In the previous episode, Max meets Tala, and both he and Zane thinking she had already been vetted by Miss Elaine, assumes she is the nanny. Soon after she begins the job, a call comes through to the house. Readers voted that the person calling is Bessie Mae’s real daughter.
“Hello,” said the voice on the phone. “This is Charlotte Loftin. Bessie Mae’s daughter.”
“How may I help you?” asked Tala, softly.
“Well, Miss Elaine told my mom that Zane Goodnight was looking for a nanny to replace…”
“Oh no. That’s been taken care of.”
“Really? Because she just told her today…”
“I’m sorry. The position’s gone.” And with that Tala quietly hung up the phone.
“Who was that?”
Tala whipped around, startled by Max who was across the room behind her.
“Oh. Um. Roofing. Someone was trying to sell roofing. I figured you weren’t interested.”
Max just nodded. He was trying not to stare a hole through her. She wasn’t dressed provocatively, or even trying to be sexy. But her long black silky hair swaying with her every move, and her beautiful creamy brown skin was, to Max’s teen-boy-brain, breathtaking.
Tala felt his long gazes. This wasn’t new. She decided to help Max out by focusing on an activity.
“You hungry? Should I make us something?” She asked.
She and Max made lunch. At first blush, that may not seem significant. But Max never helps fix lunch. And though he started by simply telling Tala where a few key items were located, in time he wound up actually doing a fair amount of prep work. The truth is, Max never refused to help. Nobody ever asked. His parents and his nanny were the adults, he was the kid. But now, with Tala, he was contributing to the greater good of the household, and instead of it feeling like a chore, it made him feel more grown up.
While they worked, Tala quizzed Max about the place. Do they get many visitors? Do they have weapons in the house? Where are they? Do they have a safe? Where do they keep the real silverware? Did his mom have any jewelry?
Max gave her all the answers, but when the topic of his mother came up, Tala noticed that his mood darkened. After a moment of silence…
“You must miss her.”
Max just shrugged. “I’m not a kid anymore.”
“You don’t have to be a kid to miss your mom.”
They continued to prepare the meal in silence. Then abruptly, àpropos to nothing, Max said: “I never cried for her. Not on the day. Not at the funeral. Never. I’m not trying to be a cowboy or anything. I just… I can’t. Do you think that’s wrong?”
“Wrong?” Tala said, “No. It doesn’t matter. It’s how you feel that matters.”
“Yeah,” Max said wistfully. “But I think… I think I felt like crying.”
Max was deep into his thought when a bolt of energy overtook him. Tala had put her hand on his back, and was patting him gently like a mom with a little kid who’s been crying. The feeling was odd; familiar and nostalgic. It was that nurturing touch that only a woman can offer. When that touch has been absent, the human body longs for its healing.
They continued preparing lunch. In time Zane came in, made a bit of chit-chat with Tala, and then they ate. Not another word was spoken about mom.
* * *
There’s a large, outdoor amphitheater in Palo Duro Canyon. The property is owned by the city and backs up to the Goodnight ranch. The stage is at the foot of an 800 foot canyon wall. When the West Texas State University orchestra plays on that stage, Max makes the mile long trek across the property, sits above the stage, and enjoys a free concert.
Max sat on his blanket listening to the music, recalling the events of the day. From Max’s point of view it did seem that Tala had a crush on his dad. But since his dad was way too old for her he wasn’t worried about that. Max felt good about the time he had spent connecting with Tala that afternoon. And though she turned down his offer to join him for the concert, he was in a good place emotionally.
The music that evening was Rachmaninoff which Max kind of hated. So instead of sitting in the cold wind, enduring the musical assault, he decided to pack it in and head home early. But when he arrived, a full hour earlier than expected, Max saw something that threw him for a loop. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.
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