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Return to Lame Deer
Rod pulled up in front of the small white house he remembered so well. Less than two years ago he’d been a single man and now he was returning with his wife and son. He couldn’t wait to show John off to his friend.
They headed up the walk as the door opened with a flash of déjà vu. “Hey buddy…Kate…Glad you could make it,” Rick greeted with a broad smile…His eyes taking in the toddler held in Rod’s arms. “Oh man Rod…He looks just like you.”
His fiancée Amber was smiling as she hugged Kate. “Oh Kate…He’s adorable,” she breathed as she moved to take a closer look and greet Roderick.
Rod smiled proudly as she came closer. The wary dark eyes traveled over the pretty face that was gazing back at him for a long moment and a broad grin with its six tiny teeth spread over the baby’s face…Amber giggled as she cooed over the handsome boy.
“He sure knows how to charm the ladies,” Rick teased as he put his arms around his girlfriend and leaned over her shoulder for a better look. The smile fled and the eyes gave him a suspicious glance before he turned away with an annoyed grunt and laid his head on his father’s shoulder.
“Well I guess he told you,” Rod laughed as he took Kate’s hand and started up the walk.
“He’s still a little shy around strangers,” Kate explained. “We’re alone in a different place so often and he’s not used to other people being around him.”
“Well that’s about to change isn’t it?” Rick pointed out. He looked at his friend briefly before turning back to Kate. “Is your family going to accept Rod and John here?” He asked in concern.
“My father has assured me that there will be no problems with my return.”
“There better not be,” Rod growled warningly. Kate had no doubt that he’d pack them up and take them somewhere else if there was even a hint of trouble…She could only hope that her father had truly forgiven her.
Rick nodded but he was still doubtful. It had been ugly for weeks after Rod had run off with her. Sun Walker had been livid when he couldn’t find her…The police had given it a try but they really weren’t all that concerned over a runaway Indian girl.
They spent a short time with the couple before climbing into the car to finish the trip. Kate was excited to see her family but nervous that they would not accept her son or her husband.
Rod was clearly unhappy with the situation already knowing they wouldn’t but he understood his young wife’s concerns for John and was prepared to make the sacrifice if it would get them a home of their own and help John to settle down than that’s what he’d do.
They arrived in the center of the village a short time later. Heads turned as the dusty, red DeSoto convertible cruised through the square and stopped a short distance up the road in front of Daniel Sun Walkers home.
The whole Reservation knew that the second chief’s daughter was coming home and bringing her ve’ho’e husband and Ó’xevé’ho’e son. Sun Walker could at least be grateful that he only had to put up with the husband once in a while but he’d still have to contend with the child.
Rod climbed from the car, blatantly ignoring the rude stares of the people who gathered to watch the home coming as if they were some kind of freak show. He came around to open the door for his young wife before reaching in to pluck John from the seat. The older man and his wife stepped out the door and waited on the porch.
A murmur ran through the crowd when they saw the boy and Rod clenched his teeth to keep from telling them all to get the hell out.
Her mother remained on the porch as her father walked out to meet them.
Sun Walkers mouth tightened at the first sight of his grandson but neither Rod nor Kate could tell whether it was anger or to hold back a smile of pride that brought that stiff lipped expression to his mouth.
“Father…,” Kate greeted coolly as she came up the walkway with Rod and John right behind. “I want you to meet my husband Roderick Gage.” Rod held his hand out politely, not really expecting a polite greeting.
The older man’s dark eyes swept over the man who had stolen his daughter. In all fairness, his daughter had chosen a fine, strong looking man…If he hadn’t been white that is.
He gave a curt nod in greeting, ignoring the outstretched hand. Rod shot his wife an annoyed glance, almost ordering her back into the car.
“Father please…You promised,” she said softly, forestalling her husband’s angry tirade.
Sun Walker gritted his teeth but turned to Rod. “Thank you for bringing my daughter back to her people.”
Rod’s eyes narrowed a bit. “And what about your grandson…?” Daniel’s eyebrow lifted curiously. “Are they his people too?” He asked point blank, noticing that his father in law hadn’t even attempted to acknowledge the child. Katie took him from her husband and moved closer. The older man’s eyes shifted to the child he held in her arms. “This is our son John father.”
John’s chocolate colored eyes stared brazenly back at the craggy features of the man before him and the older man almost chuckled at the fearless gaze looking him over curiously. “How old is the boy now?” Sun Walker finally asked, showing a bit of interest.
“Huh,” he snorted, trying to look disgusted. “He is very small for his age.”
