Title: Náápiikoan Winter
Author: Alethea Williams
Genre: Western historical
Publication date: May 9, 2016
At the turn of a new century, changes unimagined are about to unfold.
THE WOMAN: Kidnapped by the Apaches, a Mexican woman learns the healing arts. Stolen by the Utes, she is sold and traded until she ends up with the Piikáni. All she has left are her skills—and her honor. What price will she pay to ensure a lasting place among the People?
THE MAN: Raised in a London charitable school, a young man at the end of the third of a seven year term of indenture to the Hudson’s Bay Company is sent to the Rocky Mountains to live among the Piikáni for the winter to learn their language and to foster trade. He dreams of his advancement in the company, but he doesn’t reckon the price for becoming entangled in the passions of the Piikáni.
THE LAND: After centuries of conflict, Náápiikoan traders approach the Piikáni, powerful members of the Blackfoot Confederation. The Piikáni already have horses and weapons, but they are promised they will become rich if they agree to trap beaver for Náápiikoan. Will the People trade their beliefs for the White Man’s bargains?
Alethea Williams is the author of Willow Vale, the story of a Tyrolean immigrant’s journey to America after WWI. Willow Vale won a 2012 Wyoming State Historical Society Publications Award. In her second novel, Walls for the Wind, a group of New York City immigrant orphans arrive in Hell on Wheels, Cheyenne, Wyoming. Walls for the Wind is a WILLA Literary Award finalist, a gold Will Rogers Medallion winner, and placed first at the Laramie Awards in the Prairie Fiction category.
ISOBEL, A LIGHT SLEEPER, woke in darkness to the sounds of her parents’ habitual nighttime dispute.
“Will you do nothing? Stupid, lazy bitch! No better than a dog in heat—you breed bastard children from different men and leave them to raise themselves. You’re like a mangy cur bitch on a leash of gold. I wish I’d never set eyes on you!”
Graciela, Isobel’s mother, said something too low for the child to decipher.
In reply, Isobel’s father, Armando, growled, “It won’t work this time, Graciela. Have you no pride? You resemble the commonest prostitute on the streets of Cádiz!”
Suddenly Graciela cried out in pain. Isobel, listening, shivered, imagining that her father perhaps twisted her mother’s arm, or pulled a handful of her long hair, both of which she had seen him do.
“Whore! Look at the paint smeared on your face.”
The sound of slaps to bare flesh resounded down the hallway. A tear slipped down the listening child’s cheek.
Then a brief silence ensued, soon replaced by the rhythmic creak of bed ropes emanating from the room of her parents, and Isobel dared to think another truce called between the combatants. Armando and Graciela often scrapped late into the night, frightening Isobel, their unintentional eavesdropper. Sometimes she thought Armando might kill Graciela, but the rasp of their bed against the wall usually signaled that her father had once more been pacified. Now that she had found out how to connect the sound to its corresponding action, she began to wonder why the act of the making of babies should cause adults to stop fighting. She thought long and hard on it, until she decided that the exertion must surely make her parents too tired to continue fighting.
At last all sound ceased, and Isobel concluded her parents must be settled in for the night at last. She had just about returned to slumber when she became aware of the sound of harsh breathing inside her small room. Her father stood over her bed, his boots in one hand, shaking with an apparent effort to stifle his emotions. He whispered, “Get up. Get dressed. We’re leaving.” She started to say, “But where are we going?”
Her father put a shaking finger to his lips to quiet her. “It’s a...an aventura. Just you and I. We will ride out of here tonight, and you will come back an educated lady someday—and show them all. No one will ever be able to look down on my daughter, Isobel Ochoa! Now, get dressed. Quietly! Don’t wake your sisters.”