Jim was just finishing taking care of the horses and he saw the vet pulling in, with the horse trailer in tow. Jackson, Joe, Zac, Jack, Zarek and Jim went to meet the vet. Even Ryan headed out of the house to check on Aurixi. Jim smiled at how many people were worried or at least cared about her. Well, Jack wasn't worried, he believed nothing was wrong in the first place. Colt followed Jim and kept pleading with God that she was alright for Jim's sake. Jim let him catch up and put his arm around him. He was a sweet sixteen-year-old.
The vet got out of his SUV and started toward the back of the trailer. "What was wrong with her Doctor?" Jackson asked.
As the doctor was lowering the tail gate to let the horse out, he explained, "Not sure what she was going through but by the time I had gotten her to the hospital, it had passed. I stayed up all night checking her to find nothing wrong. She is pregnant, but there is nothing wrong with her."
They couldn't get Aurixi out of that trailer fast enough and once she was finally out, Jim gave her the biggest hug he could. Jack smiled wanting to say, "See, I told you," but he didn't say a word. Jackson looked at his dad and smiled, "You were right." Even then, all Jack did was smile. Joe was beside Jim hugging Aurixi, but with not quite the same effort.
"I'm glad she's alright," Colt said and then looking up he said thank you.
Zac patted Aurixi and Jim, while still hugging her, looked her in the eyes and told her that she gave him a big scare. She pulled him in as tight as she could as if to hug him back and say that she was sorry. "I'm not charging for this. Seeing this much love for an animal is well worth my time. And I think Jim is right. Every time I spoke to her, she seemed to understand exactly what I was saying," the vet admitted.
They put the horse trailer away and the vet left just in time for the truck to arrive with the fresh hay and other supplies that they would need for the week.
After the hay was taken care of, Jim saddled Gold, Joe saddled Aurixi, and everyone else saddled their horses and went for a ride. Colt was enjoying his new saddle. And surprisingly, they didn't ride to the lake.
"This looks like a good spot. You and I have both been wanting to see our horses in action against the other. Want to race?" Zarek asked looking at Jim. Jim grinned and gave him a look of you're going to eat Gold's dust.
Aurixi started to get anxious and Joe knew that she wanted to race as well. Not to be left out, Zac wanted in. He's never raced Silver before. "Can I race Midnight Star?" Colt asked. No one could think of a reason why not. Jackson, Ryan and Jack stayed to determine the winner.
"Race to that tree, around it and back," Zarek said, pointing at a tree about five hundred yards from where they were starting. They lined up with Ryan at one end, Jackson was at the other making sure they started even. Jack yelled go and they were off. Midnight and Gold were almost neck and neck as they approached the tree, but Aurixi was a little ahead. Rounding the tree, Aurixi took off. Jim could feel Gold putting more effort in to catch his mother, but she was just too fast. Zarek tried to get Midnight to speed up, but he started lagging a little. Aurixi was clearly the winner, Gold came in second and Midnight was third. Zac and Silver were just ahead of Colt and Midnight Star, but they were behind the rest. Not too far behind, but they were behind.
"That's the first time that Gold didn't win, but then it was his mom that beat him," Jim exclaimed.
"You may not believe this, but I just was along for the ride. Aurixi seemed to understand this was a race and the course that Zarek set. I didn't have to do anything," Joe declared.
"First time for Midnight losing as well. Those two palominos are something special," Zarek expressed.
"I came in last, but this was fun. We should do this more often," Colt said with a big smile.
"Well, part of the reason that I chose for us to come here is, a guy named Ben Brodie approached me. He's agreed to put up the money to build a rodeo arena, if he can use this spot. He wants to run a junior rodeo camp for kids ten to fourteen years of age through the summer months, but have two junior rodeos a year open to kids eight to nineteen."
"So you thinking of giving them the land?" Ryan asked.
"Giving? No. Any money gained from this would be used to pay the additional insurance needed, maintenance and whatever else we come across. Whatever profit is left, I would get sixty percent," Jackson explained.
"Sounds like it could be fun. Can I ride a bull?" Colt asked.