“But he is strong…He was premature and had to fight to live. He almost didn’t make it…”
“Too bad he did,” came a snide feminine voice from behind them.
Kate whirled around in shocked horror at the callus comment to see her sisters Lacee and Mase standing there.
Rod’s eyebrows lowered ominously at the newcomers. Who were these two hateful looking women anyway?
“What a horrible thing to say,” Kate gasped. Even Sun Walker looked at Lacee in disbelief.
The women’s eyes swept over Rod and they couldn’t stand the fact that Red Moon had married such a handsome man…Even if he was a ve’ho’e, though neither of them would ever admit that and here she was flaunting him in their face.
“He’s an embarrassment to all of us. Why did you ask her to come back father…And to bring the half breed with her?”
Rod couldn’t believe it…These were Kate’s own sisters spewing such venom at a defenseless child. His hand slammed the porch railing. “That’s it Katie…Get back in the car. We’re leaving,” Rod snarled angrily as he snatched his son from his wife and turned to walk away.
She didn’t hesitate. She cast one sorrowful look at her father and turned to follow her husband.
Sun Walkers voice halted all of them. “All of you stop.” The authoritative voice even halted Rod in his tracks for a brief moment before he turned to face the man.
“Look Sun Walker…I don’t particularly care what you and any these people think about me but my wife and my son are a whole different ballgame,” he said angrily.
There were several indrawn breaths at the disrespectful tone aimed at the tribal elder but he didn’t seem fazed...More like impressed at the stand the man was taking despite being woefully out numbered. Daniel might not have understood the term but the tone was clear enough.
“I am sorry Roderick Gage. It will not happen again,” he promised as he turned to the other two. “Red Moon is my daughter too and she is welcome here. You will not take out your bitterness with her return on the boy.”
“But her coming back here could destroy Joseph with the council,” Lacee hissed.
“And Georges chances with getting on it at all,” Mase added spitefully.
“I had heard that you have sat with Walking Wolf,” Kate said quietly. “And that you have a son.”
“Yes…George is very proud of Ben.”
“He will no doubt be just like his father,” she said with a sugary smile but Mase knew it wasn’t a compliment. She would never admit to her sister of the abuse she suffered at George’s hands in her bedroom and was thankful that he most often ignored her.
“Yes…He’s a strong, healthy boy unlike that weakling,” she sneered.
Rod’s eyes flashed green fire but Sun Walker spoke first. “One more word Mase and George will not have to worry about the council…Both of you will find yourself living away from your people.”
Her mouth dropped open in shock but snapped shut a moment later. Red Moon had always been her parents favorite and it had hit them hard when she’d run away to marry the ve’ho’e. Her father had practically gone crazy when he’d found her gone.
He’d searched the town and harassed the police in Lame Deer for days before he’d finally given up. He’d been overjoyed when her letter arrived telling him that she was safe and that that she still loved him, though both her parents had been slightly surprised that Roderick had actually married her and not used her and cast her aside…Though they were both sure he would in the future. Her mouth tightened angrily as her father continued.
“You will not speak of John that way again. He is my grandson and my blood runs in his veins as well. If Joseph is removed from the council it will be because of his drinking,” He snapped at Lacee. “And if George doesn’t make it to the council it will be because of his brutish temper. Do not blame Red Moon or a child.”
Rod relaxed a bit, feeling better that Sun Walker would at least protect his son in his absence. He looked to his wife and she nodded reassuringly. “My father will handle my sisters,” she promised, shooting a glare at her siblings. “But if not…Then rest assured that I will.” The warning was clear…She might tolerate their abuse but she’d defend her son to the death.
The two older women retreated into silence as Sun Walker waved them toward the steps leading onto the porch where her mother still waited quietly, preparing to meet her daughter and the man who’d turned her obedient and trusting child against her own people and taken her from them but this was still her baby...She didn’t hesitate to wrap her arms around her daughter and hold her as she drew near.
She stepped back and her eyes turned toward the tall man and her grandson, sweeping over the little one critically. He’s was very thin and small but she’d heard Red Moon say he’d almost died at birth. He must be strong to have survived. Her people would value that strength.
She almost grinned as she noted that the child was giving her an appraising look as well…The child might be small but the dark eyes missed nothing. She had no doubt that this one would be bright and a quick learner.
“Mother,” Kate said pulling her attention away from the child. “This is my husband, Roderick Gage and our son John.”
