In Hide and Seek
1868 El Paso, Texas
With only the light from the last burning logs in the stone fireplace, Danielle set her pack by the front door of her home, with the bag of what little food she had left beside it. She was not taking much. She could take nothing that would identify her as a woman.
The men her uncle sent took their clothes and the furniture right after the funeral for her father yesterday. She had managed to keep out two pair of worn trousers, three of his shirts, a rather stiff leather vest to wear all the time to hide her figure, and several pairs of socks because she needed to wear more than one pair to keep his riding boots on her feet. She added another belt that she needed to cinch in his trousers to make them fit her slim body. Worried they still might slide down, she grabbed suspenders, which she wore now with one of the outfits. The rest were in her sack to which she'd tied a rope to make carrying it easier.
Gone were her dresses, petticoats, and decorated hats, everything a woman would wear. The men had taken all her clothes and the little jewelry she owned to set her up in a bedroom next to her uncle in his house. She shivered thinking about it.
When the men finished emptying the house, they expected her to go with them, but she could not. Her uncle had stopped her after the burial that afternoon with his big hand wrapped around her upper arm.
"We will have everything out of your house for the new owners who move in tomorrow," he had told her with a smile at how much he had accomplished by stealing all their earthly possessions so quickly after her father died. She knew he had been planning it since her father became so ill. And the house and its contents were just the beginning of what he was going to claim.
"I do not know why you insist in staying in that house for one more night," her uncle told her when he came to check that the men had gotten everything. "Not a bed to sleep in. If you want to sleep on the floor, maybe I should sell your bed in my house."
He laughed then and had not lessened his tight grip on her arm. Instead, he moved his thumb up and down on the side of her breast. She saw the promise in his eyes of more liberties he intended to take. This would be just the beginning.
Frightened, she had twisted from his grip and walked away. Rubbing her arm, she was certain it would soon show bruising. She still heard his laughter and knew that all she had planned for her getaway was the right thing to do. She had to escape. Her only worry was that she had to depend on a total stranger who gave his word to help her. She had only talked with him for a few minutes, and now she had to trust him completely.
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