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Beginnings

Part 6

An Emergency Story
by Tammy B

LINKS TO PARTS Ls 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14.

 

 

Part 6

Warning: Parts 6 and 7 contains graphic descriptions of child abuse (Part 6) and references to molestation…(Part 7). Sorry it took so long but trying to research a child abuser and pedophile’s mind is nauseating in the extreme and writing it is tough without getting too graphic plus I wanted the story from a child’s perspective as well…So here goes.

Chapter 27

Widow

 

John stared out the window as the bus pulled into Lame Deer. He frowned as he looked around…Nothing had changed in the almost two years they’d been gone.  Not even his Uncle Joseph’s penchant for getting drunk, he noted as the man leaned heavily against the beat up car he’d had for ten years.

 

His mother’s hand on his arm brought his attention back to her and he climbed slowly to his feet. He’d never wanted to come back here and now he had no choice. He followed his mother off the bus.

 

“Well look who is back,” Joseph sneered with a smirk. “Thought you were too good for us Red Moon,” he spat out.

 

“I never thought that Joseph,” she replied negatively. “I simply wanted to be with my husband.”

 

The watery brown eyes swept over John as he stood there watching the man in dismay. “What are you looking at Ó’xevé’ho’e,” he growled at the boy.

 

Kate gasped at the slur and John looked away with a hurt expression. “I am looking at nothing Hešeho,” he whispered honestly. His uncle failed to pick up on the double meaning.

 

“Good…You better remember your place boy…You would be living in the street if we had not agreed to let you live with us.”

John bit his lip and nodded. His mother had told him that his grandfather was still angry with her for the way they had left the last time and while he’d been willing to let them come back, his stubborn pride wouldn’t let him welcome them into his own home. He’d asked Lacee to let them stay with her and she’d agreed…For a price of course.

 

“I will get a job Joseph,” Kate promised. “I will pay you for staying there so that we will not burden you too much with our presence and I will try and find a place of our own as soon as possible.”

 

He shrugged and moved around to the back of the car to open the trunk, leaving Kate and John to heft their suitcases and put them in themselves. They climbed into the car and John’s dark eyes met his mom’s briefly before turning to look out the window.

 

Nothing had changed… he was still as much of an outcast as he’d been before. They drove in silence back to the reservation.  Kate heard the quiet sniffle from beside her and knew her son was fighting tears of grief. She understood…She was as well.

 

 

They drove through the town and John spotted Little Fox in her usual place in the town square. Her ancient eyes squinted at the car as they passed and a look of sorrow crossed her features. So the first part of her vision had come to pass…The boy’s father was gone from their life and they were returning though she knew there was more pain for the child in the near future she didn’t know exactly what. She also knew the boy would leave them again in a few years but that someday…Someday he would return to change the lives of his people. He’d be victorious in his life in the end and she smiled sadly, knowing there would be many more grief’s to bear until that time came.

 

 

Lacee stepped out on the porch as they climbed from the car. A smug sneer played over her face that her sister and her precious little half breed had to come crawling back and were now at her mercy…If she’d had any of course.

 

Kate looked up at her as they pulled their suitcases from the trunk and sighed. She prayed she’d get a job that would pay her enough to find a place of their own and quickly.

 

“Páhávevóonā’o Na’ mêhané,”(Good morning my sister) Kate greeted quietly.

 

She received a curt nod in return. “You will sleep with Amy and Chloe,” she instructed. “Though Chloe will be getting married in a month to Three River’s,” she said proudly.

 

“Yes…Father wrote to me that she was sitting with him.”

 

Lacee nodded…Three Rivers was a good catch and Lacee was proud that her youngest daughter had snared him. He’d one day sit on the council with Joseph and her father, along with Blue Eagle when he became chief.

 

She looked down her long thin nose at her nephew…She hated to admit it but the boy was flat out handsome…The longish hair was sable in color…Like his father’s. The chocolate brown eyes the same color as his mother’s were surrounded by long black lashes. The sensitive mouth was currently held in a jaw clenching tightness that tried to hide the dismay at being back on the reservation and was set beneath a narrow, straight nose. The boy was as handsome as his father had been and held the same proud and defiant tilt of the chin as his father had had. Lacee’s resentment rose even more... She’d see to it that the little half breed learned his place here…She wouldn’t allow the boy to look down his half white nose at them.

 

They headed inside. “John will have to sleep with Thomas…They will need to share a bed.”

 

John frowned…He’d never had to sleep with someone else and he wasn’t sure how well that would work out but the house was small and only had the three bedrooms. One of which would be Chloe and Three Rivers in a month. Once married it was customary for the new groom to live with the bride’s family for the first year…Where would John and Thomas sleep then?

 

Thomas was waiting for him when they came inside. He greeted his aunt and younger cousin warmly and led John to his room. “I emptied two drawers for your things John,” he said pointing at the dresser in the corner. John nodded his thanks to his cousin but the woebegone expression was obvious. “I am sorry about your Ného’e John,” he said softly.

 

John nodded again and fought back the threatening tears. They would only think he was a weak child if they saw him cry and he didn’t want that. “Thanks,” he whispered forlornly.

 

Thomas’ heart broke at the look on John’s face…It just wasn’t fair. John didn’t deserve all the awful things that he’d been through in his nine years. Why did his family treat him so badly? Why couldn’t they see that the child needed to be comforted and not hurt even more than he already was? He reached out and pulled the younger boy into his arms.

 

John stiffened immediately but after a moment he returned the gesture, briefly accepting the show of compassion before he stepped away. Thomas wasn’t offended…He remembered the child’s dislike of being touched and who could blame him…Even if he didn’t have what his aunt called a disorder…His family here certainly hadn’t taught him how to show affection.

 

“I have had my naming ceremony,” Thomas said proudly in an effort to change the subject. “It was right after you left.”

 

“What name did they give you?” John asked, trying to sound interested.

 

“Sun Bear…For father and grandfather,” he replied.

 

What name would they give him, John wondered to himself? He half shrugged…Nothing good he was sure.

 

 

The rest of Kate and John’s family showed up later that afternoon. Her father stood with his arms stubbornly folded across his chest. “Good evening mother…father,” Kate greeted as she led John toward them.

 

John held back from the stern eyed gaze being directed at him from his grandfather. Sun Walker’s eyes narrowed as they looked at the boy. He’d grown a lot in the last twenty months but he still remained thin. He hoped the boy hadn’t lost his touch with the horses. He nodded toward his daughter. “Welcome home Red Moon. I hope this time you will stay with your own people.”

 

Kate’s eyes filled with tears at the compassionless attitude of her father. “Where else would I go?” She replied coolly.

 

“Nowhere…,” Joseph slurred.

 

“No one else will have you with your half breed brat,” Lacee added with a sneer.

 

John looked at the floor in humiliation while Kate bristled indignantly. “Stop calling him that,” she said angrily.

 

“Be careful Red Moon…You have nowhere else to go to,” Lacee snarled back.

 

“I will find somewhere else if I must…,” she began to argue.

 

“It’s okay mom,” John said quietly from beside her. “Please don’t fight over me,” he whispered despairingly. Nothing had changed and he didn’t want the fighting to start all over again.

 

“It is not okay my son,” she replied but Sun Walker stopped the fight.

 

“Do not call my grandson a half breed,” Daniel bit out.

 

“It’s what he is,” White Owl added in defense of her oldest daughter but she quickly subsided as her husband’s dark eyes turned to her warningly. She backed down from the look he rarely sent in her direction.

 

“There is no need to attack the child for the father’s offense of being white,” he growled. “Or that he took them away to live in California.”

 

Lacee gritted her teeth that even after all that had happened her father was still protecting his youngest daughter and her crazy mongrel son. “He is crazy and an embarrassment to the family father.”

 

John’s mouth trembled in shame but he clamped his jaws together and blinked away the tears…Shoving the hurt down deep inside where no one could see it. His grandfather saw the battle and smiled proudly as the boy brought his emotions under control so nothing showed. Not the shame or the pain he was feeling.

 

“He is still my grandson,” he growled at his oldest daughter. “Have the boy ready to go to the ranch in the morning,” he said curtly to Kate.

 

“Can you not give him some time to readjust father…We have only just got here.”

 

He shook his head. “He must earn his way like the rest of us Red Moon…And no more of this nonsense of being a fireman either. He will work the ranch as the rest of the boys do.”

 

She opened her mouth to protest, already regretting her decision to bring John back here. Maybe she could write to Rosemary…Swallow her pride and ask for the woman’s help…It couldn’t be worse than what they were receiving here and she’d never make John feel badly about himself.  John touched her arm gently and shook his head at the argument he saw coming.

 

“It’s okay mom…I’ll go,” he said simply. Kate’s heart ached at the empty, defeated look in her son’s eyes, knowing he was willing to sacrifice his own happiness…His own dreams to make things easier for her.