She nodded quickly toward the white man standing in her kitchen. She had to admit that he was stunningly handsome but couldn’t her daughter see beyond that? Why couldn’t she understand that he was merely toying with her for a time? That sooner or later he would grow tired of his Indian ‘squaw’ and leave her and then what? Her daughter would be left to rear the child alone or worse…More than one.
Maybe he’d brought her back here to do just that. Go away and never return. It might be for the best if he did…At least there would only be the one Ó’xevé’ho’e to be stuck with.
Rod saw the looks that she aimed at him and his son and his mouth tightened angrily once again. “Kate…This was a mistake.” She looked at him worriedly. “Your family may want you but it’s pretty clear to me that our son and I aren’t welcome here.”
She looked to her mother. “Is that so?”
“The child is one of the people.”
“THE CHILD…?” She questioned indignantly. “THE CHILD is named John and he’s your véxah (grandson) not some stray we picked up off the street.”
“Of course Red Moon…I didn’t mean…,”
“Yes you did,” Rod interrupted with a growl. “You’re not staying in this house Kate and neither is our son.” John tensed at the angry tones around him and laid his head down against his father’s neck, his small arms wrapped tightly. Rod patted his back soothingly.
“But he needs…,” she began.
He held up his hand to stop her before returning it to cuddle the boy comfortingly. “He doesn’t need to be treated like an outcast…Now if you want to stay here until I can afford to buy us a house fine…But it’ll be in a house of your own where you can retreat if you need to,” he said angrily. “And if it takes six months longer to buy something fine but I won’t have you here with your sisters and your mother poisoning your mind and John’s.” At least the rent here wouldn’t be any worse than the price of a hotel unlike California and Texas.
Sun Walkers mouth tightened angrily at this tirade but what could he say? They hadn’t exactly made the man and the child feel welcome. He had a new found respect for the man from the way he protected Red Moon and his son. As much as Daniel hated to admit it…He had the feeling Roderick Gage was truly in love with his wife.
“Alright,” Kate agreed quietly, seeing her husband’s side of the problem. He was right…John didn’t need to be exposed to a constant barrage of negative feelings toward him or his father and she knew he’d pack them up and take them back to California before he’d allow that.
“Lone Elk’s house is empty now,” Sun Walker offered, seeing that he was serious and not wanting him to pack his daughter and son up and take the back to California.
“Good…Where do we go to talk to him about renting it?”
Lone Elk wasn’t happy about the idea of a white man living in his house but he could hardly refuse Sun Walkers request besides, he could always use the vé’ho’é’s money.
Rod had Kate settled and took them into the trading post in town to buy food and anything else she thought she’d need. His mouth tightened at the stares they received as they walked them into the village.
“What is wrong with these people?” he growled to his wife as John’s dark eyes took in every little detail.
“Please Roderick…, try to understand that the relations haven’t always been good between us and the whites in town. We’ve been harassed, lied to, threatened and even assaulted for decades. They simply don’t trust the white man.”
He pulled her close against him, uncaring of the eyes that watched them. John’s arms immediately closed around his mother’s neck. She smiled and kissed the small nose as she took him from his father’s arms. He was getting better about her holding him and she hoped that the added stability would cure the problem completely.
“Well how come you can trust me then?” He asked placing a soft kiss on her lips.
“I looked into your eyes and saw your heart my love…They can only see your skin.”
Rod smiled and resisted the urge to kiss her passionately even though he’d love to shock the hell out them all. They carried their items to the counter where a young man about their age waited. He was as tall as Rod and was a friend of Blue Eagle. He’d been angry at the hurt Red Moon had caused him.
He looked at Kate in resignation. It was obvious she was still in love with the white man. His eyes traveled to the child she held in her arms. Blue Eagle would have forgiven her if she’d returned alone but he’d never have her now…Not with the little half breed that came with her.
“Good afternoon Four Feathers,” Kate greeted as Rod set the basket on the counter. “This is my husband Roderick Gage and my son John,” she said, introducing the pair.
He nodded curtly…His eyes moving past her to the man who’d stolen her away. “Is this everything?” He questioned without any pretense of friendliness.
Kate sighed. “Yes.”
“Is this what John’s going to be subjected to Kate?” Rod snapped. “I won’t have it.”
“They’ll get over it,” she whispered turning her back to Four Feathers. “I think when you leave they’ll settle down…Besides…Joseph,” she said indicating the other man with a nod of her head. “Is a good friend of Blue Eagle’s… I’m sure he’s still stinging from my rejection of his friend.”
