“Well, I like it up when I’m riding. Besides, I’ll need to put it up when we go swimming later,” she said, holding out her hand.
Flashing his father’s smile, he dropped the hair band onto her palm.
Then she noticed! “Your hair, you cut it!”
“Yeah, I think it makes me look older, more sophisticated, don’t you?” he said in a low masculine voice, turning his head to give her a better view.
“No, I liked your hair long. It’s always been long.”
As the pair began walking side by side along the lake trail, Bonanza and Cisco breathing heavily in unison, Katherine snuck peeks at TJ. The geeky and goofy neighbor boy she had played tag and hide-n-seek with since they were toddlers, did look different, more like a young man than an awkward teen. Even though he was three months her senior, she had always looked younger than she did. Was it the shorter hair? For a moment she might have even felt attracted to him. Josephine shook her head, cracking a lop-sided smile to herself -enough silly thoughts.
“What did you bring us?” she asked, sliding her hair band over her wrist. For as long as they had gone on morning trail rides together, they took turns bringing breakfast.
TJ flipped a drawstring bag braided into Cisco’s mane over the gelding’s neck. “Ham biscuits, and they’re still warm, but they won’t be for long.” TJ cued Cisco into a trot leading the way down the trail toward the hunting cabin.
When they reached the log cabin built on stilts not far from shore, they slid from their mounts and tied them to the hitching post out front.
“Give me the sack and I’ll set things up inside while you get us some water,” Josephine instructed.
TJ gave her a smirk, but didn’t hesitate, grabbing the bucket off the front porch and heading to the handpump out back. She had always had the upper hand in their friendship. TJ had never been shy about showing his feelings toward her. As far back as she could remember he’d had a crush on her; kissing her as a toddler, long uncomfortable stares in puberty, and now looking for any excuse to touch her or be close to her, which had become a problem at school.
She didn’t like the strange looks and rude comments made by her white friends anytime he stopped to talk to her in the hall. “Why do you even bother with the Indian?” they would say. Sometimes she pretended not to see him or would turn away and begin a conversation with someone else before he could reach her. She felt bad afterward, but TJ seemed to understand and never brought it up. She was glad she wouldn’t have to choose between TJ and her friends at school any longer.
And next week, she was leaving for California! Certainly, in no time at all she would meet some surfers like the Beach Boys or perhaps an older pre-law or pre-med student who struck her fancy. Josephine was well aware of her beauty, having had her pick of boys through high school, and figured the possibilities would be endless at college.
Josephine pulled plates and glasses from the cabinet and tore a few paper towels off the roll that hung from a wire hanger above the water basin, setting the table for two.
TJ soon joined her, filled their glasses and sat down across from her. Before she could take a bite of her biscuit he leaned across the table and gently brushed a few loose hairs from her face. Josephine’s tummy flipped like a pancake. What was that? Was she going to be ill? She pushed his hand away – sending her full glass of water flying.
“Geeze, Jo, I was only trying to keep your hair out of your food.”
“Look at this mess, would you!” Josephine got up, took her plate to the basin in an effort to salvage her meal and grabbed the whole roll of paper towels. After wiping down her seat she got down on her hands and knees to dry the floor and wall. As she wiped up the corner, something brushed her hand. Stuck between the rough-cut baseboard and log wall was a Polaroid photograph. She pulled it out, got up off the floor and brushed the dust from it. She couldn’t believe her eyes! “What is this?!”
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A collection of short stories by Susan Abel
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The Roots That Bind Us
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Like the aspen,
we survive by our connections to one another.
Without them, we wither and die. Without them, we wither and die.
Excerpts of Through the Mist , Into the Fire (the sequel to Through the Mist) and An American Citizen can be found on the "Work" pages, as well as a short story, Yellow Bird, which can be read in its entirety.
Comments and questions are welcome by contacting the author by email (see contact page) or on her Facebook page (clinck on icon to left).
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