While learning to cope with the death of her mother, a teenage girl struggles to find herself. Peer pressure leads her into trouble. Can reconnecting with her mother's Native American relatives save her. and give her life meaning?
I was fourteen when my mother died. I remember how strange things were the first few weeks after her death. My daddy took it really hard. After a couple of months he dove into his work. My older brother Jeff and I hardly saw much of him for awhile. He would take business trips and be gone for a week at a time. After she died Jeff went to spend the following summer with our aunt Elsie and uncle Ray in Montana. Jeff had changed a lot while he was gone.
I went to stay with my Grandmother while Jeff was away and with Daddy being gone all the time. For some reason my Grandmother got it into her head that I needed professional help. She didn't think I was grieving the loss of my mother in the right way. She convinced my father to send me to a shrink. After a few visits I had him figured out. All I had to do was tell him what it was he wanted me to say. It wasn't even very hard. Eventually, he told daddy I was fine. He said there wasn't anything wrong with me that time wouldn't take care of and in the mean time to try extra hard to understand me.
The real trouble didn't start until I was fifteen. I had hooked up with a couple of girls, Corey and Cristy, when I started High School that following school year. Corey wasn't quite as bad as she wanted everyone to think she was. She was a middle child of five brothers and sisters. Christy had the potential to be a real troublemaker. She lived with her mother and she didn't have a dad anywhere that she knew of. Her mother worked the night shift at the big hotel downtown. They didn't have much and I think that's why Christy had such a bad attitude. I wasn't really looking for friends that year, so in a way, I guess, they chose me. They thought it was really cool I was half Indian.
Corey and Christy were some kind of wannabe witches. They weren't really into anything serious. Christy had some dumb spell book and the two of them thought they were something special. Apparently, there were some stories about my mother being some kind of Indian Witch Doctor going around school and that's why they choose me to be part of their group. It was all pretty stupid to me. At any rate, the two of them where really taken with it all.
Corey was the oldest, she had just turned sixteen and her dad bought her a car for her birthday. It wasn't anything fancy, but it got us around.
It was Christy's idea to start shoplifting. She said she had been doing it for years and there was nothing to it. She said it was the only way she could get the things she wanted.
The mall had an exotic book store and there was a special spell book that cost fifty dollars.
"Koda, it's your turn to shoplift. Corey did it last time when we needed the candles and incense," said Christy.
Well, as luck would have it, I got caught. They sent me down to Juvy Jail. Daddy was furious and heartbroken.
"Koda, I can't believe you did this! How could you do such a thing. If you needed some money I would have given it to you, I'm shocked at you," daddy told me.
"Daddy, I wasn't trying to steal anything, I forgot I was carrying it, it was tucked in my arm under my jacket," I pleaded with him.
It was a long ride home. Daddy didn't say a word to me the whole way.
"You can go to your room and stay there until I can decide what to do with you young lady," daddy stated.
I heard Daddy and Jeff talking downstairs. From the sound of things it wasn't looking good for me.
"Think about it Dad, your going to be out of the country most of the summer and I'm going to be leaving early for College. If she goes to Grandmother's, she will still be here with those friends of hers. Remember how much aunt Elsie and uncle Ray helped me, they can help her too, I promise," Jeff said to daddy.
"Your right Jeff. I know it's the best thing. I know Elsie and Ray will do what's best for her," daddy replied.
Finally Daddy agreed with Jeff, and now my summer is ruined, school's going to be out soon and I'll be shipped off to Montana. It's already done. I wished I had never listened to those girls. I knew better and it was all for nothing. Some friends they turned out to be. They will still be doing what they do and having a great summer, unlike me stuck out in the middle of no where.
A FEW WEEKS LATER
"This is so unfair!" I exclaimed.
"Look, Koda, you brought this on yourself," Jeff replied.
"I did not, Jeff, you and Daddy are being so unfair. I'll just get off the bus on the first stop and you and Daddy won't know where I am." I insisted to Jeff.
"Oh, didn't I tell you? I'm riding with you all the way to Greenbend. I wanted to see aunt Elsie and uncle Ray, besides, that way I make sure you get there with out getting into anymore trouble," Jeff said with a smirk.
