If you need to catch up with earlier parts… GO HERE
Jesse had burned thru her chores and was still mad when she pulled up to the park in Trotting. She had called Dee and changed their riding date to meet in town instead. She was early and Dee was not there yet.
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She turned on the radio in hopes of a little distraction from her thoughts when she saw Peter down the block. He led his dog off the sidewalk and into the park. Why not? she thought as she got out of the truck and headed his way.
Peter did not see her coming and looked up in surprise to hear his name. Jesse didn’t bother to mince words. She asked him straight out what he had meant, the other day, when he told her to stay away from “that guy.” Peter seemed nervous. “He is a stranger. You don’t know him.” was his answer. Jesse told Peter that was not a good reason for the warning. She pressed him even thou she knew it might make him clam up and walk away. She was right. He turned to go and Jesse grabbed his arm. “PETER!” she spoke with firmness. “There’s more. Tell me.” He tightened his hold on his dogs leash and it was obvious he was surprised by her insistence. He pulled his arm back and started away again.With agitation in his voice he threw these words back at her. “You don’t need to know some things.”
She heard Dee call her name. Peter and his dog had moved quickly across the park. Jesse went to the picnic table where Dee was and plopped down with so many mixed feelings running around in her head.
Dee had seen her with Peter, and with the look on Jesse’s face she knew she was a mess. “So what happened there?” she asked. Jesse filled her in on what Peter had said and also on this mornings meeting with her mom.
“Lets try to piece what we have together Jesse, and see if we can make any sense of it.” The two of them put events in order. First it was the gossip the last day of school were Louann and Becky said Jesse Lee was adopted or her mama had an affair. 2. Jesse had tried to pry something from ol’ Joe and felt he definitely knew something but wasn’t saying. Then Peter warning Jesse to stay away from Avon. Next was Jesse finding the photo of a woman in her Dads things. Micky warning her to avoid Avon. Becky and Louann with that – shit will hit the fan soon, and lastly… Jesse’s mother’s stern words to stay away from Avon.
“What’s going on Dee?” Jesse said after they had laid it all out. “Are these two different things, or are they connected somehow?” Dee was twisting her hair again. “I’m not sure. At first I thought the warnings about Avon were totally separate from our search to find out if you are …possibly… adopted of something else. I think we can firmly agree this is a strong possibility.” She paused. “But after what Peter just said and what Micky told me, I am beginning to wonder if the two things are not connected somehow.”
Jesse looked at her friend. “What Micky told you?… What? When?” “Last night, after the dance. I, um…. found Micky behind the barn .. he was kinda drunk.” Jesse was surprised. She had never seen Micky drink to much. But, a lot of time had passed and Micky had been living in a whole different world. I suppose tying one on was in order with his recent discharge.
“Well…….. ???” Jesse looked at Dee. ” I was walking him back up to the house…. Kind of steadying him.. you know.” she started. “So I asked him about what we saw between him and Avon.” “And?” Dee told her that Micky had not elaborated on the reason for the argument but he said Jesse should stay clear of him. “He went on about seeing you two dancing and he was worried for you. I asked him why and he said — quote — ‘could end up sad for her and her whole family.’ and that was it. He clammed up.” Dee finished.
They both sat quite for several minutes. Dee twisting her hair and Jesse deep in thought. “Do you think-” Jesse started. “That Avon might possibly know something about me? I mean about if I am adopted or whatever?” She was shaking a little. “I don’t know.” Dee replied. “Seems like a pretty long reach there. I mean he is new to the area. What could he know?” Jesse thought that over for a minute. “If he is Cheyenne then he could have family on the reservation here. He may have even grown up there. Natives know a lot of things about a lot of people Dee.” “True, I guess it’s possible.”
Jesse was feeling a bit better just for getting everything out and it seemed that some of the pieces might be coming together. Jesse took out her phone and scrolled up a photo. She showed it to Dee. “Is that the photo you found in your Dads stuff?” Dee asked. “Yes. Does she look familiar to you?” Dee took a closer look. “Kind of far off to say for sure. But she does look native.”
The girls got up and started back to their vehicles. Jesse told Dee about her riding date with Avon on Tuesday. Dee gave her a look. “Be careful. — you can’t just dismiss all these warnings….. Oh, by the way, Cheryl LittleMouse is working down at the hardware store. Might be worth it to stop by and, you know, maybe just ask her if she knows Avon because your curious.” Dee grinned. Jesse smiled as she waved goodby.
Jesse climbed in the pickup. Yes, maybe she would stop by the hardware store. She remembered Thomas saying they were short on nails.
Cheryl was standing in the Paint isle when Jesse spotted her. “Hey Cheryl, haven’t seen you for awhile. How’s that new barrel horse coming along?” “Oh hey Jesse. Oh you need to come see him sometime.” she said with excitement. Cheryl always got excited when the topic was barrel racing.
“He is doing great. I plan to run him in the Bowman rodeo next month.” “I will be there Cheryl and I bet you blow them away.” Jesse answered. “So, did you need something today?” “Yes… about five pounds of nails. The guys are working on a new section to the calving pen.”
