Phoenix spent the few minutes of silence feeding the kittens and changing their litter tray. With it warming up, she would need to start letting them play outside.
She wondered what it would be like to go back through Rawlins for the first time since she moved there a full month ago. It was a strange place to her – and big, compared to Ba’a O’ng – though very small compared to Portland. If someone had told her at Christmas time that she would move to a small Indian reservation in the middle of Wyoming – and she would be happy there – she would have asked them what they’d been smoking. But that was what had happened – and looked forward to getting back from Rawlins as much as she looked forward to going there in the first place.
It was scary too. She knew that Sage Eagle was going – though at least they were on friendly terms now… but she didn’t know who else was going. She wouldn’t have Dancing Bear or Little Deer to rescue her from her many gaffes. If she screwed up again, would he forgive her again or would they be back at odds with each other once more?
There was also the fact that appearing in a sizable city, meeting someone to fulfill an order… there was a chance that she’d run into Frank. If he recognized her, he might force her back to Portland. At least, the girls would be staying in Ba’a O’ng on Monday. Maybe if he saw her, even on her own, maybe he wouldn’t recognize her. Or maybe she was fooling herself. Little Deer had promised to redye her hair. She would go over herself and ask – as soon as the pan was done.
There was chatter outside and she looked, only to see Dancing Bear coming with Little Deer, Dove and Sage Eagle! She felt the butterflies in her stomach again! She wasn’t sure what to do!
“You’re going to need to go through the thrift stores in Rawlins – help find some things for her house,” Dancing Bear said to Sage Eagle as they came in.
“We need to dye your hair,” Little Deer announced. “Too much of your beautiful brown isn’t good for outsiders to know about!”
“At our house though,” Sage Eagle insisted. “You shouldn’t be around the kittens for too long, Deheyi.”
“My dear brother always looks out for me!” she shrugged as Dove went to play with the spotted kitten. “He is right, of course, but I will put up with a little bit of sneezing and puffy eyes to play with the kittens for a few minutes!”
“Tell me that tonight!” Sage Eagle reminded her.
“I have to finish my pan first,” Phoenix explained, keen to defuse the little dispute.
“Get it out, Coonagwi,” Dancing Bear instructed. “It’s hot.”
Phoenix went and pulled out the pan, admiring the black finish.
“Let it cool, then you’ll grease it and put it back in the oven. Then you and Rose may go with Deheyi.”
“I remember Woxi teaching my sisters how to take care of cast iron,” Sage Eagle reminisced. “Deheyi takes good care of us. You don’t have to be in perfect health to be appreciated… Though two good feet help!” He grinned at Phoenix, who felt almost faint at the sudden attention.
“As soon as you can handle the pan without hot pads, you can put another layer of lard on,” Dancing Bear instructed. “You’ll do a few layers in the same way.”
Phoenix followed the instructions again, conscious of the fact she was being watched.
“Do you plan on rehoming the kittens?” Sage Eagle asked.
“As soon as they’re old enough,” Phoenix replied. “Until then, they live with me – here or in my own earthship.”
“And if you can’t rehome them?”
“Then they will live with me,” she replied simply, hoping it wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for him. “My ex didn’t like cats… I think they just understood him better than he did.”
“Animals are very smart!” Little Deer chimed in. “Animals like me, but I’m allergic to most of them.”
“Animals like me too,” Phoenix replied.
“They know you’re a kind and gentle soul! Just like my brother! Except last night...”
Phoenix looked to Sage Eagle who looked embarrassed by the comment.
“What happened last night?” Dancing Bear asked.
“Oops! I guess I shouldn’t have said anything. Sorry!” Little Deer looked like she wanted to cry.
Phoenix wondered whether her heart was just being foolish again.
“I gave Hooxa a bloody nose,” he said sheepishly.
Phoenix’s mouth gaped in surprise.
“He was being rude…” He looked more uncomfortable. “He said rude things about Coonagwi,” he finished. “If he gives you any trouble, talk to me, Phoenix, but I don’t think he will.”
She was speechless. No one had ever done something like that in her name before, and she wasn’t sure how she felt about it now.
“She hurt her ankle more yesterday, defending herself,” Dancing Bear shared.
“You didn’t have to share that! I wasn’t going to tell anyone since he didn’t hurt me.”
“But he threatened you,” Dancing Bear replied, matter-of-factly. “Given that, Kwina’s response was reasonable and understandable.”
“Did he violate you?” Sage Eagle asked, looking directly at Phoenix.
“No… He would have, but I stopped him,” Phoenix felt ashamed. “It’s my fault… I let him kiss me before… I thought I wanted it to begin with, but...”
“You learned the truth about him,” Dancing Bear offered.
“Yes… I knew that I couldn’t trust him – and he proved me right.”
“I’m sorry to make you uncomfortable again, Coonagwi,” Sage Eagle added.
“It’s okay,” Phoenix replied.
“My father has been warned before about Hooxa’s antics. Always, he has been defended, but this is too far… I will suggest to my father that my cousin is finally banished from Ba’a O’ng.”
“So that he causes trouble with another community?” Phoenix argued back.
“Or becomes an inmate in white man’s jails?” Dancing Bear added.
“What if next time he… he manages what he intended… and you’re forced to carry his spawn?!” he asked angrily, still looking at Phoenix. She couldn’t tell what he was thinking, but he was angrier than she’d ever seen him.
“He won’t touch me again. Or I will hurt him again,” Phoenix promised, knowing she could and would.
“I believe his karma is nearing,” Dancing Bear offered. “One that he violates will force him to marry her.”
“But when?!” Sage Eagle demanded of Dancing Bear. “Who else must be violated and forced to carry his illegitimate spawn?! If I were chieftain, he would already be on his way to… wherever he wants to go, just not here!” He looked back at Phoenix. “I swear, if he hurts anyone I… care about… I will run him out of the valley myself!” With that, he left the silenced earthship.
Back to the prologue
Available to purchase at Books2Read. Print version will be available soon.
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Previous Swan Valley Stories:
- Native Concession either in ebook form or [print]( . (June 2014, approximately 9 months before Phoenix.)
Swan Valley is a fictitious American Indian reservation located in the Great Divide Basin of Wyoming, USA. The Neme'o'ng (Swan People) are based on the idea of blending the Shoshoni and Arapaho peoples - as might have happened if they were stranded in a desolate area as a small band of misfits. I have developed their language from the same ideas.
Please read my note on romance, teenage intimate relationships and underage sex. I apologize if my understanding conflicts with your sense of morality, but I'm only looking at things realistically, not ideologically. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing!
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