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Dance In My Heart
Two hours later, Candice sat in her car. She’d taken four rolls of pictures and spoken to several residents. She’d seen the effects of alcoholism in the swollen features of several elders, she’d learned about child abuse from a young man in a wheel chair who’d been crippled by his own mother.
She also learned about love and patience from a young mother who despite the strikes against her, studied to become a nurse. She had seen kindness is the faces of three young girls who picked wildflowers while she photographed them and then crossed the field to give their collection to her. She’d seen hope in the faces of these people. Not laziness, and certainly not anything different than she would see in the faces of any other group of financially challenged people.
She loaded a new roll of film in her Nikon and focused out the driver’s side window.
A knot of boys grouped together beside the sagging front porch of one of the rare site-built homes on the reservation. The clapboard house cried for a new roof, warped plywood covered one missing window and only a few boards retained their original white paint where the wind, sun and rain had stripped the pristine color away. Two of the boys straddled rusted bicycles, three leaned against the dilapidated porch and another four sat on the withering grass in the yard.
Jeremy Littlefeather wasn’t among them, nor were the other two boys she’d seen with him. She could only hope none of these boys were especially friendly with Hawk.
If she weren’t careful, she’d lose herself in the lies. Pain ripped her soul as she realized it didn’t matter if she did. She’d be lucky to look at herself in the mirror in a week.
She aimed her camera on the children and snapped several shots. Zooming in on their faces, each in turn, she photographed the whole scene. A girl stepped out of the front door with a toddler in front of her and an infant in her arms.
Candice snapped several shots of the girl, and her heart wrenched. She didn’t look much older than sixteen. She gasped as the girl’s eyes fell directly into the lens.
All of the boys noticed her then as well. Shame and fear crept over gooseflesh as three of them rose and walked her way.
“Hey you! What are you doing?” They called to her.
She took a breath, steadied her nerves and got out of the car. She could do this. She’d interviewed Saddam Hussein, for crying out loud. She could handle a few little boys.
“I’m just taking some photos, if that’s okay?” She offered what she hoped was a friendly, open smile.
The boys appeared suspicious. She couldn’t blame them, even as she kept that fake, misleading smile on her face. She was going to hell for this. No doubt about it. She’d sold her soul to the devil for her job, and when she wrote the article, she would cash the check.
“National Pulse Magazine.”
“What’s it about?”
“Well. It’s about a lot of things. My editor wants to know what it’s really like here. Are you happy? Are you discouraged? And maybe bring a little attention to any problems you have.”
“What for? Nobody gives a shit about us. Especially white people.” The boy in the middle raised an eyebrow in her direction. Handsome, he appeared older than the others by a year or two.
“Lonnie, what’s she want?” The girl from the porch yelled as she tried to calm her infant, who’d begun to scream and squirm.
“She’s a reporter,” the same boy called back to her. “Wait a sec.”
“Is that your family?”
He nodded sheepishly, as if he were embarrassed. “I’m Lonnie Cross, and that’s my girlfriend, Beth. The boy there is Kenny, he’s not mine. The baby is Elisabeth. She’s three months old.”
“You have a very nice family, Lonnie,” she said. “You should be very proud.”
“Proud? Lady, we used to be proud. A hundred years ago, maybe a little more, this was our land. We didn’t use it with the blessing of the government and a few lousy hunks of cheese or spoiled beef. It was ours. You people came and took it, like you had the right or something. So do me a favor, and don’t talk to me about pride.”
The pain in Lonnie’s eyes reached out to her. Hawk had his job cut out for him if he expected to change the attitudes of his people any time soon, if this boy’s outburst, and the nodding assent of his friends, were any indication.
She didn’t know what to say. She certainly hadn’t run his forefather’s off their land. She hadn’t been born yet. Hell, her grandparents hadn’t been born yet.
“I’m sorry that happened, Lonnie. Really, I am. But shouldn’t you try to make the best of things now?”
He snorted. “How? Get a job in town, where more often than not some asshole throws stuff at me? No thanks. Me and mine, we’ll stay right here.”
“Lonnie,” Beth crossed the yard and then the narrow street to where they stood beside Candice’s car. “Just leave it alone. You don’t have to talk to her if you don’t want. I want to take a nap. Will you take the babies inside please?”
