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Messenger: An Excerpt from Bella Diana

This is an excerpt from my blog fiction, Bella Diana. It's also linked at Sunday Scribblings which is a great place to drop in and read new writers.

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"There's nothing to see."

"Better go guide her in anyway. She's tired."

Galileo looked again. "I'm telling you, there's no one there."

Coyote sighed in exasperation. "Give me the horse, and I'll go."

"Get your own horse. You know where it is."

"By the time I do that, she'll be here."

Will asked to borrow the binoculars. He couldn't see anyone either, but said, "Why don't you at least check?"

Galileo took the binoculars and hung them around his neck. "Fine. I'll ride as far as the arroyo.” He looked Will in the eye. "But if anything happens to this track before I return, I'm holding you responsible."

"Why him?" Coyote asked. "I'm the one that's crazy."

"That's exactly why." He turned his horse and urged her into a trot.

Once he was out of earshot, Will asked, "Is she really coming? Is she okay?"

"She can't be too bad off if she rode all that way in just over two hours."

Will scanned the horizon but still saw nothing. Far down the line, Galileo raised his binoculars, then kicked his horse into a canter.

Coyote nodded in satisfaction. "That'll teach him not to believe me." He called to Tiffany and Ikea, who were stringing the last of the fuse lines. "We can finish that later!"

The girls came running and Will was grateful for their presence, since their excitement kept him from acting out the state of his own nerves.

Coyote stood on his toes, straining to see what was happening up the line and grumbling about how he should've made Galileo leave them the binoculars. Finally the speck of Galileo's horse stopped getting smaller and began growing larger again. Soon it was clear there were two horses.

"Are you sure it's Diana?" Ikea asked.

"If it is, she's not on one of our horses," Tiffany said.

"She'll explain everything," Coyote assured them.

Will couldn't wait. As soon as they were close enough that he could see it really was Diana, he took off at a run.

"That won't do any good," Coyote muttered, but chased after him anyway.

Galileo pulled both horses up short, the unknown stallion lathered and breathing hard. Will pulled Diana off the horse and she sagged into his arms.

For a moment, Will didn't know what to say, but Ikea and Tiffany had no such difficulty.

"What happened?"

"Are you okay?"

"Where are the others?"

"Where'd you get the horse?"

Coyote added his voice to theirs. "Are we supposed to blow up the train?"

Diana pulled away from Will, struggling to find her legs after so long in the saddle. "Destroy the rails. The train too, if we can get it."

Coyote was jubilant. "We've been getting ready since this morning."

Diana frowned in confusion. "There'll probably be weapons on it, and maybe soldiers. Mercenaries from Mexico." She looked around. "Can I have some water?"

Will started. He had been so overwhelmed to have Diana safe that he had forgotten she would be in need of food, water and rest. He put an arm around her and led her to where Ikea and Tiffany had stored a jug of water and some snacks in the tall gramma grass. She sat down and he gave her cup after cup of water while she watched the renewed work on the track. "Coyote knew, didn't he?"

Will nodded and pressed a piece of tortilla into her hand.

"I guess I hurried for nothing."

"We weren't going to finish the job until we knew for sure." He wet a rag and tried to wipe the dust off her face. "I'm glad you're safe."

"I'm glad to be alive." She started to lift the tortilla to her mouth, but then threw it away.

"What's the matter?"

She held out her hands, but Will couldn't see what the problem was. They had eaten with dirty hands before.

"It's blood."

Will poured water over her hands and scrubbed them with the rag. "Are you hurt?" He examined her hands but saw no evidence of injury. "What happened back there?"

"Too many things."

"Okay. You don't have to tell me now."

She lay down and rested her head in his lap. Will caressed her tangled hair and ran a hand across her shoulder for the sheer pleasure of being able to touch her again. Then he drew back his hand in alarm. There was a gash in her blouse, and beneath it, an ugly cut, deep and oozing, its edges bruised purple. Frowning, he inspected as much of her shirt as he could from this angle, finding two more slashes, crusted with dried blood, and a hole that could have only come from a bullet. "Why didn't you tell me you were injured?"

Diana sat up. "I am?"

"You didn't know?" Will jumped to his feet. "We're going to camp. Can you walk? I can get a horse for you."

"I'm okay." Diana waited, swaying slightly, while Will spoke to Coyote. And then he was back, his arm around her waist, guiding her up the path. She stumbled on the rocky incline while Will assured her it was "Just a little farther, right up ahead," until finally the ground leveled and he picked her up and carried her the rest of the way.

He laid her on his bedroll inside the empty foundation that he and Coyote were using as barracks.

"Stay here. I'm going to get some water and a few other things."

Diana mumbled something incoherent and lapsed into a state of semi-consciousness populated by disturbing images. After what seemed a long time, she became aware of Will's calming presence. She felt him cut away her shirt, but didn't open her eyes. In her confused state, it seemed she could communicate without the need of speech, so while he bathed her wounds, she silently speculated about each one's origins. She was almost convinced Will could hear her thoughts as he cleaned the cuts and painted them with ointment, so she was confused when he told her to sit up so he could bandage her, and asked, "What happened?

“Everything happened.”

Will tied the ends of the bandage and sat back to examine his work. "It's not too tight, is it?"

Diana moved a little, but didn't have the energy to check the full range of motion. "It'll be all right."

"Don't lie down yet." Will reached behind him and produced a bowl and spoon. "Eat this. You didn’t lose much blood. I think you're mostly just hungry. Did you have breakfast today?"

Diana looked inside the bowl. It contained a mixture of torn tortillas, dried fruit, piñones and honey. She scooped some of the sticky mass onto the spoon and brought it to her lips, but was surprised to find her hands were shaking. "I had breakfast, but I threw it up on the road."

Will took the bowl and fed her as if she were a child. "What else did you do today besides ride?"

"Stood guard."

"Doesn't sound strenuous. You must've done something besides ride two hours to get yourself in this state."

Diana stopped chewing and let him hand her a cup of water. She held it in both hands to keep it steady as she drank. "We were betrayed." The words tumbled out— the bullets, the bomb, the fire, the crush and the killing at the exit, and finally the riders who had chased after her, shooting.

When she fell silent, Will asked the question she had been dreading. "Is Mother okay?"

"I don't know." She bowed her head in shame. "I tried to go to her, but one of Patton's lieutenants stopped me. She said I had to get out and come here right away."

Will’s voice was grim. "Militarily, it was the right thing to do."

"Then why does it feel like the biggest mistake of my life?" She buried her face in her hands and was startled to realize her face was wet. When had she begun crying?

Will eased her onto the pallet and lay down beside her. "Rest. When you wake up, you'll know what you did was right and you'll feel better." He kissed her bruised shoulder. "Promise me you'll always look out for yourself. I couldn’t stand to lose you."

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Want more? The entire novel is free and available at Bella Diana

4 comments:

oldegg said...

This is beautifully written. Every detail is clear and the emotions are transparent. A really good read.

April 4, 2011 at 5:21 AM
jaerose said...

'Everything happened'..this line sang out..you have such a clear and authoritative voice..your language is crisp and sparing and yet there is a great richness in the world and charcters you have created..a fine story that stands on it's own feet perfectly..Jae

April 4, 2011 at 6:51 AM
Alice Audrey said...

It'll only be right for her if she can regain Mother later on.

April 4, 2011 at 3:04 PM
Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Lots going on here. I'm going to go read the whole thing now.

April 5, 2011 at 9:17 AM