“Yeah…Well he needs to get over it. I promise you Katie. If things haven’t settled down by the time I come back in a couple of months…We’re leaving.” She nodded. “Are you going to be alright alone with all of Blue Eagle’s ‘friend’s’ around? What about Walking Wolf and the other sister’s husband…What’s his name?”
She grinned. “Joseph White Bear,” she filled in. “I will be fine. They won’t dare anger my father and he’s made it clear that won’t tolerate them being hateful with John.”
Rod nodded but he still didn’t look happy as they turned back to Four Feathers and completed their purchase.
Rod had the privilege of meeting what’s his name at dinner that night. Lacee tried valiantly to keep her husband from drinking but to no avail. Joseph was becoming blissfully pickled at the end of the table.
Mase’s son Ben and Lacee’s three children Thomas, Chloe and their infant daughter Amy were fascinated by the white man and their new cousin, though John refused to leave the security of his father’s arms to get too close to the others yet.
Mase’s husband was conspicuously absent. Kate assumed it was humiliation at having to face the man who’d laid him out in the street at their first meeting.
“He rarely eats at home…He’s very busy,” Mase said bravely, trying to assure them that it was important business that kept him away and that she was unconcerned.
“I can understand that,” Rod replied innocently. “I mean his being so busy and all,” he added as he helped John with a bite of his dinner. Kate hid the giggle behind her hand as her sister shot him a glare, knowing full well what he’d meant.
Sun Walker studiously avoided looking at his middle daughter but Kate was almost certain she heard an escaping snort of laughter before he regained control. She had to admit she was glad that Rod had found her a place of her own…She’d forgotten how catty her sisters could be and she didn’t need to experience this too often.
“Did you get settled in my daughter?”
“Yes father and then we walked into town. I showed Roderick around and we stopped at the trading post.”
“Four Feathers and his wife are running it now. His father fell ill this past winter.”
“Yes I spoke to him. I’m sorry to hear that his father is sick.”
“Blue Eagle heard you were back as well,” Joseph slurred drunkenly. He sneered at Rod. “He is still in love with Red Moon.”
“I’m sure he’s forgotten all about me White Bear,” she dismissed the statement.
“Of course he has,” Lacee said sharply. “He’d never touch her now,” she said shooting a glare at Rod.
“Good,” he said refusing to be goaded into anger. “I’d hate to have beat him senseless for touching my wife.”
The others drew themselves up indignantly at the threat but once again Daniel almost laughed. If it hadn’t been for the fact that the man was white he might easily have welcomed this man as his son in law. He was strong and courageous and it was obvious that he loved Red Moon and their son and would fight to keep her…Maybe he’d been wrong about him? Pride reared its ugly head once more… But then again…he’d still stolen his daughter from him and would again once his job allowed him to remain in one place.
Daniel’s mouth set in a tight line again at that thought. He had to talk some sense into his daughter. Make her see that she needed to be with her own people and if he had to accept the child to keep her than he would and he’d teach him to be Indian and to live as one of them…Maybe his father wouldn’t want him back and Kate would never leave without her son.
He returned to his dinner and the others did likewise…Irritated that the vé’ho’é refused to let them upset him.
They left Sun Walkers house and again faced the rude stares and whispered comments as they made their way back to their rented house. They walked past the large building in the center of town that Kate had explained was the Sun Dance Lodge. “It is where all of our ceremonies are held.”
A tall man stepped out onto the walk as they passed. Rod recognized him as the man who had stopped the others from attacking him that first night over a year ago. “Blue Eagle,” Kate acknowledged as he turned to face them.
Red Moon…,” He said quietly. His dark gray eyes sweeping over Rod and the boy he held in his arms. Except for the brown eyes and slightly darker skin tones of his mother’s people, the child was a carbon copy of his father.
“Charles,” she returned.
“I had heard that you returned,” he said as his eyes roamed over her. She looked beautiful…Happy and still obviously in love with her white husband and it was equally obvious that the man loved her in return by the way his hand at her waist held her close. The way his gaze challenged the tall young Indian man that watched his wife longingly.
“Yes…,” she answered simply. She turned toward Rod. “I want you to meet my husband…This is Roderick Gage.”
“We have met,” he said curtly.
Rod could understand how the man felt…He could imagine the anguish he’d feel if he lost Kate but still…He had no intention of finding out how it felt to lose her either…Not to this man or anyone else. He smiled tightly at the man and the warning in his eyes was clear despite the polite tone. “This is our son John,” He informed him. The child’s dark eyes looked him over curiously before he buried his face against his father’s neck.
