NO SECRET SO CLOSE excerpt #35, by Claire Dorotik

NO SECRET SO CLOSE is the story of a the most unthinkable betrayal humanly possible — at only 24 years old, Claire Dorotik’s father has been murdered, her mother arrested, and now, in a sinister twist of fate, Claire’s mother points the finger at Claire, accusing her of killing her own father. Battling the feelings of loss, abandonment, terror, and dissociation, and also learning about them, Claire struggles to stay in her master’s program for psychotherapy. However, when Claire’s brothers also betray her and side with her mother, Claire is left all alone to care for the 18 horses she and her mother owned. As the story unfolds, what is revealed is the horses’ amazing capacity for empathy in the face of human trauma, and the almost psychic ability to provide the author with what had been taken from her. Arising from these horrifying circumstances, the most unthinkable heroes — the horses — show Claire that life is still worth living.

Excerpt #35 from NO SECRET SO CLOSE:

“I only know one. But he’s very good.” Two years before I had been sued. I was trying to sell my first horse Cheers, when a woman and her daughter saw him at a horse show and asked if they could take him on trial. I was naïve, and they seemed nice. We wrote a contract on the back of a show entry and shook hands. “The buyer will have two weeks to try the horse, at the end of which time she can either purchase him for the agreed price of $10,000, or give him back.”  That’s what it said, word for word. It didn’t say that if I took my horse back when they didn’t buy him that it would result in “emotional damages” to her daughter. When the woman chased the hauler down the freeway in her Range Rover, honking and swearing at him, I thought he was the one who would suffer emotional damages. She wanted longer than two weeks, but didn’t want to pay for the horse. I just wanted my horse back. But she sued me anyway and hired a prestigious attorney. I had no money. I couldn’t even decipher the papers I had been served with. When I showed it to the trainer I was riding for at the time, she said, “You gotta call Mike, he’s the best.” I took the number and the papers and went to see him. When he saw the name of the woman’s attorney, he told me I was in trouble. But he took the case for $500. It was a pro-bono for him. I thought it was an act of sympathy.

So I gave him a call. He didn’t hesitate. He also didn’t ask questions. Another act of sympathy. “Kerry Steigerwald. Call Kerry Steigerwald.”

Alex made the call, and Kerry was coming over to talk to us.

We met at the Lake Wohlford Café. It was the only time I had ever been there, never before having the desire. The lake in front seemed inviting but the drifters didn’t. They all hung out there, in their flannel shirts and tattered overalls. They were like hicks, or country bumpkins. Probably harmless, but they made me nervous. My parents, on the other hand, liked the Café. After living there for six months, my dad finally convinced my mom that they should try it. From then on, they made an event out of it each time they would go, announcing that they were going to the “prestigious Lake Wohlford Café” — that was their way of glamorizing the antiquated atmosphere.

I was late, and Alex was mad. The groom had quit. After being taken into custody and being questioned, he had had enough. So I had twelve stalls to clean and eighteen horses to feed, twice a day. And a mare ready to foal any minute.

Some people call it a lazy eye, but to me, when Kerry looked at me, it looked more like a wild eye. He didn’t say much. But he asked a lot of questions, and the wheels seemed to be constantly turning in his head. He wanted to know who my mother knew, what they would say about her, who I knew and whether Alex had ever seen my mother be violent with my father. We answered willingly, but the questions came faster than the answers. I wanted to like him, and searched his face for some sign of sympathy. But I just didn’t trust that wild eye.

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