Chapter Nine

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All the way home, I could still hear the ringing sounds of guns, followed by the occasional holler. It was enough to make my stomach turn with worriedness for my friends back at camp.

Somewhere along the way home, Papa cleared his throat and kicked a stone, which went rolling into the air and hitting a tree. We watched it fall into the grass, and continued. The ground still hadn't started to incline, which meant I was still somewhat in Indian territory, but  could feel the attachment going away.

"So," Papa said, sighing. "You actually enjoyed your stay?"

I nodded, not wanting to say anything. What was I supposed to say? It's not like Papa loved Indians. No American truelly did. So I walked at his side, trying my best not to continue with the subject.

Still, Papa said, "I didn't expect you too. They seemed pretty...I don't know...Scetchy. That old man? He's the healer, like a doctor, correct?"

Deciding that there would be consequences if I didn't answer this time, I swallowed and said, quietly, "Yes, Papa. He was the shaman."

When I said "shaman", Papa turned around to me. We both stopped where we were, me in mid-stride, him about to stomp down onto the dry dirt. "Now listen here, girl," His tone was enough to send a chill down my back. "I didn't go all the way to that thing they call a civilization, just to hear you say how much you would rather prefer their way of life then the one I've done so hard to create."

I pursed my lips, feeling hot. "I'm sorry Papa. You know how much I missed all of you. In fact, all I've been able to think about is how much  you've worked on the cabin."

That eased Papa up a little bit, making him continue to the way home, but he still seemed tense in his muscles. "The cabin isn't nearly done, you know that, don't you Emily? It's making process, sure, but... I've just had no time."

Still, I pushed on. "But I bet it's just so beautiful." Suddenly, I was struck with a foolish idea. "Actually, the cabin is probably so much better than those idiotic teepees that look like children made them. They were able to create those in a matter of hours. Someone with your skill could surely make a measily cabin."

We both stopped. I wasn't sure where I was going with that, but it still made Papa's face turn red. My chest tightened with pity, feeling sorry about making fun of his process, but I was still trying to create something out of this clay we were stuck in.

Finally, Papa exhaled. "Emily," He started. "I know what you are trying to do. You are not allowed to ever see those Indians again. Their vial creatures. Not even human, that's for sure."

I also could feel my face turning into a cherry. "Papa, how could you even say that? They have a wonderful way of life. They breath, don't they? They need food. Water. Even sleep. They have feelings." I stopped. "They have hearts."

Papa grasped my arm and lead me forward until the ground started to incline. I tried to shake him off, but his grip was stronger than me. I was in a torn situation. Part of me wanted to follow Papa back to my family, the thing that I have waited for for all these days, but I also wanted--no, needed--to run back to Motavato and say goodbye.

I may never see him again, and I was scared.

Before I knew it, I was standed in front of what reminded me of an aftermath of war. Nails sticking out of wood, which had been poorly chopped, and a spider crawling up the sides. In my mind, I went over the verses of "The Itsy Bitsy Spider".

From around the corner, Grace came, carrying an armful of cut wood, sweat sticking to her forehead. Behind her, like ducklings, were Elizabeth, Wendy, and Mallary, all stomping through the tall grasses. I couldn't see Joey, but he couldn't have been far.

When Grace looked up from staring at her shoes, her eyes widened and she dropped all of the wood. Mallary ran into her leg, and crossed her arms. I heard her yell something, but Grace wasn't listening. She ran up to me, and observed my skirt.

"I know, Grace," Papa said, patting her shoulder gently. "She's not supposed to be back yet." He winked at me. "But I was able to ruffle those Indians into stealing you back, ey, Emily?"

I laughed, pretending not to be furious with him. Grace put her soft hand up to my cheek and looked into my eyes. I was suddenly concious of myself, which hasn't really had a decent washing in two weeks and I've barely has combed my hair. But I don't think Grace was really focusing on that.

After a while, she retracted her hand from my cheek. I rubbed where her long nail clipped my skin. "You're really back," Grace said. "I've been washing your blankets, hoping every day that you would come early."

I smiled. "Thank you, Grace." I glanced at Papa. "Er, I would like to speak to Grace in private, if I could, Papa."

Barely even giving it a second thought, Papa nodded and gathered my sisters into his arms. They all shrieked and laughed as he went into the trees. I could still hear their little voices hollering through the forest.

We make so much noise. I thought. No wonder why we never are able to see any wildlife.

I turned to Grace, who was wringing her fingers. "Is there something wrong, Emily?" She asked. Her voice seemed heavier than usual.

I shook my head and giggled. "Of course not, Grace. I just thought you would understand this more than Papa ever would."

Grace's eyes widened. "Go on, then."

"Well," I said, picking my words carefully, "When I was with the Indians, I learned a few things from them. I learned so much. How to catch fish, speak Cheyenne, and even learn about their ancestors. Just a bit, though. What I'm trying to say is that those are good people down there, and the reason I left early is because they didn't want me there during war."

Grace raised her eyebrow in question, but only folded her arms, signaling for me to continue. 

"Anyways, I need to go back and say farewell to my frie--" I caught myself. I couldn't lead to much onto Grace. "I need to say goodbye to them. They treated me well, and I was unable to...say anything."

Nodding, Grace took my shoulders, and we sat down on the grass. After what seemed like a lifetime without any actual seats, the ground seemed more comfortable than anything man-made. "Sweetie," Grace whispered, "I cannot allow you to go down there now. They are at war. You could be injured."

I jumped straight up. "But Grace, what if one of them dies?!"

She sighed. "Then I guess you can attend their funeral." Her voice came across sharper than I would have imagined, and I kept quiet. Her eyes burned. "I'm aware that they are good people. If they weren't, you would be dead by now. Maybe in a month or two, when--"  A loud bang went through the air. "When the fighting has settled down."

I felt helpless. I knew that Papa and Grace would never allow me down there now. But my gut told me that I was faster than them. I could run down to the camp and say one last goodbye. But I knew that was stupid. The camp was a long ways away, and I can't say that I was in the best shape.

So I stayed. It was a long first day, but I made myself stay.

That night, as a celebration for my homecoming, Grace made some stew, and my stomach was warmed with something other than Indian food. It tricked down my stomach, warm and welcoming.

Wendy tugged on my dress. It was new, something that Grace had bought for me when they went to town a while ago. It fit perfectly, with blue trim around the edges, and a color that reminded me of the charcoal nights.

"I am glad you are back." Wendy stuttered. I smiled and hugged her in my arms. It felt good to hug someone. 

Papa poured some champagne into regular glasses for him and Grace. "For Emily!" He shouted loudly. It echoed through the valley, and I wondered if Motavato could here it.

If he was still alive.

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