The gray eyes flicked toward the child briefly. His mouth tightened in understanding at the subtle warning behind the polite words. Charles knew there was no hope of winning Red Moon away from this man and her son but he also knew he loved this woman so much, he’d even take the Ó’xevé’ho’e as his own if she’d have had him. “Yes…A handsome boy Red Moon...,” he finally replied as he glanced away. “You are staying?” He questioned.
She smiled at him sadly… “Yes…John and I. Roderick will be returning to California in a couple of weeks but he’ll be coming back as often as he can when he’s off shift…I will miss him terribly but for our son we will make the sacrifice.”
Rod’s hand pulled her closer to his side possessively. “I think we should be going,” he said politely. “It’s getting late and John’s tired.”
“I will see you later Red Moon.”
She nodded. “I’m sure I will see you in town,” she answered, making it plain that she wouldn’t be willing to entertain him in her home.
Rod smiled at his wife’s subtle handling of the man and they moved on. They didn’t notice the black, hate filled eyes of George Walking Wolf as he watched them walk away. How could Red Moon have lowered herself to sleep with the white man? Bear his child?
He shook his head in unbelief but then the eyes swiveled toward the boy. He had to admit the child was beautiful for all that he was half white. He was too young now…George smirked wickedly but someday…Someday…It was something to think about.
Kate would be horrified if she knew the direction his thoughts were turning. She’d take her precious brat and run back to California. The black eyes swept over the tall man…He had no doubt that the man would pulverize him into dust if he touched his son but he just needed to wait out the vé’ho’é. Sooner or later he’d get tired of Kate and having to fly or drive back here to be with her and then she and the boy would be fair game.
Rod spent the next two weeks getting Kate settled and playing with his son in the hopes that John wouldn’t forget him yet again. He always lost so much time just getting to know him all over again every time he came home.
He purchased a radio in Lame Deer on one excursion to be sure Kate had some form of entertainment besides…He and Kate both missed being able to hold each other in their arms as they swayed to the music. Kate also noted that music seemed to calm John when he was stressed…She sang to him often but he loved the radio.
They often held him in their arms as they danced in the kitchen together. The rocking motion always seemed calming for John as well.
Finally the time came for Rod to have to say goodbye and this time it would be for four months before he could get all the way back here. He hated leaving them so far from him but they really had no option. He promised himself as he sat cross legged on the floor with his son that he’d squeeze every penny he had to in order to get a place for them as soon as possible but he still knew it would take a couple of years.
He reached out to smooth the sable hair from John’s forehead, sitting forward and lowering his face until he was at eye level. “I love you little one,” he murmured kissing the small nose.
A crooked smile quirked the corner of the toddler’s mouth… “Wuv you daddy,” he giggled. Rod tickled his sides drawing a squeal of laughter from the boy before he pulled him into his arms…Hugging him tightly before rolling onto his back and letting John sit on his stomach.
Kate stood in the doorway watching with a soft smile playing on her lips. Her husband never failed to amaze her with the tenderness he displayed with their small son.
He finally gave the boy a last hug before climbing to his feet. He smiled at Kate when he saw her watching and handed him to his mother. “I gotta go Kate,” he said softly.
Her eyes filled with tears but she nodded. His suitcase sat by the door and they made their way toward it. “I will miss you Mé’oo’o’,” she said softly as he picked it up.
This was a routine John seemed to remember. The chocolate brown eyes filled with tears and the small face crumpled in distress as John reached for him. “Dad…dy,” he snuffled.
Rod kissed the damp cheek ruefully as he squeezed the tiny hands. “By little one,” he murmured. “Daddy’ll be back soon,” he promised softly. He kissed Kate one final time. “I’ll miss you,” he assured her. “Will you be alright while I’m gone?”
“I will be fine…They may not be happy that I’m here but my father is a second chief and they wouldn’t dare to defy him.”
“And John…? It’s plain that they see him as white.”
“I will protect our son…I promise you.”
Rod nodded. “I’ll see you in a few months,” he promised, kissing her one last time.
“We will be waiting.”
John began to wail as Rod climbed into the car and the tall man turned back to wave goodbye. Kate took the small arm in her hand to waggle it back and forth in a goodbye gesture but John was having none of it. The small body arced over backward in what appeared to be show of temper…It only lasted a moment before a slow rocking motion began and the wails were reduced to watery hiccups.
She cuddled him close as he tried to push at her body with his small fists before he finally gave up and buried his head against her neck. She kissed the small cheek and waved as Rod drove away.
