Chapter 3

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When Lorena and her companion returned to the stables, it was quite late. Lorena her self had completely forgotten her lessons. Neltitaca was so full of the first really good horse ride she had ever had she did not think of the trouble that may arise from the late return. Lorena wanted to help Nel out of the saddle but the horse was still deeply thrust into the girl's tender loins. Neltitaca explained that it may take several hours before the horse was limp enough to drop out and release her from the tie, and that Lorena should leave her and go do the things she should be doing.

At this Lorena suddenly remembered the classes that she should have been attending. She quickly explained her situation and ran out of the stables with Nel's call When Lorena arrived at the house she found her Mother and tutor sitting in the hall, both with very stern expressions on their faces. She knew that she was in trouble and was ready to accept the consequences even if she did not know what those would be. At least she had the knowledge that she had a new friend.

"Where have you been?" came the voice of her mother, almost as soon as she was in the house. Lorena started to explain that she had found a new friend but was cut off in mid sentence.

"You will go to your room now and have your lessons, we will talk about this when they are finished." There was nothing more to be said at that time. Lorena's Mother slowly stood and leaning heavily on her stick she limped away toward one of the many sumptuous rooms. Lorena led her tutor up to her study room for the learning she had to do.

It was toward evening when she was eventually released from her education and, with a little fear in her mind of what was about to happen to her, she made her way to her Mothers room. She knocked timidly on the door half hoping that the woman would not be there but of course she was.

It was toward evening when she was eventually released from her education and, with a little fear in her mind of what was about to happen to her, she made her way to her Mother's room. She knocked timidly on the door half hoping that the woman would not be there but of course she was.

"Come in." Lorena turned the handle and pushed hard on the heavy door. When she was in she turned and closed it behind her. Then she stood facing her Mother and waited. After about five minutes the lady looked up.

"So, young lady, you thing that it is all right to miss lessons and waste the time of your tutor and money of you parent? Tell me what have you got to say for yourself?"

Lorena took the bull by the horns and went for a full description of what had gone on before she had returned to the house after her ride. It took some time but her Mother listened without comment until the end. Then there came the barrage of questions, not just about her excursion but about her lessons too.

Lorena had expected this as it was how her Mother kept track of how well she had attended to her classes, and it was a way of keeping her unsettled, not knowing what would come next. At the end of over an hour's interrogation the questions stopped. The old lady sat and thought for several minutes.

"As you are, you say, very friendly with Neltitaca I shall not prevent you from leading her on her training with her horse, but it must be done at the time when you yourself take your ride or after you have finished you lessons. I am not going to let you dictate to your tutors when and where you will have tuition. They are busy men and have other appointments to keep. Also you will not inject the horse or assist in the joining of the horse to Neltitaca. You are far too young for that and it is dangerous.

"If you were to get it wrong you could kill the horse or the horse could kill you if he decided to kick you. I was not going to introduce you to this method of riding for some time yet. But, as you have seen it for yourself I can not change that and you will possibly learn more by talking to a novice and watching her experience than if I came to teach you myself. As for the old lady you saw, I do not suppose you know who she is. Fortunately I do and I will deal with her myself. You are not to talk to her ever again. Is that understood?"

Lorena made a solemn vow never to talk to the old lady she had meat that morning.

"In that case you may go and have your meal. I reckon you must be very hungry. First come here and give me a kiss. You do realise that I am only trying to keep you safe, don't you?" the ladies voice gentled some what.

Lorena stepped up to her Mother. "Yes Mother, I am sorry to have caused you so muck sorrow."

"That is all right, one expects it from small children, but as you grow so you will learn to behave better and become a fine woman and a good wife. Now off you go." Lorena kissed her Mother and then quickly left the room, closing the door behind her, while her Mother watched and thought back over her own life as a belly rider. She was only thirty seven but had ridden many horses on many occasions. She was just sad that now she was unable to ride like that due to her hips being so badly crippled. She so longed for the thrust of a good horse inside her.

Before going to her meal, Lorena went back to the stables to see how her new friend was, but there was nobody there and all the horses were cleaned and fed, so she returned to eat. The next day Lorena went for breakfast and then as soon as she was finished she left for the stables. Her own horse was all ready saddled and waiting and next to it was the other horse.

