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Love on the Plains
Author's note: I used to watch westerns alot and I just wanted to use my knowledge of Indians and mix it with some of my creativity and find out what exactly I could do with something this realistic.
I woke up and didn’t remember where I was. Then I looked around to find myself on my parents’ wagon. Ah yes, we’re moving west to the plains where nothing has ever been settled but Indian villages. I didn’t like it one bit, but I guess it could be the adventure that I’ve hoped for since I was a little girl. I was crossing my dainty fingers as I twirled my blond hair into my usual ponytail. My bangs would frame my face, which my aunt Caroline says it makes my evergreen eyes stand out. The men of the wagon train hadn’t arisen yet, so it was just mother, Aunt Caroline, and some of the other women to fix breakfast. It would be eggs, bread, and sausage that we had picked up at the general store before we left our little town in Mississippi. Thankfully Daddy let me bring Black Jack. Black Jack is my most beloved horse that I’ve had since I was about six or seven. He lives up to his name, he’s black as the ace of spades and is buck wild with everybody but me and Mama. He won’t even let Daddy ride him without some sort of bucking or protesting. I love him to death but even he can’t take care of me the way a man could. I’ve been dreaming of a love life since I saw my cousin, Lucy, get swept off her feet and married.
“Lacey! Stop day dreaming!” My mother yelled from the campfire.
“Sorry Mama! Do you need me to do anything?” I asked skipping over to her.
“Yes, dear can you get me the eggs out of the wagon?” I nodded and walked over to the back of the wagon. I started rummaging through the packs and boxes to find the eggs. Just when I saw them I felt two warm hands on my hips pulling me backwards. I started to scream but my mouth was covered by one of the hands that used to cover my left hip. The person turned me around and there standing before me was the most beautiful copper-skinned man I had ever seen. He looked to be just two or three years older than my sixteen years but he was absolutely beautiful. He uncovered my mouth when he saw the star stricken look in my eyes. We just stood there for what seemed like forever until Aunt Caroline came around the wagon and saw us.
“INDIAN!!!!!” She screamed at the top of her lungs and then Daddy was there to see us just standing there. The man picked me up and ran to his horse; he mounted the beautiful paint and yanked me up after him. We rode off with Daddy yelling after us.
We rode for quite a while with nothing but grasslands as far as the eye could see and my hindquarters started to fall asleep before we got to his village. It consisted of about twenty teepees painted with buffalo and horses. The horses were in the back grazing until their hearts’ content. They were of many colors and breeds, all with three orange handprints right behind their right front legs.
“Wow, this is absolutely beautiful…and so open and free.” I told him as he helped me down off the paint.
“Yes. As are you.” He smiled and revealed two rows of perfectly snow white teeth. They contrasted beautifully with his copper-colored skin. I felt my cheeks heat up at the thought of somebody besides my family thinking me beautiful.
“What’s your name?” I asked him turning my head so I could see him fully.
“Minninnewah, which means wild wind in your language.”
“Why do they call you that?” I asked taking him by the arm. He led me through his village as he explained.
“When I was a child, I would run around the village, through the river that’s up over the hill over there.” He said pointing. “Nobody could stop me unless they had food or Little Paint, who you’ve already met.” He explained gesturing to the horse we had just ridden in on. Just then a little girl that resembled Minninnewah ran up and hugged his legs.
“Minninnewah, who is that?” She asked in a sweet little tone only a child could accomplish. He leaned over and whispered in my ear.
“What is it they call you?”
“Lacey.” I said.
“This is Lacey and this is Chameli. Her name means flower in your language.” He explained while standing there with the copper-skinned little girl on his side. She stuck her tiny arms out and clenched her hands over and over again; she was reaching for me I realized. Minninnewah handed her to me and she started playing with my hair which had come loose from its usual pony tail position.
“Your hair is so pretty, mine is just boring and black.” She said pouting.
“No, your hair is beautiful, mine is boring and the color of straw.” I smiled at her. I looked over at Minninnewah and he was smiling at us and it felt right being here with him and Chameli. More so than when I was with my family on the wagon even.
“I’ll go tell the village that you’ll be living with us.” I nodded as he walked away and left me with Chameli. Before he returned, she’d twisted a bunch of bell flowers into a crown for me.
