Fort CF. Smith looked like a stronghold, but to Lone Arrow it represented a havcn. At last he would be able to dismiss the girl.
He paused at the top of a butte, waited for her to come up beside him, and caught her hand. He was aware of the exact moment when she came to stand beside him, and looking out from their hilltop, he pointed out the fort.
"I’kce, look" he said to her in his own language. "We will be there before the sun finds its way into the sky this day."
He glanced down at her, his look catching her in the act of smiling up at him. And that was when it happened.
His stomach dropped. She was so pretty, so innocent, so sweet. And he wanted to kiss her.
Yet, he could not do it. She was too young.
In the distance, he heard the white man's music -- its refrains being sent up to them on the wind.
She leaned in toward him, and she said, "Dance with me.”
But he did not understand her words. He turned awayfrom her, only to have her race after him, stop him and pull him around toward her.
She touched him, and shock filled his system; she had put her arms around his shoulders. She was even now carrying his arms to her, placing them around her waist.
He thought he might have moaned. Did she understand what she was doing?
She could not, he answered his own question. She was not old enough to understand. But he was. He was sixteen, a man in many ways.
He knew that he should move away from her, do something to stop this. Still, he could not take his gaze from her, and he moved his body as she dictated.
They danced; his step fitting hers as if the two of them might have rehearsed these configurations a hundred times.
For a moment, he wanted nothing more in this world than to kiss her, and the desire to do so was desperate.
Remembering who he was and who she was, he would have turned away. He should have. But she reached up to him, there to place a sweet kiss on his cheek.
It was a little too sweet for him. And Lone Arrow became lost in it. He wanted to turn his head that little distance, to meet her man to woman.
He could not do it. Alas, he had to get away from her.
Shrugging off her hold on him, he pointed her in the direction of the fort, and gave her a small push toward it.
He was pleased to note that she took a step away from him, but she turned back to him, confusion in her demeanor.
‘Dale ‘ek! Go!” He said, using gestures and signs. He watched as the hurt came over her features; watched as she so obviously misunderstood.
Again, he signaled her to go away.
And at last she did as he demanded. But not until she had swung around and rushed to him, throwing herself into his arms. And when her body came into contact with his, he lost a little bit of himself to her.
Immediately, embarrassment swamped him. She was too young.
Wrenching her arms from around his neck, he accidentally pulled off the silver locket she had given him. It was broken. He had broken it.
He almost cried aloud. It was as though the locket mirrored what must take place between them.
Forcing himself to let the chain drop into his hand, he offered the locket back to her. And then he did what he had to do.
He pushed her away from him and without further communication, turned his back on her. There was nothing else he could do; not and be true to his honor.
In the end, he watched her all the way to the fort, only himself leaving its vicinity when someone from the stockade rushed out to escort her.
And when the gate to the fort closed, Lone Arrow felt as though a part of his life had been shut out from him, as well...
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