Neltitaca was slung under it and strapped in place. There was no evidence of any other person. Lorena greeted her new friend and then walked round her horse to check all the straps and things. Then she checked that Nel was comfortable and secure. She noted that the horse had already been inserted into the girl, and all seeming well she lead the two horses out of the stable.

In the yard she mounted her own steed and then at her guidance the two horses went out into the fields. It was not so easy to see what was happening in the interaction between her friend and her steed, but there was something very satisfying about the happy groans and other noises that rose up from between the horse's front legs. This was to be the routine for years to come and the two girls became very familiar with each other. Not just for riding but in other activities too.

They often played together and told stories to each other and they got on really well despite the age difference. It was after about two and a half years that Neltitaca eventually decided to tell Lorena the reason why she had taken to belly riding. "When I was eleven I was like you and used to ride a lot. Because my father does not have much land I would ride along the tracks and paths on adjoining lands and I got to know most of the owners and servants.

It was during the summer when I was nearly twelve that one day my horse bolted and I was unable to control him. My rescuer was a young man of about thirty. He stopped my horse and then demanded payment. I offered to take him to my father who I thought would reward him handsomely, but he declined. He said that he wanted payment right then and that I knew what he wanted.

I pretended to be ignorant of his wish and he pulled me off my horse and kissed me. "Now do you know what I mean?" he said. I knew for sour what it was he wanted though I feigned ignorance. He then took the matter into his own hands and had his way with me against my will. Then he left me lying in my own blood and torn cloths. Eventually I was able to get back on my horse.

I rode home and changed pretending that nothing had happened. I was so ashamed of the event that I never told anyone what had happened, in fact you are the first that I have told. Well nothing came of my mishap fortunately and I was able to live a normal life. Until I was to get married that is.

My Father and Mother arranged for me to marry the son of a wealthy land owner and all the details were settled before I meat the man I was to wed. to my horror I found out one week before the wedding that I was to be joined to the man who had raped me. Now you are ten I hope you understand all this." Lorena admitted that she was aware of the ways between husband and wife, it having been explained by one of the maids at home when she had shed her first blood a few months before.

"Well I went to my Father and told him that I did not want to marry the man because I did not like him and considered him rude and uncouth, but I did not let on that I had been raped by the same man just those few years before. My Father flew into a rage and called me an ungrateful girl and said that I would have to marry him anyway because everything was settled. I had to go through with the wedding and it was that first night that my position here was settled. At the wedding, when asked if I would take this man to be my lawful wedded husband, I said, "No," but the priest pretended not to hear and pronounced us wed.

"I think my husband had something to do with it. That night when we were to consummate the wedding my husband inspected me and seeing that I was not a virgin went to my father refusing to have me, even though I had told him that he was the one to have done this deed to me. My Father was livid and told my new husband that he could sell me or I would be sent to a monastery. My husband said I should be sent to a monastery and that my father should pay for the journey and pay compensation to my husband.

"He had great joy in coming back to me and telling me that I was to go to the monastery and that now my father would have to sell his land to cover the cost that I had placed upon his head, which meant that my husband would be able to by it. Apparently my husband and his father had been trying to get that land for many years.

"After a year or so I was able to escape from the monastery and I ran here, because I knew I had family here, this is also as far as I got before my money ran out. I started to look for work and your father was kind enough to give me a maid's position, here in the big house, when he heard that I was related to Titsilini.

I have written to my Father to tell him what really happened but that was three years ago and I have not heard anything. I also wrote to my husband and told him that I would rather marry a horse than a rapist like him and this is why I ride. I am going to go back one day and ride though the town and yell at the top of my voice exactly what happened and show that my horse is a better husband than he ever could be. Maybe that will put him to shame."

Neltitaca fell silent. They had been walking together through the fields of stubble after the corn had been harvested. Lorena did not know what to say. She substituted words for actions and put her arm round Neltitaca's waist. The young woman reached down and rested her hand on Lorena's shoulder and they continued in silence. But after a while Lorena had a burning question.

"So is Xaltocan your Fathers name or your married name?" she asked. "It is the name of my mother before she married my Father, I could not bear to use the name of my husband but if I used my Father's name then my husband may find me if he comes looking." That subject was never broached again. Months passed before any new developments appeared.

