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Clement's Corner: The Arrival Of Sir Galahad

A horse called Sir Galahad canters into the backyard - and true love is revealed.

Owen Clement tells an emotionally charged tale.

A riderless stallion cantered through the open gate into the backyard. Deborah looked up at it both pleased and apprehensive. Her seven year old nephew Jay ran up to her.

"Aunty Deb, can I get it an apple? Horses like apples, don't they?"

"Alright Dear - just one."

He raced inside while she walked up to the horse and patted his flank. Don, her brother-in-law, came out, pushing Sophie in her wheelchair. "What's up?" he said before noticing the horse. "Oh", he exclaimed when he saw it, "and where did you come from m'lad?"

Deborah made no comment as she moved back to complete setting the table.

Jay ran out with the largest apple he could find, "Will this be okay?"

"Bring it here and I'll cut it for you."

She took the apple and cut it into quarters and then she demonstrated how he was to lay each piece on the flat of his hand before holding it up. "You must hold your hand quite still and the horse will gently take each one using his lips only and if he lets you, you could gently pat his nose. You'll be surprised how soft it is.''

She handed him the apple pieces.

Don and Deborah watched Jay with a touch of anxiety as he held out the first piece of apple as instructed. He gave the horse all four pieces before patting the animal's nose. Racing back to her he said, "Can I get another?"

"No,'' his father said, "One is quite enough.''

Leaving Sophie with Deborah, Don returned to the house. She wheeled Sophie over to the horse. "Come over here Galahad. Where did you leave your master?'' she said soothingly.

"Is that his name?" asked Jay who had joined her.

"It's Sir Galahad actually."

"How do you know his name?" the boy persisted. "He's a well-known race horse."

Jerkily flailing her arms Sophie showed that she too wanted to pat the animal. Deborah took her hand and held it up. The horse sensing what was required of him nuzzled it causing her to giggle loudly.

Deborah heard Gareth Jones walk up and stand behind her. "Hello Gareth," she said without turning around.

"Hello. So, this is Sophie and Jay I take it?"

On hearing her name Sophie jerked once more as she swung around to see who had spoken. Jay looked shyly at Gareth.

"This is Mr Gareth Jones, an old friend of mine,'' Deborah said keeping her eyes on the horse. "When I saw Galahad I knew you wouldn't be far away. Did he throw you?"

"No,'' he said, wrapping a loving arm around the animal's neck.

Don walked out of the house with a tray on which was a bowl of fruit, sliced cold meats and various salad ingredients.

Gareth turned to him, "Hi, I'm Gareth."

"Hi", said Don holding out his hand, "I'm Don McLeary."

"I know. Deb has spoken of you many times."

"Oh! All good I hope."

Gareth nodded, "I was very sorry to hear about your wife.''

"Thank you - if you'll excuse me for a moment" Don said quickly turning around and re-entering the house.

Deborah for the first time faced Gareth. "You'll have to excuse my brother-in-law. It's early days and he's taking it very hard.''

Gareth nodded slowly. "I'd better leave then. Come on Galahad.''

"No, it's alright. He'll be fine, besides it will be good for him to have company."

"Well, if you say so."

Leaving Sophie beside the horse, she led Jay and Gareth into the house for them to wash their hands. They passed Don on his way out with a basket of hot rolls wrapped in a tea towel.

"Gareth's staying for lunch,'' she called.

"That's fine, there's plenty I'm sure,'' he answered and then hurried on to collect Sophie.

"And what brings you here,'' Don asked Gareth when they returned.

Gareth looked at Deborah who signalled caution with her eyes.

"I'm looking to set up a stud farm. I'm staying with my aunt and uncle, the Brewers. Do you know them?"

"I certainly do, they've been a great help to me."

"Where do you live then?" Don said as he pushed Sophie to the end of table.

"In Sydney."

"I see. I take it that's where you met Deb?"

"Deb and I have been friends a long time. In fact, we were at high school together." Don looked over at Deborah to get her reaction. Busy preparing Sophie to be fed, she did not respond.

"What if I take over,'' Don said.

"It's fine, you have a break."

"No it's okay, you and Gareth have much to talk about I'm sure."

Deborah sensed that Don would be happier being occupied and not having to answer Gareth's questions.

"I must say, it all looks so beautifully fresh,'' Gareth said when a plate was handed to him.

"Do you like horses,'' Gareth asked the boy.

"He hasn't had much to do with them actually,'' Deb answered for him "but I'm sure he'd be fascinated to know about Galahad.''

"Have you had him a long time?" Jay asked.

"I was there when he was born, his poor mother had quite a time. She nearly died."

"Is she okay now?" Jay asked.

"Yes, she's fine. She's had two more colts since him. And, like him, they are champions too."

"Can I have a ride on him?"

"I don't think so Jay,'' his father said, "it could be quite dangerous".

"Please," he pleaded.

"There's no danger, Don, Galahad is used to children,'' Turning to the boy he said, "Let me discuss it with your father first and then we'll see."

They ate a leisurely lunch, keeping pace with Sophie who ate slowly. Sophie. Deborah and Gareth mainly discussed news about mutual friends and of his future plans for the stud farm.

"Have the arrangements been finalized then?" Deborah asked.

Gareth shook his head.

Don formed the impression that she was not talking about the stud.

"There's a bit of a breeze sprung up, I'd better get Sophie inside, you too Jay," Don said as he wiped Sophie's face.

"Aw, can't I have a ride?"

"I'd be very happy to give him a bit of a run. He'll be quite safe I assure you,'' Gareth said.

"Oh you don't want to be bothered, I'm sure you and Deb have much to say to each other."

"Why don't you go and put a jacket on,'' Deb said to Jay.

He raced inside before his father could speak. All the adults smiled affectionately.

"I don't think it has registered with him yet that his mother will never be coming back," Don said sadly.

"He's dealing with it in his own way. He has spoken to me quite a bit about it actually,'' Deborah said.

"Nice to have met you Gareth, I hope you'll call again soon. I'll take Sophie inside now,'' Don said as he held out his hand.

"I certainly will. Maybe Deb and I can stay with the kids and give you a night off to visit your friends. I'm used to kids. I have a number of nephews and nieces."

"Thank you, I might take you up on that."

"Bye Sophie,'' Gareth said gently stroking her cheek with the back of his fingers.

Before they reached the door Jay rushed out struggling with his jacket. Deborah helped him put it on and button it up. Gareth lifted him up onto the saddle, showed him how to hang on and then taking the reins walked around the yard at a leisurely pace. The boy's expression was one of absolute bliss.

"Can you make him go faster?" Jay asked.

"Slowly at first, it's a long way to the ground young man,'' his aunt said.

"Hang on,'' Gareth said as he mounted and sitting behind the boy pulled him onto his lap. Holding him tightly with one arm he cantered a few turns around the yard. Gareth lowered a very excited boy down to his aunt before dismounting.

"Jay, time to come inside now,'' his father called from the doorway.

"Thank you for the ride,'' Jay said.

Gareth smiled and tousled the air of the curly headed youngster before he went inside. Deborah walked up and patted Galahad.

"Well Deb,'' Gareth said putting his arms around her, 'When can I expect you?"

She moved out of his arms. "Im sorry Gareth, I couldn't possibly leave Don at the moment, it just wouldn't be right."

Her actions and tone of voice surprised him making him ask, "Are you in love with him?"

She hesitated, "I am very fond of him, and the children."

"That's not what I asked."

In a voice so low that he could barely hear she said "I always have been.''

Clement 2007


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