“It’s beautiful Cham.” I smiled recognizing that I’d just made her a nickname. She smiled back at me, that same beautiful smile that was Minninnewah’s. He returned to us after I’d watched him turn Little Paint out into pasture.
“The tribe and I have made up our minds; you’ll be staying with me in my home.” He told me and I didn’t really know what to think. He gestured towards the teepees and started walking away. I hoisted Chameli up onto my hip, like I’d seen Mama do so many times with my cousins, and followed him to our home.
It was small but it felt like home already. There was already an extra mat for me to sleep on; I just wondered if he’d expected me to protest when he said I’d be staying with him and him alone. I sat down cross legged on the mat that I guessed was mine and fiddled with my dress tail. He sat down opposite me and I looked up to find him staring at me with a look so intent if I didn’t know better I’d say he was trying to set me on fire.
“What?” I asked him smiling.
“I’ve never seen a pale skin as beautiful as you.” He said grinning and showing the spark in his eyes. I could feel the heat rushing to my cheeks when he said it. I don’t know what it is about him that makes me blush so often but it happens so much. He raised his hand and rested it on my right cheek; it was so warm and it felt so right. We sat like that for what seemed like forever but I knew it was only a few moments. I stretched out almost the length of my mat and he stretched out behind me with his arms enfolding me like a copper-colored blanket of safety and warmth. I soon fell into the sea of darkness that was sleep and for the first time in my life…I didn’t feel alone.
I woke up to an empty teepee; so I got up and peeked out into the early morning light. The first thing I saw was Chameli running towards me. I caught her mid stride and swung her up on my hip with a giggle from both of us.
“Hello Chameli! Do you know where Minninnewah is?” I asked her smiling. She pointed over to the river and I sat her down telling her to go play with Little Paint. With an eager nod, she ran off towards the pasture area. I started over to the river but then some of the tribe women caught me and decided to convert my clothes into theirs. They shooed all the men out of the teepee that would be my changing tent and got to work on me. They took the rest of my hair down, stripped me of everything, even my under garments, poured cold water over my head, scrubbed me until I thought I’d dissolve, and put a buffalo skin dress on me. It was comfortable to say the least and to tie the look together; they put a daisy in my hair.
“Emo'onahe” I heard one of them say. I couldn’t help but wonder what it meant. They ushered me out into the open and right into Minninnewah’s arms; I couldn’t complain, it’s right where I wanted to be. He looked down at me just as yet another blush crept across my face. He smiled and hugged me tighter. We wandered over to the pasture and my eyes landed on Black Jack. I ran over to him and threw my arms around his great big neck.
“How’d you get him here?” I asked still smiling like a right fool.
“While you were sleeping I rounded up some of the warriors and we went to your camp and got him while your companions were still sleeping.” I ran up to him and literally jumped into his arms.
“Thank you so much!” I yelled in absolute happiness.
“You’re welcome Lacey.” He said; I could feel his smile grow when I didn’t let go after a while. I felt my heart flutter and I knew at once what was happening to me. I’m falling in love with him. I thought to myself. We walked back to our teepee hand in hand, laughing at a lot of topics that we’d picked to talk about. Once again I slept in his arms in all comfort and happiness. But this time, it wasn’t a dreamless sleep.
“Lacey, why did you leave us?” My mother asked as she was tied up along with my cousins, Daddy, and Aunt Caroline.
“Mama, I didn’t mean to upset you. But I love Minninnewah and I’m staying with him and his tribe.” I told her and turned away as they were all slaughtered by the tribe’s warriors. Minninnewah and I stood on a hill and watched my family’s bodies desiccate and decay at a very fast and unnatural rate. I shot up with a cold sweat drenching me and my new outfit.
“Lacey? Are you ill?” Minninnewah asked me, concern written clearly in his beautiful features.
“No, it was just a nightmare, a bad dream. It’s nothing to be concerned about.” I reassured him as he studied my features. He gripped my hand and squeezed it.
“You would tell me if you were ill, wouldn’t you Lacey?” He asked me after we lay back against each other.