It was on Lorena's twelfth Birthday that her Mother called her to her room, during the afternoon siesta. Lorena had no idea what the reason was so she arrived without any worries or anxiety. She arrived outside the door to her Mother's room and tapped lightly on the door. She was surprised when her mother opened it for her rather than just calling come in. Lorena walked in and stood waiting to find out what would happen next. Her Mother limped, with the aid of her stick over to a comfortable sedan and sitting on it beckoned Lorena to join her. "Well my dear, how do you feel?"

This seemed a strange beginning as Lorena knew that her Mother was not one for beating about the bush. The question was sufficiently wide to cause some difficulty in forming an answer. Lorena eve burning questions that all young ladies have, while I will try my best to answer them for you."

This made Lorena even more puzzled, she had never known her Mother to be like this before. It was as though she was trying to be friendly instead of the usual business like ruler of the house that she was. Still the first question was clearer now.

"I am well and I am happy most of the time. I like the horse riding and I like my time with Neltitaca, we talk about all sorts of things and we can share secrets. I just feel sad when she goes away for January and February. I miss her so much. The other thing I don't like very much is all the lessons that I have to do. I find them so tiring sometimes especially if it is sunny and warm out. I feel that I could be out with the horses or something else instead."

She had been pondering the furniture and pictures in the room as she spoke. It was not often that she had time to think about these things she saw so rarely. As she finished speaking she looked back at her Mother sitting beside her.

Her Mother had been watching her as she made her response and Lorena felt a little ashamed that she had not been looking at her Mother as she had made her answer, She had been taught always, as a small child, to look at the person she was addressing. Her Mother smiled. Perhaps this will be a pleasant afternoon after all thought Lorena.

"I am glad that you have found such a good friend in Neltitaca, she is a nice girl and has not had such a good life as she deserved with her upbringing. It is a shame that she is so much older than you but I think may be she has been able to take on parts of being your Mother that I have not been able to. I am very grateful to her for the friendship she has shown you. It is only right that you should like horses, it runs in the family and I would have been very surprised had you not. As for the lessons, well it is something that every young lady should learn if they are to become the head of the house one day.

"Your Father looks after the business side of the Hacienda, with the growing of coffee and corn, and I look after the running of the house. I control all the accounts and the spending of money the staff all come to me to find out what is to be done, when and how. As your Father and I have only you as a child this responsibility will fall to you when I die, and your husband will run the Hacienda. So you see what you are learning is very important for your future welfare." Lorena took this all in as it was given to her and then thought about the statement.

"You and Father are not going to die yet are you?" she asked some what apprehensive that everything may suddenly fall on her shoulders very soon.

"No darling, not for a long time yet, your Father and I have many good years ahead of us. I shall start to let you take little bits off my hand gradually as you get older. It is not very difficult, or I could not manage with these legs, they pain me more as I grow older." Lorena saw a perfect opportunity to ask something she had often wondered about.

"Mother, how did you hurt your leg?"

"That my dear happened a long time ago, before you were born. I had been riding to see a friend, up in the hills. I had spent rather a long time there and was late returning home to my new husband. We had only been married for a few weeks, your Father and I. I was galloping back along the muddy lanes and came face to face with a car. We didn't have many of those things then and the horse had never seen one. He took fright and bolted, I was thrown and left lying in the lane with a broken collar and fractured hip.

"Nobody knew what had happened until the horse turned up home without me. This was seven hours later and it was dark. I was not found for three days by which time the bones were starting to knit. The doctor was not very good and though he reset the brake he did not do a good job and I have limped ever since. It used not to hurt but just lately it has swollen and been causing me pain.

"The accident stopped me doing all the things that I used to love, now all I can do is run the house and do things like knitting and reading. We were so glad when you came along and we found out that I could still have children. But there were complications with your little brother and he died, and I never had another child."

"What are complications, I thought it was like sums when they are difficult?"

"It is just what they call it when things don't go the way they should when you give birth to a child. Some times the doctor can fix the problem and sometimes he can't. With Jullio the doctor could not fix it."

"Why are you telling me these things Mother?" "It is because you are getting old enough to understand, you need to know and I will not be able to tell you these things later because you will be too busy looking after the house for me. So what else would you like to know?"

