1 The world was told once about an ancient province that had a special power due to magical rocks, lightweight stones that could stick onto one's clothing. Those stones allowed the people of the ancient civilization to willing shape shift, become animals they never knew existed. Because people could wield such great power, very few citizens knew about the power of the stones, except for the leaders. They were given the stones as a symbol of their leadership, and when the leader is killed, another takes its place, and is given the many stones.
As time passed, and explorers came to seek this power, the leaders found a way to take the magic out of the stone, and keep it within them, making this power lost along with the ancient town. Sooner than later, the explorers gave up their search, and forgot about the magical powers.
"'But that was almost 3000 years ago; now many archaeologists have found traces of truth that there were indeed magical items that could alter one's form,'" cited one man as he kept his head buried into a newspaper one morning.
It was a typical day for Delaney, whose parents were archaeologists; her father read anything that's about an archaeological site, while she ate her breakfast. But this day, when she heard about this site, she looked at him with her crystal blue eyes, putting the spoon in her bowl filled with cereal and milk.
"Isn't that the place you and Mom are going, Dad?" she asked, remembering the day they were asked to go to a site very similar to this.
"That's right…it is, isn't it?" He glanced at her through thin-rimmed spectacles, and smiled when he saw a frown on her face. "Honey, it's only going to be for a couple of months; they're low on people to dig up the site, and they need us."
"But you're almost always gone longer than that." She sighed, and looked at her bowl. "We rarely have any time together; I have to stay here because of school, so I'm always by myself, and as soon as you get home, you're called out again."
Footsteps were heard coming from the hallway of their two-bedroom apartment complex as her mother entered the little kitchen with a few bags of clothes and equipment.
"Oh Delaney, this time, we promise it'll only be a few months," she said, as she put the bags down by the door. "And we also promise that when we come back, we're taking a 6-month break just to be with you."
Delaney sighed, and turned to face her mother, brushing away a few strands of her golden hair. "You've also promised that you'd take me on a trip to an archaeological site…When will I ever be able to do that?"
"We've tried to get you to a site, too, Delaney; but every time we ask, they say no."
"And besides, it'll be dangerous, and you'd be extremely bored," her father added. He got up after folding the newspaper, and stood beside his daughter, running his fingers through her hair. "The last thing we want if for you to get hurt, Delaney. And you don't want to miss your friends, do you?"
She didn't reply; she only had one friend, named Sam; he was a boy that grew up with her, and went to the same schools with her. Even though others made fun of them, mainly her, calling them boyfriend and girlfriend, they swore that they were just friends.
The taxi came, and picked her parents up. After one final farewell, the taxi left the apartment, and Delaney was all alone, yet again.
When she returned to the complex, she sighed, already bored. Mom and Dad gone for a few months… she thought as she sat on the couch. Then, the phone began to ring, causing her to jump. Who could that…Oh, I know who.
She got up, and hurried to the phone. "Hello?" she said.
"Hey, Delaney," said a voice from the other line—it was a male's voice.
"Oh, nothing…So your parents are out again?"
"Yes…they just left." She heard him laugh a little. "What's so funny?"
"You know, while you complain that they're gone, others would be throwing parties."
She couldn't help but to smile. "It's just that they're gone all the time; I mean, they were with me off of the whole archaeology stuff for a good ten years, but when they heard about all of these new sites, they left, and they leave after every few months or so."
There was a moment of silence. "I'd possibly be as annoyed as you are; I rarely see my dad, because he's always on duty." His dad was a cop.
"Yeah, but you get to see him while on duty, and you get to go with him every now and then; my parents have never let me go to one of their sites yet! I mean, I know that school's really important, but when it's summer time, I'd like to go and see a dig site, help them find artifacts or things like that."
"That would be cool, but what if there are traps and things like that? You could get hurt."
"Sam, for one thing, traps like the ones you're thinking about are in movies… Indiana Jones, and the Mummy; and my parents say the same thing…that it's too dangerous."
"I'd flip out if you got hurt."
There was another minute of silence. "You…would?"
"I-I mean…" Sam stayed silent, but then changed the subject. "Wanna come over and ride for a little bit?" He owned a barn filled with a few horses.
"That'd be great."
A few months came and passed, but Delaney's parents didn't return. She began to worry about them, but not much—her parents always stayed later than they promise.
One day, while Sam was over to keep her company, Delaney turned on the T.V., and flipped to a random news channel.
"And we come to you live with some breaking news," said the anchorwoman. "An archaeological site has collapsed just an hour ago, while some scientists were digging it up. At that time, five people were trapped inside a chamber…only three were found."
What? Delaney thought, as they showed an aerial view of the site.
"That's the site Mom and Dad went to…" she said, hoping that they were okay.
Sam looked at her, as the second anchor continued with, "We haven't been given the names of the two that are still trapped in the collapsed area, but we do know that they are a couple that was supposed to return home today."
"A…couple…?" Delaney just sat there, staring at the screen.
"Del…I'm so sorry…" Sam said, as he saw tears trickle down her face. He embraced her—a friendly hug—as she cried.
It was only a few hours later when the names were identified—they were indeed her parents—and they were also considered dead, because they didn't find either body. For a few days, Delaney spent her time crying, mourning, grieving, and Sam helped her out, staying by her side while she cried.
A few weeks later, however, when Sam came over for the 20th time, she said something that surprised even herself.
"Sam, I don't think that my parents are really dead," she said.
He looked at her. "Del, I know that this is hard for you, but don't let this get over your head; the other archaeologists couldn't find them…"
"But there's something that's telling me that they're alive."
"That's only wishful thinking…"
"No, it's not…they're alive…I just know it." Sam didn't push her on it, and just allowed her to believe that her parents were alive. He didn't want her to be upset any more than she was now.
School started a week after Delaney claimed her parents to be alive. Sam would give Delaney a ride to and from the campus each day, and this only made the mockery that she dealt with worse.
While she was focusing on getting her locker squared away on the first day, a group of two girls and two boys approached her.
"Well, Delaney," said one girl, "Now Sammy's giving you rides to school… how far have you two gotten?"
She glanced at them, before turning away and grabbing a few books from her clean little space. "Just leave me alone," she said quietly, as she closed the locker.
She began to walk away, when one of the boys—a jock—placed his leg out in front of her, tripping her. She fell, sending her books flying out of her hands and sliding across the floor. A lot of school mates looked, and began to laugh as she slowly picked up the books closest to her.
"Del!" Sam ran up to her, picking up the rest of the books before helping her up.
"Ugh, he calls you a computer?!" exclaimed the second girl. The crowd began to laugh some more.
"Hey, Sam, why help her?" asked the boy that tripped her. "She's a nobody!"
Sam glared at the group of four. "Shut up," he said. "She's my friend." He looked at Delaney, and said, "Come on; let's just get to class." As they began to walk off, the second boy grabbed Sam, and pushed him into the wall. "What the hell's you're problem?"
"No one says shut up to us, pretty boy," the boy replied with fury.
Delaney only stood there in fear; never had there been a time when one of the bullies pinned either of them to the wall before. What do I do? she thought, as Sam struggled to get free; he didn't, however, look to her and ask for help.
"What's going on here?!" said a stern voice, as an assistant principal appeared behind Delaney.
