“I take it things went okay?” Dancing Bear asked, her eyes searching Phoenix’s face.
Phoenix collapsed into her chair, exhausted. “Yes. He said it was good and that he could accept the offer of peace.”
“That’s a relief! Can you eat now?”
“Yes. I’m starving!”
Dancing Bear warmed up her food and brought it to her. “Would it be okay if Sage Eagle is one of those going to Rawlins on Monday?”
Phoenix blushed instantly. “Yes,” she replied bravely. “We won’t fight anymore, I hope.”
“I hope so too.”
“I’m just looking for canning stuff, right?”
“And maybe some bits for your new home.”
There was a knock at the door. Dancing Bear exchanged glances with Phoenix and went to answer it. “Come in,” she invited immediately.
Sage Eagle came inside, looking as handsome as the first time she saw him. He looked at her and caught her gaze. Phoenix didn’t see any hostility for the first time in weeks. Maybe her offering had worked.
“Am I interrupting anything?” Sage Eagle asked.
“Not at all!” Dancing Bear replied as if they’d been waiting for him to show up – and not trying to console Phoenix to not worry too much now...
“How is your ankle?”
“It’s not too bad if I’m not too crazy on it,” Phoenix replied, trying not to smile stupidly.
“Glad to hear it. Maybe you can watch your house being built some more?”
“Maybe. What is being done on it today?”
“The bathroom,” he replied. “That’s why I’m here – to take another look at the bathroom here to see if there’s anything we wanted to do differently. Or the same. Any thoughts?”
Phoenix shook her head dumbly. It wasn’t something anyone had ever asked her before. “The bathroom here is good.”
“Maybe a different color?”
“Maybe a bit brighter,” Phoenix admitted. Were they actually having a conversation without fighting?
“I’ll have some colors for you to choose from when you get there. Do you need a lift?”
“I can walk, er, hobble,” she replied.
“Sidecar it is,” he replied. “I will be back for you.”
Phoenix had to remember to close her mouth, watching him leave. No snaps, quips or irritable outbursts. It was almost like they were getting along.
“Behaving more like a chieftain now,” Dancing Bear observed.
Phoenix could only nod and then go to change her clothing, ignoring Dancing Bear’s soft chuckle behind her.
Puffing on his pipe, Nighthawk watched with interest as Sage Eagle brought Phoenix to the build site, using the antique motorcycle and sidecar. He nodded with approval as his son assisted the woman out, giving her the crutches she had needed since spraining her ankle. They didn’t seem to be talking much, but the possibility remained that his son had learned the required lesson and had decided to court the woman rather than anger her.
Nighthawk walked into the completed shell. The glass installation would happen tomorrow, then the fitting of the kitchen over the weekend – just in time for Sage Eagle and Phoenix to make the run to Rawlins. Maybe he was being a little controlling… deliberately scheduling the order from the coast at this time… except for the fact Dancing Bear insisted that all the two needed was a bit of time together – and what better than some time in the van?
He remembered a few nights ago, Pronghorn was over, talking about the earthship construction. “What’s between you and Phoenix?” Sage Eagle had suddenly asked.
“Nothing,” Pronghorn had denied.
“I watched you kiss her. There was nothing innocent in that!” came the jealous reply.
Pronghorn had laughed lightly. “I took movies and pizza to her for our date. I did kiss her like that once – and we both realized that it wasn’t right.”
“Then why publicly?”
“I wanted to make you jealous – and she wanted to prove that she didn’t need you… after your little squabble involving coffee.”
Sage Eagle had stiffened slightly.
“Between you and me, she feels the need to prove that precisely because she’s in love with you. Admit it, you haven’t exactly encouraged a friendship, let alone a relationship!”
“She’s not suitable,” he had replied.
“Only in your stubborn mind!” Pronghorn had retorted. “She has worked hard, learning all about us, learning words from our language, wisdom from Woxi, life skills from her as well – and you know how thorough she is.”
“I’ve been teaching her beading!” Little Deer had chimed in.
“She kissed Hooxa thoroughly as well!” Sage Eagle had complained.
“Most women here have been kissed by Hooxa! Can you blame her? He made moves on her, while you complained that she wasn’t Native enough for you! If you miss out on this opportunity, I think you will regret it for the rest of your life! I would have stolen her from under your nose, but we are not meant to be. Don’t let someone else succeed where I could not!”
“My lack of love life is my own failing!” Sage Eagle growled angrily.
“Yes, it is!” Pronghorn. “We all miss Star! Sterling was one of my best friends! Do you plan to punish yourself for the rest of your life simply for being human? She was a woman – you are a man… what happened between you was natural – normal… her death was a tragedy for us all, but for you the most. But now it is time to put her to rest, where she belongs and love someone new. Phoenix loves you… to the point of denial and hurting. Can you find it within yourself to love her in return? Or do you plan to push her into Hooxa’s arms?”
Nighthawk had watched as Pronghorn left the silent room, leaving Sage Eagle to brood over the words given so sternly and sagely. Pronghorn needed to become an elder, Nighthawk realized. He was young, but sometimes people had wisdom far beyond their years. People like Dancing Bear.
But last night, something else had happened. Jade Wolf had emerged with a bruised and bloody nose. He was sure it wasn’t broken, but Hooxa had refused to enlighten him about what had happened. The look on Sage Eagle’s face made him suspect it was something about Phoenix… and something probably well-deserved. While some of his sons were known to over-react to insults and slights, Kwina wasn’t one of them.
He had puffed again on his pipe – as he did now, watching Sage Eagle discuss bathroom colors with Phoenix. He wondered whether they would soon be living here together. He had to admit hoping that it would be true. He would be proud to call Phoenix his daughter.
“Are you sure about that yellow?” Sage Eagle asked her. “What about sort of a spring green? Still bright, but earthy.”
“I like that,” she replied.
After she took a wincing step without her crutches, his hands were at her elbow. “Are you okay?” he asked.
“I’m fine. Just have to remember that I can’t do as much as I did before I slipped on the ice.”
“You may hold onto me if it helps.”
“Thanks,” she replied with a shy smile, as if reluctant to take up the offer, but grateful that it had been made.
Nighthawk smiled, feeling that things had been put back on track. They would know for sure Monday.
Back to the prologue
Available to purchase at Books2Read. Print version will be available soon.
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Previous Swan Valley Stories:
- Native Concession either in ebook form or [print]( . (June 2014, approximately 9 months before Phoenix.)
Swan Valley is a fictitious American Indian reservation located in the Great Divide Basin of Wyoming, USA. The Neme'o'ng (Swan People) are based on the idea of blending the Shoshoni and Arapaho peoples - as might have happened if they were stranded in a desolate area as a small band of misfits. I have developed their language from the same ideas.
Please read my note on romance, teenage intimate relationships and underage sex. I apologize if my understanding conflicts with your sense of morality, but I'm only looking at things realistically, not ideologically. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing!
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