Read Rainsinger Online

Authors: Barbara Samuel,Ruth Wind

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Fiction, #Fiction / Contemporary Women, #FICTION / Romance / Contemporary, #FICTION / Romance / General

Rainsinger (9 page)

BOOK: Rainsinger
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Daniel chuckled. “That wouldn’t surprise me. I’ve never seen anyone who knows movies the way she does.”

“I know. She loved movies even as a little girl. All of them, any of them. She used to want to be an actress, but that seems lost now. Have you heard her sing?”

He shook his head.

“She has a beautiful voice. Clear and deep, not like anything you’ve heard.”

“Maybe I can trick her into letting me hear it.”

Winona grinned, relieved that the conversation seemed to have reestablished their friendly, but platonic, relationship. “If she’d do it for anyone, she’d do it for you. In case you haven’t noticed, she has a bit of a crush.”

Daniel lowered his head, as if embarrassed. “I noticed. We’re a lot alike, your sister and I. Does it bother you?”

Winona took a breath. “In a way it’s been healing for her. But in a way I wonder what will happen after the summer—one of us will be the clear owner by then.”

He nodded. “Sometimes you need somebody for a while,” he said slowly, and looked at Winona.

In his milk-chocolate eyes, she saw a hint of past tragedy.

“Sometimes you need somebody to lean on, and then you’re strong again,” he added.

Intuitively she asked, “Do people lean on you, Daniel?”

No emotion moved in his face, but in his hands, the furry head of the grass stalk was shredded to bits. “Sometimes they do. I don’t mind it.”

“Don’t you?”

He gazed at her levelly. “Not from Joleen. If she needs to lean, I’m here.”

Winona smiled. “Thank you.”

For one minute, she saw something flare in his face—a heat that rippled in his eyes; a finger of desire tiptoed over her face, lit briefly on her mouth, then swept over her form. Winona felt a soft answer rise in her body. She wondered if she might be able to come at this thing between them without preconceived notions, the way she did other new experiences. Maybe she could learn something.

But he looked away, putting the straw back in his mouth to chew. “What about animals?” he said.

Bewildered, Winona frowned. “What?”

“Maybe some rabbits. Has she ever taken care of animals like that?”

“Joleen? I don’t think so.” She considered the idea and nodded. “That might just work.”

“I have to go to town this afternoon to put the program I’ve been working on in the mail. Maybe you two could come along and we could see about getting some rabbits, and the material to build a hutch.”

“Let’s ask her.” Winona stood up. “Does that mean you finished your big project?”

He wiped his face. “Well, round one, anyway.”

“Congratulations.”

“Thanks.” He grinned up at her, and Winona felt a swoop in her tummy over the way his eyes tilted up at the corners. That simple, charming smile did it again, totally mowed down all her defenses. For one tiny, indulgent moment under the peach trees, Winona longed for a different self, a different life, so she might be the kind of woman who could indulge a simple, uncomplicated sexual relationship.

But she wasn’t, and maybe it was better that way. “I’ll go fetch Joleen so we can get cleaned up.”

He nodded. He moved a little, as if he were going to speak.

She waited.

Still he hesitated, then said suddenly, “Winona, I’m sorry about the other night.”

Coming so unexpectedly, the simple words unnerved her. It was impossible to look at him, to think of it, without blushing again. “No big deal,” she said with a nonchalant shrug she hoped appeared natural. Lifting a hand to the branch over her head, she changed the subject. “How long has it been since it rained?”

He didn’t answer. Winona gazed at him, and found a tight expression on his mouth, his eyes steady on her face.

“It’s been a long time,” he said.

And for some reason the low, resonant sound of his voice made her shiver.

“A long time.”

Winona didn’t know how to respond. “I’ll go get Joleen,” she said.

* * *

 

They drove to town in his truck. It was the only sensible choice, considering the other vehicle was her Volkswagen Bug. Winona couldn’t see Daniel folding to fit inside it very well, and there would be no room left for supplies. Joleen sat in the middle, hat firmly pulled over her hair. Winona had forced her to put on clean clothes, but the uniform didn’t vary—loose jeans and a baggy Hard Rock Café T-shirt Winona had sent her on one of her trips.

The one concession the girl had made to her sex was to don a pair of earrings. Actually, three pairs, one for each of the holes in her lobes—knife, fork and spoon. It was something.

