“Ariana, get the plates,” Ariana’s mother said harshly while moving about the kitchen.
Ariana looked at her little brother who was barely a year old, clinging to his mother as he rode on her hip. She wondered what it was like to be so young, and so loved. She remembered a time when she had thought her mother loved her. It was long ago when they had lived alone, without Gerald.
She walked over to the counter and dutifully brought the dishes for their evening meal.
“What is taking so long? Dinner is never done on time. Ariana, have you been helping your mother?”
Gerald started with his yelling as soon as he walked in the door. Ariana dreaded the moment he came home from working in the fields.
He was always harsh and unfeeling, not towards his other children, but towards her because she wasn’t his real daughter. She knew that it was different for her.
“I-” Before Ariana could finish her sentence, Gerald interrupted. He turned to her mother with a sour look on his face.
“I hate to see you doing all the work; you should make her help out more. She’s another mouth to feed and needs to be pulling her own weight around here.”
Her mother just nodded in agreement instead of defending Ariana. This stung, deep down in the center of her soul.
She knew that she should know better. Her mother had seemingly turned against her since they had begun living with Gerald. And yet every single time that her mother defended Gerald, took his side or didn’t defend Ariana, it hurt worse than anything.
But Ariana wouldn’t let Gerald or her mother see her pain. She kept it inside until she was alone, and then at night she would curl up in bed and cry her heart out until she didn’t have any tears left.
She followed the rest of her mother’s instructions silently until everything was on the table for dinner.
Once it was all set and there was nothing more to do, they sat down, holding hands to say grace.
Ariana ducked her head, and closed her eyes.
‘Dear heavenly-” her stepfather began. His voice was cut off by the sound of banging and the smell of smoke.
Even though Ariana was usually punished for doing so, she looked up from the prayer and she saw the same fear and uncertainty in both her mother and Gerald’s faces as the fear she felt in her heart.
“Stay seated,” Gerald said in a low, cautious voice. Ariana watched him rush over to the window. Just as he reached it, a large rock came crashing through the glass and rolled across the floor.
The smell of smoke tickled Ariana’s throat, making tears well up in her eyes.
“Indians,” Gerald said, a look of both terror and disbelief on his face. “Everyone, get outside and run for the woods. Hide wherever you can as quickly as you can.”
“Mama?” Ariana tugged at her mother’s skirt.
She had never seen her mother look so frightened. She had pulled a blanket from the bed and had wrapped it around Ariana’s little brother.
“Ariana, go outside like your father said. Hide yourself! No matter what you hear or see, make sure you stay hidden! Do you understand me?” Her mother’s eyes were wide and wild. Ariana didn’t even care that her mother had referred to Gerald as her father this time.
She nodded and reached out, squeezing her mother’s hand one more time. She wondered if she would ever see her mother again.
She hurried toward the door, slipping through it and racing around the house. She had thought to go to the barn, but it was already engulfed in flames. The animals were rushing from it with the same panic and fear in their eyes as she knew was probably on her own.
Her eyes locked onto the last building that hadn’t been touched. It was the smokehouse. It was a little further from the cabin, almost on the edge of the woods. She took a deep breath and ran across the open space between her and the smokehouse, hoping that she would make it without the Indians spotting her.
When she got there, her lungs burned from the effort and her heart was pounding harder than it ever had before. She peeked around the corner of the smokehouse and saw her mother, running across in the other direction, with her little brother and her sister at her side.
In all of Ariana’s eleven years of life, she had heard about how terrible the Indians were. She had heard people in town talk about them and how they burned people’s ranches and did terrible things. She had heard that they scalped anyone they caught and kept the hair as a prize. She had never thought it would happen to her own family.
She tried to be quiet, not to make a sound as the chaos ensued around her. She took small short breaths, her eyes darting between the Indians that she could see through the smoke and shadows. She was going to stay hidden. They wouldn’t find her.
Two Indians began to approach the side of the barn where Gerald was hidden. Ariana wanted to cry out, to warn him that they were about to be on top of him, but her throat felt as if it had closed.
She couldn’t bring herself to give up her own hiding spot when she knew that warning him would do no good at all.
The Indians approached her father and dragged him off around the barn. Ariana’s heart beat hard in her chest. She leaned her head up against the smokehouse, waiting to see what would happen next. After what seemed like forever, it started to quieten down.