The boy that pinned Sam to the wall backed away, and Sam approached her, looking at the adult. "Sir, they—"
"I don't want to hear anything right now; I want all of you to go to class, now."
The bystanders walked off, followed by the group of four. Sam waited for the assistant principal to leave, before he looked at Delaney. "Are you all right?"
She didn't reply right away. "I didn't do anything to help you…"
He saw guilt in her face, and smiled. "You were scared; that's all…I wouldn't have known what to do, either." When the guilt didn't leave her expression, he said, "Delaney, do you think I'm mad at you?" She didn't reply. "Why would I ever be mad at you for something like that?"
"I-I don't know," she finally replied, feeling a tear trickle down her face. "T-the others expect their friends to help them…w-why would it be a-any different between us?"
"That's because we're not the others." Seeing that the conversation was getting nowhere, Sam didn't push her even further, and they just walked to class.
That was Delaney's life before things became strange for her. While she still believed her parents were alive, and others thought that they were dead, people began to claim that the magic that was mentioned in the archaeological site was released, some-how. They "felt" the powers coming near whenever a man entered some city with a sack in his hands, and people began to look for him, wanting him to give them the sack. He would refuse, saying that it's for someone else. He had to find the right person, the person that was mentioned to him when he met a couple around the same area as the archaeological sight.
The school year was flying pass Delaney as if it was all put together in a single week. Winter break came and went, followed by a new semester, and more bullying. Sam continued to protect her, but that only made it worse—she never told him that it was worse.
She also began to believe that her parents might actually be dead; she didn't want to say anything about her parents, though, because it would only depress her. She put any pictures of her parents in a small, cardboard box, and kept them in a living room cabinet, so that they would be safe, but not seen.
How was she able to stay in the apartment complex? Sam told some people that she now lived alone and that got people to donate and help pay rent, and other bills. Delaney wanted to tell them that they didn't have to, but knew that if they didn't then she'd be forced to live elsewhere.
Soon, spring break started, and Sam began to ask Delaney out more than usual. She, however, declined most offers; she wanted to have time to herself. There were times when she went off into the neighboring forest, and sit beside a stream, and others when she'd look out for wildlife, every once in a while finding an animal that she and her parents once helped in raising.
One day, she was sitting beside the stream. Her mind was on her parents again, and tears were trickling down her face.
Why did I think that they were alive, somehow? she wondered. They haven't appeared in months…nor have their bodies been found…they're gone…
But then, she heard, "Help!" she looked around, jumping up; the voice had an accent, one that she never heard before, and it came from upstream.
She saw a man being pulled by the current in the stream; it looked as if he had trouble swimming, for he flailed his arms around, though tried to keep a sack from leaving him.
Oh no…what should I do? I have to help him, but… Delaney jumped into the stream, wading in deeper and deeper, to reach the man. "Hold on, I'm coming!" she called out as he got closer and closer. "Grab a hold of me!"
The man did what she said, and she waded back to the bank, helping him out. He stood, and looked at his sack, making sure that the content in it was safe. When he sighed in relief, he looked at Delaney, and bowed. "Thank you kindly for helping me; I am in your dept."
She looked at him, seeing that he was extremely short—almost like a dwarf. He had somewhat dark skin, covered by a gray outfit she had never seen before. His hair was a light shade of silver, and his eyes were bright blue. I've never seen people like him before… "D-don't mention it, sir. H-how did you get into the stream?"
"I was traveling, and I lost my balance while crossing a bridge." He observed her for a moment or two, and said, "Forgive me, miss, but what is your name?"
"I'm…I'm Delaney." When he heard the name, he gasped, and looked away. "What's wrong? Is…is my name bad from where you're from?"
"No, no, not at all," he replied quickly. He then smiled, and took the sack off of his shoulder, giving it to her. "As thanks, I want you to have these."
She looked at the sack, and shook her head. "I-I can't possibly take anything; I…"
"I insist, Miss Delaney." She gently took the sack, and just stared at it. "Open it; see what is in there."
She looked at him, and then opened it, as he asked; it shown gold—bright gold— but she could make out the shapes of different animals. She dug through, and pick out one item by random; it was a gold pin in the shape of a horse's head.
"What is this?" she asked.
"That is a special item that is found only where I am from," the man replied. "There are hundreds of pins that are in the shape of the many creatures you know of."
"It's pretty, but I don't understand how it's so special, besides that it's gold."
"Put it on your shirt; you will see why."
After putting the sack on the ground, she placed the pin on her shirt. Immediately, she pictured a horse, running through the forest; it was hidden by a shadow, so she couldn't see what it looked like, but as she watched it, her eyes began to close.
"What do you see?" the man asked.
"I-it's a…horse…" she said. "It…it's running through this very forest…"
"What does it look like?"
"I…don't know; it's…" But then, a light came on in her mind, and she could see the horse perfectly. "It's palomino—a palomino Quarab…she…she has a star, stripe, and snip on her face, and four white legs…her eyes are blue, too, just like mine."
Then, the picture faded away, and Delaney opened her eyes. She suddenly felt a little taller, and she couldn't see the rest of her body. Her vision was different; she could see more to her side than directly in front, and she saw the man smiling. "W-why does everything seem so different?"
"Look at yourself in the stream," he replied, although it seemed that he didn't really hear her.
She turned around, but as she did so, she saw a golden body, white legs, and a pale white tail moving the opposite way. What the…is the horse right behind me? she thought, shocked. As she looked at the stream, she saw, instead of a human face, a horse's face.
She jumped, and backed away; she heard a quick couple of steps, followed by two more steps, and felt her hind end curve, unlike anything that she had ever felt before when she backed away from something. "W-what happened?!"
"Even though I cannot hear what you just said, I can infer by your reaction that you don't know what just happened to yourself," the man said. "Those pins contain a special magic that has been sealed away for 3000 years. Wearing those pins allow you to become an animal. Those descriptions that you gave me, Miss Delaney, were what you saw while you became that very horse you envisioned."
She looked at him after hearing him say "special magic." Her thoughts went directly to the archaeological site her parents went to, and of what her father read in the newspaper the morning they left.
"That magic from the ancient civilization…that's what the pins have…" She looked away for a moment, but then returned to looking at him. "You're from that ancient civilization…or you're related to the ancient people." The man only smiled, and she remembered what he told her; he couldn't understand her. How do I become myself? she thought.
Apparently, the man knew what she was thinking. "If you want to become human again, just think of being yourself, and you will become yourself."
She did what he said; she saw herself as herself—her golden hair, her fair skin, her blue eyes, everything. Immediately, she closed her eyes, and when she opened them again, she was herself again.
"Now I must leave soon, but before I go, I must tell you a few things," the man said. "One: when you become an animal, the pin appears on your body somewhere; it is easily removable, and when it is removed while you are an animal, then you will be forced to stay as that animal.
"Two: These pins belong to you and you alone; they will find their way back to you should you ever be in need of them, but they can be used by others. That also comes into my third thing: I suggest not telling anyone that you are in possession of these items; there are a lot of humans that know that the power has been released, and yearns to possess it themselves. They will do whatever it takes to get that power from you, even taking your own life. Unless they are truly trustworthy, or you are forced to tell them, keep these a secret from others."
He suddenly began to fade away, which caused her to jump. "I must leave; I am sure that we will meet again very soon."
