Houdini’s Box

Part 5

By: Girl Bard


Please see Part 1 for disclaimer.

Many thanks to everyone who mailed me feedback! Keep it coming!



June 24, 2000


"Jaden?" I call, stretching languidly in the soft bed. She doesn't answer, and I honestly can say I'm surprised that she's not still in bed. She was so drunk last night I expected her to have an awful hangover. Maybe she's in the bathroom.

Wanting to make sure she's okay I hop out of bed and head down the hall.

Wierd, the bathroom is empty. "Bean?" I ask, noticing for the first time that her doggy presence is absent. I check the entire house, not finding any sign of Bean or Jaden.

Huh. Where did the two of them disappear too?

Feeling grubby and smelling like a bar, I decide to take a shower, hoping that they will be back by the time I'm finished. I turn on the water and check the temperature. It's funny; it gets easier every time I shower, hardly any feelings of claustrophobia or fear. I'm thankful for that, and maybe I'll enjoy taking long hot showers again someday.

I quickly shower and brush my teeth, grateful that my cinnamon toothpaste erases the taste of alcohol from my breath. I always thought it was so strange that Jaden brushed her teeth in the shower until I tried it myself. It's kind of cool, and I do it all the time now.

Jaden's shown me a lot of things that I never thought were possible.

I shut off the water and towel myself off. Through the semi-open bathroom door I can smell something wonderful, and I assume that Jaden's home.

Or a burglar has broken in and decided to cook me bacon and eggs.

Wrapping my towel around myself I head for the kitchen. Sure enough, my wonderful girlfriend is standing at the stove expertly flipping eggs and turning French toast. The microwave is running and the wonderful smell of burning pig flesh wafts to my nose once again.

Bean is licking her lips and standing next to Jaden, awaiting another morsel of food. Jaden spoils her more than I do.

"Hi." I greet her slowly, wondering why she's so hyper and alert. I think if I drank as much as she did last night I'd be in a coma.

"Morning sunshine!" She answers, smiling widely at me before turning her attention back to breakfast. "Hungry?"

"Yeah." I answer, still completely confused.

"Good!" She replies, and it dawns on me that I've never, ever, not even once, heard her be this chipper. Did I miss something? I must have been sleeping way longer than I thought. Maybe it's Sunday morning instead of Saturday. Because no one, not even Wonder Woman Jaden herself could be this excited, this early, after getting wasted last night.


"Yep?" She answers distractedly as she flips the French toast one final time.

"Why aren't you drunk and puking in the toilet?" I ask, and she finally looks at me, laughing.

"I don't get hangovers." She answers, smirking.

"What do you mean? You drank like a fish last night!"

She shrugs and divides the French toast and eggs onto three plates. "I don't know, I just don't." Smiling at me, she hands me a steaming plate. "Opps, forgot the bacon, hang on!" She takes it from the microwave and gives me a few slices. "Pretty cool, huh?"

I have no idea what she's talking about. "What?"

"That I don't get hangovers. It's pretty cool." She puts some bacon on her plate and a slice on the third plate.

"Yeah, it's great." I answer, my attention diverted as I watch her set the plate down for Bean. "What are you doing?" I ask as my little dog gobbles up her breakfast.

Jaden looks at me guiltily. "She was hungry. We jogged down to the market to get stuff for breakfast." I laugh and shake my head at the two of them.

We sit and eat, and Jaden's breakfast is wonderful. "You're a great cook." I tell her, "You should cook more often."

She grunts as she neatly bites into her wheat toast. "Believe me, I can only cook breakfast." She pauses, thinking. "And grilled cheese, and I can make popcorn."

"Well, this is great, thank you." I respond, finishing up my French toast. "I still can't believe you're not hungover."

"No, in fact, drinking seems to do the opposite to me. I wake up early, and alert. I woke this morning around 7:00 and slipped out with the mutt to go for a run while you were dead to the world." She laughs, and gets up to pour herself more juice.

"It was a late night!" I protest, but we both know that I just love to sleep. "So what do you want to do today?"

She lapses into thinking mode, her beautiful blue eyes narrowing. "Well, it's a gorgeous day out. You up for a trail ride and to meet Studley?" I nod my head eagerly, and she smiles. I've wanted to meet Jaden's beloved horse for months now.

"Okay, after breakfast we'll head to the barn."

Cool. I can't wait.



The ride to the barn seems to take forever. I know it's because I'm so excited to be around horses again. Bean is sitting on my lap; I thought Jaden was going to have a fit if we didn't take her. The two of them have bonded, and if my sneaking suspicions are correct, I would bet that Bean actually loves Jaden more because she takes her for fun jogs in the morning while her hedonistic mother lays in bed.

