By Claudia Ricci
Every morning, he made his way onto the porch while she was still asleep and while it was still dark and the moon was but a silver curl of a sliver within the dark pines. He would creep quietly into the porch and remain there until she woke up. He had shown her every kindness, every form of polite and respectful behavior, and he gave her every reason to believe that he was kind and considerate. Still, she had her doubts. She still had not really begun to trust him.
She slept each night, buried deep in the blankets on the porch, her arms squeezing what would have been a pillow if it had been more than a second small blanket stuffed with straw and tied, just like the mattress was, with twine.
She never saw him come in. She would fall asleep watching the starlight, and wake up to the creaking of the rocking chair across the porch, the chair he had chiseled and shaped out of fir and aspen and blood red manzanita. He said nothing at all, but the chair began squeaking and it mixed with the sounds of the throaty birds coming to life in the marshy area behind the woodland.
The early morning air was cool and fresh and misty and when it moved across her face it tempted her awake. But then she heard his rocking and squeaking and immediately she resented the fact that he was there in the porch rocking in the chair. Why did he insist on intruding this way on her morning routine? It had been a week that she’d been there, and she had not worked up the courage to tell him that it had to stop.
It wouldn’t be easy to tell him. He did everything imaginable to please her, including placing a glass of red poppies at her breakfast table each morning. He refused to let her cook a thing. He made her pancakes or scrambled eggs for breakfast. He fixed hot soups for lunch, and he skewered a rabbit or a chicken for dinner.
He had offered to hide her indefinitely in his woodland cabin. How he would possibly manage to keep her there, when the authorities were looking for her everywhere, she wasn’t sure, but he had ideas. “We could shave off the rest of your hair and dress you up as a farmhand,” he said at one point. She frowned at the thought, and said in a quiet voice that it suited her to remain a woman.
“Well then, maybe we could move you out of here.” He offered that he would risk taking her by wagon to San Francisco, “where you could catch a train east all the way to New York.”
Renata’s stomach tightened at the thought of leaving her beloved golden hills, her blue California skies. And running from the authorities? That squeezed her stomach even worse.
“How would I elude them? You yourself said they have my photo pasted in every building that stands.”
“And so, maybe you would have to become part of my baggage, maybe I could cover you up with a blanket and claim you as a chair.” There were other silly ideas, but all of them were evidence that he seriously cared to try to help her.
Meanwhile, her own thoughts focused on how she could move on from the woodland cabin on her own power. With each hour she remained at the cabin, she knew she put herself in ever more danger of being found.
Sister Mysteries is an on-line novel that can be found at http://www.renata1883.blogspot.com.