I know it's been a while. I've always been a night owl, but I found that working nights has been quite an adjustment. Maybe one of these days I'll be able to get the hang of it.
Anyway, today is May 5th which is a day to wear red in honor of all missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (#MMIWG).
This is an issue near and dear to my heart as I am of Indigenous decent. My great grandmother and her family are/were Potawatomi and I take great pride in that heritage. I have also been doing a lot of research on the Blackfoot nation for my upcoming book as one of the main characters is half Blackfoot. So to read these stories of Indigenous women and girls who have been the victims of violence and murder is heart breaking.
Today, I wear red to honor these women and girls and raise awareness. I have also made a donation to the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center (NIWRC). Please check out their website for more information if you would like to help.
I also wanted to give a sort of update on my writing. I should be finishing up my upcoming novel, Blackpoint, very soon. I do not have a release date yet, once I do I will be sure to let you all know. If you are interested, I talk about it quite a bit in my last interview with K.D. Williamson on her YouTube channel: Grrl on Fire. You can see the video on my last blog post or here: https://youtu.be/JxB5yfTMakM
I also wanted to give my readers a preview of the book so I am including the first chapter here. It's still a little early but I hope you all enjoy. Please let me know what you all think!
The sound of the rooster crowing always makes me flinch.
Especially mornings like this when everything seems to be going wrong. It’s been pourin’ rain all night so I slipped in mud on the way to the chicken coop only to find out that there were only two eggs.
Daddy ain’t gonna like this.
“Cassandra!” His voice makes me jump out of my skin. “You look like somethin’ the cat dragged in. What’s gotten into you, girl?”
“Sorry, Daddy,” I say, bowing my head to avoid his eyes. “I slipped in the mud and I don’t have any other clean dresses. I was gonna do the washing today-”
“Two eggs?” He grunts.
“Yes, sir,” I say, quietly, “That’s all they had.”
“Your clumsy ass probably dropped them when ya slipped in the mud.”
“No, I swear-” I stop mid-sentence. The air is hanging around us thick and full of lightning.
I’m in so much trouble, now.
“You what?” He asks, his voice shaking, teetering on the edge.
“I promise,” I correct myself, “There was only two-”
“Now you’re lyin’?” I notice he has his leather razor strop in his hands.
The leather strap strikes my lower back. It stings, but it’s not the worst I’ve felt. The tingling pain tells me my skin is just red, not broken.
“You know better than that, girl,” Daddy says. I hear the metal hanger rattle as he lifts his arm to hit me again.
That one lands higher up. I feel the air rip from my lungs, I think the strop hit an old bruise from the last time Daddy lost his temper.
Don’t cry, I tell myself, It’s always worse when you cry.
“Takin’ the Lord’s name and then lyin’ about it,” Daddy mumbles and I hear the hanger clip jingle again.
This one causes me to yell. I don’t mean to, I can usually take a few more lashes before I make a sound. This time was different. The metal part struck my shoulder while the leather cut across the first two lashes. I almost fall into the hot stove where the eggs are frying. I stop myself just in time, but some of the grease pops and splatters on my face.
“No use cryin’, Cassandra,” Daddy says. “No one’s gonna feel sorry for ya.”
I can see his arm go up again, “Daddy… please… stop.”
“Shoulda thought of that earlier, girl,” He lifts his arm just a bit higher and it takes everything in me to turn to him and scream:
Kitty’s Place seems to be in full swing for a Monday. I guess since everyone did their prayin’ yesterday, they get to go about drinking and gambling like normal.
It always seems to calm down when I walk in. Tonight’s no different. It may be my night off, but I’m still the Sheriff.
Across the room, I can see Kitty’s shoulders relax. Monday’s always seem to bring out the worst in people.
I take my time walking up to the bar, making sure to take in every face and detail I can. Just because I’m not wearing my badge tonight, doesn’t mean I’ll tolerate criminal behavior.
“Miss Kitty,” I nod to the Madam, “You alright?”
Kitty finishes polishing a glass before she answers me. “You’re late, Sheriff.”
“I was unaware you were waiting for me,” I say, even though we’ve held the same appointment for a few years now. “And I am off duty, Miss Kitty. There is no need to be so formal.”
Kitty huffs, causing her bosom to stick out all the more in her fancy bustier. Her dark hair is pulled up into some fancy style that must have taken hours to set and her stormy grey eyes are hinting all the signs of a tornado.