“You don’t really expect him to come back?” A snide voice questioned from behind her.
She whirled around to face George Walking Wolf. His black eyes raked over her in an even mixture of lust and disgust.
“He will come back,” she replied simply. “He loves me and our son.”
She noticed his eyes shift toward the toddler she held in her arms. John’s eyes warily took in this new face as the tall man stepped closer. He reached out to touch the boy but John turned his face away. “No” he said clearly as if the gesture of refusal hadn’t been enough.
George’s eyes narrowed dangerously at the rebuff and Kate stepped back to take John out of reach. “John dislikes being touched by strangers,” she quickly explained, afraid of the man’s temper.
“I’m his Hešeho (uncle),” he reminded her.
“Whom he has never met,” she added. “Why did you wait until now to come around Walking Wolf?”
“I saw no need to speak to the vé’ho’é.”
“He is my husband…You’re brother in law and he will return. You can’t hide from him forever,” she added as a subtle reminder that Rod had made short work of him the first time they’d met in the hopes that he would steer clear of her and John.
“I hide from no man Red Moon…,” he sneered as he reached out to grab her arm.
She stepped back once more. “Keep your hands from me or Roderick may find another reason to rearrange your face,” she warned.
His eyes glistened with rage at the confidant smile she wore. “I simply wished to welcome you home in private.”
“I doubt your wife would appreciate it.”
“Huh…You mean my heifer?” He sneered. “You know I only married her because you refused me.”
She shrugged. “Nevertheless, we are both married to someone else.”
“He leered at her with a disgusted smirk. “What…Do you believe I would have you as my wife now?” He questioned. “After you have whored for the white man and bore his mongrel?” She gasped at the insult. “You are worse than your sister in my eyes…Fit only for dogs.”
“Good,” she spat. “Then go and don’t come back,” she threw back at him.
“GEORGE? What are you doing here?” A woman’s voice questioned frostily from behind them.
They both turned to find Mase standing behind them looking cold and angry.
“Don’t worry my sister…He only came to insult me,” Kate replied. “Please feel free to take him home.” Kate turned and went inside with her son, slamming the door behind her.
“What was she talking about George?” Mase asked timidly, afraid of her husband’s temper.
His eyes raked over her as if deciding whether or not to answer. “Not that what I do concerns you but she thought she could still interest me,” he said derisively. “As if she wasn’t tainted by the vé’ho’é and dragging back that weakling Ó’xevé’ho’e brat as well.”
Mase bristled with outrage that her sister would try to entice her husband but she smiled that he’d refused her. She smiled at him coyly and rubbed his arm. George looked at her in disgust at the attempt to seduce him but his body had been stirring with lust since he’d first looked at Kate and the boy. He gripped her arm and dragged her toward their home.
Mase winced in pain and regretted her moment of smug pleasure at her sister’s expense. She was well aware of what awaited her in the bedroom when they got home. She wouldn’t be able walk right for days after.
A few days later Kate’s father knocked on her door. “Yes Ného’e…?” She questioned as she opened the door.
“I thought you might want to bring the boy to the ranch,” he said gruffly as he looked past her to where John was playing on the floor.
The dark eyes swiveled toward him as he spoke and John climbed to his feet to come and see who was there. A look of disappointment crossed the small face when he realized the deep voice wasn’t his father’s and he turned away.
Kate bit her lip uncertainly. It was obvious that they weren’t going to welcome John with open arms but still…It was the first attempt her father had made at getting to know the boy and she didn’t want to turn it down. John had to get to know his family here if she ever hoped to get him back to being a normal child with a settled home.
“Alright father,” she agreed. “Come John,” she beckoned, holding out her hand.
The child moved cautiously toward her but the chocolate brown eyes never left the big man in the doorway. He took her hand and they followed Sun Walker down the stairs.
He took them to the stables where several other children from the village were playing as their parents or older siblings were working with the horses and the cattle.
From the look of it, there were a dozen or more wild horses that had been brought in from a round up. Several of the men were splitting out the mares from the stallions and the animals were milling about in confusion.
Kate led John to where the other children were playing, including his cousins Thomas, Ben and Chloe. They looked him over curiously but shrugged and went back to what they were doing, laughing and playing some kind of game.
John watched them with a frown. He’d never been around many other children and he was unsure of getting too close to this rowdy group.
He looked back at his mother as she stood at the fence with her father and sisters Lacee and Mase as well as a couple of strangers before toddling uncertainly toward her.
The horses stirring about quickly caught his attention and he changed direction.