 

Daniel nodded in satisfaction that he’d won the fight and turned on his heel, gripping his wife’s arm and leading her out the door. She hadn’t even greeted her daughter or her grandson.

 

Mase, Elsie and Ben arrived not long after they’d left. Ben smirked at the younger child while his mother gave Kate a scathing once over. “Where did your love for your white husband leave you Red Moon,” she taunted. “A widow…With nothing to show for it but him,” she with a disdainful nod in John’s direction.

 

“Then I guess I have returned with the best my husband had to give me,” she said proudly as she looked at her young son.

 

John was looking at the floor in embarrassment while Thomas shook his head in disgust at his aunt’s hateful words while Ben moved over to stand before John. “Welcome back…COUSIN,” he said with contempt. John lifted his head to look into the other boys hate filled eyes.

 

“Hello Ben,” he greeted quietly.

 

“What is the matter John…? You are not so proud anymore? Have you come back ‘in victory’ to ‘heal your people,’ he said scornfully, throwing Little Foxes vision back at him.

 

John shook his head sadly but Thomas stepped in first. “Leave him alone Ben,” he growled pushing the younger boy away.

 

Ben’s face grew red with anger but he didn’t dare take on his older Cousin. There would be a better time…Thomas couldn’t watch him forever and then he’d teach John a lesson about where exactly his place was here.

 

He pushed John and the boy stumbled backward but he made no move to retaliate. “LEAVE HIM BE,” a deep voice snarled from behind them. Ben whirled in surprise at the sound of his father’s angry voice.

 

 

George Walking Wolf approached his sister in laws home. Kate had returned today… A widow with a young son and George wondered if the boy was still as captivatingly handsome as he’d been when he was seven.

 

He had no interest in Kate…She’d been the whore of a white man and she was tainted by that now but the child…That was different. He might be half white but he was innocent and that’s what appealed to George.

 

With the father out of the way, there was only Sun Walker to worry about and if he trained the boy properly, he’d be too afraid and ashamed to tell his mother and his grandfather what was happening to him. He’d done it before and no one had ever been the wiser but those had been white boys…Teenage boys from Ashford who didn’t live on the reservation. It would be a risk but it was one worth taking if the boy was still as handsome as he’d been before. George smiled wickedly in anticipation.

 

He stepped through the door and his eyes took in the people in the room. They swept disparagingly over Red Moon before searching for the boy. He sucked in his breath…He’d grown some but the features were still beautiful as far as George was concerned. He saw his son push the younger child and worried that he’d damage the handsome face.

 

“LEAVE HIM BE,” he barked out. His son turned to stare at him in surprise. George dropped his voice and turned to Kate before anyone could question his motives. “So Red Moon…You have returned to us.”

 

She nodded her head tiredly. “Yes Walking Wolf…Do you have some disparaging comment you would like to make as well?” She asked, hoping to get it out of the way so she and John could rest.

 

He shook his head sympathetically. “Of course not Red Moon…You and John have already suffered enough. What point would there be to hurt either of you further?” He asked.

 

She looked at him in grateful shock while the others mouths dropped open with equal surprise. “Come here John,” he commanded.

 

John shot his mother an uneasy look but obeyed the directive. “Héehe’e Hešeho…?” He questioned.

 

George smiled at the boy’s obedience and felt a tightening in the pit of his stomach as he drew closer. “I just wanted a better look at you,” he said gently as he reached out to tilt John’s face up.

 

The soulful brown eyes and sensitive mouth caused his body to react and he stepped back and averted his gaze before it betrayed his intentions. His son Ben looked on jealously at his father’s attentions to the younger boy, not understanding the underlying interest.

 

John tensed at the man’s touch upon his face but stood unmoving, afraid to raise his ire as he had once before…He had never forgotten the man’s angry reaction and his father was no longer here to protect John from him. That thought brought a sorrowful look to the chocolate colored eyes and a tremble to his lips as his uncle tilted his chin up.

 

John frowned in confused relief as the man quickly stepped away from him and turned back to the others…He didn’t understand the cause of the man’s clenched teeth as he willed his lusting body back under control.

 

George broke a sweat but finally managed to regain control without the others figuring out the cause of his discomfiture. He wanted the boy in the worst way but he needed to move slowly and not frighten the child into running back to his mother or Sun Walker. He’d bide his time until he could get the child alone to begin to instruct him.

 

 

Chapter 28

Assault

 

John returned to the ranch the next day as if he’d never been away. He endured the taunts and sneers of the other children stoically. Ignoring them for the most part and backing away from a fight when he could. He held his emotions in check and refused to let the hurt show, knowing it was what they wanted and refusing to let them see it.

 

He was a bit out of practice with the rope but it didn’t take too long before he was riding as if he’d never left and snaring calves with ease once again, silencing the other boys and bringing a half smile of pride to Daniel’s lips.

 

He walked toward town later and stopped at the sight of Little Fox in the town square with the children gathered around her. John leaned against the corner of the building and watched her, straining to hear the story she was telling them.

 

He was so intent that he didn’t hear the footsteps coming up behind him until he felt a sharp thump between his shoulder blades. John stumbled forward but quickly regained his balance and spun around to face Ben and a couple of his friends.

 

“You just had to come back and show us all up,” Ben growled angrily, still showing the dirt stains from earlier when the calf he’d been trying to rope had yanked him from his horse and sent him sprawling in the dust.

 

“I didn’t try to show you up,” he replied softly. “It’s not my fault you fell off your horse Ben,” he reasoned.

 

“But not you…You ride…Rope…Track…Grandfather thinks you are so special…,” he snarled, surprising John with that piece of information. “Well you are NOT special John…You’re nothing…A half breed…Crazy. That is what my mom says…That is what everyone here says.”

 

“I’m not crazy,” John whispered, looking ashamed.

 

“Sure you are…Uuh, Uuh,” Ben taunted as he rocked back in forth in mockery of John’s actions when he was in withdrawal. John never remembered what happened when he went away and didn’t understand the act.

 

“What are you doing?” He asked, backing away.

 

“Pretending to be you stupid…It is what you do when you go crazy.”

 

John shook his head in denial and his eyes shifted to the other boys. They nodded with the same smirks of mockery that Ben had.

 

“I don’t do that,” he mumbled.

 

“You calling me a liar?” Ben yelled, shoving John once again.

 

“Stop it,” the younger boy whispered as the others began to circle him.

 

One pushed him while Ben moved in from the other side. His fist landed a blow that drove John teeth into his lip. Blood welled and trickled down John’s chin.

 

The others once again began to circle but a heavy hand suddenly descended with a thwack that sent Ben reeling. He turned in shock to see his own father standing there with an angry look. “I told you to leave John alone,” he growled, reaching past the others and drawing John out from among the group. “Go home,” he barked. The boys didn’t argue…They turned and fled.

 

George tipped John’s face up. Blood still flowed and the dark eyes were glistening with unshed tears that the boy was desperately trying to blink away before they fell. “Come John…Let me clean you up,” he said gently as he led the boy away.

 

He didn’t see Little Foxes dark eyes watching him. She frowned worriedly…She didn’t like the idea of Walking Wolf being alone with the boy…She didn’t trust that man as far as she could throw him but there was nothing she could do…He was his uncle after all. She’d watch and if she was anything untoward, then she’d go to Kate and Sun Walker.

 

George led John behind the building to an old hand pump. He leaned the boy over it and splashed water into his face, washing the blood away and admiring the curve of the boys back and buttocks. He quickly averted his gaze, afraid he’d lose control and do something to the boy before he was ready.

 

He tilted John’s face up once more and tenderly turned the boys lip down to inspect the damage while the other hand held his head steady. His fingers slipped into the soft sable hair, letting it play through his fingers like silk.

 

John tensed beneath his touch even though he wasn’t hurting him but still he sensed that something was very wrong.

 

“The cut is not too bad e’hahamóon,” he said softly as he knelt in front of the boy. His fingers gently touched the small cheek. John’s eyes widened in surprise at the soft gesture of affection…His uncle leaned forward to plant a light kiss on the boy’s cheek.

 

John’s pulled back in shock but the man’s hand tightened painfully in his hair, holding him in place.

 

“OW,” John cried out.

 

“Be still,” Walking Wolf barked, giving him a light shake.

 

John froze in fear. His uncle’s hand traveled down his chest and stomach for a moment before sliding upward to hold the boy’s chin. The thought crossed his mind that Roderick Gage was rolling in his grave right now at what he was doing to his child… “Please stop it Hešeho,” a small voice whimpered, drawing his attention back to the frightened child he still held captive.

 

“You will tell no one what we’ve done here,” he commanded as his mouth moved close to the child’s ear. John stood rigid in terror, feeling the man’s breath on his neck. “If you do…No one will ever want you again. They will think you are a disgusting and wicked child…I will tell them how you enticed me back here…Asked me to touch you…You do not want me to do that do you?” He whispered.