"Can you tell me about riding underneath horses?" Lorena was not sure she should have asked that question but was pleasantly surprised when her Mother agreed.

"Yes my dear, it is one of the things that you need to know, that I would not entrust to any other person. It started many years ago when an important land owner refused to go to his wife. He had found another girl and was secretly making love to her. The wife found out and accused him of adultery. The man did not care what the wife said and ignored her.

She, far from embarrassed by the man's infidelity, asked all her friends what she should do, and they all told her to take a lover. The wife did not want to have another man as she felt that it would make her as bad as her husband, so she chose a horse from the stables. She had arranged a few bales of straw to lie on and then led the horse in to the area and made love to him. It was while she was coupled to the horse that her husband came in and seeing her was furious.

He had some strong rope with him and he bound the woman to the horse while they were still joined and then led them through the streets to show everybody what a bad wife she was. Well all the women who saw this already knew that it was the husband that had been unfaithful so they all joined together and the next day they rode, tied under their horse, up to the husbands work place.

Once there, they all cried out how bad the man was for being unfaithful to his wife and making her seek an alternative lover. They shamed the man so much that he ran away leaving the wife everything. She was so happy to be rid of him, after he had tied her under the horse, that from then on every year at carnival she would ride through the streets of the town while coupled to her favourite horse.

Many of the other women in the town followed suit, especially if their husbands were found to be unfaithful. Now it is done by many women whether their husbands are faithful or not and whether they are married or not. I did it before I was married and so did my Mother. Your Father's Mother also rode and so has your aunt Elizabet Gloria Marria. In fact your aunt still does even now. She never married and so she enjoys a horse more often than most. She went to Mardi Gras in Rio on two occasions as a belly rider."

"Will you teach me to belly ride? I would like to learn. Then Neltitaca and I could ride together." Lorena looked at her Mother hopefully.

"I will tell you how to start training, but you will have to be shown the main part of the skill by someone else. My leg makes it far to difficult for me to get down to the stables and walk a horse for hours. First though you will have to have a horse because you will never complete the learning on a mare like you have now.

"You must tell Rodrigues to mate your mare to Korrtona, the big black stallion and with any luck you will have a fine male foal to train next spring. I would be surprised if you did not have a male foal as Korrtona has only ever sired males in his fourteen years with us. The new animal will be ready for you to ride come your sixteenth Birthday."

Lorena received much more instruction and many subjects were covered in the next few hours. They talked long into the night only separating for bed when everyone else was asleep already. The next day Lorena was up later than usual, but this did not prevent her from going on her usual morning ride.

It being late January and the time for carnival Neltitaca was not there to go with her so she shortened the ride so as not to be late for her lessons. When she returned to the stables with her horse she found Rodrigues grooming one of the other mares. She went up to him and quietly told him what her mother had said the day before about mating her horse with Korrtona.

"I know all about that young lady." He said. "I got my instructions first thing this morning. You will find the stall next to Korrtona empty. You put you horse in there and I will see to her directly. She will have too have special feed to make her foal extra strong so I will take special care of her from now on. It's a bit late in the year to mate her but if she takes, then the foal will be dropped in the late spring. November or early December I would say. I will let you know when I am going to join them so you can help me."

Lorena was so pleased that she was to help in the process. She took her mare to the required stall and then after watering her and giving her a quick rub down she went off to her classes.

-=*=-

About a week later when she went to collect her horse for the morning ride, the horse was not there. Lorena looked around but could not find her. Soon Rodrigues appeared and told her to get some work clothes on as today was the day.

Lorena ran indoors and changed, then ran out to the corral. Her horse was tied between two short fences so that she could not move sideways. Korrtona was in the next paddock taking a great interest in the mare, who had raised her tail and was trying to get free in order to go to the big stallion. Lorena walked over to her mare and comforted her.

A moment later Rodrigues walked over to her. "You know what to do don't you? You have seen it often enough. Are you sure you will be all right because I will not be able to help you? I will be too busy at the other end. Just keep her calm and stay to one side." Lorena said she would be fine and the man went over to open the gate to Korrtona's paddock.