Ariana started to think that they were gone. An eerie silence had settled over everything. There was just the sound of horses neighing and cows questioning why they were in the middle of the yard after dark.
When Ariana thought that the danger had passed, large, rough hands grabbed her by the shoulders and lifted her off of the ground. Ariana tried to turn around, she tried to loosen herself from the man’s iron grip, but she couldn’t do anything. She kicked and screamed, hoping that her efforts would allow her to slip away and run. If she could run, she was certain she would get far away before anyone could catch her.
Her mother had always said she was good at running.
The Indian said something to her in his language that she could not understand. It sounded harsh and angry. All Ariana was aware of was the Indian carrying her across the field. The way he handled her it was as if she were a doll, not a bother to carry at all, not even heavy to him. He hoisted her up over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, and she pounded her small fists against his muscled back ineffectively.
They arrived on the outskirts of their ranch, and the Indian set her up on a horse. Ariana was able to get a good look at his face. He was older than she expected, and even had some grey hairs running through his braid.
He said something to the other Indians gathered there, and to Ariana’s horror they all mounted their horses and the next thing she knew she was riding with the Indians over the prairie, away from her home, her mother, and the safety that she had known and enjoyed.
At first, Ariana tried to stay awake, peering into the darkness, trying to memorize everything she could about their path for the eventuality when she would escape. She filled her head with fantasies, imagining how she would free herself of the Indians and make it back to her family’s farm to rejoin her family.
The thought of her family made tears well up in her eyes and her throat feel itchy. Were they all right?
Where had they taken Gerald? What about her mother and her little siblings? Maybe she felt anger towards them more often than not, but then again, that didn’t mean that she wanted something terrible to happen to them.
What about Tom? Oh, Tom! He would be so worried about her. She remembered the last time she had seen him. They had gone down by the river to look for tadpoles together. He had told her that when she was old enough he would take her far away from here, far away from Gerald, and would keep her safe forever as his wife.
She could only imagine what her best friend would feel when he found out she had been taken. She wondered if he would look for her. He was fourteen, three years older than her. Surely, he could figure out where the Indians had taken her and save her.
The thought of Tom rescuing her caused her to calm down a bit. Maybe everything wasn’t lost. Maybe soon, she would be back with her family and with the boy who she depended on.
This couldn’t be her new life, it just couldn’t be.
Ten Years Later
Little Bird knelt down beside the fire, wiping away the sweat that the close proximity of the flames caused her. She didn’t mind the heat. She had gotten used to it a long time ago and it was just a part of cooking.
She used the wooden spoon to dish up a bit of the soup that was now boiling. The smell of savory meat and vegetables tickled her nose. In the dim light of their living quarters, it made her feel safe. It reminded her of the many times that her Indian mother had made her this stew when she wasn’t feeling well.
She turned and made her way across the room. It was a small room, with enough space for her entire family to live in. But there wasn’t a family living here anymore. Both of her sisters had already been married and her Indian father had died a year ago.
She kneeled down beside the figure on the buffalo skins, trying her best to fight back the tears in her eyes.
“Mother, you should eat,” she said softly in her Indian mother’s native tongue.
The words rolled off of her tongue, as if she were a native Indian herself. If she could change the way she looked, the color of her eyes and skin, no one would know the difference.
Her mother pushed her hand away gently. “I need to talk to you, Little Bird.”
“What about?” Little Bird shifted nervously.
“About what will happen to you after I die.”
“Don’t talk like that,” Little Bird reprimanded.
“Do you remember when you first came here?” Her mother’s eyes glazed over, full of memory.
Little Bird nodded; she remembered every single moment of her first weeks with the Indians. Back when she had been known as Ariana.
Her lips twitched as she remembered the name. It had been a while since she had thought of it, and remembered what it had been like to be the scared little white girl among the Indians.
“Sweet little white girl, I remember the look in your eyes when your father brought you into our home that first night.”
Little Bird nodded. “I was so frightened! I don’t know what I thought you were going to do to me. I had heard many stories of the terrible things you would do.”
Her mother chuckled softly. “You had nothing to fear. I saw you as my daughter from the moment I laid eyes on you. I wish that things could have gone more smoothly those first months.”