"Don't know if they have bull riding at junior rodeos. Really not sure what they do. Why don't we research it and see what they do have? Ben will be here sometime before Thanksgiving to discuss it. He'd like to be operational by next summer."
Everyone seemed to like the idea and gave their approval. Ryan said that he would look over whatever papers for Jackson, but after the election in a couple days, he would no longer be a practicing attorney. No one has decided to run against him as judge. Part of him was anxious because he knows what he can do for families, but he will always long to be a lawyer. His mind was made up that he would hold only one term since he did commit to it, but he really wanted to be a lawyer more than a judge.
They headed back to the barns to get the horses taken care of and the boys headed home. When they got there, Joe ran in to tell Heather about the race. She smiled and asked if that meant Aurixi was going to be alright. "Yeah, the vet said that he doesn't know what happened but she was perfectly fine when he got her to his hospital. And you should have seen her in the race. I think Gold was giving it everything he had trying to keep up with her," Jim explained. "I didn't sleep very well with worrying about Aurixi, so mind if I take a nap until supper?"
"I just fixed lunch, you don't want to eat something first?" Heather asked. Jim did look tired, but he agreed to have a sandwich. Heather had fixed a salad and put out some roast beef, ham and cheese for sandwiches. Then there were pickles, mustard, onions and tomatoes that they could add.
Jim put a slice of roast beef and a slice of ham on his sandwich, then added pickles, mustard, onion and tomato. Watching Jim make his sandwich, Joe followed suit. They both grabbed a small bowl of salad with the Kraft cheesy ranch that Jim loves. After Jim was done eating, he went to his room to take a nap.
Jim woke up in a field wearing just his boxers. He wasn't sure how he was only in his boxers as he was wearing jeans when he laid down. He was just glad that he wasn't completely naked. He looked around and he saw Aurixi and Gold but no other horses. As he walked towards them, he saw a lady brushing Aurixi. "Hi, my name is Diana Prince, and I hope you don't mind but these horsehairs will make a great lasso."
"No, I recognize you from TV, your name is Linda Carter. Diana Prince was your character name," Jim stated.
"I assure you, young man, that my name is Diana, not Linda."
"Have any identification to prove it?" Jim asked thinking he was being smart. She pulled out her wallet and produced a photograph ID stating that she was Diana Prince. Jim was dumbfounded. "Are you really Wonder Woman?"
"If you promise not to share this with anyone." Jim nodded and Diana began spinning. Suddenly she was dressed as Wonder Woman. "Not sure how you knew that, and I really hope that you don't mind my gathering these horsehairs. Palominos with hair that look so much like gold as these do are very rare and hard to find. Someone stole my magic lasso and I need to make a new one."
"Yeah, sure, help yourself. I just can't believe that you're actually real," Jim was so amazed that he'd almost forgotten he was almost naked.
"I'm as real as your boxers," Wonder Woman said. It was then that Jim started to blush. He looked down and his boxers faded leaving him totally naked. Jim started to freak and then woke up. Looking at his legs, he let out a sigh when he saw denim. Zac was lying beside him.
"Something wrong?" Zac inquired. Jim started relaying the dream to him. When Jim was done, Zac chuckled. "So you were naked in front of Wonder Woman, should I be jealous?"
"I was freaking, not horny," Jim explained.
"I was only kidding you, and no, I am not getting a Wonder Woman outfit. As for the horses, yes their coats may have more of a shine than most palominos and may be closer to looking like gold, but they don't really come across as looking like they are made of gold."
"I know that, but in my dream, they did. I mean, I knew they were Aurixi and Gold, but their hairs looked like they were made of pure gold."
"Just a dream, dude. Why don't you roll over and I'll give you a massage?" Zac offered.
"You just want to get me so relaxed that you can have your way with me, don't you?" Jim quipped as he turned onto his stomach.
"Don't need to get you relaxed for that. All I have to say is that I want to fuck you and you'll strip naked almost as fast as Diana turns into Wonder Woman," Zac teased. Jim slapped Zac's leg, then undid his belt and fly. He pulled his jeans and boxers down exposing his ass. "See, you had that done in less than a second."