Katie glanced back toward the group of children and a worried frown crossed her face. Where was John? Her dark eyes scanned about but her sister’s gasp of shock brought her attention back to them for a moment. She pointed and Kate’s heart began to beat faster in sheer terror as she saw her sixteenaught month old son standing amidst the heard of wild mustangs.
“Oh Spirit,” she whispered as she started over the fence but her father’s hand on her arm stopped her.
“Wait…Look,” he mumbled quietly.
The horses had stopped milling about and stood still as the child walked between them. The heads were swiveled in his direction…, the ears perked forward…Somehow seeming to sense that there was nothing to fear from this small intruder.
Sun Walkers mouth curled in a proud smile as he watched the child move through the herd without a hint of fear. “He is brave, your little one,” he pointed out to his daughter.
She looked at him in surprise and as grateful as she was that he was showing some pride in his grandson, it didn’t change the fact that her baby was in a corral full of wild horses that could bolt at any moment and trample him to death.
Daniel saw her fear and finally called to the boy. “John… nenáasêstse,” he commanded.
The boy looked toward them and frowned at him in confusion. “He doesn’t speak much of our language yet father,” Kate said softly. “John…Come here,” she called to him.
Reluctantly the toddler moved toward his mother. She sucked in her breath as he walked unconcernedly beneath the animal’s bellies and around their feet but none moved to hurt him.
“He has his grandfather’s gift with animals,” Sun Walker murmured in awe. It had skipped two generations and he’d begun to think it would never pass on to any of his children but it was plain that Kate’s son had been blessed with it.
Lacee scowled at the obvious pride in her father’s voice. Mase glanced at her son…Why couldn’t it have been Ben who had it and not the little half breed? It would just figure that it would be Kate’s child that favor would fall on. She rubbed her growing belly hopefully. Maybe this second child would also have her grandfather’s gift and they could shove the little half breed from their thoughts.
“Yes…But I’d just as soon he had it on this side of the fence,” Kate mumbled back. John climbed under the rail and her mother snatched him up, holding him tightly to her in relief. “Don’t you ever do that again,” she whispered against the sable hair.
“Can’t bweath mommy,” he gasped as he struggled in her arms. She chuckled in amusement and loosened her hold, giving the dark head a kiss.
“Why can my véxah (grandson) not speak our language?” Her father questioned.
Kate looked shocked. It was the first time he’d actually used the term grandson. Always before it had been ‘your child’ or ‘the boy.’ She was happy for the change. Lacee and Mase looked equally surprised as Kate replied. “He is learning both but he was being raised surrounded by the white’s father and I only rarely speak to him in our language even when we are alone,” she explained.
“Then we will correct that,” he said softly as he watched the child.
“Down mommy,” he demanded.
She set him down and he ran toward the other children… some were looking at him in awe and a new found respect, especially Thomas while a sullen pout clouded Ben’s face. Thomas took the boy’s hand and drew him into the circle. Most of the children had yet to learn about bigotry but from the angry and spiteful looks on Lacee and Mase’s face…They were about to.
A short while later they headed for home and Kate was pleased when her father swung the boy up into his arms. John looked him over carefully from this new vantage point, unsure of whether or not this was okay…The small arms reached for his mother. “Mommy”
“Náhko’e (Mother),” Sun Walker corrected. John looked at him warily. “Mother… Náhko’e,” he prodded again.
“Náhko’e,” John repeated hesitantly, somehow sensing that he’d only get what he wanted if he said it. Sun Walker gave him a gentle squeeze and handed him to his mother.
John looked at the man through narrowed eyes before laying his head on his mothers shoulder.
Sun Walker would never admit the pride he suddenly felt toward this boy…He was Ó’xevé’ho’e and would never be fully a member of the people but still…He was his grandson and had the gift of his great grandfather. Daniel’s heart filled with dread at the thought that one day Roderick Gage would return and take his daughter and grandson from him again. He had to make Red Moon understand that her place was here with her own people before that could happen.
The next few weeks ran much the same. Kate’s sisters remained hostile toward her and John. “Why did you return here to humiliate your family with your brat? Just let him take the child if you want to stay, at least no one would know he exists,” Lacee spat frequently.
Kate knew her hatred for the whites and the way they sometimes treated her people but Rod was different…Why couldn’t they understand? “I will not hide him. I am not ashamed of my son or his father,” she shot back.
Mase was equally spiteful, letting the bitter fact that George would have preferred to marry her sister fester within her and lashing out at Kate and her son whenever she could. “You had to come back and try to steal George.”
