Alice had lost track of the days. She tried to remember the last time she had noted what day it was. It must have been in Albany, the day she, Cora, and Duncan had left for Fort William Henry. She couldn't remember what day that had been, though it had only been a few weeks ago. She must have stopped counting the days at the fort. Time had just stopped being quite so important. It was towards midday when the group stopped at a fast moving river to refill water skins that she realized she hadn't asked how Duncan had died. There hadn't been any time.
"What happened to Duncan Cora?" The question was so sudden that Cora nearly lost the water skin she had been filling. She shared a swift look with Nathaniel, who for a moment looked almost guilty.
"They were burning him when Nathaniel and I left the village. We could hear him screaming from the rise above the village. So Nathaniel shot him so that he wouldn't suffer," Cora replied after a moment's hesitation.
Alice nodded. She felt no great loss about it, no sorrow. Duncan had changed over the last few weeks. He had become cold, distant, almost a stranger.
"Thank you. For being honest Cora."
Alice's gaze drifted over the river, watching it rush past her. Time had simply slipped away.
It became an unspoken agreement among the five of them that they would be avoiding any British held forts. If any survivors of William Henry and the massacre that followed had managed to make it to Fort Edward, surely word about the militia's abandonment of the fort and Nathaniel's involvement would be well known. He would still be hung. The French would not be any more accommodating. Summer would be over in a month or two; winter came quickly in the northeastern mountains of America. It was mid-September, or so Alice had guessed since leaves were just beginning to turn and the nights were cooler, that they came upon the Cameron's cabin again.
Though she couldn't remember how long ago exactly it had been since they had last been there, Alice remembered the day well. She had been appalled and horrified and had nearly been sick. It was still strangely quiet and empty here, but the lingering scent of fire and death was no longer there. Alice felt dizzy and ill and clung to a fence post before venturing any further.
"Alice?" Cora's voice. It held a note of concern and confusion. It had been days since her last terrified outburst, two weeks at least since she had run out into a thunderstorm. Every night since then, if she wasn't at Cora's side, she was curled up against Uncas. Alice looked up at her sister.
"I'm fine, I'm fine. I just...I don't know. I'm fine," Alice said. She shook her head, but she could feel panic rising. Cora was still staring at her with a frown. "Oh, don't look at me like that. I'm fine."
Uncas was at her side then, laying a hand on her elbow. His eyes held the same question her sister had. Alice simply shook her head again and clung closer to the fence post. She felt rooted to the spot, she didn't want to go any closer to the remains of the house that still stood. Her eyes darted quickly to the surrounding trees, afraid to see another war party surge out of them. It had happened before. Uncas looked first to his father and then to Cora and Nathaniel.
"Go on, I will stay here with Alice." Uncas gently pried Alice away from the fence post and gathered her into his arms as the others drifted towards the house. As she had the night of the storm, Alice clung to his chest.
"I'm afraid they'll come back. They'll do to us what they did to your friends here." There was no question who "they" were. The war parties that had seemingly come from nowhere. Uncas ghosted a kiss on her sun warmed hair and turned her face up to him. Alice's eyes were swimming in unshed tears.
"No, no they won't. They're far north of here. And I wouldn't let any of them hurt you. I love you, and I protect what I love," he told her. Alice nodded as tears trickled down her face. She buried her head into his shirt and started sobbing.
Time had stopped slipping away. Tuesday, it was a Tuesday the day they left Albany. Her father died on a Wednesday. Duncan died on a Monday. Alice was suddenly aware that the day they first found the cabin on a Tuesday, the day they left Albany. And today was a Tuesday. And it was a Tuesday that she knew that the safest place she could ever be was wherever she could stand and be wrapped in Uncas' arms.