"Just thought you might want to massage down below where my back stops and didn't want my jeans in the way," Jim explained. "But, I wouldn't stop you." Zac couldn't help but laugh.
Zac barely started the massage and Heather called up that supper was ready. After Zac got off him, Jim pulled his boxers and jeans up and they went downstairs. Sitting at the dinner table Zac grinned at Jim, "Not sure if I should be jealous, but Jim dreamt that he was naked in front of Wonder Woman."
"Seriously? You have a thing for Wonder Woman?" Joe asked.
"No, I was freaking out and I can't believe that Zac told you that."
"You didn't tell me that I couldn't and I think it's funny," Zac stated and leaned over to kiss Jim. Jim turned his head and Zac kissed his hair. Zac whispered in Jim's ear, "I'll make it up to you tonight. Whatever you want."
"You voting for Ryan Tuesday?" Jim asked to change the subject.
"Even if someone were running against him, he'd still get my vote. Hate to see him leave the office though," Heather stated.
"You watch Ryan, you'd think someone was running against him," Zac informed them. "He is so nervous."
"I know, but it's not so much about the election as whether he'll make a good judge. And he doesn't want to give up practicing law. At least the partners were nice and told him that once he serves one term, he can decide if it's for him or not. If he decides he would rather be a lawyer, his position will be waiting for him."
"Yeah, that's what he was saying today."
"Speaking of today, when Aurixi won the race, Jackson started talking about a junior rodeo and a camp. We're too old for the camp, but what are your thoughts about us being in the rodeo?" Joe asked. He had to comment about Aurixi winning again.
"Could be fun. I met Jon at a junior rodeo in Montana. He was wrestling a steer and came in first. Then came the barrel racing. He was doing really well until he spotted me in the stands. He forgot to make a turn and crashed into some barrels. Poor horse was injured so bad that he had to be put down. Jon spent the rest of that summer in a hospital and I visited him every day. That was the summer before our senior year and we started dating."
"So you caused Dad to lose that race?" Jim teased.
"Wouldn't say that I caused it, you brat, but your dad said that he would've gladly done it again as long as I was his prize after," Heather teased back.
"So, no looking at girls if I'm barrel racing, got it," Joe quickly remarked.
After supper, Jim and Zac went upstairs. Jim locked his bedroom door and ordered Zac to strip. Zac did as he was ordered and kept calling Jim his master. "Now boy, I want you to plow that back field and I mean plow it good," Jim ordered as he dropped his jeans and boxers. Zac smiled.
Jim laid on his back and Zac moved into position. As he entered Jim, he put his hands on either side of Jim's head and leaned in for a kiss. "I ever tell you how much I love you?"
"Every day, and I never get tired of hearing it. I think that if you ever disappeared from my life, it would be as if someone ripped my heart out. You know how much I love Gold and Aurixi, but I would rather lose them than you," Jim declared.
"I hope that you don't lose any of us for a very long time. I'm hoping that old age is what takes us." With that, Zac started making love to Jim.
With no one running against him, Ryan won the election. He was told that not one person failed to check his name, which is very rare. Most candidates, even when they are the only choice get some voters who opt not to vote in that category. Not Ryan, it was unanimous. Everybody that voted in Park County elected Ryan as the new judge. That of course, made him feel good and Jackson held a victory party in the barn.
Heather approached Ryan and told him how happy she was for him winning, but sad that he won't be around the office anymore. Ryan gave her a hug and thanked her for kind words. He did tell her that she can come to the ranch any evening if she really misses him.
Jim saw a man looking around. He didn't recognize him so he approached him with a little caution. "Can I help you?" he asked.
"I'm looking for Jackson Sprayberry, but I don't see him in here," the man stated. Jim assessed that he looked to be in his late twenties to early thirties. He had blonde hair and green eyes. Other than the facial features, Jim thought that he could be related to Joe. Joe has the most perfect nose, in Jim's opinion. This guy's nose was almost.
