Our session with Lila was over for about an hour and a half because of a little lunch. Lila ignored us at the beginning lunch as we just sat there, bellies empty with no food in front of us. I actually was so desperate for food that I'd eat Beans 'n' Sugar and actually enjoy it, but I didn't show it. But I didn't have to suffer any longer. Lila was eyeing us from a distant, and came over.
"Here, but don't expect to much from me." She huffed, and broke her uneaten sandwich into halves, and gave one half to me, and the other to Minnie.
"Are you sure you won't eat lunch yourself?" I asked, giving her back her sandwich. I was desperate, but I wasn't going to take food from someone who won't have anything themselves.
"I'm sure," Lila replied stubbornly, shoving back the sandwich.
"No," I said firmly, and ripped my half into smaller halves, and put one small half into Lila's hands.
Lila looked down, and started to give it back, but this time, I shoved it back stubbornly.
"Take it or I won't eat anything." I said, and turned away so she couldn't stuff anything in my hands.
"Alright," Lila said, sounding kind of annoyed, and when I turned back, I saw that she had a hard time suppressing a smile.
"Take half of mine to!" Minnie piped up, and gave half of her half to Lila.
"Thanks," Lila said, and she smiled, no longer able to keep it back, and turned and walked back to her original seat.
I think that was the time where I started to warm up to Lila, during lunch, when we were both stubbornly giving each other halves of a sandwich.
"I like Lila," Minnie said, breaking the silence, but unlike the other silences I had before, this is one that was a happy, and light silence.
"So do I," I said, ruffling her hair.
"I like this place," Minnie giggled.
"So do I," I said again.
"She reminds me of my ma," Minnie smiled.
"She reminds me of mine, too." I said, taking a bite out of the sandwich.
"She's pretty giving, and I guess she was just sorry for us," Minnie said.
"I don't think she only did that for those reasons," I said. "I think she liked us,"
"Really?" Minnie said sounding amazed.
"I think so," I replied, biting into my sandwich. "This stuff is good!"
"I know!" Minnie said with a mouth full.
I suddenly was struck with another thought, a really good one, but I doubted it. It seemed to good to be true.
"I think Lila may be the last bird to take me back up my rainbow," I said slowly.
"What?" Minnie asked, clearly confused.
I explained to her about how my ma always compared life with rainbows, those being her favorite things, next to family and friends.
"Oh!" Minnie said, catching on. "You'd really think so?"
"Yes, I mean no, well, yes, but no, but, kinda." I said. "It seems to good to be true, but it may be her."
"Yeah," Minnie agreed, swallowing her bite of the sandwich. "She may be, but don't get your hopes up to high."
"Agreed," I replied, and took the last bite out of my sandwich, and a few seconds later, (after teasing me with it,) Minnie also finished hers.
There was another light silence, and it was me who broke it this time.
"Do you think Lila would let us ride the horses now?" I asked.
"I don't know, but don't get your hopes to high, and then let it fall and shatter." Minnie warned.
"Like my rainbow shattered," I said.
"You said your rainbow didn't shatter, but you jumped off!" Minnie corrected.
"Yeah, you get my point," I said, waving the statement away.
We all paused, and looked at the time, and we slowly got up, and realized our lunch break was over, and head back to the stalls with Lila.
We got into the stalls almost at the exact same time as Lila, and Minnie and I took a deep breath, smelling the different smells of fresh hay, some manure, and the beautiful smell of horses all mixed up together, and we started to work.
Lila acted like the lunch break never happened. "Hand me the brush," She'd huff, or, "Feed her," or, "Bathe her," or, "Give her some water."
Lila's commands went on endlessly, and so did our work. We just worked, and worked, and worked. But I had to give Minnie credit, she wasn't groaning, complaining, whining, or even showing the slightest clue that she wasn't enjoying this. She just work quickly, flawlessly, and smoothly. I bet you I looked like a crazy klutz compared to her. I was pretty good, maybe great, but I wasn't as quick, or flawless, or smoothly. It seemed like Minnie had been doing this all her life!
"Did you ever tend horses before?" I asked.
"Once, yeah." Minnie replied, but then became silent, daydreaming most likely.
"What was it like?" I asked, and she snapped back awake.
"I used to work for someone named Mr. Oak, and he was fairly alright. I just tended the horses, and that's it. We didn't start any conversations; he just sat there, working a little less than me. Whenever I'm to slow for his taste, or I have some flaw, or I trip, and fall, and drop things, and am not working smoothly, he'd beat me with that horrible leather belt that dad owns right now. Mr. Oak gave it to him later on. His beatings were worse than dad's, and I usually leave with really bad cuts, bruises, black eyes, and the occasional broken bones. He never felt sorry, and always growled at me like I was a dumb lion who always trespasses into his property and damages it. He didn't seem to understand I had feelings, that I felt like a nothing, I'm worthless, and when I'm done, I'd always get only 40 cents for the hours and hours working, and I count them as I return to my cardboard house. And at night, the chilly air always gets to me, and the cardboard sucks in some of my heat, leaving me shivering, and I'd look up into the sky, for there was a square hole that was on my 'roof' with a thin sheet of plastic that acted like a window, and I'd look up, and most nights I will believe I'm worthless and dumb. Only some nights I'd sleep for a good 8 hours, others I can only sleep 1 hour, and wake up again, and think about myself, how dumb I was, how worthless, and useless I was." Minnie stopped, and tears started dotting her eyes. I noticed Lila was listening the whole time, and she had a look of sympathy in her eyes. Even the horses stopped neighing to listen closely.
"I don't know how I lived, for days gone by when I didn't eat, weeks rushed on when I don't get to much sleep, and I always think, always, and think hard about what Mr. Oak always said to me. I always believed them, for I never felt love in my life, so I thought he may be the best person alive, that others are much, much worse. I never felt this thing that people talked about, 'fun', and I had no friends. I was constantly picked on by everyone, even the nice kids. I was no one but a loser, and dumb loser who was alone forever, never loved, and has no talents. Mr. Oak never cared, even though he was like my only father, where mine died because of murder along with my mom, and I was only 1, and I now had Mr. Oak as my father, he never did anything. All I did all day was to tend the horses, I wasn't allowed to actually touch them tough, or ride them, just feed, groom, water, and bathe. When I bathe I have to be careful to not touch them, but just with a sponge. If I ever touched them at all, I'd be punished."
There was a still silence, and everyone knew what we were all thinking. Even Lila was thinking hard, and we knew what she was thinking. We were all thinking of Mr. Oak, Poisonous Oak was more like it! That dumb Poisonous Oak, always careless, always violent, along with Minnie's classmates, they were also horrible, totally horrible. We were all think of that.
Minnie sighed, and continued working, and the silence lifted by the sound of our working, and walking. The horses started neighing again, and everything went back to the way it was before Minnie told us her story. Everything except what was going on in our minds.
"Holy cow," I muttered. "I didn't know life could be THAT harsh."