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Copyright © March 2004: R. A. Hughes
April 14, 1874
Elena woke up at dawn the next morning. She tried not to make too much noise, for the fear of waking up Elizabeth. Pulling on her boots, she looked over at the angelic face. Elizabeth is such an innocent girl in the middle of a dangerous situation, and she doesn't even know why. Neither do I, Elena thought. Opening the stable door, she stepped out into the morning sunlight.
San Antonio, Texas- Town Jail
"My daughter is out there, Bill. She's with those bandits!" James Clark shouted.
Sheriff William Grant sat on the corner of his desk. "I've got two of my best deputies scouting the area. All we can do now is wait," Bill advised.
"I can't just sit here and wait," James said impatiently. James stopped his pacing, sat down in a chair next to the desk.
Bill stood up, and then sat down in his own desk chair. Pulling out the top drawer, he took a bottle of whiskey from inside. He poured himself a shot glass of the liquor. "Would you like a drink?" Bill asked.
"I don't drink alcohol," James acknowledged.
Bill shrugged his shoulders. "Pardon me for saying, but right now would be a good time to start," said Bill.
Elizabeth was still asleep when Elena came back into the stable. She swung open the first horse stall, affectionately patting the Palomino's flanks.
"Good morning, Sunshine. How are you?" Elena asked. Sunshine neighed her answer. Elizabeth moaned, stirring in her sleep, "Sounds like you woke up someone."
Elena quietly walked into the room. The blanket completely covered Elizabeth's head. Elena crouched beside her, shaking her shoulder gently. "Wake up, sleepyhead," Elena said.
Elizabeth turned over, pulling the blanket tighter around her. "Go 'way," she croaked.
Elena tugged on the blanket. "Come on. It's going to be a beautiful day. Besides, you wouldn't want to miss breakfast, now would you?" Elena bribed.
A small hand pulled down the blanket. Elizabeth looked up at Elena. "All right. I'll wake up," Elizabeth said. Elizabeth stretched as she stood up.
Elena poured a pitcher of water into a water basin. "You can wash your face and hands in here. There are some clothes over there. I'm sorry they're not the type of clothes you're used to wearing," Elena looked at Elizabeth with unease.
Elizabeth knew Elena was right, from judging the clothes she wore the previous day. "It's all right. I don't mind. Even though the clothes will be too long for me," Elizabeth said sheepishly, and they both chuckled.
"I'll meet you in the cabin," Elena walked away.
Pedro was setting the table when Elena walked inside the cabin. She patted him on the back.
"How's Elizabeth?" Tom asked with concern.
"She's all right," she answered.
"Has Carlos told you his plans?" he inquired.
"No," she shook her head, "He's too smart for that."
"Maybe you should ask him," suggested Frank.
"That wouldn't be a good idea. I just wish I knew why it involves Elizabeth," Elena said.
At that moment, Elizabeth walked in. She was definitely a sight. The pants were rolled up to her ankles. Bare, pale white feet stuck out from the ends of them. Sleeves rolled up to her elbows. Tied tightly around her waist was a leather-beaded belt.
"Well, the lady has legs after all," Tom teased.
"Be nice, Tom," Elena chided.
"Good morning, Elizabeth. Sit down," Tom pulled up a chair for her.
Elizabeth sat down, and everyone else gathered around the table. Carlos was the only one absent. They began their friendly chatter, passing the food to each other. A shadow loomed in the open doorway, and the chattering stopped.
Carlos walked to the table, grabbing a couple biscuits. "I finished plowing the field. I am crossing the border to get some supplies. I expect that field to be seeded when I get back, Elena," Carlos warned.
"Yes, Carlos," Elena hung her head.
Elizabeth did not understand why Elena was being treated this way, but it was not her business to ask. She placed her small hand over Elena's large one. Elena gave her a little smile. Everyone was still quiet for a few moments, and then started talking somberly. After they finished eating their breakfast, they prepared for the day's work. Tom, Frank, Matt, and Pedro left on their horses to herd the cattle to the creek.
Elena went inside the stable. Taking the seed bag off the hook, she draped it over her left shoulder. It hanged droopily on her right hip. She picked up a stick that was leaning against the wall. "Would you like to go to the field with me?" Elena asked Elizabeth, who nodded.
Together they walked toward the plowed field. Elizabeth enjoyed feeling the cool earth beneath her bare feet. They finally made it to the field. It was a large desolate area. The field was too large for one person to cultivate by themselves. The rows turned, creating a long U formation. Elena poked the stick into one corner of the row, dropping three corn kernels into the hole. She lightly tapped the dirt, covering the hole. She completed one row then started another. Elena's movements were like clockwork.
Elizabeth was fascinated and wanted to try. "May I help?" she asked.
"Sure," Elena gave Elizabeth a handful of corn kernels.
Elena made imprints with the stick; Elizabeth dropped the kernels into the ground. By early afternoon, the sun was beating down on them. They were working on the last row. Using her shirtsleeve, Elena wiped the sweat from her brow. "Well, by harvest time the corn will be taller than me," Elena said with pride.
"That's a lot of corn," said Elizabeth.
Elena laughed. "A lot of money, too."
"Do you sell the corn?"
"We sell half across the border. The Mexicans have big families, and they use a lot of corn. Pedro's family still lives in Mexico," Elena explained, "Would you like to see the garden?"
"Okay," Elizabeth said.
There was a garden behind the cabin. Elena pointed to the different areas of vegetables. Among them were carrots, potatoes, pumpkins, and tomatoes. "There's plenty of game on the prairie, and we bring back fish from the creek," Elena said.
"It's not a very easy life, is it?"
"No. It's not the life you're used to," Elena looked down.
Elizabeth lifted Elena's chin with her finger.
"It's okay. I will make it just fine," Elizabeth said.
"You're not supposed to be here. I really hate Carlos for this," Elena said, seething.
"I must be honest with you, Elena, I was scared. I had to stay calm to keep from getting hurt. I was confused when I saw you, and relieved. I don't know you, yet I trust you. You make me feel safe," she confessed.
Elizabeth wrapped her arms around Elena's waist. The contact took Elena by surprise. Slowly she returned the hug, resting her cheek against the top of Elizabeth's head.
"You're my friend now, Elena," Elizabeth whispered.
"I'm your friend too," Elena smiled. Taking comfort from the embrace, she reluctantly stepped away, "Let's get out of the sun."
"Okay," said Elizabeth, taking Elena's hand, walking with her towards the cabin.
San Antonio- Town Jail
Bill Grant had his feet propped up on the desk, hands behind his head. The hours that passed by were overwhelming.
James was getting restless. He jumped up when the deputies stopped their horses in front of the jail. He looked at them questionably.
"I'm sorry, sir," the first deputy said.
James sat down in despair, placing his head in his hands.
"We went as far as Old Man Johnson's place. He said he hasn't seen a thing," the second deputy informed.
"You tried, boys," Bill said.
"They took off in different directions. They had to have met somewhere," James reasoned.
Bill placed his hand on the former mayor's shoulder. "Tomorrow is another day, and we're not giving up. We will find her, James," he encouraged.
"If it's the last thing we do," James promised.
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