Warning: not Beta-read.

Stone Hearts


The Stallion

About two months ago, my mother died. Breast cancer.

I don't remember much about those weeks, only that, about half an hour after the service, dad, my younger sister Elise, and I were still standing mom's grave.

Elise was standing in the middle, her hand in my own. Ever solemn, she was staring at the ground in front of mom's headstone, her jaw set in an expression I couldn't read. I don't think she quite grasped the extent of mom's death. Dad's hands were clasped behind his back, his face a mask of grief and acceptance. Mom was the only one he ever loved.

And me? I was clutching Elise's hand like a lifeline. My face was crusted in long dry tears, and more kept coming in new waves. I had been the closest to mom of her three children. Elise was too young to have bonded fully with mom, and Tamara was spoiled and bratty. I think it was also because I looked the most like her. We both were skinny and a bit frail, had red-brown hair, (though mine was a bit darker) sky blue eyes, and fair skin that burned very easily. She was kind and caring and generous. Mom always called me her copycat, because I was just about everything she was.

Tamara hadn't been standing with us, for reasons unknown. She had left immediately after the service without a backwards glance. Tamara hadn't looked even the least bit devastated during the service. If anything, she was had been bored. I had always known that she never cared about mom, just her money. Mom had inherited mega bucks from her father.

A few weeks later, my grandmother had sent her condolences from Scotland and had invited us all to her estate there for the summer. That didn't surprise me. I never expected Grandmother to spend money grieving over her own daughter. She wasn't the sort.

So that's where were headed now. Driving from the airport to Grandmother's estate, which she had dubbed: "The Castle" or, as she likes to say, "My Castle." Psh. Stingy old bat.

"Chin up, Ariel," dad said. He had seen my pout from the rear view mirror. I didn't answer. Instead, I rolled down the window and rested my arms on the edge and my head on my arms.

"This is so exciting!" Tamara squealed from the front seat. "I can't wait to see Grandmother and her Castle again!" I rolled my eyes. She just wanted the money and luxuries that came with staying at Grandmother's.

"Personally, I'm not very excited about visiting Grandmother," Elise said.

I wasn't looking at her, but I could visualize her perfectly. Her round, child face would be calm, her eyebrows raised, looking for a reply. Elise always seemed beyond her years.

"My mother-in-law always had amazing stories to tell," dad said, "she may not be much fun to talk to herself, but faced with one of her legendary tales, you'll never want to leave. I wonder if she's still doing those weekly meetings where she would tell most of the town a story." The last part was said mostly to himself.

Personally, I couldn't care less about fantasy stories made up on the spot. And someone hit me if I'm wrong about Grandmother having a voice that sounds like stale bread.

"It's only for a month, Elise. And besides, you guys could use the time away from home. A little Scottish air will do you good."

"Scottish air my pasty ass," I muttered. Thankfully, dad didn't hear me. Not so thankfully, Elise did.

"You know, Ariel, if you use that kind of language around Grandmother, you will have to wash out your mouth with soap," she said, not bothering to keep her voice down.

"What was that?" dad frowned at us through the mirror.

"Nothing." I waved my hand, but Elise was not on my side and proceeded to tell dad about my language.

"Ariel used the words, 'pasty ass' to describe her rear end," Elise said without so much as a red tint on her cheeks. I, meanwhile, was red as a tomato, which did nothing good for my appearance.

Dad merely chuckled and said, "Yes, you will have to tone down your language, Ariel. Grandmother will have you wash your mouth if you utter anything beyond 'fiddlesticks!'" he laughed at his words and Elise joined in with her dignified titter. Notice how Tamara became unusually quiet and unwilling to partake in the conversation. Every other word out of her mouth is something beyond "fiddlesticks" when dad's not around.

"Will we be there soon?" I asked, trying to change the subject.

"Enjoy the countryside," dad replied, which I took as, "We won't be there for a while."

Taking his advice, I gazed at the passing green hills. After green hills. After green hills. After green hills. Hey, is that a tree?

Let me tell you, watching the scenery got boring after two seconds of seeing the same thing over and over again. Seriously, couldn't Grandmother live in the cooler part of Scotland? This is Dullsville. Unless you like grass, because there's lots of that. But what nerd would want to see green all the time?!

