Marie held the Valentine’s card out toward Stabbing Bear. He stared at the heart shaped lace covered card with his cold savage’s eyes and shouted something in Sioux. Marie shuddered at the sound of his gruff voice but she refused to look away or lower her Valentine holding hand.
Marie had travelled out of Chicago with her father, brothers and sister in 1867 hoping that their family fortunes would change now that the war was over. Her mother didn’t survive the birth of young Sarah and it seemed Marie’s father just couldn’t get over it. Now it was St. Valentine’s Day 1868 and they were in serious trouble. They lost their guide to a drunken brawl in Iowa and had been on their own ever since. They had made their way into the South Dakota territories and were now being held by a wild band of Sioux.
Stabbing Bear was younger than the rest of the war party. He looked as if he may have been about 19 years old, while the rest seemed to be older men. Marie was also 19 years old and was quite upset her father forced them to leave Chicago for, “greener pastures”, as he would say. She looked out toward her father’s dead, arrow laden body near the covered wagon and tried not to cry. She knew she had to be brave for her sister and brothers.
Marie held out the brightly colored Valentine again toward Stabbing Bear and tried to convince him to take it. She had tears welling in her eyes about ready to burst forth in uncontrollable sobs but she resisted. Stabbing Bear stared at her and said something to the older men in the war party. They laughed and went about stripping the wagon her father had been so proud of.
The braves took all they could from the wagon and loaded it onto their horses. One of the braves motioned toward Marie’s younger siblings and another deer legging clad Sioux pulled out a tomahawk and headed toward them. The young children wailed in terror as the menacing Sioux approached them.
Marie dropped the Valentine and threw herself in the path of the tomahawk wielding Sioux. He grabbed her by the hair and threw her back toward Stabbing Bear who caught her by the arms and held her place. Marie struggled and kicked and thrashed with all her might but it was to no avail. Her family was dispatched quickly and cruelly by the savages.
She collapsed to the dry prairie grass and she could no longer fight the rage in her stomach. She’d never forgive these monsters pretending to be men. Stabbing Bear picked her up off the dirt and spun her around. She spit in his face with every ounce of hate she could muster. He wiped it off and shrugged and then hoisted her up onto his horse. He mounted the horse behind her and rode off cheering and singing the Sioux songs of victory.
Marie looked back at the wagon and the bodies of her family and whispered a good-bye. At that moment she felt her heart turn to stone and she knew it had no room for love ever again. She felt faint and passed out against Stabbing Bear.
She woke up in a Sioux camp, tied to a post in the ground near a fire. She had already given up on the idea of protecting her virtue. If the men came to rob her of her dignity she would let them have their way and prayed they would kill her afterward. She pulled against the restraints and thought it was giving way when Stabbing Bear came forward from behind the bright fire light. She refused to look at him.
He walked toward her and placed a bowl in her hands. He motioned for her to drink it. She refused and threw the bowl back at Stabbing Bear, spilling the liquid inside all over him. To her surprise, he didn’t pull out a knife or strike her. He calmly wiped the water off his face and reached into his waistband of his leggings and pulled out the folded and crumpled Valentine Marie had tried to give to him. He looked at it in the fire light and he had a slight smile to his face.
Marie looked away in disgust but Stabbing Bear moved closer to her and traced the outline of the heart on the Valentine card and then pointed to his chest, then to her chest. Marie looked at him with venom in her eyes. He seemed to understand she did not appreciate his advances.
Stabbing Bear pulled out his long buck knife and cut the ropes that bound her wrists. He touched her gently on the face and then stepped backwards toward the bright fire light and disappeared behind it. Marie sat by fire, unsure what it all meant. She felt dizzy and sleepy and eventually nodded off into an exhausted sleep.
In the morning she woke and she was alone, the fire had gone out and her Sioux captors were nowhere to be seen. She stood and rubbed her wrists and scanned the vast valley around her. Off in the distance, maybe ten miles away she could just make out the shape of a small town rising with its morning residents. She started stumbled toward it with tears rolling down her dirty cheeks.