When he was gone, Delaney just stood there, looking at the spot that he was standing moments ago. The gold pin was still on her shirt, glowing immensely, which caught her eye. She looked at it, remembering how beautiful the horse looked in her mind, before she realized that she had become it.
"I can become any animal as long as the pin I'm wearing is in the shape of that animal," she said to herself. She looked around, making sure that no one was near, and closed her eyes again, trying to picture a different horse.
"Why don't you work?" she asked, opening her eyes to see her still human. She sighed, and then closed her eyes again. That time, all she could see was the dark palomino mare, with the deep gold body, the pale white mane and tail, the markings on her face, the white legs, and the blue eyes. When she opened her eyes, she was the golden horse that she pictured.
Delaney walked up to the stream; she could hear her own footsteps in the rhythm that it made: One-two-three-four. When she could see her reflection, she turned to see her entire body, seeing the mane, the tail, and the legs. The mane was fairly long—it reached her shoulder when it was closer toward her withers; the tail was slightly high-set, so she confirmed that she was part-Arabian horse; and the white hairs on her legs weren't very long—they rose to only where the fetlock was.
Then, she looked at her face; the star and snip were diamond-shaped, set almost perfect, but the stripe was a rounded rectangle with no edges, and it curved ever so slightly. The forelock was also fairly long, and lay to the side of her face, allowing her to see the blue eyes she had…they looked just like her normal blue eyes.
If someone saw me, they'd know that I'm not a normal horse, she thought. I can't go into town like this, but this is really cool!
She walked around the sack, allowing her head to move in different directions: up, down, left, right, just to see what it looked like in a horse's perspective. Each time she turned her head, everything had a different look. The ground concaved a little when her nose was closer to the ground, but the trees looked bigger. As she brought her head up, the trees became smaller, less frightening.
This is AMAZING! Delaney thought happily, as she stopped beside the sack, and closed her eyes, becoming human again. She put the pin back in the sack, and she picked the sack up, taking it home with her.
When she first entered the door, her first thought was to call Sam, and tell him all about the pins. However, she had second thoughts, remembering what the man told her.
"There are a lot of humans that know the power has been released, and yearns to possess it. They will do whatever it takes to get that power from you, even taking your own life. Unless they are truly trustworthy, or you are forced to tell them, keep these a secret from others."
Sam's my best friend…well, my only friend, she thought. But that man told me to not tell anyone about it unless they're trustworthy. Sam's trustworthy, but what if he does tell someone by mistake? She pondered for many moments, and then decided to not tell him. But, if God forbids, then I'll tell him only if necessary.
So Delaney didn't tell anyone about the pins; she didn't even tell Sam, who would wonder where she went off to after school (She would grab a pin, and go to the forest to use it).
Soon, the school year ended, and it was now the last day of school. Delaney looked at the clock, waiting for it to strike three, so that she could leave, and spend time with Sam (she began to feel bad for leaving him all the time). She then glanced over at Sam, who was also staring at the clock. When he saw her, he looked, and she was surprised to see a smile on his face, which made her feel even guiltier.
The bell suddenly rang, and everyone got up. They all filed out, though Delaney waited while Sam got closer to her.
"So, you're staying behind with me this time?" he asked, smiling still.
She looked at him, but then looked away. "I'm really sorry for the last few months…I've just been…"
"Don't worry about it; that was then, and this is now." He smiled even more, as they left the building, and began to walk home.
But then, Delaney heard, "Help!" She stopped, and looked around, hearing that cry only once before. Oh no…it's the man who gave me the pins… she thought worriedly, as Sam looked at her.
"Del?" he said.
"You heard that, didn't you?" she asked. When he nodded, there was another cry for help, coming from the forest. She wanted to go to help the man out, but didn't want to leave Sam behind again. "I have to go help him…"
"I can help," Sam said.
She looked at him, knowing that he was indeed trustworthy. She nodded, and said, "Come on."
They ran into the forest, pushing themselves through brush and low-lying branches, while Delaney looked around desperately for the man.
When they stopped to catch their breath, Delaney looked around her, and Sam noticed something on her shirt. "Del, what's that?"
She looked, seeing that her horse pin had appeared. That's right, they come whenever I need them, she thought. She looked at Sam, and decided that he was worth telling the secret to.
"Sam, remember when my dad told us about the magic that was mentioned in the ancient civilization, where people could become animals?"
"Yeah, but how…?"
"Well, during spring break, I helped this man and he gave me this and many other pins. They have that magic in them. When I first put this pin on, I became a horse…it was the most amazing thing that ever happened." She looked in the direction they were heading in. "The man told me that a lot of people are after this power, and I couldn't tell anyone, which is why I never told you. I think he might be in trouble."
Sam didn't know what to say; it looked to Delaney that he wasn't sure whether to believe her or not, so she decided to prove it to him. She closed her eyes, picturing the golden mare; she heard Sam gasp, and when she opened her eyes, she saw him staring at her in disbelief.
"D-Delaney…" He was speechless, couldn't think of anything to say again.
She approached him, waiting for him to get on. "Sam, get on; it'll be quicker," she said, forgetting that he couldn't understand. When he didn't move, it dawned to her. That's right; he can't understand a single word I say…
This time, she nudged him, and moved her neck to where she can touch her back. He saw this movement, and said, "Y-you want me to get on?" When she nodded, she got a little lower for him. When he was on, she got up and bolted, running through the forest, to find the man she met before.
When they saw a clearing ahead, she slowed to a stop, waited for Sam to get off, and then had him hide behind a tree, before hiding herself. She saw the man tied up in a cage. Who ties up someone and puts them in a cage like animals? she thought.
Then, three men came out, laughing. They surrounded the cage, but not to the point where Delaney couldn't see. They must be looking for the power the pins have, she thought.
"I can't believe we caught 'im, Boss!" exclaimed the man on the right with a Southern accent. He was the shortest of the three, and looked completely different. He had short, blond hair the color of the sun, but looked as if it hadn't seen water in ages. From what Delaney could see, his eyes were light brown, looking more like milk chocolate.
"Catchin' him won't do nothin', Lucas," replied the man in the center, again with a Southern accent. He was the tallest, obviously the leader. His hair was dark, and held in a ponytail. His eyes were a fiery blue, and had a hint of evil within them. "He's gotta give us what we want, 'ya know?"
The man that was in the cage looked at the group of men, and said, "Catching me will not get you anything, gentlemen. Besides, I have not what you seek; I have given them to someone that is trustworthy."
The men looked at the man in shock.
"Joe…I mean…Boss…did he just say what I think he just said?" asked the third man. He looked like the bigger man, Joe, so Delaney figured that he was related.
Joe glared at the man in the cage. "He better not have, Damien…" He then felt around his belt area, taking out a gun. "…because if he did…"
In her haste to keep the man she knew safe, she ran out of her hiding place, charging at the men. They dispersed quickly, looking at Delaney in shock. The man in the cage, however, looked at her, and smiled.
"Horses don't live in this forest…" Damien said.
"You're right…" Joe smiled evilly. "Lucas, 'git the rope."
Before he did anything, Delaney charged again, trying to keep the men away from her friend. Sam, who was still hiding, watched with worry. I've never seen Delaney like this, before, he thought. I hope that she'll be all right…
But then, Delaney heard a gun reload, and she stopped, looking at Joe. He held out the gun, glaring at her. "Good…it stopped. Lucas, get the rope, now!"
