At Wolf Ranch

By: Jennifer Ryan

“What did the doctor say?”

“Nothing specific. Her injuries are extensive, but she’ll survive. I wonder, Blake—how much has she survived already that she had to shoot her own father to stop him from killing her?”

Blake wondered the same thing. “The point is, Bud, she did survive. What are you going to do now?”

“Anything I have to in order to get her here. Since she refused to talk to me, the doctor will speak to her on my behalf. I’m waiting for him to call me back.” Bud fell silent again, staring at the wall, waiting for the phone to ring.

Blake eventually left to find Dee in the kitchen. She turned the pieces of fried chicken in a cast-iron skillet. Cooking to cope. She and Bud married long after Erin left with Ron and several years after Bud’s first wife passed. Dee’s sympathy was for Bud, not the man who spent the last years making Bud’s life a misery of worry, regret, and hope that one day the guy would clean up his act and bring his granddaughter home. “How long’s it been since Bud heard from Ron?”

“Years. He hasn’t seen Gillian since she was a toddler. Since I married Bud, long before then, actually, Ron’s never called or come back to town.” Dee set the metal tongs on the counter and turned to face him. “He blames himself.”

“Bud had nothing to do with this. Erin and Ron made their choices.”

“Yes, and that poor girl paid the price.” Sadness infused Dee’s words and filled her eyes with concern.

“We don’t know everything that happened. The article is very brief. Yes, he hit her, and she shot him, but beyond that we don’t know anything about what her life with him has been like,” Blake pointed out.

“Bud tried to find her years ago now. He never felt right leaving her with Ron. What if she doesn’t want to come? What if he never gets a chance to make this right?”

“She shot her father. Maybe she needs time to recover and come to terms with what she’s done.”

“Do you think she did it on purpose?” Dee’s eyes filled with worry and uncertainty.

“If someone hit me in the past and hit me again, and I had a gun in my hand, I’d sure as hell shoot the bastard.” The anger roiled in Blake’s gut for the man who pushed his daughter too far.

Dee pressed her lips together and nodded, silently agreeing with him.

Blake didn’t feel bad for speaking his mind. Ron turned out to be the worst sort of man. You do not hit girls. You certainly never beat your child. The drugs had warped Ron’s mind, or maybe he was just rotten to the core. Either way, Blake hated him for treating Gillian so poorly.

“Well, I guess we’ll get the whole story when she gets here.”

Blake headed back out to the stables and his beloved horses, haunted by thoughts of the woman with the tiny feet lying atop the car’s smashed roof. He hoped she was okay, because he knew after a fall, whether from a window or a horse, everything changes.

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