"I hate you!" I screamed at him.
"Come on, Koda, no you don't, I'm your big brother, it's my duty and responsibility to guide you in the right direction. You should feel lucky I love you so much, with all the trouble you've been in lately. Six weeks ago the shoplifting thing, and I know you've been sneaking out at night. You're making Dad nuts, worrying about you all the time," Jeff said seriously.
"I still don't know why I have to go. Why can't you and I stay at home?" I protested.
"Koda, you know why, we talked about this already. Dad's going to be out of the country most of the summer and I'm leaving early for college," Jeff explained.
"I'm going to be sixteen in a few weeks and getting my drivers license. Why can't I stay home," I said.
"Yeah, right! The way you've been acting. We wouldn't trust you for five minutes," Jeff said.
"You're not the boss of me, you can't tell me what to do," I told Jeff.
"Maybe I'm not, but Dad is, he's already made up his mind. Your point is already lost. "We're getting on that bus in five minutes, get used to it," Jeff stated flatly.
We hardly said ten words to each other the entire trip from Chicago to Greenbend. When the bus arrived in Greenbend aunt Elsie and uncle Ray where waiting for us. A large menacing black dog they called Wolf was with them.
Jeff gave aunt Elsie and uncle Ray a huge bear hug. Wolf jumped out of uncle Ray's old truck and ran to Jeff, leaped up on him, almost knocking him over.
"Wolf! Good girl, I'm glad to see you too! How have you been old girl? Still guiding the lost and protecting the weary?" Jeff laughed, scratching her behind the ears. Wolf must have understood, because she wagged her tail and barked.
Jeff had a two hour lay over before his connecting bus left, so they all decided we should get some dinner and catch up. After dinner and seeing Jeff off, the rest of us climbed into the old truck and headed out to the farm. It was dark by the time we turned onto the dirt road towards the farm. It seemed like days before we got there, aunt Elise said it was thirty five miles from the turn off.
"It's been a long day Koda, why don't you get to bed now, tomorrow will be here soon, and your going to have a busy day," aunt Elsie said when we got inside.
Aunt Elsie better not think I'm going to spend all summer working on this stupid old farm. I'll just show them this isn't going to work. I'll give them more trouble than they can handle. They'll be sending me home on the first bus out of here.
Aunt Elsie woke me up early, which I didn't like, so I got dressed and stormed outside. Looking around the yard for something to make trouble with and finding nothing, I walked across the yard toward the barn. The chicken coop was halfway between the house and the barn. I opened the pen expecting the chickens to rush out into the yard. Instead, they rushed me, squawking and peeking at me feet. I heard Aunt Elsie calling me for breakfast. I decided this could wait until after breakfast, after all I was starved.
After breakfast I headed for the door, Aunt Elsie stopped me. She said I could start my chores by cleaning up. I was furious, but the look in her eyes said I better do it.
Later in the morning, I couldn't find any trouble so I went down to the little creek behind the barn. Aunt Elsie found me there awhile later throwing rocks at the fish.
"Little Light, you shouldn't throw rocks at them, what if you hit one and killed it, how would you fill then?" aunt Elsie asked.
"Don't call me that, my mother used to call me "Little Light." It's a stupid Indian name, it sounds like a child. I'm not a child. I hate it!" I screamed at aunt Elsie.
"I'm sorry Koda, I didn't mean to upset you. I just wanted you to understand how others might feel," aunt Elsie said with a concerned look on her face.
"Don't start with that Indian stuff again! I had enough of that crap from my mother. I hated it, I hated her, and I hate you!" I screamed.
"Oh, Koda, you don't mean that...." aunt Elsie's voice trailed off.
"I do! Why can't you leave me alone?" I screamed back at her.
Tears of anger and frustration popped out of my eyes. That just made things worse. I had to get out of there. I didn't want aunt Elise to think I as crying because I was sorry. I wasn't sorry. So I ran. I splashed through the creek and ran. I ran through the horse pasture and over the hill. I kept running until I couldn't run anymore. After that, I walked until I couldn't walk anymore. It must have been hours before I realized I was out in the middle of no where.