The short man, Lucas, grabbed a long rope, handing it to Joe. But as they got closer toward her, she backed away, not wanting anything around her neck. Joe, getting angry, held the gun up again, and he aimed it at her.
"No!" Sam cried out suddenly, getting their attention. Delaney looked in the direction that he was in, and thought, I forgot about Sam…They're going to hurt him because of me…
"'Git whoever's in there!" Joe yelled, as he kept the gun aimed at Delaney.
Lucas ran over to the bushes, and came back dragging Sam behind him. "He must be with the horse, Boss."
"Keep him with us," Joe commanded as he threw the rope over Delaney's head while she was distracted.
With Lucas pushing the cage and Damien pushing Sam, Joe dragged Delaney through the forest, before stopping in a small clearing. She was tied up close to the cage, while Sam was near the three men, who drank until they passed out.
While they drank, Delaney moved from one side to the other, to try to look at both Sam and the man who was still in the cage. I don't know what to do, she thought. Sam's tied up, and the man I saved before is still in the cage.
The man looked at her, and said, "I thank you again for your attempt to help me, my friend." She looked at him, before looking at Sam; the man looked at him, and asked, "Is he a friend of yours?" She nodded, as Sam tried to free himself.
An hour after the men fell asleep, Sam managed to free himself, and he ran up to Delaney.
"Are you all right?" he asked. She nodded, and looked at the man, who was looking at them both. Sam looked and said, "I'll get him out."
After finding a strong, yet small stick, he picked the lock, opening the cage. The man got out, and said, "Thank you, Friend-Of-Delaney. Both of you are in my debt." With that, he disappeared.
Sam then took the rope off from her neck, and, seeing that the men would wake, Delaney got him close to her left side. "Sam, get on," she said, though she knew that he wouldn't answer.
He did what she was hoping he'd do, and she hurried back toward town. Her thoughts darted to and fro, as she tried to concentrate on the way home, and how to keep the men from finding out about her.
She stopped when she was close to town, and Sam got off. He looked at her, and asked, "Can you become yourself?"
She answered by closing her eyes, and thinking of being herself. When her eyes reopened, she looked at him, and said, "I'm sorry I put you through that," before looking away.
"Why are you apologizing?"
"You got caught…you shouldn't have…"
"Getting caught was my own fault; I was the one who yelled out."
"But I was the one who asked you to come."
"Delaney, listen to me…" He had her look at him. "Every time something happens to the both of us, you blame yourself for it happening to me. It's not your fault, I swear it isn't."
"It should be my fault…" A tear trickled down her face.
"No it shouldn't. You did nothing to get me involved with anything."
He took her home, and stayed with her throughout the rest of the night. She continued to blame herself for him getting caught, and he kept on telling her that it was not her fault.
At one point, Sam decided to get her mind off of the men, and asked her, "Can you show me your other pins?"
She looked at him. "You want to see them?" When he nodded, she picked up the sack and allowed him to see the pins. "I'm sorry for not telling you about them…but the man…he said that I couldn't tell anyone."
"It's all right; I understand." He took out a pin in the shape of a tiger, looking interested in it. "I like this one."
This caused Delaney to smile. "I forgot…you like tigers, don't you?"
"Yeah." He looked at her, and smiled. "You're smiling!"
She smiled some more, but then looked away. "Sam, why do you help me as much as you do? I mean, except for my parents, no one has ever been so kind to me."
He didn't respond right away. "Well, I…" Before he could explain, they heard someone bang on the door. He got up, and got Delaney behind him.
The door burst open, and Delaney just stood there in fear, before her mind went completely blank.
When she woke up, the sun was beaming on her face, and she felt her body lying on cold metal.
Where am I? she asked herself, as she noticed that she was all alone. Where's Sam?
"Sam?" she called out. Instead of hearing his voice, she heard laughter, and she backed away from the front of the cage as the three men appeared.
"Well, well, well," Joe said, smiling evilly at Delaney. "Look who's awake, boys."
Delaney backed up even more, though she couldn't move anymore due to the end of the cage. "H-how did you…?"
"We found out where you live, kid!" Lucas said.
"W-why did you get me?"
"'Cause you have them pins!" Delaney stayed silent. "You din' think that we'd be stupid to not find out, did you?"
"Lucas, Lucas, take it easy," Joe said, smiling evilly. "She'll do what we want."
"W-what if I don't?" she asked.
"Well, then, if you don't…" He took out his gun, and she jumped, feeling a tear trickling down her face. Finding the right reaction, Joe threw in her sack of pins. "Now, take out a pin, and become that animal."
She did what was asked with a shaky hand, taking out a pin in the shape of a wolf's head. After putting it on her shirt, she tried to picture a wolf, though her fear prevented her from doing so. She trembled even more, and nothing happened, getting Joe impatient.
"I…I c-can't…" she stammered.
The gun was aimed at her, and she jumped again, tears trickling down her face. "Wrong answer…now become that animal!"
Before he could do anything, the bushes shook, and a large black stallion emerged, charging toward the three men. They backed away, with the stallion biting Joe. He jumped, and ran off, with the other two following.
Once the men were gone, the stallion approached the cage, startling Delaney. She backed away, before she noticed a white mark on the horse's chest—it was in the shape of the horse pin.
"S-Sam…is that you?" she said.
The horse began to shrink as he closed his eyes. The black fur was replaced by pinkish skin, and the black mane became sandy brown hair; it was Sam. "Delaney, are you all right," he asked once he got the chance.
She nodded. "Sam…Sam I'm scared…"
He touched her hand gently, before Joe returned, wrapping a rope around his neck to pull him back from Delaney. As he struggled, Joe said, "Stop moving, boy. I'm givin' you five seconds to tell me why you're here."
"And if you don't let go, my dad's gonna kick your ass," Sam replied curtly.
"What's he gonna do?"
Then, they heard, "Get your hands off my son!" Sam's father appeared, followed by three or four other police officers. One grabbed Joe, forcing him to let Sam go, and he was handcuffed. Sam grabbed a key off of the man, and he approached Delaney, opening the cage door.
Once everyone was away, Delaney embraced him, her tears continued to trickle down her face. "T-thank you, Sam," she managed to say.
He returned her embrace. "I'm not going to let you get hurt, Del," he said. "C'mon, I'll take you to my place."
Delaney did not return home, in fear of the two men that were still on the loose. Instead, she stayed at Sam's house, and he stayed with her almost the entire time, making sure that she was safe.
Later on, while she and Sam were in the living room, his father came in. "Sam, Delaney, can you come with me, please?"
Delaney looked at Sam and nodded. They stood and followed the police officer to the door. When she realized where they were heading, she stopped. Sam looked at her, and then said to his father, "Dad, what are you doing? We can't go out there, not when those guys are out there."
"Now, don't you worry…who'd attack you with me around?"
Delaney did not move still. "I-I can't go out…"
Sam got closer to Delaney. "We're not going out there; don't worry."
But then, she couldn't see, as someone blindfolded her and Sam. They were dragged out of the house, but Delaney had no idea where they were being dragged to. We're not going to get out of this…there's no way, she thought.
