Forgotten Trails(5)

By: Bonnie R. Paulson



After a few moments to gather herself, Rachiah nodded softly. She refused to acknowledge the questioning glances of the group of men and the studying gaze of Marla. “Thank you, thank you very much.”

Was he really that close? Had she really just reached the end of her journey? She’d thought so much about where she was going next and how she would get to the next clue, she’d never really thought about what to say when she accomplished her goal of finding him.

Could it be him? Was he only a few blocks down? Was she so close to meeting her dad?

What did she tell him? “Daddy, I'm here”?

Rachiah came from Ratchet. It was too much of a coincidence not to be true.

He had a Christian name, yet he continued carrying Ratchet around. That was the one solid lead she’d had since she started. Stick with the name, Mima had said. Stick with his name.

Ratchet.

Rachiah came from Ratchet.





Chapter 2


Damon

Damon pushed the end button on the phone.

He banged the small device against his forehead, grunting. “The least you can do, Rachiah, is answer my calls.” Or at least return them. He didn't know how to do the texting thing yet.

It wasn't his phone anyway. He and Ryland shared it among other things. At the moment, though, Ryland didn't need it. He was sleeping.

Damon didn't mean to make late-night calls, but he couldn't get a hold of Rachiah during the day. Not when he was out riding ranches.

He and Ryland would be finishing up a job as it was. They had to be out the next day. Work was hard to find with the entirety of the Montana Trails, as the family liked to call themselves. With everyone’s different demands in their personal lives, work was hard to nail down.

Nate didn’t want to leave Emma’s side since her cancer returned. The whole thing was messed up. Ryland and Damon both adored Emma. If she died, they would feel the loss as hard as everyone else. She was a special woman and it wasn’t easy to see Nate had found a good one.

Ryland emerged from the bathroom. He rubbed his eyes and yawned. Glancing at Damon’s hand gripping the phone, he nodded. “You’re still chasing Rachiah? Isn't that taking your need for forgiveness a little far?”

Ryland didn't understand.

What Damon needed forgiveness for went a lot deeper than name-calling. “It's not Rachiah. I don't need redemption from her.” His mutterings reached Ryland enough to where Ryland came after him, lunging sharply across the driveway to the possible rental Sherri had lined up for them on the reservation.

Damon didn’t flinch as his younger brother clapped his hands on Damon’s shoulders. His rough voice was low and filled with pain. “Stop. Melissa Metcalf was not your fault. I don't know what happened to her. Her family didn’t move because of you. Mom always said they went back to the reservation. It wasn't your fault. You weren't old enough to cause real lasting harm.”

How many times had Damon heard this from Ryland?

Damon wasn't stupid. No way could he make an entire family move just because of some actions of an eight-year-old boy.

But then he'd been nine, and ten, and eleven, and twelve.

He hadn't stopped teasing Melissa or redirecting the bullying he was setting onto her until her and her family moved away when they were fifteen.

He glanced down as he tucked the cell phone in his pocket. He still didn't have the guts to tell Ryland about the time when she had shown up with a brand-new hair cut at school.

Her long black hair had swept her waist. She'd been glowing. So excited to have a new hair cut with layers and bangs.

Her family was about as poor as Ryland's. New dresses and new clothes were not something that they got, let alone a professional hairstyle, which hers obviously was.

He tore her self-esteem, made comments, joked about her hair. He even threw in comments about her clothes. Other kids joined in, because that's what kids do. They join in, they're cruel.

Damon blinked back guilty tears stinging his eyes.

He'd never forget the look of shame on her face. By the end of the day, her happiness had wilted. She had started to twist her hair around her finger, dampening the strands with nervous perspiration and leaving her hair stringy and unkempt looking.

Everyone focused on her. And not on Damon's too tight of jeans with too short of cuffs. No one focused on his unmatching socks. At least not for the short amount of time that they would look toward her and the audacity she had to try to be anything than what she was.

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