As they reached the brow of the hill, finally the finishing line was in sight. The scene could have come from one of the films that she loved to watch late into the night, for the clouds had parted and the sun lit up a path towards the red ribbon showing Jodie the way. The two of them had nearly made it.
The smell of freshly mown grass swamped the air, the pounding of hooves ripped up the fresh turf. The two of them gasped in sync, sweat pouring down their faces as if their lives depended on this moment. The months of hard work, dull hours spent trotting up and down the school and the cold, wet early morning starts had nearly all paid off. Whatever happened, Caspian could not let her down. They were a team and in it together, since the day she saw the National poster.
Just a bit further to go. Jodie couldn't bear to look back as if she was being tailed by her nemesis, she knew there was a horse coming up behind. She spurred Caspian on a bit further, every inch of her aching body willing him not to give up, not now the end was in sight. Her adrenalin was pumping like the pistons on a steam train. They needed to win the money, not just for her and Caspian but for her strained and exhausted mother. Otherwise, everything would be over, they would lose the farm. However, the money would change their lives, not that they wanted a life of fame and glory, just the pleasure of knowing that they were secure, not running scared at the ring of the phone or the thud of the post landing on the hall floor.
The wind roared in her ears, Jodie looked around frantically like a rabbit fleeing from a rabid, ravenous dog. The crowds in their Sunday best were lined up alongside the track, pressing against the barriers in their excitement as if they too were about to join in the race at any moment. Everyone cheering her on, smiling and waving. Then in the crowd she spotted her Mother's proud lined face lit with excitement and beaming with pride mouthing the words "Darling you can do it, you are so nearly there!"
These words hit Jodie like a bullet. Suddenly she re-awoke and with all her remaining energy she pushed Caspian on to the fast- approaching finishing line. He shot forward knowing too that he needed to do her and his home proud. As she galloped the last few strides, it was as though she was in a dream. Time seemed to have stopped and she remembered her Father's last words to her: "Jodie, whatever you do, whatever choices you make, I know that you will always make me proud".
Then just as victory was approaching and Caspian was making heroic efforts to cover the last few metres of ground between them and their prize, the crowd’s faces started to melt away turning back into the fluttering, rustling leaves of the old oak trees. The red ribbon of the finishing line became transformed to the broken and warped planks of the playground fencing, the crowd's cheers and roars dimmed to the hum of the motorway traffic and the cries of the gulls.
As she huddled in the damp bus shelter, sheltering from the icy rain, reality kicked in. Her father was dead, the farm had gone and Caspian had been sold to a riding school to be ridden in circles by novice, heavy- handed, spoilt children.
The grim reality of city life hit Jodie in full force. There was no way back, no horse race for her to win now and never would be. It was all just a fantasy, a dream.