Clover could give in to the little girl forever and feel secure but unfulfilled, or fight every day for that balance between the woman she needs to be and the little girl she longs to be. Can she do both? Would he let her?
When her protector abandoned her to go into the Army, leaving fourteen-year-old Clover Sweet Medicine to go through high school virtually unsupervised, she felt as though her spirit had died. She survived the loss, and now she is eighteen and graduating. However, grad night turns into a life-changing event, complete with an arrest and loss of adult status. Suddenly, Clover needs a guardian, and the tribal council chooses the only person who cares enough to make her follow the rules: Jared. Will he be willing to reassure the little girl inside and still want the woman outside?
Jared Little Fox is a man of his word, and when he left to join the Army, it was to gain skills, a college degree and to earn money. He was going to fulfill his destiny with his tribe, and he was going to marry Clover Sweet Medicine. He tried to explain all this to Clover before he left but she’d turned a deaf ear. Now he worries that four years might have been too long, considering the changes in his girl. His Clover is a woman-child who is out of control, angry, scared, reckless, and desperate for love. She has lost all the security he had worked so hard to give her, ensuring she was happy, safe, and healthy since her early childhood.
Now, instead of letting them start their adult lives together, the council wants to kick her off the reservation. They charge him with the task of saving her once again – or else. He claimed her once. He could do it again. But will Clover be able to submit to a man she proclaims to hate? Can Jared help Clover find her security, see that he is her only hope for freedom, and she his only path to happiness, before it’s too late?
Publisher’s Note: This book contains explicit scenes as well as elements of discipline. If either of these offend you, please do not read it.
Jared Little Fox was returning tomorrow, and Clover couldn’t sleep.
Clover Sweet Medicine loved Jared Little Fox with her whole being. She had loved him for as long as she had known him and that was almost forever. Ever since she had reached an age to know of such things, she knew that she belonged to the grandson of the great chief, Little Fox. Even the sheer number of ‘greats’ before grandfather did not diminish the wonder from that fact. Little Fox was a great leader born nearly two hundred years before and died over one hundred years ago. It seemed like too many ‘greats’ to include, so Jared proudly announced the bare facts. He was his grandson. And indeed, he was.
Clover remembered the first time she looked into the expressive eyes of Jared Little Fox. Another child on the bus coming home from school chose that one day to harass her. It marked the beginning of Jared’s self-appointed status of protector of Clover Sweet Medicine. He claimed her that very day, and everyone knew it. Clover, most of all.
The story of Sweet Medicine of old told of a healer who saved the tribe from starving. He wondered if that was the reason her mother named her Clover Sweet Medicine for, in Cheyenne, Sweet Grass and Sweet Medicine were interchangeable sometimes. Unfortunately for Clover, the bus driver didn’t see the significance nor did he have compassion on a newly orphaned child who rained her pain in a torrential rage on the young taunter. He kicked both kids off the bus. Jared got off with them and walked the spitting wildcat home, knowing she was too young to walk home alone.
“Where do you live, little one?”
“Leave me alone.”
“Did the boy hurt your feelings?”
She nodded. “But I am strong enough to handle it.”
Jared nodded at her statement but followed her home anyway. Clover allowed him because it felt so right. She needed to feel like the world was good again.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Jared Little Fox. How about you, my little hellcat?”
“Clover Sweet Medicine, and you said a naughty word.”
Clover had always lived on the reservation, but fast on the heels of her mother’s premature death, she moved over to her auntie’s home. Her father’s unrealistic dealing of that loss pushed Clover from his life as well. It was evident to all that he was sadly unable to believe his wife of nearly a decade would not be returning. He began to speak of the reincarnation that some of the elders and others still believed in.
The overwhelming grief, and his preoccupation with looking for his wife, gave way to a vast wasteland of mourning that was so profound, he was unable to discuss things with his daughter. Caring for her alone and the demonstration of any love was simply out of his capabilities. He did, however, share his peyote with her, hoping that her innocence would entice her mother back from the spirit world. While Clover never looked for her mother in the dreams after the first, full-color display, she did learn to enjoy the journey it took her on. She moved to her auntie’s soon after that, but Clover was able to sneak a little from her father’s stash whenever he used it. She didn’t crave it, but she considered it her escape, and even after years of Jared’s watching over of her, she remembered its power. When Jared left, it was her solace.
