"Andy" by Shelby Liddicoey
The horse hooves crooned as they sauntered down the cobbled streets. Their obsidian fur stood out against the snowing backdrop, as they brought the carriage trailing behind them to a stop. Many carriages came and went on this street every day, but the dark horses intrigued the small lad on the far corner of the street. The horses, for whatever reason, sparked a sense of comfort in the boy that he couldn’t explain, but he had to move closer.
The sun was just before set causing the crowded area to be thinner than it was during the height of the day and allowing the boy to dodge the on-goers more easily. The boy dashed his way down the side of the street line with costermongers and other merchants. The customers either glowered at the boy or overlooked his presence entirely. He, with a grimy hand, cunningly pocketed two apples from a stall while dashing amongst the shadow of John. John, who lighted the fairy lights, saw the boy and gave him a wink and a smile through crooked, butterscotch teeth as he hummed the same tune he hummed every night when he brought light to the street. The boy didn’t know the name of the tune but that rhythm brought him joy when he heard it. But tonight the boy didn't stop to chat, for he was on a mission.
Bang! The boy hastily turned his head. Thwap! He skidded across the ice, smacked into the back of the carriage, and fell to the ground with a firm thump. He sat up and the world seemed to spin for just a moment. The edge of his eyesight started to fade out, but the boy was used to this sensation. He picked himself up and tried to shake the muck off of his already dirty clothes. Glancing toward the front of the carriage, he was greeted by the face of the horse on the left. The horse nickered softly and tossed his mane as if to ask if the boy was okay. He steadily walked over to the two horses and produced the apples from his pockets. Holding one in each hand, he offered them to his new friends who graciously accepted them by leaving a sprinkle of warm saliva on his fingertips. The boy rubbed the slobber on his trousers while sporting a huge grin; then something in the carriage caught his eye. He scanned the street before him; the patrons that were left were busy haggling over prices with their merchant counterparts, and John had already vanished down the street leaving a trail of light behind him. Nobody was paying the boy any mind.
Not allowing himself to change his mind, he craftily opened the carriage door to get a better look at what caught his eye. It was empty, empty except for an umber, leather-bound book adorned with an enormous, mauve gemstone resting on the contrasting blood velvet seats. He figured the book wasn’t worth much but that gem had been at least a week’s worth of food.