The raggedy little girl, who was really a beautiful princess but didn't know it, walked into the golden meadow where all the delicate flowers turned their heads to the gilded sun. She called out the name "Glory" twice and her voice tinkled on the wind like the sweetest bell.
And so he came.
The magnificent stallion rose to the crest of the hill and came into view. He stood for a moment, a dark silhouette against the sun. His eyes cast over the meadow that he patrolled as his own, and he saw his beloved raggedy princess.
And so he was motion.
His flaxen mane and tail, crimped and flowing, blew behind him in the breeze that was purely of his making. The tensioned body blurred as he thundered down the meadow, his flight lightning fast while his gentle feet never harmed even a single flower head; for they were his flowers. A cone of exertion steamed from each of his wide, soft nostrils, and his eyes never left the little girl who meant everything in the world to him.
And so he was still.
He nickered as he came to a stop in front of her, bowing his head and easing his velvet nose towards her stubby fingers.
"Oh Glory, I have missed you."
The huge white stallion, fully two times taller than the raggedy princess, nuzzled her with all the gentleness of a kitten. She stood on tiptoe to run her hand down his warm, damp neck, his silken mane cascading over to tickle the back of her hand, the horse nuzzling his lips over the little girl's leg. She giggled as the sticking-out hairs tickled her kneecap, and she let her face fall gently against his withers, listening to the great lungs as they drew in and expelled air.
And so they were loved.
The raggedy princess grabbed a handful of hair that was as soft as spun wool. "Ready boy?" she asked, and then she vaulted, light as confetti and as graceful as a ballerina, onto the stallion's back. She leaned forward and hugged the gentle beast around his pure white neck. He pawed the ground, anxious to be off, flying towards whichever adventure awaited them. The raggedy princess was the best rider in the kingdom. She adjusted her seat, moving forward onto her pubic bone, she dropped her lower leg, extending the calf muscle so that the horse's body was in contact with her own from seat to ankle. She sat erect but loose, ready to cushion the pressure of the tumbling ground through the length of her spine, and her hands tingled as she loosely grasped the horse's mane. She was ready. He was ready.
And so they were ready.
She twitched her calf muscle almost imperceptibly into the horse's flank, but it was the only aid Glory needed to be given. Child and horse merged into the scenery of the enchanted kingdom and they outran the wind just for the pure joy of flight.
Shortly they came to the King's Castle. "Oh no Glory, the castle is on fire, whatever are we to do?"
They charged across the lowered drawbridge, a guard of honour of crackling flame overhead. Paying no heed to danger - for together they were invincible - they set about saving people's lives. One by one the raggedy princess lifted the castle occupants to safety. Again and again they thundered over the blazing drawbridge carrying people to safety on Glory's broad back.
The Crown Prince was so grateful to the beautiful raggedy princess that at first he didn't notice her stunning beauty. When he did, he fell instantly in love with her. He held her in his arms and swore that she would be his bride just as soon as she was old enough!
But for now the girl and her horse had more adventures to ride and more lives to save in the beautiful kingdom, and so they rode away into the sunlight.
The little girl breathed a contented sigh and snuggled into her father's deep chest. She kept her eyes tightly closed so that she wouldn't notice that the kingdom had vanished. She didn't want to see the dingy, cold room, lit only by a single naked lightbulb. She wanted to continue riding her horse so as not to notice the fingers that rose from her knee.
She was the raggedy princess; that was her life, in the meadow, with the flowers and Glory. This was only her waking nightmare, something to be endured until next time her father breathed plumes of whisky and was 'in the mood' to take her to the enchanted kingdom. What came after wasn't so bad really; it was better than the other bad stuff when he hit her until she couldn't remember anything. No. it wasn't so bad, because all the time that it happened he would promise that one day she would really own Glory. He would be her own real-life horse.
Glory stayed with the raggedy princess through all the early years, and one day, one wonderful glorious day, she was given a date when Glory would be hers. On her sixteenth birthday he would be brought to the gate with a big yellow ribbon round his neck. That made the 'thing' bearable for a few more years.
