Author: AnnaJamila PM
At her father's death Beatrix is thrown to the charity of family 500 miles away in Independence. Once there she sees the construction of the first railroad West of the Mississippi and the gruesome murder of a worker's family, rumored to be a Indian raid. A young brave is abducted for questioning and she has to make a decision. Will she help him escape, and if so, does she follow?Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Adventure - Chapters: 13 - Words: 25,499 - Reviews: 31 - Favs: 9 - Follows: 9 - Updated: 03-20-13 - Published: 11-11-12 - id: 3073400
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Thunder Crow looked on as a man strode towards the little woman fussing over him. Through the pain he laughed a little to himself. White women never did what their husbands wanted; judging by his black look she'd be sore when she sat down to breakfast.
She left off tending him and straightened to meet the new comer, jutting out her jaw and drawing back her slender shoulders. Her hands smoothed the front of her skirt then pressed the fabric down as the wind picked up. She had lovely hands- long fingered with tight white skin almost as pale as the flour they were dusted with. He looked at them for several moments. They weren't shaking- her husband must not beat her. No wonder she was so disobedient.
"Beatrix get away from there!"
The woman's back became even straighter, and he thought she came up onto her toes a bit. She was very small; when the man reached them she would barely come to his shoulder.
"He needs help."
"And you're the one to give it? Do you have any idea how foolish-"
"I beg your pardon, sir, but I hardly think that you have the authority to lecture me as if I was-"
"As if you were my intended, which you are!"
He flushed and looked away from her to the ground.
"Well, in understanding if not in fact. Yet."
His eyes flickered back up to her face and he stepped closer.
"Look what he's done already."
He reached out to touch her bloodied cheek but she moved back slightly. His hand hung in the air for a moment before falling back to his side.
"That wasn't him. I had an accident in the kitchen."
Her chin raised another fraction of an inch and she stared him down, daring him to contradict her. His eyes fell first. His jaw worked in anger and the color of his face deepened.
"Go back to the kitchen."
"I said get back to the kitchen, girl!"
They both jumped when he spoke.
"But look at his-"
He raised his hand as though he would strike her and she bared her teeth, surging forward.
"Do it! Beat me like-"
His hand fell, cutting her off mid sentence. The force of it rocketed her head to the side and she stumbled back, almost falling over Thunder Crow's leg. She stood stunned, her head tilted to the side for several moments. Even the man seemed surprised at himself, looking down at his hand then hiding it behind his back like a child. Finally she drew herself up and continued cooly.
"You've asked me before if I will marry you."
"You'd have to be a lunatic to think I would consent now."
Without another word she swept past him toward the bright sun now breaking over the horizon.
Thunder Crow watched as her man followed her, trying to take her arm several times but having it ripped it away each time. When they made it twenty yards he stopped and let her go.
The man was pathetic. What he would have done was throw her over his shoulder and take her to their tipi to beat her until she was sensible again. Or make love to her. With a wife as young and pretty as her that was probably the better option. Though if her man was as weak with his dick as he was with his fists he doubted they'd get very far.
He shifted slightly, imagining how pleasant the task of subduing her could be.
His eyes cut to the left and after a moment or two he extended his good leg out and swiped at something in the dust, sweat breaking out on his forehead as the movement disturbed his other foot. Object secure he slowly worked it back toward the wheel until he could get to it his fingers. When the sun was fully up overhead and the color had drained from the sky he had it, and playing with it he watched the building she'd gone into, waiting for her to come out again.
Leah jumped as Beatrix re-entered the mess hall.
"Did you go and fetch Micah?"
She rolled her lips between her teeth and nodded, tears standing in her pale eyes. Beatrix sighed at sat down at the table, dabbing absently at her stinging cheek. Leah saw her and instantly stopped her work, rejoining her with a towel to wash her cheek.
"You were bleeding! I-I didn't know what to do. The indians are so dangerous..."
"Levi did that."
Leah winced, as she always did when he was mentioned, and looked more carefully at her.
"Well, your lip. When I left-"
"Micah did that."
Leah paled and her hands stilled.
