I have known the Black family since Embry and I moved back to La Push when he was little. He and Jacob were the same age, so starting with day care, then pre-school; I saw Billy and Sarah at drop-offs and pick-ups, parent’s days and special events. Sarah and I became friends, and would occasionally have lunch together or take the boys to the park. Sometimes, they would watch Embry if I had a late shift at the store. Sarah was just getting ready to teach me about throwing pottery when she died.

 

 I offered to help as much as I could after the accident, and for the first few weeks after would take dinner one night or pick up the house. Rachel and Rebecca were a big help in the beginning too, but I saw Rebecca draw away and Rachel become the surrogate for Sarah. I began to feel they didn’t want or need the help and stopped going by after a couple of months.

 

I saw Billy around town often, eating by himself at lunch or heading off to fish. I wished I could reach out to him, but I never saw an opening, or any interest.  I do know that as Billy became Chief, he was responsible for helping Embry and I out when times were tough, but would never admit to it. Past due bills were paid and groceries appeared when times were lean, times when I couldn’t work because Embry was sick or hurt. It was a tribal way, to help others out, and as Embry got older, I knew it was time for me to step up and become a viable member of the reservation. I began to take classes as my work would allow. When Embry was old enough, he started to work some of my shifts at the shop, and he seemed to enjoy the time, telling visitors the stories of our people and selling them souvenirs of our home.

 

The time came when I had passed all of my classes and was able to become a nurse. At my graduation, there sat Embry, so very proud of me. I looked over and smiled at him, beaming at me. I realized that sitting with him were Jacob and Billy, cheering almost as much as Embry. It meant so much to me to have them there, it was a delightful surprise. Billy insisted on taking us out to eat afterwards.

 

Billy was there for me, again, when Embry revealed himself to me after four years of wondering and worrying. He helped us to forge the new relationship, stronger and closer than the old. That was why, when Billy’s heart stopped, and he was recovering, I volunteered to be his nurse, in and out of the hospital. I had taken on volunteering at the La Push clinic to help pay back my friends and neighbors for their past kindness and generosity to us so it was natural that I should be Billy’s nurse as he regained his strength.

 

He was ornery, and crabby and difficult in the beginning, much like other patients are. It took time, but soon he accepted that I was not going to give up and go away. I cooked and cleaned for him and Jacob, helping them to be able to do their duties to the tribe. It became so much of my routine that I never considered stopping. Billy and I had become friends, then close friends. I got to the point where I looked forward to spending time with him.

 

He filled something in me, something I had never had, nor did I realize I wanted or needed. I had never dated anyone. Embry was my whole world. The encounter with Joshua Uley left me with such bad thoughts of men, even though I knew better. I had convinced myself that no one wanted a woman with a child. I was destined to not ever be married. Embry would be my only son, and the only family I had in this world.  As I spent time with Billy, those resolutions softened, and I wondered what it would be like with him. I knew it was a pipe dream, and I tried not to let on how deeply in love with him I had fallen, I didn’t want to scare him off, or make him feel obligated. If he was content to be my friend, I would settle for that.

 

I found out, not long ago, that I was not the only one in love. Billy showed me in the most amazing way what he felt, how he felt. He bared his soul to me and I found he wanted me. I have told Embry and he is happy for us. He worries too much about his old mum, he thinks I need to get a life.

 

I’d like to think that now, for the first time in 24 years, I may be getting one. And by the grace, it will be with Billy Black.

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