Palo Alto Weekly 17th Annual Short Story Contest
Children First Place

Nighthawk

by Sonya Raymakers


A wind whistled through the dark forest, lifting up Grace's long, black hair. She sighed and walked back to the ranch where she lived. She was looking for something white, with blue.

About Sonya Raymakers

JLS sixth-grader Sonya Raymakers said she "was quite surprised when I won since this is the first time I've ever entered a short story competition," said the 11-year old.

It was her mother Bonnie Packer who encouraged her to participate in the contest. Her proud mom said, "She's always been fond of writing and loves fantasy fiction."

Sonya's story is a sweeping fantasy tale revolving around a young girl's love of a horse called Starlight.

"My best friend rides horses, that's how I got the story idea. With this idea in mind, I worked on it for a few months," she said.

She likes to read JRR Tolkien and the Nancy Drew series. When she is not writing, Sonya pursues other interests like reading, music, theater, swimming and soccer. She also takes piano and violin lessons.
Like the main character in her story, Sonya loves animals and has a cat and rabbit as pets. She wants to continue writing in he future and would like to work in the area of nature and biology when she grows up.

-- Priya Padmanabhan

"Something wrong?" asked Grace's father.

"I miss Starlight. She ... she was the best horse I ever had. She was beautiful. I know she is gone, but I went to the woods today to look for her," Grace said, sliding into a chair.

"That horse was a mystery to me," her father replied. "Her sire was a coal black stallion, her dam a dark bay. Yet she was a white one. With blue eyes! The only other horse I ever saw with blue eyes was my dapple gray. Weird ones, both of them."

"I still can't believe she's gone." Grace murmured sadly.

"We can get you another, if you like."

"Goodnight." Grace stepped up the stairs to her loft and prepared for a troubled sleep.

Grace had a dream. She was running, calling for Starlight. A blackness swirled around her, taking her away. She whirled around, and fell on -- the floor.

Grace shook herself and stood up. Her clock read 4:00 AM. She slumped into her desk chair and picked up her journal.

Journal entry July 14
Two days ago a twister came to our part of Wyoming. I never knew there were twisters up here. I wish they weren't. When the sky turned yellow, we herded in all the geldings, then the mares and our stallion, Black Gold. Then we took in our family horses. Dad's mare, Kate was there, but mine wasn't. Starlight's stall was empty that night, and will be always.

4:05. Grace sighed, and slowly pulled on a green sweater and black slacks. She went down the stairs, and opened the door.

A dog yipped happily as she came outside.

"Sh, Fulton," she whispered. Grace jumped down the steps two at a time, the sheepdog at her heels. "Stay." she said harshly.

Grace walked to the barn, making no sound on her bare feet.

She did her chores early, to get them out of the way. She was thinking about Starlight. They had such a good time together, it seemed very quiet now without the white horse.

Grace ran to the forest when she was done milking their cow, Clover.

She touched each tree as a friend, and patted each bush like a loved pet. At night the forest was dark, but not menacing or horrid.

Up ahead, a white shape raced in front of Grace.

"Starlight! she cried running toward it. But it was gone. "Probably a hallucination." Grace tried to make herself believe it, but she couldn't. What if Starlight had survived the tornado? It was possible, yet ... she shook her head and started towards the farmhouse.

Grace trudged up the steps, ignoring Fulton howling at being left outside again. She buttered toast and took a bite. Even though the bread was sweet, she put it down and gazed out across the ranch.

The rising sun caressed the rolling hills, touched the fence of the corral which contained beautiful horses and ponies. But one was missing.

"I'm lonely. There is no one here, except dad. And ... she sighed.

That evening a dark figure slipped out the door. The sky was a deep blue, the forest silhouetted against the moon. The blueness of the sky was disrupted by a silent white figure. The shape alighted on a bough.

White, white with light blue eyes. A hawk.

Grace reached out, and touched its smooth feathers.

"You're beautiful," she breathed. "You look like Starlight -- oh!" she gasped as it soared over the barn. It squawked as though calling to her.

Grace walked inside. She ran her hands over the carved stalls. Black Gold; Kate; Jag; Champion; Rio Grande; Snapples; Duchess, Starlight's sister; Starlight. Her fingers recognized the rough engraving.

Grace strode to the tack room. There lay Starlight's saddle, on top of a faded blue saddle blanket.

She fiddled with a corner of the cloth, and a folded paper fell on the floor. Grace bent and opened it slowly. On it was sloppy handwriting:

INSERT NIGHTHAWK HERE

"Nighthawk?" Grace stood there, confused. What was the circle for? A symbol? "Nighthawk ... ?"

