Sometimes at night when I wake I watch Emma calmly sleeping, her black, lovely Indian hair across her cheek and the white antler pendant between her breasts. I study her pretty, untroubled face, her soft lips and closed lids that are still, her shapely hands she holds palm to palm.

Once again, I give thanks that we finally found each other — that the Sleeping Child found us — that we arrived safely at the Carlsons’ ranch from Montana’s nearly fathomless Sleeping Child Lake, where many desperate people have disappeared.

I forget the bad scar and her husband who made it, say the special prayer, and close my eyes to trace again the Sleeping Child’s complicated dream — the good one for waking that brought us to New Mexico and the blue Appaloosas standing in the pasture past our small house with yellow roses.

The sun-bright flowers match the saffron fish that started our story, that I last saw swimming in Paul Banner’s big aquarium in Mussel Bay and that Mrs. Blackdeer on the Cottonwood Reservation believes the Sleeping Child sent from warm water to find The Blue Fin, and Emma, and me.

A year ago, Emma Little Bear and I met far north, a few hundred miles from where her people had always lived — from before Columbus — near the Little Big Horn and the Custer Monument, on the Crow Reservation. I’d never been to Montana and, from a fishing boat and the Oregon coast, I had come to Kootenay to work at a lumber mill.

I’d been there a week, pushing sawdust from under a 20-inch saw that twice hit spikes and threw metal shrapnel and splinters, before my rich uncle got my address — maybe from my alcoholic father on the ranch, not far from Pendleton in Eastern Oregon.

My Uncle Ernie sent a little money and a telegram, offering me the chance to manage a motel on Lake Chelan in Washington, if I’d take classes for a quarter at the campus eight blocks away.

There was the security of a steady job, and the prospect of the Blue Heron Motor Lodge offered me a fast way out of the mill — away from my boss, Ray Everett, who was married to Joyce, Tug Warner’s sister. Tug had got me on at the mill and introduced me to Joyce, who wanted to get together, even more than I wanted to be with her.

I thought the difference between the strength of our feelings was that Joyce had known more pain and felt the sting each day — and maybe at night in her sleep, when she lay alone in her bedroom with her baby.

My life wasn’t wonderful, my expectations weren’t high, but day-to-day my existence was less hard and involved only me. Over time, I’d got used to taking disappointing things as they came. I’d always had trouble with my folks and after my broken marriage to a girl I loved from Corvallis — I couldn’t figure out what to do, we’d argued and I quit Oregon State in my third year — everything had become an anti-climax, both decent times and bad.

And of course, unlike Joyce, I didn’t have to live with Ray.

My first day at Northwest College was the second week of school. Before I went back to my room in the Elgin Hotel, I bought the textbook the lucky cowboys from class had told me to get, after they offered me a ride almost all the way to Sleeping Child Lake.