Closing her eyes for a moment, she heard hoofs stomp across the fairgrounds. Each stomp seemed to match the beating of her heart. Thump, thump, thump. Faster and faster it beat. Heat radiated from her. She ran her hands over each other, back and forth, then tried to dry their clamminess on her dress. The smell of the horses, fresh dirt, and dust filled her senses and made her part her lips in a smile. The cheers grew louder and louder, forcing Madeline to open her eyes.

When she reopened them, she saw Daniel kick his horse to speed up his approach. His opponent lowered his lance and also began to move. The event seemed to happen in slow motion, hoofs stomping, men and women cheering, flags waving back and forth. Madeline looked away suddenly, afraid that something might happen to him. The men collided forcefully. The sound was chilling, and both men hunched over from the power of their collision. Madeline stood, her hands on both cheeks, checking to make sure they were all right. She couldn’t see anything. The cheers were louder than ever, but she didn’t know what that meant.

        The opponent, a knight she did not know, leaned backward and slid off the back of his horse with a jolt, while Daniel leaned forward, covering his chest. The crowd stood and roared, cheers exploding through the stands. Daniel looked up through the crowd, searching. Lifting his hand to raise his visor, he turned toward Madeline and smiled.