Haseya shielded her head. Her long, black hair dangled next to her and little by little, dampened from her tears. The gunfire was too much and it frustrated her. She didn’t want to know who had died. Haseya did not want to see her village in the Four Corner Range, how broken it must be. Haseya imagined the turning-green forest near her home (which was really called Strong Wolf’s Forest because of a legendary Navajo leader, yet everyone in Haseya’s tribe just refered to it as the forest), the trees red from the blood of her friends and family. Haseya had known deep inside herself that it was silly for her to think that the forest was actually blood drenched, but her brain and heart were enemies at the moment. Another gunfire and Haseya winced. The gunshot ringed in her ears and it made her soft earlobes burn. The sound pushed to the sky. The bullet was so small, so why could it cause so much suffering and even death. Haseya heard the bullet’s path stop and a loud grunt of pain replaced it. Was that the death of a tribe member? I’m only twelve years old, she considered sadly, so why should I have to face this?
Earlier that exact same day, it had been perfect. Haseya had woken up to the first beautiful day the Navajo tribe had seen in months. Her mother had made a wonderful loaf of bread to celebrate the coming of spring. Her family had devoured the bread with her mother’s last bowl of strawberry jam. Even Haseya’s father came to join them to celebrate spring. This was rare, because most of the time, on regular days, Haseya’s father got up before dawn and went straight to work. Haseya considered herself lucky when she caught her father to give him a hug before he left out the door in the morning. Haseya felt a sense of mistreat when she didn’t see her father at breakfast most mornings, but usually she tried to be positive and cheerful. Haseya’s little sister, Awee, was noisily chewing her bread with Haseya’s wolf, Bear. No. Haseya thought, Its me and Awee’s wolf. Bear loves Awee almost as much as me. Besides, Mother let me keep Bear when I found him as a pup, because Father says it would be a great lesson on responsibility and how to care for another. So, why can’t Awee have that same lesson?
After breakfast and their prayer to Mother Nature, her father went off to his work, promising he’d be there for the spring coming party in the evening. There would be music, a huge fire, dancing, and a great feast to celebrate! There was even gifts going to be exchanged at the end of the feast. Haseya couldn’t wait.
Smiling, excited about the evening, Haseya set off to Johona’s hut, with Bear following loyally behind her. Haseya welcomed herself in as their culture allowed as long as the person who is coming in has met at least one person in the family. If they have not, they must either call into the hut or wait patiently outside until a family member notices them.
“Ya at ehh, Haseya!” Johona greeted her best friend. “I see you have brought Bear again?”
“Yes, Johona, I think Bear missed you…” Haseya started, but then her voice faded a little. “It’s been a while, but…” Haseya shook away the horrible, lonely feeling and chirped in her usual joyful tone, “I’m so very happy to see you, and Bear is too! Just look! It’s the beginning of spring and I heard that the tribe is throwing a party tonight to celebrate! Even the forest looks happy, with all the flowers trying to burst out their beauty!”
Yet, Johona was clever, and saw right through Haseya, “Something is on your mind. Come and sit down. You are welcomed to tell me everything.” Johona assured Haseya as they sat on the deer fur rug, Bear laying down in between them.
Johona stared with her milky brown eyes into Haseya’s lilac purple eyes. Johona was wearing boy’s clothes, because she hated wearing dresses or skirts like the rest of girls of the tribe. The only time Johona dared put herself in a girl outfit was during ceremonies and even then sometimes she couldn’t stand it. Now, though, she simple asked Haseya, “What’s troubling you?” The tiny sentence meant so much to Haseya and she couldn’t help but tell Johona everything.
“I have that feeling again, Johona. I feel like something bad it going to happen, like the time I felt this way when a tree fell over part of our village. I know it’s the first of spring and I should be thankful and joyful, but I have that nagging feeling, Johona. It’s just… there.”
Haseya blurted out, unable to control her thoughts any longer.
Johona was Haseya’s best friend and would not lie to her friend, “Hmm, I see. I am not sure what is going to happen, Haseya, but it is no use worrying about it. Let’s go make some moccasins for your father. He’d love that, especially since I’ve noticed his are getting a little worn out.”
Haseya at once regained her joyful mood and nodded. “That’d be very nice.” Haseya admitted and patted Bear to wake him from his slumber.