But then, she saw the palomino mare in her mind. She stopped moving, and she felt the blindfold break. "Damn it," she heard. "She's out!"
Delaney opened her eyes, seeing two of the men looking at her in fury. Sam was next to her, still blindfolded, and held by Lucas. They were all just in the forest, away from any wandering eyes.
"No, Sam!" she cried out, though a whinny came instead. She charged at Lucas, who jumped, letting Sam go. She stood beside Sam as he took off his blindfold, and he looked at her.
"Delaney…" he said in what sounded like shock and gratitude.
"Damn it…get them both!" Joe exclaimed.
Delaney looked at the men, and backed away. She then looked at Sam, pulling him with her. "Sam, get on, hurry!"
He looked at Delaney and, though her voice never reached his ears, he climbed onto her back. She jumped, galloping as fast as she possibly could away from the men. It was not long, however, before she grew tired; her breathing grew heavy, and her golden body became darker, white with sweat. Sam looked at her, and he said, "Del, you have to stop."
I can't stop, she thought. I can't let Sam get hurt…I have to continue.
As she slowed down due to fatigue, she saw a silvery gray horse appear, galloping alongside her. It looked at her, and she heard, "Follow me, Miss Delaney."
It's that man, she thought as she followed, doing what the horse—the strange man—told her to do. They continued until they found an enormous cave and the silvery gray horse stopped, becoming the strange man.
"In here, my friends," he said.
Sam slid off Delaney's back, but she did not become human. Instead, she continued into the cave with Sam beside her, knowing that if she became human, she would not be able to stand.
When they stopped, Delaney became herself. Exhausted, she swayed, almost falling over, and Sam held her steady. They sat down, with Delaney's legs trembling, and the man reappeared.
"You both are safe…I am glad to see this," he said.
"Will the men find us here?" Sam asked.
"I do not believe so, Friend-Of-Delaney. The men are not the brightest bunch."
As Delaney sat there, catching her breath, she remembered her sack of pins. "T-the…the p-pins…" she panted. The sack suddenly appeared beside her, causing the man to smile. That's right…they come to me when I need them…
"I must leave. Tomorrow I will return to aide you."
As he disappeared, Delaney looked at the place where he was, and then leaned her head against the cave wall, sighing as she continued to pant. Sam looked at her and asked, "Del, are you all right?"
She nodded. "I…couldn't stop…" She breathed in deeply, looking at the ground. "I…d-didn't want…to…to be caught…"
She looked at Sam, seeing him smile. "You were great, Delaney." Then he turned away.
"I…I've been meaning to tell you this…For a while…a long while…I've liked you…a lot."
Delaney only looked at him, unable to say a word. Sam…he really likes me, she thought. "When…when you said you'd flip out if I got hurt…on the day Mom and Dad left…you truly meant that?"
"Yes, of course. If those guys had hurt you in anyway, I don't know what I'd have done."
She looked away suddenly. "After the first day of school…when you had helped me…the…the bullying grew worse."
Sam got closer to her. "It got worse? Why didn't you tell me?"
"I…didn't want you to get hurt again…I didn't…didn't want you to worry." A tear trickled down her face as she thought of how she kept so many things secret from him. "Y-you're my only friend, Sam…if anything happened to you…because of me…"
"I won't ever regret it," Sam said. Delaney looked at him. "You mean more to me than anyone else. I'd rather get hurt knowing it was to protect you."
He…he would really do that…? Delaney looked away from him as he moved a little closer, touching her shoulder. She looked at him again, and he kissed her, her heart racing.
She didn't move away, but her heart continued to race, even after their kiss ended. They looked at each other after they parted, and a small tear trickled down her face.
Seeing the tear, Sam said, "What's wrong? Did I…?"
She then embraced him, more tears trickling down her face. "S-Sam…don't ever leave."
The next morning, Delaney woke up to footsteps. Startled, she jumped up, seeing that Sam was gone—so were the pins.
"Sam?" she called out. She slowly stood and began to make her way out of the cave. "Sam?"
But then, she felt someone cover her mouth, and she jumped again, trying to get free as their hands grabbed hers, tying her hands together.
"You're not gettin' away this time, little girl," said a voice behind her. She looked to see Joe glaring at her.
Where's Sam? she wondered worriedly as Lucas came out with the sack of pins.
Then, she heard, "Delaney!" She turned around, seeing Sam tied up.
No, Sam, she thought guiltily as Joe pushed her forward. Her face immediately turned away from Sam as they were put into separate cages. Lucas and Damien untied their hands before they pushed the two down on the hard metal. Sam got up quickly as the cage doors were closed, and he ran to the edge of the cage closest to Delaney.
"Del, are you all right?" he asked.
She did not move, tears trickling down her face as she stayed on her knees and her head sitting on the metal floor. But then, Delaney heard a loud bang, and she looked, seeing her bag of pins.
"Now that I know that both of you can use these pins, both of you will be of some use to us," Joe said. He glared at Delaney. "You're first, girl."
Sam glared at him. "Leave her alone!"
Joe turned to him. "I'll give you one warning, boy…you say anything—do anything—and you'll see her suffer." Sam stayed silent.
Delaney looked at Sam, seeing how worried he was, and then looked away, feeling even guiltier. As she dreaded on the fact that Sam was so worried for her, a pin appeared on her shirt. She looked, seeing a wolf howling. It's my wolf pin…will it work this time?
"Become that animal," Joe commanded.
Delaney closed her eyes, picturing a gray wolf that had silvery gray fur, just like the man had when he was the horse. She kept her eyes closed, not wanting to look at any-one. But then, she heard the door open, and she looked, seeing Lucas approaching her with a rope. She jumped, backing away in fear before falling backward.
"Delaney!" Sam said worriedly.
Lucas grabbed her scruff, forcing her to stand still as he wrapped a part of the rope around her neck. The other end was left on the floor, so that they could grab her when deemed necessary.
She looked at Sam for only a moment, but then she looked away. I keep on getting him into this mess, she thought sadly. He doesn't deserve to have me as a friend.
"Delaney…" Sam said trying to get her to look at him.
Lucas grabbed the sack of pins, throwing it into Sam's cage. "Your turn, boy," Joe said. Delaney looked, seeing that Sam did nothing. "Now!"
He picked out a pin, looking at Delaney before putting the pin on his shirt, closing his eyes. Sam… she thought as orange and black and white fur grew on his body. Of course…he'd choose a tiger…
When he was a tiger, the first thing he did was look at Delaney as she looked away. "Del, please look at me," he said.
She only glanced at him as Lucas and Damien pushed both cages. "I'm sorry, Sam…" she said through what sounded like a sob. "I keep on getting you into this…I'm so sorry…"
Sam pushed his thick nose through the cage bars. "You don't need to be sorry. I would've gotten myself in if you had disappeared. I don't want you to disappear…not like your parents."
"But if it weren't for me, you'd be home…"
"And you'd be somewhere else, away from home, with them." He glared at the three men, accidentally growling.
Joe stopped, glaring at him. "Boy…did you just growl at me?"
Sam growled again, and then said to Delaney, "Cover your ears." When she did so, he roared, startling the three men. They all jumped, and Lucas and Damien got closer to their boss.
"B-boss…t-the kid…" Lucas stammered.
Joe glared Sam. "If he makes any more sounds, kill 'im."