"You wouldn't happen to be Ben Brodie, would you?" Jim queried.
"Then you've heard of me," Ben responded. "I'm a bit early, but I learned something and wanted to run it past Mr. Sprayberry." Jim almost laughed.
"Dad, Ben Brodie wants to talk to you," Jackson yelled, standing almost behind Ben. He spotted Jim talking with him and made his way over. Ben jumped.
"Mr. Sprayberry," Ben started and Jackson stopped him. Told him that he won't be a mister until after he's dead and buried. Then you can call him mister all you want. "Okay, Jackson it is. I've learned that your son is related to former rodeo rider Colton A. Browning. Now, I realize that he didn't do any rodeo riding himself, but I was thinking that maybe he's heard some stories from his dad."
"Yeah, Colton was his dad, but I don't know how much he knows. Colt has broken a few horses for me. What are you getting at?" Jackson asked while he motioned for Colt to come over.
"I would like to use your son. Having him be a part of this could help boost business. I have so much faith that I am willing to up your share to sixty-five percent. And for Colt, or anyone that works here, I would pay them the same thing they make here so they can get extra hours if they want them," Ben offered.
"Are you trying to recruit my help away from me?" Jackson inquired.
"No, not at all. I just know that while they are in school, they can only work twenty hours a week. This would enable them to get extra hours without you getting in trouble. They would be required to do their work here first and then they can help out for more income. Plus, if they are interested, it would give them an opportunity to learn."
"Well, I won't stop them if they want to help, as for Colt, you'd have to ask him," Jackson advised.
"What do you think, Colt? Until school lets out, it'll only be Saturdays from four to six and Sundays from one to six. Construction won't be done until mid-April so if I can rent the arena here, it should be big enough for practice. This would give me an opportunity to teach those who want to help what they need to know. They would get paid for their time and if they want to be in the rodeo, it would help them."
"Would I get to ride a bull?" Colt asked.
"No, we don't have any bull riding for junior rodeo, but you can wrestle a steer or help the younger kids ride one. We also have team roping, tie-down a calf roping, ribbon roping and barrel racing, to name a few events."
"I want to do barrel racing," Jim announced. "I've been told that I'm pretty good at it, but I've just done it for fun, so I don't know."
"You look familiar, what's your name?" Ben asked.
"Jim Bolt," Jim responded.
"I was eight at the time, but I was in Montana and there was a kid about seventeen, I think. Anyway, I remember that he was doing a really good job barrel racing until he wiped out. Never did find out what caused it, but his last name was Bolt."
Jim looked down and with sadness, he replied, "That was my dad. Mom says that he caught a glimpse of her in the crowd and got distracted. He was killed almost two years ago by a drunk driver."
Ben looked at Jim and was dumbstruck. He didn't know what to say. "I'm so sorry. Had I known, I wouldn't have brought him up," he eventually said. "You, obviously are still grieving the loss and I feel for you. If you are interested in barrel racing, I'd be happy to help you learn and we can dedicate the first race to your dad."
"He would like that, I believe," Jim stated.
"I would like what?" Zac came over and figured Jim was talking about him.
"Not you, you goof, my dad," Jim clarified smacking Zac in the abs. "Ben wants to dedicate the first barrel race to him."
"That would be a great idea," Zac agreed. "But if you're dedicating it to him, shouldn't some of the proceeds go to help fight drunk driving?"
"I couldn't agree more and I'll give all of my share for that first rodeo to a charity for that," Ben declared.
"I'll give my share for that rodeo as well," Jackson piped in. Jim started to cry, not out of sadness but by how much these men were willing to give up to honor his dad. He went and told Heather.
The party was over by nine so that those who went to school could get home and to bed. Jim was almost too excited to sleep. When he finally did get to sleep, he was dreaming of his childhood and how his dad taught him how to ride horses, how to throw a football and how to ride a bike. His dad helped him play baseball, swim and even drive a car. Then his dad was struck down and Jim started sobbing in his sleep. He felt an arm wrap around him and woke up to Zac kissing his cheek. "Let me guess, you were dreaming about your dad?"