 

“But I didn’t…,” John began to protest.

 

His uncle shook him again. “Even your mother will be disgusted and if you tell… she will not want you either. You do not want her to be hurt do you?”

 

“No,” John whispered forlornly.

 

His uncle grinned evilly, knowing he’d won. He leaned forward to touch the small mouth with his own. John gasped in shocked horror and tried to pull away but the hand gripping his hair tightened once again.  The callused hand sliding over the boy’s stomach…

 

John reacted without thinking. He kicked out with all his might, catching the kneeling man square in the groin with his foot. The man barked in pain and doubled over…His hold on the boy loosened a bit but it was enough for the child to pull free.

 

He didn’t wait to see if his uncle was okay…He turned and ran. He heard his name bellowed from behind him but he didn’t stop.

 

Little Fox stopped in the middle of her story as she watched the boy run, stumbling blindly from behind the building. Her eyes narrowed worriedly when George Walking Wolf staggered from the alley a moment later. Rage and pain colored the man’s face and Little Fox wondered what the heck had happened to cause that look. She prayed that John would be okay.

 

John ran home. He stopped just outside the door to catch his breath. What was he going to do now? Should he tell his mother what George had done. He’d said she’d be disgusted with him if he did…John didn’t believe that but then…What if he was right? His father was dead and if his mother sent him away too…Where would he go?

 

Tears of shame welled up in his eyes. He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t understand exactly what his uncle was doing to him but he sensed somehow that it wasn’t right. That he couldn’t let him touch him like that but how could he stop him? John touched his swollen lip and winced. He felt eyes watching him and spun around.

 

George stood just a short distance away…His black eyes boring into the boy. John shook with terror and he backed toward the door. His uncle stepped toward him…His hand gripped the child’s arm bruisingly while the other closed around the small throat. “If you ever do that again I’ll kill you…If you tell anyone I’ll kill you, do you understand?” He growled.

 

John’s eyes widened fearfully. “Héehe’e Hešeho,” he whispered.

 

“If you ever kick me like that again I’ll make you pay…I’ll take your mother from you too…You will have no one.”

 

John whimpered in fright at the thought of losing his mother too…He wanted his daddy to come back…To tell him there had been a terrible mistake…To save him from his Uncle George but he knew that wouldn’t happen. He had to be strong…To find a way to stay clear of his Uncle without anyone finding out what had happened.

 

The door opened and Kate stepped out on the porch. “What is going on?” She asked as George quickly released the boy. John looked up at her…His dark eyes were filled with fear. “What happened to you?” She gasped at the sight of the swollen lip and the darkening bruise around his throat. Her eyes flew suspiciously toward George.

 

“He got into a fight with some of the boys in town,” George explained. “I brought him home.”

 

She looked to John. “Is that true?” She questioned.

 

John’s brown eyes swiveled toward George for a brief moment and the man knew he was trying to decide whether to tell his mother the truth or to hold his tongue. John’s eyes dropped and George knew he’d won again. “Yes mama…,” he whispered in defeat.

 

 

Over the next few weeks, Kate and John found that life with Lacee and Joseph was never going to be easy. Lacee made sure that they both remembered every day that they were being allowed to stay only because of her good graces. Without her… they’d be in the streets, while Joseph drank himself into oblivion each night after dinner…His drunken insults were hurled throughout the meal and John sat in silent humiliation at the slurs…Rarely even eating what was put before him and just pushing the food around 

 

Kate tried hard to deflect the worst of the insults but John became more and more withdrawn…He flinched at every sound and his weight dropped. He often appeared wan and frightened. Kate had no idea that there was more going on outside the home than in it.

 

John went back to school soon after they arrived and found that things hadn’t changed there either...The only difference was that he’d grown enough to at least defend himself through the worst of it and even though Jimmy Wheeler and his friend often sent him home with a split lip or black eye, it wasn’t as bad as what awaited him at home.

 

John made sure to walk with Thomas after school or his grandfather after leaving the ranch whenever possible but his Uncle George continued to watch for any opportunity to catch the boy alone. John learned to run…Very fast, often tearing through the door to his Aunt’s home sweating, terrified and out of breath.

 

Worse were the few times when he couldn’t avoid the man. His leering looks and ‘innocent’ touches left John shaking and nauseas but so far he hadn’t managed to catch him alone and John was grateful for that much. At nine…he didn’t know exactly what the man wanted from him but he knew it wasn’t okay or he wouldn’t have felt the need to threaten him not to tell anyone.

 

Kate was becoming more and more frustrated and tried on many occasions to get John to tell her what was wrong but received a negative shake of the dark head. “Nothing’s wrong mom,” he’d whisper in humiliation.

 

Little Fox continued to watch with worried eyes whenever John ran through the town square. The boy never slowed at her calls to him. She’d often see him casting frightened looks over his shoulder and the old eyes would see George Walking Wolf watching him as well but she never caught him actually hurting the boy.

 

Kate got a job in town as a waitress a few weeks after they returned. She hated leaving John in the care of her family but she desperately needed the money to get her and John out from under their thumb as soon as possible. She worked long hours and often got home late in the evening.

 

John would lie awake on the sofa bed in the living room where he now slept with Thomas. They’d both been evicted from the room since his cousin’s marriage.  He’d wait for her to come inside and eat, listening to her move about the kitchen quietly. Afterward, she’d frequently slip outside to sit on the steps to gaze up at the stars and remember Roderick…singing or humming their favorite song softly to herself.  John would wait until he heard the door creak before sliding from his bed to join her and the two of them would sometimes dance and laugh together as she sang…It was the only joy either of them knew anymore.

 

“I miss dad mom,” he’d confided but he couldn’t tell her that one of those reasons was his fear that Uncle George would hurt him one day. He couldn’t tell her that he was weak and afraid and unhappy and dump that load on his exhausted mom too.

 

 “Oh my little love,” she’d whisper as her fingers stroked his cheek. “We will always miss him but he lives for me always…Right here in you. You are so much like him,” she told him often.

 

John didn’t believe her. His father had been brave and strong and afraid of nothing. John didn’t believe that he was brave or strong. He got beat up regularly. He had to run for his life almost daily to keep his uncle at bay. He was afraid that his father would be ashamed of his son’s fear and tried desperately not to let the weakness show.

 

The months slowly passed for John and Kate and things remained the same. She tried to spend as much time as possible with her son but she also needed the money to keep Lacee from threatening to throw them out.

 

Lacee reveled in the power she had over her sister and her little half breed. John tried hard to stay out of her way as much as possible but he wasn’t always successful and he’d have to endure her angry tirades about his insolent, insensitive and ungrateful attitude.

 

John would stare dismally at the floor until she finished until one day she followed her angry diatribe with a vicious slap to his face. John’s hand flew to cover his cheek in shocked horror. No one had ever hit him like that before and tears of pain welled in his eyes. He stared up at her, trying to blink the tears away but that only seemed to make it worse.

 

“Get that defiant look off your face,” she snarled in rage.

 

John shook his head, trying to deny that he was being defiant but Lacee took it as a challenge to her authority. Her hand lashed out again as she took her bitterness and hatred of the whites out on the nine year old. John backed away but she quickly followed, her hand landing one smack after another until he cringed in terror and covered his head to protect himself from the assault. “STOP IT,” he finally cried out.

 

What had he done wrong? He didn’t understand her hatred or her resentment for him. She stopped in breathless surprise at her own violent reaction. She drew herself up self righteously. “Get out of my sight and do not ever defy me again,” she snarled.

 

“Héehe’e náháa’e,” he whispered fearfully.

 

 

John retreated out the door, curling into a corner of the porch. He rocked slowly… “Daddy…Why did you have to go away,” he whimpered plaintively. He was still sitting on the porch when his mother arrived home several hours later.

 

She squinted at him in the darkness. “John?” She questioned worriedly. “What are you doing out here? It’s dark out?”

 

“Aunt Lacee threw me out,” he whispered, without looking up.

 

“What? But why…? What happened?”

 

John raised his head and Kate gasped in horror as the moonlight revealed the vivid handprints on her son’s face. Kate had a gentle heart and a forgiving soul but this was just too much. It was bad enough that John had to contend with the other children but to be beaten by her own sister was unthinkable.

 

She gripped his arm and dragged him inside to confront her sister. Lacee looked up in surprise as the door was thrown open. She saw the bruises on her nephews face and the rage in Kate’s and for the first time felt a hint of fear of her younger sister. She was like a lioness protecting her cub.

 

“How dare you strike my son?” She growled in a low voice.

 

“He is defiant and insolent,” Lacee brazened out in her own defense. “He needed to be taught a lesson.”

