Through the window of the stagecoach, a blur of windblown buffalo grass with a dark scrubby pine in the distance was all she could see. Catherine closed her eyes with hopes of calming the nausea churning in her stomach, but it only accentuated the lurching and pitching of the stagecoach as it rolled over the uneven road and further aggravated the situation.
Catherine leaned her head back against the leather seat, taking deep, slow breaths. They were going to be all right. They had to be.
Beside her, she felt her sister’s attention. “Do you feel sick?” Lydia worried.
Her seven year old sister had inherited their mother’s fair coloring, while Catherine had her father’s dark hair and brown eyes. Both girls had their mother’s petite build. Because she appeared delicate, Catherine was often presumed to be weak and fragile. But appearances could deceive, as Oliver Williams would soon discover.
Patting Lydia’s hand, Catherine assured her, “I’m fine. Just a little queasy.”
“Try to rest,” the child suggested in a maternal tone, resting her cheek against Catherine’s shoulder.
Smiling, Catherine squeezed her hand in gratitude. What would she do without Lydia?
The thought pierced her heart like a knife. She would never let him take Lydia away from her. Not without a fight. But hopefully it would never come to that. If out of sight means out of mind, then leaving Pendleton, Oregon would be their salvation. Please let him forget about me! she pleaded desperately in silent prayer.
Lydia was blissfully ignorant of their precarious situation. Catherine had made every effort to shield her from the dark and troubling details. Brushing a wayward strand of brown hair from her eyes, Catherine shook her head numbly. How had her life come to this?
Slumping back against the cushion, Catherine closed her eyes and tried to still the worried thoughts that ricocheted wildly about in her mind. Finally exhaustion won over, and she nodded off.
When the stagecoach rattled into the rustic town of Weston, the call of the driver startled Catherine from her rest. She breathed a sigh of relief as the horses halted and the wheels of the coach slowed to a stop. Her teeth felt rattled in her skull and her entire being vibrated from the constant battering.
Lydia had also fallen asleep, her head sagging against Catherine’s shoulder. Gently, Catherine lifted her arm to encircle her sister.
“Wake up, honey. We’re here,” she whispered.