Just as they reached the edge of Yellow Mesa, the small reservation border town that barely rated mention on most maps, Daniel said, “I have some friends coming in from the reservation later this week.”

“Oh?”

“They’re going to take some weavings and jewelry up to some stores we set up in Colorado.”

Winona nodded, bewildered at his reasons for telling her this.

“They—well—” he downshifted and turned into a parking lot “—they’d like to leave their daughter with me for a few days. We’re good friends, Giselle and I, and I don’t get to see her very much.”

Joleen asked, “Is that the girl on the wall?”

“Yeah.” He glanced at Winona. “Do you mind?”

“Thank heaven—someone to hang out with!” Joleen breathed.

“I don’t mind,” Winona said. “Technically we’re the invaders. It’s your house.”

His gaze sharpened. “Is that how you feel?”

He pursed his lips. “Giselle is a good kid. She’s younger, but she and Joleen ought to have some things in common.” He looked at Joleen. “She usually sleeps downstairs, where you are. Will you mind sharing?”

“Heck no! It’ll be like having a little sister or something. When will she be here?”

“Maybe Wednesday. Maybe Thursday.”

“That’s fine,” Winona said. “I’ll think of something to cook that can be held over.”

“I’ll give you money for groceries,” Daniel said. “I know you’re strapped, and you’re doing all the cooking. It’s only fair.” He chuckled. “They’ll be amazed to have real food in my house.”

Winona felt a gathering cloud of embarrassment. “That isn’t necessary,” she said stiffly. “We can take care of ourselves.”

“No need for false pride, Winona,” he said calmly, shifting gears again. “It won’t hurt you to take the money.”

Against her will, Winona imagined the thinning bills in her purse. Joleen received Social Security from the death of their parents, and Winona had saved a decent amount, but most of that had gone to pay the taxes. If she wanted to make it through the summer, she’d have to be careful. She wondered how much rabbits cost. Reluctantly she nodded. “Thank you.”

They stopped by the post office first, and Daniel mailed his package. When he came out, he was whistling.

As he got back in the truck, Winona said, “That’s a change of attitude. You must be glad to be done with that project.”

He smiled. “I love the work I do, but there’s always a lot of pressure toward the end of something big like that. Every glitch seems like a major disaster, and it seems it’ll never get done. It’s a big accomplishment to mail something off.”

“I know how that feels,” Joleen said. “I used to like it when it was finally time for a performance. We’d spend all these weeks getting ready, and having rehearsals and doing all the scenes and stuff, then
finally
it was time.”

“What kind of performances were you in?” Daniel asked, puffing out of the parking lot.

His voice was casual and he didn’t show too much interest, for which Winona was grateful.

“All kinds of things,” Joleen said. “I started when I was seven in community theater, and I had a part in almost every play they had after that. We even did Shakespeare.”

“Oh, yeah? What part did you play?”

“Puck. I even got my picture in the newspaper for that one.”

“You must be pretty good.”

With the abrupt retreat that so marked her fragility these days, Joleen seemed to remember she shouldn’t be happy. She slumped in the seat and pulled her baseball cap lower on her forehead. “I don’t do it anymore.”

“Too bad,” Daniel said without missing a beat. “I tend to think the Creator gives us things to do for a reason.”

Joleen said nothing. Only the jiggling of her knee gave away her agitation. Winona bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from saying anything.

Over Joleen’s head, Daniel shot Winona a measuring glance. He paused at a traffic light, still not speaking.

When the light turned, he pulled smoothly forward. “You know,” he said quietly, “when I was a boy, I made things all the time. Engines, and clocks, and mechanical devices to let the feed go into the sheep’s pen. I lived out on the reservation, and just used whatever I could find—pieces of fence, old light bulbs from car license plates, boards I came upon in the desert—whatever.”

Winona found herself listening without looking at him, afraid some movement or word from her would make him halt this rare moment of revelation.

“One of my teachers drove all the way out to my house to talk to my mom about those things I made. He wanted me to go to college in the East, where I could learn how to really make things, important things, things that would make me rich.”

Joleen lifted her head.

Daniel turned and drove up a narrow, paved road. In the distance was a house with a barn around back. “Indian people aren’t like Anglos, you know?”

