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Authors: Margaret Buffie

Winter Shadows

BOOK: Winter Shadows
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Copyright © 2010 by Margaret Buffie

Published in Canada by Tundra Books,
75 Sherbourne Street, Toronto, Ontario M5A 2P9

Published in the United States by Tundra Books of Northern New York,
P.O. Box 1030, Plattsburgh, New York 12901

Library of Congress Control Number: 2009938091

All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the publisher – or, in case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a licence from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency – is an infringement of the copyright law.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Buffie, Margaret
Winter shadows / Margaret Buffie.

eISBN: 978-1-77049-228-8

1. Métis – Juvenile fiction. I. Title.

PS8553.U453W55 2010    jC813′.54    C2009-905850-2

We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP) and that of the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Media Development Corporation’s Ontario Book Initiative. We further acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for our publishing program.   

v3.1

To all the women of my family tree who lived their lives before me. Aren’t I glad they did! I wish, with all my heart, I could sit down and talk with each and every one of you
.

And to my daughter Christine and nôsisim Emily McGregor – my own ôhômisîsis
.

CONTENTS
1

BEATRICE
1856

T
he sleigh’s runners hissed over the snow, leather harness creaking in the frigid air, the horse’s hooves muffled, clods of snow flying. Beatrice Alexander sat huddled under a pile of buffalo robes, the reins loose in her mittened hands. She was warm, except for her cheeks growing numb in the icy wind. She pulled her scarf higher and her fur bonnet lower, longing for a cup of hot spruce tea.

As Tupper followed the snow-packed track along the narrow river road, another conveyance suddenly appeared ahead – a strange bright yellow thing with many shiny windows, like a small house on fat bulging wheels.

As it drew closer, Beatrice sat up. That thing
couldn’t
be real. It was moving under its own power – no horse in sight. Instinctively, she pulled hard on the reins. Tupper lurched to the left and stopped, his breath frosting the air in white gusts.

The apparition moved quickly and silently toward them, snow frothing behind. The great horse trembled, muscles twitching. He saw it, too.

Beatrice held tight to the reins. As the conveyance passed, a girl with a halo of red hair stared down at Beatrice through one of the windows. Her eyes widened, and she lifted a red mittened hand in salute. Then she and the strange device were gone … vanished … fallen from view, into the blowing snow.

2

CASS

M
y stepmother, Jean, was sitting at the kitchen table when I got home from school, chin in hand, looking out the window toward the river.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” she said. “You were way out of line this morning, Cassandra. Overreacting, as usual, by storming out of the house and not listening to me. You
like
pushing Daisy’s buttons. Well, you can’t push mine. Just remember this, Cassandra: one day it will be too late to put the toothpaste back in the tube.”

She just
can’t
stop herself from offering up one of her stupid clichés, so I said, “For the hundredth time, it’s Cass. That’s what I want to be called. It’s my name. I don’t need a different take on it from you. As for this toothpaste, it’s already out of the tube, so who cares if it goes back in or not? It’s just toothpaste.” The already edgy look on her face tightened, and that was good enough for me. Don’t tell me I can’t push her buttons.

“I don’t want another shouting match. Just apologize to Daisy, okay? And you might think about apologizing
to me as well, Cassandra.” She stood up and walked away, her back stiff, shoulders high.

Stiff should be Jean’s middle name. She told me often enough that she was “bending over backwards” to make a home for all of us, but if she ever actually did bend over backwards, she’d snap like a Popsicle stick. With her angular face, straight black hair, bony hands, thick legs, unvarying twin sweater sets and droopy skirts, she was no match for Mom. It should have made me feel better. It didn’t.

As her footsteps retreated down the hall, I mimicked her way of walking, then stood for a second or two thinking.
Did I win that one?
No idea. We both knew I wouldn’t apologize to Daisy. Or her. It was her daughter who took my favorite CD, stuck gum on it, then lied about it. The kid was a thief and a bald-faced liar. So why should I apologize?

There was a tea tray laid out on the table with a gloating Santa-head teapot and cups shaped like demented elves on it – for Jean and Dad’s usual cozy little after-school schmooze. Christmas was less than two weeks away – the third since we’d moved out here from Selkirk and the second Christmas since Mom died. Hanging on a peg by the stove was her old red apron, splashed with white snowflakes. Last week, Dad gave it to Jean. She wore it every day now. She figured it was hers. Across the bodice,
Merry Christmas!
was stitched in white.

Merry?
Huh. Not likely. Jean was removing all traces of Mom stitch by stitch. She called it
putting away keepsakes
for Cassandra
. Pieces of furniture quietly vanished into our barn across the road. Jean said Mom’s stuff was too old-fashioned for her “decorating plan.” Luckily, before she started grabbing other stuff, like Mom’s collection of antique pastel paintings, I packed it up and took most of it to Aunt Blair’s for safekeeping. My favorite things I kept in our old blanket box, at the foot of my bed.

Thinking about all this made my blood steam. I snagged the apron off the peg and tucked it under my arm. It would go in my box. When Jean asked, she’d get the truth – it wasn’t hers; it was Mom’s and mine.

I was glad Daisy had to stay late at school. Dad was picking her up on his way home. I’d be free from the little rat for another hour at least. I turned around, automatically reached for the fridge door to get a juice box, and grabbed air. I kept forgetting the fridge was on the other side of the room now. The big kitchen was only half usable – the other half torn apart. Whenever I saw the workers, they were sitting around with coffee mugs in their hands. But, clearly, they’d earned their money today. The far plaster wall was gone, exposing a huge stone-slab fireplace, its deep hearth black with soot. The faint scent of ashes hung in the air. The broad wooden mantel was big enough to crush ten men, if it fell. The yawning mouth of the hearth was packed with fire tools, blackened pots and pans, and other murky things. Down one side were two cast-iron oven doors.

Jean would probably replace the whole thing with cupboards. I sighed. Mom would have been so excited,
making sure the fireplace was restored to its former glory.
Me?
I couldn’t let myself care. I used to argue every time Jean and Dad changed Mom’s plans, but I wasn’t up for a new fight. I was as burned-out as the silt that sifted down from that ancient chimney.

BOOK: Winter Shadows
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