“Of course I would, I would never lie to you Minninnewah; I have no reason to.” I explained. He nodded and we just lay there for a while in our state of contentment. I rolled over and buried my face in his bare chest, he smelled of earth and it was so natural for me to think about kissing him, which I did but I never did really. Then, our moment of bliss was interrupted by one of the warriors bursting into our teepee screaming something in Cheyenne that I didn’t understand. Whatever he said, it got Minninnewah’s attention and got him up and moving quickly.
“What’s happened?” I asked him after the warrior had left.
“Some of your people have attacked our watchman as an attempt to get you back.” He explained as he strapped on his war uniform. He looked like he could kill somebody; in this mission to strike fear into my people, I knew he would.
“Can I come with you?” I asked hoping he’d say yes.
“Yes, you just have to stay on Little Paint, you cannot come anywhere near the fights. Do you understand?” He bargained with me hunkering down to my level on the mat. He tucked a strand of loose straw-colored hair behind my ear.
“Yes, I understand.” I nodded.
“Okay, good.” He said, pressing his lips to my forehead. They were so warm and soft and as soon as they left my skin I longed for them to reclaim their position.
We rode out on Little Paint and traveled for some time before we reached the place where we were led by the warrior that alerted Minninnewah first. From the cliffs I could tell it was my people; not just pale faces but my family. The warriors dismounted and staked out their route safely down without getting shot before they could encounter the pioneers that I used to know as my family. All the time that passed I was sitting on Little Paint; my eyes followed Minninnewah down there. Through all the golden grass I could still pick him out like a red apple in a snow bank. I watched as they snuck up behind the wagons and rounded all of them up. In a few minutes they were all tied up to a post in the middle of the camp. I heard a shrill whistle and before I knew it Little Paint started toward the post where my people and Minninnewah stood. Little Paint stopped just in front of my mother and I knew enough of Cheyenne dialect to say this to her.
“What does that even mean?!” She asked in a panicked state. I could even see the whites of her eyes this time.
“It means I’m Cheyenne.” I said calmly looking at her.
“No you’re not! You’re one of us not one of them!” She said struggling against her binds.
“Nápévetano.” I said again so cool and collected.
“I don’t speak Cheyenne Lacey!!” She screamed agitated.
“That means I’m happy Mother. I truly am; I love Minninnewah.” I explained to her as calmly as I could.
“You can’t be happy with these savages! Who is Minn—Mannawall or whatever you call him, anyway?!” She yelled at me.
“This is Minninnewah and yes I am happy. More than I ever was with you people.” I said my words laced with venom as I gestured to Minninnewah.
“How did you change this much in so little time?” She whispered to me.
“Mother, I will show you our ways if you’ll come back with us and bring no harm to our people. But if not, they will kill you all.” I explained to her as I fiddled with Little Paint’s mane. “I leave the choice with you Mother.” I said as I rode back to the top of the cliffs.
Mother and Aunt Caroline made the choice to come back with us but they had to see Father and Uncle Jacob die. Those two were too hard headed for their own good in the end. My cousins had no choice but to come with Aunt Caroline since she’s their mother and all. Their hands and feet were still bound when we reached the village; the warriors took them and set them down next to the pasture and the river until we could set up a teepee for them. I slid off Little Paint and straightened my pelt-made dress. I strode over to where my family sat and knelt down between Mother and Aunt Caroline.
“I still don’t understand it Lacey. How could you just let your father and uncle die like that?” Mother asked me, her eyes brimmed with tears and her face worn with worry and stress.
“Those two had their chance and they also made their choices, oh and my name isn’t Lacey anymore…it’s Lona. This in Cheyenne means beautiful.” I explained to her as calmly as I could.
“You’re still Lacey to me.” She said turning her head away from me.
“Mother, I could’ve stayed here and let them kill you all. But I didn’t; I insisted on tagging along and saving all you ignorant people that I call family!” I said, my voice getting higher in pitch at the end.
“Ignorant? Oh no, we’re not ignorant but you on the other hand, you are! I’m starting to think you’re mentally ill as well!” My cousin, Anna yelled at me.
“Mentally ill? No, just happy.” I retorted at her. She rolled her eyes and I knew it was just a matter of time that she’d end up like me; after all she is only two years younger than me.
