Welcome- This week's word is - ring.
Patrick squatted before the fire adding wild onion to his venison stew. It was his winter staple. He wasn’t sure what to think. Her story, though far-fetched could be true. He’d heard of worse. Sometimes people on a wagon train turned on each other. Usually they just broke into smaller groups. Who in their right mind would leave a woman behind? There was no way she was as innocent as she claimed.
Glancing over his shoulder, his eyes drank their full of her. She was beautiful and while sleeping he could imagine her to be an angel, but he knew better. Most people weren’t what they showed the world. No, many harbored secrets and prejudices. Samantha, he’d never known a woman with that name before. She was probably supposed to be a boy named Sam and her parents had chosen a female name.
Her honey blonde hair fanned out on the pillow. It’d been a long time since he’d seen a woman so fair. He went to town twice a year for supplies, other than that he lived a mostly solitary life. There were a few neighbors like him, who didn’t like the closed in feel of a town. He tried the town life for a bit but people were not a charitable lot. They never forgave his parents for their supposed sins.
Traps needed to be checked and he couldn’t take the time to indulge himself in his musings. Grabbing his heavy coat, he glanced back at Samantha and head out into the cold. The frigid bite hit him full force. Ducking his head against the wind, he made his way to the makeshift barn. His horse, Ahearn was always ready and willing to go no matter what the weather. He more than earned his name, which meant Lord of Horses in Gaelic.
Leaving a woman to starve and freeze—what was the world coming to? He mounted his horse and off they went to slowly make their way from trap to trap. He already had a good amount of the finest furs and it made him proud. Hard work always paid off.
They traveled from trap to trap and found nothing. Perhaps the woman brought some bad luck with her. His mother would have prayed over her and sent her on her way. He smiled. He missed his mother but at least he had many fond memories to get him through. The clouds were rolling into the mountains and they were in for more nasty weather. He turned Ahern toward home and off they went.
A set of small footprints caught his eye. He pulled up on the reins, stopping Ahern and jumped off. The prints looked to be a child’s. Did Samantha leave a child behind? She didn’t wear a ring. Was she married? He followed them for a while but they disappeared in the blowing snow. Still he searched but he came up empty. It was too damn cold for a child to survive out here but there was nothing else he could do.
Grabbing Ahearn’s mane he jumped onto his back and headed back to the cabin. The wind picked up and the sky turned dark. He’d better hurry if he planned to make it home before the next storm blew in.
After getting Ahearn into the barn and dried off, he gave him extra straw and made sure there was water. Grabbing a rope, he fully intended to tie a line from the barn to the hose in case there was a white out. More than one person had been found frozen to death just steps from their houses. A rustling sound in the hayloft caught his attention and he slowly made his way to the pile. A small black shoe stuck out but the rest was hidden beneath the hay.
“Come on out, I know you’re in there.” His words were met with silence.
There was another sneeze. Patrick reached down and brushed the hay off a small child. A boy. A blond haired, blue eyed, boy.
“You’ll freeze out here and die. Come to the house, your Ma is in there.”
The boy’s eyes widened but he remained silent. He stretched out both arms to Patrick and he grabbed him up into his arms. The poor child was skin and bone. What type of mother leaves her child out in the snow to die? Samantha had a lot of explaining to do.
“Let’s get you warm and dry. I even have food warming over the fire.”
The boy nodded, put his head on Patrick’s shoulder, and closed his eyes.
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