"Yeah, I was dreaming about everything he'd done for me and with me, and then that car hitting him. He taught me so much and I love him so much. I'm thankful that he was such a part of my life, I just wish it were longer."
"I know and I'm happy that your dad was such a part of you. Made you who I love today," Zac said kissing Jim tenderly on the lips.
"And I'm glad that you're nothing like your father. When we get married, I don't want to adopt right away, I want to spend time just the two of us, but I want to adopt a son eventually. I think you would be an awesome dad because of yours leaving."
"And I want to adopt a son, too, because I think you would be an awesome dad due to what your dad was like for you," Zac continued kissing Jim gingerly until he went back to sleep.
At breakfast, Heather pulled out a letter that was in the morning mail. She began reading it,
Dear Mrs. Bolt
I know that you and your son must hate me for what I did. I can never apologize enough for what I did and I would never expect you to fogive me. There is no excuse for what I did and it is unforgiveable, but I would appreciate if the two of you could see it in your hearts to visit me. I will understand if you don't, but I would like a chance to apologize and explain how my life has changed after what I did. When I am done, if either of you want to yell at me, hit me or whatever, I won't get upset. I know I deserve far more than the punishment I received.
William A. Mason
After reading the letter, Heather looked at Jim, "You don't have to go if you don't want to, but I'm heading up to Deer Lodge on Sunday after you get home from the ranch."
"Yeah, I want to see the bastard who killed my father. He only got fifteen years for it because his lawyer convinced him to take a plea deal. I got a life sentence with no father, how is that fair? And he says that he deserves far more, he does, but he took a plea deal. I so want to go tell him off," there was vile in Jim's voice as he spoke but then he started crying.
In school, Dusty looked at him and asked what was wrong. Jim explained and Dusty told him that facing the man may do him some good. Rest of the day switched back and forth from angry to sad. In gym class, they were playing dodge ball and Jim was throwing the ball as hard as he could at his opponents. Some of them complained. Dusty was on the other side and he taunted Jim many times. "Yeah, throw that ball at me, pretend that I'm the drunk who killed your father. Get your anger out. See if it makes you feel better."
Jim threw the ball at Dusty as hard as he could. He was shocked when Dusty caught it. Sent Dusty back a little, but he caught it. It was then that he realized Dusty was pushing him to cause him to put all his anger in that throw. Jim dropped to his knees and started crying with his face in his hands. Coach Jenkins walked over to him, "Are you alright?" Jim just shook his head. "Would you like to go sit in my office? I'll be in in a few minutes and we can talk."
"Can Dusty join me?" Jim asked.
"Sure, Dusty would you help Jim to my office?" Dusty ran over and helped Jim up, then escorted him to the coach's office. As they walked, they could hear the coach telling the other boys that he heard that Jim would be facing the man who killed his father on Sunday and to not think any less of him unless they were in his shoes. It surprised Jim that the coach knew.
"So did you release any of your anger?" Dusty asked. "You threw that ball pretty hard. It stung my gut when I caught it."
"I couldn't believe you even tried. The force pushed you back, so I bet it did sting," Jim said, almost chuckling.
"Anything I can do to help you, I will. I actually was worried it would hurt worse, but I didn't care. I knew that my best friend was hurting far more than what that ball could do to me," Dusty put his arm around Jim.
Coach came in and looked at them. "Principal Duncan said that your mom called and told him about a letter. Principal Duncan then explained to all your teachers today that if you lashed out, that was probably why. He told us to deal with it as we saw fit but bear in mind why you were upset."
"I'm sorry for hurting some of those boys, really I am," Jim apologized.
"I know it was nothing against them and they all understand now. They all said that if it would help you, they'd stand and let you throw balls all day long. Michael was the one who suggested it and Shawn said that he'd volunteer to go first."
"I have some great friends and classmates," Jim said smiling, "but just knowing that they would do that for me is enough."
"So are you feeling better?" Dusty asked.
"Yeah some, but until I face him, I don't know if I can really get over this anger," Jim admitted.