The two girls, along with the wolf known as Bear, went outside with the moccasin materials. They all sat down and began to work. Johona began working on one of the moccasins and Haseya worked on the other, stopping once and awhile to give her wolf a comforting pat.
Haseya was almost finished with the bottom of the moccasin when she felt something past her ear. It was much too fast and direct to be wind, so what could it be? Haseya looked at Johona and saw that she was trying to say something. Johona was waving her arms franticly, and screaming at Haseya. At once Haseya went out of her thoughts and into the reality.
“Watch out!” screamed Johona, still waving her arms, “Haseya… duck!”
Haseya knew Johona was truthful, so she ducked. With horror, Haseya looked up and saw a bullet streaming over her head, only missing her by a fraction of an inch. Haseya shouted at Johona, her hands over her head, “What’s happening?”
Johona screamed back, “I think some cowboys from Arizona are attacking! I think they may be trying to take our stuff! I hope… Haseya, move!”
Haseya rolled to the side as a bullet shot into the ground beside her. That’s two times Johona has saved my life. Haseya thought, almost smiling, even in the chaos around her. I’m going to owe her a lot! Maybe even Bear…
Haseya looked up. Where was her wolf? At the same time she looked up, she saw something even more horrifying then the disappearance of Bear. An Arizona cowboy was aiming one of their gun items at her father, the chief!
“Father, watch out!” Haseya screamed, terror, confusion, and rage on her face.
As soon as her father turned to find the source of the sound, the gunfire sounded.
Haseya dropped to her knees, crumpling, almost in the same way her now dead father fell, bleeding. Haseya couldn’t bare it anymore. She didn’t care if she was shot; she might have wanted to be.
Haseya’s long black hair tumbled next to her as she put her head in her knees. Her tears dampened the strands of hair near her eyes. Haseya had always been positive; she hardly ever got down in the dumps, as the Americans called it. She couldn’t even remember the last time she had cried (not because of pain, but because of sadness or anger) or felt outraged.
Haseya then smiled. She was thinking about all the happy times with her father. Her father swinging her around and then pretending Haseya was a little American metal bird (a plane), swinging her from side to side. Her father sometimes pretending the American metal bird crashed and they both went on the floor, laughing. Haseya remembered her father taking time out of his work to show her the forest and it’s beauty. She saw the image of her father telling Haseya about Mother Nature and how Mother Nature loves plants, animals, and of course, little Navajo girls.
Yet, for once, the negativity went into Haseya’s heart. No. She reminded herself, tears filling her eyes yet again. Those days are over. My father is dead, and others are probably dead too.
Haseya heard a wimper and saw a frightened Bear, hiding in a corner of Johona’s hut. Haseya crawled towards him, her face covered in dust and a little blood from some scratches. She wasn’t going to stand this a minute longer and neither was her wolf. Haseya had gotten up, knowing her loyal wolf would follow her, and headed toward the forest in a swift sprint. The flower buds on the small, growing leaves on the trees seemed to welcome her, calling her so loudly to join they’re beautiful wonders, that Haseya didn’t even hear Johona’s call for her to stay.
The branches from the trees hit Haseya’s face as she ran deeper and deeper into the forest, her wolf on her heels (who was getting quite to a liking of getting to run with his master). When Haseya thought she had gotten deep enough into the forest that no one would find her, she stopped in a clearing of soft grass.
Haseya sat on the thin sheet of grass, that was trying to open into spring, and she cried. Not even the beautiful sun, glinting in the spaces in between the trees, shining most amazingly in the clearing, could make Haseya joyful. The sweet smell of the grass didn’t cheer her up. The breeze mixing with animal calls to make music did not make her feel like dancing. Even cuddling a fawn wouldn’t make her day any better.
Bear hated to see his master devastated and rested his head on Haseya’s knee, gently rubbing against her for comfort.
Haseya sniffled uneasily and stroked Bear. It wasn’t fair that he had to be sad, just because she was. Haseya saw the homesickness in Bear’s eyes and decided she’d go home. Maybe, she thought to herself, maybe it won’t be so bad. Maybe father is just badly hurt and maybe he can get better. Even if he is dead, I still have the tribe to keep me going.
Haseya got up and began to make her way out of the forest. She passed by a little stream for a drink. Her relfection showed something she did not know of. Blood was on her face from scratches and she was unbelievably dirty. Usually she bathed in a pond near her village and kept clean. Now, she looked sorrowful and she felt that a little too. Haseya got up from the stream’s bank and saw Bear waiting for her.