“Not if he were the last man on earth,” Kate gasped in denial.
“And you had to steal father’s attention from our children. How could you think that he would ever care for a half breed,” she said hatefully, though she had seen the pride in her father’s face when John had walked among the horses so effortlessly…Even Blue Eagle had mentioned the boys walk through the wild herd.
“Then you have no reason to fear him,” Kate replied, unable to make them understand that she didn’t want to steal anything from them or their children, just for her and her son to share in it.
Their catty and hate filled remarks tore at her heart and often left her hurt and in tears with their attitude and even though John was still too little to understand the words, she knew he understood the raised voices and the hate filled looks directed toward him. He’d disappear and hide whenever they showed up.
George was amused no end…His sadistic nature pleased by the pain in the eyes of the beautiful young woman who had spurned him for a white man.
Her mother and father were almost as bad but for a different reason. They weren’t outwardly mean but they feared that her husband would one day return and take their daughter from them yet again. They never attacked them as directly but they frequently came to argue with her about her marriage to Roderick.
“Why can you not understand that he will one day leave you and the boy and not return? It’s better for John to lose him now while he is still young enough to forget him,” her father would point out.
“Roderick would never leave us,” she argued but the words fell on deaf ears.
“What..? Do you believe that he is faithful to you when he is away from you so long?” Her mother asked. “How long before he finds another…One of his own kind? One not saddled by a child as you were at first”
“Why would you think that…He will not leave us,” Kate cried. “He loves us…He didn’t want to bring us this far from him in the first place…We came back for John.”
That was exactly what worried Sun Walker and his wife White Owl the most. “And what happens when he takes your son…Would the white courts be on your side?”
“He won’t do that.”
But the fight seemed to always escalate until she was reduced to tears. At first John seemed unaffected by it but as the days passed he seemed to become more aware of the hostility that was aimed at him though he didn’t understand it. She often times found her son huddled into the corner of his room with his hands pressed over his ears. “Shhh Mé’oo’o’,” she would whisper as she rocked the child in her arms.
Kate didn’t know what to do. Which was worse? Uprooting the child every few weeks, traveling from hotel room to hotel room? And what would happen when he started school? Changing from place to place…Belonging nowhere…Or the fighting and yelling…The insults hurled at him and her both from their own family?
She wept as she cuddled her son to her. The doctor had told her the stability of staying in one place was what he needed but how could she stay here with such bitterness toward her husband…Her child and herself?
For John’s sake she decided she needed to trust in Roderick and simply try to protect her son from their resentment for her and her white husband. She could handle it aimed at her and Rod wasn’t there to hear it and she doubted they would say any of this to his face. It would only be a few years and hopefully by then…John would have settled enough to risk one final move to wherever Roderick decided to live. Yes…She’d just have to bear it for John’s sake.
She scooped the child into her arms and curled up with him in his bed until he fell into a troubled sleep. She swept the tears from his cheeks and kissed his forehead as he sniffled in his sleep. “Please come home soon,” she whispered into the darkness.
Over the time that Rod was away John did seem to be settling into a routine. Her one bright spot was that her father spent time with John each day taking him to the ranch and teaching him to speak the people’s language. He was resistant at first…The dark eyes wary and watchful around her family and the other people of the reservation but the older man persisted, rewarding his compliant obedience or firmly demanding when John’s stubborn streak reared its head until John would yield.
Her father would smile proudly as the boy learned everything they tried to teach him with surprising ease whether speaking the language, twirling a rope or sitting his first horse. Kate was frequently amused by John’s mixing of the two languages. “Hová’âháne… vé’ want it Náhko’e,”
“No, I don’t want it mommy or Hová’âháne, Ná’vé’tanó Náhko’e,” she’d correct him.
John’s confused furrowing of the brow as if saying. ‘That’s what I said,’ always made her giggle.
She hugged him and kissed his cheek. At least he was becoming much more agreeable to her cuddling him unless he was upset which unfortunately happened frequently in the company of his mother’s family and then she could barely hang onto him.
The time dragged by and she breathed a sigh of relief when Rod’s red DeSoto finally pulled up in front of the house. She snatched a startled John up off the floor and ran for the door to fling herself joyfully into his arms…Kissing him over and over while he laughed at her exuberant welcome.
He swept her off her feet and carried them both back into the home. He was a bit disappointed that John once again seemed to have forgotten him. He sighed but resolved to spend the next three weeks reminding him of how much his daddy loved him.
Continued in part 4
Posted to Site 08/09/11
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