"Your grandmother loves these green hills," dad continued, "Grass has always been her favorite part of nature."

Well then.

Two hours, twelve minutes, and thirty-five seconds later, (yes, I was counting) we pulled up to the gate of Grandmother's "Castle." Apparently, there was six minutes of road after the gate before we finally got to the estate. Six minutes or driving through forest on a very narrow road after nine-o-clock at night. Let me tell you, Elise may act beyond her years, but she's still afraid of the dark. And the shadows cast by big, tall trees. Then she got me going. We were both huddled in the backseat, trying not to look out the windows. It was pathetic.

Though when we got to the "Castle," I would have sworn is was day. Grandmother had so many lights around the estate, I think she was afraid of the dark, too.

Anyway, the estate was huge. I could see arches, columns, balconies, wrought iron spiral staircases, iron gates that led into a courtyard, a waterfall flowing into a small spring, and a four story circular tower. All covered in green ivy. The estate might have been nice without the ivy.

We pulled up to the estate, parallel to the outer wall. Dad motioned us out and we stood huddled in front of the main gate. I could see a fire pit, and outside steps leading up to a set of french doors that opened into the house. There was a white box on the wall and dad pressed a button and spoke into it.

"Hello, Mother, it's James and the kids. We're here to see you."

"This late at night?" was the first thing that came out of the box at us, "well come on in. Leave your things in the car and take the door on your right to the sitting room." the gates opened inward and we stepped through as soon as possible. I saw that yes, Grandmother did have to tell us which door to take. There were several, and I couldn't have guessed which led to the sitting room if my life depended on it.

The door slid open like butter and we stepped into a beautiful sitting room.

Grandmother was perched on the couch sipping tea. Her gray streaked hair was pulled back into a tight bun and her robe somehow managed to look dignified wrapped around her stooped form.

"Come and give your Grandmother a kiss," she said, setting her tea down gently. Tamara was the first one over. She swooped down with a wave of her dark coffee hair and pecked Grandmother on the cheek, leaving a small lipstick mark on her withered cheek. No doubt she was trying to get on Grandmother's good side.

Elise covered the lipstick with her kiss and she patted Grandmother on the back. I quickly kissed Grandmother and stepped back, almost tripping on the pine wood coffee table.

"Watch yourself, Ariel Rose! The bowls there are expensive," Grandmother barked. I glanced at the glass bowls filled with pebbles and nodded. I didn't surprise me that Grandmother was more concerned for her items then the bruise that would later color my leg.

"Hello, Mother." dad added his kiss.

"Who comes so late at night?" Grandmother said, "It's idiocy!"

Dad, patient as ever, said, "That's the time out flight came in, Mother. I can't do much about that."

"Hmph." Grandmother looked slightly put out, and turned to the three of us.

"Let me take a good look at you all. You've grown quite a bit."

Tamara drew herself to full height, Elise smiled a bit, and I stared somewhere over Grandmother's left shoulder.

"You have become so beautiful!" Grandmother stood and cupped Tamara's face. "I bet you break all the hearts back in the United States."

"Oh yes I do, Grandmother," Tamara grinned.

"And you," she bent to Elise's level, "You'll grow to be a fine young woman. You already are!"

All I got was, "You look just like you mother," in a flat, cold tone.

"Your rooms are on the second level, through the door and up the stairs," Grandmother continued, gesturing behind her, "Your luggage is being brought up there as we speak."

"Thank you, Mother. It is kind of you to let us stay here," Dad said.

"Just get on," Grandmother grumbled and walked behind us. She doesn't like dad much, if that wasn't already obvious.

The door led to the foyer and another parlor. There was a huge, sweeping staircase to out left and we obediently climbed it.

"To your right," Grandmother commanded, "The guest rooms are over there." Then she added, "Ariel, take the room on the end."

"Alright." I left the others and pushed open the door. It led into a spacious, beautiful room.

Directly opposite of me were a set of curtained french doors that opened to a balcony. To my right was a queen size bed with linen comforters and had a silk canopy. A vanity, wardrobe, and doorway to the bathroom were on my left. I could see a sparkling shower and tub through a gap in the curtains that hung in the bathroom's doorway.

"This used to be your mother's room," Grandmother said from behind me, "she adored the view."

