Pepper continued along the forest covered trail with Mikaela on his back. His gallop slowed as he entered a meadow.
Mikaela looked around. Wildflowers she’d never seen surrounded her. The colors were mesmerizing and they seemed to wave in unison as the stems swayed in the breeze. Mikaela rested her head against Pepper’s neck, his mane tickling her nose.
Slowly, Pepper came to a stop. Mikaela unmounted the mighty horse, stretched and looked around. “Is this where we’re supposed to be, Pepper?”
Pepper looked at her for a moment, then stooped down. He had stopped at a creek and took a sip of water. When he raised his head back up, he motioned toward his back.
“Okay, Pepper, I guess it’s time to move on,” Mikaela sighed as she mounted up. “It’s pretty here though.”
Pepper neighed briefly and then continued on the trail, across a small footbridge over the water and toward an orchard in the distance. His pace picked up as he neared the orchard. Mikaela held on as he bounded toward the trees. “Whoa, Pepper, whoa!” She feared he might throw her. Finally, he stopped and picked an apple off with his shiny big teeth.
Mikaela chuckled, “Sounds like a good idea. She reached for an apple of her own. Pepper backed away from the tree, blocking her reach. “What, you can have one, but I can’t?”
Pepper pranced a few times and then walked over to another tree. This one had beautiful pinkish-red apples. This time, Mikaela was able to pick one and took a bite. It was the most delicious apple she had ever tasted. She knew she had to have more, but how to hold them?
She looked down at the gown. It had multiple layers of light fabric in the skirt. She pulled up the outer layers and ripped a large swath from the bottom layer. She formed it into a bag of sorts and picked several apples, then fastened them to the saddle.
Pepper pulled another apple and enjoyed it while Mikaela took a breath from the journey. It was a beautiful land about her. In the distance, some trees had not bore fruit yet, and apple blossoms covered the trees. Pepper slowly walked through this area of the orchard, letting Mikaela enjoy its beauty.
The sun was starting to sink low in the distance when they came to the edge of the orchard. Mikaela spied a small village off in the distance. “Pepper, is that where we are going?”
Pepper neighed loudly, and took off in a full gallop toward town. Mikaela looked forward to having some human company to speak with as well as a break from riding in a dress on Pepper’s back. Pepper brought Mikaela to the door of a local inn, stopped, and shook his head toward the door.
As Mikaela swung her leg over to dismount, she heard the jingle of coins. She found a small purse of money tucked securely under a flap on Pepper’s saddle. Mikaela hitched Pepper’s lead to the hitching posted, and pet her new friend’s face. “I’ll be back out. Hopefully they have a stable for you too my friend.” Pepper whinnied with delight.
Mikaela felt a little disheveled as she entered the inn. A kind looking old man sat behind the counter. “Well, hello there ma’am. How can I help you?”
Mikaela fiddled with her dress a little more and tried to straighten her hair as she approached the man as his desk. “Do you have a room and a stable for my horse?”
“You’re not from around here, are you ma’am? I’m Harold. Nice to meet you. I’ll be happy to set you up for a night or two in one of our rooms.”
Mikaela smiled. “Thank you, and no, I’m not from around here. Where is here?”
Harold chuckled to himself. “Oh, you’re Somewhere between There and Nowhere.”
Mikaela tilted her head sideways. “So, what’s the name of this place?” His original answer confused her.
“You’re Somewhere!” Harold exclaimed and held his hands up and wide as if he were grabbing as much air as he could.
Mikaela nodded, and thought what a strange answer. “Um, ok. Is there a place I can get my horse some feed and stabled during my stay in Somewhere?”
Harold’s eyes glistened when she said Somewhere. Almost like it was a magical word. “Oh definitely.” He pointed to the other side of the dusty road. “The stables are over there. No charge for a pretty lady like yourself.” He finished up the register and had Mikaela sign it, then turned over the key. “Your room is right at the top of the stairs on the left.”
Mikaela nodded thank you and started to head toward the door. “Um, Harold, is there a place where I might get some different clothes?”
“Sure thing, Ms. Mikaela. The Town Clothier is down the street. Mrs. Taylor will fix you up right proper.”
“Thanks, Harold.” With that, Mikaela walked back out to Pepper and smiled. She unlashed the lead and walked Pepper over to the stables. She gave Pepper a nice brushing and a couple more apples before heading over to Mrs. Taylor to address her dress.
Mikaela walked into the Town Clothier. The door rattled as she pulled it and stuck a bit on the frame. A rudimentary bell chimed.
A sweet little voice came from behind a stack of cloth. “Give me a minute. I’ll be right there.” The shuffle of feet could be heard against the wood planked floor.
Mikaela looked around the shop as Mrs. Taylor finished working on her task.
“Okay, here I am!” Mrs. Taylor hollered as she rounded the stacks. She paused, and her eyes grew big. “You’re a woman!”
Mikaela chuckled to herself. Even at just over five foot five, she towered over Mrs. Taylor. “Hi. I, um, need a change of clothes.” Her beautiful dress now looked haggard and worn. She wasn’t sure if it could be salvaged after she tore out the swatch to carry the apples.
“Oh, sweetie, yes, you do. Are you looking to lure a man or something more practical?” Her eyes glistened like Harold’s, it must be something about Somewhere.
Mikaela giggled. Lure a man. That struck her funny. “Just something practical. My horse has decided to take me on a journey and, well, I need something more appropriate.”
Mrs. Taylor looked her over and started taking measurements. “Okay, sweetie. Can you come back in the morning? I’ll have two changes for you then. In the mean time,” Mrs. Taylor turned to her side and picked up a folded gown, “you’ll be more comfortable sleeping in this tonight. It’s yours, no charge.”
Mikaela nodded thank you as Mrs. Taylor handed her the gown.
Her old hands gently touched the top off Mikaela’s. “I get a good vibe from you. Your acushla awaits.”
Mikaela had never heard that word before, but she was tired and longed for bed. She decided to save her questions for the morning and to head back to the inn. She waved to Mrs. Taylor and bid her a good evening.
Mikaela wandered back to the inn and climbed up the stairs. Her room was sparse, but a small fireplace warmed the room and a lantern cast light on the walls with enough for her to see. She shimmied out of her dress and unfolded the gown. Sweet stitch work in the pattern of scrolls and roses lined the V-neck of the gown. Mikaela slipped it on and headed toward bed.