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By Colleen Rhoads
Steeple HillCopyright © 2005 Colleen Rhoads
All right reserved.
"Mother, what were you thinking?" Skye Blackbird wanted to stamp her size seven foot and proclaim this a hill she would die on, but one look at her mother's face convinced her she'd be left bleeding on the hillside.
She fought back the impulse to burst into tears. This was her father's dream — and her own — that was about to vanish. Her mother had to listen to reason.
She jerkily tied a knot in the dreamcatcher on her lap, but not even keeping her hands busy kept her emotions from churning her stomach into knots.
Her shop, The Sleeping Turtle, was empty of customers this beautiful May morning. But even if tourists had packed the narrow aisles filled with herbs and Ojibwa paraphernalia, she wouldn't have been able to hold her tongue. Luckily, the bulk of tourists wouldn't be riding the ferry out to Eagle Island for another month. Then the small island in Lake Superior would be burgeoning with sightseers.
Mary Metis, Skye's mother, tucked one black lock behind her ear. "You're not being reasonable, Skye. Letting the man look for dinosaur bones won't hurt the running of the mine. I don't tell you how to operate your business, so don't tell me how to manage mine. I get enough of that from Peter." Her voice vibrated with suppressed anger.
Skye hurried to smooth things over. "Are you mad at Peter? He's just trying to look out for you."
"I'm not a child."
"You're just ticked at him right now," Skye responded. "Peter has been good to you and to me. He always knows what's best."
"The mine belongs to me, not to you or Peter," her mother went on. "It's about time I start taking back some of the decisionmaking about it."
"But you don't even know these people," Skye protested. "We know nothing about them."
That wasn't exactly true, and she knew it. This paleontologist, Jake Baxter, was Mrs. Baxter's grandson. The Baxters had practically owned the entire island for years, though that knowledge did nothing to endear the man to Skye. She liked things to stay the same.
"We've known the Baxters for years," her mother said.
"I don't understand your attitude. Jake Baxter merely wants to poke around a bit, see if he can dig up any bones."
Skye hadn't met this particular Baxter yet, but she already disliked him. "We've always been told some of The Old Ones are buried on our property. What if Jake disturbs their bones?" "On my property," Mary said. She laid down a bundle of dried chives, tied with twine. The pungent odor permeated the shop and mingled with that of chamomile, comfrey, mint and other herbs.
"Okay, on your property. And besides, I've been running the garnet mine for you for the past four years. I think I should have some say. I can just see people swarming all over the place and disrupting the operation of the mine."
"He'll be on the slope, not actually in the mine," her mother pointed out.
Skye finally voiced her real objection. She didn't even want to think about it. "And what happens if he finds something important? He could close us down while he digs. Permanently! I'll never find the diamonds if that happens."
Her mother's face softened, and she reached out to touch Skye's face with gentle fingers. "Skye, there are no diamonds. Your father combed every inch of that mine in his search and found nothing. I often think that disappointment was what drove him away."
Skye knew better. If she'd been a better daughter, her father wouldn't have left. If she could find the diamonds, maybe he'd hear of it and come back. "Please reconsider," she said in a low voice that quivered, no matter how much she tried to keep it steady.
"Let it go, Skye. This is just for the summer. Jake will be gone before you know it." Mary fished a sheaf of herbs out of the basket by her feet and began to prepare another bundle. "That's what he's telling you, but I have a bad feeling about this." Skye hung the finished dreamcatcher in the window beside the others she'd completed so far this month.
Dreams, that's what some would say was all she had in this shop, and that was all she would ever have. But she'd prayed and prayed for this shop, and she wasn't ready to give up on it yet.
"You'll see what a nice man he is for yourself," Mary said. "I want you to run an errand for me this morning and go see Jake."
"I need to watch the shop." The last thing Skye wanted was to see the man facetoface.
"I'll watch it. I told Jake I'd have you bring out the lease for him to sign."
Skye almost couldn't speak. "You're giving him a lease? Mother, please don't do this."
Her mother set her jaw. "I have already agreed to it, Skye. I'm a woman of my word."
"Peter won't like it, either." Skye crossed her arms over her chest. Peter would talk sense into her mother. He'd apologize for whatever tiff had caused this problem.
"We've already discussed it, and I'm not changing my mind. The more the two of you hound me, the more determined I am to do what I think best. I'm not a child, Skye, though you and Peter like to treat me that way."
Her mother sounded on the verge of tears, and Skye decided to back off. Her mother had been fragile ever since her husband, Skye's father, had walked out on them eight years ago when Skye was sixteen. If not for Peter, Skye didn't know how she would have dealt with all of it. But even he knew better than to cross his wife when she was this set on a course of action.
Skye leaned back against the chair and rubbed her forehead. "How long is the lease?"
"Just for the summer." Her mother's voice held a trace of smugness. She leaned down and pulled a handful of papers from her purse and gave them to Skye.
Skye took them, glancing through the terms. "This clause says he can extend the lease if he finds something of significance to science." She wanted to fling the lease in the trash and set it afire.
Her mother shrugged her slim shoulders. "You can't seriously think he'll find anything here. It's a summer pastime for Jake, nothing more."
Excerpted from Shadow Bones by Colleen Rhoads Copyright © 2005 by Colleen Rhoads. Excerpted by permission.
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