If Susanna could ride a horse, she would, because her mother wanted it. But she was afraid of horses. They were big and massive, and like her mother’s horse, Trajan, sometimes mean and unpredictable. It was Trajan who had crushed her father’s foot. Whenever she tried feeding Trajan when she was younger, he would ignore her, as if she didn’t exist.

Susanna’s father, an equine veterinarian, had often observed how much alike horse and rider became over time. He had made a fortune healing the expensive show horses of San Diego County, allowing him to provide his family with everything his money could buy. He had recently given his wife a Porsche Cayenne, in which she could drive to the country club and golf with her friends. He gave Susanna a new laptop to take away to college. He gave her brother, Austin, a trip to South Padre Island for spring break. It was Austin who had mixed alcohol and drugs and returned home a vegetable. Her mother blamed her father, even though it was she who had ordered the plane tickets from Expedia and packed condoms in Austin’s bag.

Tomorrow, Susanna would be driven to the airport and return to Wharton, to continue the pretense of her life. Tonight she was at home with Austin. Her parents had left her to care for him, while they attended a dinner honoring the president of the Del Mar Equine Breeders Club. Her father hated the man, because he had undermined his practice in the late 90’s forcing him into early retirement. Susanna didn’t care. Austin couldn’t care, because he had the perception of a five year old.

Susanna left him inside to watch reruns of The OC, and walked down the path toward the stable. Up ahead, she could see the large dark shadow of Trajan at the edge of the fence. How she wished for him to like her, to gently take a carrot from her hand, to accept her for who she was. As she neared, the faint glow of moonlight outlined Trajan’s massive frame. She cautiously held out her hand, and Trajan stepped backwards, not out of fear, but defiance. He had never understood this frail little being before him. He never would. Inside the house, Austin was startled by a loud snap of a sound that momentarily disrupted his focus on the pretty girls in the beer commercial.

The next day, upon returning from the airport, Susanna’s father would discover a pistol missing from the den. Much to her horror, Susanna’s mother would discover the depth of her daughter’s hatred.

The Setting Sun

She had lost her wedding ring in the sand just as dusk turned the beach into silhouettes and shadows. Furious, her husband made clear his immense displeasure at yet another of her incompetent acts by saying absolutely nothing and staring icily into the sky.

He wondered how anyone could be so stupid.

They went back and searched the beach in the gathering darkness, but to no avail. He finally said something and stormed off, leaving her to wander back and forth alone, desperate and frantic as the waves crept higher up the shoreline with the advancing tide. Finally, she sank down onto the sand and stared at the faint glow of the almost-forgotten sunset. There were no tears. Just an enormous feeling of emptiness.

She did not want to return to their room at the Grand Coast Resort Hotel. She did not want to experience the wall of hostile silence she knew was awaiting her. She had not lost the ring on purpose. These days, it could easily slide off her fingers, what with all of the weight she had lost due to the surgery and chemo therapy. Of course, that was his point exactly, she should have known better. Instead, like always, she just did things without thinking about the consequences. Like marrying her husband.

They both had wanted to end it all at times, to dispose of these past 30 years of marriage and say goodbye to the one person who could make them feel worse than anyone had right to feel.

Maybe he would get struck by a car while crossing the street on the way back to the hotel. Maybe she would stumble into the surf and drown. Maybe they would both have their secret wishes answered.

And then the light appeared at the end of the walkway. He was returning with a flashlight.

She stood and dusted the sand from her clothes as he approached. Most likely, he would still be angry. Most likely, she would remain deeply saddened. But together, they would struggle to find the ring, before it was swept out to sea or submerged under the swirling sand by pounding surf or passing feet.

It was, after all, very valuable.

And neither of them could bear the thought of losing it after all these many years.