Without thinking, Delaney let a growl slip her lips; it was a protective instinct that she never knew she had. Joe looked at her, and a cruel smile appeared on his face. "I have a better ide'r." He opened her cage door, grabbing the rope that lay on the ground. He dragged her out, tying her to a thick tree, and took out his gun. "Boy, if you so much as growl again, you'll see her die!"
Delaney tried to pull away as Sam became human suddenly. "No, don't hurt her!" he said.
He glared at him, reloading the gun. Delaney jumped. "Shut up, boy. Become a tiger, now!"
Sam did what was asked as Lucas tried to open the cage door with another rope in his hands. When he got a chance, Sam jumped out, and growled loudly, causing the men to jump. As Joe jumped, he accidentally pulled the trigger, and the bullet landed in Delaney's foreleg. She yelped in pain, and Sam roared, charging at Joe. The man dropped his gun, too intimidated by him, and ran.
Running to Delaney, Sam became human and said, "Delaney…" as he broke the rope around her neck.
She became human, making the wound go away. But in her shock, she leaned into him, tears streaming down her face. "S-Sam…"
The sack of pins appeared by their side, and Sam dug through it. "I've got to get you out of here," he said.
Delaney looked at him, wiping some of the tears away. "S-Sam, I…I c-could…y-you don't n-need to…"
"You're in no condition to get yourself out." He took out the horse pin, putting it on his shirt.
He smiled at her, and then he closed his eyes, his smile disappearing as he became the black stallion. He helped her onto his back, and then he stood, taking off away from the cages and away from where the men had taken them from.
After a while, Sam stopped at another cave. Nearby was the strange man waiting for them.
"In here, my friends," he said.
Sam followed the man until they were well in. Delaney slid off as he became human, and he helped her sit down.
"Forgive me," the man said. "I had not realized that they would find you. This time, they cannot enter the cave, for there is protection around the area."
"Thanks," Sam said. The man smiled before leaving. Sam looked at Delaney, and asked, "Are you all right?"
She shrugged her shoulders, tears trickling down her face some more. He looked at her arm, where there was still a mark from the shot wound, and he had her lean against him. For a while, they were silent, before Delaney looked at him, and said, "S-Sam, I…thank you for helping me…N-no one else would've done so…"
Sam smiled. "That's why I help, because no one else would." He then looked away and said, "I can't see how my life would go if you weren't in it…It wouldn't feel complete."
She thought of these words for a moment. "I wouldn't be happy again if you left…especially since my parents are…" She stopped, not wanting to continue.
Exhausted, Delaney leaned even more against Sam, and closed her eyes, dreaming of pleasant things.
When Delaney woke up, again, Sam was nowhere to be found. Fearing another kidnapping, she called out, "Sam? Sam?!"
"He is not here, Miss Delaney," said a sorrowful voice. The strange man appeared.
"Where is he, sir?"
He hesitated. "I…have made a grave mistake…I tried to help him through magic to allow him to become animals without the use of pins. However, I caused him to lose some of his memory…and altered his appearance a little."
"You mean…he doesn't know who I am?"
"He knows who you are…but he thinks that he has not seen you in years. He looks much older than he really is. That is why I sent him to another town…" He paused sadly. "I am so sorry, Delaney. I did not think that any of this would happen."
Delaney looked away, tears beginning to form in her eyes again. Sam's gone…right when I had told him that I'd never be happy again… "What…what town is he in?"
"It is a small town far from here…it may take you the entire day to get there. I suggest that, if you choose to go, you go with much caution. The men are still in pursuit of you.
She nodded. "Can…can I see what he looks like, so that I can recognize him?"
The man waved his hand over a part of the cave wall, and a brilliant picture showed a young man walking through a small town. Seeing him at once caused more tears to trickle down Delaney's face. "S-Sam…"
"Watch, Miss. Delaney," the man said.
She looked at the picture of Sam, watching him become a tiger in front of many people. Surprisingly, no one around him jumped.
"Again, I apologize deeply for this…I did not want this to happen."
Delaney looked at the man as a pin appeared on her shirt. After looking at it, she said, "I'm going to find him…I'm not losing another person close to me…"
The man smiled as he disappeared, and Delaney closed her eyes, becoming the palomino mare before leaving the cave to look for Sam.
It took Delaney all day before she found the town that Sam was in. Becoming human, she quietly entered it as her sack of pins appeared on her shoulder. She held it close to her as she thought of her only friend.
But then, she heard, "Hey, you!" She looked, seeing a man running toward her threateningly. Startled, she ran, holding the sack even closer. "Give me that sack!"
She looked back as she ran, accidentally bumping into someone else. Falling over, she dropped the sack, with a few pins dropping out.
"What's going on?" said the second person. Recognizing the voice, Delaney looked up seeing Sam looking at her. S-Sam…it's him, she thought as she just looked at him in shock.
"Hey, girl!" said the man who was chasing her. Startled, she stood quickly, keeping the sack close to her. "Give me that sack!"
Delaney looked at Sam, who looked at the sack. "T-this is mine…I-I…"
He looked at her for a moment, and then he glared at the other man. "Leave her alone." The man stopped, staring at Sam in fear, before he ran off. Once he was out of sight, Sam looked at Delaney again and said, "Are you all right?"
Startled again, she looked up at him, nodding. "I…I don't know w-why he came a-after me…t-the sack is mine…I-I didn't steal it or…"
Sam smiled. "Don't worry; I'm not accusing you of anything." He noticed the few pins that were still on the floor. "Are these yours, too?"
She looked and jumped down to pick them up. "Oh…y-yes…t-thank you…"
Sam began helping her with picking up the pins. They reached for the last one at the same time, and they looked at each other. Delaney fought back tears as she recognized his light, sandy brown hair and his kind, hazel-colored eyes.
"You know, you remind me of someone," he said, giving her a warm smile.
"Yeah…I haven't seen her in a long time, tough." He then looked at the pins he had in his hands—one was the tiger pin. "These are really nice pins."
She couldn't help but to smile. "Thanks…" But as she thought of her pins, a tear trickled down her face.
Noticing, he asked, "What's wrong?"
Not wanting to tell Sam at that moment who she was, she said, "There…there are these three guys…They…they're after me…because I have these pins…"
"Why's that?" Sam put the pins in her sack.
She hesitated, afraid to tell him of the pins' powers. But through her hesitation, she felt a hand cover her mouth and drag her away. Sam jumped, startled by her suddenly moving away, and she felt hot breath running down her neck.
"You won't escape this time, little girl," said Joe's voice as the other two men appeared, taking her sack away.
"No, don't!" she cried, though it sounded muffled through Joe's giant hand.
But then, they heard a growl, and they all looked, seeing a tiger—it was Sam. "Let go of her, now!" he said.
Joe backed away, losing his grip on Delaney. She pushed forward and tripped, landing once again on the ground by Sam. The other two men trembled, dropping the sack as Sam stood in front of her.
"Now leave…don't come back," Sam said.
The men left, forgetting about the sack of pins, and Sam took the sack, giving it to Delaney. Once she had it, she looked at Sam and said, "T-thanks…"
He became human. "I'm surprised you're not scared of me…What I do is different."
Hearing this gave Delaney some confidence. "Well…I-I have a similar power…"
She nodded, showing him her horse pin still on her shirt. "I can become animals with my pins."
