Thursday, September 13, 2007

Forty Six

Will left a few days later to join his unit in a valley near the southern town of Cobre. Miguel sent word of his departure via radio and Harley promised to send Coyote and Dell to meet him halfway. Diana put on a brave front, but when Will’s horse disappeared around a bend in the mountain trail, Amalia thought she detected a note of panic in her eyes. Before she could approach her with questions or reassurances, Diana offered to make Kitta a special breakfast and led her into the house as if nothing had happened.

Over the next few days Amalia tried to get Diana alone, to no avail. She kept herself busy with Kitta, household chores, and practicing her marksmanship. It didn’t help that Amalia’s own work never seemed to allow her much time. Finally one day she caught a break in her busy schedule and tracked Diana to an empty field where she was working on her archery. Amalia paused to watch, remembering Diana’s former skill and comparing it to now. “You’re doing better than I realized,” she said, after Diana managed a tricky shot into a crosswind. “Will gave me the impression you couldn’t hit a barn door from three feet away.”

“That wasn’t too far from the truth the first couple times I came out here. I’m getting my strength back, though.” She strung another arrow, took aim and hit the center ring. She was nocking another when she paused and lowered her bow. “What brings you out here? This can’t be interesting.”

“I was just curious. . .” Amalia began, wondering why she felt like a nosy old biddy. She looked into Diana’s clear, serious eyes and realized with a shock that this was no longer the little girl she had raised. “I’m sorry. I’ve got no business prying.”

“No, you don’t.” Diana strung the arrow again, drew back hard and let it fly, paying no attention to where it landed. “But you do have a right to wonder. And yes, I’m still leaving.”

“Why? Don’t tell me you don’t feel anything for Will.”

Diana toyed with the string of her bow, running a finger back and forth along it.

“He only wants to show how much he cares. You’ve both had hard lives and he wants to make things easy for you.”

“But I don’t want to live someone else’s idea of a good life.”

“Then what do you want? Would you like to stay here? You can, you know.”

Diana jerked her head in exasperation, slung her bow and quiver over her shoulder and walked toward the target, looking for her arrows.

Amalia tagged after her. “What’s wrong with here?”

“Nothing.” She picked up an arrow and examined it before dropping it in the quiver. “Except that this is your dream, not mine. Maybe someday this will be the right place for me. Or a town house with Will, or a band of mercenaries in the mountains, or. . . who knows? But I’m getting awfully damn tired of all of you trying to decide my life for me.” She picked up another arrow. “It’s about time I started living like a grownup, don’t you think?”

“Nothing would please me more,” Amalia said. “So tell me what you think is so grown up about running away?”

“I’m not running away, I’m seeking my own way in the world, and it was you who once told me I should.”

“I’ve said a lot of stupid things in my life. That doesn't mean you should listen.”

With a faint smile, Diana began walking toward the barn. “I’m sorry you think I’m making a mistake, but love and family aren’t always enough. Don’t you agree?”

Amalia had never seen Diana like this and it confused her. “I have no idea.”

“Sure you do. You left Harley to come here.”

“This was a known entity. I didn’t just go traipsing off to. . .” She looked at her sharply. “You’re not still thinking of running away with Robert, are you?”

“It’s crossed my mind. He’s smart, he has connections, and I don’t think he would try to turn me into a hothouse flower. But I haven’t decided anything yet. I might get halfway down the mountain and come back. I might decide to try again with Will. Or maybe I’ll ride off into the desert, never to be seen or heard from again.” At the look of concern on Amalia’s face, she paused. “Or I might not go anywhere at all. I don’t know yet. It’s a big decision, and I intend to think it through and be prepared this time.”

“You thinking things over would be an improvement over your usual method.”

“Yeah. I thought you’d be happy.”

“Happy? Just because I’m glad you’re thinking doesn’t mean. . .” She shook her head, held open the door to the barn, and followed Diana inside. She watched her hang her bow and put her quiver away. “What am I supposed to do if you leave?”

“What do you mean?” Diana looked at her in confusion. “You’ll enjoy your new man, play with Kitta, teach your students. . .”

“And what do I tell my son?”

Diana pressed the heels of her hands against her eyes. “I don’t know. Is it really my problem? And do I have to know now?”


Alice Audrey said...

Leaving isn't the problem. It's leaving Will without at least giving him a chance to understand that is totally not cool.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

@Alice: You're right, of course, but it isn't like she hasn't ever tried to talk to him. Will refuses to listen to anything that doesn't conform to his worldview.

Diana is still just a teenager. She doesn't have the wisdom and maturity of an adult, but getting away from the people who confuse her and impose their own ideas on her will enable her to sort things out and grow up.