10 Pages in 10 Days – Waltz in the Wilderness – Day 4

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Chapter 1 – page 6

She’d sold off everything else they owned, piece-by-piece, animal after animal, as the months turned into a year and all the gold those blowhard trappers and hornswoggling newspapers promised Pa had failed to appear. They hadn’t even found enough to keep their bellies full and their bodies clothed.

     She secured the flap and picked at her clinging clothes. Oh, for another set to change into. At least the tent blocked the breeze. She gathered the hem of her shirt and wrung it. Water streamed, trailing a muddy path across the dirt floor until it disappeared beneath the canvas wall.

     She was wringing the hem of her trousers when Morgan returned, still apologizing. Pa gave him a brusque thanks mixed with a warning that it not happen again before sending him back to his camp.

     Morgan’s hurried footsteps faded away as the crunch of dirt beneath boots grew louder. Pa’s quiet voice drifted through the flap. “You decent?”

     She crossed her arms over her chest and tucked her chin. How could she have been so careless? “Yes, Pa.” The words came out just louder than a whisper.

     He lifted the flap and crawled inside like a three-legged dog, balancing a plate of beans in his right hand. “Here.” He plunked it on the ground before her.

     Her stomach rumbled, but she just stared at the plate. “You need to eat too, Pa. You haven’t eaten all day.” Had he eaten yesterday? She didn’t think so.

     When they’d first left Oregon for the gold fields, Pa’s excitement gave her hope that he was healing, but the months of hard labor for little reward had worn him down. His enduring drive to succeed used to be comforting. Then, it grew to an obsession. If Pa sent her away because of what had happened with Morgan, who would remind Pa to eat?

     His silence grew long and she lifted her head. He stared at her—no, saw her—in a way he hadn’t seen her in months.

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