The stallion whinnied loudly and cantered into the corral. He ran round the area by the fence, making lots of noise and swiftly changing direction as though he was taking part in a wild dance. The mare whinnied back and held her tail high waving it about like a flag. The stallion needed no additional invitation. He ran up to her and then as though inspecting her he walked round the place where she was tied. When he reached her back he sniffed closely at her hind quarters.

He looked away briefly making a strange face, mouth open and lips curled back. Then he returned his nose to her rump and sniffed again. The strange face was repeated and then instead of taking a third sniff, he butted his head against her. This was it. Lorena wished that she was more to the side of her horse so she could see better but she had the responsibility of keeping the mare calm. The mare seemed to be quite eager as the stallion mounted her.

Ten minutes and it was done. Korrtona slipped off the mare and snorting trotted round the fence that held the other horse. They greeted each other with loud snorts and whinnies, while Rodrigues and Lorena untied the mare. Then the two horses were herded into the paddock together.

"They will probably mate again before the day is out but if it goes wrong at least the first was right," said Rodrigues. "I will see you in the morning young lady." And he marched off to the stables. Lorena stayed to watch the horses as they trotted round the paddock together playing chase and biting games. Those two horses were obviously in love.

The following spring the foal was dropped. It seemed to Lorena that the whole town had come to watch, but she had a front stage seat. The foal was strong and was able to stand within ten minutes of birth. Rodrigues walked over and stood on the other side of the fence from Lorena and her Mother.

"He is a fine strong lad and should serve you well and for many years. What do you want to call him?" Lorena looked closely at the new comer. He was mainly black but had white patches down his spine and on his forehead.

"I want to call him `Via Lactia' (Milky Way in Spanish) because of the stars all down his back. I like him, can I come in and stroke him?"

"Wait until tomorrow and bring a small titbit, something soft and sweet for him. Cook will know what. Do that once or twice a week and he will grow to love you as much as he loves his mother's milk."

The people gradually left until only Lorena, her Mother and Titsilini were present and still interested in the newest member of the community. They all three watched the foal as he staggered and wobbled. It was not long before he was steady enough to have his first feed and as he did his Mother licked him bonding to her new son. Three months later training started.

Lorena's Mother called her up to her room again one afternoon in the summer, "The first thing we have to do is to train your foal to walk in such a way that his hooves will never touch you while you are riding him and to make sure that you do not get chaffed from his legs. This will take as long as it takes him to reach full growth when he is nearly three or four. Then we will teach you to ride him and keep control and finally how to join with him as a belly rider. I will help you train the foal to walk, after that your aunt will have the reins so to speak." Again they talked for many hours and Lorena asked many questions all of which were answered in a direct manor.

The training started with a small bolster of about fifteen centimetres diameter being suspended between the foal's forelegs. Lorena had to make the bolster from old drapes stuffed with any old material that she could lay her hands on. It was designed to make the animal walk with its forelegs slightly apart so that in later life when he had a rider suspended under him he would not bash the rider's head with his legs and hooves.

At first the pony was most up set with the new addition to his harness but after an hour or two of trying to dislodge the hindrance, with some ineffective aid from his mother, he decided to get on with his life as best he could and by the next day he was scampering about as before. The bolster was sufficiently soft so as not to injure the animal but firm enough to be a problem if he forgot to avoid it during his capers.

To begin with, Via, as the new member of the stables came to be known, only had to carry the bolster for about four or five hours each day. As the foal grew so the diameter of the bolster was increased to match so that by the time he was fully grown there would be ample room for Lorena's head to fit between the horse's legs. As the bolster was increased in size so to it was made heavier until by the time the now young horse was a year old he was carrying about thirty five kilograms and the length of time that he carried it had increased to twenty four hours per day with a day off once a week.

While the horse had been practising walking with a bundle slung under his belly, Lorena had been making a riding sling. With her mothers help, and several old and in some cases tatty, well used examples to go on, she had combined newly tanned hides and freshly made quilts into a workable system of straps, supports and strengthening pieces.

These would all have to be combined to make the desired end result once Via had reach his full grown height. The harness not only had to be comfortable for the horse but also for Lorena if she was to spend the three days of Mardi Gras in its confines. Lorena was getting very excited as time went by. The training could not progress fast enough for her. She eagerly awaited the day when she would climb into the harness for the first time. However, Via continued to grow and the training continued and all looked very promising.