 

“If there are lessons to be taught then I will teach him…NOT YOU,” she yelled.

 

“Don’t fight mom,” John whispered. He hated the fighting...The raised voices and the anger that swirled around him. He felt the gray closing around him but he fought it off.

 

“Listen to your brat Red Moon,” Lacee sneered. “Remember whose home you are living in. No one else will have you…You would prefer to live in the streets?”

 

Kate drew herself up short. If it had been just her, she would have walked out the door and not looked back but she had to worry about John. She wouldn’t let him live in the street.

 

She drew in a ragged breath. “I am grateful that you allow us to live here my sister but not at this expense. I will not allow you to abuse my son. The price is too high.”

 

“Then feel free to leave.”

 

“Mom…,” John whispered. “I’ll be okay.”

 

Kate’s eyes filled with tears… Neither of them should be punished for the love she and Roderick had shared but John certainly shouldn’t have to pay the price for her defiance and her marriage to a white man. What could she do? She didn’t have the money for a place of their own yet…She had to back down. “Please Lacee…I beg you to leave John alone. He’s done nothing to you.”

 

Lacee smirked in smug glee that her sister was pleading with her for her son. “See to it that he understands his place.”

 

Kate’s teeth clenched angrily but she felt a tug on her hand. John shook his head at her forlornly. “I will be good mom,” he murmured quietly.

 

“You are always good my baby,” Kate assured him miserably. “Come,” she added as she led him into the room she now shared with Amy. She hugged him to her. “I am so sorry háhketa,” she wept as she rocked him gently. “This is my fault…Never yours.”

 

“I want to go home,” he whispered against her.

 

“So do I baby…So do I.”

 

 

The two of them managed to get through the next few months together…Each becoming the other’s strength through the rough times. John continued to keep what George had done a secret and stayed at the ranch with his grandfather whenever possible, letting the elder walk him home well after dark.

 

His tenth birthday was less than a month away and the summer festival was approaching. It was a bittersweet time for Kate for it was at that festival only eleven years ago that she had met Roderick for the first time.

 

John was handling some of the horses that would be up for sale and Kate’s eyes traveled frequently to the corral where he was working. She saw Walking Wolf moving in that direction and it was obvious that her brother in law had had a few drinks. She shook her head in disgust but turned her attention back to the woman who was trying to decide what blanket she wanted to buy.

 

John had been working hard all morning but the horses were all brushed and looking their best before the sale began. He wiped a trickle of sweat from his forehead and leaned over the trough to splash cool water over his face.

 

He straightened abruptly, gasping in shock as he felt a hand caress his buttocks. He spun about to look up into the leering, bloodshot black eyes of his uncle. John backpedaled rapidly…His dark brown eyes flitted nervously around, looking for someone to come and rescue him…But the herd of milling horses blocked the view from the open grounds. No one could see them.

 

George watched fear darken his nephew’s chocolate colored eyes and licked his lips hungrily. He moved toward him as the boy backed away. “You have nowhere to run my little rabbit,” he taunted the boy.

 

John looked terrified but that only heightened George’s desire for the boy. John’s sable hair hung to his shoulders, waving softly in the breeze and Walking Wolf reached out to touch it. John tried to duck around him but the man’s hand snatched a handful of his hair, bringing the boy up short.

 

“OW…Másemetanό tό’háomό’seh’ve Hešeho,” (please don’t hurt me uncle) John pleaded fearfully.

 

“I will not hurt you as long as you do not fight me,” he replied as his free hand gently touched the boys face. John stood rigid in terror…Not sure what he should do. There was music and people talking and laughing. No one would hear him if he called out except his uncle and then he’d hurt him.

 

“Please,” John whispered.

 

George let his hand play over the boys back and around to his chest. “I will not hurt you,” George promised him as he leaned close to John’s face. His lips caressed the child’s cheek and John felt his stomach turn a flip at the foul smell of whiskey on the man’s breath. He swallowed hard to keep from vomiting and whimpered in terror…He felt the gray walls closing down around him and his eyes began to turn vacant. He gasped for air and a slow rock began…

 

George was enjoying himself immensely…He let his lips trail over to touch his nephews and grinned in victory when there was no resistance. He opened his eyes and saw the vague, empty expression in the child’s gaze and stood upright in surprise.

 

His heart thumped fearfully. “E’máséhánee’e néso ,” (Crazy child) he snarled shoving the boy away. John fell in a crumpled heap before pulling himself into a tight ball. George, like most of his people feared the insane. They were tolerated among the people with trepidation but were considered náa’séháá’e(taboo).

 

George started to turn away but suddenly came face to face with John’s furious mother. Her hand landed a ringing slap to his face. “Éškóseeséhotame,” (pig) she hissed angrily. “Stay away from my son.”

 

 

Kate looked around her as the woman paid for the blanket and moved away.  Her eyes swept over Blue Eagle and his wife Amara. They walked through the crowd holding the hand of their first child as he toddled along beside them. Amara was obviously expecting once again. Blue Eagle saw her watching and threw her a nod of greeting.

 

She smiled and let her eyes move on. Joseph Four Feathers and his pretty wife Whispering Dove stood with their three year old daughter Danella.

 

Sun Walker was working at the stalls with the calves that were up for sale.

 

Her eyes drifted back to the horses but John was nowhere in sight. She glanced around, thinking maybe he’d gone for water but she couldn’t see him anywhere. The horses began to mill nervously and her eyes were drawn back in time to see Walking Wolf straighten up and suddenly shove John away from him. She didn’t wait to see anymore. She ran toward the stalls. George was backing away from the child and John was curling into a ball, obviously pulling into himself.

 

She was furious…Her sister’s husband was a very large man and there was no excuse to abuse her son that way. He started to turn away just as she arrived. She heard his words. “E’máséhánee’e néso ,” he muttered. He turned and the look in his eyes was clear….There was fear but there was something else as well. Her eyes widened in shock and she raised her hand to land a ringing slap to the man’s face.

 

“Éškóseeséhotame…Stay away from my son.” She started past him but George’s hand shot out to catch her arm, spinning her toward him.

 

“It wasn’t me who wallowed with the white man when you could have had me,” he sneered in her face. “And then brought her crazy half breed back for us to deal with…”

 

Kate could smell the reek of alcohol on his breath. “I would sooner bed a swine than you,” she shot back. He raised his hand to backhand her but she never flinched. “My father will kill you if you touch me,” she warned softly.

 

He knew she was right but he needed to be sure how much she’d seen. She could destroy him if she told the council what he’d done to the child.

 

“The boy was insolent,” he growled.

 

Kate shook her head. “There was no excuse for what you did,” she said pointing toward John. She moved to kneel next to him but John was oblivious to her presence and continued to rock slowly. She’d been sure of the look in his eyes…Fear and lust had warred in equal measure and her stomach roiled at the thought of this animal putting his hands on her child but she hadn’t actually seen him do anything but push John down. She’d have to watch John more carefully from now on.

 

The altercation was finally noted by several others and a crowd began to gather around them, including Sun Walker. “What happened here?”

 

“Walking Wolf…,” she hesitated, not able to accuse the man without proof. “Knocked John down,” she finished angrily.

 

Sun Walker turned his angry eyes on George. “I warned you once before that it was not for you to discipline the boy,” he snapped angrily as Kate wrapped her son in her arms. John’s body arced away from her and a groan of fear slipped from his lips.

 

Sun Walker brushed her aside and scooped his grandson into his arms. John continued to fight but Daniels greater strength finally forced him to yield. The child panted for breath and shook uncontrollably and the old man’s eyes narrowed at George suspiciously. It usually took a great deal of stress to drive John to this state…A simple push wouldn’t usually be enough and Daniel had to wonder if something more had actually happened.

 

He threw a final glare at his son in law and carried John away from the prying eyes of the townspeople as well as their own. John had finally calmed some by the time they reached Lacee’s. Daniel set him on the bed.

 

Kate sat next to him and gathered him into her arms. “It’s alright father…I’ll take care of him now.”Sun Walker threw her a nod and turned away. He heard the gentle sound of his daughter’s voice as she soothed her son. “It’s alright John…You are safe now,” she reassured him.

 

 

The boys eyes blinked open a long time later. The room was dark but he felt a presence next to him and tensed fearfully. “Shhh háhketa…It is me,” his mother’s voice soothed softly, trying not to wake Amy who slept in the next bed. “You are safe now.”

 

He lifted his head to look around him fearfully, squinting into the darkness. “Mmm…mom,” he stuttered, “What hhh…hap…pened?” Why did this keep happening?  How did he get here and where was Walking Wolf? Why couldn’t he remember things sometimes? Ben had told him he was crazy…So did his Aunt Lacee. Was it true?

 

A soft light from a low burning lantern suddenly appeared. Kate blew out the match and turned back to her son. “I was hoping that you could tell me what happened John.”

