“JENNIFER!”. My stepmom was a very loud woman. Although she was petite you could practically hear her from one end of Sable to another. “DINNER IS NOT GOING TO COOK ITSELF!”. I sighed, then hollered, “I’m coming Mother!”. I ran inside our little two-bedroom house and into the kitchen. “Where have you been child? I have been calling you for hours”, my mother said sarcastically. “I was just out for a walk”, I mumbled. My stepmother stared at me. “You haven’t been with those flea-covered horses again, have you?”. I looked down so she couldn’t see the lie behind my eyes “No, of course not”, l said. “Good. Now put on an apron and get cooking.”
My dad had left four weeks ago on a ship to the mainland to sell his goods. He worked as a ceramist and made the most beautiful of dishes, sculptures, and vases. My favourite sculpture he made for me was a dark bay horse. My dad loves horses, and his dad did too. Dad says that Sable’s horses are the most majestic, graceful things you will ever see. My mum loved horses too, but she passed away from a severe illness thirteen years ago when I was two. I don’t remember much, but I do remember her taking me out on our little bay quarter horse saddled up on her lap. My dad found new love a couple years after her passing, and they got married shortly after meeting. I guess you could call her my evil stepmother.
She hates horses.
I was avoiding my chores because I was worried about the waves that had begun rolling in the night before. Sable Island is also known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Since 1583 there have been over 350 shipwrecks on the island due to hidden sandbars and weather. My dad’s ship was supposed to arrive three days ago, but it never showed. Startled by my stepmother’s words, I came back to reality. “Go mop the lighthouse after you’re done washing the dishes”, she demanded. That was the last thing I wanted to do.
When I finally made it to the top of the lighthouse a bang of thunder followed by a flash of lightning lit up the night sky. I saw a herd of horses in the distance get spooked and bolt over the dune. As I mopped, I thought about where my dad was. Was he in a shabby old hotel in Halifax waiting for the storm to pass? Or was he 1000 feet under the lung-retching ice-cold water lying on the sea floor? I shook my head as if to get the horrible thought out. After all, he was fine, right?
I sat down and watched the bright light circle around the Island. The ocean was roaring so loudly you could probably hear the noise all the way to Chester. I looked to my right and saw a horse coming towards the lighthouse. “What would a horse be doing without its herd this close to the lighthouse?”, I wondered. The light circled around the horse, and I was astonished to see my stepmother on our bay’s back. She refused to be near a horse let alone go on one! She was riding bareback with only a lead rope clipped on one side of the halter and tied at the other to make some form of make-shift reins.
I ran down the stairs skipping several at a time. I burst open the lighthouse door for my stepmother to run inside. I knew it must be important if she was riding a horse in a downpour! “What’s wrong?”, I asked panicky “I-I-It’s a hurricane! The news is saying the ocean swells are up to nine stories!”, she cried. “Don’t panic.”, I reassured her. “We’ve had hurricanes before”. She shook her head. “No, no it’s not that. It’s your father!”. The terrible thoughts came back, but I tried to ignore them. “I haven’t heard any news except that his boat left late this afternoon. We can stay up here and watch for it to arrive.”
A couple of hours ticked by as we sat in the lighthouse deep in our own thoughts. “There!”, she exclaimed. “THERE HE IS.” A boat crashed over a ginormous swell and then anchored off the north side of the island. We leapt up and ran outside. “I’ll ride, you hang onto my waist, okay?”. My mother gave a slight nervous nod. We both put our differences aside and hopped on the horse. “Hang on!”, I yelled over the wind, sea, and rain. Before she could reply I dug my heels into the horse’s side, and he let out a painful whinny. I was so excited to see my dad I forgot that the horse could feel my heels dig into his sides. He picked up a fast-paced canter and I gave him another kick to nudge him faster. I knew how much he hated two riders on his back, but he pushed through. He loved dad as much as I did.
Moments later we found ourselves on the beach. After what felt like eternity, the small landing craft reached shore, and the few passengers that were on the boat scrambled out. They looked green. I searched for my dad, but I couldn’t see him. Then a middle-aged man with long hair and tanned skin carrying several bags appeared. “DAD!”, I screamed excitedly. I ran as fast as I could and rushed into his arms. It never felt so good to hug somebody. My stepmother ran and made our hug a group hug. Yesterday, I would have probably stepped back not wanting to be near her. But this time was different. The storm and my dad being away somehow had made us closer. I can’t say I love her yet, but she loves Dad and Dad loves her.
Besides the wild horses of Sable Island, that’s all that matters to me.
By Kyla © 2023
Grade 7, Chester, NS
Sable in Words 2023
Youth Writing Contest, 10-13 age group
Sable Island Institute