Shortly after Lorena's fifteenth Birthday, disaster struck. Lorena was out with Neltitaca, on one of their regular rides. Lorena was astride her new horse Via, now a strong two year old and Neltitaca was on the big black stallion Korrtona. They had been quite far and eaten a picnic for lunch as Lorena had not had lessons to go to and Nel had had a day off, it being a national holiday. Nel had been saying how she would love to belly ride with Korrtona, he being such a big horse in all dimensions.

Lorena had felt a little envious of her friend who had so many years experience riding like that, where as she still had not lost her virginity, let alone had a horse. The conversation had gone along the lines of all the joy and learning that Lorena still had to sample, where as Nel had done it all and was now finding it hard to find anything new to try.

Many things had been said and they were both content with their day and their friendship. As they returned home in the afternoon and came into view of the hacienda they saw a large cloud of black smoke rising from the main building. They looked at each other and then spurred their horse to a gallop. Both animals were reasonably fresh, neither of them having been exerted to strenuous exercise at all that day. It took then nearly an hour to reach the home that they both loved so much, as they had still some kilometres to go.

When they arrived they were met by Rodrigues and Titsilini. They were lead through to the house, leaving their horse in a field away from the smoke. Titsilini was in tears, unable to say anything, so it was up to Rodrigues to break the news to them.

"I don't know how the fire actually started." He said as they walked along. "But it was first reported in the kitchen. The alarm was rung and everybody evacuated as quickly as they could. Unfortunately your Mother got trapped upstairs, her bad leg and so on. Your Father went back in to get her but he never came out again. That was two hours ago. I am afraid that I don't hold much hope for either of them, though it is still possible maybe." He finished, trying to put a lighter aspect to the news.

Lorena knew instantly that both her Mother and Father were dead and now she was the head of the house, what was left of it. As she walked along she thought about all the things that she should do, but where to start. Eventually she turned to Rodrigues for answers. "What has been done so far?" she asked.

"Well I have set all the men on pumping water and those of the women who are strong enough to carry buckets. The others I set to moving all the animals to safe places well away from here and when they returned I set them to rescuing anything in any building that could be reached without endangering life. But the weather has been kind to us as the wind has blown all the smoke and sparks away from the other buildings. So it is only the main house that has burned. Very lucky that it did not go right round the complex."

As they arrived in the yard Lorena could see the extent of the fire. The whole building was gutted except a small part of the ground floor furthest away from the kitchens. There was no hope for anybody who had not been able to exit the fire at the beginning. Most of the fire was out now with just a few patches still smouldering with small flames, where the fire had been hottest, but smoke still billowed up from most of the wreckage. The men were still pouring in the water as fast as they could and so it would not be long before even the smoke was gone and the house was left as a pile of charred, wet timbers. Rodrigues looked stunned.

"Oh holy Mary, it was not nearly as bad as this when I last had time to look at the situation. Its all gone." His expression said it all. Stunned disbelief at such devastation. He almost broke down and cried only just managing to retain his composure. Lorena however seemed to be quite detached from what she saw. She felt like it was a dream and therefore it was not real. She would do her best to help those in the dream with her but was sure that in the morning when she awoke it would all be back to normal. She studied the situation for a few moments and then started to give orders. There were a number of people from the village who had probably come initially to watch the spectacle but had ended up being roped in to work.

"Rodrigues, set the ladies to finding what we have in the store house and see if it is enough to cover the staff. We will need blankets and food for every one and probably food for many of the village folk if this carries on into the hours of darkness. If there is anything that we are short of for tonight then send some of the men from the village to see if they can drum up enough to cover the short fall. Whatever we borrow, I will want written down in a list, of who lent it and a description of the items, so that they can be returned to their rightful owners. A couple of the ladies should go to round up the horse from all the locations that they are at present so that they to can be fed and watered.

"Nel's and my horses should be seen to first as they have been ridden hard and need to be rubbed down before they catch a cold of something worse. Then when the women are finished with the store room, I want everything we have to be distributed to those that will be here for the night and places allocated for each person to sleep. When the smoke has died down I want all the able bodied men to start sifting through the wreckage to see what can be salvaged."