Many thought the mourning of Aiyana would resolve itself. It never did. Jared assured Clover that people loved in different ways, but Clover later had to acknowledge the truth. Once her mother was gone from this earth, she was no longer able to buffer and shield from her daughter the distinct lack of paternal understanding or ability by Forrest. It was glaringly obvious. After the death of her mother, Forrest was kind but became more distant and never grew to be more than a fond acquaintance to his child.
Aiyana Sweet Medicine may have had less Cheyenne blood than her husband, but she was much more Cheyenne in her heart than he ever professed to be. Clover was more like her mother than her father in that, even as a seven-year-old, she wanted to follow the Cheyenne way. Her similar manner of dealing with things, even as a child, was so like her mother that what Forrest would shake his head at good-naturedly, earlier, now only seemed to bring him pain. Clover learned to avoid him.
“Clover, for heaven’s sake, stop leaving messages about Mr. Stryker’s garbage on his door and in his yard.”
“How do you know it’s me?”
“It says ‘Don’t litter. It’s bad.’ And you signed it with a drawing of a clover.”
“But, Dad, he leaves his trash and then shoots at the dogs that get in it. It’s mean, and it’s littering.”
“I don’t care. You leave Mr. Stryker to live as he sees fit.”
The next day, when the garbage in question was found strewn all over Forrest Sweet Medicine’s yard, Forrest was the one complaining.
Clover, in her seven-year-old wisdom, told her father, “We have to leave him to live as he sees fit.” Her father stormed out of the room to address the issue with their neighbor.
She found her interactions with the rest of her world to be as difficult as living alone with her father had proven. The discord was partly because of her recent loss, but as time progressed, it was because Clover Sweet Medicine looked for adventure. Without her mother there to guide her, she was a rather loose cannon, her auntie had said. While Clover was sometimes overcome by her insecurities, she pushed against her self-professed protector. However, Jared Little Fox, who had taken on that role, didn’t allow too much pushing. That very fact had grounded her throughout the early years.
One day, eight-year-old Clover asked fourteen-year-old Jared, “Do you think I’m dirty?”
Jared had looked at her clothes and scrutinized her face before responding. “You’re clean, baby. I’ll toss you in the bath when we get to Auntie’s tonight, if you like.”
She stomped her little foot at the end of her scrawny leg. “No, ‘mbecile, because I’m not whole.”
Jared stared hard at his charge. “You’re whole for now, but if you stomp your foot at me again and call me an imbecile, I will tear up your ‘whole’ backside.”
She sniffled. “No, I’m not whole like you.”
Jared Little Fox was full Cheyenne Indian. Clover was five-eighths. Jared would get angry when she brought it up. He said blood is only one way of proving who you are as a Cheyenne.
He hit his chest over his heart. “You are Cheyenne in here. Nothing else matters.”
He preferred to know a person by their deeds. She knew he was right. It shouldn’t have mattered, but to her, it did. More than one blood wasn’t uncommon in many places and was indeed celebrated, but on the reservation, purity of blood mattered. It mattered a lot. No one usually gave her too much trouble over her mixed breed status. However, it hadn’t always been that way. Sweet Medicine did have problems.
In school, she was a good student but not always a good problem solver.
Clover had heeded Jared’s request that she be patient, and after waiting two long years, her father began to see his daughter as his responsibility once again. He finally acknowledged that she had needs that he must meet in some way. Forrest Sweet Medicine brought Clover home from her auntie’s and for all intents and purposes had brought Jared Little Fox back as well.
Jared was entering high school the next term, and since everyone told Forrest that Jared was who really cared for her, he decided anytime Jared wanted to come to the house, he could. Then he gave Jared a house key, gathered his gear, and went off to another job, leaving his not quite nine-year-old in the hands of a fourteen-year-old.
While there was grumbling, the council said if Jared did a good job then it was allowed. Forrest was careful to never stay gone more than a couple of days, but that’s how Jared raised Clover and how Clover fell in love with Jared. She loved him because, even though she hated discipline in any form, she adored him for being predictable.
She loved everything about him except… Well, except that one thing. She had to whisper it even in her own mind. Jared spanked. She wondered if he spanked his girlfriends because he didn’t seem to keep them long. She asked him once, and he said it was his business. That meant he did.