Then, Haseya noticed something. On her way to the clearing, she had never seen a stream. Quite to the fact, she hadn’t remembered seeing anything from her way to the clearing she had been in a few… a few what? The trees loomed over the sun and Haseya didn’t even know how long she had been in the forest.
“Oh no, Bear!” Haseya whispered, tears once again flooding her eyes, “We strayed too far! We’re lost in the forest!”
Now, the forest didn’t look so beautiful to Haseya, as they were trapped inside its blooming trees.
Had she’d gone too deep into the forest? Was she ever going to see what was left of her family again?
. . .
Back in the Navajo camp, Awee was devastated. She knelt by her father, a circle of tribe members mourning around her, for the loss of their great chief.
“Father, why? Why aren’t you here? You promised we could go horse riding tomorrow. Now, we can’t…” Awee sobbed. This was rare, because usually Awee was the most joyful in the tribe, even though she was the youngest and there wasn’t a child younger than her (except for Bear, if you counted his age in our count of years). It was evening, but the celebration of spring was not to happen. Even Awee’s sister, Haseya had disappeared and the tribe feared the cowboys had taken Haseya hostage to force Haseya to tell them all of the Navajo secrets, after she ran into the forest.
Ahiga, who was second in command of the tribe, stepped forward. “I’d like to say a few words.” Ahiga announced, “We all grieve for our chief’s death. He was my best friend. Our chief was a brave leader. He has given his life for our sake. We also grieve for his eldest daughter, Haseya, who has been taken by the invaders. Haseya always boosted the tribe’s spirits and we all share our sorrows for Johona and Awee who loved dear Haseya very much. We also grieve for Bear, the best wolf this tribe could have.”
Then, Ahiga reached down and gave Awee and warm hug. Ahiga was like an uncle to Awee and she was glad that Ahiga cared for her.
Ahiga patted Awee’s little shoulder and stood up again, “Let’s all take 100 heart beats of silence for our lost members of our tribe.” Ahiga announced, not knowing what minutes and hours were, like the rest of the tribe didn’t.
Awee hugged her father; he was freezing, but there was that expression on his face. The proud, happy expression he made whenever he saw his daughters. Tears dripped from her small, freckled cheeks (she being the only one in the tribe with freckles, which was very odd, but made her rather special) and splattered on to her father’s stiff upper-body. Where are you, father? Awee thought, tears streaming from your eyes, Where is Haseya? Why did she run into the forest to let those bad men catch her? Doesn’t she love me, still? Did I do something wrong to make her run away? Did I play with Bear too much and that’s why he left me too?
The gears in her little brain turned. She was confused, depressed, and tired. Everyone else had gone back into his or her hogans, log huts covered in mud and grasses.
The chilly night made her father’s body seem even colder. Awee shivered. Now, she was confused, depressed, tired, and chilled. The night air set a peaceful look on the Navajo area. The far away stars glinted beautifully in the dark blue sky. Awee’s mother came out and knelt next to her daughter.
“I know it’s hard.” Awee’s mother whispered in her ear, “Your father and Haseya may be gone, for perhaps quite a long time, but don’t let this make you sad. They still love you, but they just can’t be with you right now. I love you very much too, and I’m still here. Awee, they’re will always be someone to guide you, remember that.
“Haseya and your father would want you to be joyful and celebrate good days to come like they would’ve. You can be like Haseya. You can be a happy little girl for the tribe, can’t you? Tomorrow we can go and look for a wolf pup or get a pup at the trading post. You can keep a pup, just like Haseya. You can feed him and take him for walks. See? Not everything has to be bad.” Her mother calmly spoke, stroking one of Awee’s braids.
Awee sniffled and nodded. Maybe mother was right. Maybe a pup would make it better. Maybe if she acted like Haseya it’d be better.
Her mother held out her hand for Awee to hold and got up. Together, they walked toward’s their hogan, in the peaceful night. Awee knew everything was going to be all right tomorrow. It was going to be different, having no sister and no father, a different chief, a new pup, yes. Yet, to Awee, she was happy. Awee knew that father was in a better place with Mother Nature and maybe Haseya was too. Even so, Haseya could come back. Holding hands, Awee and her mother walked into the beautiful night sky, their lives going to be different, but a new beginning. New beginnings, new starts, whatever anyone called them, were good. Maybe even better then before.