"Friday, we're doing archery. Want me to get an image of him for your target?" Coach Jenkins teased.
Jim smiled, "No need, I know what he looks like and I can envision him well enough."
"Just make sure that you envision him on the target, not one of your fellow students," Coach chuckled.
"By the way, the Ranch won't be open much longer for the riding season. We had fun last year, any chance we'll be going out again?" Jim asked.
"School heard about the skinny-dipping and they won't let me do it during school. Guess one of the boys said something to his parents and they complained to the schoolboard. I suggested that we just go horseback riding and no swimming at all and they still said no. Nothing says that you boys can't organize something on a Saturday."
"Sounds like a plan," Jim said.
"We still have twenty minutes of class, are you ready to go back out there?" Coach inquired.
"Yes, thank you Coach," Jim did feel better. He has one of the best friends that he could ask for, and some great classmates. They went back out to the gym and Coach instructed Jim and Dusty to take their places.
"Listen up, Jim asked me if we were going back out to the ranch before they closed for winter. Not sure who, and I don't really care, but someone leaked to their parents about the skinny-dipping, so we can't go back out as a school function. How many of you enjoyed it last year?" All the boys raised their hands. "Good, like I said, we can't have it as a school function, but if you boys would like to go as a group on Saturday, there is nothing stopping you."
"This Saturday?" Shawn asked.
"Wouldn't have to be, but Saturday in two weeks will be the last Saturday that we'll be open for regular riding. Sunday after is the last day. Hard to believe that Christmas is almost here again," Jim interjected.
"I can go next Saturday or the Saturday after, but this Saturday, I already have plans with my parents," Shawn stated.
All of the boys agreed that the fifteenth would work best for them. The twenty-second, could have snow and they didn't want to take a chance of it being cancelled. And like Shawn, some had plans for this Saturday. After they had decided on a date, Shawn raised his hand again. Coach asked him what his question was. "Just curious how you are doing, Jim," he responded and looked at Jim.
"All I can say is that I feel better knowing how lucky I am to have all of you as a part of my life. I'm really thankful for Dusty not letting me withdraw within myself, for Michael who never gave up on me when I tried, and the rest of you. While you may not know how much pain I am feeling, you understand that I am hurting and…" Jim was cut off by the bell ringing.
Friday, Jim kept hitting the bullseye and Coach asked him where he was hitting "the guy." Jim chuckled and said the testicles. Coach quickly covered his and said, "Ouch, you're mean when you dislike someone." Jim just started to laugh and couldn't shoot anymore. Coach was walking behind the boys as they kept shooting their arrows. "Word of warning everyone, do NOT get on Jim's bad side."
After all the arrows were down in or around the targets, Coach called a cease fire just in case and told the boys to go get their arrows. While they were, Coach removed Jim's target and replaced it with a target dummy. Jim laughed.
The cease fire was over and Jim started shooting the dummy in the groin. One of the boys saw that and asked, "Are you really aiming there?"
"Where would you like me to hit the target, and I'll answer your question by hitting it," Jim remarked somewhat cocky.
"Aim for his left eye," the boy instructed.
"Smart, going for such a small and specific target. I was expecting you to say either the heart or head," Jim informed him as he sent the arrow flying. The arrow seemed to take forever before it sunk dead center of the left eye. Coach smiled as the boy's mouth dropped.
"Cool, can you hit him in the very center of his mouth?" Shawn asked. Jim sent the arrow flying. Every boy was watching as the arrow looked like a weird cigarette sticking out of the dummy's mouth. Every time someone asked Jim to hit a specific spot, that was where his arrow landed.
Sunday came and Jim hurried home when he got done working. Joe didn't feel he had any reason to see the guy; sure, he caused Joe to never meet his "father" but that wasn't reason enough in his mind. He stayed home with Zac, so they didn't rush.
Jim jumped in the shower and hurried to get the smell from working off of him. When he was done, he put on his favorite pair of Levi's and his black western shirt. After pulling on his boots and grabbing his hat, Jim was ready. "Give you a black hood and you could be a western executioner," Heather quipped. Jim smiled, as that was the look he wanted.
