Red Hawk’s Woman
There, sitting on a rock at the edge of the pool was the most unusual, but perhaps the most beautiful creature he had ever witnessed. He stared. Was she a vision?
She could be, for he was unable to see the girl as well as he might, the ever-present minst that swirled around her made her appear dreamlike. Yet, for some unknown reason, he felt certain she was real.
Was she part fish?
No, she must be human, he thought. She looked human…well, at least she did from the waist up. But she was certainly like no other being he had ever seen. For ont thing, her hair was a dark shade of red, not black or brown, and the lock of her mane were curling about her head in cascading sprials. Her skin color was a shade or two whiter than that to which he was accustomed, as well, but not enough to draw a great deal of notice.
From her waist upward, she wore nothing, but this seemed a usual sort of happenstance. Most of the children in the village ran naked, and she was a child, he determined, since, from his view of her, she had thus far developed nothing which, due to modesty, must be hidden.
But…did she have legs?
Red Hawk couldn’t be certain. From the waist downward, it appeared that she no longer grew skin. All he could see from ther downward was green. Surely most forms of human beings were not green on the bottom, were they?
Was she a white person? Had there not been rumors in the tribe about such people? Stories that the tribal medicine man, White Claw, had seen such people and had talked to them? Were white people half fish?
Slowly, as silently as he could, Red Hawk crept toward the girl, and was almost upon her, when she moved, stretching. Her hands came up to push back her hair, as though she were combing it with her fingers.
Without warning, she turned toward him. Her eyes were big, he noted, a light shade of brown, and she stared straight at him.
What happened then Red Hawk could never explain, nor did he ever wish to. One moment he was on his feet, the next, he was tripping all over himself. Suddenly he was all hands and legs, and they seemed to be going in all directions at once. The result of course was that he landed on the ground none too delicately, and quite on his rump.
“Hello,” she said, when things had settled down. “Who are you?”
But Red Hawk had no conception of what she said, or even if her words were part of a language. Was she singing? She might be, her voice was that beautiful.
Looking up at her, for he had yet to arise, he said, “Oki,” deciding that it was best to greet her politely.
But she frowned, clearly not educated to the great language of his people.
“Who are you?” she repeated. However, since he didn’t undersatnd her, and vice versa, he used sign language to help impart his meaning.
Yet even in this, a most basic form of communication, she seemed adrift, for she frowned at him, clearly not understanding him. But the scowl on her face seemed unable to take permanent hold on one so bright and cheery, and very soon the grimace had transformed into an easy smile.
Maybe that was his undoing, he thought. The grin. It is said that there are people whose faces glow when they smile, as though lit from within with magic.
She might be such a one. For when Red Hawk looked into her eyes, he thought that surely he had eaten something bad this day. His innards were awash in butterflies.
“Well, no matter who you are,” said the girl after a while, “would you like to seim with me?” Then she bestowed upon him yet another of those beguiling grins.
He froze, gaping. He knew of nothing else to do but stare at her.
When he didn’t respond to her question at once, she made hand motions at him, giving him to understand that she was about to fly into the air…or at least that’s what he thought she said.
Was she a goddess, then? he wondered.
He frowned at her and she giggled, and with a single hand motion, she invited him to join her. Then, as quick as all that, she slipped into the water.
—THE TWO OF THEM PLAY FOR HOURS IN THE WATER. BUT BEFORE TOO LONG IT IS TIME TO GO —
“I have enjoyed my morning swim with you,” she said earnestly, the honest appeal in her eyes intriguing. At last, she let go of him, and reaching her hands up behind her neck, she unfastened the necklace that she wore — one made of a gold-colored substance. Placing the necklace in her small hand, she extended the jewelry toward him.
“Take it,” she said, when Red Hawk didn’t immediately reach out to capture it. “Take it,” she repeated, motioining toward it and then to him.
At length, he nodded and reaching out, grasped holdof the prize.
“There,” she said, “that wasn’t so hard, was it?”
Looking down at himself, as he stood before her in only his breechcloth, he searched his body for a gift he might give her.
But what? There was little that he owned.
Time seemed shosrt as he pondered the problem, and he had almost given up the idea, when he remembered…his earrings. The white shell earrings he wore were of some value.
Unfastening them, he placed two white shells in his palm, extending them toward her.
“For me?” she said, and he nodded.
Her tiny fingers slid over his palm as she reached for the prize. Red Hawk was amazed that a simple touch should make him feel as if he were suddenly falling through space.
“I don’t know why I should say this to you,” she said, “for I know that you cannot understand me…and perhaps that is why I feel I must say this — but I think I have fallen in love with you.” Her hand briefly clasped his.
And then it was over, she turned away, and hurrying off in a direction opposite to that of his own camp, she was almost out of sight, when she suddenly spun back. Running toward him, she cam right up to him, said, “I almost forgot,” and standing on the tips of her toes, she brought her face up to his, where she placed a kiss on his cheek.
She giggled and said, “I hope to see you here tomorrow.” Flashing him one last grin, she fled.
She didn’t look back, and maybe it was good that she hadn’t For, in response to that kiss, slight though it was, Red Hawk had taken a few quick steps toward her as if to reciprocate, when suddenly, he became so uncoordinated, he tripped over himself.
Once again, the earth cushioned his fall. Once again, he lay flat on his fanny…
RED HAWK’S WOMAN
A Berkley Sensation Historical Romance
by Karen Kay