He had laughed – and made her laugh, Phoenix noted. It was as if their friendship had been bonded by shared humor, not even two minutes into their day together. It would be a great day, she knew now and she was determined to enjoy every minute of her time with this man that she had fallen in love with.
“I envy you, you know… this is a new place to you,” he said. “I’ve never been outside of Wyoming.”
“I’d love to show you sometime.”
“I might hold you to that, you know, assuming we don’t start fighting again,” he said. Phoenix knew he was referring to the conversation he’d overheard between her and Little Deer. “I’d really like to see the ocean. We’d take Little Deer, of course. Jade Wolf though… he can stay here.”
“You almost sound like you’re jealous of him.”
“Only a little… about a few things,” he admitted.
Phoenix wasn’t sure what to say. What did he have to be jealous about?
“I’m sorry for being so harsh with you,” he said as they bumped down the road. “My father was angry with me.”
“I like your father,” Phoenix said. “He is very wise, but very gentle.”
“And harsh when it’s needed,” he added. “He needed to be harsh with me. I was wrong, please forgive me.”
She nodded quietly. “There’s nothing left to forgive.” She knew she meant it as she said it. The past few days of working together was all she’d needed to heal from his previous scorn and disdain. If they could become friends now, she would be happy enough, even if they never even kissed. All the pain would be worth this.
“Do you drive?” he asked, interrupting her thoughts again.
“Sure. Would you like me to take a turn?”
“Is your ankle healed enough?”
“I don’t know.”
“Then you’d better let me drive,” Sage Eagle said. “You need to be able to walk around the stores, so best not to stress it more than you have to. If it gets sore I have ibuprofen in the glove box.”
“Thanks. I might take one when we get there to help me get through whatever.”
They were both quiet for a bit. Somehow this part of the drive seemed longer than it had when she came the first time. Then, Phoenix remembered something that she needed to know – if there was any hope to gain his love. It would be risky, but it had to be asked. She took a deep breath. “Tell me about… Star.”
He was silent a long time. Phoenix worried that she had pushed him too much. He would be angry with her again. She watched the sagebrush pass by on the road.
“Star was the most beautiful woman I’d ever met. She and her twin brother, Sterling, were childhood friends of my siblings and I, Jade Wolf too. For some reason, she decided that she wanted to be my girlfriend. One summer night, we went for a walk and slept out under the stars. She touched my hair and I touched hers. I think you know how our hair is private.”
“Yes,” she replied, she had never seen anyone touch his hair, though figured that Little Deer might help him with his hair. How Phoenix longed to have that privilege!
“After that, Star gave me her most precious gift that night. She became my T’suanki.”
He sniffed and continued. “After that, we were together many nights. Soon, it became clear that she was pregnant. I offered to marry her, but her father was angry and prohibited the match, insisting she have an abortion. He made her kill our baby!”
“I’m sorry,” Phoenix said helplessly.
“She jumped a week later, couldn’t live with the knowledge that she’d killed our baby. Sterling found her broken body the next day.”
He sniffed again and Phoenix realized he was crying. She put her hand on his knee and his hand grabbed hers in a desperate reach for comfort.
“I’m sorry for crying,” he said with a sniffle.
“Sometimes, parents think they’re doing the right thing, but they don’t think about the feelings of others. Why did he think he have the right to take our baby from Star?!”
“I don’t know...”
“Sterling became a drunk after that and a year later drove his car into the same ravine. Their father moved away soon after. I don’t know what became of him.”
“Have you ever loved again?” Phoenix asked dangerously.
“No,” he breathed. “I didn’t dare.”
They reached the highway and turned south.
“What about you?” he asked.
“I married the man my mother thought I should marry. He abused me. Finally, Skye’s teacher recognized the signs in me and woke me up. That night, he threatened my daughters, so I left. I’m working on the divorce, but Dancing Bear says I wasn’t truly married – not in here, anyway,” she explained tapping her heart.
“I’m scared still. He won’t stop looking for me. I didn’t want to come today, but Dancing Bear said that she didn’t trust you to choose canning supplies!”
He laughed. “I usually get scolded by her when I come back! Wrong size or wrong type or something! I’m glad Woxi roped you in this time!”
“She also wants me to find things for my house in the thrift stores.”
“I think we can do that.”
“Do you know the man who is coming to meet us?” Phoenix asked.
“No. He’s a new person from what Da said.”
“Fair Tortoise said that Frank has a new job that involves traveling – so he can look for me. What if we see him?”
“He won’t recognize you, I’m pretty sure.”
“How can we be sure?”
“If we see him, you’ll have to trust me and follow my lead, okay? Pretend not to speak English, things like that.”
“Okay,” Phoenix replied both scared and excited.
“You’re going to be okay,” he encouraged, squeezing her hand. “We’re a good team.”
“Now that you’re not scorning me...”
“And you’re not pouring coffee on me!”
Phoenix laughed. “Woxi says that my doing that was proof that I can stand up for myself now. I won’t give you special treatment because of your status.”
“I daresay my father is equally pleased by that!”
Phoenix grinned, wondering just how far that recommendation went.
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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