Jeremy stopped when he was at the outskirts of the Cherokee village. Wooden pillars shielded the inhabitants from direct attacks. A boy emerged from the shadows glaring at him.
Jeremy held up his hands as the young Indian moved closer. He held a bow and arrow in each hand, but looked like he’d be able to use it pretty quick.
“I come in peace.”
“Who are you and why are you here?” asked the boy.
“I am Sally’s husband. She’s missing.”
The boy’s face softened.
“Have you seen her?” asked Jeremy.
“She visited here over a month ago. We haven’t seen her since then.”
“I see. So she must not have come this way, after all.”
“I am very sorry that she is missing,” said the boy.
“So am I.”
“Have you searched the river?”
Jeremy’s heart nearly froze as the question hung in the air. The boy’s sad gaze angered him. He didn’t know anything about Sally. For him to suggest that she would just go drown herself in a river was out of line. He exhaled loudly.
“I will search there next.”
“Good luck! We will all be praying for her.”
Jeremy guided his horse deeper into the woods toward the river. The boy’s question echoed in his mind.
“Have you searched the river?” Jeremy parroted.
There was no way in hell that she would do something so stupid. She was stronger than that. A girl with the strength to face the devils that killed her pastor, mother, and little sister was not a girl who would kill herself. The boy was stupid to think that she would and yet Jeremy frantically rode to the water to prove to himself that she was right. If he didn’t find her there, she would be safe.
He rode slowly along the tributary for the better part of an hour searching everywhere for any sign of Sally or an article of her clothing. He saw no sign of any human life. Only birds and water fowl. He relaxed a little, telling himself that she had to be safe, wherever she was hiding.
It began to settle in that he might never see her again. People did not normally return to see those who they tried to stab.
“She hates me and I will never see her again…”
Distant shouting startled him. He looked up and searched for the source of it.
“Hello?” called Jeremy.
It was Gabriel.
“Oh my God. Let her be okay.”
They rode to one another.
“Gabriel! Where is she?”
He pulled on the reins and brought his horse parallel to Gabriel’s.
“I found her by the river.”
“Jeremy, I am so sorry. I tried to get her to breathe again, but had been under too long.”
He was hearing the words, but they didn’t make sense.
“I need to see her.”
Gabriel handed him a folded up piece of paper. He unraveled it and recognized her handwriting. He scrunched it up and put it in his pocket.
“She’s gone, Jeremy.”
“Where is she?”
“At your house. I went for the doctor so he could confirm her condition.”
Jeremy rode back to the farm. Gabriel was an idiot. Of course she wasn’t dead. Sally was a fighter.
Once he reached his property, he leaped off the saddle and ran up to the house and stormed inside. He found the doctor in Sally’s room standing over her. He went to the man’s side and looked down at his beautiful wife. Her hair was went and a blanket had been pulled over her as she slept.
“She will be all right?” he asked.
“I am so sorry. Sally has passed away.”
“No. She isn’t dead.”
He knelt next to the bed and grasped her cold hands.
“Wake up, Sally,” he whispered.
The floors creaked under the doctor’s footsteps as he left the house.
“Come on, Sally. Come back to me.”
He kissed her pale doll-like lips. The colour had drained from her face. He backed up, staring at her lifeless body.
“God, no. Please God, no.”
She was dead.
He stumbled out of the house and pushed past Gabriel as he made his way up the stairs.
“Stay away from me!” Jeremy screamed.
He stopped in the middle of the field as the setting sun lit up the clouds above. Sally would have loved to paint it. Jeremy ran for the pastel pink horizon, longing to fall into the sky. She loved pink and he deserved to drown in it.
“I killed her.”
He killed her slowly over the last several months.
Gabriel found her little body floating in the shallow end of the water over an hour ago. She left her rifle, pink hair ribbon, and black Stetson hat on the river bank with a short note for him. She really had given up.
I am sorry, Jeremy. Now we can both be free.
Panting from the sprint, he stopped and collapsed on the field. He became one with the dying grass.
Before their parents pushed them to be together, before he ruined her life, she was the happiest girl in their village. Her easy laugh and bouncy gait made everyone love her, but he fell in love with her much later. After it was already too late.
He had allowed his pearl to sink to the bottom of the abyss and now she would never return. She was freed from him at last.
The reality of her death sent another terrible ripple through his core. Grief stabbed at him like a knife and he longed for death to take him, too.
Groaning, Jeremy sat up. He was unwilling to meet the eyes of Gabriel, his best friend.
“Leave me alone.”
“Jeremy, please listen to me! She’s alive. Barely, but she’s breathing.”
Jeremy stumbled to his feet and ran back toward the house, unwilling to believe what he had just heard. When he reached her side, he knelt next to the bed and peered down at her pale, heart-shaped face. Her long, damp hair covered the pillow. She looked like an angel, even in death.
“I love you, Sally,” he said. “Please come back to me.”
Her eyelids fluttered open and he met her beautiful green eyes. He buried his face into the bed and wept.
Her cool hand touched his.
“We need to kill them, Jeremy,” she whispered.
He wiped his eyes and held her hand with both of his. Her gaze was hard and distant as she stared right through him.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“We will kill them.”
A solitary tear slipped down her cheek as she faintly squeezed his hand. Then, the darkness took her away again.