Shortly after the Yule and New Year festivities, Maisie was gone again. However, this time it wasn't in secrecy during the early morning, nor late at night, but with a reluctant send-off from her parents, who knew well that even if they didn't, she would have gone nonetheless. Connor had already left once more despite his broken hand on the pretenses that he was going stir crazy and he wasn't going to be long, but it had already been a couple of days and Maisie didn't care that he wasn't there to say goodbye. After that one night, both Maisie and Connor seemed to just silently accept to avoid each other and not speak of what happened, and while Maisie healed, Connor managed to hurt himself even more. She had told their parents that she would be only a couple of weeks, but in truth, she had no idea when she would be back again, the only thing she knew was that she needed some time away from the family and to learn things her own way. Here she was now, being suffocated by her mother hugging her and sobbing on her shoulder, mumbling about being safe and coming home alive. While her father stood there stern as always trying not to show that he didn't want her to go, but with a twitch of the corners of his mouth, she knew he was having a hard time letting her go too.
"Maidread...are you sure you want to do this?" Her father asked, as her mother let her go and sent Maisie gasping for a full breath. Her mother stepped aside and her father stepped forward and placed a hand on her shoulder, squeezing it like how he did after delivering her her punishment a couple of weeks ago. Neither of them had talked about it after it was done, and she couldn't help but remember the sound of his belt hitting her back.
"Yes, the life here you want me to have isn't the life I want. It's not who I am, and I intend to find exactly that. You let me leave to go to schooling, this is nothing different." She swallowed down the shake in her voice and gave her father her best stubborn face, that he had grown to know over the years he had raised her. And with another squeeze to her shoulder, he let his hand drop and stepped aside as well. Both of them watched her mount Ogma, who seemed oblivious to the emotional scene by sticking her nose into the snow and then snorting and sneezing the cold white fluffy snow everywhere. It brought a small smile on Maisie's face and she was glad she hadn't lost her in her encounter with the Camerons, nor to the wild animals that lurked in the forest. Running her hand across Ogma's side, Ogma lifted her head up from the snow and shook the last remains of the snow from her snout and set her head up proudly as if she hadn't just been playing in the snow. Her father walked up to Ogma's face and ran his hand down her neck.
"You take good care of her, little honey lass, and she will take good care of you. Bring her home safe to us."
Ogma snorted in response, and that was all her father needed and stepped back once more and with one final nod towards her parents, she spurred Ogma into a trot away from the house, away from family, and towards her own life.
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It was the morning of the fourth day, the temperature had dropped through the night and the small fire she had built quickly became not enough to keep her warm, and she woke shivering and her muscles sore. The bruising across her back had healed before she left, but sleeping out on the frozen ground and the dropping temperatures reminded her of her privileged life. Within the past year, she had been out in the open nature more than she had ever been in her life, and she had many sprouts of wanting to go back, but she would look at the road ahead of her and think about everything that she hadn't seen yet. So far, as she looked at it, she still hadn't burst through the familiarity bubble of the land before her, and until that happens, she needed to keep on going. Shaking the frost off her blanket, she walked over to where Ogma had begun to scuff at the ground to get at the grass underneath the sparkling white and threw the blanket over Ogma's back where she hoped it would stay warm underneath the saddle for when she needed it again. By the look at the dim light growing on the horizon, it was only a couple of hours before the sunrise would be complete and a new day would start. Sighing, she made her way to a large, wide-trunked tree where in hopes to keep her food safe, she hung the saddle and saddlebags up in the tree. She stared up at them now, regretting her decision as her back muscles protested. She had picked this particular tree for its large sturdy branches and easy access up them, but last night when she had pulled the saddlebags up by a rope, with much difficulty, she didn't think as far as how she would take them down the next morning. Walking closer to the tree, she began to circle it, until she found the specific branch that she had used previously, and reached up to grab it. It was just at head height, and she had to jump up to get a good grip on it. The rough bark made for wonderful handholds, and it wasn't long before she was perching on the branch like a bird. Ogma looked up from the grass towards Maisie and gave her an almost human look.
'You're going to fall.'
It said to her, and just as Maise lifted her hand from the branch to wave away the pseudo mockery her horse was giving her, her flat soled boots lost grip on the frosty branch, and she went tumbling off, landing hard on the frozen ground butt first. Pain shot through her tailbone up her spine and she had to throw a hand over her mouth to muffle her scream and a few swear words that would have gotten her a smack across the head if her mother ever heard her say. She heard a very laugh-like whine come from the peanut gallery that was her horse, and she glared in her direction. The two of them have spent so much time together that sometimes Maisie believed that Ogma was a human in her soul, one to keep her company, protect her, and on occasions like this, make fun of her stupidity. Suddenly, Maisie could feel a nudge at her shoulder and then a cold wet horse nose in her ear, and for the first time that morning, she had forgotten about her pain. reaching up, she stroked Ogma's nuzzle.
"Yes, I'm alright, thank you for checking up on me," she let out a little giggle and using Ogma's reins, she pulled herself back up. "Let's get those stubborn things down and get going, shall we? We have a long road ahead of us still."
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To be continued....