Chapter Eight: Skye
The twins chased each other around the junipers in front of the house. Benjamin said, “I don’t want to be the mule.”
“You’re the mule.” Skye raised her stick again and grabbed the back of his collar. “Go on, mule.”
He raised his leg and kicked back at her. “Hee haw!” Then he ran. She chased him. He scooped up a pebble and threw it at her.
“Mama, Benjamin’s throwing rocks at me again!”
Erin stepped outside. Out of habit, she fixed her eyes on the twins, then counted their cows and horses. “Benjamin! You quit tormenting your sister.”
Skye grinned at Benjamin. “I got you in trouble. I hope you get a whippin’. If I was Mama, I’d whip you every day. You’re still a donkey. My brother, the donkey!”
“Skye, get the bucket and you and your brother pull some turnips for supper.”
While the twins were in the garden, Erin milked their cow. Her uncle’s almanac said the moon would be full tonight. She reminded herself to check the shotgun to make sure it was primed and loaded.
She swung the gate shut and looped the rawhide thong over its post, making her way to the house with the milk. Skye walked to her with her bucket of greens. “Mama, is this enough turnips?”
“That will be plenty for us.”
“When’s daddy coming home?”
“I don’t know, darling. I hope soon. Go play with your brother while I fix our supper.” Skye asked the same question every day.
Benjamin set a row of bois d’arc apples on a large flat rock and was knocking them off with rocks. “That’s six dead Yankees. You want to play, Skye?”
Skye studied the strewn apples and the one remaining on the top. “You sure can’t throw a rock worth a durn.” She picked up a rock, bounced it in her hand, then hurled it so hard that its point buried itself in the green apple. It rolled off, bleeding white juice. She dusted her hands and said, “That’s how you throw a rock, Benjamin.”
“That ain’t nothin’. Just a lucky throw. You’re just a girl. What do you know?”
“Mi hermano, el gusano!”
“Mama! Skye called me a worm!” Benjamin went on to play soldiers under the walnut tree. He gathered hulls into two piles, and laid them out in battle lines. The round ones were one army, and the flat ones another. Benjamin looked over at Skye. “Bruja!”
“I might really be a witch, Benjamin. And you best not forget it.” She wiggled her fingers at him. “I might really turn you into a donkey or a worm!”
Benjamin ignored her and returned his thoughts to his walnut soldiers. Skye circled him, playing her own war game. In this imaginary world, she was Sgathaich, warrior-priestess queen of the Isle of Skye. She acted out the stories her mother told her at night—of Sgathaich building Dunscaith Castle with the help of a witch in a single night, training Cu Chulain in the arts of war in her military academy, predicting the future for pilgrims who had come to her from Ireland and Gaul.
“I am Skye MacDonald!” she cried.
“That’s Mama’s family!” Benjamin said. “We’re Evans!”
“You hush. I can use Mama’s last name if I want to.”
She ran to Epona, her white mare, and stroked her neck. Jumping, she wrapped her arms around the horse’s neck and pulled herself up in one fluid motion. Epona tossed her head and neighed.
When her mother called her for dinner, Skye nodded to her imaginary students, and left her stone castle with its seven ramparts and pits of snakes and beaked toads, and jumped twice crossing the imaginary magical bridge leading to Dunscaith that threw off any who required more than two strides. At the cabin, she noticed their dog was looking at the treeline, growling, and pawing the ground. “Mama, Angus is looking nervous.”