 

John began to shake as the memories returned and George’s threats played through his mind. “I don’t remember,” he whispered.

 

“John…,” she hesitated briefly, not wanting to frighten her son any worse than he already was but she needed to know the truth. “John I want you to tell me,” she urged.

 

The dark eyes shifted away… “Tell you what mama?” He whispered evasively.

 

“Uncle George…!”

 

John’s breathing grew rapid as the humiliating memory of his uncle’s hands and mouth on him flooded over him. He couldn’t tell her…He couldn’t. What if she turned away from him? Would she send him away? “Don’t remember,” he gasped and Kate wasn’t sure if he was telling her that he didn’t or telling himself not to…

 

“Mé’oo’o’…I want you tell me the truth…What happened in the corral? Did George hurt you?” She questioned urgently.

 

 John was grateful for the shadows that kept her from seeing the fear and the deceit in his eyes. What had his uncle told her? Who would his mother believe? Would she turn away from him if he told her what uncle George had done? Would she send him away in disgust?

 

“He pushed me down,” he finally murmured, giving her a tiny piece of the truth.

 

“Is that all Mé’oo’o’?” She pressed. “Did he touch you anywhere else?”

 

John sucked in his breath in terror…She knew…What if she was angry with him? “Nnn…No mama,” he whispered.

 

Kate heard the indrawn breath and knew he was lying to her. She knew he was afraid. “John,” she said softly as she brushed her fingers over his forehead, stroking the dark hair back gently. “You can tell me if he hurt you. You did nothing wrong.”

 

John shook his head as guilt rose up within him. He’d never lied to his mother before but his fear of George and being cast out over rode that right now. He bit his lip, remembering the feel of George’s hand on his throat. ‘I’ll kill you,’ the words whispered through his brain.

 

“He didn’t touch me,” he replied softly, with a hitched breath. It wouldn’t be the last time he’d tell that lie.

 

Kate heard the words but she also heard the fear. She didn’t believe him but decided to leave it alone for now. He was obviously still too afraid to tell her what had really happened. She sighed and kissed his forehead softly. “Go to sleep now Mé’oo’o’,” she said softly.

 

She’d have to be more careful to keep an eye on her son from now on. She would keep him close to her and far from George Walking Wolf.

 

 

Much to her father’s displeasure, Kate kept John close to her over the next couple of weeks after the festival. Even taking him to town with her to the small restaurant she worked in.

 

On one of those days, John wandered over to the small square in front of the fire station where his father had taken him several times when he’d been smaller. John smiled at the memory but it was fleeting. There was so little reason to smile now.

 

He sat for a long time just watching the men through the open doors as they went about their chores. Captain Rigsby stepped out of his office. His blue eyes swept over the Engine and Tanker truck parked in the bay.  They were both polished and gleaming.

 

He began to turn away but a motion outside caught his eye. A young boy of about ten sat watching them from across the street. He seemed familiar and it was only a moment before he finally recognized the boy.

 

‘John…,’ that was his name. His father had brought him here several times awhile back. He hadn’t seen the boy for a couple of years and he’d heard a rumor that the man had taken his wife and son to California. The crew had been disappointed. They’d liked the kid and his enthusiasm…They’d called him Johnny and teased him that all fireman had to have a nickname among the crew. John had loved it.

 

Rigsby stepped to the door and glanced around. The boy was alone…His father was nowhere in sight. He wandered over to the square. The boy glanced up and there was a hint of fear in the dark eyes as they met his own. They swept around again to be sure no one would see him talking to the Captain.

 

“Hello son,” Rigsby greeted.

 

“Hi,” John shyly murmured in reply.

 

“You’re Johnny right?” The older man question, just to be sure.

 

“Yes sir,” the child replied.

 

“Where’s your dad Johnny?” He asked, glancing around again.

 

Sorrow filled the brown eyes for a moment. “He’s dead,” he whispered.

 

“Ah God,” Rigsby murmured. “I’m so sorry son,” he sympathized, laying his hand on the boy’s shoulder.

 

John shrugged, unsure of what to say. “He died in a fire on an oil rig,” John finished.

 

The man’s eyes closed briefly. It was every fireman’s worst nightmare and a horrible way to die. “Look son…Do you wanna come inside for a minute? The guys would love to see you.”

 

John glanced furtively around once again. He didn’t want anyone from the reservation to see him talking to the man and tell his grandfather but the temptation proved too great. He finally nodded and followed the older man across the street.

 

The crew glanced up as the two of them entered the day room. “Hey guys,” Cap said pulling John up beside him. “You all remember Johnny don’t ya?”

 

John smiled as they all nodded and gave him an eager wave, greeting him as if he were a member of the crew. “Hey kid,” Evan Hailey, one of the linesman called.

 

“Good to see you again,” another named David Spencer said even as he threw a glance toward the door. “Hey kid…Where’s your fath…” A look from the captain cut him off. He shook his head pointedly and the man understood. “Uh…Helmet. Where’s your helmet?” he corrected.

 

“At home…I’m not allowed to wear it anymore,” he replied just barely above a whisper. The others glanced at each other worriedly. Why would he not be allowed to wear it?

 

“We were just about to have lunch Johnny…You hungry?” Hailey offered.

 

John bit his lip uncertainly. He didn’t want to be a problem for them as his Aunt Lacee was always telling him he was for her or they wouldn’t want him around. “It’s okay son…There’s plenty,” Cap assured him.

 

“Kay,” John whispered, sitting down between two of them.

 

“Glad to have ya back kid,” Rigsby added as they began to dish up the food.

 

They all ate…Laughing and teasing with the boy as if he was one of them and John reveled in it.

 

~*~*~

Kate found him there several hours later. John was sitting in the jump seat of the engine, polishing helmets.

 

“John…What are you doing up there? Why are you here Mé’oo’o’?”

 

“I’m helping my friends’ mama,” he replied simply.

 

“You should not be here…You will be in the way.”

 

“Mrs. Gage…?” A voice questioned from behind her.

 

She turned and saw Captain Rigsby. “I am so sorry if he has been bothering you,” she apologized with a small smile.

 

“He’s not bothering us at all ma’am. I invited him in…I hope you don’t mind if took advantage and put him to work.”

 

“No…No, not if he is not a problem.”

 

“He isn’t,” he assured her. “We kinda like having him around. Uh ma’am…He told us about his father…”

 

He saw the sorrow reflected in Kate’s beautiful eyes. “Yes…Almost two years ago now,” she confirmed sadly.

 

“I um…I’m very sorry for your loss.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“Well…I just thought…You know…If you have to bring him in town to work with you…You could let him hang out here when we’re on shift.”

 

“Oh…I do not want him to bother anyone...,” she began.

 

“He’s not a bother…I promise you,” he said, reaching up to ruffle John’s hair. The boy smiled down at him before handing him the helmet and climbing down to look up his mother hopefully.

 

“I won’t get in the way mama…I promise,” he pleaded softly.

 

Kate chewed her lip for a moment in indecision, knowing if her father found out it would start a new round of arguments for encouraging the boy’s dreams. “Do not tell anyone what you are doing John,” she said quietly. He nodded eagerly in understanding. “Alright then…You can come here sometimes until school starts again.”

 

He hugged his mother tightly while Rigsby breathed a sigh of relief, the boy could use the positive influence...He’d wanted so much to become a fireman and Cap hoped he’d get there some day.

 

 

Between working on the ranch, school and the fire station John managed to elude Walking Wolf for the next year. The men at the station took John under their wing, teaching him about the hoses, the couplings and other things every fireman would need to know and Johnny soaked it up like a sponge. The few times when he did come in contact with George, his mother or grandfather were always present and John felt safe.

 

Living with His Aunt Lacee and Uncle Joseph had proved to be a bit more challenging but Kate’s rage over the abuse John had received had at least suppressed the violence from his aunt. Despite her bravado that night, she seldom raised a hand against him but her tongue could almost bruise as bad as her hand.

 

The words problem, trouble, burden, embarrassment and crazy were recited almost as a litany against her nephew almost as a daily ritual and John began to accept them as a normal way of life.

 

~*~*~

 

The summer festival would soon be upon them once again but this time Kate insisted that Thomas work the horses with him. George was becoming more and more frustrated…Thwarted at every turn and unable to catch the boy alone.

 

He continued to watch and wait…Sooner or later they would let their guard down and then he’d teach the boy a lesson in obedience…Once John was submissive the  rest would be easy.

 

George’s son Ben became more and more embittered as he watched his father’s preoccupation with his younger cousin grow. He didn’t understand why his father’s attention was always on the little half breed or he might well have had more sympathy for the other child but he didn’t and his resentment grew.

 

 

January was particularly harsh this winter. The snow was piled high and the schools were closed. John had been plagued by a nasty cough most of the night and Kate took him with her to work rather than leave him to the dubious mercies of her sister.

