Henry Long Feather leaned against a tree and studied the white woman. She taught the children from the Bar FB three days a week and often brought them out of the little shack Fairbanks had built for a school. This was a rare thing for a white teacher to do, but she—Laurie Wilcox—was different from most whites Long Feather knew.
She was older, like him. Perhaps fifty summers or so, but youth still lived in her smooth skin and ready smile. Everything about her was light and delicate and fascinating to him. From her long, golden braid that gleamed even when there was no sun, to her slight nose, to her haunting eyes—the icy blue of a stream in winter. But they warmed him, like now.
She raised her gaze over the heads of her students and beamed at him. “Mr. Long Feather. Come to join us for a lesson?”
A dozen little cowboy hats and twin braids all swung round to him, showing young faces bright with curiosity. Shoving his hands into his pants pockets, he pushed off the tree and strode over to them more than happy to forget the event with the bull. “Not today, Mrs. Wilcox. I have come for Joseph.” He tapped the top of a brown hat and the freckled-face boy of eight beneath it grimaced up at him. “Yes, you. Your father has need of you in the blacksmith barn. He asked me to send you over.”
“Aw,” the boy moaned, kicking at a dirt clod.
“That’s perfect timing. We just finished our lesson.” Mrs. Wilcox snapped her Bible shut. “You go on, Joseph. Don’t keep your father waiting. The rest of you,” she surveyed the ring of a dozen or so students, “Spelling test tomorrow. Make sure you study.”
The children gave her their own collective groan and drifted away, a few darting for trouble at various places on the ranch. When they were gone, their teacher rocked on her heels and smiled up at Long Feather, an awkward kind of sign that he couldn’t read. But there was much he did not understand about Mrs. Wilcox.
“What kept you busy today, Mr. Long Feather?”
He shrugged, not quite prepared to share all the details of his day. “The boys brought in a couple of Indian ponies Fairbanks wants me to train to the saddle. They are willing. It will not be much work.” Unlike this new task of training Joel Chapman. “And you, Mrs. Wilcox? What does a teacher do with herself when the students have gone?”
“Please, call me Miss Laurie. Everyone does.” He nodded, acquiescing to her request and she continued. “I have my own homework—some papers to grade.” She bit her bottom lip and tilted her head in a way that made him want to brush his hand down her cheek. “Could I see them? The Indian ponies.”
“Surely.” The answer slipped out before he’d had a chance to think about it. A missionary, Miss Laurie was liked on the ranch, but the hands kept their distance, as if her religion might be catching. Long Feather harbored no such fear. Instead, he wondered what they would say about her strolling with an Indian if she wasn’t preaching at him.
She scrunched her forehead at him. “You don’t want to show me?”
Her perceptiveness caught him off guard. “No, it is not that. You are a white woman.”
“Yes, I was born with the affliction.”
Her joke took a moment to light on his brain, but when it did, he offered her a reserved chuckle. “You don’t understand—”
“I understand perfectly, Mr. Long Feather. And as a child of God, I love all people. I can’t help what others think about that. I don’t let their prejudices dictate with whom I stroll.”
He pushed a hand over his mouth, sighed, and gestured back toward the way he’d come. “After you.”
Hmmm. What trouble awaits this relationship? I hope you’ll read and find out. Get your copy today!
by Heather Frey
To Love and to Honor—Why a story about an amputee?
Last year I stumbled across a newspaper article about photographer Michael Stokes. He was snapping sexy pics of veterans who had lost limbs in combat. I was stunned both by the soldiers’ mind-blowing good looks, and the extent of their injuries.
The thought haunted me how these devastatingly handsome, rugged men were dealing with the scars, the prosthetics, the missing limbs. I thought also of evangelist Dave Roever. Horribly disfigured in Vietnam, he’d watched as a fellow soldier’s wife had taken one look at her gravely burned husband and walked out of the room. Fortunately, Dave’s wife had the opposite reaction and the two are still married to this day.
But based on the junk you see coming out of Hollywood, one would believe our culture values physical perfection far above inner beauty. It seems the shallow masses give a pass to monstrous inner ugliness if the package comes wrapped in a big bust or washboard abs.
I feel for the wounded vets in a society like this and wanted to write something for them—a story that clearly focuses on the real measure of a man—his heart and soul, not his number of fingers or toes.
I hope you enjoy it and all the other stories in the special collection It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas! ON SALE NOW or read for FREE in Kindle Unlimited! I’ve included an excerpt at the bottom!
If you are so inclined, you can read an article on Michael Stokes photography here— http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3165402/Photographer-captures-amputee-war-veterans-posing-naked-proudly-revealing-injuries-powerful-picture-series.html, but WARNING: adult content. Privates are covered… BARELY!
An excerpt from To Love and to Honor–
Someone knocked at the door. “Señor, Señora” a voice called. “We have the water for a bath.”
Joel’s bath. “Yes, come in.”
Four ranch hands, one right after the other, trailed into the room, each with a steaming bucket of water. In short order, the portable copper tub was full and they excused themselves.
Joel stared at the bath with a tight expression, as if he was afraid of it.
Slowly, Angela rose and crossed the room to stand in front of him. He looked up with an expression of surprise that quickly transformed to desire. Hope flickered in his deep, blue eyes. She knelt in front of him and gently laid a hand on his knee. “You need a bath.” She swallowed, and fought to control her breathing. “I’ll help you.”
His eyes widened. “You—you can’t.”
She reached for his boot heel and started tugging. “I’m the only one who can.” The boot came free and she reached for the other.
Joel clutched her hand. “No.”
She didn’t meet his gaze, but she could feel it, like a gentle touch on her cheek.
“I mean, I don’t want you to see…”
Was he afraid his wound, his missing limb, would be too grotesque for her? She couldn’t imagine anything about this man being repulsive. She gave him a slow, reassuring smile. “I don’t mind.”
She pushed his pant leg up above his knee and realized his boot had been sewn on to the prosthetic. She didn’t know what to do.
“It’s cinched around my thigh.” Joel’s voice sounded strained.