Maggie Blackbird

Romancing Canada's Indigenous People

With Sanctified fully drafted and now needing edits, and Redeemed this-close to being sent out into the world of book retailers, I thought I’d post an excerpt from Sanctified, book three in the Matawapit Family Series.

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WIP Wednesday

The Matawapit Family Series:  In the wilds of Northwestern Ontario, the adult children of a domineering Ojibway church deacon find their faiths crumbling and their beliefs faltering when a vengeful former lover, an ex-fiancé out on parole, and a seductive family enemy challenge Emery, Bridget, and Jude in a duel of love, loyalty, and values that threatens to destroy their perfect Catholic lives and family.

Here is Teaser 2 for Sanctified:

Note:  Keep in mind this is from my first draft, so this could all change during edits.

Jude whipped on his heel at Emery lounging in the back doorway.  “I thought you all left.”

“Mom and Dad did.  I told Darryl to come back and get me.”  Emery pointed at the year-old dining set Jude had brought from the house.  Charlene had taken the other one, an antique set belonging to her great-grandmother after they’d separated.

What Jude couldn’t bring, he’d put into storage in Thunder Bay.  But he’d brought the bedrooms, kitchen, and living room furniture.  All the essentials for a home.  Even a shitload of groceries and the deep freezer.  In time, they’d build their own house as Dad had done.

“Want some black tea?”  Emery sidled up to the chipped and stained kitchen counter in dire need of a resurface.  Even the cabinets demanded a coat of paint.

Jude’s former kitchen had been a chef’s dream.  Marble countertops, four-place eating bar, hardwood floors, industrial size fridge and freezer, walk-in pantry, six burner gas range top, two wall ovens, and a breakfast area built into the bay window that overlooked the deck and pool to enjoy coffee and the newspaper.

“It’ll be okay.”  Emery removed the digital kettle from a box.  “Once we get everything unpacked, it’ll be as cozy as—”

“I don’t need a pep talk.”  Jude dug inside another box for mugs.  This was Charlene’s fault, but as if he’d remain in the city.

“I know, but you lived in a beautiful house.”  Emery filled the kettle.  “You had a six-figure job.”

“And I’ll rebuild.”  Jude set the cups on the dining room table that had no business being in the kitchen.  “I’m not sure how.  I’ll figure out something.”

If only the general public knew the difficulties band members faced.  A building loan?  Not happening.  Because banks and other financial institutions couldn’t enter the reserve to foreclose if a borrower defaulted on their payment, a person had to have enough equity or collateral to match the loan, located off the reserve that the bank could access.

Then there was the ministerial guarantee, which meant the involvement of band council.  Dad had gone that route to build his house.  Jude would, too, depending on who sat at the leadership table come May.  If Clayton landed the position as chief, this house Jude stood in might end up being his forever home, or until the next election.  As if Team Kabatay was understanding enough to cough up a Band Council Resolution, stating if Jude defaulted on the bank loan, the reserve guaranteed payment to the Minister of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Another option was putting his name on the housing list, but he’d have no say in the design or size.  The reserve purchased construction packages, which was why every damned house on an Indian Reserve looked the same.

“That vein…”  Emery grinned.  “The one on your forehead…”

“Is sticking out?”  Jude switched on the water taps.  “I’ll give these a wash.”  He stuck the mugs in the sink.

“Don’t wash too much.  Mom said she’d be here bright and early to get the house settled for you.  She knows you want to go to the school right away.”  Emery dug around in another box.  “Where’re the tea bags?”

“Forget it.”  Jude swiped at his brow.  He switched off the taps because he needed dish soap.  “Let’s let Mom unpack this stuff.  Call Darryl.  I’m hungry.  I’m going to the folks to eat something and drink my tea.”

Emery pulled out a chair.  “Let me text him.”

“Y’know, I’d let the kids stay in the city to finish the school year, instead of coming up to this disorganized mess, but the last year has been difficult enough for them.”  Jude set his hands on the counter.

