Author’s Note: This is Part II in Book I of my series Tales of the West. You may read Part I: “Milly” here.
Genres: Fiction – Western/Action/Romance
Please be aware this story has elements of violence, gun violence, murder and death.
Ethan played by Boyd Holbrook
“I remember the sound of you, in my head, blissful
And my heart sang, at peace at last
Bound by destiny
We became one…
Until the darkness came and when I reached for you
Only a phantom remained
And my withering soul slowly came undone”
Milly wanted Ethan dead.
Ethan understood why she didn’t believe what he said about her parents.
And he couldn’t stop thinking about it. He thought about how far she had come since he met her that fateful day near the Old Miller Farm.
What if he hadn’t helped her that night when she was getting attacked? What if he had left her to her lonesome and hadn’t brought her into the gang? Would he still be face-down in the dirt, his shoulder burning from the bullet that had ripped its way into him? The bullet he took for Milly.
Just the thought of her was hurting him.
Ethan was in and out of consciousness. When he finally opened his eyes, he was being carried by his brothers to where the rest of the gang was holed up. He could hear angry voices yelling at each other in panic. He closed his eyes again and slowly drifted away.
He had no sense of time when he woke up. He felt like someone had pushed a butcher’s knife into his shoulder and twisted it around for fun. His head ached from the fall he took, and his mouth was as dry as a desert. When he focused on where he was, he recognised the Miller house. He looked around and saw a cup next to his bed. He slowly reached up for it with his good arm.
Ethan drank the water down as fast as he could, spilling some of it onto his chest. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and sat there, his eyes slowly focusing on the room. He looked around but nobody was there. He couldn’t hear voices either.
Ethan’s shoulder was bandaged up and his left arm bandaged tightly to his body so he couldn’t move it. His arm felt like it weighed double the amount it should. When he tried to shift his weight to get up out of bed, the pain was close to unbearable, but not quite.
The pain reminded Ethan he was still alive. The pain reminded Ethan of Milly, too…
Ethan sat up on the bed, slowly managing to stand. The dizziness wasn’t as bad as it was when he was getting carried by his brothers. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been bedridden, but he felt like he really needed to get out of this room.
Ethan looked outside for the first time in a while, his eyes were stinging a little with the bright light from the mid-afternoon sky. The clouds looked like they were circling the sun like the buzzards do when there’s fresh meat to pick at. Ethan looked around the farm and it didn’t look any different. Almost as if he were frozen in time in this place.
He stood in the doorway and looked towards the hills where he would sometimes go and take a bath for an hour. And the same place he met Milly whom he had lost now, probably forever.
Ethan remembered those earlier days when things seemed a whole lot simpler and easier between him and…
Ethan felt the tears rolling slowly down his cheeks and he was relieved nobody else was around. He lifted his hand and wiped them off his face. His eyes were stinging all over again.
Ethan knew that he couldn’t leave things the way they were between him and Milly. Facing his feelings for the first time, he knew there was more to him and Milly than either would admit.
Ethan didn’t like regrets – he never had them, and he never wanted them. He knew finding Milly and facing her again would be the only way he could release himself from the real pain he was feeling.
A bullet hurts like hell until you cut it out. But when you mess with the heart… that’s a pain that’ll eat at you until there’s nothing left.
Maybe things would be alright if he were able to even find Milly. For all he knew, she could be on the other side of the country by now.
Ethan thought about the gang and tried to piece together the hazy bits from that day when he got shot. All he could remember was the voices of his brothers bickering in panic and… James.
Ethan shook his head as if he were trying to erase that memory altogether. Part of him felt good about James’ fate. Ethan knew that James and Jed both had it in for Milly. And now that James was dead – it was up to the gang to decide on Milly’s fate.
Ethan didn’t even know if he wanted to be part of that. And after learning about Milly’s folks – what kind of man would that make him if he stayed knowing what the gang did?
It would make him the kind of man that he knew he couldn’t become. Or could he?
Was blood thicker than water?
Ethan would need to make hard decisions in the days to come. Stay with the gang and support what it stood for or leave and risk bad blood with his brothers, his family.
Could he do that? Would he do that for Milly? Ethan asked himself that question. And the only answer he could find was another question; would Milly do that for him?
He figured he would need an answer to that question which led him right back to Milly.
No matter how many ways he thought about it, everything led back to her.
– END OF PART I-
You can read Part II of Ethan’s story right here.