Authors: Benedict Freedman,Nancy Freedman
“This is a book the reader will be unable to put down until the last page is read.”
…is the story of the start of young love, its growth to maturity, and its acceptance of a dangerous, hard, but enthralling life. Its level of sheer entertainment is extremely high.”
—Los Angeles Herald Express
“It is the personality of Sergeant Mike blowing through this account like a clear breeze that gives it a refreshing quality. Everyone’s dream of a cop, he was also a romantic and understanding husband, the fondest of fathers; a man of honor and humor.”
—The New York Times
is an unforgettable story, not only because it portrays the deep abiding affection between a man and a woman, but because it pictures the austere beauty of a country where life is at once simple and free, yet complicated by danger and hardship.”
“The portraiture is true to life. Sergeant Mike’s masculine way of talk, his ability to get on with human nature, his unending but never dramatic helpfulness, his matching the big moments with bigness, but always simply, are commonplace of men in the Force, but rare in books. The Indians are equally well portrayed. Mrs. Mike’s maid, Oh-Be-Joyful, and her laconic suitor are masterly characterizations and deeply touching.”
—The Christian Science Monitor
Titles by Benedict and Nancy Freedman
THIS AND NO MORE
THE SPARK AND THE EXODUS
THE APPRENTICE BASTARD
CYCLONE OF SILENCE
THE SEARCH FOR JOYFUL
KATHY LITTLE BIRD
Titles by Nancy Freedman
JOSHUA SON OF NONE
THE SEVENTH STONE
SAPPHO THE TENTH MUSE
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors’ imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2004 by Benedict and Nancy Freedman.
Cover art: Portrait of woman © by Roger Mesquita/Nonstock; Island in Algonquin Provincial Park in Canada © by Anthony S. Lojacono/Mira.com; Maple Leaf © by C Squared Studios/Photodisc; Mist on wetlands in Canada © Don Johnston/Age Fotostock.
Cover design by Judith Lagerman.
Text design by Tiffany Estreicher.
All rights reserved.
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BERKLEY is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
The “B” design is a trademark belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Berkley hardcover edition / December 2004
Berkley trade paperback edition / December 2005
Berkley ISBN: 978-1-101-65108-7
The Library of Congress has catalogued the Berkley hardcover edition as follows:
Kathy Little Bird / Benedict and Nancy Freedman.—1st ed.
1. Cree Indians—Fiction 2. Indian women—Fiction. 3. Women singers—Fiction. 4. Canada, Western—Fiction. I. Freedman, Nancy Mars. II. Title.
To Johanna—who knew this book had to be written
To Deborah—who brought it the soul of music
To Michael—who writes in a language that encompasses all others
To Pat—a sister to us both
And our thanks to our editor, Susan Allison, whose perception became part of the book.
And kudos for Claire, who brought it all together.
at the door. Every time Jason yelled I kicked. Every time Jellet’s strap descended he yelled again, and I kicked again. I had worked myself up and began kicking in between times. Mum, from across the room, rushed over, took me by the arm and dragged me, still kicking, away from the door. She set me down on the kitchen stool, one restraining hand on my shoulder. “Stop that, Kathy. Your daddy will certainly hear you.”
“I hate him.” It came out in a flood of tears.
“Don’t say that, Kathy. It isn’t true.”
“It is, it is. I hate him.” I didn’t see how this little room we were in could hold my hate, it wasn’t big enough. The house wasn’t big enough, or the world. Filled with my hate there
wouldn’t be room for anything else, not for people or cows or farms.
Mum was talking to me in that special voice she used to calm me down. “Jason has to be disciplined, Kathy. You know your daddy is a fair man.”
“He isn’t my daddy. And I’m glad he isn’t.”
“Shhh.” Mum cast an anxious glance at the closed door from which the bellowing had somewhat subsided. She went on in a lowered tone. “All the more reason to be respectful. He took us in. Not many would do that. Every stitch we wear and every crumb we eat is his. You need to be grateful. And you need to get that temper of yours under control.”
I looked at her defiantly a moment. But I was tired of the argument, and in an everyday, conversational voice said, “Okay. But I hate him.”
The bathroom door opened and Jason came out, patterns of tears on his cheeks. He didn’t catch anyone’s eye, but slunk off to finish his breakfast in the kitchen. Daddy Jellet came out too. There was an air of satisfaction about him, a job-well-done kind of thing. Mum, who had argued against the beating, didn’t seem angry with him, just resigned. I was the one who was angry, angry, angry.
I marshaled my other angers and lumped them in with this.
Why couldn’t we play with other children and go to their houses? It had always been like that, but now that I was eight I asked why. At first Mum would only say we were different. We were Catholics but never went to church like other Catholics. We didn’t speak to the Metis, although Mum was mixed blood, or the Anglicans, who considered themselves
above us. And we certainly weren’t like the Mennonites with their unpainted houses and benches pulled against the walls. They had nice flower boxes, always blooming, but I didn’t like the way they dressed, the women in gray or black, with kerchiefs at their necks. The men were stiff and their whiskers were stiff. Even Mum referred to them as the “frozen chosen.” They were big on shaking hands. They shook hands outside church and inside church, and they shook hands with whoever sat beside them in the pew. The thing they didn’t do was smile, and they didn’t laugh. They were formal and polite, and full of churchy customs. There were other families, outsiders like us, scattered around, but Jellet made no exceptions. “It isn’t fair,” I said in a loud voice, not looking at either grown-up.
“What’s that?” Jellet’s bushy eyebrows drew together and almost met.
“Run play,” Mum said, and slid me off her lap. Even outside I could hear them. “I told you she’d be upset.” That was Mum, and Daddy Jellet in an unpleasant hoarse rumble began blaming her for saddling him with so many kids that ate up every cent he brought home. I knew I was at the top of the list—Jellet was going on about my Austrian father, why hadn’t she ever tapped him for child support? Mum didn’t answer. She never answered this.