“It’s warm, though.  Mom’s kept a firing burning since we left for Thunder Bay.”

A woodstove.  Jude stifled the loogie itching to escape his mouth and hit the sink.  He’d have to figure out how to keep the place warm, but not too warm.  At least the house was located a road away from the school in the district everyone referred to as downtown, so he could sneak over on his lunch hour and reload the woodstove.

“I learned how to make a fire when I was eight.  I had to know.  The kids’ll grow up fast here,” Emery said, as if reading Jude’s mind.

“They’re seven and eight.”  Jude swivelled on his heel.  “I don’t want my kids near a fire.”

“They’re going to be eight and nine in the summer.  They have to learn.”  Emery shook his head.  “I was chopping wood at their age.  It’s different up here for kids.  They’re a part of the community and expected to participate, not like in the cities or towns where they can be sheltered.  We don’t have that luxury up here.”

“It was a different time when you were growing up.”

Emery shook his head again.  “I turned twenty-nine in November.  I’m not that old.”

No, baby brother wasn’t.  “Okay, you can teach Noah how to build a fire, but you have to supervise him at all times.”  Jude lifted his finger.

“I’ll watch him,” Emery replied in a reassuring tone.  “And don’t be pointing.  You’re as bad as dad.  You know it’s considered rude.”

“He only points when he’s getting his point across.”

“Yes, I know.  He did it to me all the time.”  Emery’s cell phone dinged.  “That’s Darryl.  He’s on his way to get us.”

“How goes your schooling?”  Jude grabbed his parka off the sofa.

“Good.  It keeps me too busy.  A lot of papers, research, and studying.  Sometimes I wonder if I should have been content with my BSW, instead of going for my MSW.”

“Is that why you didn’t apply for the mental health counsellor job?”

“Yes.  Darryl kept telling me we didn’t need the money and he wants me to concentrate on finishing my degree.”

“Speaking of finishing schooling…”  Jude zippered the parka and grabbed his gloves.  “I need to get on the adult educations files, pronto.  I’m meeting with Dad tomorrow morning at the school.”

“I think he’ll be glad to hand that stack over to you.  The one student isn’t very cooperative.”  Emery also donned his parka and gloves.

“Oh?  Who?”  Jude retrieved the house key.  He slipped on his boots.

“Raven Kabatay.  I guess she was doing terrific.  Straight A’s.  Now, she’s been arguing with Dad about everything.”

“Great.”  Jude threw open the door to a snowmobile zooming down the road and some nasty cold air.  “One of Clayton’s sisters, right?”

“Yes.”  Emery stepped outside.

Jude locked the door.  He stuck his fingers back into the glove before they turned to frost.  “Anything I should know about her?”

“She works at Cookie’s.  A waitress.  She’s big in the recovery program, too.”

“Recovery?”

“She a recovering addict.  Darryl said she moved back about two and a half years ago after she got out of treatment.”

Shit happened.  Jude’s own brother-in-law, Adam, was a recovering alcoholic.  “Good on her.  So if she wants to better her life, why’s she—Never mind.”  Raven was a Kabatay, and the Kabatay family had a hard-on of hate for his family.

The truck came down the road.  Darryl pulled up.  He lowered the window.  “You’re waiting outside?”  He laughed.  “Couple of warriors, huh?”

“More like I need a break from my house already.”  Jude opened the passenger door to the back seat and got in.  His face thanked him for the blast of heat coming from the vents.  But his coat didn’t since three dogs converged on him.  Bandit, and the newest additions Lucky and Keemooch.

“Easy.  Easy.  You’ll all get a pet.”

“Oh, come on, it’s not that bad.  Welcome to the rez, Mr. Fancy Pants.”  Darryl chuckled.

“Fancy.”  With three dogs surrounding him, Jude leaned in between the two bucket seats just as Emery got in.  It was a good thing the back of Darryl’s truck was as comfortable and roomy as Jude’s.  “It’s called straight up middle class.”