“Whatever Lacey; just don’t come crying to me when you end up pregnant and alone.” She said turning her head to look at the river. Just then I felt strong, warm arms wrap around me and knew it could only be Minninnewah. I turned around and wrapped my arms around his torso, and we stood there in front of what was left of my family and let them gawk until their hearts’ content. We went back to our teepee, leaving my family to wonder about their futures among the Cheyenne tribe. We settled on his mat and I was in front of him, leaning my head on his shoulder. I turned my head to look at him and he leaned down and crushed his lips to mine. It was magic, it felt like sparks flew and a keg of gunpowder blew up. His lips trailed from my mouth to my neck and then down to my collarbone and back up to my lips again. His torso was already bare, so the only work that needed done there was for me. His hands went from my thighs and worked their way up to my hips and further up still until my clothes were lying on the end of the mat. I fell into the easy, natural rhythm that was love and bliss.
I awoke to arms wrapped around me and sharing a caribou skin blanket with Minninnewah. I blinked the sleep out of my eyes and saw my clothes lying on the other side of the teepee and the events of last night came rushing back. I couldn’t help but smile when I remembered everything that had taken place in this very teepee just hours ago. My fingers went to my lips, remembering how his lips had crashed onto mine with such longing and fire that it made my entire body ache for him. I heard him take a deep breath and turned my head just in time to see his eyes flutter open.
“Pévevóona'o Minninnewah.” I said to him; this means good morning wild wind in Cheyenne.
“Pévevóona'o Lona.” He replied. I smiled and craned my neck up to kiss him. We eventually got up and readied for another day of work in the village. I would try to get my family accustomed to tribe life today; maybe not all the way but more than yesterday. We stepped into the early morning sun light and made our separate ways, promising to see each other later tonight. I made my way over to my family’s teepee the women had made up for them last night after I’d retired for the night. I went inside to find my cousins still asleep and Mother and Aunt Caroline making breakfast for them.
“Hello Mother, Aunt Caroline.” I said nodding to both of them.
“Hello Lacey, wonderful morning isn’t it?” Aunt Caroline said smiling. Mother wasn’t that optimistic, she just stayed silent, and not even acknowledging that I’d arrived. I waited silently for everyone to awaken and eat breakfast before I’d show the girls how to do everything they needed to know how. After everybody was finished eating, Anna, Mother, Aunt Caroline, and I went up to the pasture.
“Well, who wants to go first?” I said, smiling all the time.
“What is it that we’re doing?” Anna asked.
“You’re choosing your companion; or better yet, your companion is choosing you.” I explained the best I knew how.
“How is this done?” Aunt Caroline asked me. I grabbed her by the elbow and lead her to the center of the where the horses stood. The horses that weren’t claimed of course.
“Now, just stand here and close your eyes; think about what you’re looking for in a friend.” She did as I’d instructed and a beautiful cherry bay mare wandered up to her and nudged her hand. Her eyes flew open at the contact of her velvety muzzle to her hand.
“Now what?” She asked while smiling and stroking the bay’s forehead.
“Now you give her a name with meaning.” I stated simply. The wheels in her head were turning and you could almost hear them cranking.
“How about Harmony?” She said, the bay nudged her hand in approval and I smiled.
“Manda is how you say it in Cheyenne.” I told her so that she’d know. She led Manda away and into the pasture where Little Paint and Black Jack were grazing.
“Anna, do you wanna go next?” I asked turning towards her and Mother. She came over to where I was and did the same things that her mother had just moments ago. After only a few moments a gorgeous buckskin stud came up behind her and nudged her in the back; she stumbled forward and whirled around to face her “opponent”. She softened instantly when her eyes landed on him. She stroked his long nose and looked into his big brown eyes.
“I think I’ll call you Bear; you remind me of one in a way.” She smiled at him and looked over to me for the interpretation of the name she’d given him.
“Honiahaka.” I told her. She tried it out in her own voice a couple of time before she could successfully pronounce it. I giggled at her when she finally got it.
“Not everyone can share your fluent Cheyenne tongue Lacey.” She tried to be mad at me but ended up smiling at Honiahaka instead.
