ache would ever leave him. As much as he had hoped and dreamed, he would never be able to run, to feel the ground solidly impact his feet in a steady beat. His left leg was twisted, grossly malformed. Bryson's constant companion was his walking stick, firmly and beautifully polished. It was made with the gentle, loving hands of his brother, but he still despised it.
When he looked at the burnished wood, all he saw was the life he could have known. A trade, even one where his legs weren't required, had been impossible for him to learn. No one wanted a cripple to do their things. It was as if the illness that cost him his leg made him totally deficient of doing anything else. For heaven's sake, his mind and hands were sound!
Hadn't he proven it time after time? The way he helped his young nephew learn to ride, and taught his nieces their numbers and letters, didn't that count? It may not be a tangible job that earned him his keep everyday, but its rewards were just as great, if not greater. He had thought and remained still, but the position of his legs in the stirrups was still causing him discomfort. So Bryson dismounted slowly, and eased himself down onto his good leg. He mustn't over tire himself, or his horse. At least that was what he had been reminded over and over again.
He forced himself to relax, hearing the angry thunder nearing closer and closer. Rain fell in sheets over him, but he made no move to find cover amidst the grove of trees around him. It was almost as if the rain was draining him of all the emotion he had kept inside for five long years since the accident. He dropped the reins and the horse stood beside him, loyal as always. Bryson tilted his head back, letting the rain pound mercilessly over his body. His dark brown hair was pasted to his face, and for the first time in what felt like forever, the young man was content.
Yes, content described his emotions well. He was in his element, away from the judges, whispered words and stares. The rain, unlike the rest of society, had no care for things of the world. Whether you were healthy or ill, joyful or sad, the rain would keep falling. It would always fall, and the immense beauty of something so untouched filled Bryson. Just for that moment, he wanted to reach out to the rain, to hold it and keep it for his own, as his anchor to this bliss.
But that was not possible, and never would be. He would be mocked and ridiculed for the rest of his life, until he passed on into death. Passed. It was such a gentle word used to mask a horrid subject. The euphemism seemed to project just moving on, going into the next stage. Well, not for Bryson. Death was a thing he had faced many times in the past five years, and he knew that it was more than the next scene. It was the end of the show. No curtain call, no encore, no second chances.
A sudden crack of thunder frightened the poor mare, and Bryson realized that he had neglected his soaking mount, not to mention himself. He made a sound from deep within his throat, as if apologizing to the horse. She nickered feebly in reply, nudging his arm with her head. The young man mounted with little trouble, and nudged his placid mare forward. The mud caught at her hoofs, creating large sucking sounds whenever she freed herself from its grip. After a moment, Bryson realized that it would take to long this way.
He stopped her and dismounted, shoving the pain aside to concentrate. He ignored his own, mud splattered clothing and untied his walking stick from the saddle. Bryson extended his arm, looking for some ground where they wouldn't sink knee deep into the mud. Upon finding it, he moved on, leading the quivering mare as he went. Amused, the young cripple realized that she was frightened by the blowing winds and the rolling thunder. It was a funny thing, he thought, that what one man loved could be a terror to something else.
The going was slow and hard. Bryson was now completely soaked, as was his bay mount. From time to time he would stop to wring the water out of his sopping clothing. Thought he was drenched, he didn't really care any longer. All that mattered was getting home. He fell to a rhythm now, finding good ground and cautiously moving on. It wasn't long, he figured, until they would be back at the stables.
He was correct, as he usually was. Within the span of ten minutes, the outline of buildings was visible through the thick mist that accompanied the rain. Bryson pulled the quivering mare under the cover of the stables, looking out over the forest they had just traveled through. Sharp, instant pain that refused to subside, coursing through his leg told him he had overdone it again, but somehow he didn't care.
Bryson bided his time during his chores, doing each task fully. He untacked the mare and cleaning tack, and then carefully brushed his mounts body. Pleased that she looked none worse for wear, other than slightly frightened, he stabled her for the night. Moving slowly, he made his way towards the overhang on the stables. He leaned against the post, and watched the rain as it continued to fall. Once more, he felt comfort in knowing that it would not deter in its path to earth. Catching the rain might not happen, but he was sure going to try.
Bryson was filled with a sense of peace as he trudged towards his house. From now on, he was not going to be a slave to life and society; Bryson was going to bend it to his will. From the stable, the mare nickered contentedly, and the vague shape of a man, standing tall, disappeared into the thick mist.