Private practice


She couldn't move her arm. Her trusty right hand was almost useless. That was the hand she had snapped into a latex sleeve, ring less fingers twitching under a sheen of sterile lubricant. Madison's right arm buried in the mare; the animal's black vulva winked below the veterinarian's straightened elbow. She, whom Abby called Dr. C, completed the horse's internal exam in seconds. Dr. Madison Creighton always rushed when she saw equine patients.

Abby, the thoroughbred barn's chief groom and exercise girl, watched the doctor while relaxing her grip on the horse’s nylon head halter and lead. Madison boasted, sounding too loud to herself inside the sweet-smelling stall. "We made it," she said as she withdrew her palpating hand. "If I'm right, like I usually am,"--she grinned toward Abby's petite frame, noticing that her blonde cap of self-cropped hair shone in the backlit stall--”she'll start labor soon." Pivoting where she stood, Abby rustled wheat straw beneath her light boots, stretched to swing the hanging mesh bag of alfalfa hay away from the mare's velvety nose. Spare steps in the main barn maintained distance among people, animals, and obstacles.

Madison climbed behind Abby on the catwalk after they had slipped out of the stall. Standing at the entrance to the narrow corridor, the older woman hemmed her in, speaking to Abby’s stooped back. “She’ll do fine; I don’t think this foal is affected.” Abby straightened, lifting a five-gallon bucket of warm water. Special grain in metal cans, leather tack, soaps, liniments, and powders took up almost every inch of the wooden shelving and floor.

For the first time, Abby seemed to be in a hurry herself. “Boil the water, right? That’s my part, Dr. C.” Abby’s head nearly brushed Madison’s right breast as she stepped around her into the central vaulted space. Rafters far above them were as beautifully crafted as the hinged oak of each stall door.

“NO! And call me Madison! Damn, Abby! What I’m saying is that we’ve been partners here. You know how many animals I’ve lost this spring. Your love for the horses, combined with Kentucky stubbornness, has been the medicine I lacked. And I’m grateful, OK? The doctor is cured.”

“Madison,” Abby said, trying out the name. “What does it matter? I won’t see you again until there’s a problem with someone.” She jerked her tiny chin toward the opposing rows of stalls below where they stood. Tempted to continue talking to her back, Madison picked her way behind Abby to the stall where they’d started.

She said, strangling a little, "It's personal." She noticed sweat outlining Abby’s very pink lips, deciding for the first time that Abby always smelled like, yes, honeysuckle. As if agreeing, the mare wormed and chomped bristly horse lips. Tension broken, the two women laughed. The animal’s relaxed posture made Madison appear shaky, more self-conscious than she intended. Once Abby looked up, and met Madison’s hazel eyes in an unrelenting stare, the taller woman leaned in. She kissed Abby, crushing hard enough to part lips.
Having done so, Madison regretted it. She had wanted to be as demure as Abby, respectful of the other’s shyness, unhurried. Startled to feel Abby’s miniature hands stroking her neck at the collar, locking behind her neck, Madison leaned backward, careful to keep her lips at a humid whisper’s distance.

Abby rotated until Madison’s back rested against the vintage, smooth-as-satin wall. Because of her height and the angle at which Abby clasped her, Madison felt, but could not see, center shirt fronts being unbuttoned. So surprised she believed she’d faint, Madison gasped as Abby molded each breast, still inside its bra cup, with her hot palm. Seconds later--how?--two and two more freed breasts bobbed. Pulling her pants belt loops roughly, Abby skirted Madison’s slim waist with fingers as fluttery as butterfly wings. Unzipping, opening her from fabric to labia, Abby skipped to everywhere at once. Madison, when she tried to flex an ankle, tangled in shucked-off khaki. Through it all, they kissed, inhaled one another, breathed secrets. Finally Madison slid to the floor, sifting wheat straw when her hips landed.

Abby, a pixie clothed below the waist, folded herself atop Madison, settling into the concave nest between breasts and pubis. Again aware of the large animal sharing their space, Madison enjoyed her view from the stable floor. As Abby and Madison cuddled, the veterinarian saw an amber drop of colostrums, the first food a nursing foal receives, on one of the mare’s turgid teats. As powerful as a misplaced prism, it caught, splintered, and transformed the barn’s very ordinary light.

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