Seems so long ago now, those old times. We've come a long way since then. We were together for only a couple weeks early in that long hot summer; but that was where it all began.
I remember a particular all-day ride across the moors. It was on the third day of my holiday, I think. A beautiful day, early in the summer, patchy clouds speckling the sky and a sharp breeze blowing across the craggy tors. A diverse crowd of horses and people trekking over the moors for hours. Sometimes chatting, often in silence; absorbing the atmosphere.
I rode along side her for quite a while. I couldn't help but keep looking at her. So pretty. Eventually, I think she noticed my staring and started to eye me with curiosity. We just wandered across the moors like that for hours. No words, but there was a feeling there. Something passed between us even then, or so I would like to think.
Over the next couple weeks, we spent a fair amount of time together. I was certainly curious to find out more about her, and about what she might think of me. It wasn't always possible to be with each other much though. I used to often see her for a little while during mucking-out in the morning but she had her work to do during the day, and I couldn't always go along.
Still, we went out together on a couple rides.
The day before I had to leave, I managed to find some time with her while I had been sent to groom some of the horses. Nothing much was said; I didn't really know what I could say. We just shared a particularly pleasant hour together. I guess maybe I was a bit backward-at-coming-forward, but at that time I'd never really had much experience with the opposite sex.
Just to spend that tiny moment of time with her, to look into her eyes. I guess, also, that I really didn't want to commit myself to something that I wouldn't be able to carry through. I didn't want to fall in love like that.
Later in the summer, I returned to the riding stables. This time not as a guest, but as an temporary employee. A summer job for a-month-or-so. I'd proved my abilities to the owner of the stables back in April and he'd been glad when I called to ask if I could work there for a while.
I wondered if she was still going to be there, or in the area. Maybe she'd have moved on.
As I unloaded my stuff from the car and started to move it into the cottage, I looked around for her, or some sign of her, but couldn't see anything. I asked the owner if she still worked for him. He confirmed, with a frown. It seems as though she'd been causing him some trouble recently with the way that she treated some of his customers.
Well frankly, some of his customers were assholes anyway.
It was the following day before I got to see her at all, and then only for a minute or two. She was very busy, perhaps a little over worked actually.
I watched her from the other end of the yard where I was making some repairs to some fencing. A large crowd of tired horses and laughing girls milling about beside the stable block. There she stood, in the midst of them.
She sighed heavily and took another drink of water. I smiled broadly as I watched her begin to wind down after her taxing day and as she looked up from her drink she suddenly seemed to feel my gaze upon her. She looked over at me. The brilliant sun glinted on her blond hair as she flicked it from her face. Beads of sweat were trickling down her forehead. She acknowledged me with her gaze and wandered off into the cool stables with a couple of the punters.
We spent a little time together during the next few days, mostly in the morning during mucking-out, but there was that time where we went off to the village together to get something from the post office; just the two of us.
As I settled into the routine at the stables, and was given ever more things to do, we started to meet up more often when I was sent to groom the horses. We hung out, in the shady stables together, cuddling and just sharing each other's company. Heh, most of the horses didn't get groomed that much at that time.
One day, I was fixing fences again, this time out in one of the higher paddocks. I was minding my own business and getting on with the task at hand, when she came over to me. I didn't even know that she was about. She came right up and watched me, kept me company for a little while, then spontaneously moved up and gave me a long, warm embrace. I let myself go. We hugged for, oh I don't know... ages and I told her finally how I felt about her. I looked her right in the eye and told her how much I loved her and how much I wanted her.
She seemed eager to demonstrate her own affection right there and then, but I had to turn her down. How guilty I felt when I pushed her away. I was just too inhibited, couldn't believe what I was contemplating, what I wanted so badly. Fear of discovery just overtook me. It was the middle of the afternoon, a brilliant sunny day... out there in the paddock together for everyone to see? Her honest desire was certainly thrilling but I just chickened out. She walked away.
I didn't sleep much that night. I just kept wondering about her, about how she would feel because of my rejection. About why I rejected her and whether I was really capable of loving her. Gloomy thoughts mostly.
