Chapter 15

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The creek had swelled up to her knees as Sheba picked plums from overhanging branches over the water. A small baby bump was forming on her abdomen, Sheba having to force herself to be gentler when she worked. Her bag nearly full, she sloshed out of the murky creek and into the sweet smelling sunshine. A chilly Autumn breeze dried her legs, and she laid on the lush green grass, plums spilling out of her bag and circling her head like a halo. Slowly, her eyelids slid lower and lower, until all she could see was a shade of dark pink covering her eyes.


A howl woke Sheba up with a start, her joints stiff from laying on the ground for hours. As she stood, cold air hit her so hard her teeth chattered like a squirrel's. A full moon rose above her, meaning it was just hitting midnight. Fear gripped her stomach, making her want to throw up.

Get it together, Sheba, you know where you are. Just get home.

She calmed herself a bit and started to walk. A dreadful sensation started to creep inside of her: she was being followed.

Her terrors were confirmed when the bushes beside her rustled with life. A silent scream filled Sheba's mouth as a sleek tan panther emerged into the open.

It's going to kill me. It's going to kill me! Oh God please don't let it kill me! She prayed viciously in her mind.

The panther growled and licked it's lips, walking closer with broad, strong steps. It's paws were layered with color; the toes a creamy white, a dark brown strip where toe meets foot, and a golden honey color that went all the way up. It's nose had a dark outline with pink in the middle, and its teeth gleamed in the moonlight.

Its tail dashed back and forth as it went in for the kill, an eerie scream erupting from its throat. Sheba began to scream, but a gunshot pushed the enormous cat off to the side. Sheba looked wildly around for the source.

"Better watch the time, darlin. You got more to live for than I ever will." Sheba whirled around to see Lorie standing behind her with a gun.

"What are you doing, Lorie?!" She screamed, tearing the gun from his grasp and busting it against a tree until pieces were scattered everywhere.

"What are you doing, Sheba?!" Lorie yelled in reply, his face red with rage.

"You ain't supposed to have a gun, much less kill something with it!"

"It ain't dead, girl. I ain't cruel."

"I know you well enough to tell that that's a lie." She knelt beside the wounded cat, who had been knocked unconscious by the blast. Blood gushed out of a wound in its shoulder, possibly shattering the bone.

This cat may never hunt again, thought Sheba sadly. She had to help it. She ripped the bottom half of her dress off, then stuffed it into the bloody wound.

"Help me carry it home," she ordered.

"Uh, no."

"Come on, Lorie! I need you in this one!"

"I said no."

"What will it take to get you to help?"

"A hug."

Sheba gagged, but she was desperate.

"F.. fine."

"Great." He opened his arms, Sheba slowly inching towards him. She finally got close enough for Lorie to fold her into his arms. He stank of alcohol and sweat, making Sheba throw up in her mouth a little.

"Thank you," Lorie said when he had finally let her go. "Now was that so hard?"

"You have no idea."

He shrugged and hoisted the animal onto his broad shoulders, letting Sheba lead the way.


Leaving the panther in the barn, Sheba left Lorie as fast as she could, throwing the kitchen door open and startling Martha.

"Where have you been?!" She cried, throwing her arms around Sheba. "Everyone's been worried sick! James and Ezra have been out looking for hours, and with yet another baby, I suggest you keep time!"

"I fell asleep near the creek," said Sheba, yawning. "Then Lorie found me, and..."

"What?!" Martha slammed her fist on the table. "That boy will be the death of me."

"Let me finish my story..."


When Sheba finished her story, Martha was pasty white.

"I... I think I should go now," she said shakily, gripping the chair as she stood.

"Would you like me to escort you?"

"No, no, dear. I'm fine. Really. You should be getting some rest, or better yet, fetching your husband."

Sheba smacked her forehead. She had forgotten about the others!

"Do stay until you've gotten some rest," insisted Sheba. "I'll be back soon." With that, she went and saddled her horse, Moon, and galloped out towards the flickering lanterns.

"James!" She yelled. "Ezra!" Two horsemen silhouettes raced towards her, and before she knew it, James had his arms around her neck.

"Sheba! Oh mercy, Sheba! You're alright!"

"Did you really think I wouldn't be alright?" She asked, a smirk on her lips. James burst out laughing.

Nervous energy, thought Sheba to herself, then just put up with it, listening to his endless bable for the entire night.

Ezra made faces at James behind his back, and Sheba almost burst from holding in the laughter.

Upon arriving back home, Sheba insisted on sleeping in the barn.

"Why?" Asked Ezra. "Not enough nature for ya in here?"

"You could say that," she replied, then slipped out the door before any more arguments.

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