Sometimes Love Means Letting Go – Part 2

Posted by on Jan 7, 2019 in Roots and Branches, Short Stories, Sometimes Love Means Letting Go | 0 comments

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It feels odd to be wearing anything other than buckskin and furs, Sandy thought to himself as he made his way down the hall toward the kitchen. There were voices coming from inside. He hesitated in the doorway, but the only people there were those he’d seen last night—Mama, Kat, and Jon, seated around the worktable and eating.

His sister was holding Jackson and attempting to eat one-handed. She looked even more tired than she had yesterday but her eyes smiled at Sandy as he entered. His brother-in-law had Rose cradled on his long legs, her head secure in his big hands, and was fully occupied in cooing and making faces at her. Rose was wide awake and staring up into Jon’s face, those big blue eyes of hers wide.

Sandy’s first instinct was to rip his daughter from the other man’s arms, but for once he managed not to react so impulsively, and then regret his actions after.

Despite not looking up from Rose, Jon must have noticed him anyway, because he tilted his head toward the empty seat beside him. “Pull up a chair, Sandy,” he said cheerfully. “Coffee’s fresh, pancakes are still hot, and your mama insisted we leave you some bacon.” Before Sandy could say a word, he added, “Don’t worry. I won’t hog this little cutie of yours much longer—”

“But she’s already had her breakfast and you need yours,” Kat finished.

Over breakfast Sandy gave them a brief, broken explanation of the hell he’d lived in for the past week.

“You’ve probably already heard from folk in town that Raven . . . Raven and I got married before we left Laramie.” Nods all around. “Afterwards we drifted toward Cheyenne. We both ended up finding work at Fort Russell. Army hired me as a tracker and Raven as a translator. You know how good she was with languages. Things looked good for us. Found out we were expecting in August. Rose was born a week ago. Seemed to go just fine, except the bleeding. It wasn’t much at first, but it just never stopped. I tried to get the post doctor to come, but he refused. Said he didn’t work on natives. No one else would come either. She died on the third day.”

He managed to keep his voice even, but he could see his own burning rage mirrored in the faces of his family, and Jon’s low-voiced curses were very similar to those Sandy had thrown at the doctor himself.

“I buried her that evening.” It had taken all the Fire left inside him to melt the frozen ground enough to dig a decent grave. At least the chaplain had had the decency to come say the right words over her. “Wasted two whole days trying to find someone nearby who’d be willing to nurse Rose, but all folks would say is ‘Send her to her mother’s people.’ ”

Kat cocked her head to one side, looking confused. “Wasn’t Raven a metís? I thought for certain Mr. Demers said they’d come down from Canada.”

“Exactly. Idiots just assumed that one Indian tribe was as good as another and that the local Indians would be more than willing to take in some random motherless mixed blood baby.” He nearly spit the words out. Sandy had never been good at holding his tongue, especially when faced with fools like those he’d talked to at the fort. He’d burned a lot of bridges before leaving Cheyenne. “Finally came to my senses, quit my job, and headed back here.”

He looked up at his family apologetically. “Not sure what exactly I was expecting you all to do for us. It’s just seemed like the right thing, coming home.” He paused, then, “That, and, well, you’ve always been able to fix everything, Mama.”

She laughed quietly. “That’s a quite the compliment, Sandy. I’m glad you see me that way.”

“We were speaking about this just before you came in,” Kat said. “As I see it, your primary need is a wet-nurse.” At his nod, she said plainly, “I’m willing to nurse her.”

He immediately began to protest. “But what about your own kid? Don’t want to take anything from him—”

She interrupted, “It wouldn’t be a problem. Women do it all the time. I’m in perfect health and have plenty to spare.”

“But two at a time?”

“Mama fed two . . . twice,” she reminded him tartly, then blushed.

Sandy felt like blushing too—this wasn’t exactly a proper conversation for mixed company, especially not with one’s sister. But at the same time a huge weight of worry dropped from his mind. Nobody could take better care of you than Kat would, he thought down at the warm bundle he now held.

Nobody, except your own mother, he thought even as his grief welled up and threatened to overflow once more.

 

To be continued…

 

 

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