Grace sprinted up the stairs so fast she nearly threw her father off his feet on his way to bed.

"Where's the fire?" he asked playfully with a yawn.

Grace tumbled on her bed, panting slightly from her run. Again she unfolded the paper. "Nighthawk" could be anything!

In her head she turned over every piece of paper she could remember seeing.
"That's it!" she hollered. She retraced her steps downstairs and flew to her father's desk, her cheeks red with excitement. Grace quickly flipped open the little black box containing various business cards. She pulled one out at random, reading "Jones' Drills, George Jones, manager." Underneath was a handwritten signature next to a logo bearing a viking wielding a drill.

"A signature! But ... whose name is Nighthawk? A strange name, a strange mystery!" she found herself singing at the top of her lungs.

"Grace! It is 12 midnight, and why are you looking through my papers at this hour and why aren't you in bed!" Grace's father was screaming by now, his face pinker than a plum.

Cursing, Grace trudged off to her room. Tomorrow she would see who Nighthawk might be.

The following morning she shoved her toast into her mouth and ran off into the forest, her first place to search.

She saw a goldfinch, a field mouse, two squirrels running around a tree, but nothing blue and white. She had a feeling, deep down that "Nighthawk" was connected to the twister and to Starlight. She fought this thought, but it hammered in her mind like George Jones' drills.

Movement. Grace froze and her eyes popped out of her head when she saw an image of a horse in front of her. It was white with blue eyes!

"Not Starlight," she said firmly, "She is gone now."

But...

Never mind now. The horse had disappeared into thin air. Grace turned her back on the spot and marched back to the farmhouse certain she had seen nothing.

Stomping up the steps in a hurry got her nowhere after a stern order from her father to "muck out the stalls and leave your daddy in quiet with his paperwork." Grace flounced out again, her lower lip stuck out in impudence, and strode off to the stable, Fulton in her wake.

Before entering the building at her left, she gazed up at the sky, watching a jet plane leave a white trail behind. She glanced at Fulton, who was tearing her shoelaces to shreds but looked up again quickly. Had she seen ... ? Yes, there it was, the word "Believe" written across the sky.

Believe what?

That evening she picked at her dinner, the word "believe" scrolling across her mind. Believe, believe, believe.

"Dad?" Grace asked.

"What?" returned her father.

"If someone told you to believe, what would you think they meant?"

"Why do you ask?" he inquired suspiciously.

"Oh, nothing, I -- I read it in a book somewhere." Grace lied quickly. What would he say if he thought she was seeing omens in the sky?

"Well, then, they could be asking you to believe what they were telling you, or telling you to believe in something, or someone, for that mat-"

Grace cut him off with a "Thanks dad!" as she flew up the stairs to her room.

"Didn't finish dinner again," he muttered as he left the room to wash the dishes.
Upstairs Grace planned her night. She would "read" in bed until her father went to sleep, next she would quietly sneak downstairs and escape into the forest for the night. She would stay until it was just a little after sunrise then would pretend to have been out with the horses. Perfect! she thought. Wait a second!

"What about Fulton? He'll make a din if I go out there! I think I'll go put him in the stable ..." she thought out loud as she put on her nightgown.

She slipped on a robe and glided outside without an excuse for being out, which irritated her father greatly.

Grace dragged Fulton into the stable, where he would only smell the horses not her, tonight.

Grace sat on a stump, the cool night air caressing her cheeks, but she was not worried by the cold. She was waiting, for what she did not know.

A silent white shadow alighted on a branch near her. It was a bird, a hawk. It was adorned with snow-white feathers and blue eyes that shone with the ocean's beauty.

Grace reached out and stroked its smooth feathers.

"This is the second time we've met," she breathed, not wanting to disturb the quietude of the forest. "You are so much like Starlight, in so many ways ... "
Suddenly, the hawk's eyes grew very round and desperate.

"Are you trying to talk to me?" she asked in response to the bird's movement.
All night Grace cooed to the bird, almost like she had done with Starlight. The night passed quickly, and soon the sun was creeping over the hills.

Suddenly the hawk's beak elongated into a nose, on its head it grew long ears. The body grew bigger, feathers turning into white hairs. Its scaly legs with talons reached down into long hoofed feet.

"Starlight! I believe now. It's really you!" Grace was almost crying with joy. She settled herself on the mare's back and they rode off to tell the good news.