A Yellowstone ChristmasBy: Peggy L Henderson
The girl shook her head. “It is best that you do not know my name.”
“Perhaps it would be best if you tell us who you are,” Daniel’s voice interrupted from just outside the door.
Aimee and the Blackfoot girl both jumped and their heads shot up at the unexpected harsh voice.
“Daniel,” Aimee hissed, and scurried from the bed, glaring at her husband. What had gotten into him all of a sudden? It wasn’t like him to pass judgment prematurely. She stood in front of him, staring up into his unwavering eyes as he glared at the woman who now cowered on the bed.
“Who are you running from?” Daniel asked with a nod of his chin toward the girl, ignoring Aimee’s tug on his arm. He stepped fully into the room. “Why do you wear the clothing of a Tukudeka woman, and speak the Shoshone language?”
The girl looked at him, wide-eyed. She couldn’t maintain eye contact with him for more than a few seconds. Daniel’s intense stare had sent the most hardened men cowering.
“I am Tukudeka in my heart,” the girl whispered almost imperceptibly, dropping her chin to her chest.
“Your people are making war on innocent families in the dead of winter. I want to know why.”
Her head lifted abruptly. “My people?”
“Blackfoot warriors. A clan of Sheepeaters was attacked no more than a week ago to the north of here. Why do you run from them?”
The young woman gasped. She held her infant closer to her chest, and shook her head slightly.
“We left before they could find us,” she whispered, staring at Aimee with pleading eyes. “I didn’t know they would attack an innocent camp.”
“You make no sense, woman.” Daniel’s voice rose in anger, and his eyes darkened. Aimee pulled on his arm a second time, her own anger rising at Daniel for his uncharacteristic callous behavior.
“Enough, Daniel,” she said firmly. “Why are you scaring her like that?”
For the first time since coming into the room, Daniel’s head turned, and he looked at Aimee. His features softened slightly. “Blackfoot warriors have raided a Tukudeka camp, perhaps even others we don’t yet know about, and we have a Blackfoot woman in our home. I need to know why I’m putting my family in danger.”
“My husband said we were safe. He told me no one would find us,” the girl spoke, and tears filled her eyes. “When we heard of the attack that you speak of, the elders of the clan who we were staying with said we had to leave, that the warriors would come to our village next.”
“Who is your husband?” Daniel demanded, turning his stare back on the girl.
“Red Fox, son of Fallen Eagle.”
Aimee set a bowl of porridge in front of each of her sons sitting around the table.
“Who wants honey?” she asked, already setting the crock in front of Samuel. She helped him spoon out the gooey sweet syrup and drizzled it over the contents in his breakfast bowl. Matthew eagerly reached for the crock when she replaced the spoon.
“Not too much, Matthew,” Aimee warned. “We want it to last until spring when we can collect more. Bees don’t work in the winter, remember?”
“Why did Papa and Uncle Elk Runner have to leave?” Zach asked, porridge dripping from his chin. “Will they be back in time to help decorate the tree?” His eyes darted longingly to the pine standing by the window. Aimee’s eyes followed Zach’s gaze. Her tree looked sad and naked, standing there without any decorations.
The boys looked forward to the tree decorating as much as she did every year. Sam was still too young, but the twins had experienced Christmas enough times now to enjoy it, and looked forward to the festivities of decorating a tree, and baking treats they only received this time of year.
“I hope your papa will be back soon,” she said after inhaling a deep breath. She gazed out the window at the snow-covered meadow. Daniel and Elk Runner had left more than an hour ago. “They had to go find the baby’s papa, remember?”
Daniel had stood in stunned silence for a second after the young Blackfoot mother had revealed the name of her husband. Daniel quickly informed Aimee of what Elk Runner had told him about the Blackfoot raid. He explained to her about Red Fox, the young Tukudeka, son of one of the most powerful spiritual Sheepeater leaders, who had gone missing last summer and was presumed dead.
“I will hear how you are his wife when I return, but I understand now why you run from your own people. Elk Runner and I will search for Red Fox’s body. His father will be glad to finally put his son to rest,” Daniel had said. Turning to Aimee, he took hold of her hands and pulled her aside, all anger leaving his face.
“I’ll return before dark. We’ll find Red Fox, and Elk Runner will return his body to Fallen Eagle. Then we can have our tree decorating celebration.”
Aimee nodded wordlessly. This was definitely not how she had planned Christmas, but she realized that finding the body of the dead hunter was more important at the moment. Daniel wrapped her in his arms, and kissed her gently.
“There are two loaded rifles by the door.” He gave her a meaningful stare. “I don’t anticipate any trouble. That Blackfoot raiding party is coming from the north. I expect they will be following Red Fox’s and the girl’s tracks. Elk Runner and I will detect any intruders before they can reach the cabin.” He offered a slow smile. Aimee knew that Daniel wouldn’t leave if he thought there was any danger to her or the children.