The string of orders came hard and fast. Both Nell and Rodrigues were amazed at the way Lorena took on the task of being in charge. The orders were passed on and the work of recovering from the trauma began in earnest. Everybody seemed to set to as they received new tasks to do and most of the folk worked well into the hours of darkness.

Eventually jobs were completed and Lorena was unable to think of any further things to pass on in the way of new work. The villagers trickled of to their houses and the staff of the ruined hacienda slowly settled down to their make shift beds, strewn around the complex in which ever buildings afforded some space. Lorena however did not go to bed until much later. She sat on a low wall watching the last wisps of smoke rise into the darkness until the sleep in her head made her nod off. She awoke with a start as she nearly fell from her perch. She got up and going to find a spare place in the stables she ended by lying down in the stall with her young horse, who had ridden so hard that afternoon.

The morning dawned grey and uninviting but it soon cleared up and by nine was sunny and bright. This did not match the way the residents of the now charred hacienda felt. After an almost sleepless night, Lorena was one of the first to rise. She knew that the hard task of clearing up had to continue and then money not with standing, she would have to arrange the rebuilding of her newly gained responsibility. There were those she knew she could count on to help but many, unless things were seen to progress at a good rate, would drift away in search of better positions.

The first thing she set was cook details. It had turned out that the normal cook for the complex had also died in the conflagration along with two kitchen maids and a young boy who was one of the maid's sons. She dreaded to think of the deaths but knew it would have to be seen to. Bodies may be found in the wreckage and condolences would have to be sent even if they weren't. then she set shifts for clearing the rubbish and collecting anything that was salvageable. The rest were set to every day tasks that had to continue. Care for the animals and the general running of the plantations. Working all this out took several hours and it was not until after the midday meal, a sad affair by comparison with the usual victuals.

Once everybody was engaged with some chore or other, Lorena mounted her horse and rode down too the village to look for a builder. Though her father had known a good man for repairs and small tasks, the job that was now needed was somewhat bigger and would have to be surveyed and quoted for. This took her long into the evening. Time passed by and after three months things were looking up. For one thing all the staff had remained on her pay role. Another thing was that the new building was under way and actually looked like a house although there was no roof and very little of the interior was even started. All the regular things required to run the plantations were going smoothly and there were many helping hands for all the little jobs that needed to be done.

There had been times of joy and sadness. Joy had come when her aunt had turned up at the sight and had started to help organise the arrangements that Lorena had over looked. Her presence also meant that Lorena could go back to training her horse for the belly riding that she so wanted to do, when she had time which was not often.

The sadness was when they only found two bodies out of the six who had perished and neither could be recognised. To prevent quarrels over who should have the bones Lorena ordered six coffins and had the bones distributed between them. Then bags of sand were added to make up a weight so that the coffins would seem to have a body in. this was enough to satisfy most of the relations. The other sad thing was that the old lady, who had instructed her to inject the horse for Neltitaca all those years ago, came by soon after the fire.

She came full of joy and unkind remarks, as though she was happy to see the house in ruins and the former owners burned to death in its flames. She tried to push herself into being friends with some of the staff, encouraging them to leave with her. But Lorena saw the way of her intent and banished her telling her never to return. It upset her knowing that she had to break a promise to her mother, in order to banish the woman.

As things became more and more organised, Lorena was able to go back to the regular training of her horse and to her regular morning rides with Neltitaca. It was on one of these rides with Nel strapped to her horse that Lorena eventually broke down and cried for the loss of her parents and home. When they returned to the now nearly finished home, Lorena cuddled up to her best friend, despite the fact that the other girl was still joined to her horse. The comfort that was needed was freely and happily given.

Everything was finished by the time Lorena's sixteenth Birthday arrived, and there was a major celebration for Lorena and her new hacienda. That day three people proposed marriage to the very eligible young land owner.


Comments

  • Anonymous said:
    3 years ago
    I was delighted with the story and the rhythm and pace was perfect for me. I have one question .... Where can I read about belly riding , I cannot find it in a dictionary or in Wikipedia ? I would like to read it's history and government action. I hope you reply
  • Anonymous said:
    4 years ago
    Loved it I wish it would never end. thank you