Here is an excerpt of my book, A Girl named Cord, which is set to be published the end of this month.
Cord pulled away from Jake and held herself as straight as she could, “Why Jake Suncat! How dare you treat me like a little girl! I’m nearly eighteen years old and I’m very capable of taking care of myself! There is no need to coddle me!”
Jake looked sheepish. “I know that Cord, I know. But you’re like a sister to me. Sometimes I forget that you’re not my sister. She’d be about your age by now.”
“You had a sister?”
“Yes, but she died when she was very young.”
“I’m so sorry, Jake! I didn’t know! I—”
“You don’t need to apologize. No one, save for Ghost, knows about her. He was raised here, you know that. Ghost was very close to her. It nearly killed him when she died.”
“How did it happen?”
Jake had closed his eyes and took a deep breath before starting. “Mother and my sister were going to town in the old spring wagon. The horse was young and frisky, and there was a rattlesnake stretched across the road sunning itself. Well, the snake spooked the horse, and Mother was not a very strong person, and she lost hold of the reigns. Pa didn’t know anything was wrong until late that night when Mother never returned. Ghost and I were waiting for our supper, and it surprised us when Pa put on his coat and said he was going out.” Jake made a choking sound and stopped to take a breath.
A familiar voice behind Cord took up the story where Jake had left off. “We were scared when Pa returned crying. He had some people from town with him. There was the undertaker and his wife, and Mother’s good friend, Ms. Wallace, who was a school teacher. Pa took us on his knee and he said, ‘Boys, your mother ain’t coming home. Neither is our little Debby. They’ve gone to be with the good Lord.’ We didn’t understand why our mother would have left us, and Pa was crying so hard that he had to leave. Ms. Wallace took us back to town with her and kept us at her house for a few days. I believe she would have kept us forever, if Pa hadn’t showed up one afternoon and announced that he had come to take his sons home. I guess we expected to run into the house and see Mother sitting there at the spinning wheel, but she wasn’t. I thought I might see Debby, sitting on the floor playing with her little doll. I remember how she used to sit in the sunshine on the doorstep and watch me play with my dogs. She would just sit there and smile at me, giggling every so often. She was so beautiful. Black hair, dimples, and eyes the color of purple lupine flowers. Jake and I would take her to the forest with us and she would toddle around and gather acorns and little rocks. We used to have a fun time, sitting on that old log in the clearing, cracking nuts for her to eat, and we’d take turns carrying her home at the end of the day, because she’d worn herself out, running around for so long. Debby was like a little squirrel I guess, curious about everything and always underfoot.”
Cord turned to look at Ghost, who was staring into the corner by the big window. He said, “Mother’s spinning wheel used to sit right there.”
Jake put his hand on Ghost’s shoulder and finished the story. “It was so different without Mother and Debby around. It took a long time for us to understand what had happened and why they weren’t coming home. I used to stand at the window and hope to see her come walking over the hill, leading Debby by the hand, smiling and waving. But she never did show up. I suppose that’s why I never got married. I never wanted to have to worry about the lives of my wife or my children or what I would do if anything bad ever happened to them. Then you showed up. The moment you jumped out of that stagecoach and I saw you, I saw that pretty little girl all dressed in buckskins, wearing a ten gallon hat and trying to act all grown up. I knew I needed you on my ranch. You brought the light back into my life. I suppose every time something bad has happened to Ghost and me, there’s been some girl that came along to help us out. When Mother died, it was young Ms. Wallace, when Pa died, it was you.”
Cord was on the verge of tears at these heartfelt words, and looking back and forth between Jake and Ghost, Cord knew she was where she belonged.