What Once We Loved
gone and our… not… settled.”
    Ruth shrugged. “You'll have to.”
    “Can you ever forgive me?” Mazy whispered. “I guess that's what I want.”
    “You've come to the wrong place for that,” Ruth said. “Forgiveness isn't something we humans grant anyway, isn't that right?”
    “We have a part in it,” Mazy said.
    “Not me,” Ruth said. “I live alone.” Ruth's tone sounded stiff as a wagon tongue, even to herself. “We're on opposite sides of a cliff, and if either of us move, we'll disappear inside darkness,” Ruth said.
    “We're friends,” Mazy whispered. “Surely friends—”
    “People come into our lives for a reason, and then they go away. Maybe we came together to help each other on the trail, and now it's time to move beyond that. Maybe it'll make my leaving easier, this way,” Ruth said.
    “You've withstood so much, Ruth. I admire you so. You've found a way to live with loads I don't think I could have carried.”
    “Maybe now I'll find out who I really am,” Ruth said.
    “You don't have to leave now,” Mazy said, almost pleading. “I mean, without Jumper, you might take the season here and find another stallion.Maybe at the hacienda you visited last week. Maybe yours was supposed to be a California-bred herd. And surely one of your mares will foal a stud colt in the spring. There are even some nice-looking yearlings you could hold back, see if one of those would turn into another stallion of high hopes.”
    “Don't…don't say it that way.”
    “Why risk leaving when you have everything you need right here?”
    “You're taking over this place,” Ruth said.
    “We could all stay. There's room. I was thinking.” Mazy turned to face her directly. “We could build the house I told you about. Lumbers coming down in price. Share the lease, maybe buy the old man out. I'll get Marvel south. I will. I'm going to ask David and Oltipa and Ben to come live here. Mother, too. We could be all together, just like we were. Once. You could spend time with Mariah. She so adores you. And we'd have time to mend this. Why go now? The maple tree we brought from Wisconsin is here. We've celebrated here, Jessie's return, all kinds of good things.”
    “I can't get past it.”
    “Mother always says cant means won't.' It's a way of avoiding choosing,” Mazy said.
    Ruth felt herself stiffen. “Your mother was speaking to you, Mazy, not to everyone in the universe. Not to me anyway. I…can't get past the image of your bull, nose high in the air while my Jumper…” Ruth shuddered. “Look. Things change. We change. And I'm not going back on what I said I'd do. It was a good decision, my choosing to go north. I think it's best we just learn to say good-bye.”
    “Oh, Ruth,” Mazy said.
    Ruth stood and walked toward the corral. She knew Mazy couldn't come after her, wouldn't.

Poverty Fht, near Shasta City
    Elizabeth Mueller's hip ached, her brain felt fuzzy, and she found herself more than a little irritable. She knew she shouldn't eavesdrop, but she'd heard their conversation, then watched as Mazy stepped inside, her cheeks streaked with tears.
    Well, she couldn't fix it. She could only offer solace. Every wound healed at a different rate, despite the salve placed on it. Why, her own palms that burned when Shasta did were still tender, so she could just imagine what Mazy struggled with, her heart being scorched so and nothing but time to cool it.
    This commotion at Ruth's had tired her, she realized. Maybe she was just getting old and couldn't take all the hubbub of children anymore. That'd be sad , she thought. She was still wondering what she'd be when she grew up, and now here she was thinking she was older than dirt.
    Elizabeth looked around for her small bag, found it and the letter, and walked to the corrals to find Ruth.
    “Here's the post I was bringing you, Ruthie.”
    Ruth read quickly, the color draining from her face.
    “You seen a ghost?”
    Ruth showed her the poster—a drawing she

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