 

Kate had been feeling a bit tired herself lately but she couldn’t afford to take the day off. Having him there with her would be one less thing to worry about.

 

John sipped at a cup of hot chocolate but the dark eyes were on the fire station across the square. He stifled a cough, knowing his mom would never let him out of her sight if he still appeared too ill and headed over to the counter. “Mama…B shift is on duty today…Can I go?” He questioned, his brown eyes pleading silently.

 

Kate’s eyes traveled over the dining room. The place was filling rapidly with half frozen snow plow drivers and others who were looking for a hot breakfast on this cold morning. John was holding up a table…She sighed and checked John’s temperature with a light touch on his forehead. He was warm but not alarmingly so.

 

She finally nodded. “Zip up your jacket and stay inside,” she instructed, knowing the men would look out for him.

 

John grinned happily and grabbed his coat, slipping it on and running for the door. Kate smiled and shook her head as he jogged toward the station house.

 

John slipped inside where his friends were working on their morning chores. They greeted the boy warmly and Johnny quickly ran to help Evan Hailey clean the dorm and change the beds.

 

The men always enjoyed John’s helpfulness with even the routine jobs and rewarded him by teaching him. Whether it was learning which hose to pull or how to hook it up, John was always ready to learn but today the boy seemed to tire after just a short time and Hailey didn’t like the sound of the rasping cough that slipped from the child’s lips periodically either.

 

They finally finished up and the pair headed for the rec room where the others were gathering for coffee. “Well there you are…We were getting worried about you two,” Rigsby said cheerfully. “Thought we might have to eat these cookies and drink this milk all by ourselves,” he teased the boy.

 

Johnny was slumped in his seat with his chin propped in his hand. “I don’t want any,” he replied softly.

 

“Boy he must be sick,” he needled as his hand came to rest playfully on John’s forehead. The smile quickly fell away at the heat from the boy’s skin against his palm. “Ho…ly cow,” he muttered as he scooped the child up in his arms. “Spencer…Run over to the Café and get his mom…Quick. Johnny’s really sick,” he barked as he carried the boy toward the dorm.

 

“He was coughing some,” Hailey volunteered.

 

Rigsby nodded his head. “Probably the flu…Hailey… Why don’t you run to Doc Carlton and see if he can come over here?”

 

“Yes sir,” the young linesman replied as he bolted for the door.

 

Rigsby settled the child in one of the bunks and pulled the blanket over him. John’s eyes were glassy and unfocused as they gazed up at the man. The sound of running feet brought his head around as Spencer and Kate ran through the door a few minutes later.

 

Rigsby moved out of the way as John’s mother knelt next to him. “Are you okay Mé’oo’o’…?”  She questioned worriedly as she laid her own hand on her son’s warm, sweating brow. 

 

“He’s been coughing some Mrs. Gage,” Rigsby offered and he’s real warm. I sent one of my men to get Doc Carlton.”

 

“Thank you,” she replied as her fingers stroked over the boys forehead, brushing the damp hair from his face. “John has had pneumonia four times already. Rigsby closed his eyes briefly at that news. 

 

Evan ran back into the room. “Doc Handly’s in Billings for a conference Cap and Carlton’s at the hospital in Sheridan.”

 

Rigsby worried his lower lip. The boy was bad off and he needed a doctor and he needed him soon. Dr. Smith was out of the question…His dislike for the Indian’s was well known around town. “Mrs. Gage…Can you get the boy to Sheridan?”

 

Tears flooded Kate’s eyes. “I don’t have a car…I ride the bus to and from work…There is a bus to Sheridan in an hour or so,” she murmured worriedly as she watched John toss restlessly on the bed.

 

“Johnny can’t wait that long,” he growled worriedly.

 

“What are we gonna do Cap?” One of the other men questioned anxiously.

 

“I’m gonna call Captain Donavan.”

 

“Why?” Spencer asked curiously.

 

“I need him to take over for me so I can drive Mrs. Gage and Johnny to the hospital.”

 

Kate turned a grateful look toward the older man for his kindness. Twenty minutes later he scooped the blanket wrapped child into his arms and the three of them headed for Sheridan.

 

 

Rigsby carried the boy inside and over to the nurse’s station. He bristled at the dismissive look the nurse gave the boy as she realized his heritage. “Get Dr. Carlton out here…NOW,” he stressed angrily.

 

The blue eyes took in the Fireman’s uniform and the bugle’s on his collar and decided to do as she was told. She ran to find Carlton.  Several minutes later the brown haired doctor trotted down the hall to meet them. “Rigsby…Mrs. Gage,” he greeted before turning to Johnny and taking the boy from him. “Back again huh son,” he said softly as they disappeared into a treatment room.

 

Rigsby waited patiently until Dr. Carlton confirmed Kate’s fears. “Is it pneumonia again?” She asked.

 

“I’m afraid so Kate…But you got him here quickly and Heaven knows we’ve all been through this before. He’s a tough kid.” He turned to the Captain. “Thanks for getting him in here.”

 

“He’s pretty special Sean…We’ve all uh…Taken him in now that his father’s…Well…You know.”

 

Sean shook his head. “No…I don’t know. Where’s Rod Kate?” He questioned worriedly as he turned back to face the woman.

 

“He was killed in a fire two and a half years ago,” she said softly.

 

“Oh God…I hadn’t heard Kate. I’m so sorry…I knew you’d gone to California but I had no idea…”

 

She nodded her head but didn’t go on…Her whole attention was focused on John. She couldn’t lose him too. Sean noticed the circle’s beneath her eyes and her thin frame…She’d lost weight. He turned back to the fire captain. “I’ll see to that she gets home,” he assured him, freeing the man to leave and head back to Lame Deer.

 

“Thanks,” he replied as he patted Kate on the back. “Take care Mrs. Gage,” he said softly before moving to John’s bedside. “You get better soon Johnny…We need our favorite hose hauler back at the station,” he murmured as he leaned over the sick child.

 

The dark eyes were only half open but a tiny crooked smile tried to emerge making the tough captain’s heart ache at the boy’s unquenchable spirit. He finally left but Kate stayed at John’s side for the next week…She was afraid she’d lose her job but John was more important right now.

 

 

Over the next few days Sean continued to watch Kate.  He was very concerned by the haggard look. He understood that she’d been at John’s bedside for four straight days but still…She ate little and her weight was definitely down and she’d been tiny when he knew her three years ago…The circle’s under her eyes were markedly pronounced.

 

“Kate…Can I speak to you in my office?” He finally asked her.

 

Her eyes widened fearfully. “John’s okay,” he reassured her.

 

“Alright,” she finally agreed. She kissed her sleeping child’s forehead and followed Sean out.

 

“Have a seat Kate,” he invited before closing the door and taking a seat behind the desk. “Kate…,” he hesitated and then decided to plunge on in. “Kate…Have you been feeling alright?”

 

She glanced down at her hands guiltily for a moment. “I’m just tired…I work many hours,” she explained.

 

“Have you been eating…Sleeping?”

 

“I eat at the restaurant…It is one of the benefits,” she replied with a shrug. “I do not always sleep well…It is hard living back on the reservation…Worrying about John and how we will get by.”

 

Carlton frowned. Eating in the restaurant should have boosted her weight if anything. “Kate…If you don’t mind I’d like to take a look at you. Do a couple of blood tests…Just to be on the safe side.”

 

She shook her head. “I cannot afford that Dr. Carlton. I will not even be able to pay for John’s stay here.”

“I didn’t ask you for money Kate…Not for you or John,” he replied. “But I do want to look at you…I’m a little worried about how tired and thin you look.” She shook her head once more. “Kate…If you don’t care about yourself then do this for John… He needs you to be here and to be healthy.”

 

“You do not play fair do you Dr. Carlton?” She said with a small half smile.

 

“Not when it comes to helping one of my friends,” he teased.

 

Kate nodded and let him lead her to an examination room.

 

 

 

Sean hung his head in despair, picking up the lab results and rereading them for the third time…Hoping that somehow the answer would be different this time. He felt tears burn behind his eyes…This was so damn unfair.

 

Kate and John were good people and they didn’t deserve this but the results were positive. He took a deep breath, to try and bring himself under control. He finally stood and made his way to John’s room where the boy and his mother were sleeping. She held John’s hand in her own, while the other rested upon his head…Her fingers twined through the damp, sable hair.

 

He stood watching them silently for a long time before he gently shook her awake. “Kate…Can I speak to you in my office.” He tried to smile reassuringly at her questioning look but her face reflected the fear in his own.

 

“What is it?” She questioned.

 

“Not here,” he replied softly. She glanced at John who was stirring restlessly at the sound of their voices and nodded. She followed him out.

 

~*~*~

“Are you sure?” She questioned him a short time later as tears welled in her eyes. 