Winona heard the care with which he selected his words and allowed herself to look at him, thinking she might read a little more in his face than his words revealed.

“Indians think the things that make you so different from everybody else are maybe not such good things. That if you get too rich, you might bring bad luck to your family or yourself.” He paused. “My mother was frightened by that teacher.”

“You didn’t get to go?” Joleen asked.

“No. Maybe if I’d been good at something my mother understood, it would have been different, but I wasn’t. Instead I joined the army.” He touched his chin, let his hand fall. “I didn’t go to college until I was thirty-one years old, and it was only because I finally understood I couldn’t be happy until I learned what I needed to know there. For whatever reason, the Creator gave me that hunger, and I couldn’t be in harmony with the earth and everything around me until I made that right.”

Joleen stared at him as he pulled into the circular drive before the farmhouse and turned off the ignition. “So are you telling me I should be an actress because that’s what the Creator wants for me?”

Daniel shook his head. “I’m not telling you anything. Only you know. I just told you my story so you don’t throw away something because you’re afraid, the way I did.”

Joleen put her hand to the brim of her hat and Winona thought for one second that she might pull it off to scratch her head. She seemed to remember in time and only lifted it up a little.

“Thanks,” she said. “I’m glad you told me.”

With a wink, Daniel slapped her knee. “Take your time, kid. For now, let’s go look at some rabbits.”

Chapter Seven

A
rawboned woman of about fifty, dressed in jeans and boots, came onto the porch as Daniel approached, Winona and Joleen behind him. She made a shield of her hand as she peered into the bright, desert day. “Ho, there!” she called. “That you, Daniel Lynch?”

“It’s me, Sue.” He stopped at the edge of the small, green lawn, to give her time to make sure it was him. Sue Tacker lived alone with a pack of dogs and two rifles for protection, and she was careful. “I brought some friends to look at your rabbits. You have some lops for sale?”

Satisfied, Sue came down the steps. “How y’all doin’?” she said with a nod. Her blue eyes looked nearly neon against the weathered darkness of her face. She eyed Joleen. “I reckon it’s you wantin’ the rabbits. You have a favorite color?”

Joleen shrugged. “I haven’t really seen too many rabbits.”

Sue winked at Daniel. “I got all kind of babies in that barn of mine, hon. Let’s go take a look.” She waved a hand, including all three of them in her gesture.

Daniel glanced at Winona over Joleen’s head. Against the dun-and-blue day, she shone like a mirage, the edge of her hair a shimmery silver-blond, her skin tanned and healthy. In honor of their trip to town, she’d donned a soft cotton skirt of some exotic fabric, colored purple and red in an ethnic-looking design. Tiny bits of mirror shot diamond-bright bullets of sunlight into the air. Her legs, strong and tanned below the hem, were bare.

As if his perusal held weight, she looked up suddenly, and smiled. Daniel absorbed the softness of that expression for a moment, then slowly returned it. “You look pretty in that skirt,” he said, without knowing he would.

“Think so?” She touched it. “I love it, but I’ve had friends tease me that they can pick me out in a crowd over my weird clothes.”

He chuckled. “I could pick it out, too, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Just different.”

As they approached the barn, a passel of furry creatures burst from the doorway toward them. Four puppies, maybe about two months old, bounded over the red dust of the barnyard with bright eyes and lolling tongues. Judging by their coloring, Daniel thought they were some sort of German shepherd mix.

“Beautiful markings,” he said as one tumbled into his legs, unable to put the brakes on fast enough to avoid the collision. Daniel laughed and bent over to scrub the puppy’s soft head. Joyfully it turned to gnaw his thumb.

“Obviously, I have dogs for sale, too,” Sue called over her shoulder. “They’re ready anytime. Good working dogs.”

Daniel coaxed the puppy at his feet to let go of his thumb and stood. Winona had captured a furry brown dog with a darker mask on his face. She held it like baby, its big, golden paws up in the air, its head cradled in her elbow. As Daniel watched, she scratched the pup’s belly and chest and chin, then put her face down and let the pup kiss her chin in return. “You’re a pretty baby,” she cooed.

The puppy made a low, ecstatic groan. Winona laughed softly and kissed his head.

“Looks like love to me,” Daniel said.

BOOK: Rainsinger
13.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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