“Jared, stop! I hate it. You can’t spank me.”
“It looks like you’re wrong, doesn’t it? If you’re dishonest, you get spanked.”
She hated being spanked. Jared spanked her anyway.
“The Cheyenne don’t spank their children,” she exclaimed with great haughtiness.
“This Cheyenne does. Besides, I’m not an adult who worries about other’s expectations. I am not your parent. I am, however, older than you are, and if you’re intent on breaking the moral laws we live by, then I will impress their merit upon your rear end.”
“Why? Why do you care?” she yelled at him.
“Because,” he responded gently. “You are mine, and I take care of what is mine.”
That settled it, and they all knew it. But kids can be cruel.
“I saw you with Jared Little Fox. Don’t get too attached to him,” sneered a boy who often taunted her. “No warrior class Indian would ever muddy his blood with yours. It would dilute the purity.”
“Well, good thing there are no warrior societies now, then, isn’t it?” came Clover’s haughty response, but inside, she shriveled at what she knew to be true. The translation was glaringly obvious; you’re not good enough for Jared Little Fox.
The scenario played out many times over the next few years, until one night, Jared found her, as he often did after his ball practice or other activity, home alone, but this time he had caught her crying. Though she tried to hide it, he was a master at getting the real story from her.
“What is wrong with my little warrior woman?”
She loved him so much, because no matter how bad things got, he shielded her. “Nothing really, I’m behaving like a child. Ignore me,” replied Clover.
He pulled her into his already strong, sturdy young arms and coaxed the words he needed to hear from her. “Clover, you are a child, but you’re mine to care for and protect. What’s wrong? Truth.”
“Adam White Cloud and his group of friends started repeating it again that I am not good enough for you and then the rest joined in. The teacher said I needed to get stronger to repel their hurtful words, not shoot the nasty arrows back at them. She said I must deflect not project, whatever that means,” the ten-year-old replied in an attempted nonchalance with minimal success.
When she had finished her recounting, Jared had gone still. Worried, she looked into his face. There, she saw his eyes had turned the blackest she had ever seen them and the developing muscles of a hard working sixteen-year-old flexed. His fists knotted. His breathing was deliberate and measured. His tone was low and menacing as only Jared’s could become.
She was not scared but curious as he looked sternly into her eyes. After a moment, he asked in the voice that she had learned over the years was his defender voice, “Who is this Adam White Cloud and why would he tell you that lie?”
He pulled her fiercely to him and reaffirmed to Clover that she was his. She knew it, but she was not so young to miss that people and their feelings changed without notice. Her insecurities were enough to cause her to question Jared’s desire to retain his claim on her. His question was her reassurance, her answer to the question in her heart.
It had been a lie told to confuse her. People always confused her because she lived on the fringes of the community in more ways than the physical. She had little family and even less who attended to her. There were, however, many who doubted her ability to survive well.
She’d relaxed into Jared’s embrace. When her father did not take care of Clover, her protector had remained constant. She had no doubt her mother had sent him to her. She had never had a strong feeling for the spirit animal chosen for her, but she would be all right so long as Jared stayed near, his shadow covering her. She knew without any doubt that she would die without him.
The next morning, Jared was leaving her school when she arrived. He slowed to tousle her hair then continued out the door. From that group of children, she never had another incident. She had no idea what Jared had done, but she knew he was looking out for her and the knowledge was enough. With Jared as her watchdog, no one dared harass her in defiance of him. They all knew Jared Little Fox would do great things. If he kept her safe, they would not interfere.
Even at ten, Clover knew she loved him with all that she was, but for some reason, no matter what he said or did, she still worried that she wasn’t good enough for him because of who he was and who she was. Just a small part of her wondered if she would be good enough for anyone.
“Dad, héh, look, when I add Jared’s blood to mine, we get eighty-one percent. That’s more Cheyenne than I am! That’s more than four-fifths! They will be safe! Everyone will love them.”
Clover’s father scoffed dismissively. “That is just plain nonsense, girl. Jared Little Fox is destined for greatness.”
“Yes, but he told me I was Sweet Medicine, and I was destined for greatness, too. I would help to heal the tribe.”
“Being Sweet Medicine hasn’t been an asset for you or me.” Her father had continued to laugh. He meant no harm, she thought, his never-distant grief was blinding him to the truth. She must learn to be patient. That’s what Jared said, and her protector never lied.