Little Bird smiled, “You are now as much a mother to me if not more than the one who gave birth to me.” A fuzzy image of Little Bird’s white mother flashed into her mind.
She could no longer remember what her first mother looked like; just her long yellow hair and her pale skin. She had so many memories of her first family, yet the exact way they looked had faded over the years and most of the memories were tinged with sadness.
“Thank you, Little Bird. I want you to know how much…” her mother paused, struggling for breath, “how much we truly have loved you all of these years.”
Little Bird nodded, fighting her tears. “I know, Mother, and I love you too.” She spoke in the Indian tongue. It rolled from her mouth as well as, if not better than, English did. She remembered the time when she couldn’t speak or understand a single word of it. How ten years had changed her so much!
Her mother looked up at her as if she wanted to say something else, but instead, her eyes fluttered and she reached up a wrinkled hand to Little Bird’s cheek. A moment later her hand fell and her last breath sighed from her.
Little Bird knew that her mother had passed on. She was no longer here with her, but she would see her again someday – or she certainly hoped she would.
She stayed there, sitting by her mother’s bedside, tears streaming down her cheeks for a long while before she slowly rose and went to find her sisters. Their second parent had passed away. She was alone in this world now; or at least in her Indian tribe, she was alone.
As she walked down the little path between the huts which were their homes, Little Bird let her mind wander. She remembered the time when she had first arrived to live with this Indian tribe. Her mind had been full of escape plans and she had even attempted some.
She realized that if she wanted to leave now, no one would stop her. She was all grown up. She could make a decision for herself. It wasn’t that she wanted to leave, but what did she have left here? Her father had died raiding another village a year ago, and her mother was now gone too.
When she reached her older Indian sister’s home, she wiped the remaining tears from her cheeks and stepped inside. Her sister’s face fell as soon as Little Bird opened her mouth. Her sisters had known this day would come for a long time.
Kimaya opened her arms wide and Little Bird fell into them, letting her sister’s strong arms hold her as she cried. They had lost their mother. It didn’t matter that their skin was the opposite color or that they weren’t really sisters by flesh and blood.
She knew that Kimaya didn’t look at her differently because of where she had spent the first eleven years of her life. That was what she loved about her. She knew that both of her sisters saw her no differently than any other family saw their siblings.
She pulled back and looked Kimaya in the eyes.
“Did she pass on peacefully?” Kimaya asked. Her sister glanced down to where her young child was tugging on her skirt. She scooped the little one up, settling him on her hip.
“Yes, I was there with her. She was happy. She talked about when I came to live with you. I can’t believe she is gone already.”
“It’s all right, Little Bird. It was her time. You know we each have our time to live and then to die. The Great Spirit will care for her now. Come, we must tell the others so we can prepare a burial for her.”
Little Bird nodded. She felt numb and in pain all at the same time. But her sister had always been good at keeping a logical head, even in the face of pain or pressure.
She nodded and followed her sister out of the house. As she did so, she felt the gaze of some of the men on her.
There was a reason that even at the age of twenty-one, Little Bird hadn’t found a husband. There had been a few offers made to her father and then her mother, but her parents had turned them down. Little Bird couldn’t have been more grateful.
Everyone in the Indian tribe had accepted her as a child. She had been like something special that they cherished, something new, something different.
But as she became an adult, the others saw her resemblance to the white men who had caused them so much harm. Even though everyone knew that she had never done anything to harm them, they still associated her with the people who were always causing them trouble.
At first glance, she could almost pass for an Indian. The sun had made her tanned, but she was still lighter-skinned than any Indian. Her hair was black and long and her eyes brown, but only caramel-colored and not the inky, dark eyes of a true Indian.
As Kimaya and Little Bird passed, Little Bird heard the whispers and the men’s comments. She had become aware that every man in her tribe saw her as one of two things – a trophy or an enemy – and she didn’t like to be either.
She had made herself okay with the situation for her mother’s sake for a long time, but now that her mother was gone, she felt as if she was even more of an outsider than before.
“Are you all right?” Kimaya asked.
“Yes. Just thinking.”
Her sister wrapped her arm around her shoulders. “Don’t let it bother you. They don’t know what they are talking about. There has just been a lot of trouble with the white men lately and they just want to blame someone.”
