In the previous episode, Max enjoyed an afternoon of making lunch with Tala as this was an unusual but pleasant change from his day-to-day routine. After visiting the local amphitheater and deciding he doesn’t care for the music, he opts to return home early to find, as readers voted, Tala leaving the house with her backpack on.
“Hey,” called Max to Tala who was heading for the car carrying her backpack. “Where you going?”
“Oh! Hey. You startled me.” She said. “I didn’t expect you so soon.”
“It was windy. And boring. Going somewhere?”
“No. I was just… I have all the silverware in here,” she said holding up her pack. “I am going to take it in to be cleaned.”
“Well no, but I wasn’t doing anything, and I like sleeping in when I can. I decided to gather it up then hit the road first thing.” She said forcing a beautiful smile, and tossing the pack into the backseat. “It’ll be safe, don’t you think?”
Max shrugged. “My dad in there?”
“No. He ran out to get milk,” she said as they entered the house. Max went into the kitchen for a snack. He immediately felt something was odd. The dishes were still dirty and in the sink. Tala said she wasn’t busy, but it looked like there was plenty to do. She’s new. Max figured. Probably just an oversight. He grabbed a Power Bar and some water and stood at the kitchen counter eating. He then noticed something else.
Some of the dishes in the sink had a milky film on them. Like someone had poured milk onto them. Had the milk gone bad? Max had just drunk some a few hours earlier. He was very puzzled, and was about to ask Tala about it, but he thought; Maybe she accidentally spilled it. No need to bring it up and embarrass her.
Max was glad his dad was out. Not only so he could have milk for his cereal in the morning, but also he could be alone with Tala. Even though he’s not a cowboy, Max was raised with Christian cowboy values. And even though Texans are often marginalized in entertainment media, the truth is; in West Texas, it is a matter of pride for a male to be a considered a real man. And it is understood that real men are gentlemen, and they are respectful of their women. So how Max could transition this relationship from “baby-sitter/kid” to “lovers,” while remaining a gentleman, was a conundrum. But he didn’t need to worry; Tala was going to make it easy.
“Look what I found,” she said with a playful grin, holding up an unopened bottle of Makers Mark whiskey.
Wow, seriously? Max thought.
* * *
Tala and Max sat on the back porch sipping whiskey from the bottle. The plan was; as soon as they hear Zane pull up, they’ll race inside. She’ll slip the bottle back, and he’ll duck into his room and pretend to be asleep. But the store Zane likes is WAY across town, and chances are he’ll run into someone he knows and will get held up chatting, so there should be time for a few sips.
“This is good,” Tala said.
“My dad seems to like it, thank you very much,” Max slurred.
“Are you drunk?”
“No,” Max said, over-focusing, “I do not believe that I am.”
“Oh man, I’m breaking so many laws right now,” Tala said as she lightly brushed hair from Max’s face, tucking it behind his ear. Max’s mood turned darker suddenly. Tala notices.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Nothing,” he says. “It’s just… my mom used to do that. With my hair.” A long moment passed before he said, “How long you think you’ll stay?”
“It hurts when you connect with someone, then they leave. That’s what you’re thinking. Right?”
“Well, that’s how it is,” she said. “Life is a series of people coming and going. There’s no unconditional love. Maybe mother to child but, nowhere else. I’m sorry.”
“No. You’re right,” Max said, excited. “Thank you for telling me the truth.” Finally, someone had validated his feelings. “I can’t believe it’s been two years. When does it get easier?”
Tala just looked up at the stars, now it was her mood that darkened.
“You ever had anybody die?” he asked.
“Yes,” she whispered. “My son.”
After a moment, Tala noticed the shocked expression on Max’s face. She had only had four swigs of whiskey, but apparently that was enough.
“I was pregnant at sixteen. Wasn’t married, of course. And even though that kind of thing is frowned on in the tribe — it happens. But when the father is white…” Tala paused for another swig, then continued.
“Nobody ever came to me and said it, but once word got out — I could see that this wasn’t my home anymore. So I ran. Came down here, looking for work. Just looking to survive. I got a job at a café. When I was in my eighth month, I noticed the baby wasn’t moving. I didn’t have insurance, so I just kept on — hoping everything would turn out. A couple of days later my water broke. I must’ve passed out. I don’t remember much, but — later they told me I’d delivered a boy. And that he didn’t make it. A ‘blue baby’ is what they called it. So I asked, ‘Could I see him?’ I needed to see him. I don’t think that’s something a man will ever understand. A mother needs to see her child – no matter how bad it is, there’s no end unless you see him. But they told me it was too late. And that it would’ve been too upsetting for such a young girl. I never did see my boy. I never cried either. I guess we have that in common.”
All was quiet except the rush of the wind. Tala and Max sat in silence. There was nothing else to say. But even though the conversation was over, they needed to be there for each other. And they were.
Meanwhile, way across town, something is uncovered that could change everything. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.
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