The storm came up so fast. It was getting dark, quick. How did I get here? How stupid could I be? Aunt Elsie made me so mad, all I wanted to do was run away from her. Now look at me, I'm lost.
What's that? I hear something, and it's coming this way. There's nothing out here except scrub trees and cliffs. There's mountains off in the distance. Maybe it's an animal. Bears wouldn't be out here, would they? I have to hide, but where? The storms getting closer. The winds picking up and I smell rain. That sound, it's getting closer!
I waited, hunched against the side of a cliff. Just then, Wolf came out of the darkness.
"Wolf! Thank god! I thought you were a bear, or worse. I'm so glad to see you!" I stammered out loud.
Wolf jumped on me and knocked me over. I hugged her tight, when I let her go, she trotted off.
"Wolf, Wait, where are you going?" I called after her.
I ran after her, she disappeared right in front of my eyes. Just then, her head appeared in the side of the cliff.
"Good girl, Wolf, you found a cave!" I said with relief.
Just in time, too. A lightening bolt pierced the black sky, followed by a roaring thunder that shook the ground. The sky opened up with rain just as I crawled into the cave. It was musty smelling but it was dry.
I must have dozed off, because all I remember is waking with a start. When I opened my eyes I would have screamed except I was paralyzed with fear. Sitting in front of me was a very old white haired Indian man.
"Do not be afraid Little Light. I am medicine Owl, your Great Grandfather. Your mother, Strong Willow, sent me to speak with you," the old man said.
"My mother? My mother is dead, how could she send you to speak to me?" I said with a shaky voice.
"She is not dead, she does not walk the earth anymore she is here with me." the old man replied.
"I don't understand, am I asleep, dreaming all of this?" I asked him.
"No, you're not dreaming, you're here now. I made all this happen. It is no accident that you came to spend this time with your aunt and uncle. There are many things for you to learn and see while you are in this place. Do you know what a medicine person is?" he asked me.
"No, not really, I mean, my mother talked about such things when she was alive. I thought she was crazy so I didn't listen to her. She was always outside talking to the trees and plants she grew. She talked to the birds and animals and bugs, even the rocks, she tried to tell me about it, but I didn't want to listen, now it's too late." I told him with regret.
I felt tears welling up in my eyes and my heart tearing open, I started sobbing. I never cried when my mother died, all I felt was empty and angry. I hated her for dying and I hated myself for that. I missed her terribly. I feel guilty for not trying to understand her while she was still alive. Now she's gone.
" A Medicine Person is a holy person and a healer. We use animals and plants to guide the people in a spiritual manner. I was the Medicine Man for my people. Your mother was my student, you where to be her student, but she crossed before you were taught. Mother Earth is in great peril. Many things are going to happen in the future and you must be prepared. You can not afford to waste any more time on being childish. You will be a woman very soon and it is your time to be responsible. You must stop being selfish. Your destiny is to serve others," he said to me in a stern voice.
"Your mother was very special to us when she lived here. When she decided to leave us to go live in the white world we were very sad. Strong Willow told me when she was carrying you inside of her, you would be the light of the people. It did not matter that she left, because what she would return to us would be you. She called you her "Little Light," you would shine for all the worlds to see. You carry inside you two bloods. It is told that you will unite the white world with the red. Hard times will ravage the earth and you will shine upon all the lands. It is your duty to guide and teach all those that will listen. Trust your aunt and uncle they will teach you many things." he told me.
"Grandfather, will I see my mother again?" I asked him.
"Yes, Little Light. She didn't come tonight so I could speak with you first. We will both be here when you need us. Others will come to you as you walk your journey. Sleep now, Little Light, when tomorrow comes you will begin your new life." he said.
Wolf whined softly. I turned my head to look at her, when I looked back, Grandfather was gone. I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Wolf woke me in the morning. I gave her a bear hug and we crawled out of our hole in the earth. The soft warm light of dawn greeted us, off in the distance I heard my aunt and uncle calling my name; then I saw them top the small hill in front of us.
"Come on Wolf, we have work to do!" I exclaimed.I
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