That very evening, when Jared came to check on her as was his habit when he could, her father had told him what Clover had discovered. While her father laughed again, she never heard one chuckle from Jared. She had been mortified, but Jared remained solemn, whether to save face for her or because he took her seriously, she never knew. It didn’t matter because regardless of the reason, Clover was grateful.
Clover loved her mother and took after her in the way she stood, straight and tall. She had her dark blue eyes that sparkled when she was excited. No one expected that her mother’s blue eyes were genetically stronger than the Cheyenne’s almost black, but there it was, evidenced in her daughter. Blue eyes proved her father was not full blood but not many of the elders knew things like that, and she would not ever allow for the thought she was even less Cheyenne.
What was also obvious was she was her father’s daughter because she had his broad, high cheekbones, his coloring, and his smile. However, she had her mother’s temper. Aiyana Sweet Medicine was renowned for her ability to make a person trust in the things she believed in because she was passionate. Clover’s blue eyes, like her mother’s before her, would flash with any change of emotion, but they were most dramatic when she was angry or fiercely fighting for what she felt was right.
The older she grew, the more those times of righteous indignation presented. Clover was Jared’s warrior woman, and he told her he loved her passion, but looking back now, she knew he spent hours trying to smooth her edges so others would hear her voice and not shut her out. When she was ready, he always told her, he would find them a future. But he would have to go away for a time to start that future.
She knew in her heart of hearts that he was right, but it scared her. At twelve, Clover knew the primary lucrative business on the reservation centered on visitors who came every year. Tourists left plenty of things behind besides money. They left booze, pot, used girls, and nasty diseases she wasn’t supposed to know about. Of course, there were always jobs such as grocery stocker in the little town near the reservation or moving off the reservation, but Jared would never make his home anywhere else. None of these would be options for him, and he refused not to be the man his forefathers would have wanted him to be.
“It is our responsibility to find a way to keep the tribe together without keeping us poor. It is my destiny to help make a difference, and it is yours because you are my warrior woman and born Sweet Medicine.
She’d cried for weeks before he left and begged him every night to stay with her. He tried to explain to her his reasons and that he would not stay gone forever, but she didn’t hear him. Once he’d left, she cried for the next month and didn’t speak to anyone for two. Just when it looked like she was going to need psychiatric help, he came back from boot camp.
For a week, he was on the rez before going to his assignment, and for a week, he had tried to see her, and for a week, she had angrily hidden from him. Then he was gone again. He went to Texas and Clover went to high school. She hated high school, and she hated that she’d been left behind. She hated herself because she was not good enough or old enough to go with Jared. She was always lacking. She lacked in bloodline, in family, in age, in maturity, in love. She had fallen in love with Jared Little Fox, and she knew that she would never love another. He was her rock in a world of confusion.
Her mother had left her and then her father and, finally, Jared. It had to be her, because she was the common denominator. She learned that much in math and probabilities. In her brokenness, all she knew was she’d loved Jared, and he left her. She hated the reservation that couldn’t help their young men, and she hated her life, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t hate Jared. He’d saved her, protected her, but now she was on her own.
She showed her hatred in anger. At school, she never followed the rules, knowing Jared was not there to enforce them and partly to disrespect him. She showed her hurt in never answering his letters and then hated herself for it. He wrote every week for four years. She never answered one, but she kept each of them, hidden. She read every one of them repeatedly in the quiet of her room when she was alone, which was often. As she got older, she showed her anger in risky behaviors that had real consequences if things went awry. She’d stood before the council several times in her shame and resentment.
She was “wild as a mustang” is how the counselor saw it. “Unruly” is how a teacher described her. Unloved is how she felt. She knew there was no fixing her broken. Everyone was glad that Jared was coming home. They wanted him to take over where all others had failed. She wanted him to, as well, but in the chaotic confusion her life had become, she rebelled against that eventuality. She was afraid her life was too decimated, even for Jared’s love to repair.
She seethed the pain of the loss of her mother, blaming her for leaving Clover, the child. She spewed her anger for her father leaving her in spirit and reality, and most especially Jared, for leaving her to fight all her demons alone. Demons she had thought he would always battle for her. She had since quit the fight and given over to them. Jared would want to make her mind him again. That is, if he cared any longer. If his letters were truth telling, he was expecting the girl he left. Well, she didn’t exist any longer. He would want to change her.