"View?" I turned to the aging woman.

"Come," she said, and strode briskly to the doors. She threw them open and stepped out. I followed.

The view was gorgeous. One could see an amazing expanse of sky, forest spreading out in all directions, and somewhere I heard the rushing of a river.

"My land ends about forty yards that way, and I had a pool and waterslide installed a few months ago." Grandmother said.

"It's beautiful," I breathed. "Where's the river?"

Grandmother's face darkened. "Far beyond my property. A dangerous place that river is."

I rolled my eyes. All rivers were dangerous. You could fall in and drown.

"Excuse me ma'am, where would you like the luggage?" a servant had come in, bags on her shoulders and a suitcase behind her.

"Over there, by the wardrobe. That's good." Grandmother nodded to the servant, and the girl curtsied out.

"So, Ariel Rose, how do you like it here?" Grandmother asked. She closed the doors behind her and stepped to the edge of the railing.

"It's...nice," I allowed. In truth, the house was beautiful, as was the scenery, but I really wanted Grandmother to go away. After a while of talking to her, you get bored.

"Your mother would beg me to let her sleep out here. I only did on the warmest of nights. Nights like tonight. Though I doubt you will want to so soon after arriving." she chuckled to herself. I gave a smile that was more like a grimace and turned away, subtly showing her that I wasn't interested in talking anymore. Grandmother didn't get the hint.

"I'm sure you'll love exploring the grounds in front of the Castle. Your mother always did."


"And you really must see the town. It's so quaint and lively. You can see all the people your mother grew up with and make friends with them."

I felt tears form in my eyes. Talking about mom was reminding me about how much I missed and love her. I really wanted Grandmother to stop talking about her and leave.

"She would always—Ariel Rose, what's wrong?"

I was trying to be strong, but I couldn't help it. A tear had slipped down my cheek and onto the ground below. Soon, more were coming in buckets. I dropped to the ground and rested my face against the railing, gasping and hiccuping as I cried.

Grandmother leaned down a bit and awkwardly patted me on the back.

"I miss her so much," I sobbed.

"We all do." Grandmother, sounding uncomfortable. Then she turned abruptly and left, leaving the French doors swinging.

I don't know how long I was sitting there, but when my tears had subsided, I stood and went back into the room, closing the doors behind me. At that moment the other door opened and dad poked his head in.

"How are you settling in, Sport?"

"Alright." Dad must have seen my face because came all the way into the room and sat on a chest by the door.

"I'm just not finished unpacking." I turned my head away because I didn't want him to see me cry, but my voice caught.

"Ok. I'm going to bed now, and you should sleep soon to." He ruffled my hair and left as well. Dad knew I wanted privacy, and he always respected that.

I unzipped the suitcase and started hanging clothes in the wardrobe. I looked in the full length mirror on one of the doors. A scrawny, wet faced girl stared back at me. I sighed and turned back to my clothes.

That night, my bed was way too comfortable. Don't get me wrong, I love comfort. But this was to much. I was practically sinking into the mattress and the pillow wasn't holding my head.

I adjusted my head and saw the night sky through a gap in the curtains. Deciding to take Grandmother's suggesting, I pushed myself out of bed, unlocked the doors, and they swung at me with the wind. I stepped out and pulled them closed behind me.

The wind whipped gently at my hair and clothing. The night air was cool and refreshing.

I looked out over the stretch of trees. The moon was bright, and I could just make out a gap in the lines of trees. I could still hear the faint roaring of the river. That gap must be where the river is.

I rested my elbows on the railing and pushed forward, getting as much of the wind as I could. My mind cleared of all thought and I enjoyed the feeling the night was giving me. It was like getting high. (I did that once, but I don't talk about it.)

Suddenly feeling very daring, I slipped back into my room then out into the hallway. Thank god Grandmother believes in having a perfect house because I know something would squeak and I'd be caught. I didn't remember to take a jacket.

I slid down the banister into the foyer and carefully opened the front door a crack. Grandmother had no guards, so I was able to sneak through the first line of trees and around the property. I saw a lit patio in the back, a pool, a waterfall, a water slide, and much vegetation. It was beautiful. The pool was spacious and a clear blue color.