“Yeah?  Middle class up here is being able to afford the propane to install an indoor furnace.”  Darryl laughed at his dumb joke.

“There’s an idea.  Propane.  A furnace.  It’s the first thing I’m going to do when I build my house.”

“Do you know how much it’d cost to ship propane up here?”  Emery craned his neck.  “You might as well use hydro.  It’s why everyone uses a woodstove.”

“Hey, the schools, band office, rec. centre, and other community buildings have forced-air heat.”  Nobody was dissuading Jude from a furnace.  Sure, wood heat was nice, but not as the main source or he’d be waking up in the middle of the night to toss more wood in the stove.

“We gotta show your brother how to burn a proper fire.  It’s all in the standing people.”  Darryl turned off the main drive and took them on the road that led to the Grassy District.

“Quit with the ancient Ojibway.  Just say trees.”  Jude leaned back in the seat and let the three dogs cover him in fur and licks.

“You burn different woods depending on what kind of heat you’re after.  Early morning and the fire burned down?  Start with pine to get that house heated fast.”  Darryl glanced in the rearview mirror.  “Need a nice slow burn that’ll get super-hot and stay hot all night?  Toss in some ash before you go to bed.”

“Yeah, yeah, I heard all this from Emery.”  Jude couldn’t help the chuckle from the dogs.  Damn they were friendly.

“Now that we got you trapped in the truck, there’s something I gotta ask you.”  For the second time Darryl gazed in the rearview mirror.

Jude met his brother-in-law’s dark eyes.

“Election time.  Campaign time.”

“You’re running for chief?”  This was no surprise.  Darryl was born to lead.

“Yep.  Roy asked if he could nominate me.  He said he wants me to get to work on campaigning right away.  I think he’s worried if Clayton gets in, the Kabatays will go after the church.”  Darryl took them down Sucker Road.

“Figured as much.”  The squabbling at the reserve never ended.  This was a community, though.  And every community fought.  Just as every family fought.  Every province fought.  Every country fought.  Left wing versus right wing had been happening since man first appeared.  Too bad people couldn’t simply meet in the middle.

Crickets made more noise than those two up front.  Jude leaned into the front again.  “And?”

“It would look better if you campaigned for me instead of Emery.”  Darryl stole a quick peek at Jude.

“Not a problem.  What’d you need me to do?”

“That’s the problem.  I never campaigned before.  The last time I ran, I put my name in the hat and left the results up to Creator.  But Roy’s pushing that I campaign this time.  He said we can’t let the wrong people get in or we’ll be living in hell until the next election, and the Kabatays could do a lot of irreversible damage if Clayton becomes chief.”

If they kept talking politics, Jude would grow a moon-size headache.  The guys were right.  Two summer ago, the Kabatays had been hell-bent on stopping a special workshop the church had hosted from happening by holding a massive protest and turning the traditional people against the parish.  When the divided community had ironed out their differences, the Kabatays had again caused trouble by protesting outside of the church where the special healing workshop had occurred, a reconciliation between the Christians and traditionalists.  Adam had attended that workshop, with Bridget volunteering, while Emery had trained under a trainer to facilitate at the community level so the parish could now host their own healing workshops.

“They never stop, do they?” Jude murmured just as Darryl pulled up in the folks’ driveway.

At the sight of the white trim, eggshell blue house, and Mom’s flower gardens and vegetable gardens buried under snow, an open front porch for Dad to sit at and enjoy his after-dinner cigarette during the summer, Jude’s heart debated between singing or sagging.

He got out of the truck and trudged up the shovelled walkway.  Emery and Darryl followed.  As for the dogs, they trotted about, sniffing.  Later, they’d curl into their special straw-filled doggie barn to escape the cold, since they couldn’t come inside because of Mom’s allergies to pet dander.

