Sarah slept fitfully, feeling her thin children curl up against her, instinctively seeking the meager warmth of their mother. She raised her head carefully and brushed callused fingers across their fragile faces and tightly plaited hair. They had been forced from their home, because of greed and fear.
So much had changed. Sarah’s world had been reshaped in a matter of a few years. If she closed her eyes, she could see Paul climbing the tall oak trees outside of their cabin, determined to escape from going to school. Martha was nothing more than a babe then, her eyes wide open and excited to explore the land around her. There was more than one occasion when Sarah had to rescue some poor unsuspecting insect from the stubborn two year old’s eager hands. Disease had ravaged their extended family and Sarah shivered as she glanced over at her husband, Ezra. His once kind face had turned bitter and deep lines of worry had etched themselves into his forehead. It had been a week since he had buried his parents.
“Ezra, you’re tired. Please.” She whispered, turning slightly to pat the ground next to her as an open invitation. He grunted once and sat down next to her. Sarah smiled tiredly as he played with her long hair.
“I refuse to be forced to water the ground with my tears anymore.” He muttered abruptly and Sarah blinked as he continued. “I’m not going to some land the government didn’t want, Sarah.”
“Ezra Waters, do we have a choice? We’re guarded day and night by the soldiers...where would we go?”
Ezra held up his hand and grinned faintly. In that brief moment, Sarah saw a glimpse of the playful man that she married.
“We’ll go to Canada. Lieutenant Anderstone confirmed that if we got away, they wouldn’t go after us...”
Sarah went quiet for a long moment, brushing a lock of hair away from Martha’s face. What would they do? How would they survive in a strange land? Would it be worth it?
She swallowed painfully before silently praying, Tsisa, my family has suffered so much, I don’t how much more we can handle. I don’t know how much more I can handle.
Ezra’s hand gently touched her chin. “Sarah, if we’re going to go, now is the time.”
“How are we going to survive up there?” She whispered, leaning her cheek into Ezra’s hand.
He smiled. “Tsisa will provide. I’d rather go to a new home than depend on the government who might steal our home again.”
Sarah nodded once, “You’re right.” She whispered, glancing down at her children again. She stood carefully, taking care not to disturb the children. There were things she had to prepare. Their small bundles of clothing were already packed, and served as a soft surface to rest heads upon. There was the small matter of provisions. That would be taken care of as they traveled.
Without another thought, Sarah nodded to Ezra. Tonight would be the best night. It was a new moon and the weather was fair. He smiled gently and eased Paul into his arms as Sarah did the same with Martha, after picking up the pack with their meager belongings. And without a second glance back to the winding trail, the small family started on their trek north...towards a new future.
--Two Years Later--
“Paul! Wait up for me!” Martha called, lifting her calico skirt higher as she ran to the tree.
Paul grinned impishly and waved at his little sister as he paused in his climbing. “C’mon Martha, you got to keep up, Ulv Usdi!”
Sarah sat on the grass, chuckling softly as she worked on the mending. Ezra sat beside her and grinned playfully before he snatched the cloth away and sprang to his feet. Sarah sputtered for a long moment, not quite believing what her husband was doing, before laughing loudly and springing to her feet, and started to pursue him.
That night, as the sun slowly sank into the western horizon, Ezra called his children around him as he once again began to explain to them why they had fled north to Canada, before opening a letter from the fledgling reservation in a place called Oklahoma.
This is dedicated to all of those families that decided to flee the Trail of Tears and not look back.
Tsisa—roughly translated, Jesus
Ulv Usdi—roughly translated, little sister.
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