Tía Paula turned out to be nice, but suspicious of strangers. I had hidden all but my hunting weapons, though, and I told her Tomás had sent me, so that helped. I offered to help with chores in return for a meal, figuring she’d maybe want help with her animals or making cheese or something.
As it turned out, it was her laundry day. It just figures that my big adventure would start out with my hands in a washtub. By supper time my knuckles were red and felt like they were on fire from the lye, and my arms were shaking from pounding the clothes and wringing them by hand. But I had earned my meal, and it wasn’t half bad — beans, squash, cheese, and fresh tortillas. I was tired, so when we went into living room with glasses of the local wine, I started getting sleepy and cross-eyed. I tried to card a little wool but finally Paula took pity on me, made me a pallet near the fireplace and went to bed.
This morning, I was so stiff I could barely move. It wasn’t because I’d slept on the floor. I’ve done a lot of that. It was all that damn laundry! I wished I’d had sense enough to pack one of Auntie’s liniments, and I wished Will was around to work some of the knots out of my shoulders. It’s funny the little things you miss about people.
I helped Paula with breakfast. The food was okay, but the coffee was mostly chicory and dandelion. While we ate, she asked where I was planning on going. Without thinking, I gave her the name of the first town that came to mind. She looked at me kind of funny. I don’t know if it’s because the town isn’t well known and she hadn’t heard of it, or because it was the opposite direction of the way I was heading yesterday, but it suddenly occurred to me I need to be more careful. I had given Tomás and Paula my real name (okay, my maiden name), and now I had given Robert’s village as my destination. I had no intention of going there, even though I had promised last summer that I would.
If Paula talked to someone who knew me, that could mean trouble for Robert. I never told Auntie that I had decided not to go, and I don’t think Will ever got over thinking I liked Robert better. I guess Will knows me pretty well.
So there I was in Paula’s kitchen, using my real name, throwing around names of towns where I could get people I cared about in trouble. How did I get to be so dumb? When I rode off later that morning, I decided to be more careful about giving out my name. And at least for now, I’ll say I'm going to Tennessee. That’s pretty close to Kentucky, which is where I’m thinking of going. They have good horses there, and I bet I could find work on a horse farm.
Speaking of horses, this would be a good place to put the picture I took of Flecha last month. I took this one myself, which is why it's not very good:
I rode north all day today. After crossing the valley, I made my way into the hills on the other side. I’m camped for the night now, with Flecha tethered nearby. She’s’ pretty smart and she’ll make a fuss and wake me up if there’s any sign of trouble. I don’t think there will be, though. The civil war is mostly in the south these days, and operations usually slow down during winter. It’s sort of an unofficial truce. The only dangers I’m likely to encounter in this area are bears and bandits. I hung my food in a tree a good ways away, so I’m not worried about bears. And as for bandits, I’ve already dealt with the worst a raider can do to me, and I’m sleeping with my guns and hunting knife, just in case.
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