 

He nodded sadly. “Yes Kate…I’m very sure.”

 

She bit her lip worriedly. “Can you treat it?” She questioned finally.

 

“We’ll try of course but…It is advanced Kate.”

 

“But you do not think it will help?”

 

He shook his head honestly. “No…And you need to be prepared…It will make you very sick.”

 

“How much time would it give me?”

 

“A year maybe…”

 

Kate wiped the tears away. “What will happen to John?” She whispered in despair.

 

“You’ll need to make those plans Kate…Decide who will raise him when you’re…” he stopped, unwilling to finish the sentence.

 

“Dead?” she finished for him with an arch of her delicate brow. “My people do not fear death Dr. Carlton. My fear is not for myself but for my son.”

 

He nodded at the bravely spoken words. “I know,” he murmured.

 

“Do not tell him please…He doesn’t need to be afraid…Spirit…He’s known enough of that,” she whispered.

 

“When do you want to start treatment Kate?”

 

“I will not.”

 

“But Kate…”

 

“I will spend what time I have with my son…Not sick and praying for death from the cure.”

 

Sean nodded again, feeling completely useless for the first time in his career. If he could choose anyone to save…It would be this beautiful, caring, loving mother. Life just wasn’t fair, he thought bitterly.

 

 

After another two days, John recovered enough for Sean to release him and drive the pair home. She climbed from the car and turned to the doctor. “Thank you for everything Dr. Carlton,” She said stoically.

 

He nodded… “Anything you or John need Kate…Please just let me know.”

 

She nodded and headed inside. She had some decisions to make. She wrote a long letter to Rosemary, asking her if she would be willing to take John to raise…She had no idea where Rose was at his point so she mailed the letter to Roderick’s parents. She had no idea that her sister in law wouldn’t receive the missive for over two years but she was disappointed when no reply was forthcoming.

 

Maybe Rosemary no longer wanted anything to do with them now that her brother was dead. She’d have never thought that of her and she was concerned that something might have happened to her as well but the lack of response left her no choice…She would have to leave John here with her own family.

 

                                                                               

 

She finally went to her father to tell him the grim prognosis. She’d hoped to be able to tell them that John would be going back to California with Rosemary but now…There was no other option.

 

Sun Walker and White Owl sat in silent grief for a long time after Kate had told them…Both of them wishing that somehow they could turn back time…That they hadn’t let their stubborn pride rule their hearts but now...Their daughter would once again be taken from them and this time it was permanent.

 

“Is there nothing your doctor can do for you?” Daniel finally asked in a bare whisper.

 

“Nothing that will make much difference father but I am not worried about myself now.”

 

“John?” The man questioned.

 

“Yes…I tried to get Roderick’s sister to take him but either she did not receive my letter or she has decided not to but…I’m begging you father…Please…Watch after my son. He is the only thing I treasure now.”

 

Daniel looked shocked that she would have sent him away. “We will keep the boy on the reservation of course,” he answered softly. “He is my grandson but we are too old to raise him ourselves. Thomas is eighteen now and will soon marry. Chloe and Three Rivers will be moving out to live in their own home. Lacee will have room for him.”

 

“No father…,” she began to protest, knowing that Lacee would never love John.

 

“I will see to it that Lacee takes care of him,” he promised, interrupting the protest he knew was coming but then Sun Walker had been ignorant of Lacee’s abuse as well. He knew she was jealous of the child but he had no idea of the mental and emotional abuse she heaped upon the boy.

 

“She is mean to him father…She dislikes John and hates that he is half white.”

 

“Red Moon,” he said gently with a sigh. “How many times have we had this talk? John must learn to be strong…Even against the words that pierce the heart…He will hear them often.”

 

“Because he is half Indian father,” she questioned angrily.

 

“Because he is Indian…Half or whole…Why do you think the people in town dislike him?”

 

“Not all of them do father,” she said, remembering Sean and the men at station 28…That is the point…And the people in California did not dislike us because of what we were… At least not most of them,” she corrected. “And because of that Lacee should understand…They are not all bad.”

 

“She was tormented at school and in town the same as the rest of us…Treated as dogs. She can only see the white in John and she is concerned of course about Joseph’s standing on the council. John is an embarrassment to our family.” Kate bristled angrily and he raised his hand to halt her words. “You knew that Kate…When you chose a white man for a husband, you knew that it would never be accepted but I will watch out for him and be sure that she does not hurt him,” he assured her.

 

Daniel had no idea just how spiteful Lacee’s jealousy had become…It would be months after Kate was gone before he understood his daughter’s depth of hatred.

 

Kate’s eyes filled with tears at her father’s words. How could her own family feel that way about a child…Her child? Their own flesh and blood…She wished she had some other option but without Rosemary…There really was no other option.

 

Chapter 29

Orphan

 

Kate returned to work and John to school and his routine. The men at the station welcomed him back when he could come but most often Kate sent him to work at the ranch with her father after school. She knew it would be expected when she was gone…She wouldn’t be there to stop it.

 

She began to grow steadily weaker as the months passed. Pain began to blossom in her lower back and pelvis and her appetite all but vanished. Her weight dropped dramatically. Sean prescribed pain killers and as much as she disliked the way they made her feel she finally began to take them.

 

She was exhausted and she made excuses for John on why they could no longer sit out on the porch at night when she came home or why they no longer danced together as they once had.

 

She wore bulky sweaters to hide the weight loss but as winter faded that became too obvious even for an eleven year old not to notice.

 

“Mom…,” John called to her one afternoon as she sat at the table and rubbed her back. She turned to face him and the brown eyes looked into hers searchingly. “What’s wrong mom?” He finally asked in a small voice, noticing the dark circles beneath her eyes and the sunken look to her cheeks.

 

Kate sighed...This moment had to come. “Nenáasêstse na’óvohe,”(come here my baby) she said waving him to her. “John…Do you remember when you were sick this winter?”  She questioned as he leaned against her. He nodded slowly. “Dr. Carlton did some tests on me too while we were there.”

 

“What kind of tests?” He asked.

 

“Blood tests…Other things…They told him that I was sick.”

 

“Did you have pneumonia too?” He asked, mad at himself that he hadn’t noticed.

 

“No na’óvohe…It told him that there was something else wrong.”

 

“What is it?” John asked worriedly.

 

“I have cervical cancer John…Do you know what that is?”

 

“No,” he answered looking scared now.

 

“It is a disease inside me…”

 

John’s face paled at her words. “Can they make it better?” He asked fearfully. “Like they did for me?”

 

Kate’s eyes burned with tears but she blinked them away. She needed to be strong for John right now. “No na’háhketa…They cannot make it better.”

 

John stared at her silently, uncertain of what to think. “But you will be okay right?” He asked finally…Hopefully.

 

She shook her head. “No John…Very soon now I will go to be with your father.”

 

John shook his head in denial. His father was dead…If she would be with him then that would mean that she was… No…No…That couldn’t be what she meant. He backed up a step, staring at her in fear and disbelief. “No mommy,” he whimpered.

 

Kate’s heart turned a flip…John hadn’t called her ‘mommy’ for years now and she knew how devastating this was for him to hear but he had to know…To accept that she would leave him soon. “Oh my baby,” she whispered as she reached out and pulled him into her arms.

 

His ragged sobs tore at her soul as he wrapped his slender arms about her neck…Holding on to her tightly, as if he could hold her here by force. “You can’t go,” he cried. “You can’t leave me too.”

 

“I would do anything to stay with you my little one,” she assured him. “But that is no longer my choice but do you remember when daddy took us to the church?” John nodded his dark head against her. “What did they tell us about death?”

 

“That it would be a new life…Just somewhere different,” he whispered.

 

“That’s right. I will still be alive John…The same as daddy…Just somewhere different and we will wait for you there. Someday like all living things my son…We will all go there and we will see each other again.”

 

“But I don’t want you to go there yet…I want you to stay with me here,” he argued. John felt the shades of grayness crowding in against him.

 

She hugged him tightly as he began a slow rock. “Do not leave me John…I need you here as well,” she commanded, lifting his face and forcing his tear filled eyes to meet hers. John fought off the encroaching shadow…His mom needed him now. He had to be strong. “There is nothing I want more than to stay with you my baby but it is not something I can change nor can you…We must accept that you will go on without me but I want you to promise me something…”

 

Kate knew her family would try to shatter her child’s spirit and steal his dream of being a fireman…She couldn’t let that happen.

 

“What mama?” He whispered.

 

“That no matter what happens…You will be a fireman…That you will save lives. Do not let anyone take that from you.”

 

He nodded solemnly. “I promise mama.”

 

“They will try John but as Little Fox once told you…You are special and you will leave this place to follow that dream.”

 

“Yes,” he vowed quietly.

