Stone Heart's Woman
Stone Heart’s Woman
Silence hammered in his ears like the rumble of gunfire that lingered in the haze of his memory. An arm, heavy with death, lay across the back of his neck, pinning his cheek against the frozen, blood-soaked earth. Stone Heart had no muscle or bone but sprawled limp, molded into the snow bank. Either he had perished under the white soldier’s vicious attack or was frozen stiff. Perhaps this was only a vision of himself alive, his spirit determined to take one final look at what horrors had been visited on the Beautiful People before journeying to the afterlife. The only way he knew he lived was the fire that burned in his side and leg.
A stench of black powder hung in the frigid air that earlier had echoed with hideous shouts of blue coats. To the west a huge silver moon poised on the horizon and slipped away, even as a wintry sun rose, nipping at ghastly thick shadows that lay across the battlefield. Everything glistened with a coat of new fallen snow. Still afraid to move, he gazed into the grotesque face of his friend White Elk, who lay still in death, arms and legs splayed awkwardly. Eyes wide and unseeing, mouth open in a silent scream; blood matted the ebony braids, a rime of ice frosted his flesh.
With a sigh, Aiden rose and went to the mirror to pin long blue feathers in her upswept hair.
“Stephan, if I could get my hands on your throat, I’d cheerfully squeeze the life out of you.” She pinched her cheeks to redden them and adjusted the bodice of the filmy blue dress. The color made her green eyes shine like turquoise.
Though she wanted nothing more than to lie down and cover her head, she raised her chin and stepped through the door onto the boardwalk. A bitter wind tore at the filmy skirts, exposed her stockinged legs and threatened to rip loose her hairdo. She fought to keep everything under control. Perhaps that’s why she failed to see the preacher’s wife until the lovely woman slammed her across the back of her shoulders with a broom.
“You’re not welcome in this town, you Godless creature,” Amelia Durbridge screamed and connected with another swing.
Racing from the street a mob of screeching followers descended upon Aiden, who threw her arms over her head in defense. Each attacker came armed with her favorite household weapon, beating her about the head and shoulders. The blows knocked her to her hands and knees, sent flashes of pain through her body. She tried crawling through the sea of swirling skirts, but the women quickly closed rank and trapped her. Some weren’t so kind as Amelia Durbridge, calling her whore and fallen woman as they pounded on her. Embarrassment almost outweighed the pain. If her own dear sainted mother could see her now, she’d die of shame.
One of the women abandoned her weapon to rip Aiden’s cloak from her shoulders, another tore the dress away to reveal her corset. A small bag filled of coins stuffed between her breasts popped out and dangled from the ribbon that secured it around her neck. Scrambling to all fours, she stuffed it back in place.
A woman. A white woman.
The robe slipped from her shoulders when she clawed the air and kicked furiously with both feet, her full weight swinging on his forearm. One pointed boot toe struck his shin, another cracked his knee painfully. Gritting his teeth against passing out, he leaned against the wall and hung on, pressed the blade of his knife hard against her mid-section.
Hissed in her ear, “Stop fighting or I’ll gut you.”