The next morning, at breakfast, the owner of the stables said to me "Andrew, my wife and I have been invited to a party this evening and we're intending to stay the night. Do you think you'll be alright to stay up here on your own and look after the house or should we try to get someone else to come and help? You'll have to see to all the horses as well because we probably won't be back until mid-morning."
I said it would be okay.
I thought it all through during the day. I was leading out a ride across the moor with a group of French tourists. They were pretty good riders, but didn't speak a lot of English, so I had plenty of time to think during the two hour ride.
I decided that that evening, after the owner and his wife had left. I would go out and go to see her, I would see how she felt about me and if she still wanted me, then, well... I still wanted her and we'd just see what would happen, eh?
Emma and Lucy, the other stable hands, went home after dinner and the owner and his wife began to get ready to go out. I watched the TV, trying not to look nervous.
What an act I put on! Despite the fact that my heart was hammering away like hell and I felt a little dizzy with nerves, I managed to put on a brave face. Finally, they left. It was about 8pm.
After half and hour, I was pretty sure that they weren't coming back. I went out, went to see her.
I'd just abandoned the house and was heading down the yard when... there she was! I couldn't beleive it! There she was standing at the gate at the bottom of the yard. Waiting, at the gate. I don't know how she knew that the owners were going to be away but, well, it seemed like she'd been waiting for me.
I climbed over the gate, said hello and just reached out to touch her. Oh, relief, happiness, she just pulled me toward her and we held each other there for a minute in silent contemplation of our love.
She didn't resent the way I'd rejected her. She just accepted whatever I was willing to give. I know now, I understand that she is so free in her mind. She's just so completely honest and so accepting. Nothing can touch her because her feelings are hers and hers alone.
We walked off into the blue twilight together, across the fields to some private space. Away from the lights of the farm, from the road, from anyone else. There were just the two of us together.
She taught me a lot that night. Taught me a lot about myself. I learnt not to hold back my feelings, to let it all out, to express everything as she expressed it to me.
So I told her again, this time without words, just how much I loved her. I thought I would die that night. There were moments when I thought no heart could bear the utter rapture of her unrelenting passion.
Eventually, we slept and in my dreams I realised that love is the only thing of value in this world. I would have to make some sacrifices. My house was tiny, with no land to speak of, in the middle of town... no no, she would not like it there. Everything was going to have to change. Change, that is, if she would come. Or if she *could come.
I awoke at about 5am. She was already up, just stretching her legs a few yards away. I asked her straight away if she would come back with me, leave this place. I told her I'd try to organize it all although I didn't know if I would be able to.
She just kissed my face and danced off across the field. Entranced, I watched her until she vanished around the rise. Then I quickly headed back to the house and began the morning routine.
Emma and Lucy arrived and it seemed as though it was an ordinary day. I don't think they even noticed just how cheerful I was that morning. I guess they'll never know.
Well, to cut a long story short, a few days later the owner was again told that my lover had been mistreating some of his customers and suddenly decided that he didn't want her working for him any more. He said he'd have to let her stay for the moment because she didn't have anywhere else to go.
I said that I could find her a place, near me, but it would take me a month or two. More great acting! I made such a convincing case to him that, come the end of it, he was more-or-less offering to pay me to find her another place.
The next day, we said goodbye. I felt some pangs of sadness but I knew that it would all be okay soon. I just knew that I had the power to get my life sorted out.
Six weeks later, we were finally together. We moved out to a little place in one of the villages that outlies my home town. Plenty of fresh air, a bit of land and it was along side the river. A real nice place. OK, so the actual house is a little small, but what do I care?!
So here we are again, five years later. Its almost five years ago to-the-day that we spent that first night together and we're back here on Exmoor, for a holiday.
Its just the same kind of night too. I'm looking out of the window of our accommodation as I write this, I can see her outside, she's strolling around the field nextdoor. Her head is held high and she seems to be just drinking in the beauty of nature (of which she is, of course, the most beautiful part).
Later we'll walk out onto the moor and in some wild and beautiful place, perhaps, we'll make love under the stars.
And if I tell you now that my lover is a not a woman, but a horse, does this mar the beauty of my story, of our wordless romance in any way at all?
No... it does not.