No one knows she is bleeding. She strides across the field in a cloak and jodhpurs, her tan riding boots soaked in mud and horseshit. Her chest is bare and free in the gap between the metal clasp at her throat and the high, crisp hemline of the jodhpurs, with their fitted ankles and buttons of bone. On days like today, when the dressage draws an audience, she likes to hold something to her chest (a book, a bouquet, the brass handle of a letter opener, which people often mistake for a knife floating in mid-air), and for today’s competition she has brought with her a clock. Strapped to the invisible length of her torso, it appears embedded within her body, her flesh become wood, her organs newly mechanical, each hand ticking in perfect time. She wants there to be no mistake when she wins. Her balance is perfect. Her horse an extension of herself, each beat of their canter pumping blood back to their hearts. She can feel it flowing from her forehead—that stinging nick where she tried to dodge a man’s blows and was caught by his championship ring. It’s always the so-called gentlemen who attempt to slip a hand inside her, who think that because she is invisible she is also permeable, malleable, a blank page on which to draw the outline of their ideal woman, with bouffant skirts and a fan poised coquettishly over her face; she tried that once and wants no part of it. Her horse is the only one who can see her now. He watches her stride up to the podium with invisible blood matted in her hair and hoist the trophy high above her head. He alone knows what this means to her. He alone understands what’s at stake.
Orlando native Kaylan Stedman is an illustrator out of Torrance, California. With a Master’s in TESOL, she teaches English by day and pursues her passion for art and illustration at all other waking moments. For more art, peruse past Ghost Parachute issues, follow her Instagram, @naryakal (K. S. Illustrations), or support her on Etsy at www.etsy.com/shop/ksillustrationsstore.