“Your turn Mother.” I said reaching out for her hand. She took it after a few seconds of debating with herself. She did just what Aunt Caroline and Anna did but it took a little longer than what it took for them. Eventually the ever famous untamable white stud came up and nipped at her clothes. She jerked away from him and tried stroking his nose only to end up being toyed with. He grabbed her hair in his muzzle and lightly jerked.
“Alright Whirlwind, stop that.” She laughed and dodged another “attack”. She looked at me for further confirmation. I nodded and thought back to my Cheyenne teachings.
“Hiamovi is his name in Cheyenne.” I explained to her. After they had settled their mounts and placed them in the correct pasture, I taught them how to gather and wash clothes Cheyenne-style.
“This is definitely different that we’re used to.” Anna said, all the time eyeing the warriors’ teepee where they were holding council. They filed out of the teepee and Anna’s smile grew at one of them in particular.
“Lona, who is that?” She asked me pointing over to them.
“That, Anna, is Kuckunniwi. He’s a very nice young warrior; and just your age.” I said winking at her. She smiled sheepishly and continued adoring him from afar. Mother and Aunt Caroline weren’t interested in the men at any point of the day. I guess I can understand that since their husbands were just murdered right in front of them a mere day ago. We went over all the basics and we were all wore out by the end of the day when the fire was lit and the sun was setting behind the horizon.
The girls were all comfortable in their group teepee, I made sure of that as I’m the one that’s been here the longest. Anna continued gawking at Kuckunniwi, which in Cheyenne means Little Wolf. Mother and Aunt Caroline continued being quite shy and secluded as was expected. All was right in the world once again.
Just when we thought nothing could go wrong, Black Jack and all the other horses came stampeding through the heart of the village. Others were screaming and running to their homes but me, I went up to Black Jack and calmed him down; we strode back to the pasture to find the rope had been cut.
“What’s happened Lona?” Minninnewah asked me with Little Paint in tow.
“The rope was cut.” I told him holding up the severed piece of twine.
“How did this happen?” Asked Anna from behind Minninnewah; Honiahaka behind her impatiently snorting and counting. She turned around and ruffled his mane right between his ears.
“I don’t know…but we’ll find out and put a stop to it.” I said adamantly. We reined the other horses in and repaired the severed rope that held the gate in place. Minninnewah nodded and lingered at the gate for a while after we had all went back to the fire. After he didn’t come back to our little gathering, I went to him only to find him still studying the surrounding area.
“There are footprints and hoof prints leading away from here.” He explained; he obviously had sensed me coming up behind him. I locked my arms around his torso and he linked his around my waist.
“We’ll figure this out, there’s no need for you to worry about it right now.” I said looking up at him.
“I know, but I’m the chief around here. I have been since Father died two summers ago; it’s my job to keep things right and keep my people calm.” He explained looking back into my eyes. After some time just standing there, we made our way back to the campfire and sat down. The tribe continued telling their stories and we continued listening as if nothing had ever happened.
“Do you wish to retire to our home?” Minninnewah whispered in my ear. I smiled and nodded; we made our way to the teepee and settled into the blankets. As was normal, I fell asleep with his warm, safe arms draped around me. But this night, he hummed something that I could only expect to be an old tribal lullaby; it was nice and had a contagious beat and rhythm to it. I hummed along with him as if I knew it by heart. I soon drifted off to another dark, sleepless night.
I awoke to the sound of pure chaos and Minninnewah’s absence. I peeked outside and everyone was running about like the chickens that I used to help Mother with so very often back in Mississippi. I saw Aunt Caroline and went to her; it seemed she was the only calm one that I could see at the moment.
“Caroline, what’s happened? Why is everyone so panicked?” I asked her only to receive a blank look. That’s when I realized that she was comatose with panic and maybe worry too. I shook her trying to release her from whatever level of panic had overtaken her. I tried to wake her up for five minutes with no avail; I just left her lay there and went to find Minninnewah. I finally found him gathering arrows for his bow.
“Minninnewah, what’s going on?” I asked him while he was working his way through the box of arrows like a tornado through a small town. He left only disorganization and chaos in his hands’ wake.
“Soldiers…they took your mother and Anna.” He explained fixing the arrows he had chosen into a carrier strapped onto his back between his shoulder blades.
“Did they take anybody else?” I asked trying to get him to face me.
“They took Chameli, Lona.” He said finally slowing down a little bit to look at me and say this.
