A Different Blue Page 93

“What was your father's name?” Stella Hidalgo's voice was faint and there was an odd stillness about her, as if she were waiting for an answer she already knew.

“James Echohawk . . . I called him Jimmy.”

Stella slumped back in her seat, shock and dismay written in bold across her face. She stood up abruptly and raced from the room, leaving us without a word.

“Something's wrong. Do you think she knows Jimmy?” I whispered.

“She sure acted like she recognized his name,” Wilson replied, his tone just as hushed. We were interrupted by crashing and muttering, and we rose to our feet, all at once anxious to leave.

“Maybe we should go,” Wilson said loudly. “Ms. Hidalgo? We didn't come here to upset you.”

Stella rushed back into the room holding a box.

“I'm sorry, but I need you to wait . . . please. Just wait . . . for a minute.” We sat back down reluctantly, watching Stella as she pulled the lid from the box and lifted out a photo album. Frantically, she flipped through the pages and then stopped short.

“Some of the pictures are missing. Someone has taken some of the pictures!” Stella tore through the pages, her eyes flying from one photo to the next. “Here. This isn't a very good shot . . . but it's him.” She tugged the picture from beneath the plastic covering. It had obviously been there a long time, and it had adherred to the plastic sheet. She tugged and the picture began to tear. She gave up and brought the book to me, walking across the small space on her knees as if she were six instead of sixty.

“Do you recognize the man in this picture?” she demanded, tapping the page.

I looked down at a picture that had a faintly yellow cast. The clothing and the cars in the background dated it sometime in the '70s. A man and a woman were in the shot, and for a moment my eyes were delayed by young Stella Hidalgo, slim and smiling in a deep red dress, her hair hanging over one shoulder. She looked so much like me that my head swam. Wilson stiffened beside me, clearly noting the resemblance as well. Then my gaze moved to the man standing next to her, and time ceased its steady ticking.

Jimmy looked up at me from a decade long past. His hair was a deep black and hung around his shoulders from a center part. He wore jeans and a brown patterned shirt with the large pointed collars that were popular in that day. He looked so young and handsome, and though his eyes were on the person taking the picture, his hand was wrapped around Stella's, and she clung to his arm with her free hand.

“Is that the Jimmy Echohawk who raised you?” Stella demanded again.

My eyes shot to hers, unable to comprehend the meaning of what I was seeing. I nodded dumbly.

“Blue?” Wilson questioned, completely confused.

“What are you trying to tell me? What is this?” I gasped, finding my voice and shoving the book toward Stella, who still knelt in front of me.

“Jimmy Echohawk was Winona's father!” Stella cried out, “He wasn't just a..a . . . random stranger!” Stella opened the book once more. Her shock was as clearly as pronounced as my own.

“Bloody 'ell!” Wilson swore next to me, his curse ringing out in the little sitting room that had turned into a house of mirrors.

“Ms. Hidalgo, you need to start talking,” Wilson insisted, his voice firm and his hand tight on mine. “I don't know what kind of game you think this is –”

“I'm not playing games, young man!” Stella cried. “I don't know what this means. All I know is that I met Jimmy Echohawk when I was twenty-one years old. It was 1975. I had just graduated from college, and I accompanied my father to several Indian reservations throughout Oklahoma.” Stella shook her head as she spoke, as if she couldn't believe what she was saying.

“My father was a member of a tribal council that was trying to get federal status restored to the Paiute people. The Paiute tribes had had their Federal status terminated in the 1950s. Which meant maintaining our lands and our water rights – what little we had – was almost impossible. The Southern Paiutes had dwindled to near extinction. We went to several different reservations in addition to the remaining bands of Paiutes trying to build support among other tribes for our cause.”

My head was swimming, and the plight of the Paiute people was, sadly, way down on my list of things-I-need-to-know-at-this-very-minute.

“Ms. Hidalgo, you're going to need to move this story along a little,” Wilson prompted.

Stella nodded, obviously at a loss as to where to start or what was even relevant.

“It was love at first sight. I was reserved, and so was he. Yet, we were instantly comfortable with each other. We weren't in Oklahoma long, and my father did not like Jimmy. He was worried that I would be distracted from the future I had planned.” She shrugged her shoulders. “He was right to be worried. I had dreamed of being the the next Sarah Winnemucca, and all at once the only thing I could think about was becoming Mrs. Jimmy Echohawk.”

Hearing Jimmy's name on Stella's lips in that context was another jolt. I didn't even ask who Sarah Winnemucca was. Another day, another story.

“We wrote letters back and forth for almost a year. By then I was working for Larry Shivwa, who later worked in the Carter Administration in Indian Relations,” Stella rushed on. “Jimmy wanted to be closer to me. He came out West . . . just to be near me. He was an extremely talented woodcarver. He had received some national recognition for his work, and had started selling his carvings. He had been saving to open a shop . . .” Her voice dwindled off, and she seemed reluctant to continue. But the time for silence was past, and I pushed her forward.

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