“I’m taking this out of your time, Sheriff.” She says, coldly. She sets the polished glass down in front of me and then fills it with a brown liquid from a specific bottle she keeps tucked behind the bar. “Your dinner’s probably cold.”
“Thank you,” I say and take a sip from the glass. I’ve never been able to get a taste for the stuff. “I don’t mind cold potatoes.”
“It ain’t the potatoes you should be worried about,” Kitty says, placing a plate of food down in front of me. “You eat all this and then join me upstairs.”
I don’t know what happened.
One second, Daddy was getting ready to hit me again, and the next, he’s knocked out cold splayed across the floor.
I don’t remember swinging the frying pan upside his head. But it’s in my hand and he has a nasty, blistering red circle on the side of his face.
My back doesn’t hurt anymore and I can’t catch my breath. I can’t move but I also can’t stop shaking.
He’s gonna kill me.
He’s gonna wake up and kill me.
I don’t know how long I stand over him, waiting to be killed. It could be for hours.
He doesn’t wake up.
And I’m too scared to check if he’s breathing.
“Daddy?” I whisper.
“Daddy?” I try louder this time.
I drop the frying pan and it makes a horrible sound as it hits the floor. I cover my ears, waiting for the sound to wake him up and seal my fate.
But he doesn’t move.
I think I killed him.
“Shit,” I hiss and then wait for him to react to my cussing.
He just lies there.
“Shit, shit, shit.”
Usually, that kind of talk would earn me about ten lashes. Daddy always seems to know when I use curse words. I don’t know how, but he always knows.
“Goddammit!” I shout and wait to be slapped in the mouth. But it doesn’t happen.
I did kill him.
I shouldn’t feel good about that, but I do. Maybe not good. What I feel is relief.
I feel… free.
“HALLELUJAH!” I shout.
I can suddenly move again. I dance around the room skipping around like a fool over my Daddy’s body, making sure not to slip in the egg yolks that are splattered across the floor. My face aches and I realize it’s because I’m smiling.
I can’t remember the last time I smiled for so long.
Lord, what would Daddy think if he saw me dancing around the kitchen, grinning like a fool?
Doesn’t matter, he’s dead.
“No more beatings,” I sing, “No more sermons, no more Daddy! Oh, happy day, I’m free!”
“Kitty?” I call as I knock on her door. I almost expect her to not answer and make me wait for hours in the hall as punishment for being late. After a few minutes, I hear the locks clicking before she opens the door a crack.
I still wait in the hall. Everyone knows you don’t enter Kitty’s room unless she invites you.
“Come in,” She says, after another minute.
I do as she says, making sure to close and lock the door behind me. Really, the locks aren’t needed. Kitty’s bedroom is safer and more secure unlocked than any safe or bank vault.
But I can’t afford to take any risks.
“The water is hot,” She says. I notice she’s taken off her corset and frilly skirt, now sitting in a plain slip. She’s sitting at her vanity brushing out the tight spiral curls into thick ebony waves.
I dip my fingers in the tub. The water is practically boiling. The way Kitty likes it. I don’t need my bathwater to be hot. Hell, I don’t even need it warm. As long as it’s wet, I’m just fine.
“Too hot for ya?” She asks, a wicked smile on her face.
“I can handle it,” I say and start to unbutton my shirt.
Kitty keeps brushing her hair while watching me undress in her mirror. I catch her staring, so I turn my back to finish undressing. When I’m down to my undergarments I feel her fingers touch my back. “You wrap this too tight. You’re gonna crack a rib if you’re not careful.”
“It doesn’t hurt.”
“Lift your arms,” She tells me and I do as she says. She starts to unwrap my bindings. Sucking in a breath through her teeth when they loosen and fall to the floor. “Ya have to stop sleepin’ in this thing, Joe. It’s cutting into your skin.”
“It’s easier,” I explain. “It takes too long to wrap them up every morning.”
I move to slide my undershorts off, but Kitty takes my face in her hands and makes sure I meet her eyes, “Joe… take the extra time.”
I let out a sigh, I really don’t want a lecture right now.
“Good,” She smiles as her hands move down my body before gripping the waistband of my shorts. “Now let’s get you cleaned up.”
“Yes, please,” I beg.
Kitty smiles as she slides my underwear down my legs. I step out of them, step into the tub, and sink into the scalding water.