They never found out about the 'thing.' She never talked about that for many years, but they did find out about the other stuff, about him hurting her when he lost his temper and she was taken away. Glory went too, and the raggedy princess and her horse rode in the meadow and roamed the kingdom while the doctor spoke about detachment.
He was allowed to write sometimes, and sometimes he did and sometimes he didn't. The routine was always the same: in from lessons and get changed and then run down to the common room to see if there was any mail. The queue round the mail table was usually huge, and she would be pushed out of the way. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered really.
She didn't need to look for her name on an envelope as the others did. He was the only person who ever wrote and then only about four times in five years, but every single day she would go through the routine of looking to see if there was a letter for her. When there was she was never surprised, just as she was not surprised if there was not, because it didn't matter one way or the other really. On those few occasions when there was a letter, there it would be standing right out from all the other kids' letters, the sloping writing big and flamboyant; the showman on display. She knew how it would begin.
"To my Dearest Darling Daughter."
And it always signed off with
"All my Love and XXX's Your Ever Loving Dad."
It never varied. She would read the letter over until the paper wasted beneath her hands. This was not to glean every word, or to search for love in the carefully blotted ink, but merely to have something to read. It didn't really matter what. They had stopped her from reading. Initially she had spent too much time reading. In fact she had spent all her free time reading, never talking or interacting with anyone, just reading. It didn't matter what really, anything would do.
She carried his letter full of woe in her pocket, taking it out and reading it although she knew every word, every syllable and every punctuation mark off by heart. Then she would carefully fold it up, slot it into its envelope and put it back in her pocket. She would count to a hundred and then take the envelope out of her pocket, carefully read the letter through and then fold it up and put it away again.
The letters would tell her that he thought he was going to die soon. He always said that he was going to die soon. She didn't want him to die soon. He couldn't die soon. He had promised to buy Glory for her on her sixteenth birthday; after that it didn't matter really, but he couldn't die yet. So she continued to read his letter and to worry about him dying soon.
There would always be a paragraph about Glory. This was her favourite bit. "Have saved a carrot for Glory," he would say. That meant that he was going to buy the horse didn't it? He wouldn't save a carrot for a horse that wasn't coming one day, would he?
She was released from that hateful place three days before her sixteenth birthday. For three days she went to stay with temporary foster parents; her fifteenth set to date. And then a placement was found for her in a half-way house if she wanted it.
"Ooh," said the foster "Mother," who's name she couldn't remember, "that'll be nice dear. Just think, all those other young people your age starting out with their whole lives ahead of them. How exciting, eh?"
She chose not to take the placement. She was an adult now. Free of the welfare state. There was a provision order against him going anywhere near her. But she went to him. It was her birthday. She had dreamed of this day since she was six years old and Glory had first become real.
He wasn't tied to the gate yet. No magnificent white stallion with a pretty yellow bow. Someone must be delivering him. He would come soon. Today was the day.
Her father was drunk, she made him some lunch. She hadn't seen him in over five years. He hadn't changed. She waited for him to mention Glory. Surely he must know it was her sixteenth birthday today. He hadn't really known who she was, but it didn't matter really as long as he had remembered to buy Glory.
"When's Glory coming?"
He laughed. He laughed until he hawked, and then he spat a huge length of cloying phlegm into the back of the open fire. It hung on the flue-pull like some malignant epiglottis swinging in a blackened throat. She watched it transfixed.
"Them psy psy psy-cho wotsits said you was nuts. It was a fairytale you stupid bitch. Don't you know that? It was just a story. Jesus! You are one stupid bastard aren't you? It was just a story. Hey and don't think you're staying here, I had enough of you when you were a whining kid. Go on, bugger off."
The raggedy princess lay beside the still form of the beautiful white stallion. His chest was stained red from the spear that the black knight had killed him with. The knight rode away on his black horse, laughing.
The raggedy princess hugged Glory and wept ten years of misery upon his neck.
And so she was alone.