My father used to say that at the end of it all, we were all dead. I took that as a token of wisdom; a blessin’ to live my own life and chase my own dreams. Now that I think on it more, I reckon he was hopin’ I would just drop down and die at his feet, so he wouldn’t have to deal with me no more. The hot sun beat down on my face; I could feel my skin turnin’ to canyon as I lay there, the burn creepin’ across my fair cheeks. I wrinkled my nose at the sensation and reveled in the heat radiatin’ up from the dirt under my back, and then the pain came. I coughed and heaved, blood chokin’ my tongue, and I sat up in the orange of the desert. The gash on my side bled through my waistcoat. My hand passed over it and my eyes drooped down. The ground was so warm, and I was so terribly tired.

Somethin’ nibbled at the nape of my neck, and I turned my head to the side into Daisy’s nose, her long muzzle pushin’ my sweaty hair into my eyes. “I know, girl, I know,” I mumbled, my legs quakin’ as I stood. I stumbled hard, steadied myself with her saddle, and brushed some dirt from sticky, nearly-dried blood on my pants. My dark hair absorbed heat from the sun and I patted my head. Where the hell was my goddamned hat? It lay in the sand near some brush just off the trail, and I bent to pick it up, the gashes coverin’ my body cryin’ out in protest. I instinctively reeled, nearly fallin’ to the dirt again, but Daisy trotted to me and I held her for support. “All right, Daisy. Stay steady, now. Let’s see if I can do this.”

I shoved my dirty, red boot into the stirrup, and heaved myself up onto her back. All of the blood rushed from my head and black and stars danced in front of my eyes. I held my head to keep myself from reelin’, and I clicked my heels against Daisy’s flank. It was just an hour and a half to Cimarron. I could make it. Daisy’s hooves clopped against the New Mexican dirt at a canter, and I held onto the horn as tightly as I could. I was still bleedin’. I could feel it. I must’ve fallen off Daisy sometime in the mornin’. The noontime sun was dippin’ into the afternoon and a storm looked to be rollin’ in, dark clouds kissin’ the horizon. Potential flash flood territory. I couldn’t bring Daisy to a gallop. My sides couldn’t handle it. I’d make good time. I just had to keep my head on straight… I just had to…

I turned over in the warmth of fresh sheets and pushed my cheek into a soft pillow. Takin’ a deep breath in, I let out a contented sigh and snuggled into the down. Nothin’ better than a warm bed. But then faces broke the placidity of my mind’s eye, and angry eyes looked into mine in the dead of the night. Stabbing pain shot through my shoulder and I struggled. Again and again the knife came down, and the last thing I saw in his eyes was hate. I hit him so hard he blacked out. I gasped and sat bolt upright in the bed, clutchin’ my side, to meet soft hands.


(click me)