“I’ll throw these in with the rest of your laundry,” She tells me as she gathers up the rest of my clothes.
I can only nod, flinching as the hot water licks at the cuts caused by my bindings.
“Told ya,” Kitty says as she takes my clothes and some of her own and pouts them in a laundry bag. “They’ll get infected if you’re not careful.”
“Just get in the damn tub,” I grunt.
She turns around and gives me a warning look, crossing her arms as she stares down at me. “First ya keep me waitin’, then ya have the nerve to start makin’ demands?”
“Please?” I add, sweet as I can.
Kitty keeps looking down at me, debating whether or not to kick me out.
I don’t realize I’m holding my breath until her face softens and she pulls off her slip. “You’re lucky you’re cute. Ya know that?”
I can only grin, “Can’t say I do.”
“Ya know, none of my other customers would get away with all the worryin’ you put me through?”
“Is that all I am to you, Miss Kitty?” I ask, taking in the beautiful sight of her naked body. “A customer?”
She steps into the tub, barely registering the heat of the water as she sinks down into the water, between my legs. “Ya know you’ve never been a customer, Joe.”
Daddy never let me do anything.
Except go to church.
I used to love Sundays. I would get to wear my best dress and do my hair all special, I’d sit with other girls my own age and pretend that I was part of their family. That I had loving parents and lots of siblings. I’d ignore the welts on my back, silently praying that they didn’t break open.
I’d only pretend to listen to my real father as he would preach about sin and how it would drag us all to Hell if we weren’t careful.
But then the boys started showing interest in me and suddenly I wasn’t allowed to go anymore.
Daddy said it would just fuel the hellfire, but I think he was really just afraid that I would end up marrying one of the boys and leaving his house. Afterall, if I left, who would cook his meals? Who would wash his clothes? Who would clean his house?
Those were my jobs. My penance for killing Momma during childbirth.
I know it wasn’t really my fault. No matter what Daddy tried to tell me. Women died giving birth all the time. It happened so much, I had no desire to have children of my own.
Not that it was ever an issue, since Daddy kept me hidden away. Not to mention the fact that I never returned boys’ interests. I was always afraid I would leave Daddy’s house only to end up with a husband just like him, or worse.
At least I knew how to handle Daddy.
I feel my smile widen. I don’t have to hide anymore. I can go wherever I want. I don’t have to answer to him anymore.
Now’s your chance, a voice in the back of my mind tells me. Go!
It takes all of five minutes to gather my things. Guess that’s an easy thing to do when all you own is a couple of dresses and nightgowns.
I know I won’t last long if I don’t pack other stuff. I grab Daddy’s bedroll that he uses on the rare occasion he has to travel for his sermons. I make sure to pack my sewing kit, as I can probably use that skill in an effort to trade for a place to stay or even some food. I find an empty canteen wrapped in the bedroll and make a note to fill it with well water.
I know I’ll need money too. Daddy never let me handle money, he always said that was a man’s job. I start digging through his trunk hoping to find the money I know he keeps from the collection plate at his sermons. All I can find are his clothes.
Frustrated, I slam the lid shut. Then I hear the sound of coins jingling.
I open the trunk again and see a hidden door in the lid has been opened. On top of his clothes sits a canvas sack. I open it and find it filled with coins. Apparently, Daddy wasn’t giving his share to God like he promised.
I take the sack of coins, making everything the bundle I was carrying so much heavier. I’ll have to make sure to pack everything properly before I leave.
I take one last look around the house, just to make sure there’s nothing else I might need. I should be frightened. I should feel guilty. But all I can feel is excitement.
I turn to leave for good, but stop when I hear a groan.
“No,” I whisper, “No, no, no…”
I turn back around to see my Daddy’s face bunched up in pain.
No, I think, I can’t go back. I was so close.
He starts to stir.
I can’t go back. I won’t go back.
I keep repeating that to myself as I pick the frying pan back up.
I can’t go back.
I won’t go back.
I lift the pan over my head.
I can’t go back.
I won’t go back.
Daddy’s eyes flutter open just as I bring the pan down with all my might.
“Relax,” Kitty whispers against my lips. “Let me take care of you.”
I reply with a moan as her mouth moves down my neck. She leaves a trail of warm, wet kisses as she moves down to my chest. She stops at my breasts, making sure to give them equal attention.