After the long drive up to Deer Lodge, Heather told the guard why they were there. He looked at a chart and let them in. They signed in to see William Mason and had to give their IDs. There was no clock on the wall but someone thought they were funny and hung a calendar. Jim understood why with how long they had waited. When they were finally called, they went into a small room and sat down. Mason was led into the room and Jim thought that he looked like he was crying. "Before I begin, I ask that you let me finish before you say anything. I'm not going to ask you to forgive, I have no excuse for what I did. See, I grew up in a very strict religious family. My parents didn't believe in drinking alcohol of any kind for any reason," Mason started.
"That day was my twenty-first birthday and a friend took me out for a drink. I had one drink and it was called straight rye whiskey, very strong, I tell you. I knew I shouldn't have gotten into my car, but I did. And I was doing fine until I hit some ice; I was too drunk to think clearly on how to correct. I slid into your husband and your father. When I saw him, I knew instantly what I did and began to panic. Now I don't go to sleep without seeing his face haunt me. I am so sorry, that was my first and last drink ever." Mason started crying hard. Jim couldn't believe what he was seeing. He wanted to hate this guy so much but it hit him like a ton of bricks, he just made one stupid idiotic mistake.
"I will eventually get out of here, but the dreams will haunt me for the rest of my life. You lost your husband and you will never see your father again," Mason cried.
"I have been wanting to yell at you, I've been so mad," Jim started. Way that he said it, Mason thought he was going to yell at him. Then Jim softened his voice, "I wish that you used a little common sense and didn't get behind the wheel. I wish that my dad was still alive. But I like saying that we can't change the past. I do forgive you and hope you can forgive yourself. We've all made mistakes in our lives and what you did was a mistake, a very costly mistake, but still a mistake."
"Think I'll follow my son's example and forgive you as well. Jim's right. You can't change the past, but I think you've learned from your mistake. Forgive yourself and maybe your dreams will at least lessen," Heather advised.
"I don't know if I can but since you both forgave me, I will try. Just know that I was seriously not asking or expecting forgiveness. If I were in your shoes, I'm not sure I could," Mason stated.
As they were getting in Heather's car to go home, Jim looked at her, "We're not going all the way home before we eat, are we?"
"No, I figured we could stop at a McDonald's or Burger King on the way. It will be late as it is when we get home."
They had just left the penitentiary a few minutes ago when Jim spotted a Sonic. "Can we stop there? It is after seven and I'm hungry."
"Anywhere that you want. I am so proud of how you handled yourself in there," Heather complimented. She pulled into the parking lot and up to one of the speakers. "What would you like?"
"Cheeseburger, tater tots and a cherry slush," Jim replied.
Heather pushed the button to order. When the voice asked what she would like, Heather ordered two cheeseburgers, one loaded with pickles, three orders of taters as they both love Sonic's tater tots and always think one isn't enough. She also ordered a cherry slush for Jim with a splash of lemon. Jim forgot how much he loved that and was surprised that his mom remembered. She ordered a Barq's root beer for herself.
When the food arrived, Heather handed Jim the bags while she paid for it. Jim found the burger with the pickles and handed the other to his mom. "You didn't ask for pickles, I did," Heather teased. Jim gave her sad puppy dog eyes and whimpered. "Fine, I ordered the pickles for you anyway," she laughed.
Jim took a long sip of his slush, then put it in the holder and grabbed his head… "Brain freeze, sign of a good slush," Jim stated. Heather chuckled at him. He does that every time he drinks a slush.
After they were done eating, Heather drove the five hours it took to get home. Jim fell asleep shortly after they entered back into Wyoming. He looked so much more peaceful this time compared to when they moved to Wyoming. As she pulled into the driveway, he awakened.
Joe was asleep on the couch when they walked in. Jim gently nudged him and he rubbed his eyes. "Why are you sleeping down here, Bro?"
"Tried waiting for you. Didn't realize that you'd be gone for twelve hours," Joe sleepily replied.