 

She hugged him to her once more. “Then we will keep this promise between us until you are ready to leave this place and be on your own. You are a survivor John…Be strong my son and remember that no matter what…Your daddy and I will always be proud of you and who you are.”

 

John’s sensitive mouth trembled as he struggled not to be weak and burst into another round of tears. “I will make you proud,” he promised softly.

 

“You always have,” she replied gently against his ear.

 

 

 

Kate’s health continued to decline and she finally had to quit her job. She barely had the strength to stand some days but as summer blossomed she prayed she could hang on long enough to celebrate John’s twelfth birthday.

 

His ‘Right of Passage’ should be held and she wanted to see it. She asked her father and Lacee to plan it and as much as her oldest sister burned with jealousy, even her heart broke at the sight of her once beautiful and vivacious sister looking so weak and frail.

 

Kate called Little Fox to her one afternoon and asked her to teach him the dance steps so that he could celebrate the Sun Dance and choose his life’s direction while she was there to accept it for him as his father would have done.

 

Her father frowned, knowing the boy would only spout his nonsense about becoming a fire fighter but it was his youngest daughters last request…How could he refuse her?

 

 

Summer wore on and Kate was failing rapidly now…John tried to stay close to her as much as possible but his grandfather usually insisted that he spend some time every day at the ranch. He would become a man in the eyes of the tribe in two more weeks and he needed to be able to fulfill that role besides, sitting at his mother’s bedside holding her hand would accomplish nothing he told him stoically.

 

Kate nodded her head at him in acceptance. There was no point in making her last days a battle ground now. She wanted John to have peace.

 

This morning was no different as the eleven year old trudged off to the ranch. Kate had struggled to watch him from her window, knowing it would be the final time. She’d prayed that she could hold on for two more weeks until his twelfth birthday but she knew…She knew.

 

She was tired…So horribly tired and she hurt so bad that she could only now hope that she wouldn’t linger. She hoped that today she would be with Roderick again but her heart was breaking at the thought of leaving John. It just wasn’t fair…What would he do without her…Why…? Why was this happening? What had they done that was so horribly wrong, that this would come upon them? And why should her innocent son have to pay the price?

 

Kate knew in her heart that that wasn’t really the case…That dying was a part of living but she’d so hoped to watch him grow up…Have a family and become the man he wanted to be but that was never to be now.

 

She grimaced as pain gripped her. “Kate?” Lacee questioned from the doorway. “Are you alright?”

 

“No…Please Lacee…Call mother and father here.”

 

Lacee’s face paled slightly. “Yes my sister,” she replied softly. She too knew that this was it. Her face tightened as she also remembered her sister’s son. After today, she’d be responsible for the insolent little monster…Well he’d just have to learn his place and quickly.

 

She wouldn’t have the arrogant brat sneering down his half white nose at them. He’d better remember that he was living at her charity. He’d learn to keep his mouth shut and do as he was told or he’d be in the street.

She shook her head at her father’s edict that she and Joseph should have to shoulder the burden of raising Kate’s half breed child. Why did he have to become her problem? Why not Mase and George. Her brother in law seemed to like the boy…As much as he liked anyone that is…She shuddered at the thought of those cold black eyes. She’d never understood what Mase saw in him.

 

She ran down the street to her parent’s home…A few minutes later both White Owl and Sun Walker followed her back to her house to be with Red Moon. They entered the room and Daniel had to struggle to hold back the tears at the sight of his daughter. She was dying…It was only hours away now and he would lose his beloved Red Moon forever.

 

His wife openly sobbed in sorrow…Regret welling up at the lost time while she’d snubbed her child in bitterness and spite for her defiance…For falling in love. Was this some sort of punishment for her having fallen in love with a white man? For bearing his half breed child? Was the Spirit making her pay for her defiance to her family? She pushed the thought away, knowing it had been placed there by Mase and Lacee’s hurtful accusations so often made against their sister but it wasn’t true…Red Moon had done nothing wrong…She’d never hurt a living soul and all she’d ever done was love…

 

Sun Walker broke her reverie as he moved to his daughter’s side and knelt on the floor next to her. “I am here my daughter,” he said softly as he placed a kiss on her forehead.

 

She smiled serenely at him for a brief moment before pain gripped her. Her face tightened for a moment and she licked her dry lips. Her mother ran for a cup of water, lifting her daughters head so she could sip it.

 

She settled back against the pillows. “Náhko’e… Ného’e,”(Mother, father) she whispered, barely audible. “Please…Watch out for my son,” she pleaded as tears rolled down her face. “I wish…I wish I could stay for him but I beg you…”

 

“John will be fine,” Sun Walker vowed as his eyes lifted to Lacee. She bristled at the warning look. Well…If he thought she wouldn’t raise the brat properly, why didn’t he just take the boy himself, she wondered bitterly. “Lacee…Get Mase and the others here…There is not much time and we should be together...”

 

She nodded curtly and left the room.

 

 

 

John was working the horse barn this morning in deference to his mother’s poor health. They all knew that Red Moon was failing and their hearts were heavy. They kept John close…Just in case

 

So many of them had treated her so badly when she’d returned and guilt tugged at their hearts. Despite her defiance of her parent’s wishes…None of them had ever wished this upon her or her son.

John had spent most of the morning grooming and saddling the animals for the men to ride but after his birthday, he would be expected to actually ride with them to tag the cattle instead of the children’s job of saddling and cleaning stalls. That excited him and he smiled but it was short lived as the thought of his mother drifted through his head.

 

He’d stopped to kiss her goodbye this morning as he always did but today…She’d seemed different. He chewed his lip worriedly, hoping she’d be okay. Tears burned behind his eyes and he blinked them away.

 

The morning wore on…Just before noon he saw his cousin by marriage…Three River’s running toward the stables. A few minutes later…Joseph Four Feathers and Blue Eagle approached him along with Three Rivers.

 

“John…You need to go home now…Your family is waiting for you,” Blue Eagle said gently.

 

“Why? Is something wrong?”

 

Blue Eagle shook his head sadly. “They will explain it to you…Just go…Now.” John turned and ran toward home. Fear tore through him… His Mom had been sick for several months now and was getting weaker by the day. He hoped she hadn’t had another setback. He raced up the stairs.

 

He burst through the door then stopped in his tracks…A cold dread settling over his heart. His Aunts Lacee and Mase sat with his Grandmother…all three were weeping. His Uncle Joseph stood with a glass of whiskey in his hand, not that that was unusual for him.

 

His Cousins Ben, Thomas, Chloe, Amy and Sarah were sitting silently on the floor. His Uncle George was on the couch. His leering eyes raked over the boy as he stood there, causing the child to shudder in fear as he always did when George looked at him like that.

 

He was terrified by him. His Mom had always taken great pains to keep him away from the man or at the very least never let him be alone with him.

 

Finally he looked to his Grandfather who stood in the doorway to the girl’s room where his Mother Kate slept… His Grandfather’s eyes were reddened as if he’d been fighting back tears as well. He waved the boy to him. “John nenáasêstse,” (Come here)…, he said.

 

John swallowed hard…tears filled his eyes as he moved toward his Grandfather. The old man stepped aside... “Ésáapéva’éhane…” (It’s not good), he said giving John a gentle push into the bedroom.

 

John breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the gentle rise and fall of his Mothers chest… He ran to her side.

 

“Náhko’e,” (Mom)…, he whispered.

 

Her eyes barely cracked open… She weakly raised her hand… John took it… She felt cold. His fearful gaze traveled over her withered body and back to her face... “Náhko’e,” He whispered again, his voice cracking. Tears slipped from his eyes, streaking his cheeks.

 

Na’óvohe...” (My baby), She whispered… “Néméhotâtse” (I love you).

 

“Néméhotâtse,” He whispered back.

 

“You have been a wonderful son… I’m so very proud of you, just as your Father was,” She gasped out barely audible…She drew in a sharp breath, her face twisted in pain.

 

“Mom…,” He cried out, burying his face against her.

 

Her hand weakly brushed through his silky dark hair...“Vé’hoomêstse nae’ha,” (Look at me my son), Johnny raised his head…tears rolled from his brown eyes. “I’m tired… I have missed your Father for a long time now. I want to go to be with him, Mé’êševotseve na’óvohe. “(I will miss you, my baby)… Her eyes closed.

 

Her fingers stroked his cheek one final time lingering for a long moment… “Roderick,” She whispered with a smile as her hand dropped away.

 

“Mo…m...” John wailed in despair, “Hová’âháne (no)…”

 

 

Continued in Part 7

Posted to Site 10/15/11

 

 

LINKS TO PARTS Ls 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14.

 

 

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The Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Limited. No copyright infringement is intended or monetary gain made. I merely like to toy with them and return them to their proper owner in good working order. The characters of Emergency belong to Universal and Mark VII but this story itself however, is the property of the author.

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