I’m torn, part of me wants to tangle my hands in her hair and keep her there. The other part wants to push her further down.
Her mouth starts moving south again. Her tongue runs down my stomach until she reaches my hip bones where she bites, softly.
“You’re gettin’ too skinny,'' She says, her fingers running down my ribs. “You’re not eatin’ are ya?”
“I eat plenty,” I say, wishing she would just shut up and focus on what she was doing.
“Elsie says you’ve only been in a couple of times this week. And I know you ain’t cookin’ at home.”
“I eat when I’m hungry,” I tell her, lifting my hips and hoping she’ll take the hint.
“You need to eat, Joe,” She says, her mouth just above the place where I need her most. “You can’t protect the town if you’re starvin’ to death.”
“I’m not starving.”
“You look like the skeleton the doctor keeps in his office.”
“Dammit, woman, I said I’m fine!” I regret it as soon as I say it.
Kitty moves up from the end of the bed and straddles my waist to keep me from moving. “Ya wanna try that again?”
“I’m sorry, Kitty,” I say, “I didn’t mean to snap.”
“I’m just lookin’ out for you, Joe.”
“I know, but it’s my job to take care of everyone. You don’t need to worry about me.”
“Someone’s gotta keep an eye on you. You refuse to take a wife, so I guess I’m the next best thing.”
“I’ve asked you to be my wife, many times,” I remind her. “You always turn me down.”
“Joe,” She sighs, “You know I’m not the marryin’ kind.”
“You could be,” I argue. “Nothing has to change. Except maybe the whoring. But you can still run the place. I won’t make you stop working.”
“You know just as well as I do that no one is gonna trust a Madam that’s married to the Sheriff.”
“But they trust one that sleeps with him?”
That earns me a slap across the face.
“Fuck you, Joe,” She says.
“That’s what I was trying to do before you started worrying about me,'' I say, rubbing the sting out of my cheek. The slap was supposed to be a punishment, but it only seems to have made me more excited.
“You know I worry about you, Joe,” Kitty says, trying to keep her face stern. “I always have an I always will.”
“Well,” I say, sitting up so I can face her properly. “If you’re so worried about me, maybe you should focus on the task at hand?” I slide my hand between her legs to tease her.
She gasps at the contact and I can feel how excited she is. “I- I’m still mad at ya… for… for what ya said.”
“I know,” I say, kissing across her collarbone and up her neck. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry ain’t-” She tries, but I slip two fingers inside and a moan escapes her throat instead. “God, Joe.”
“Let me make it up to you?” I ask, moving my fingers so slowly I can hardly tell they’re moving.
Kitty lets out a frustrated groan. I almost expect another slap to the face but instead she grips my hair, meets my eyes, and grinds herself onto my hand.
“I’m so mad at you,” she says, grinding onto my hand again. “You’re gonna have to make it up to me for the rest of the night.”
I smile and buck my hips just as she grinds down and we both gasp. “Yes, Ma’am.”
I’ve never camped out before. Daddy always said it wasn’t for girls. Their place was in the home, according to him.
I once asked him about all the women who travelled with their families to come out west on the Oregon trail. Surely they had to camp out. I got the strap for my smart mouth.
When I was still allowed to go to church, there was a family that was passing through on their way to California. One of the daughters was my age and told me about their travels. She told me how she wished her father were more like mine, a preacher who stayed in one place and did the Lord’s work.
If only she knew…
I took the mule, Old Sal. He’s not the fastest creature, Lord knows a snail might be able to beat him in a race. But he’s strong and can work harder and longer than any horse. He’s also a little skittish, so I know he’ll alert me to any danger.
I don’t know where to go. I found Daddy’s compass in his bedroll when I was packing up, but I’m not sure how to use it. I just know that they always point north.
A few years ago, Daddy travelled to a town in the north. It sat on the Montana and Canadian border. The town didn’t have a preacher and he thought he might offer his services. He wasn’t gone long, only a few days.
“There ain’t nothin’ I can do to help those people,” He had announced. “Town was full of sinners. Nothin’ but whoremongers and drunks. I ain’t gonna risk our souls. Blackpoint… what an appropriate name.”
I didn’t ask any questions about the place, no matter how interested I was. Even if I had, I doubt he would have said anything more and just lashed me until I forgot about it.
I look at the compass and direct Sal north.