The Swan House

The Swan House by Elizabeth Musser Read Free Book Online

Book: The Swan House by Elizabeth Musser Read Free Book Online
Authors: Elizabeth Musser
Rachel and I called him, was playing a funeral hymn for my mother, lovingly, slowly, with emotion. And as he played, I imagined a little girl delicately placing a bundle of handpicked wild flowers on a fresh grave in a field far below the snow-covered ridges.
    â€œIt’s like he’s mourning with me,” I whispered, and Rachel nodded. We were transported by that music in an ethereal way that later we would try to explain and couldn’t. But it was the first time I really felt what I had long understood: that something could be extremely beautiful and intensely painful at the same time.
    â€œYou’re gonna be okay, Swan,” Rachel stated in her practical way when we got up and headed downstairs. “If you can laugh and cry like that, it means that you’re gonna be okay.”
    She was halfway out the door when Trixie caught up with us. “Swan, why don’t you go to the barn with Rachel for a while? Get away from all the people.”
    I shrugged, already headed toward the kitchen and the Atlanta Constitution .
    â€œGo on, sweetie,” Trixie urged. “It’ll do you good.”
    It was only a five-minute walk up the street from my house to Rachel’s. I walked it almost every day, usually with a bounce to my step, because behind Rachel’s house was a stable, and in the stable was my chestnut mare, Bonnie. The stable had five stalls and, behind it, a large riding ring and several acres of woods with trails. Most all of the houses in the part of Atlanta where I lived sat on spacious yards with plenty of land surrounding them. Some homes, like mine, had a pool behind them. Rachel’s had a stable.
    But I dragged my feet to the barn that day. Bonnie greeted me with a soft nicker, her head peering over the door of her stall, small ears pricked forward. I sat down across from her stall in the overflowing shavings that were stored there. The smells of horses and hay and shavings and manure and leather, the smells of this part of my life, permeated the air, but the excitement and fond memories they usually awakened in me were absent that afternoon.
    â€œI think I better go home,” I said to Rachel after I’d been there for only five minutes. “Sorry, Bonnie,” I whispered, running my hand across my mare’s soft muzzle. “I don’t feel like riding today.”
    We walked back toward Rachel’s house in silence. Her mother, Mrs. Abrams, met us in the backyard. She was a very attractive woman, a lot shorter than Rachel’s five foot six, with blond shoulder-length hair and an oval face. She looked at the moment very prim and proper in her rose-colored suit, but I knew her to be as tough as nails. Mrs. Abrams loved horses as much as Rachel and I did, and most of the time she was at the barn with us, wearing worn jeans and a dirty sweatshirt and rubber boots, her hair covered by a bandana. The three of us shared the responsibility of feeding the five horses, cleaning out their stalls, and doing what Mrs. Abrams called the “general upkeep of the barn.” That translated into a lot of hot, sweaty work, especially when the muggy summer hit.
    â€œMary Swan, my dear.” She patted my shoulder. Mrs. Abrams was not usually an affectionate woman. “We are all terribly sorry.” She had sent over a casserole that morning. Her eyes looked very red and swollen, and I guessed that she’d already made visits that afternoon to homes of several of her friends who had been on the Orly flight. Although our parents were well acquainted because of Rachel’s and my friendship, they were not particularly close friends. They did see each other at the symphony, and Dr. Abrams, a well-respected professor, was one of Daddy’s clients.
    Mrs. Abrams came up close to me and looked me straight in the eyes, as was her habit. “Mary Swan,” she said, “you know that you are always welcome here and at the barn. Always. But in view of what

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