A Different Blue Page 95

“She didn't find Jimmy in Oklahoma, but maybe Jimmy's brother told her about Cheryl,” I said, chewing on possibilities. Stella frowned at me, clearly puzzled.

“Cheryl? Cheryl was quite a bit younger than Jimmy. She was only about twelve when Jimmy and I met, and she didn't live on the reservation. Her mother was a white girl who had an affair with Jimmy's father. I only knew about her because Jimmy had a lot of hard feelings toward his father, and the affair was a big part of it.”

It was hard for me to imagine Cheryl at twelve. She was in her late forties now and didn't wear her age well.

“Cheryl lives in Nevada. She raised me when Jimmy died,” I supplied, hoping Jimmy's death wouldn't come as a shock, but my grandmother nodded as if she knew.

“Jimmy's brother sent me a letter when they found Jimmy's remains. He never mentioned anything about you,” Stella said tearfully.

“Why would he? I never met any of them. They knew nothing about me,” I explained.

We sat in silence, each of us mentally unwinding the tangle of secrets and supposition that had led us to this point in the story.

“Jimmy said he found me in a restaurant booth. I'd been asleep. He waited with me until my mother returned. He told Cheryl that that my mother acted strange, but he thought it was because he was a stranger, sitting with her child. Maybe it was because she recognized him, and he had taken her by surprise.”

“We know Jimmy didn't hurt your mother, Blue. The police found the man who did,” Wilson offered emphatically, as if he knew where my thoughts had wandered.

“Jimmy would never have hurt a soul,” Stella agreed. “But I don't understand how you ended up with him.”

“He said I was asleep on the front seat of his truck the next morning.”

“Then that's what happened,” Stella said firmly. “Jimmy Echohawk wasn't a liar. Winona must have followed him and left you with him. Maybe she planned to come back. Maybe she wanted to force him to acknowledge her. Maybe she was high on drugs, or desperate . . .” Stella offered up excuse after excuse before her voice faded off. Whatever her reasons, Winona had done what she'd done, and no one would ever really know why.

“Jimmy was my grandfather,” I marveled, suddenly arriving at the conclusion that had been obvious since my grandmother had shown me his picture. “My name really is Echohawk.” And all at once, I didn't feel like crying anymore. I felt like laughing. I felt like throwing my hands up and dancing, praising and praying. I wished I could talk to Jimmy. To tell him that I loved him. To tell him how sorry I was for sometimes doubting him. Wilson and Stella were watching me, and Wilson's jaw was tight and his eyes were bright with emotion. I leaned in and kissed his lips, right in front of my grandmother. She would have to get used to it. Then I looked at her and spoke directly to her.

“When Cheryl told me Jimmy wasn't my father, it was the worst day of my life. I had lost him, not only physically, but in every other way. I had no idea who I was. I convinced myself I didn't know who he was either.” I paused to corral the emotion that wanted to spill over. “But he was mine all along. And I was his.”

Stella had begun to cry. When I finished talking she covered her face with her hands, and a moan of such torment broke free that I knelt in front of her and did something I would never have been able to do before Wilson. He had mourned with me, held me, propped me up, pushed me forward, and asked for nothing in return. And because he had done that for me, I was able to put my arms around her. I hugged her tightly, and I didn't let go. I felt her sag against me, and then she was clinging to me desperately, sobbing, grieving for a man she had mistreated, for a daughter she had failed, and for a granddaughter she had lost. So many secrets, so many poor choices, so much pain.

Chapter Thirty

In the end, I went to see Ethan Jacobsen, too. I was tired of secrets, tired of skeletons, tired of the not knowing. I was shaking out the cobwebs and tearing down the heavy drapes, letting the light shine in on a life that had been nothing but dark corners. It wasn't a long meeting nor a particularly pleasant one. Ethan Jacobsen was just a regular guy with a plump wife, a couple of cute blonde kids – Saylor and Sadie – and a spotty dog. My father looked nothing like his high school picture. His youthful scowl and his spiky blond hair had been replaced by a benign smile and a balding head. He had grown soft and middle aged. The only thing that time hadn't altered were his arresting blue eyes. He stared at me with those blue eyes, and I'm certain he noted I had them too. I'm sure he noted my black hair and olive skin and the resemblance I held to a girl he had once certainly cared for, at least for a while.

But he didn't deny me. He told me I was his father and that he would like to get to know me. He asked me about my life, my dreams, and my future with Wilson. I answered vaguely. He hadn't earned the right to confidences. But maybe someday. I promised I would be in touch. I wanted to get to know my sisters. Cedar City was only about three hours from Boulder City, and I was willing to drive. Family had taken on a whole new importance to me because I had a daughter who would someday want all the answers. And I would be able to give them to her. Every last detail.

I asked my grandmother once if it was worth it . . . the work she'd traded my grandfather for. I didn't want to hurt her, but I needed to understand. She rattled off a bunch of facts and interesting details.

“Well, in 1984, the Paiutes received 4,470 acres of land scattered throughout southwestern Utah and a $2.5 million fund from which we can draw interest for economic development and tribal services. Our health care is so much better, as well as our education opportunites. We have been able to build new houses, open and operate a couple of factories. But we have to continue to fight for water rights, to keep our land, to keep our people thriving. There is always work to be done.” She smiled brightly, but her hands shook, and she had trouble meeting my eyes. After a while she spoke again.

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