There was a moment of silence before Sam said, "Can you show me, please?"
She nodded, standing as she closed her eyes, becoming the palomino mare. When she opened them, she saw some surprise in his face. Her heart sank, however, because she thought that it would give him some recognition. She became human again, and, thinking of him not knowing who she was, tears began to trickle down her face again.
"Is there something else wrong?" Sam asked. She shook her head, and he smiled, holding out his hand. "C'mon…I want you to show you a place only I know of."
As he touched her hand, she suddenly broke into tears and sobs, falling to her knees—his touch was too overwhelming. "E-everything's gone w-wrong…!" she cried.
"What is it?" Sam asked worriedly. "Did I do something wrong?"
"Y-you don't know who I am…!"
He smiled slightly. "Well, we've just met…How can I know you if we've only just met?"
"No…no we haven't just met. You know me…" She looked at him. "Sam… Sam…it's me, Sam…it's Delaney!"
His smile disappeared, and he backed away. "Delaney…? No…it can't be…I thought…"
He backed away some more. "I…I'm sorry…"
He ran off, leaving Delaney just sitting there, her heart ripped in two. No…Sam, she thought, positive that it was all over, that she'd never speak to him again. But then, she heard something moving behind her, and in her fear, she jumped up and ran, coincidentally, in the same direction as Sam did.
When she stopped, she looked behind her to make sure that no one had followed her. But she heard, "Why did you follow me?" and she turned to see Sam. He was looking at her coldly, and it made her jump.
"I…I didn't mean to follow, I—"
"Just go home."
She looked away, thinking of home. "I…don't have a home to go to…T-those men know where I live, and if they don't find me here, they'll find me there…And I have nowhere else to go to because…because I have no friends."
The cold stare on Sam's face disappeared. "You have no friends?"
She shook her head, tears trickling down her face. "E-everyone back home makes fun of me…everyone except you. You're the only one who's really kind to me…" She held back a sob. "I have no friends…I don't have any parents…I'm…all alone…"
Delaney sat on a nearby bench, letting a few sobs leak out. Sam slowly approached her. "Hey, I'm sorry…"
She shook her head again. "I-if you want…I…I'll leave…"
As she stood, making her way to leave, Sam touched her gently, holding her arm. "Wait…don't go…" Delaney forced herself to not break down again as they looked at each other for a long time. Then, Sam smiled in disbelief, and said, "D-Delaney…it is you…"
He embraced her, and, overwhelmed, she leaned into him, tears trickling down her face. "Oh Sam…you remember…"
"I'm sorry…I'm so sorry for not believing you…" They looked at each other and smiles appeared on both of their faces. But then, Sam looked up and his smile faded. "Delaney, get down!"
He got her to the ground as a bullet flew past their heads. Delaney looked, seeing the three men. Joe glared at them, saying, "Damn you, boy…"
Sam got up onto his knees with Delaney, becoming a tiger again. "Stay away from her!" he said to the men. To her, he said, "Delaney, hurry and get out of here."
"What about you, Sam?"
"I'll be fine."
She stood as Sam attacked the men, fearing him getting hurt. "No…Sam…"
He looked at her. "Delaney, run!"
"I can't leave you, Sam!"
But then, the horse pin, which was still on Delaney's shirt, reacted on its own, and she suddenly became the palomino mare. In her fear, she ran, her sack dropping to the ground. What am I doing? Sam's back there, she thought as she turned around quickly and ran back to Sam.
He suddenly fell over, gasping in pain as he became human without warning. "No, Sam!" Delaney stopped right beside him as he picked himself up, and she noticed that he looked exactly like he did before he left. "Sam…"
He looked up at her, looking somewhat in shock. "D-Delaney…?" He tried to stand, but swayed a little, before Delaney caught him. "W-what happened? Where are we?"
He doesn't know where we are? Confused, she said without thinking, "Sam, are you all right?"
He looked at her again in shock. "I-I can understand you…"
What? Delaney looked at herself, still finding herself as the palomino mare, but her pin was gone. "N-no…my pin! I can't be myself without it…no…"
Sam stood on his own, knowing that Delaney was distraught. "Del…it's okay…"
"No it's not…Sam, I can't become human without the pin…"
"May…maybe it fell off?" He followed her along the area where she had run only a few feet away, not finding anything. "Del…I'm sorry…"
She shook her head. "N-no…don't be sorry…" She looked around, also noticing that her sack was also missing. "My other pins are gone, too…" When she noticed that they were alone, without the three men, she looked up in shock. "The men are gone, too."
Sam noticed a bunch of people staring at them, and he said, "We should head back home…"
Delaney followed him out of the strange town they were in, devastated by the fact that she could not become human ever again. She could no longer spend time with Sam around town; she could not go to school; she could not go home.
"I…can't go home…" she thought aloud. That was even more devastating—she had so many things in her house and she could no longer go back.
Hearing this, Sam looked at her. "That's not true, Delaney."
"Yes it is…I can't get into the apartment…it's on the second floor…"
"But you're not going to go somewhere else…" He thought silently to himself for a moment. "You can stay with me."
"Sam…you don't have to…"
"I want to, Delaney. I don't want to leave you all alone, and I have plenty of room for you to stay."
"Then…then could we stop by the apartment for a moment? There's something I want to get."
"Sure." He smiled.
Wanting to thank him, Delaney got closer to Sam and said, "Why don't you get on? I…it'll be much faster." He nodded, smiling still, and climbed onto her back. She then trotted off past both caves before reaching their town.
Once reaching the apartment complex, Sam got off and asked, "What is it you want to get?"
"In the living room…in a cupboard by the T.V., there's a box of pictures…all of my parents…Could you…?"
Sam smiled some more. "Sure; I'll be right back."
As he disappeared into her apartment, and while Delaney waited outside, she heard, "Hello, Miss Delaney." She looked to see the strange man smiling somewhat sadly.
"Sir, why did this happen?" she asked. "Why did the pins disappear?"
He hesitated. "That, my friend, will be shown to you in good time." His smile grew as he looked up at the billion of stars that were appearing in the growing twilight. "What I can tell you is this: Good fortune will fall upon you and your friend. He will never leave you, and, I know, you will be happy for the rest of your life."
"How will I be happy? I have to stay like this the rest of my life."
"You will see, Miss Delaney. But now, I must bid you farewell."
As he disappeared, Sam returned with a box and a key in his hands. "I locked the door so that no one can break in," he said. "Is this the box you wanted?"
She looked, seeing a label that read Parents pictures. "Yes, that's it…thanks." Delaney thought of what the man said. "Sam…Sam, would…would you ever leave me?
He looked at her. "What made you think of that?"
"I don't know…I...I guess after what happened, I…"
He smiled again. "I'd never dream of leaving you, Del…you mean a lot to me."
Hearing this kind of shocked Delaney, for he had said something similar to this the day before. "Sam…do you remember last night, when we were in that first cave?"
"Somewhat…it's a little fuzzy, but yeah." Sam looked at her worriedly. "What's wrong? You're asking a bunch of questions."
She shook her head. He's probably forgotten that kiss he gave me, too, she thought sadly. "You…you mean a lot to me, too. You're my only friend, and…last night, you told me the same thing, and that you liked me, a lot…" She leaned her head against his chest. "Sam…you kissed me last night…don't you remember that?"
