Libby Thump wished for horses. She sat on the floor of her bedroom surrounded by pictures of them. Grays, chestnuts, bays, piebalds, cantering, trotting, whinnying, sleeping horses!
Up on their shelves forgotten dolls in glittery tiaras gazed out. From under the bed peeked dress-up clothes that Libby and her ex–best friend, Brittany, used to play princess in. But Libby hadn’t played princess in a long time. She had been drawing horses.
“Li-i-ibby-y-y-y-y!” her mother called.
“Coming,” she replied.
Libby put down her colored chalks and gave the drawing one last look. The horse galloped under blue skies—a horse so white it almost looked pink. She scratched her nose, then pressed her lips together in disapproval. The horse’s legs were all wrong. She’d have to fix that when she got back.
“Li-i-ibby-y-y-y-y! For the twentieth time—take the dog for a wa-a-a-a-a-a-alk!” her mother called again.
Libby pulled on a jacket and caught her reflection in the mirror. She had brown eyes that were almost black, long dark braids to her waist, and a big pink smudge across her nose. She wiped it off with one sleeve. Out in the hall Margaret the dog wagged her tail in anticipation.
“And don’t let her off the leash!” Libby’s older sister, Laurel, reminded her.
Libby and Margaret headed to the park. As soon as they entered, she unclipped the leash. Imagine
, she thought, picking up a stick, being on a leash your entire life
. Margaret wagged her tail furiously, ready for a chase, and Libby threw the stick. It was a really good throw—in fact, so good that it was one of the reasons Libby’s life was about to change forever.
Up, up into the trees the stick rose ever higher, landing far out, past the path, off into the woods, and Margaret went merrily after it. This was a problem too because no one in the family had ever been able to get her to come unless they were holding a slab of roast beef or a carton of ice cream.
Libby cupped her hands around her mouth: “Margaret!” She gingerly picked her way through some brush and came to a narrow dirt trail. “Come on, girl,” she called again, hoping that Margaret would actually listen for a change. Why did I let her off the leash?
Libby scolded herself.
She reached the edge of the woods, and thankfully, there on the other side of a five-railed fence, stick proudly in her mouth, was Margaret. Libby climbed the fence, and now she and the dog were in a large open field—but it didn’t take long to see that they were not alone.
A huge horse raised its head and stared at the intruders. Its once-white coat was now caked with dried mud, and its long mane separated into strands as thick as sausages; its yellowed, tangled tail reached almost to the ground. The horse shied and then swung around on its haunches to face them from a few feet back.
Now, Margaret led a fairly sheltered life and she had no idea how much damage a kick from a horse could cause. She let the stick fall from her mouth and ran at the horse with the idea of nipping its ankles, but the horse wheeled again and this time bolted across the field. For a second Margaret was stunned, she couldn’t believe that something this big was actually running away from her, and then she did what she always did when something ran away from her—she chased it.
“Margaret! No!” Libby screamed.
The horse was running so fast that Libby could actually feel the vibration of its hooves in her own legs, and it occurred to her that something really bad could very well happen. She had to put a stop to this.
The horse galloped by with Margaret right behind, and Libby lunged for her.
“Gotcha!” She tackled the dog and quickly located the ring for the leash to clip her back onto it.
But the frightened horse kept going. Libby’s mouth went dry and she held tightly to Margaret. Like a runaway train, the horse was headed straight for the five-rail, very
solid fence. If the horse crashed into it and was hurt—or worse—it would be Libby’s fault.
“Stop… please stop!” she cried.
Three strides… two… The horse put its legs out in front of it, chipping into the ground, trying to stop. Libby covered her eyes but then couldn’t help looking, and gasped because an instant later the animal sprang with amazing agility over the huge fence with room to spare. The horse hovered in the air, front legs tucked tightly under, its tail fanned out behind. It landed soundlessly a great distance past the other side of the fence, galloped down the slope, and thundered out of sight.
Of course Libby ran after the horse—she had to—she had to make sure that someone knew it was loose. What if it got out to the road? What if it got lost?
Down the hill with Margaret in tow Libby raced, her long dark braids whipping in the wind. She wished that she’d never gone on this stupid walk, let Margaret off the stupid leash, or thrown the stupid stick.
Libby wished she were home, sitting on the floor surrounded by her pictures of horses, quietly drawing in her room, with the dolls all around, like princesses in their glittery tiaras.
What Libby Thump didn’t know was that there in the field she had just met a princess—one without a tiara.
She also didn’t know that her life was about to change forever.