The best thing in my whole entire life happened on my fourteenth birthday.
One minute, I was ripping open a box with purple wrapping paper, tearing off the bow and getting through the sticky tape to find a shiny, brand new saddle, still with its from-the-shop smell. The next minute, I was looking out the door of our farmhouse to see the most beautiful sight in the world.
It was a horse. And not just any horse. It was Fozzles, my favourite horse in the world. She was all washed and brushed and braided, and walking next to Cupcake, my twin sister Coco’s favourite horse. Both of them had gold ribbons around their necks, and were being led up the paddock by Ness, our neighbour, and her kids Tessa and James.
‘Are you …?’ I swung around to Mum. I meant to say ‘Are you serious?’ but the words wouldn’t come out. I’d learned to ride on Fozzles last year after our family moved here to Budgong from the city, and I’d hardly spent an afternoon off her since then. My greatest dream had always been to have my own horse, and now it was coming true, but all I could do was look at Mum and Dad, kind of frozen, in a good way, until my eyes started hurting. I’d obviously forgotten to blink.
Mum laughed. ‘Yes, Charlie. She’s yours.’
‘And Cupcake is for you,’ Dad added to Coco, my twin sister, but I wasn’t listening anymore. Instead, I was running, no, flying out the door, jumping the steps and pelting down the paddock towards Fozzles with a smile which felt like it couldn’t get any wider.
I slowed down as I got closer to Ness. She and Mum met soon after we moved here, at the Budgong Community Group. They hit it off and kind of went into a riding business together, with help from her kids, Tessa and James, and us, of course. Whenever we help her out with the rides we organise around the property and out on the bush tracks, she’s always saying, ‘Don’t go crazy around horses. They react.’
My feet went back to walking pace but I was still kind of bouncing.
‘Happy birthday,’ Ness said, as Tessa and James kept going, up to the house. Ness looked amused, like there was something funny about me.
I grinned back. ‘Only like the happiest birthday ever. Are you sure I can have her?’
‘I needed to sell some horses,’ she said. ‘And you love Fozzles so much. It would have been wrong to keep her.’
Ness handed me Fozzles’ lead rope and kept on going towards the house. I stopped for a moment, hugged the horse around her neck and smelled her mane.
‘This is the best day of my life.’ I whispered it in her ear and patted her on the nose. ‘Seriously. The best.’