"I provoked him, I suppose. He'd not have done it were I you."
She laughed drily, standing to take back her apron, resting neatly folded where she'd thrown it.
"Everyone keeps warning me off the Indians but out of the two men who assaulted me this morning both were white. Interesting, isn't it."
She took up a spoon and started stirring the porridge that was to be that morning's breakfast. Leah joined her cautiously.
Beatrix considered for a moment, glanced out the doorway to gauge how much time they had before the men would come in for breakfast, and told her.
Two nights later Beatrix, wrapped in a large black shawl, watched the wagon with the Indian brave lashed to it. Micah had ordered that he be guarded all hours of the day and night until a non-indian translator could be found. Of course she'd been forbidden from seeing him, and so far she'd complied, though not by her choice.
Each night she'd sat up as best she could waiting for a chance to go and tend him, but the guards were all alert. The scene in Cain's home had been too vivid to admit rest. Tonight, however, the man who'd drawn first was already nodding and had been drinking a great deal from a jug he kept under his coat. At last he seemed to fall asleep. She counted to three hundred before creeping out of the office, carefull to keep a wide circuit around the campfire where most of the men were gathered. Luckily it was a dark night and the men were too far away to see her clearly- if anyone saw her moving they would hopefully mistake her for the guard.
Holding a finger over her mouth she held up the flat of her other hand to the brave, begging for silence. She'd been afraid that he would yell or make a scuffle when she approached but he simply looked at her, his eyes curious.
They were dark with fatigue and pain and dirt was ground into his skin and hair. His high cheek bones and sharp nose cast strange shadows over his face. She smoothed the matted hair from his face wincing for him as her fingertips touched a scabbed place at his temple. He didn't acknowledge it though, and his eyes, which were staring into hers, didn't even blink. Soon her face was hot. She pulled the food she'd swiped for him from a bag at her side, offending him first water and then some rolls with butter and a little ham. The water he took gratefully, draining half the large canteen and looking at her with annoyance when she pulled it away. The food was another story.
He took the first bite and spit it out again onto the ground, hanging his tongue out of his mouth in disgust. Quickly she offered him more water.
"I don't have anything else for you, you'll have to eat it."
She whispered this as loudly as she dared- their guard's snores assuring her that all was safe. She pressed another bit to his lips but he pulled away from it. She took the piece and bit off a corner. It just tasted like ham and bread. She couldn't figure out what was so awful about it. He considered the piece in her hand and cocked his head at it.
"You'll eat it?"
He didn't answer, though when she brought it to his mouth he accepted it, his expression resigned. But as she offered him another he turned his head away, gazing at her patiently.
"Do.. do you want me to taste it?"
Again he didn't answer but once her lips touched the bread he would accept it. When all the food was gone, however, he was eager to drink again from the canteen. As she tilted it to give him the last of the water some dribbled down his chin. One of her fingers brushed his lip as she wiped it away with her shawl and he smiled at her in a way that made her excited and anxious at the same time. She blushed and looked down at his foot.
It had been bandaged in her absence. That was a relief- she'd been debating whether to tend it. She hadn't wanted to leave it open in the dirt but neither did she want to give away her presence, and in doing so his only chance of getting any food until the interrogation. They were hoping to starve him into submission and he was only given a cup of water at midday to keep him alive. Reassured she checked him over. Everything seemed to be healing nicely but when she investigated his foot she didn't like the smell coming from it. Sighing she decided to unwrap the bandage and have a look.
The bottom of his foot was a giant scab, cracked and oozing puss in places. It was swollen all the way up to his ankle and there was just light enough to see how discolored it was. She'd heard of blood poisoning but had no idea if this was it, or any other treatment besides amputation. She'd brought tea to wash it in- her father had always told her it was good to clean a wound with and would stop bleeding- but she didn't think that would help with infection.
That done the brave spoke a few words in a soft, murmuring language, gesturing towards a small leather bag hanging from the string of his breech clout. She touched it and he nodded. Her fingers shook as she untied it, trying to ignore when they came in contact with his bare skin. At last the knot came loose and she looked inside to find about a half-cup of grease, smelling strongly of leather and herbs.