But that wasn't what I had snuck out for. Grandmother had described the river as "dangerous" and I wanted to see exactly why that was so.

After a bit of digging around in the bushes, I found a worn trail that was overgrown with vegetation, and led away from the estate. I set off at a jog, trying to warm my muscles.

The trees loomed menacingly at me, but I quickly passed them before they could scare me. A fog began to roll in and I could barely see the path in front of me. Ahead, the forest was thicker and I soon had to slow to a walk and dodge trees.

There was a small picket fence where Grandmother's property must have stopped. Beyond that, it was even more horrible and over grown. I wished that I had worn pants. And a jacket. The air was too cold, and I could feel the mist clinging to me.

I kept going, once hearing a small scraping sound then pain in my leg. I looked down. A scratch. Bleeding. Right over my bruise from the coffee table. Grandmother, I am going to kill you...

After about fifteen more minutes of struggling through the horrible forest, (Alright, that's a bit dramatic but...) and ten minutes of that included intense throbbing in my leg, the sound of rushing water was so loud that I knew the river wasn't far.

Finally, I broke into a clearing and saw the water sparkling up ahead. I could see it rushing almost as fast a rapids up a bit to my right then down to my left, but in front of me, the water was moving slower, almost like a spring. It was clear, too. I could see that even at night. The moon shone down through a gap in the trees and lit up the scene. I rushed forward for a drink and to wash out my gash, but bushes cracked on the other side of the river. I jumped back and slithered behind a tree.

I heard soft tapping, then a faint slurping sound, as if someone was drinking from the river. I slowly wound my head around the tree. Standing on the other bank was a magnificent stallion. His chiseled head was dipped toward the river, his velvety muzzle engulfed in the water. Mane as black as midnight hung down around his head, barely grazing the surface of the river, but I saw water dripping from it. His tail swished behind a beautiful, white, muscled body. His coal black hooves weren't shoed, so he belonged to no one. And as soon as I stared at him, his eyes flicked up toward me. They were startling green, a shining emerald color. I knew he saw me.

He whinnied and stamped his feet, and would not stop until I had come out from behind the tree.

"Hello, beautiful," I said, standing a few feet away from the bank. He looked like he could jump, and I wanted to be as far away as possible, just in case he decided to vault the river.

I got a very good look at him then, because he was prancing in a circle, neighing impatiently. There is no other word to describe that stallion. He was breathtaking. I saw a green tinge on his coat, that added a lovely effect to the black and white. If only I he was on this side of the river. I would mount him in a second...

Without even realizing it, I took several steps forward until I was balancing on the edge. I stretched out my hand, but there would be about three feet left of space, even if the stallion reached his long neck out. That didn't matter to me. I didn't drop my hand.

He stopped prancing and stared at me, lowering his head so I got the full effect of his eyes. I felt dizzy.

"Come here, beautiful," I stretched even further, and gravity almost took over. I wasn't so mesmerized that I was totally out of it, and managed to pull back just before I fell. And just like that, the spell was broken. He was still magnificent, or course. But I no longer had the burning desire to touch him, to ride him.

He snorted, and turned away, trotting back into the trees, obviously not interested in me any more. I watched him go, slightly saddened.

Then the pain came back, and I knew I had to clean my wound before it got infected. I wasn't tempted to wash it in the river now, though. Something told me that the river was his. Was the stallion's. I would just have to take the mile-plus trek back and find some disinfectant back at the house.

It seemed to take longer to get back to the estate, probably because I really needed to get back there. Thankfully, no lights were on when I finally got home. No one had noticed my absence

There was only one time where I let out a colorful string of whispered words, but only because I tripped over that damn coffee table again. The front door had locked on me, and I had to take the courtyard one.

I rummaged in the cabinets in my bathroom and found some disinfectant, wipes, and a bandage. It stung like hell when I cleaned it and throbbed painfully after I bandaged it. But I managed to fall asleep quickly. My dream, no, nightmare, consisted the event of breakfast tomorrow...

Good? Bad? Ugly?

I'll continue if anyone wants me to.

If anyone wants to beta and get the chapters before they're published, PM me and i'll give you my email.

Reviews for the poor? Please?

Next chapter will most definitely be out before June 20th of this year.

-Your Crimson-Sweetheart