Night and Day by Sandra Arnold

Photo by Ramiro Pianarosa on Unsplash

Night was her favorite time. Night was safe. Sheets over her head and a torch to read by. A library book about a girl who lived in a beautiful house with a garden. A girl who wore pretty dresses. A girl who got a horse as a surprise for her birthday. A girl whose father wore a suit and tie and a mother who wore sparkly necklaces. She switched off her torch, opened her curtains and made wishes on the new moon. When she drifted off to sleep she was the girl in the book. Not the girl with the blood stains on her pillow and the bruises on her face. Not the girl shamed by the teacher in front of the whole class for not knowing her times tables. Not the girl who was never picked by her classmates to join in their games.

Fast forward two years.

Teacher: “With your ineptitude at maths I don’t know how you managed to pass the entry exam for this school. You must have copied your way in.”

Fast forward ten years.

Mother: “Okay, so now you’ve graduated with that degree. Just remember though that boys don’t like girls who are cleverer than they are. So don’t show off or you’ll end up a spinster. And now you’re back home please stop answering back when your father criticises something you say or do or wear. It only makes him worse. Smile and let it all flow over your head, like I do.”

Fast forward ten years.

Colleague: “Have you been watching any good games lately?”

“God, no! I’m not interested in watching a bunch of neanderthals charging around a rugby field after a ball.”

“How can you say that and call yourself a New Zealander?”

“Have you been reading any good books lately?”

“Books? I haven’t got time to read.”

“How can you say that and call yourself educated?”

“Oh you’re such a smart arse. You think you’re so clever. Such a stuck-up bitch. No wonder you never got yourself a bloke.”

Fast forward ten years.

Auntie: “Why, at the age of forty two, have you bought a bloody horse? Why haven’t you got a husband and kids? Why haven’t you told your family your new address? Why don’t you dress like a woman? Make sure you smarten yourself up for your father’s funeral.”

On the day of the funeral she stood behind a gravestone and watched the mourners enter the church. Then she turned, got back in her car and drove fast and far.

By the time she arrived at the farthest end of the country the sky was luminous with new moon,  the air sweet with summer grass. Her horse trotted up to the gate and waited. She put her arms around his neck and felt his warm breath on her face and his soft mane in her hands. She promised him that in the morning they would ride together like the wind.

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