April 21 - Horses
Leighton had always loved Heidi, but being in love with her was something completely different. He knew their relationship was going to change since they were now expecting a baby together, but he never foresaw it taking this direction. He knew from the moment he had hurt her he wanted to step up, which he was doing, but there was a difference now in how he was behaving vs how things had been in her first trimester.
Any opportunity he could take to spend time with Heidi, treat her to something (little things, he wasn’t going overboard), to convince her away on a little getaway with him...he took it. Everyone pretty much saw through him. He didn’t care, though. As long as Heidi was happy and comfortable, that was all that mattered to him. Aside from their daughter, she was easily the most important in his life now and would probably remain that way for the rest of his life. He was determined to show her just how seriously he took that matter. Her happiness genuinely was his own.
So today, on brand for most of their Saturdays lately, he had gotten them up early to take them to a Strawberry Festival almost two hours away. Trips like these were significantly easier now that Heidi was starting to spend nights with him at his new place. He had told her the night before of his plans of an early morning and a long trip, but kept the details to himself. He had gotten himself up an extra hour and a half early so he could let her have the bathroom to herself when she woke up, got the car ready, and prepared a hot breakfast so she’d be ready to either eat it before leaving or take it on the go if she woke up nauseous.
People probably thought he was doing the most to make a statement to Heidi, but anyone who really knew Leighton understood this was how he showed his love. He was excited to wake up on his Saturday at 6:30am so the two of them could be out of the house by 10 in order to be at the festival at its opening time. He still couldn’t believe he had managed to find this event during his weekly “fun things to do this weekend” Google search. He knew that Heidi was going to love it, but simply seeing her reaction when she realized where they were was enough serotonin for him to turn around there and then and his day still be made.
“You know how flamingos are pink because of all the shrimp they eat?” Leighton mused, passing Heidi back the strawberry donut they were splitting. They were going on their fourth hour there and he’d already lost count of how many things they tried. Their poor baby was probably going to have a sugar rush.
“Yeah?” Heidi giggled a little bit, even though she sounded confused by the random question.
He glanced down at her, grinning, giving her bump a little rub before settling his hand on top of their girl. He was glad they were back at a place where he could touch her freely. “If genetics aren’t enough, hopefully Ruby will have red hair from all the strawberries you eat.” He said teasingly, even though he was entirely serious. He didn’t care how much he liked his own appearance; any time he thought of their girl, he imagined a mini Heidi.
Heidi, as predicted, turned as bright as her favorite fruit. “Or maybe your manifestation will be enough.” Even if her tone was shyer, he was glad she was now playing along with him instead of only blushing.
“The universe would really be paying attention.” Leighton nodded, smiling down at her again. “But in case there’s a possibility given my theory is right, we should probably try the strawberry sandwiches that vendor seems to be selling.” He pointed in the direction of another booth they had yet to try.
“Oh! Look at those horses!” Heidi gasped in excitement as they got closer to the stand, pointing to the next section of the festival. Sure enough, there was a fenced in area of the massive field they were on that had two horses and some ponies, all of which had little strawberries painted on their sides. At the sight of them, Leighton tensed.
It was no secret to anyone who knew him that Leighton was terrified of larger animals. He didn’t care that he was 6’3’’ and 185 pounds. Ever since he was a child, when there had been a little accident at the farm, he had developed an intense phobia. No matter how many pleasant interactions with animals and others he’d witnessed, he couldn’t help but be paralyzed with fear at the sight of them. All he could think of was that one horse kicking him (and subsequently breaking his arm in the chaos) when spooked, and he instantly froze.
Heidi knew of this story, but it clearly escaped her for a moment. When she realized, she stopped tugging him so excitedly and turned to him with a friend. “Ooops...I forgot.” She smiled sheepishly, even though he could tell she was embarrassed. “You wouldn’t mind taking a picture of me with them, right?”
Leighton reasoned there was no harm in doing just that. The horses were enclosed, he’d be at a distance, and Heidi seemed to really want to. Leighton nodded, albeit reluctantly, and continued with her towards the animals. Even if he kept a ten foot distance from them at all times, he still approached them basically hiding behind Heidi, as if her tiny, pregnant frame would provide much protection. It made him smile at the very least that she was giggling a storm the whole time.
“Hey, man! Don’t you wanna take some pictures with your girl?” Some random stranger asked after a few minutes of Leighton snapping photos of Heidi. One of the horses had taken a liking to her and was now trying to smother her in kisses. Leighton was trying to capture every candid moment.
It was a combination of another person acknowledging his relationship with Heidi, mixed with a desperate fear to explain to another man he might shit bricks if he stood that close to a large creature, that gave him the adrenaline to agree. Heidi had already been in the process of saying that it wasn’t necessary when he handed the phone to the stranger. He had so little photos of Heidi and him throughout this journey, especially ones where Heidi looked as happy as she did now, that his desire for the pictures outweighed his crippling fear.
Heidi was in absolute shock as he came towards her. In all the years she had known him, he had never willingly gotten this close to a horse before. “Are you sure?” She whispered to him, but she was still smiling encouragingly.
He was pretty confident until a horse made a sudden movement and he basically leaped into Heidi’s arms. “Jesus fuck!” He almost shouted.
Heidi couldn’t contain her laughter as he quickly grabbed her, burying his head into her neck. “Leighton! They’re not going to hurt you!” She chuckled, shaking her head. “You don’t need to do this if you’re uncomfortable.”
“I want to.” Leighton insisted, even if he really, really didn’t. He found it in himself to relax with his arms around Heidi, but he was still uneasy considering there was a huge animal with its tongue out near his ear. “Ugh...he wants to eat me!”
Heidi broke loose into even more giggles. At the end of the day, the random dude who took their pictures managed to get a bunch of great candid shots of them laughing at him and just beside each other. Leighton couldn’t even believe there was photo evidence of him getting so close to a horse! He knew it probably wouldn’t happen again, but he would say that the photos were definitely worth it. Not because he conquered one of his fears (because he really didn’t), but because it was easily one of the happiest he’d ever seen Heidi and that all that really mattered to him these days.