Little Bird nodded, “I know, but… it hurts all the same.”
Kimaya nodded. Little Bird knew that her sister understood. She wasn’t the only one of her family who had suffered from her presence in the tribe. As violence from the white men increased, so did animosity from their Indian brethren.
“What if I left, Kimaya?” Little Bird asked. She wasn’t sure why she was saying this aloud. She wasn’t sure how her sister would react.
“What do you mean?” Surprisingly, Kimaya did not look at all shocked by her words.
“I have just been thinking about what Mother said before she passed away. She mentioned when I was brought here. Have you ever thought that maybe it is time I go back to the white men?”
Kimaya shook her head. “I wouldn’t stop you, Little Bird. But do you know what kind of people the white men are?”
Little Bird nodded, shameful heat spreading across her cheeks. “I know, I have heard the tales.”
“They are true, every single last one of them. If you are not one of them, they will never accept you and they may be cruel to you.”
“Who am I, Kimaya? The Indians do not want me because I remind them of the white men, but you say the white man would not want me because I am an Indian, so who am I?
Kimaya’s eyebrows knit together, a look of both pity and confusion on her face. “Never mind that for now.
We need to tend to mother and then we will talk about all of this. We still have time, dear sister. We have time.”
Little Bird nodded, but she couldn’t remove the question from her mind. It had been a question that had plagued her since she had come to live with Kimaya, Iela, and her Indian parents.
She remembered her first night with the Indians. Her captor had set her down on the buffalo rug in front of the fire, making a grunting noise to his wife. Her Indian mother had knelt down with a smile and pointed to her, uttering some Indian words that Little Bird hadn’t understood.
“Name, you,” the man who had brought her there had said, pointing at her chest.
Little Bird had shaken her head vehemently, fighting tears. “Ariana, my name is Ariana.”
“No, no more, Ariana. Little Bird now,” her Indian father had said and that was how she had started her life as Little Bird.
She knew that her name had been given to her out of love and affection, for being the youngest in her family. She knew few others that had such simple names. Little Bird had even asked her mother for a new name, but her mother had said that names were given carefully and were honor and that she should be happy with the name Little Bird.
As the years had passed, the Ariana from before the raid had slipped into the past, along with the scared little girl who had hidden behind the smokehouse. Little Bird had stopped trying to escape and allowed herself to love her Indian family who showed her nothing but love and care.
She pushed away the guilt for enjoying her captivity, for wanting it to continue. The only person she regretted leaving behind was her best friend. The boy she should have married. She often wondered if she would see him again.
Little Bird shook her head. She was letting herself get distracted again. Kimaya was right. For now, they needed to focus on their mother and her burial, and then Kimaya and Iela would tell her what to do and where she was supposed to go.
Or at least that was how Little Bird hoped it would work, because if it didn’t, she didn’t know what she was going to do.
“Returning For Her Happy Ending” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Ever since young Kalani was captured by an Indian tribe, ten years ago, during a raid, she has not reunited with her family. However, when tragedy strikes once again and she is to suffer the passing of her Indian mother, something calls her back to her original roots. Upon her arrival in town, though, she feels confused and isolated, and she has to deal with everyone’s biased behavior. In an unexpected twist of fate, she bumps into her young love, Michael, who hires her as a cook without having the slightest suspicion about who she really is. Will she find the strength to reveal the truth about her origins to Michael? Will she be able to adapt to her new lifestyle and convince everyone to find common ground with the Indians?
Michael Peterson has always thought of himself as a lone wolf since the loss of his beloved one. Βeing convinced that his loved one’s death is Indians’ fault, he has vowed to seek revenge ever since. The moment his eyes meet Kalani’s, though, he feels an electric connection between them and gets overcome by the memories of a long lost love. She is an intriguing, mysterious girl who he can’t quite figure out, especially when he notices how she is willing to give Indians the benefit of the doubt. Will he figure out her real identity? Can he get past his own prejudice to finally reach happiness?
Although fate meant for them to find each other again, secrets from the past come back to haunt and tie them together in ways they had never imagined. Will Michael and Kalani be able to get past their differences and reignite the fire of their lost love? Will they be able to face the townspeople that are not ready to let their old ways die and embrace the new?
“Returning For Her Happy Ending” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.