“They won’t stay home, will they, where it’s nice and warm?”  Jude removed his snow boots.

“Nope.”  Darryl also removed his boots.  “Hey, they’re rez dogs.  We breed a hearty lot of mutts up this way.”

Emery opened the front door.

They piled in quickly to keep out the cold.

Mom poked her head in the hallway from the kitchen.  “You’re here.”  Her rose lips formed into a big smile.  “I’m almost done cooking.  Dad’s setting the table.”

Instead of using the hall, Jude cut through the living room, passing the dreaded woodstove he used to enjoy, and barrelled into the dining room that faced the lake and overlooked the deck.  He pulled out a chair and plopped on one of the seat cushions Mom had made.

“Welcome home.  I assume you’re eager to see your kids.”  Dad set the last plate on the lace-white place setting also made by Mom.

“Sure am.”  Jude sat back in the chair.

Darryl took a seat opposite of him.

“What time did you wanna meet on Monday?”  There was fresh bannock set out.  Jude nabbed a piece.  Saturday evening.  No kids.  He might as well stay late.

“Bright and early.  Eight?”  Dad sat.

Emery carried in the platter of chicken breasts marinated in Mom’s special sauce.  Mom followed behind with a dish of baked potatoes and what looked to be glazed carrots.  Jude’s favourite.  His stomach rumbled in approval.

“Thanks, Mom.”  There was already a Greek salad on the table, another of Jude’s favourites.

“I thought you might like it.”  Mom took a seat at the chair in front of the sliding doors.  “You have a big day on Monday.  Tomorrow, I’m making your favourite brunch for after church.”

“Everything here’s my fave.  You’re spoiling me.”  Jude had better fold his fingers together for Dad to say grace.

Once the prayer was finished, Jude dug into his salad.

“Jude agreed to be my campaign manager.”  Darryl dished up a helping of chicken.

Maybe it would be a good idea to consider some strategies.  The Kabatays, unfortunately, won’t play fair.”  Dad helped himself to the carrots.

“When have they ever?”  That family did nothing but create drama for the community.  Jude shoved another helping of the salad into his mouth.  At least the food was going down nicely.  The blackness of doom didn’t sit in his gut.

“If you’re going to fatten him up, he’ll need more than salad and baked chicken.”  Emery smiled.

“It’s not called the divorce diet for nothing.”  Jude wiped his mouth.

He’d lost fifteen pounds after he’d confronted Charlene.  And he’d always taken care to eat well, so the weight loss wasn’t a good thing, especially with his build that mirrored Dad’s—strong across the chest and pounds that sat around his middle, neck, and face if he did inch up on the scale.  His thick bone structure wasn’t meant for thin.

Mom was naturally slim and tall with delicate bone structure, something Emery and Bridget had inherited.  If they lost weight, they didn’t look like a person dying from an incurable disease.

“Oh, I’m sure they’ll try dig up dirt on me.”  Darryl forked a carrot.

“If there’re skeletons, you’d better let me know.  Pronto.”  Jude winked.

“None that I can think of.”  Darryl shrugged.

“What about when you lived in Winnipeg?”

Red crept on to Darryl’s face.  “I was a single man in my twenties.  I went out bar-hopping and what-not.”

Emery’s normally fair skin pinkened.  He cleared his throat.  “Maybe we should focus on the strategies instead.”

Hmm, was there something they’d failed to tell Jude?  Or maybe their pink and red faces weren’t any of his business.  He’d obviously hit a nerve, which he hadn’t intended to do.  The last person he’d hurt was his baby brother who deserved nothing but happiness after enduring twenty-seven years of guilt because of his sexual orientation.

“Agreed.”  Dad cut into his chicken.  “We need something solid.  As I said, the Kabatays won’t play fair.  Expect the worst.”

Would you like to read Emery’s story?  Here’s an excerptBlessed, starring Emery Matawapit and Darryl Keejik, book one in the Matawapit Family Series is available for purchase.

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