We have left the large outcroppings of rock and forests that surround Beverly and are now more in farm country. Or at least New England's version of farm country. In Ohio, all you see for miles are flat lands covered with crops. New England is drastically different, with ancient looking forests and huge boulders everywhere. It's beautiful here, and so different from Ohio. Even the farmlands of New England are different; they are rolling hills separated by creeks and riverbeds.

The road curves sharply and Jaden makes a quick turn down a gravel driveway. It is encased with trees, but I can make out a small barn ahead. After maneuvering down the winding driveway, Jaden parks in front of the tiny gray barn and hops out of the Explorer.

"Should I keep Bean on her leash?" I ask, struggling to get out of the tall Explorer. I hate this stupid car.

"It depends." Jaden answers. "Does she chase cats?"

I shake my head no. "Nah, she likes to play with them, but she won't hurt them." I answer, unclipping Bean who hops eagerly over to Jaden. That dog is such a kiss-up.

"Come on." Jaden takes my hand and leads me into the barn. The familiar smell of horses and hay hits me and I'm almost doubled over by memories. It's funny how much something as insignificant as a scent can bring the past flooding back. I miss Annie so much, and it hurts to think that Jaden will never get to know her.

The barn is impeccably neat and well kept. It only has four stalls, each empty and filled with clean shavings. The door of each stall proudly displays each horse's name, Bonkers, Lucy, Star, and Studley.

"Where are they?" I ask, and Jaden grins.

"Outside." She heads through the back door of the small barn with Bean in tow. I follow them out.

"Wow, this is beautiful!" I exclaim as I take in my surroundings. Behind the barn is a lovely pond and a huge pasture. An equally small gray house sits in front of the pond.

"Who lives there?" I ask, pointing to the house.

"A really nice couple with their four children. I gave them Studley after he couldn't really be ridden anymore." Jaden's voice is sad, but she continues to smile anyway. "They take great care of him and love him to pieces. He couldn't be in a better place."

"What happened?" I ask, following Jaden as she enters the pasture.

"He was my first horse when I started working on the force." She answers. "We were partners for years and then we discovered he had navicular."

"Oh, Jaden that's awful." I respond. Navicular is a serious condition where a horse's navicular bone in his hoof breaks down. There is no cure, and eventually the horse becomes so lame he has to be put down. "Poor Studley."

"I know." She remarks, her face impassive. "But he's happy here, and I think he likes being retired." We continue to head across the huge pasture in silence until we reach a small incline. I furrow my brows and wonder where the horses are. Jaden sense my pause and takes my hand once again, leading me up the slight hill. We reach the top, and I look down below.

Oh. That's where they are. The hill curves gently down below us to reveal a shallow stream. Four horses graze near the stream, their bright coats gleaming in the sun. Bean spies them and cocks her head, unsure as to what these huge creatures are.

"Come on!" Jaden yells, running down the hill. Bean takes off after her, her small body leaping through the tall grass. I giggle and follow, the exhilarating yet scary feeling of running down a hill something I haven't felt since childhood.

The horses, hearing us approach, lift their heads. None of them seem alarmed; in fact, they look like Jaden does this all the time. Which I'm sure she does.

Jaden's longer legs allow her to reach them first, followed by a tentative Bean. "They won't hurt her." Jaden calls to me as I continue to run. "They're used to dogs." Bean looks curious but not fearful of the horses, and they completely ignore her and head towards Jaden. She pulls four carrots out of her back pocket and distributes them equally, the horses all delicately taking the treats from her hands. I finally reach them, gasping and out of breath. Jaden looks anything but winded, and I remind myself that if I got up early and ran every morning I wouldn't be practically having an asthma attack right now.

"This is Studley." Jaden tells me as I gasp for air. I recognize him from the picture she sent. He's so cute, his rich bay coat gleaming in the morning sun.

"He's wonderful!" I tell her, and she smiles like proud parent.

"And that goofy one is Bonkers." she continues, pointing to the tall chestnut gelding with a perpetually confused look on his face. "Lucy is the gray mare and Star is the bay with the star." Jaden grins and I laugh.

"They are all adorable." I tell her, trying to pet each inquisitive horse as it sniffs me. I am particularly drawn to Lucy. The quiet and gentle look in her eye reminds me of Annie. I stroke her velvety pink nose and admire her light dappled coat.

Jaden begins walking back to the barn, the four horses following her. Bean races ahead, thoroughly enjoying her freedom in the field.

"Why are they following you?" I ask Jaden. "You don't even have a lead rope!" Usually horses will do anything to stay outside.

"I give them treats." Jaden answers, chuckling. I nod my head in understanding and concentrate on climbing back up the hill. It looked a lot less steep when I was running down it.



We reach the barn and Jaden opens the gate for Studley. "Barn." She states, and I do a double take when he walks freely into the barn. She gently pushes Bonkers and Star away from the gate, allowing Lucy to pass through. "Barn." She repeats, and Lucy follows Studley.