"Yeah, it's a five-hour drive one way and then we had to wait forever. The guy seems like a really nice guy who just made a big mistake." It surprised Joe hearing Jim say this.
"Did you yell at him?"
"No, when he told us his version of the story and how genuinely upset he was about skidding into Dad, I didn't have the heart to yell at him. Sure, yelling may have made me feel better for a while, but when I forgave him, I felt like a heavy load was lifted off my shoulders. I gotta tell you, Joe, he was easily as upset over killing Dad as we were that he did it."
"You forgave him? I'm shocked after how much anger you've been carrying," Joe hugged Jim.
"I know; I was just as shocked when I said it. I think William was, too. He's carrying a lot of guilt, and I think it's what Dad would have wanted me to do, and you know, I can't disobey my dad," Jim smiled. For the first time in a long time, he wasn't mad.
Jim and Joe went upstairs and Joe headed to his bedroom. Jim opened his door and saw Zac asleep in his bed. He got undressed and climbed in. "Bout time you got home, been waiting to snuggle all night. You can tell me about your visit tomorrow." Jim heard Zac say. Zac never once opened his eyes.
The next morning, Zac was gone before Jim woke up. Jim and Joe drove to school and Dusty was waiting in the parking lot. "Did you yell at him?"
"Nope, forgave him instead and made me feel much better than yelling would have."
"I could have told you that it would but believed that might have upset you. No, it was better that you figured it out on your own," Dusty stated, sounding almost like he was a psychoanalyst.
"I couldn't agree more on both accounts. If you had suggested that I forgive him I would have been so mad at you, and I don't know that I would have forgiven him. Or you, for that matter," Jim responded.
"As mad as you were at him, there was no way I was going to jeopardize our friendship. Still think you can hit your target in archery?" Dusty teased.
"I was always good at archery. Dad taught me a lot before he was taken from me." Dusty noticed that Jim was smiling as he spoke about his dad instead of looking down. Yes, that visit and Jim forgiving the guy really did help Jim to finally really start healing. Jim still had a little sadness in his eye, but that was more out of a love for his father now instead of simply grieving his loss.
Michael ran up to them as they were about to enter the school. He asked how things went with the guy and was shocked with Jim's answer. As the school day went, Jim started getting tired of people asking but at the same time was happy to know that so many cared about him to ask. Coach decided today was going to be another dodgeball game. Jim played hard, but not throwing the ball hard like he was last week. It was down to just Dusty and Jim. Coach liked putting them on opposite teams for some reason. He said that it always made things more interesting.
Jim was reaching down to grab a ball when Dusty threw one right at him. Instinctively, Jim turned around and caught the ball. Dusty's mouth dropped as he was sure that he caught Jim off guard. Dusty was out and Jim's team won the game.
After school, Joe went with Jim to martial art practice. He and Jim had talked about him going many times, and unless he wanted to start driving by himself on Mondays, he had little choice. When he went in with Jim, the sensei greeted them. "Sensei, this is my brother Joe. He's interested in learning too, but not really sure. I told him that you could figure out a program right for him."
"You'd be surprised with how many people learn martial arts with similar or worse disabilities than you. You really want to learn, then it can happen and I'd be happy to help you as much as I can. Why don't I give you six weeks free to see what you think, then if you wish to continue, I'll charge you the regular rate like everybody else," Sensei offered, shaking Joe's hand.
"That sounds like a deal," Joe smiled.
Sensei grabbed a gi for Joe and Jim took him to the locker room so they could change. Dusty came in a few minutes later to change. He's always later than Jim as he takes Cheyenne home. Sensei asked Dusty to take Joe off to the side and work with him since Joe's new and Dusty has reached third degree black belt. Joe really liked working with Dusty. On the way home, he told Jim that it was hard work but he enjoyed it.
"Yeah, but once your body gets used to it, it does get easier." Jim informed him. Joe didn't need six weeks to decide, he already knew that he wanted to learn, especially if Dusty was going to train him. He thought Dusty made an excellent teacher, or sensei as they are called in martial arts.