The woman is cold, her clothes which seemed quite suitable when she left her city home this morning, are subtly, slightly not right for this place.
She stands, not quite sure what to do with herself, all too aware of her interloper status and all too aware of her frozen feet and hands.
The women around her are all, it seems, tall, with rangy bodies, padded gilets, expensive, although mud encrusted boots and around all of them are the horses.
She is here at the invitation of a woman who may or may not become a lover in the future. She has come to meet this womans’ horse, to show an interest, although her own interest is in something quite different.
That woman, her almost friend, keeps vanishing, re-appearing to do something confusing, complicated to the large brown horse in the stable where she, still cold, is standing.
And because she has nothing to do, does not know what to do or even how to do it, she stands and looks around, stares at all these busy, purposeful women.
A woman steps in front of her and catches her eye, does more than that, actually takes her breath away. This woman is tall, slim, in fact thin, her body lean, muscled, taut. Her face is tanned, even on this icy winter day and her hair is steel grey and short, close-cropped to her skull. She looks completely self-contained, her face tight with concentration. She notices that our woman, our frozen, foot stamping woman is looking at her and nods, curt, but not unfriendly and then she steps out of view and vanishes behind another stable block.
Later, when our woman and her almost friend have found a pub and our woman is sipping brandy, trying not to shiver, trying to flirt,just a little, she asks her almost friend, almost lover about this other woman, but her friend does not recognise her from the description and conversation veers off onto other paths.
Time passes, the almost friend does not become a lover – the friendship withers over too many late phone calls, too many almost flirtatious brandies, but, surprisingly, the horses stick.
Our woman learns to ride, learns to wear the right expensive, mud encrusted boots, learns to complete all the tasks that so confused her then, so many years ago on the wintry December day.
She has her own horse now, spends time with the all the rangy horsey women, feels at ease in that horsey space and then one day, another wintry December day, she catches sight of herself in a mirror, dressed to deal with the cold.
The face that looks back at her is tanned, even in the middle of winter. Her hair has grayed, become almost silver, she has cropped it for convenience, its tidier under a riding hat. She has over the years lost weight, grown muscle, become athletic looking.
The face that looks back at her is the woman who took her breath away, so long ago.
She crosses the stable yard, deep in thought as to what this could mean and notices a stranger, eyes watering in the wind, feet shuffling on the gravel, an attempt to keep warm and nods before she steps out of view and vanishes behind another stable block.