Shutting the gate, Jaden reveals another carrot that she divides between Bonkers and Star. They munch it happily and they trot off back down the hill.

Jaden and I head into the barn. "I've never seen horses that listen like these do!" I tell her, astounded at the fact that they seem to understand some English and actually comply. "How do you do that?" I question.

She shrugs, looking uncomfortable. "I don't know." She answers, "They just listen to me."

"Jaden, that's freaking incredible." I tell her. "Horses just don't listen like that."

She doesn't answer and begins to gently brush Studley's gleaming coat. I follow her lead and brush the equally clean Lucy. I pick out her feet and comb her forelock, planting a kiss on her pink nose. "She's so pretty, is she part draft horse?" I ask, noting her large feet.

"Yep, she's half Percheron, half Quarter Horse. She lives here because she had a bowed tendon that never really healed."

"What about Bonkers and Star?" I question, tacking up Lucy with the equipment Jaden pointed me towards.

"Bonkers was an abuse case, and Star is a broodmare that can't conceive anymore because of an infection." Jaden finishes, tacking up Studley with speed and precision. I hurry to finish, fumbling slightly with the girth. It's been years since I tacked up a horse and although I could never forget how, my fingers aren't as quick as Jaden's.

"So all the horses here are living out the rest of their lives?" I ask and Jaden nods.

"That's amazing." I tell her. "They all would have been at the slaughterhouse, wouldn't they?"

Jaden nods again, and leads Studley outside. I finish buckling Lucy's bridle and follow. I pull down my stirrups and attempt to mount the tall mare. Annie was short, and I could mount easily. But Lucy is at least a hand taller and making it more difficult for me to mount gracefully. Jaden sees me struggling and gives me a leg-up, her powerful upper body lifting me gently into the saddle.

"Thanks." I offer before adjusting my stirrups. She smiles before gliding onto Studley's back. "Anything I should know about her?" I ask, gathering my reins in my hands.

"No, just be gentle." Jaden answers, walking Studley over. "Grace, you're a kind person. I'm certain that you ride the same way." She smiles a dazzling smile, her eyes twinkling in the sun. "Just ride, and have fun." She adjusts her helmet slightly, and I make certain mine is buckled. "Are you ready?" She asks, and I nod excitedly.

"Come on mutt!" Jaden calls to Bean, who is making herself useful by eating horse poop. "Let's go!" She yells, leading Studley into the woods. Bean races ahead happily and Lucy and I follow.



This is heaven, I'm certain of it. Lucy and Studley walk calmly side by side, their heads lowered and relaxed. I'm sure they are having some important horse conversation. Jaden seems so peaceful, her posture relaxed and quiet. I am equally at peace, enjoying the warm summer day on horseback, something I haven't done in years.

Jaden's hand is in mine, her long fingers relaxed. I never once thought that I would be on horseback, holding my beloved's hand, in a New England forest. I still can't believe I did it, that I picked up and moved here.

I bet my mother is having a conniption. I sigh, not wanting to have to face anything negative ever again. If only life could be just like this.

"Penny for your thoughts." Jaden's low voice interrupts me and I glance over to her.

"Just thinking, that's all." I answer, changing the subject. "Thank you for this, it's perfect."

"Yeah." She responds, smiling. "It's nice to have someone to ride with." She releases my hand and strokes Studley's neck. "Huh boy? Nice to have some company." Jaden looks to me, smirking and raising her eyebrow. "Ready to trot?" She asks, and both Studley and Lucy's heads perk up. I nod, and gently squeeze with my legs. Both horses break into a slow trot, and I look over to Jaden to find what I believed to be certain; she's an incredible rider.

Her lower body is relaxed and still as she posts to Studley's trotting diagonal. Her upper body remains supple and elastic as she adapts to his rhythm. I, on the other hand, struggle to get used to Lucy's jarring gait. Her leg injury has left her rather stiff and uneven, but after a few strides I am able to comfortably post to her rhythm.

"Are they okay to trot?" I ask, knowing that Jaden would never do anything to physically harm the horses, but curious to what they can do.

"Sure, they actually are both fine to canter as long as it's slow and for only a short time. I usually let them decide if they want too or not." She finishes, sitting in the saddle to sit Studley's trot. He immediately springs into a relaxed canter, and I follow Jaden's lead and steady myself in the saddle. Lucy prepares herself and canters as well. I sigh, thankful that her canter is wonderfully smooth compared to her jarring trot.

Bean scampers eagerly down the path ahead of the horses, the birds sing sweetly from the trees, the wind is gentle enough to keep us cool, and the steady beat of the horses hooves on the well-worn path is comforting.

I glance to Jaden, her long raven hair blowing from underneath her helmet and a smile on her lips. She looks completely free and beautiful. I grin and look ahead, seeing nothing but miles of trail in front of us.

Part 6: Coming soon! Stay tuned and please email me with feedback!!!

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