Lonnie took the baby from her arms and she watched his face light up. Bitter he may be, but he loved his child dearly. Would time and the challenges he faced erase the shimmering love from his eyes? Candice offered a quick, silent prayer they wouldn’t.
Once Lonnie and his friends crossed the street, Candice focused her attention on the young girl in front of her. Pretty, with straight black hair to her waist, she crossed her arms over her chest.
“You have to excuse him,” she began. “He’s been out of work for about a year now.”
“How old are you?” Candice asked the question before she’d even known it formed in her mind.
Candice smiled. “I’m happy for you. Congratulations.”
She should get in her car and leave. These were nice people and didn’t deserve to be the subject of some bullshit article about how sad and poor they are.
“See, we almost lost Elisabeth. I was only a few weeks along and when I had to go to the hospital, Lonnie left his job to meet me there. His boss called him a worthless ‘injun’ and fired him that night. He’s been afraid to find a new job ever since.”
“How do you live? Do you work?”
“No. Lonnie won’t let me get a job. He says since I didn’t finish school, the only thing I could do is waitress and he doesn’t want some dirty white man grabbing at me.”
“So, how do you live?” she repeated.
“We get our government money and stuff,” Beth shrugged. “Welfare, AFDC. Food stamps.”
This is what Mark had hoped for. If a leading national news publication printed an article about the Native American community living off the federal dolls, the media frenzy would begin in earnest. Renewed debates on both sides of the issue would eventually sink the Native American population further into the annexes of history as lazy and worthless.
And Candice would be right there in the front, waving the battle banners.
“I have to go back, now.” Beth’s voice sounded tired, but not angry. She sighed, “Listen. I’ve seen your kind before. I know why you’re here and what you’re doing. Please don’t use our names. Or the pictures, if you can help it. We have enough trouble with the townies thinking bad things about us, without adding something like this.”
“I’ll do my best, Beth.”
Swallowing tears, Candice got back in her car and pointed it toward Hawk’s house.
How could she face him? How could she spend a ‘quiet evening’ with the man she loved, pretending she didn’t twist a knife in his back? She couldn’t do it.
After holding back her tears for most of the day, she finally relented. The tears poured over her cheeks, leaving heated chills in their wake.
She turned the car around and headed toward the highway.
~* * *~
Hawk extinguished the tapered candle with his thumb and index finger, ignoring the singe of pain in the tips. He sunk back into the dining room chair and glanced at the clock.
He’d called the hotel three times in the last three hours. The desk clerk hadn’t seen Candice since the morning. Candice either allowed her cell-phone battery to die, or she wasn’t picking up.
“Hey, bro. What’s going on,” Jake said, flipping on the chandelier with the wall switch. “Why are you sitting here in the dark?”
“No reason,” Hawk sighed.
A week ago, he’d been perfectly happy with his life. The kids on the res respected him, listened to him. Counted on him. He’d managed to completely erase all of that with one hot-headed, stupid act. His personal life lived happily in the background. He danced. It was all he needed.
He sure didn’t feel like dancing now.
Without Candice, he had no reason to dance. He had no reason to wake up tomorrow.
“Where is she, Mike?”
“Did she come by today?”
“I really don’t want to talk about it,” Hawk snapped, immediately feeling guilty for that as well. “I’m going to bed.”
Once in his room, he laid down on the bed and stared at the ceiling. Her scent surrounded him, left on the sheets from the night before.
He reached for the phone beside his bed and dialed her cell number.
“Where are you, Candy? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Hawk,” her sad voice replied. “I...”
Hawk listened to her sigh. His teeth ached where they clenched tightly.
“I’m sorry, Hawk. I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”
“You want to tell me why?” Why did his chest hurt? Why couldn’t he breathe?
“We’re just different, Hawk. We live in different worlds, not just different states. It would have been better if we’d just left it alone after the weekend, you know?”
“Yeah, you’re right,” he lied. “No problem. Hey, I’ll post my own money for the bail tomorrow. You won’t have to worry about your credit card that way. Nice knowing you. Take care of yourself.”
He hung up the phone.
He leaned back on his pillow and pulled the opposite pillow, her pillow, over his face.
It smelled of her.
Whatever part of his heart still beat in the hollow cavity of his chest, beat only for Candice Lincoln.
~* * *~
©2006 Romance at Heart Magazine.
Book ©2003 by Margorie Jones.Return to Page Top