In the previous episode, Zane sat on the porch after dinner contemplating how he felt earlier in the evening as he watched Tala and Max interact. Readers voted that much to his dismay, he looks up to see the two of them walking back to the house together.
This is crazy, Zane thought. Why does Tala taking a walk with Max bother me? He figured they were just going to the outdoor amphitheater to a concert. No harm. But it would have been nice to spend a little time with Tala with Max out of the house. The unease he’d felt before was subsiding. But he was concerned that Max was developing a crush on Tala. In fact, he was fairly certain that had already happened. This was an odd predicament to be in, and was especially uncomfortable because he and his son can’t talk, not in a meaningful way at least. Zane knew that was his fault. Max was a kid. Zane should bridge the gap that’s grown between them, but that would mean confronting feelings of heart-break and the loss of his wife. He really wanted to move past all that — but so far, he couldn’t.
* * *
“Do you have a girlfriend?” Tala asked Max as they made their way across the prairie.
“Girls around here like cowboys, not me,” Max replied.
“Really?” she asked, bemused. “Why do you suppose that is?”
“It’s nature,” Max sighed. “The female of the species is attracted to the strongest male — it ensures her survival and the survival of her child. The weak are eliminated — but for the strong, life goes on.”
“You’re smart,” Tala said. “That’s strength too, ya know? Sexy.”
Max looked over, surprised. Her beautiful face glowed ever brighter when she smiled. Max looked away, suddenly shy. They didn’t say another word until they reached the mesa’s edge.
The music that night was Bach’s Cello Suite Number Three. It was one of Max and his late mother’s favorites. In fact, it was probably the reason Max chose to learn the cello. The great thing about music is, you don’t have to watch it. And the great thing about being on the ground is, you can lie back on your blanket, and just let the music wash over you as you look up at the big Texas sky, teeming with bright, glittering stars.
Max and Tala were lying on their backs, side by side. It was both innocent and intimate. At one point, Max looked over at Tala, her eyes closed. This allowed him time to truly drink her in.
A 14-year-old boy is able to turn any situation into a movie in his mind, and the movie that was shaping up in Max’s mind at that moment was a romance. A “Summer of ’42”-type coming-of-age love affair. The Bach music was the perfect score, the mesa top the perfect set, and Tala, his perfect leading lady. He held her in his arms as they kissed, long and passionately… in his mind. They kissed, and touched, and all the other things Max had seen in PG-13 movies. When the concert was over, Max realized he hadn’t really been focusing on the music at all, but the steamy “movie” he’d conjured in his head. On the walk back, Max was wistful. This was serious. He was not just experiencing a school-boy crush. He was in love. He’d never been in love before, but surely, he thought, this is it.
When they arrived home, they were surprised to find Zane still sitting on the back porch, waiting. Zane didn’t appear to be angry, but something was on his mind.
“Son, go on inside. I need to speak with Tala.”
Begrudgingly, Max complied. Tala sat out back with Zane. After a bit of chit-chat, Zane got to the point.
“You and Max seem to be hitting it off,” he began. “But, I am kind of concerned. He never was intimate with our last nanny.”
“Intimate?” Tala asked.
“I never saw her touch his face, rub his back; that kind of thing. I guess there’s nothing wrong with it. A boy could use a certain amount of nurture from a woman. But I do hope you’ll be careful. You know what I’m saying?”
Tala looked deep into Zane’s steely eyes. She reached over, brushed her hand past his hair, giving a slight pinch to his ear.
“A certain amount of nurture is good for all of us. Not just a boy,” she whispered. She then smiled, patted him on the shoulder, and stood up.
“Was that it?”
Zane nodded, and Tala exited into the house.
* * *
The next day, Tala dropped Max off at school — but he was NOT happy at what he saw. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.
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