Forgotten Trails(9)

By: Bonnie R. Paulson

Her loneliness from last night still echoed in her mind. Why would she want to go home? She didn't have anybody. Plus, Emma wasn’t anyone to her.

That wasn't true.

She didn't know Emma as well as the other girls did. But if Cyan and Sherri were hurting, then Rachiah was hurting, too.

Her fingers closed around a dime which she pulled out and sat up.

The few times she had met Emma, she had been utterly charmed. Emma’s sweetness and kindness were only eclipsed by her generosity.

All the things Rachiah needed in her life. Emma’s sickness reared its ugly head and based on previous bouts, she was most likely dying. Too much loss for the Montana Trail cousins. Definitely more than Rachiah could bear. She didn't want to hear anything else negative.

She needed something positive. Something to help her get out of her funk. More than a dime, more than a warm bed.

She leaned her head back on her seat and struggled to keep her emotions in check.

The dime wouldn’t help her. Desperation tingled down in her toes and tightened around her chest.

With how low her funds were, she needed to get a job or go home. Or starve to death.

The time had come to face reality.

Would she feasibly ever find him? What were her realistic chances? Was it worth her life?

With the rare clues she got close enough to imagine what she would say and then... nothing. She was dropped off the cliff of hope into that vast well of loss.

No chance at finding him.

The last lead delivered her a blond man who denied knowing him or having seen him.

What was she supposed to do? Keep going? Keep searching? Continue torturing herself with the constant rodeo ride of hope and despair? Just the thought of enduring the failure anymore sent a sharp burn through her chest. She couldn’t imagine going through that again, let alone over and over for another year or more.

On the other hand, she could quit. Go home and get on with her life. Eat food – home cooked meals like her mom’s and accept the fact that she wasn’t wanted by her father. The dull ache of not being wanted couldn’t be as bad as the horrible discouraging hopelessness she was subjecting herself to.

But giving up wasn’t something she did.

She couldn't give up. Not after everything she’d gone through. She'd been all over Wyoming, Southern Montana, and Idaho. Had sacrificed so much time with her family and friends.

She was so close. At least closer. She felt like the answers she was looking for were right there, just beyond her grasp.

She couldn't leave. Not yet.

North Fork wasn't exactly the size of town with jobs hanging off of trees waiting to be picked. The men in the diner seemed like a pretty knowledgeable set. If nothing else, maybe they could help her find a position doing something.

She didn't care what. She wasn't a princess. She would clean toilets if she had to. She needed money so she could eat.

Anything as long as she didn't have to stop searching. North Fork was as good a stop as any to stockpile some money.

She picked up her tattered backpack and sighed. She’d already been through the pockets, but once more wouldn’t hurt anything. Maybe a few nickels or something hid at the bottom.

Rummaging past the worn notebook and stocking hat, she brushed the edge of some crumpled paper at the very bottom. She closed her fingers around the mass and pulled it from the canvas case.

A wrinkled dollar bill sat amidst a torn list and paperclips. She stared at the green slip of paper as if it were an anomaly.

The simple dollar represented more than the fifty dollars she had on the bank card she only allowed for gas money.

Rachiah had nothing else. Fifty dollars might be enough for her to eke out enough gas to get home. At least to get home close enough MT could come get her.

The dollar. She needed to eat, even if it was just a piece of bread.

Not wasting any time, she all but sprinted to the diner. Inside, Rachiah waited at the counter, tapping her foot excitedly. She didn't want to stare at the group of men. Even though she would have to go down there and talk to them eventually.

First, maybe she could get some toast. A dollar wouldn’t buy much, but it had to buy something.

The last time Rachiah had been in, she hadn't noticed how extremely pregnant the waitress was. Behind the high counter, her mass was easier to hide, and yet Rachiah still felt bad that she’d missed that.

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