The girls walked down the next isle and Jesse pretended she wasn’t sure what kind of nails she needed as to take a little time. They chatted a minute then Jesse asked her if she knew Avon. “Oh you mean Avonaco, works for the Star Fire. He has been in here a couple of times to pick up orders for the ranch. Wheww, makes me wish I was single again.” Cheryl grinned. “Ya know what I mean Jesse?” They both laughed and Cheryl added. “I heard you and him did some dancin’.” She grinned again. Jesse flushed a bit. “Yes.. we had a few dances. Just curious about him is all.”
She decided on the nails and Cheryl started boxing them up. “Well, Jesse, I don’t know a lot. His Grandmother raised him for a time when he was younger. I heard he went back to his Mother until he finished high school and then off to the Army. But he showed back up a couple months ago. Stayed with his Grandmother for a couple of weeks, until he got the job at Star Fire. They bunk them out there ya know.”
Jesse was thankful it was quiet in the store while Cheryl checked her out. “On the ranch charge?” “Yes.” Jesse answered. “Does his Grandmother live on your reservation?” she pressed. “Oh yes. One of the best people I know. An elder with a lot of knowledge about the old ways.” She handed Jesse the receipt and continued. “She lives a couple houses down from my Auntie Nino. You know.. my Auntie and your Dad used to be one hot item back in the day.” Cheryl tossed her long hair back and laughed. “She tells me stories.” she winked at Jesse.
Jesse was taken aback….. but pretended she was well aware. “Oh yes of course.” she smiled. “I don’t know much about it thou, you will have to fill me in sometime…. I better get going. Don’t want the guys slacking on the job waiting on these nails.” “Good to see you Jesse. Maybe I will haul over one of these days and we can go for a ride.” Cheryl answered. “Sounds like a plan.” Jesse waved as she went out the door.
Jesse’s mind was whirling as she drove home. Finally, maybe, a piece of the puzzle. Could the photo Jesse found be Cheryl’s Aunt? She had –so — wanted to pull her phone out and show the picture, but Cheryl would have thought it odd Jesse carrying around that old photo on her phone. Especially if it was her Aunt.
And… she had learned a bit more about Avon, which was obviously short for Avonaco. Maybe more would be revealed on Tuesday during their ride. She had a lot of mixed feelings about it. She had enjoyed their time at the barn dance and he seemed a perfect gentleman. Yet the warnings hung in the back of her mind even thou it was not clear what she was being warned about.
It was pretty quiet around the dinner table that evening. She helped clear the table, but there wasn’t any conversation between her and her mother. When she was done, Dad waved her to follow him into the office.
“I have to go into Bowman tomorrow morning for physical therapy so here are my notes for the weekend….. Things look good from your work on Friday.” Jesse knew that was as close to a compliment as she was going to hear from him so she happily accepted it. “How is the hand doing?” she asked. “Coming along good I think. They want me to come for therapy three times a week but I think two is enough. It wastes the whole day going clear into Bowman.” he answered. Jesse nodded.
She knew that he and her mother had a discussion about her and Avon but she didn’t feel any friction from him. She was thankful. “I will be going up to check the cows on Tuesday.” she reminded him. “Be sure to check the upper gate and take your rifle. If you run into any trouble you come back and get Thomas.” “I will.” she answered. He left his notes on the desk and they were done.
As soon as she got up to her room she gave Dee a call to fill her in on the conversation with Cheryl LittleMouse. “I don’t know if Cheryl’s Aunt figures in or not.” Dee started. “I mean, people date. “Your right Dee. Could be nothing at all and I am not going to find out from Dad. I think I will show it to Cheryl next time I see her. It’s the only way to clear it up.”
Next morning Jesse was in the office. Everyone had left and the house was quiet. It only took her a few minutes to enter Dads notes and she began looking thru the drawers in the big desk. She felt a bit guilty about rummaging thru her fathers desk. At the same time. Maybe they should feel guilty about keeping things from her.
The small center drawer was just pens, paper clips and the like. Nothing of interest in the top drawers. The two big bottom drawers both had locks. The first one was not locked and she pulled it open. She paged thru a few files. Nothing. The next one she pulled out had more important papers. Deed to the ranch, bank notes and……… their marriage certificate. Jesse looked that over. Wait a minute! That couldn’t be right! According to the date they were married, Jesse would have been born 3 months before they got married.
Jesse snapped a picture of the certificate and put things back. A few moments later she was on the porch staring at it. Questions swirled thru her head. Did they have her before they got married? No. That was not possible. But how then? None of it made any sense.
At this point the suspicions were gone and Jesse firmly believed she was NOT a child from both of her parents. If she had other parents, or even one other parent somewhere, she had to know.
She felt like her head would explode with one more unanswered question. She pushed them out of her mind for now and turned to thoughts of her ride with Avon tomorrow.
What did Peter mean by “You don’t need to know some things?” What did Micky mean by ” it could end up sad for her and her whole family?” Was Cheryl’s Aunt the lady in the photo? Why was Jesse born months before her folks got married??
Leave your guess in the comments…….