He nodded to his foot and gritting her teeth she smoothed the salve over the scab. Blood and more puss leaked out as it broke away. He closed his eyes as she worked but acknowledged the pain in no other way. When it was done she covered it with a clean cloth before wrapping the old bandage back around it. After all of her supplies were put away she peered around the ground to make sure no trace of her visit remained.
She stood to go and whispered a goodbye but then he called to her again, his voice soft and cajoling. He looked at the ground beside him then at her and smiled.
He wanted her to sit by him. She looked down at him another moment, but just as she took a step to join him the guard's snore caught in a cough and he sat up to take a pull from his jug before rolling back over and continuing to sleep.
Beatrix cast a last look at the brave over her shoulder and slipped out into the night. Just as she thought the coast was clear movement behind one of the far buildings caught her eye. She pulled her dark shawl up over her face and waited for the shape to leave. It came closer to the firelight and she recognized the slender outline of Leah. Releasing the breath she'd been holding she relaxed her stance.
Leah was her friend, but as she'd told on her to Micah once she thought it might be better to let her pass. Then another shape materialized behind her, slapping her hip playfully then skipping off to join the men. Levi's hair caught the light as he settled before the campfire and called loudly for a cigarette. Beatrix's brow furrowed.
What on Earth was going on?
Then she realized that Leah's hands had been buttoning the front of her dress and were now tugging at her skirt as she hurried toward the lean-to at the side of Mrs. Adkins house. Ice trickled down her backbone and, forgetting all her plans of caution, she ran to her, her breath coming in great steaming clouds. She said a quick prayer as she closed the distance between them.
Leah jumped when she took her arm.
"Leah what did he do to you?!"
She gaped, pulling her away from the snores coming through the cracks in the house.
"What did Levi do to you?"
The taller girl snatched her arm from Beatrix's, pulling herself up regally.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Leah, you don't have to worry, I'll tell Mr. Delving and-"
"Don't! You! Dare!"
This last was hissed through clenched teeth. Beatrix wondered what she'd said, then realized that as Leah was sweet on Micah he was the last person she'd want to know.
"Well then we'll tell Mrs. Adkins. She'll make sure he gets dismissed for.."
Leah's jaw ticked and her breath came heavily.
Beatrix looked at her miserably.
"For.. he.. he forced you to.. didn't he?"
Leah rolled her tongue over her teeth and cocked her head, tears glittering in her lovely eyes.
"Child. He didn't force me to do anything."
Beatrix looked at her at a lost, then screwed up her face.
"You let him?"
"Don't you dare judge me!"
Leah's chest heaved and after a moment she laughed bitterly.
"Your life must be so easy. You've never been anyone's property. You've never watched your mother get sold so the man who got you on her could work at getting one on you! You don't have to look over your shoulder every. single. day. never knowing when it'll happen, when they'll catch you and send you back to Hell; bendin' over for some no account worthless white trash tryin' to buy time!"
She took a step back and gestured at her with both arms.
"Look at you, with your pretty white skin and your white girl hair. You're a little princess. Can't nothing touch you."
Beatrix put both hands over her mouth.
"Oh Leah, I'm so sorry."
Hot tears fell from jaded eyes as she spat,
"How can you possibly be sorry for something you don't even understand."
Leah held up her head, staring her down. Beatrix crossed the two steps between them and without a word wrapped her arms around her friend.
"Don't touch me!"
Leah pushed frantically at her shoulders with shaking hands but Beatrix held on.
"Don't! Touch! Me!"
This last was said between sobs. Leah dropped to her knees in the cold dust and Beatrix followed, cradling the girl to her as she cried. Wisely Beatrix kept silent, just holding her and rubbing her back. Gradually the sobs faded into hiccups, then after a long moment she spoke.
"I'm sorry. It's not your fault."
"You're right. I have no idea what your life was like."
Leah heaved a shaking sigh and wrapped her arms about her friend's waist, resting her head on Beatrix's shoulder.
"You thank your lucky stars for that."
There was nothing else to say.