Book Three: Sanctified
In the midst of a battle for leadership at their Ojibway community, two enemies of opposing families fall in love…
After suffering a humiliating divorce, infuriated Catholic Jude Matawapit bolts to his family’s Ojibway community to begin a new job—but finds himself thrown into a battle for chief as his brother-in-law’s campaign manager. The radical Kabatay clan, with their extreme ideas about traditional Ojibway life, will stop at nothing to claim the leadership position and rid the reserve of Western culture and its religion once and for all, which threatens not only the non-traditional people of the community, but Jude’s chance at a brand-new life he’s creating for his children.
Recovering addict Raven Kabatay will do anything to win the respect and trust of her older siblings and mother after falling deep into drug addiction that brought shame and anger to her family. Not only does she have the opportunity to redeem herself by becoming her brother’s campaign manager for chief—if he wins, she’ll have the reserve’s backing to purchase the gold-mine diner where she works, finally making something of herself. But falling in love with the family’s sworn enemy—the deacon’s eldest son, Jude—will not just betray the Kabatay clan. It could destroy everything Raven believes in and has worked so hard for.
Nine o’clock. Class over. Two hours of reading through files and catching up on work while Raven had done her assignments. Jude slid the files into his briefcase.
Raven looked up at the clock.
Jude stood and closed his briefcase. “How’d you do?”
“Great.” Raven shut her notebook and textbook. “I finished my lesson. Only five more to go.”
“Well, you showed dedication by coming here tonight. The other four didn’t even call to explain their absence.”
“Get used to it. You’re on an Indian Reserve. Nobody calls or confirms anything. Or shows up on time.”
“You showed up on time.” Jude motioned at the clock. “Five to seven.”
Raven’s husky chuckle matched her voice. She slunk into her parka like Marilyn Monroe shimmying into a fur coat. “I’d better text my sister. Hopefully bingo’s done.”
“That where she is?”
“Yeah. They all went, except for Clayton.”
Jude slid on his own parka. It’d be a cold walk home, even if his place was only a road over. The weather could force a polar bear to pack up and head for the Bahamas.
“I have to get Fawn.” Raven checked her phone. “I’m using her truck. They’re finishing the blackout. They should be done in about another twenty minutes.”
Jude headed for the classroom door. The bottoms of Raven’s mukluks brushed against the floor. He turned off the lights.
They meandered down the hallway. He wasn’t in a rush, and she didn’t seem to be either, maybe because of the bingo thing.
Percy, the evening custodian, had probably called it a night. Once someone went outside, there’d be no going back in, because the doors automatically locked behind them, except Jude could reenter, since he had a key.
“You don’t have a vehicle yet?” Again, her husky voice scratched at Jude’s flesh, kitten claws playfully nicking him.
“No. I’m getting it this weekend when I get my kids.”
“How many do you have?”
“Oh yeah, that’s right. How old are they now?”
“Seven and eight. My daughter, Rebekah, we call her Becky, is in grade two. My son, Noah, is in grade three.” This was weird. Raven didn’t seem like the enemy. Polite. Asking perfunctory questions anyone else might ask to fill the gap as they walked to the main doors. The only shot she’d got in was the history curriculum not including enough about the Indigenous people.
“What about you? Any children?”
“No. There’s still lots of time. I’m only thirty-one.”
“You were two grades ahead of Emery?”
“Yep. But you know how it goes. You stick to people your own age in school.”
They reached the end of the hallway.
Jude pushed on the door.
Whenever emotion didn’t fill Raven’s words, her sandpaper voice became a caress, warm against Jude’s ear, even when she stood a foot away from him.
Raven edged outside, glancing around. She’d already pulled up the hood to her parka. A scarf hid her slim chin.
The chill bit at Jude’s exposed face. Funny how people assumed extreme cold temperatures made a person freeze. Not true. The icy air hurt. Even burned.
“C’mon, I’ll give you a lift.” Raven’s truck already hummed, her having hit the starter from the classroom window.
“Sure.” A warm vehicle was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
They scurried to the truck, where white fumes rushed from the exhaust pipe, offering Jude a sniff of smelly gasoline.
He hopped into the passenger seat and quickly shut the door to a blast of hot air from the vents. He rubbed his gloved hands.
“I guess we got another week of this.” Raven also rubbed her mitten-covered hands together.
“Did you make those?” What she wore was stunning—perhaps crafted from moose hide. Fringed. Trimmed with red trade cloth and beadwork stitched into a floral pattern. Rabbit fur was sewn to the top and bottom of the cloth.
“Yeah.” She shifted gears. “My kokum made sure we all knew how. She taught my kokum, who taught my mom.” She backed out of the parking spot.
Many referred to their grandmother as kokum on the reserve. Jude never had. He’d never known his paternal grandparents. “Your grandma taught your grandma?”
“By your definition, great-grandmother. To me they were simply kokum. Both. She died when I was twelve.”
“That’s a long time for her to live.”
“She was like any other Anishinaabe-kwe, married when she left the residential school at sixteen. Had a family right away. But her kokum taught her how to dress a moose hide, how to hunt, set fish nets, harvest wild rice. All that stuff. My great-grandma was born on the trapline. She was Biidaaban. Then they forced her parents to give her an English name.”
“What does it mean?”
“Dawn is approaching. It’s when she was born, the approach of dawn, or so Mom told me.” Raven finally engaged the gear to drive.
They left the parking lot.
Jude’s chest sank. It’d been an interesting conversation. A pity they might not speak like this again.