The Girl with a Pony
by Grace Andreacchi
I found it stuck between the pages of an old edition of les Poésies de Charles d’Orléans that I picked up one rainy afternoon in a convent library, it must be seven or eight years ago. I had no right to the photograph but I kept it nonetheless. It intrigued me. ‘En la forest d’Ennuyeuse Tristesse...’ Lost in the forest of weary sadness, that was the poem I was reading at the moment the photograph fell out of the book into my lap. In the photograph the girl is not sitting on the pony, but stands beside it, holding the reins loosely in one gloved hand. A slim girl of about ten. Her other hand rests on her hip. She’s dressed in a dark riding costume complete with jockey’s cap and thick white bow at the neck of her blouse. Her face is partly in shadow, and she looks directly at the camera with the deadest eyes I have ever seen. On the white border of the photograph is the date - June 1963.
I forgot about the girl with the pony until one night very late something happened to remind me. I was walking home from a late show at the Red Angel where I sometimes play piano for the jazz singer Myra Bird, when I happened to notice something stuck up in the window of a run-down café.
‘REWARD for information leading to the discovery of the whereabouts of our daughter Rosa Darling. Age 10 years and 3 months, height 4 foot 8 inches, weight 70 lbs. Hair dark brown, eyes blue. Missing since August 1962.’
There was a photograph, too, of a girl about nine or ten years old, and I recognised her instantly, there could be no doubt – it was the girl with the pony. She was without the pony, and wearing a school uniform, not a riding costume, but it was the same girl all right. The café was closed for the night, so I made a mental note of the address and planned to return the following day. I don’t know why, something about the girl bothered me. When I got in I had a rummage round the flat and finally found that photograph at the bottom of a drawer. I held it under the lamp, studying it for a while. What was it about the girl? Her eyes gave me the creeps. They were like the eyes you see in those photographs of people out of the concentration camps. They sure didn’t go with that pony. If she’d gone missing in August ’62 then this photograph showed her in the other place, the one into which she’d disappeared, the place that does not exist, except in nightmares. Lost in the forest of weary sadness.
The next day I didn’t get around to that café, I was having problems with the tax man and spent the whole day with my accountant. I didn’t remember the girl till I’d already got into bed for the night. Just as I was falling asleep her face came back to me, staring out of the darkness with those terrible eyes. Hair dark brown, eyes blue. Damn. I’ll definitely go tomorrow, I thought. The next morning I heard that Myra had been taken to hospital again, more than half dead with pills and drink, of course I had to visit her, bring her flowers, hold her hand. This is how I came to forget about the girl again. When I finally got back to that café it was boarded up. I stood in the rain without a clue where to go next.L'omme esgaré qui ne scet ou il va. A man lost, who knows not where he should go. Lost in the forest of weary sadness. Next door was one of those coffee chains that look exactly the same all over the world – no one in there would know anything. Across the street was a newsagents, a trendy Italian restaurant, a shop with sexual aids and rubber dolls displayed in a forest of winking pink fairy lights. I decided on the newsagents. I took a newspaper and while I was paying asked the boy, ‘What’s happened to the café across the street?’ ‘Happened?’ he said, scratching his head, ‘Happened, did you say? As far as I know, sir, nothing has happened. That café is closed, sir. It’s been closed for a long time. Before my time.’ ‘But it was open last week,’ I said. It couldn’t have been that long since I’d seen the sign in the window. Or could it? ‘Do you know where they went?’ I said. But the boy just shook his head, as he handed me my change. ‘Long time, sir’ he said.
I got on the bus and opened the newspaper. I was reading about a horse that had fallen and broken its leg at Newmarket, a lovely young filly and now she’d have to be shot, when my eye wandered into the announcements column at the side of the page. ‘ROSA DARLING! Please get in touch my life is darkness without you my little pony girl. - Daddy’.
Grace Andreacchi http://graceandreacchi.com is an American-born novelist, poet and playwright. Works include the novels Scarabocchio and Poetry and Fear, Music for Glass Orchestra (Serpent’s Tail), Give My Heart Ease (New American Writing Award) and the chapbook Berlin Elegies. Her work appears in Horizon Review, The Literateur, Cabinet des Fées and many other fine places. Grace is also managing editor at Andromache Books and writes the literary blog AMAZING GRACE . She lives in London.