Fiction Story First published in Seek October 25, 1992

Beth sat straddle of the board fence. Carefully she placed one foot on the other side. A puff of wind suddenly appeared, whipping her long black ponytail against her neck. She had noticed there was a red sunset the night before. Her mother always told her it meant rain was coming. She hoped her mother was wrong when she jumped down from the fence.

Beth loved watching the horse’s manes flowing in the wind. She was fascinated by the sound of their hooves beating against the ground. She liked seeing their heads and tails held high. She watched intensely as they playfully galloped across the barnyard nipping another horse's leg as they romped by.

"Beth," her brother said, breaking into her thoughts. "Mom wants you to help her clean the house."

"Couldn't you help her just once Jeff," Beth asked. "I never get a chance to watch the horses."

"I've got to clean the stalls," Jeff said. "There's more to do for horses than just watching them."

"Why couldn't I have a sister instead of a brother?” Beth muttered. "At least I would've had someone to help with the housework."

"Don't complain Sis," Jeff said. "If you didn't have a brother you'd probably have to clean the stalls too."

"I don't like doing housework," Beth grumbled. "I don't know why Mom can't do it by herself once in awhile."

Jeff picked up the fork and headed to the barn. He didn't have time to argue with Beth about doing housework.

Beth wheeled around and headed toward the house. She slammed the barnyard gate against the post in anger. She jerked the latch into position and fastened it. She stomped up the steps to the back porch, opened the screen door, letting it bang against the wall as she entered the kitchen.

Anger had pent up deep inside Beth. She plopped down in the nearest kitchen chair. "Why do I always have to help clean the house, Mom?” Beth said angrily. "Couldn't you do it yourself just once? I wanted to watch the horses."

"I wouldn't ask you if I didn't really need your help Beth," her mother answered. "I've got canning to do today and the house to clean."

"What would you do if you didn't have a girl?” Beth snapped. "I'm sure you wouldn't make your precious son do housework."

Beth felt like biting her tongue. She couldn't believe those words came out of her mouth. Her mother's pale blue eyes stared at Beth in disbelief. It was so quite that you could have heard a pin drop.

"All right Beth" her mother said calmly. "You can watch the horses. I'll manage to get the work done by myself."

Beth's face turned an ashen color. The look on her mother's face wasn't one of anger, it was more a look of disbelief and hurt.

"How could I have been so spiteful and selfish?” Beth muttered to herself. "How I wish I could take back those words I just said to Mom."

Beth went back to the barnyard. "After all, I deserve a little time to enjoy myself," Beth said to herself. She sat on a tree stump enjoying the cool breeze that gently spread across her face. She watched the horses as they galloped around the barn. Her stomach began to feel queasy. It wasn't any fun watching the horses when you felt ill, so she decided to go back to the house.

Beth's mother sat at the table. Her fingers moved rapidly breaking green beans. A large pot of boiling water steamed on the stove. Her mother pushed a strand of hair away from her eyes. She picked up her handkerchief to dry the perspiration that had formed on her forehead.

"Mom," Beth said, her voiced quivering. "I'm sorry for saying I didn't want to help you. I do want to help you with the work. I can always watch the horses later."

"Thank you Beth," her mother said, managing a weak smile. "I can use all the help that I can get."

"I know Mom," Beth said, putting her arms around her mother's neck. "I'll always be here to help when you need me."

Copyright © 1992  Jo Ann Lovelace. All Rights Reserved.