For a moment, Sam said nothing, and Delaney feared the worst. But then he leaned his head against hers, petting her neck and kissing her again. "I didn't forget. I wouldn't forget about that."
They headed to Sam's house, where they found his parents waiting desperately for him to return home. When they saw him, they hurried out, overjoyed to see him safe. Delaney watched, wishing that her parents were there, too, worrying about her.
Sam was asked what happened, but he did not reply right away. He asked to take Delaney to the barn, without telling them that she was Delaney, before he'd explain. They agreed, and Delaney followed her friend into the barn.
Once they were out of earshot, Sam said, "I won't tell them about the pins."
"Thanks, Sam," she replied. She looked at her box of pictures. "Sam…remember when I had said that I thought my parents were alive?"
"Well…now I don't think they're alive anymore…if they were, then they'd be found, now."
Sam could not think of anything to say. "…I wish I could say something, but…"
She shook her head. "I only wanted to think out loud."
He smiled. "Here…" He opened an empty stall, only filled with bedding. "You should at least be comfortable."
She slowly entered, looking back at Sam. "I don't know how many times I can thank you for this, Sam…"
"You don't need to thank me; I'm just glad to keep you safe." He put the box down. "I'd better go tell my parents what happened, or else they won't let me do anything else. I'll come back after."
"Okay." As he left, Delaney looked at the stall, before lying on the ground near the back, where most of the bedding was found. Finding it too hard to wait for Sam, she lowered her head onto the ground, falling asleep.
The next morning, as she began to wake, she noticed that Sam was not there once again. However, she had noticed a blanket was placed over her, and a separate one was not far off from her. Sam was here…but where is he now?
As she stood, she heard, "Delaney!" She looked, seeing Sam running in with a newspaper in his hand. He had one of the happiest looks on his face. "Delaney, your parents are alive!"
He read the newspaper aloud. "'They were found at the archaeological site unharmed, and in excellent condition. Upon being asked how they survived, they said that they weren't allowed to say.'" He looked up at her. "I bet that man helped them out."
"The man…" Delaney looked away, remembering how the man looked to have come from the ancient city.
Sam continued to read. "'They were sent on a flight back to town, and are expecting to reunite with their daughter as soon as they get home.'" Sam had the largest smile on his face. "Del…they'll be looking for you the moment they get home. We can go and greet them at the apartment."
Delaney, however, did not have the same happy feeling—instead there was fear. "What if they don't believe it's me when they see us?"
"They will…as soon as they hear you speak, I'm sure they'll believe it."
"I'm not too sure…"
Sam looked at her, his smile fading. "Del, what's wrong? I thought you'd be happy that they're alive."
"I am happy that Mom and Dad are alive, but…I'm worried that nothing will be the same…I mean…I'm like this…"
"You don't know that…I'm sure that they'd do whatever they can to have you with them, no matter what. C'mon, let's go wait for them."
Delaney left the stall, and looked at a rope halter hanging up on the opposite stall. "If we go like this, people will look." She approached the halter. "Sam, could you put this on me?"
"Are you sure about that?"
"Yes; I won't mind."
After the halter was put on her, Delaney followed Sam out of the barn. She offered him a ride, and they headed to the apartment again. When they got there, they waited for her parents.
It was almost two hours before a taxi pulled up with a man and a woman in the back—Delaney recognized them at once as her parents. Her worry grew, and for once, she wanted to run away from her parents.
As they got out, Delaney noticed a huge difference in how they looked. Her mother's hair was longer and darker, and her skin was a tad darker, looking as if it were in the sun for an entire year. Her father's hair was slightly longer and curlier, and he had a beard. His glasses were gone, though it looked as if he could see perfectly fine without them. Mom and Dad have changed a lot, she thought.
"Sam, I don't know about this," she whispered to him, her anxiety growing even more.
Her parents approached them, looking somewhat happy, somewhat worried. "Sam?" her mother said, a little shocked to see him there. Delaney noticed her voice had changed only slightly. It sounded a little higher, but a little hoarse. "W-what are you doing here?"
Sam looked at Delaney. "I…came to bring Delaney home, Mrs. Holmes" he replied.
"Delaney? Where is she?" Her mother looked at her, and she froze. "D-Delaney?"
Delaney hesitated, surprised that her mother called her so. She looked at Sam again, before looking back at her mother. "M-mom…" She looked at her father, seeing a little more shock in his face. "Dad…it's me…"
He approached her, getting a little closer. "Delaney…" She felt his arms wrap around her neck, and she felt tears falling on her coat. "Oh my God…it's you…"
They recognized me, she thought in some joy, some shock. How was this possible? Not caring at that moment, she leaned against him. "I missed you so much…I thought you were both gone…"
Her mother touched her face, looking so happy, yet so upset. "Oh sweetie…you don't know how happy we are to see you!"
Delaney saw Sam move away, as if ready to leave. "Sam…don't go, please…"
A smile appeared on his face. "I'll be right back."
As he left, Delaney turned to her parents again. "How…how did you know?"
A small smile appeared on her mother's face. "We saw you before…becoming a horse with pins. Someone showed us."
The man was helping us both… "Where were you?"
They hesitated. "I…don't think we're allowed to tell you, sweetie," her father said. He smiled. "You're so beautiful, Delaney."
She wished she could smile. "Thank you…" Sorrow filled Delaney, and she looked away. "But…but I can't become myself…"
There was a small moment of silence. "What?"
"Sam…Sam and I were going through a lot with those pins, and…and yesterday, the pins disappeared, and I can't become myself without it. And…and now without a way to become me…I can't go home…"
Again, they were silent for a moment. "Oh Delaney…" her mother finally said.
"No," her father said. "No, there has to be a way. If there isn't, then…then we'll find a new home where you can go. We're not going to leave you again."
They…they're doing the exact opposite of what I thought they'd do, Delaney thought.
Sam returned with the box of pictures and the apartment key. "Here, Mr. and Mrs. Holmes…We brought these to my house last night."
Delaney's father took the key and her mother took the box. "Thanks, Sam. Could you help me really quickly?" her father said.
"Sure." He looked at Delaney and smiled before following her father to the apartment.
Delaney watched him go again, and her mother said, "Sweetie, are you all right?" She looked at her mother. "We saw you getting bullied at school…I was so worried about you…"
"I'm fine, Mom…I…Sam helped me out a lot." Delaney thought of the kiss she and Sam had, wondering if they had seen it, too. "Mom…Sam—"
"Hey, Delaney!" Sam suddenly called out, sounding as happy as he was when he told her that her parents were alive. He hurried out to the balcony of the apartment complex, and held up a sack. "Look what I found!"
Delaney looked at the sack, recognizing it at once. "My pins…"
He hurried down to her, digging through the sack. She saw all of the glittery pins, and hope suddenly filled her thoughts. Eventually, Sam picked out a pin in the shape of a horse's head.
"There it is…" she said, her happiness growing.
The pin began to levitate, and moved away from Sam's hand. It flew to Delaney, landing at the spot it normally would be, looking like a white brand mark. My pin is back…I can be human again…
She closed her eyes, picturing herself…exactly the way she was supposed to be. She heard her mother gasp in joy, and when she opened her eyes, she found herself human. In her joy, she hugged her mother. "…You're home…"