Clover decided she wouldn’t let him. She had just turned eighteen, and she would graduate from high school by the skin of her teeth. But she had made it and was going to the ceremony that marked the proof of that milestone. What she was ready for, she had no idea, and it scared her to death. Actually, she thought they might have fudged a bit just to get her out of the school because her influence was not good for those coming behind her. Better to graduate her and get her away from the impressionable youth coming behind her.
She’d learned that she enjoyed the alcohol buzz but hated the taste and the false courage it gave her, making her risky behavior less scary. The cock teasing she did in the casino parking lot and in the front lobby helped her pass the time and make a little money. She had to be twenty-one to go further inside, but she brought them business, so they didn’t kick her out. It would earn her a red-hot butt if Jared found out. She had peyote instead of pot, but it cost a hell of a lot more and took weeks to get a supply. She hated pot because it made her see her mother and Jared and all sorts of crap she didn’t want to see.
Auntie said that it was her good medicine trying to force out the bad medicine. Clover just figured it was the effect of the marijuana and she was tripping like everyone else. Peyote gave better results, and she could say it was for religious reasons, which is where most of the supply went, the old church. The Christian Church didn’t do the peyote ritual, and that was Jared’s church.
Since Jared had left, she was able to get her hands on some, even when everyone knew she was not religious or even spiritual. People had learned to leave her alone since Jared did not spread his wing over her and his shadow did not cover her. She hated the peyote, too, so she only used it when she was feeling especially lonely and scared. Jared’s sister, Robyn, told him all the things Clover did. Clover was sure of that fact.
Now, four years had passed, and Jared Little Fox was coming home. She knew all about Jared and his dreams of life when he returned, but he knew nothing about the young woman she had become. She missed him and loved him. Hated him and wanted to shun him. She waited desperately for him. But Jared didn’t know it all. He would be angry with her if he got wind of the worst of her terrible behavior. More than that, he would be disappointed, and she hurt for that fact.
He was coming back home, and everyone was buzzing with the news, but not Clover. She would stay out of his way. She knew once he saw how bad she had gotten, he would stay away from her, too. It would kill the last of her spirit. So, if she stayed away, he would never know.
Robyn stopped Clover the day before Jared was expected. “Hey, Clover, we’re going to have a welcome home party for Jared. You need to be there.”
“Clover, Jared is coming home. You know all he did by leaving, he did for your future. Do you think he left his home because he wanted to? Don’t be a stupid, girl.”
“No, his future, not mine. He deserted me to find my own destiny. I will not welcome him back.”
“Clover, you’re angry, but more than that, you’re worried that when he comes home and sees you, he will know how you have turned out. That he will be disappointed in the young woman you have become. None of that matters now. He is coming back for you.”
Clover didn’t dare hope what Robyn said was true. Still, she couldn’t let go of the desperate rage that seemed to consume her, bit by bit. Clover didn’t like when people knew what she was thinking, either. “I’m no good for him, Robyn. You’re his sister. You know this.”
“He is no good without you. He told me that this morning.”
When Clover stood silent, Robyn continued, “You don’t know how to see him because of your shame of how you chose to grow up after all he invested in you. You haven’t spoken to him in four years and have lost your familiarity.” Robyn waited a little longer before adding, “And you are angry that he left, irritated that you let him, and upset because you know he had to do it, so it is unfoundedly aimed at him. Jared will make it all better, Mota’ayoth.”
Clover twirled around to look Robyn in the face, her eyes flashing. “Don’t call me that!”
“Why, because it’s Jared’s name for you? Because it means you have a responsibility to have a meaningful life? He is on his way. He will find you and make things right. Don’t mess this up.”
Jared Little Fox was returning tomorrow, and Clover couldn’t sleep.
Even if he still cared, it wasn’t as if he could spank her as he had before he left. He was six years older than she was and it seemed as though he had lived a lifetime away by the time she was beginning adulthood. Jared would not discipline her again. For some odd, unexplainable reason, it made her soul sad. She refused to cry. Clover only dealt with sadness one way these days.
Jared Little Fox was returning tomorrow, and Clover couldn’t sleep.
She went in search of diversion.