Now large with child, Twisted Grass spends her days inside the lodge cleaning and cooking, leaving only at night to draw water from the stream. Night had become her friend, a welcome cover shielding her from the downcast eyes and turned backs of those who shunned her. When the moon is full she picks berries to share with her mother.
She had one other friend – her dreams. Twisted Grass would leave this world of illusion behind for the real world of dreams. Her unborn daughter would run ahead, turning to look back at her mother and laughing with delight before turning to run into welcoming darkness. Unable to see her daughter, Twisted Grass tracked her laughter and waited as a small face with eyes black as the night and skin the color of fresh snow emerged from the shimmering darkness. Laughing still, the child would run to her mother with her arms upraised. Those who visited and those who inhabited the dream world each looked on with approval as the mother hugged the daughter, offering their own wisdom as the mother whispered words of sorrow and love.
She lay on buffalo robes mounded in a corner of the Trading post, her buckskin dress pulled up to her hips. The smell of the big hairy faced one took her breath away, it was the smell of an animal dead too long in the sun. Hairy face would grunt loudly, then clean himself on her dress. The younger one did not smell as bad, and she sensed shame within him. Staring at her fixedly during the act, he could not meet her eyes afterwards but would return to leave a pretty ribbon or a piece of the sweet rock that they put in coffee.
She hoped it was him.
The baby came during the night. Emerging from the lodge into quiet darkness, Twisted Grass makes her way down to the creek to wash herself. Her quiet solitude is briefly interrupted by the chirping of a cricket. That will be her daughter’s name. Cricket.
No one waits to greet the young mother as she returns from the creek. No female relative will come to visit, nor will the coming days find any member of the Elk clan stopping by to sit by the fire with her father Next to Mountain. No gifts await Cricket. None inquire as to her health. Some cruelly whisper the baby has facial hair.
Snow had begun to fall as the tribe finishes breaking down the lodges and begins the trek north. She trudges behind, baby on her back. Pace slowing, she falls further behind. She knows no one will discover she’s missing until the next morning. She doubts they will look for her.
Settling under a pine tree, Cricket cradled in her arms, Twisted Grass sings softly.
Grandmother, I have your gift, thank you, Grandfather, I have your gift, thank you, I am not sorry for myself, the wind carries me across the sky.
The snow is falling heavily now, the wind whips across the prairie. A white blanket covers mother and daughter.
Cricket runs ahead into the warm darkness. Visitors and inhabitants alike approach, bearing gifts. Soft winds urge Twisted Grass forward to be welcomed into the world of dreams. A small hand reaches up to grasp her fingertips. Gazing down into eyes filled with adoration, she lifts Cricket and enters the engulfing warmth.