Chapter One

"Do you think we are going to Hell?"

Jesse blinked in surprise at my question. He had been staring at the fire in thought for a long time, it was the first thing I had said in the last hour that had actually seemed to catch him by surprise.


"Do you think we are going to Hell?" I repeated. "You know, because of-."

"You had no part in that, Vivian," he said quietly. "You're not going to Hell, don't worry about it."

I felt relieved at his answer. I really didn't want to go to Hell, but Jesse didn't quite answer my question.

"Are you going to Hell?" I asked.

Jesse continued to stare at the fire, not bothering to look at me. Sighing, he said, "Why don't you go to sleep, Viv? I'll wake you when we need to leave."

"I'm not tired."

"You will be if you don't get some sleep now. Come on, I'll be right here all night, don't worry."

I thought about pouting and refusing to, but Jesse seemed to be very worried. I should leave him alone, he may need some quiet. "Okay," I said, taking the pillow he handed me and sitting it on the ground. I laid my head on the pillow, pulling the blanket draped around my shoulders off and laying it on top of me.

"Good night, Jesse."

"Good night."

The nights were much colder in New Mexico during mid-fall. I wasn't sure what time it was, much past my bedtime anyway, and instead of being sent to my room, I was miles away from it, sleeping on the hard ground. I wondered if this was my life now, I hoped not. My bed was much more comfy than the ground, that was for sure. But I didn't want to complain to Jesse, he was too caught up in his own thoughts.

Would he ever be the same? I didn't like this Jesse, I liked the old one. The one from yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. The brother who left his friends to come sit with his little sister in her kindergarten classroom during lunch, the one who taught me how to play chess and cards with the brightest smile on his face, and the one who spent a couple months working as a cattle hand to buy me an expensive hat.

At the thought, I glanced over at the small bag I had brought with me. Jesse said we could only pack a few things. A black, veiled hat sits somewhere in there. It was one of my favorite possessions, it made me look all grown up Jesse always said.

There had to be some way to cheer him up. I know he's upset about what happened with father, but he'd get over it eventually. The sooner he returned to his normal self, the better. I'll try my best to cheer him up tomorrow.

Footsteps were approaching, but Jesse didn't seem worried. In fact, it sounded as if he got up and walked over to greet the stranger. I opened my eyes slightly to see, they were only about ten feet from the fire, I could see their legs, but from this waist up, they were covered by darkness.

"Are you ready?" Jesse's voice asked.

"We'll head out in the mornin'." This was a deep voice, a northern accent could be heard. It sounded like the feed trader, who came by only a few times a year. Jesse would always take me with him when he was sent to buy animal food for Mr. Foeter's farm. He was always a nice man, giving me a nickel every time I seen him.

"What time?"

"In the mornin'," the man insisted.

"I need to know the time."

"Then you best go find yourself another wagon driver who's willin' to help a boy who killed his own father escape 'cross country." The man paused before continuing. "We'll go when I say we'll go."

A small silence fell between them, one that sliced through the night. "Do you really think it's a good idea to bring 'er along?"

"Of course, it is!" cried Jesse. "I'm all she's got."

"There are plenty of people 'round here that'll be willin' to take in a five year old girl, you know."

Five and a half. I was five and a half years old. I wanted to correct him, but I knew I shouldn't

"No, they won't treat her right. She's coming, she needs me."

It sounded like Jesse tried to walk away from him, but the trader's next words stopped him. "Does she need you? Or do you need her?"

"I'm not paying you to talk, old man," Jesse replied. "We'll be ready in the morning."

Silence again. The trader sighed. "Alright."

As footsteps approached the camp, another set grew more distant. I opened my eyes slightly to see Jesse sitting on the ground, his head in his hands.

"Go to sleep, Viv."

And I did.