The longer Andi sat in the straw, the colder she became. The lantern gave off a pale yellow light, which made shadows lurk in the corners. She didn’t know how much longer she could stay out here.
If I’m this cold, how much colder must the new babies be?
“Please can we help them nurse?” Andi begged. She had tried to keep her mind off the cold by thinking of names for the colts. But it was hard to think at all, she was shivering so much.
“I’d rather let them do it themselves,” Chad told her. “As long as they’re strong enough to stand, we’ll let them have a go at it. If they start to tire, then we’ll give them a hand.”
Andi reluctantly agreed. She wrapped her arms around herself and tried to get warm. It was no use. She clenched her jaw to keep her teeth from chattering.
“I think you’d better go up to bed,” Chad suggested. “Mother will skin me alive when she learns you’ve been out here most of the night, especially in this weather. I’ll stay and make sure they get their first meal.”
“I’m staying,” Andi insisted. She stifled a yawn. “You’re the one who got soaked tonight. Maybe you should go inside, before you fall asleep standing up.”
It was true. Chad looked exhausted. He was leaning against the stall wall, eyes closed and arms crossed over his chest. He couldn’t be very warm. His jacket had been thrown over the shirt he’d worn while sloshing around in the icy bucket.
“I’m not going to bed, only to be awakened an hour from now for some new emergency,” Chad said. He smiled to take the sting from his words. “If you’re dead set on staying up the rest of the night, we’d better find something warmer than what you have on. No sense catching a chill.”
It was too late for that, Andi knew. She’d caught a chill already, and it wasn’t likely to go away just because Chad threw some old horse blanket around her shoulders.
But her brother snagged the woolen blankets Andi had used earlier and kneeled beside her. “This will help,” he said, pulling the blanket up to her chin. Then he wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “Warmer?”
“A little,” she replied, leaning against him. It wasn’t exactly true, but it was the only thing she could say to keep from being sent indoors. So she snuggled closer and fixed her gaze on her foals.
Slowly, Andi’s shivering lessened, to be replaced with a feeling of overwhelming weariness. Her eyelids drooped. This won’t do at all! she told herself. I can’t fall asleep!
But a slight shaking told Andi that she had, indeed, drifted off to sleep.
“What’s the matter?” she asked, jerking awake.
“I think it’s time to we gave these little fellas some help,” Chad confessed.
The chocolate foal, whom Andi decided to name Shasta, had managed to stay up longer than ten seconds. He took three wobbly steps and bumped into his mother. Immediately, his short, curly white tail jerked back and forth, but he was poking around in the wrong place.
Andi tossed the blanket aside and gently pulled Shasta out from between Taffy’s front legs. Giggling, she guided the colt toward the mare’s full udder and watched in satisfaction as he grabbed hold of a teat and started nursing.
Chad brought the smaller colt, Sunny, to Taffy’s other side. “This one’s not quite as strong. He’s worn himself out trying to stand and walk. I’d better make sure he gets a bellyful.”
With a practiced hand, Chad put the cream-colored colt within a nose’s reach of the warm milk. It didn’t take long for Sunny to catch on, and Chad held him up so he could get all he needed.
Bellies full at last, Andi let Shasta flop down in the hay near her. She stroked the tired foal and talked to him. Soon, Sunny lay next to her as well. Taffy lowered her head and nibbled at Andi’s hair.
Thanks for helping with my babies, she seemed to be saying.
“You’re welcome,” Andi said aloud, reaching up to stroke Taffy’s soft nose. “But don’t forget to thank Chad too.”
Taffy’s head went up, and her ears pricked forward. She whinnied softly.
Chad gave Taffy a friendly slap on the neck. “Hey, it was my pleasure.” Then he turned to Andi. “Come on, Andi. Time to turn in. Taffy can handle things from here.”
Andi snagged a blanket and scrunched down farther into the soft straw between Shasta and Sunny.
“Oh, no, Chad! I’m staying here. Please? I’ll be cozy and warm with the foals.” She yawned. “I’m too tired to walk back to the house anyway. And if I do go to bed, I’ll just lie awake the rest of the night worrying. But I bet I fall right to sleep out here.”
Chad let out a long, slow breath. “Well, it’s unlikely I’ll ever get warm, but I’m going back to bed. I’m done in.”
He picked up the lantern and turned for a final word.
“You helped save Taffy and those foals tonight, you know,” he said. “Good job.”
Andi mumbled something, but she hadn’t really heard her brother.