I couldn’t be sick, could I? After all that time nursing Ishkin in the hospital and not getting so much as a cough, could just one day traveling in the sleet do this to me? I had traveled under worse conditions than yesterday. After so many years with Unitas, I was no delicate house-girl who caught the sniffles at the first sign of bad weather.
Could I have caught a sickness from that town I passed through? No, I hadn’t touched any sick people, and I washed up good with lye soap.
It was the weather. I hadn’t been taking care of myself properly.
I threw some aspen bark and pine needles into the water and made a tea that I’m sure Auntie would’ve approved of. I sipped it as sweat coursed down my back, but once I had finished my drink, I grew cold again—much colder than before.
Shivering, I gathered my things. I needed to find proper shelter. This drafty old shack would make anyone think they were sick.
I got back on the road and continued in the same direction as yesterday, wishing the sun would warm me. By the time I came upon a little farm, I was shivering so hard I could barely hold Flecha's reins. I turned into the drive, hoping to ask for a place to stay, but a man working in the yard ran over. “What do you want? You didn’t come up here from Ojo Dulce, did you?”
I think he saw how badly I was shivering, because he gave me no chance to speak.
“Go on! We don’t want sickness here. I’ve got a family to think of.”
My welcome at the next farm was much the same. When I finally reached a village, sweating, joints aching and my teeth chattering, I was chased out by a group of kids throwing rocks, who shouted at me to take my enfermedades out of their town and off their mountain.
I didn’t know if it was getting colder, or if it only felt that way, but as the sun started to set, I began wondering if I would ever find a place to shelter for the night. I wasn’t carrying some horrible disease from that town I had passed through. I was just sick from being cold, wet, and tired, without proper food and rest, and none of these ignorant rústicos would give me a chance to explain.
Rest was all I needed. I thought longingly of my childhood room in Valle Redondo, and of my cozy bed on Auntie’s mountain that I left not even two months ago. I thought of the yellow bedroom at the safe house where Auntie sent me last year after me and my friends were attacked. Nice places, all of them, and here I was in the cold, on a horse, treated like a leper! What was I doing here? Where was I? Had I lost my mind?
I saw another farmhouse and approached the door, with no real expectation of better welcome than I had received elsewhere. I’m sure I looked pitiful, wrapped in my blanket and barely able to stand for the weakness in my knees. If the lady who came to the door had hit me with a frying pan and sent me away, I wouldn’t have blamed her. I would have sure been too weak to have done anything about it.
To my relief, she was kind, or at least kinder than anyone else had been. She refused to let me in her house, but offered me a barn, citing her concern that I might be contagious and infect her children. At least she had the decency to seem embarrassed. “Lo siento,” she said, “No puedo riesgar a los niños.”
As if to prove her point, a little girl poked her head around her mother’s legs and stared at me. Of course I understood, although I was beyond anger or caring at that point. She had no way of knowing I was only chilled. If she preferred I stay in her establo, so be it.
I went to the dilapidated barn and looked for a way to make myself comfortable.
I put Flecha in an unused stall and tried to make myself a nest in the hay, using my tarp and blankets, but it was too hard. The hay wouldn’t go in the right places and the tarp and blankets kept getting tangled and twisted around, everything interlaced with that stupid hay. It was so frustrating I wanted to cry.
After awhile, the woman came to the barn and left a covered plate and cup of whiskey-laced cider outside the door, as if for a dog. But the food and drink were hot, and I was too numb to be insulted.
Fortified by my meal and the hot drink, the pain in my body receded. I no longer felt cold, then hot, then cold again, and I was able to finally make my bed and get Flecha properly settled. I even felt good enough to write and draw a little. So you see, all I needed was food and shelter. What bastards people are that no one would listen to me today!
That was an hour ago. I’m starting to shiver again, and everything hurts. Even the touch of my clothes against my skin feels like it’s leaving bruises.
I’m going to try to sleep now. That’s what I need. Just one good night’s rest to get my strength back and fight off this dumb cold I picked up. Stupid weather. Damn sleet. Too cold and muddy. I’m not really sick. I’ll be better tomorrow. It’ll be warm and sunny out and I’ll feel better again, not like today, because I can’t be sick out here, away from any friends and family who would help me.
Flecha is here. She'll watch out for me.
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