A Different Blue Page 92

“Hullo. I'm Darcy Wilson, but everyone calls me Wilson. I'm in love with Blue.” Wilson also extended his hand, and Winona dimpled, completely taken in from the word “hullo.”

“How nice!” she giggled, and I loved Wilson more in that moment than I had ever loved a single soul. Thanks to Wilson's charm, Stella's hands seemed steadier as she showed us into her little home and invited us to sit on a couch covered with a multi-colored blanket across from a pair of deep brown chairs. Several framed awards were hung along the walls, along with a picture that I could have sworn was Jimmy Carter with a woman who was most likely my grandmother thirty years ago. I don't know what I expected when Sergeant Martinez told me Stella Hidalgo lived on a reservation, but this wasn't it. A few pictures were placed on the mantle, and a large Indian-style rug covered the wooden floor. I knew nothing about the Paiute Indians – their customs, their history, their lifestyle. It would be something I hoped this woman could teach me about myself. Someday.

Stella's eyes kept drifting to my face, like she couldn't believe I was there. I let her look her fill and drank her in as well. The moment was beyond surreal, and I have wondered since how we must have appeared, staring at each other in silence, the clock on the mantel marking time as we tried to absorb more than eighteen years into the present.

We made small talk for several minutes, discussing our trip to Reno and our drive to St. George, but soon the talk turned to my mother. I had the distinct feeling that my grandmother needed me to understand her daughter. Maybe because she was still struggling to understand her as well.

“Winnie was full of personality, and she loved being the center of attention, which she usually managed to be both here at home and at school. My parents doted on her, and she always had lots of friends. She loved cheerleading and was very popular, especially with the boys. I was always just the opposite. I was so shy around boys . . . never could figure out what to say.” Stella paused, and I wished she hadn't told me my mother was popular with the boys. It made me worry once again that we were alike, and I didn't want to be anything like her. My feelings of despair deepened as Stella touched on her daughter's unexpected pregnancy.

“Being pregnant was hard for her, as it would be for any sixteen-year-old girl. When Ethan didn't want to have anything to do with her or the baby, she was despondant . . . wouldn't come out of her room, cried a lot. Her pregnancy was miserable, and after you were born, she was inconsolable. The doctor said it was postpartem depression As time passed, she was less depressed, but she became so angry, and I took care of you most of the time. You were a sweet baby, such a calm little thing. You hardly ever fussed. You made it easier for Winnie to ignore you, I think. For me, it was that much easier to love you. As long as you had your blanket, you were content.”

“Was it blue? With elephants on it?”

“Yes! It . . . it was!” Stella stuttered in surprise. “Do you remember?” My grandmother's lips trembled, and she pressed her knuckles to them to suppress the emotion that was evident in every line of her face.

I nodded, suddenly unable to speak.

“Winnie hated it.” Stella's voice wobbled, and she cleared her throat. “She said blue was for boys. But I chose it because you had such blue eyes. Your eyes were so striking. In every other way, you looked Native, except maybe not so dark. Your eyes were what finally convinced Ethan's family that you were his. His family gave Winona some money when you were almost two years old. She took the money they'd given her, stole all the money in my savings account as well as my car, and hit the road. Unfortunately, she didn't leave you behind. I have always regreted not contacting the police and having them throw her in jail. It might have saved her life, and I would never have lost you.

“But she needed to grow up, and I thought getting out of town would be good for her. So I didn't report it. I just . . . let her go. In fact, if she would have just asked me for the money and the car, I most likely would have given them to her. She ended up staying with a friend in Salt Lake City, and she found a job. The friend's mother ran a daycare, and you were being looked after by people I knew and trusted. I kept tabs on her through her friend and thought things were going fairly well. She was there for about six months until she wore out her welcome. She ended up stealing a fairly large amount of money from the friend's mother. And they did report her. After that, I heard from her every once in a while, enough that I knew she was okay.”

The conversation trailed off, and I studied my grandmother's face as she studied mine. It was Wilson who finally spoke up.

“The police report says they had a tip from someone in Oklahoma who swore that a girl matching your daughter's description was caught shoplifting several items from a convenience store. The shop owner ended up not pressing charges because he felt bad for the girl. She was stealing diapers and milk. He ended up giving her the milk, some groceries, and a case of diapers, along with some money. When the store owner saw her picture on the news, he remembered your daughter and her little girl and called the police.”

“Oklahoma?” Stella Aguilar seemed stunned, and she shook her head, muttering under her breath. “No . . . that isn't possible.”

“The police say nothing ever came of it. It only muddied the waters without giving them anything more to go on,” I interjected. “I just noticed it because my father – the man who raised me – had family on a reservation in Oklahoma. I wondered what in the world she would be doing there.”

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