It was exactly nine days to the local horse riding and show jumping event.

This show was held every year in Middleton, a sleepy town situated on the River Doon.

Greg Mainstream, once himself a famous showjumper and trainer, was training his daughter Janis for the upcoming event.

Things were looking good. Along with Janus' favourite horse Lightning, they were one of the favourites to take the first prize at the show this year. 

It was early morning, as they trained before Janis went to school and again after school and when she had done her chores.

Greg explained a few pointers, Janus and Lightning listened with all ears as they both wanted to win.

"Right young lady, off to the showers and school, we will continue this later ha ha ha," laughingly Greg said because he knew Janis would love nothing better than spend the whole day riding Lightning.

But she also knew how vital her school work was. She was planning to take over the stables from her father one day.

"Ben," he also cried, " make sure Lightning is taken care of,"

The young stable-boy Ben grabbed the reigns and led the horse into the stables to tend to the horse.

After breakfast, Janis heading off on her bike to meet her best friend Pip and they both cycled off to school.

All they talked about was the upcoming event.

It was halfway through the morning when Janis felt a chill, a shiver run up and down her spine. Suddenly a crow appeared next to Janis at the classroom window. The bird began screeching as a crow does and the whole class laughed, but Janis thought it was strange as the noise the crow was making looked like it spoke directly at her.

The teacher shooed the bird away, and the class continued, but Janis saw the bird sitting in the tree opposite the window. Then another crow, then another. All were screeching at Janis. Very strange indeed.

It was at that exact moment there was a knock at the door; it was Aunt Emma.

She was crying. She whispered in the teacher's ear and then moved towards Janis.

Without speaking a word, she grabbed Janis' hand and led her to the hallway.

Janis was all a daze, first the strange feeling, then the crow and now Auntie Emma, how strange indeed.

"Janis," Emma said, "I have bad news...Papa has had an accident while training the horses, and he died."

Janis collapsed into a heap.

Aunt Emma arranged everything with the school, and they set off home.

That car journey was just a blur to Janis, and on arriving, at the farm, it became even worse.

There were ambulances and a police car and a strange black car.

Still, it seemed like a dream to Janis.

The following few days, including the funeral, were hazy to Janis and if you ask her today, she has no recollection of that time.

And with only a few days until the competition, things could not be further from Janis' mind. Her mother tucked her into bed and wished her a good night.

Just as Janis was nodding off to sleep, she could hear the sounds of a thunderstorm in the distance.  But with every 'boom' of thunder or flash of lightning, it felt as if it was getting closer.

Less than ten minutes passed, and the storm was above them. Janis covered her eyes with the blankets and hoped it would pass quickly.

But that was not to be. To Janis' dismay, the brightest flash followed by the hardest bang must have woken the whole town.

Then screams were heard followed by lots of shouting. Janis looked out the window, to see the horse barn on fire. The lightning had hit it.

Mum was just in time to stop her rushing out. She also explained the horses were all safe, and no-one was hurt.

Janis was ushered back to bed, and she tried to sleep, but her dream was a strange one.

She dreamt of her horse lightning but with the head of her father.

The next morning was a crisp Tuesday morning, Janis walked out into the fields, the crows were back and all next to Lightning.

She walked over to Lightning, and he nestled his nose under her arm as if to say he understood her feelings.

Still thinking of her dream, Janis said jokingly, "Dad, is that you?"

It was if lightning nodded his head yes.

Janis was taken aback but dismissed it as nonsense deciding to ride lightning-like her father taught her.

It was amazing as if the horse knew how to do this correctly as if her father was beside her riding Lightning.

Janis felt this connection, one she had never had with Lightning and they rode all day. Janis knew then; she just had to enter the competition.

She never told anyone about her strange connection with the horse, not even Pip.

The day of the competition arrived. Janis was nervous but very excited.

Her mother asked, "Are you sure you want to do this?"

Janis just nodded and replied, "I have to do it for Papa."

They both embraced and cried.

Aunt Emma's husband, Uncle Phil, was to assist Janis to and from and during the competition.

It was a beautiful day; the sun was shining, but Janis noticed the competition was fierce. 

Janis looked up, and the trees were full of crows of all sizes. She did her best not to panic and concentrate on the competition.

And so it came to Janis' turn, she whispered into Lightning's ear, and the horse nodded.

It was if, by magic, they performed the best show ever seen at the show jumping event in Middleton. The judges and the crowd were enthusiastic.

The received a ten from every judge and the first prize from the Mayor of Middleton.

It was if the day was over in a flash and Janis was back in her room.

But suddenly Lightning started whinnying and when Janis wnt to investigate. The horse was lying on its side. Janis ran to him, but it was then she heard the crow and a familiar voice behind her.

"Hello, Janis."

She turned to see the moonlight shine through a hole in the roof upon a faded image of her Papa.

"Papa," she screamed, rushing towards him, and held him tight.

"I do not have long; I only wanted to tell you how proud I am of you and what you did today." Her father said.

"Please, Papa," Janis continued, "don't leave me. I need you."

'No you don't, my darling," Papa said, "you are a strong independent lady, and you will do great things,"

It was then the crow began to caw.

"It's time, never forget I will always be with you," Papa said...and just as Janis went to hold him one last time the crow flew off and the mist that was Papa converged with the moonlight and was gone.

It was then Lightning stood up, came over and nudged Janis slightly and did he just wink?

I can tell you Janis and Lightning won many more competitions, but that story will have to wait until another time. For now: They lived happily ever after

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