The Hot Babysitter by Joe Aaron

THBS75x99Vote at the end of this episode!

In the previous episode, Zane confronted Tala about her true identity and Max found his way into the rodeo arena where, in an effort to impress Tala, he wound up chased down and hammered by the bull.

Episode 18

“Mom?” Max whispered groggily as he stirred. He was surprised to find himself in a hospital bed. His head ached.

“How you feeling?”

Max really didn’t feel like talking to his dad. Not only because of his head, but because he was still miffed at his romance with —

“She’s gone, son.”

What? Max thought. Because of me? Max barely had time for his confusion when he heard a knock at the door.

“Hey there, cowboy,” said the Sheriff as he stepped in. “You handled yourself pretty good out there. Up until the end, that is. I think we’re looking at a real bull-fighter, Mr. Goodnight. How you feeling, son?”

Max wasn’t interested in chit-chat.

“Where’d she go?”

The Sheriff and Zane looked at each other for brief moment. Then finally, the truth came out. At least, as much “truth” as they could figure.

Tala’s real name was “Johnnie Little Bear.” She was Chickasaw, originally from Ada, Oklahoma. She’d been arrested for shoplifting, and was currently wanted for questioning regarding the Abilene burglary. She was a fugitive from the state, having escaped a minimum security lock-up in Beaumont, Texas. She was a desperate young woman in trouble and on the run. Nobody had it in for her, but if caught, nobody would be able to prevent her from returning to prison.

At least the sheriff knew who he was looking for, and he knew what she was driving. Mom’s minivan. (Unless she’d already ditched it.) The sheriff and Zane continued talking, occasionally asking Max a question. But Max was in emotional overload. Sad and betrayed that Tala had lied, even though he longed for her to return. Another person he loved, gone. You can’t trust anyone. He couldn’t decide if he should be full of rage, or sadness. But that’s the thing about emotions; you don’t decide at all.

Max furrowed his brow, grit his teeth, clenched his fists… then a tear rolled onto his cheek, then another. When Zane noticed, he and the sheriff slipped out of the room. There would be plenty of time for questions later. Max needed to be alone.

Zane sat on a bench in the waiting area. He, too, was heartbroken. But as he thought about it, he realized it wasn’t over Tala. His little fling was just a distraction. No. He was sad about Max. He realized that, from Max’s perspective, he’d lost both mom and dad. And he had. And Zane knew it was his fault.

Zane just wanted Max to be a man. That meant, be strong. Powerful. Fearless. Right? But Zane had just learned something about being a real man from his son. And it was this: Men may not whine about their pain… but they aren’t afraid to show it. That was a new concept Zane would have to think about.

That night, back at the Goodnight ranch, Max lay in his bed. There had been no serious injuries. The West Texas wind whipped through the air. A branch tapped lightly against the window in Max’s room. But after a moment, Max sat bolt upright. There’s no tree outside my window. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.

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