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YOUNG RIDERS:
From the Past: A New Beginning
Part Two

One week later-------


Two Springs sat in the sweet smelling new straw at the front of the barn as she watched Buck cleaning out the other stalls. She ran her fingers threw the prickly fibers, picking up a handful and letting it slip slowly through her fingers. She smiled to herself. She was beginning to like it here. She wanted to stay. It was peaceful and serene, much different from where she had come from. A dirty shack high in the mountains. A place where she had known only fear and sadness. Here she had friends. People who knew kindness and caring. She hadn't been here long but she could already feel the warmth of this place, the friendships that abound within the people who dwelled here. Though her shyness and doubt kept her distant from most of them, she felt safe with Buck. He had become her mentor, her protector and her friend, something she had never known.

Two Springs looked up as Buck sat down beside her. * I need a rest. * he signed and smiled. Two Springs shyly returned his smile.

Two Springs necklace caught Buck's eye seemingly for the first time. He reached out to touch the object when Spring's hand shot up instinctively to protect the treasured trinket.

He looked at her curiously. "It's very pretty." he signed.

Two Springs eyes fell to the ground, ashamed she had been so fearful of Buck wanting to look at her necklace. Then she looked up at him and signed.

"It was my mothers."

"Where is your mother? * He asked her.

*Dead * Spring answered sadly.

*I'm sorry. *

Buck sympathized. *What happened? *

For a few moments Spring signed nothing. She only looked at the ground. Then she looked up at him and with sadness in her eyes she signed to him.

*He killed her. *

Buck looked at her, concerned. *Who killed her? *

Fear flushed Two Springs face and she looked away. Buck reached up and gently turned her to face him again and signed.

*Two Springs. You trust me, don't you? *

The girl slowly nodded.

*Then tell me what happened. Who killed your mother? I can't help if you won't tell me. *

Two Springs hesitated then began to sign to Buck her story.

*The man who owned us. *

*Is he the one who hurt you? * Buck asked.

Two Springs nodded and continued to sign.

*My mother was taken from her village while she still carried me in her womb. The Crow attacked her village and stole some of the young women. She gave birth to me in the village of the Crow. But they said I was bad medicine. Cursed by evil spirits because I could not hear or speak. They blamed it on my white blood. When I was only a small child they sold my mother and me to a white man, a trapper. He beat my mother. He would beat me. One day he hit her and she fell; she hit her head on the table and she did not get up again. Then later, one night he came to me. * Tears began to flow from her eyes as she continued with her story. * He attacked me--- the way he did my mother. * She paused for a moment as she wiped away tears. Then she continued with her story.

*I fell next to the fireplace. I picked up the iron rod used to stir the fire… I hit him, and he fell. I did not wait to see if he was dead. I ran. I ran as far away as I could. Many days I ran. I would sleep only if I could find a hiding place in caves or until I could not run any more. Then the cold came and the wind and I did not care anymore. Then I woke up here.

Please do not make me go back, Buck. Let me stay here, please. I can do things. * She begged. *I can help clean, I can help cook, I can…. *

Buck took hold of her hands and held them still a moment until he let go and signed to her. *No one is going to make you go back, Two Springs. You are safe here. I promise. *

He took her in his arms and hugged her reassuringly, saying aloud, though he knew she couldn't hear him, "I won't let anyone hurt you."

When they had parted Buck signed another question.

*Two Springs. What about your father? Do you know who he is? *

Spring shook her head.

*All I know of him is he gave my mother this necklace. * She touched the trinket around her neck. *My mother said he was a kind and gentle man. He had made this for her. But she did not know what had happened to him. *

Just then, Ike walked threw the barn doors leading his horse behind him. He had just returned from a mail run. He stopped as he saw Buck and Two Springs sitting just in front of one of the cleaned stalls. His eyes glared at Buck.

Buck suppressed a smile as he read the jealousy that was written in those eyes that glared daggers at him right now.

Spring looked up at Ike. Her eyes seemed to smile as she met his. Ike's look softened.

Buck stood, and helped Two Springs up as well. Ike continued to lead his horse to a stall and began to unsaddle him.

About that time, Teaspoon entered through the barn door.

"Emma says you best get washed up for supper," he said as he walked in.

Startled at his sudden appearance Two Springs darted behind Buck. Wanting to tell Teaspoon about what he had found out from Spring, Buck signed to her what Teaspoon had said when he walked in. He insisted she go on in and he would be along as soon as he finished up some things in the barn.

Sparing a quick glance back to see if Ike would also be coming and seeing he was now brushing his horse down, Spring cautiously slipped past Teaspoon and went to the house.

Teaspoon's eyes followed her. The nagging feeling that he should know the young girl gnawed at him more and more every time he saw her. And the necklace only intensified his feelings.

"I found some things out," Buck spoke up, breaking Teaspoon's reverie and getting Ike's attention as well. Ike stoped brushing his horse and moved closer to Buck and Teaspoon, as Buck revealed his conversation with Spring to them.

Teaspoon paled when Buck told him what Two Springs had said to him about her father giving her mother the necklace she wore.

"Did, did she tell you her mothers name?" Teaspoon stuttered quietly. His grey-green eyes held a faraway gaze.

Buck looked at him with concern. "No, she didn't tell me her name… Teaspoon, you alright?"

Teaspoon pulled himself from his shock enough to answer.

"Ya, I'm fine, boy. You, you and Ike go on in and wash up. Emma's waitin. I'll be along directly."

Buck and Ike both obeyed reluctantly.

"Buck," Teaspoon spoke up before the boys had a chance to exit the barn. They stopped.

"I need to know her mothers name," Teaspoon told him.

"Okay Teaspoon. I'll find out," Buck assured him curiously then went on his way toward the house. Ike looked at him questioningly and Bucked shrugged.

************************

Teaspoon sat on his bed and leaned back against the wall, lost in his thoughts. He had barely touched his supper tonight, his hunger drowned out by the new revelations Buck had discovered from the wayward girl. He could barely keep his eyes from her, taking in every detail he could see. For the first time, he noticed the color of her eyes. They were the color of his, a grey/green.

"What ifs" swam through his mind. What if her mother was Bright Water? Was she the baby his Pawnee wife was carrying when she disappeared all those years ago? And if so, more importantly right now, was she his daughter?

The necklace, he knew that necklace. It was the same one he gave to his Pawnee wife twenty years ago. He knew it was. He needed to see it up close and he needed to know the girls mothers name, to be sure. And he needed to know soon. It was driving him insane. Not knowing. Seeing the girl who mirrored his lost wife in so many ways. The way she walked, the way she smiled so shyly. The shape of her face. Little gestures she made with her hands. And the way she… the way she looked at Ike. The same way Bright Water had looked at him when they had first met.

He could still see her face after all these years. And he had never felt a love as special as the one he and Bright Water had shared.

Teaspoon finally lay down in his bed, pulling a blanket over him as he tried to make himself sleep. Tomorrow, tomorrow he would find out. One way or another he had to know.

PAGE FOUR