It is the fall of 1818, the year of the Lord, in the words of Padre Juan. The mission bells wake me, and for a moment I think I am inside the monjerio with the other unmarried girls. It is not until I hear the stirring of my husband beside me that I realize I am in the snug adobe room assigned us.
I toss aside the blanket, woven by my hand from our mission flocks, and rise from my tule mat to dress. Before the morning doves stir, I join other baptized neophytes in singing the “Cantico del Alba,” a beautiful prayer to the morning.
I take my place on the cold adobe tiles of the church, while Padre Cabot watches to be sure that all are in attendance. I sit on the right side, on a blanket next to other women. Domingo approaches the altar to lend his voice to the choir. He has a fine voice, and my heart knows him from the others.
Afterwards my belly growls like a bear and I hurry from the church to prepare a light meal for my husband, atole, a thin broth made of corn. It will scarcely sustain us, but the fields are empty this year after the Spanish Governor de Solá issued a deep tax on our mission to fund his debts.
I hurry to begin the chore I have been assigned, that of grinding corn. It is a monotonous task, made worse by the bulk of my belly, but I have no will to complain. Suddenly a dark shadow blocks the sun. It is Red-Eye, the pock-marked soldado who watches me so intensely. I do not show fear, only hope that he finishes quickly, before my husband and the others discover the dirty act that he forces on me. When it is over I return to my room. Oxwe’t, my mother-in-law, turns her face away. It is between us, the knowledge that this child I carry may not be her son’s. A burden we will not talk about, even to each other. The blood will be strong if it is mestizo. Perhaps it will survive.
Domingo appears and I am comforted by his greeting. Tonight we will walk to the hot springs and bathe in the healing muds my people share with the grizzly and with other tribes who crossed our land on their way to the sea before the Greyrobes came.
The baby stirs in my belly. Soon I will see my little bird. I will name her Maria Inés. Domingo says the White God has taken all that we have and he will not give up his child as well. But what choice do we have? The White God is more powerful than our old god, Cooksuy. The people know this and so they stay with the Padres.
But today the baby stirs. It is a day for hope.
Maria Inés is a western historical novel published by Five Star Publishing, October 2016.
An Indian girl born under Padre Serra’s cross at Mission San Miguel de Arcángel witnesses the political intrigue and greed of Spanish, Mexican and Yanqui invaders who plunder California, destroying everything she loves. A refugee in her own land during the Time of the Troubles, Maria Inés struggles to survive while she reclaims her family, her faith and her ancestral identity. A moving must-read for fans of the Old West and of Native Americans’ legendary history.
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Meet the author
Anne Schroeder is Past President of Women Writing the West. Maria Inés is an Historical novel set in early California during the Spanish, Mexican and American conquests. Cholama Moon is another novel in the series. Both are available on Kindle or Amazon. Anne has won numerous awards for her short fiction and memoir. She is currently adjusting to a new puppy in the house.
All comments are welcomed.
Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win an advance reader copy of Maria Inés. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends December 26, 2016. Good luck everyone!