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Heartland #11: True Enough

Amy had trouble sleeping that night. She had checked on Melody before she went to bed and the mare had been quiet, but she still couldn't help worrying. Her dreams were full of images of the mare lying on the grass, the bar of wood sticking out of her side.

Amy woke early and glanced at her alarm clock. Five-thirty. It was still dark outside, but she felt wide awake. Immediately, the events of the day before flashed in her head. She anxiously threw back the covers.

Her jeans and sweater were lying on the floor where she had left them the night before. Pulling them on, she crept down the quiet stairs and went into the kitchen. She had to see how Melody was. Taking the flashlight from the pine dresser, she went outside.

The air was frosty, but she hardly noticed as she ran up the dark yard. She pulled back the barn doors and went inside. Hearing the noise, several of the other horses came to their stall doors in surprise. Amy hurried past them, her heart beating fast when she reached Melody's stall.

She shone the light over the door. Melody was dozing on her feet. However, as the light flashed past her head, Melody's eyes shot open and she started backward in alarm. Amy hastily angled the flashlight beam down to the floor.

"Easy, girl," she whispered, relief rushing through her as she realized Melody was OK. "It's only me."

She switched off the flashlight. Plunged into sudden blackness, it was a moment before her eyes started to adjust. Sliding back the bolts on Melody's door, Amy entered the warm stall. She could just make out the mare's shadowy outline.

"There's no need to be frightened," she said softly. She waited a moment and then heard the straw rustle as Melody turned and stepped cautiously toward her. Amy held out her hand and felt the mare's warm breath on her palm. With a quiet snort, the horse lifted her muzzle and blew gently, her breath flickering like soft fingertips across Amy's face.

For a long moment they stood there together cocooned in the darkness, Amy gently stroking the mare and the mare breathing in Amy's scent. Then, with a small sigh, Melody dropped her muzzle onto Amy's shoulder and let it rest there. It was the gesture of trust that Amy had been hoping for. She gently massaged the mare's neck with small clockwise circles.

"Poor girl," she whispered, felling the weight of the horse's muzzle become heavier as she relaxed. "Your life's changed a lot recently, hasn't it? I guess you can't understand where your owner's gone or why you've been brought to this new place. But I'll look after you, I promise, and one day we'll find someone to love you just like Mrs. Phillips used to."

She leaned her face against the mare's cheek. It would be so much easier if horses could understand human language. The only way that she could show Melody what she meant was to treat her with respect and kindness and never do anything to break the trust the mare had placed in her.

As the darkness outside slowly gave way to dawn, Amy stayed with Melody, massaging first her neck and shoulders and then her back, hindquarters, and legs. Gradually she felt the tension in the mare's muscles begin to seep away.

Engrossed in her work, the sound of the barn doors being pulled back at seven o' clock and the electric lights being switched on made her jump in surprise.

"Amy!" Ty said, seeing her look out over the stall door. "What are you doing?"

"I came to see Melody," Amy explained, yawning suddenly. "I didn't sleep too well last night."

Ty nodded understandingly and approached the stall. "How is she?'

"She seems fine," Amy said. "There's no sign of her going into labor. Her side's swollen and bruised, but I guess that's not surprising."

Ty rested his arms on top of the half-door. Melody, still not trusting anyone apart from Amy, shied to the back of the stall.

"It's all right, girl, Ty's not going to hurt you," Amy said, but the horse still looked wary.

Ty's eyes swept over her wound. "We could use some comfrey ointment. It should help reduce the bruising and speed up the healing process."

Amy nodded. "What do you think we should do about exercising her? We can't turn her out in the field. She might rip out her stitches if she rolls."

"We'll se what Scott says when he calls," Ty said

They had just finished the feeding when Scott arrived. Amy held Melody while he examined her side. The mare flinced as the vet approached, but with Amy stroking and soothing her, she let Scott check her over. After the first few minutes, Amy felt her relax slightly.

"The wound's healing OK," Scott said as he finished his examination, having given Melody a shot of antibiotics. "Just keep it clean, and make sure she doesn't rip her stitches."

"So how should we exercise her?" Amy asked, stroking Melody's dark muzzle.

"Walk her around on a lead rope," Scott replied, packing up his bag. "She needs to move her legs or they'll fill up with fluid, but don't turn her out. You might also want to get a foaling kit ready in a clean bucket with a lid."

"What goes in it?" Amy asked.

"Iodine, wound powder, cotton wool, a tail bandage, a towel, and a feeding bottle." Scott replied, going out of the stall. "I'll bring you some milk replacer tomorrow as well in case anything happens during the birth and the foal needs to be hand-fed. And it's probably a good idea to keep a bale of fresh straw and a pitchfork by her stall so you've got them on hand if she goes into labor unexpectedly."

"I'll get all that together," Amy said tentatively, following him out.

Scott saw the worry on her face. "She's doing fine, Amy," he said, gently. "It could have been a lot worse."

Amy looked into his reassuring eyes. "I just want her and the foal to be all right," she said, swallowing.

Scott gave her a pat on her shoulder. "We all want that," he said, looking at Melody still standing at the back of her stall, "but right now, there's nothing more we can do."

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