Abuela had ridden in the back of the wagon all day, sipping from a jar of water when offered. Otherwise, she made no indication of discomfort or need.
When Blas turned the mule toward a stand of cottonwood trees for the evening stopover, Esther May rode alongside and asked him, “Why doesn’t Abuela ride on the seat with you or make herself comfortable?”
Old Blas reached the overhanging limbs near a small stream, stopped and climbed down. He removed his sombrero, scratched his head, his seat, one elbow, and plopped the wide-brimmed hat back on. “She thinks she is your prisoner, senorita. I told her I don’t think maybe, but she thinks so.”
“What? No!” Esther May stepped from her stirrup to the wagon and, reaching the gray-haired Apace woman, hugged her. The older woman stiffened in Esther May’s arms, but Esther May held her and stroked her hair until she felt Abuela relax.
Taking the Apache’s hand, Esther May stood and helped the older woman from the wagon. “Blas, tell Abuela she is not a prisoner. She is welcome to come with us.”
Getting it Right
The mule driver spoke in Spanish. [The senorita says you are not a captive. I think she would like you to come with us.]
[I am not a slave?]
[Why does she want me?]
[She killed your son. She says she helps you now.]
Esther May couldn’t decide what Abuela’s long gaze meant, but it seemed clear that the Apache woman was thinking about the information Blas told her.
Esther May shook off a twinge of uncertainty. Surely she was doing the right thing by taking care of the woman. She unsaddled her gelding and unloaded the packhorse while Blas unhitched the mule.
Abuela removed a pot from the wagon and went for water.
With little discussion, each person performed a chore to establish their camp. Esther May took it as a sign that they were meant to be a group.
A Good Way to Wake Up
The smell of coffee swirled into Esther May’s comfortable dreamland of red mountains and pine-speckled pastures. The vivid picture was fading fast behind her eyelids. Then it was gone, the sound of wood popping in the campfire welcomed her to pre-dawn activity.
She felt better than expected. The nights spent on a rope mattress in the hacienda didn’t soften her to sleeping on the ground.
Esther May sat up and reached for her boots. She turned each one upside down and shook it. That was a trick she learned way back in Texas to make sure no scorpions or other crawlephants were in them.
She stood and stretched.
Blas was putting bacon in a frying pan.
A quick look around revealed no one else. The spot where the Apache was supposed to be sleeping was bare—not even the blanket remained.
Blas shrugged. “Gone when I got up.”
“Where will she go?”
“Maybe to die.” He bounced his shoulders again. “Maybe not.” Blas waved his arm in a wide arc. “This is her home. Even though her tribe won’t feed her, she may have ways.” He squinted through the smoke at Esther May. “Some say Apaches can eat rocks.”
Abuela didn’t appreciate the care. Esther May could see that now. A sensation of mostly embarrassment washed over her. The same feeling she had as a child when her daddy told her how silly she was to wish upon the evening star. That’s all it was—foolish wishes. Girl dreams.
That’s what she had for Abuela.
“Why didn’t she trust me, Blas?”
“Would you trust the person that killed your son? We’re lucky she didn’t cut our throats before she left.”
Did Esther May misjudge Abuela? Leave a comment now.
Here are a few views of the Chirichahua Mountains of eastern Arizona. Note the extra h in this spelling.
To read the series click on the down arrow in the Archive list, start with Tales Old Roy Told and work up.
Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.
Please thank a veteran. The time to do so is precious.
Want the story to ride into your inbox? Click on the picture, or here.