Brandishing the bear high above her head Eileen ran screaming out the back door, down the steps, and came to a complete stop. This wasn’t just any horse standing in her yard. He was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. His hide was so white it glowed in the sunshine, and as the wind ruffled the leaves on her neighbour’s maple, the hide rippled, changing texture and colour like facets of a diamond. Perhaps most astonishing of all were the soft white wings folded along his body. Eileen wasn’t sure she could breathe.
“That’s a most unusual way to greet someone. Is the bear a gift?”
Her jaw dropped open and refused to close. The horse loudly sniffed at the sunburnt grass, took a big bite of the nicest green patch, ruffled his feathers and continued, “Well then, might as well get on with it. Eileen McGovern? It is you isn’t it?”
Eileen blinked twice.
“I’ll take that as a yes. Special Delivery.”
“Um ... pardon?” the words barely squeaked out of her mouth.
“I believe you wished for a flying horse.” Bruce spit the wad of grass on to a paving stone, “Well, here I am. My name is Bruce, a pegasus, I come from a long line of distinguished stallions ...”
“I’m sorry ... I wished?”
Bruce shook his mane and blew out his lips, “Yes, yes ... let’s see, 12th of May 1974, you rescued fairy Petula Mendelsa Ripplebottom Crocus from a jar of fireflies. She said, “How may I repay you?” You said ...”
Eileen’s eyes opened wide,“... A flying horse.”
“Exactly, a flying horse. So, here I am.” Bruce pulled another carefully selected wad of grass from the lawn and chewed it delicately with his front teeth.
“But, I was five.”
Bruce looked Eileen up and down and shrugged, “So?” With a twist of his mouth he spit again, this time hitting Bonnie’s little pink tricycle.
“I was five and now I’m thirty seven! And ... that’s disgusting.” The green gob of half eaten grass began its slow decent to the ground. “I don’t need any more messes to clean up, you know.”
“Pegasi aren’t exactly pots of gold. You can’t just smelt one in your basement. So, here I am and here you are ... wish complete, debt repaid, so on and so forth. . . aren’t you going to say something?”
“Good. Darien gets the Prince of Belise, Shofla has the Queen of Mestlin and I get Eileen of ...”
“467 Rowan Crescent.”
“Hmm. Yes, exactly. Lucky me.”
Bruce glanced over the fence and into the Hendrew’s yard and into the most spectacular garden in all of Burnstock. Bruce just shook his mane, “Do you at least have some oats? I’m starving.”
Eileen paused. This couldn’t be happening. She barely remembered the fairy, and to be honest, in the memory she looked suspiciously like Tinkerbell.“Well, you see, there must be some mistake. I wasn’t expecting a horse ...”
Bruce’s upper lip peeled back, “A pegasus, if you please.”
“Right, well, I didn’t even think the fairy was real. I was five, I thought I made it up. And now as you can see I really can’t have a horse ...”
“In my yard. I just can’t. There’s no room and, I’m really busy, and ...” As Eileen paused, a serene calm washed over her face, she started to laugh, “just a second, I get it. Squeezing her eyes shut, she placed one plump hand over her heart and began to chant, “I don’t believe in Pegasus, I don’t believe in Pegasus, I don’t believe in Pegasus.” She opened one eyelid just the slightest. Bruce, the pegasus, was still there. “Dam! Ok, I don’t believe in fairies, I don’t believe in fairies, I...”
“Are you alright?”
Eileen’s eyes flew open,“How can you still be here?”
Bruce rubbed his hocks casually with his nose for a bit, then swung around so he was looking firmly down his nose at her. “Just because you believe something is real or not doesn’t matter a straw. A thing is real because it is. Honestly!” he turned around and gently preened his feathers with his teeth, “I was serious about the oats. Your grass is, well, below standards. And then I’d like a nap. Travelling between worlds isn’t easy.”
Eileen’s could feel her headache returning with a vengance, “Look, my day hasn’t exactly gone very well, and really, you caught me a little off guard, it has been thirty four years.”
“Whatever. And to be honest, if she had asked me today I would have asked for something else. Like something to clean the house.”
Bruce rolled his eyes, “That was harsh.”
“Can’t you just go back to the fairy who sent you here?”
For the first time Bruce looked truly offended. He stretched out his long neck high in the air and pawed at the grass, tossing loose clods of dirt into the air and onto Eileen’s clean windows.
“Certainly not! A pegasus has never been sent back to the breeding tine. Ever. It would be a disgrace. I am lotted to you, I may only go where you go.”
“Oh.” The air outside was feeling a little too thin and Eileen had a sudden urge to scrub something, really hard. Even the scum in the bathtub looked good right now. “Try some grass, I have things to do.” she flicked her flowered apron with annoyance and marched up the stairs, throwing the screen door back with vigour. The morning just had to get better.