“How could they do that? What do they see in a little girl?! Sure a woman and a teenager, but a little girl?”
“I understand you’re confusion, but Lona we have to get them back. We have to act as soon as the warriors are ready.” He explained gripping me by the arms. I nodded and looked out to the Plains where the sunrise was lighting the grass in a golden orange flame. The light hadn’t fallen on the river yet so I decided that’s where I’d start my search for my family and Chameli.
“Lona, where are you going?” Minninnewah called after me.
“I’m going to look for Mother, Anna, and Chameli!” I called back to him over my shoulder. All I could see of him was a silhouette; the sunrise rendering me blind. I waded through the river, the water coming up to my waist and flowing around me like I was a rock. It was cold enough to put me in pain; it felt as if a million tiny spears were puncturing through to my veins from my abdomen to my toes. I let out a gasp and I could feel eyes on me; I looked up to find Black Jack watching me from the side of the river I’d come from.
“Come on Black Jack!” I said as soon as I got through to the other side. He was smart enough to jump the water and not wade through it like I’d done. I put my hand on his forehead and scratched right below his ears.
“Good boy; you’re smarter than I am.” I laughed at myself. I swung myself up on him and took his mane in my fists; I led him through the taller grasses that were untamed by anything but animals that lived here. I followed a trail of hoof prints to a camp just beyond the cliffs and dismounted from Black Jack. I hunkered on the top of the cliffs and spotted Mother and Chameli. But where was Anna? If they’d done anything to her I’d rip their heads off and parade around with them on spears! I slunk down the cliff face and crept over to where Mother and Chameli were bound to a pole similar to the one that Minninnewah had tied them to when they came up on their camp a week ago.
“Lona, what are you doing here?” Mother asked worry in her eyes.
“Shhh. I’m saving your hide.” I told her using the knife that Minninnewah had crafted for me to release their binding. As soon as they were free, Mother slung Chameli onto her hip and looked at me.
“What now?” She asked as if she didn’t know what I was going to say next.
“Now, you take Chameli up the cliffs, there you’ll find Black Jack waiting. If I’m not there in five minutes ride back and get the warriors. I’m gonna try to find Anna.” I explained to her. She nodded and ran to the cliffs; they were on the top in moments. I turned and crept into the soldiers’ camp. I turned a corner and was faced with a choice of two tents to check. I whirled on my heel and went into the one to my right and found nothing but supplies like ammo and food. I’ll come back here before I leave to stock up. I told myself as I hurried out to see a soldier in a navy blue uniform dragging Anna into another tent. I could see her dress was torn, her hair mussed and tangled, and a red hand print on the side of her face. I snuck up behind the soldier, even though he had the height advantage on me, I kicked the back of his knees forcing him to the ground and used my new knife to slit his throat. Anna was free now and I ran with her to the cliffs. Just as we got to the top, Minninnewah and the warriors came into view.
“Lona are you harmed?” He asked dismounting and running to me. I heard a BANG! and felt a deep pain in my left side. I looked down and saw a bloodied hole in my dress and fell to my knees. I saw everything in slow motion; Minninnewah caught me before I could hit the ground and everybody crowded around me and watched as I bled.
“Now I am.” I laughed painfully.
“Now is not the time for your sick humor!” He said trying his best to bandage me up with a bandana he’d found in the saddlebags I’d packed for him.
“This is my….last battle.” I gasped out in pain. I saw tears rolling down his face along with everybody else.
“Né'áahtovėstse, Névé'nėheševe!” He yelled at me; he was obviously in pain and denial. This meant ‘listen to me, don’t do that’ in Cheyenne.
“Nėstaévȧhósevóomȧtse.” ‘I’ll see you again’ I told him and I knew it was true; whether it’d be years or hours, I didn’t know and neither did he. He leaned down and kissed me once more on the lips and then all went dark. I was floating in a vast space of black nothingness; I heard people talking but it was all a hum of voices and I couldn’t pin point a single one to a name. Then the voices faded away and I felt someone grab my hand and squeeze. I knew without a doubt that it was Minninnewah and that he’d been by my side since the musket ball went through me. Then I couldn’t feel or hear anything; it was just me in a sea of black nothing.