Under the Western Sky is a retro-romantic suspense set in Western Nebraska in 1976. Though somewhat under the radar, there is a great deal of racial tension, partially due to the events that happened at Wounded Knee, South Dakota three years prior.
Bobby and his best friend, Danny, are on opposite sides of the racial barrier. Danny is white and his father has been approached by a white supremacist group. His initiation was to injure, possibly kill, Bobby because he’s dating a white girl. They have a terrible fight and Bobby takes his friend down. The police have arrested Danny and he spent the night in jail.
Bobby woke the next morning to the delicious odors of coffee and bacon. Glancing at the clock, he saw it was well after nine. He couldn’t remember a time when he had slept that late on a Sunday. In fact, he couldn’t remember a time he’d slept that late in the last six years.
His body ached from his encounter with Danny. When he examined himself in the mirror, he saw that his old friend had landed a few good punches on his ribs, leaving angry red welts on his back and chest. How could he have done that without Bobby noticing? He hurt all over and was glad he hadn’t spent the night on the lumpy old couch. His back hitched on him when he bent over to pull up his jeans.
Someone knocked on the door as he zipped his pants. Fumbling with his shirt, he invited them in. He was expecting his mother or maybe Maria, but it was Libby. She was dressed in Maria’s shorts, and a T-shirt with big pink rhinestone lips on the front. Her eyes widened when she saw the bruises on his chest.
“Your mom said to wake you for breakfast,” she said shyly, eyes downcast.
“Thanks.” He pulled her gently inside, closing the door. His lips connected with hers, leaving a spark in their wake. “I’m sorry about last night,” he sighed, holding her face in his hands. “I feel like such a bum.” His fingers traced the curve of her cheek and neck tenderly.
“No, it’s my fault. I should’ve known better.”
“I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I love you too much for that.”
They kissed a few more moments until Maria called to them from the hallway. “Rise and shine, Babu! Breakfast!” She tapped on the door, whispering. “Put it back in your pants and get out here before Mom has a piglet!”
Bobby jerked the door open in her face, leaning casually against the frame. “It’s where it belongs, Mia. Just getting a good morning kiss.” He smirked, pinching her cheek.
He still didn’t have his shirt on and Maria winced, sucking in a breath as he passed her.
“Did Danny do that?” She pressed her hand gently on his side.
“Yeah.” He flinched away from her fingers as they probed a particularly sensitive spot. “Fuck, Mia, don’t do that!” he said, more loudly than he intended.
“What’s that language I’m hearing in my house?” his mother called from the kitchen.
“Nothing, Mamá! It was a perfect stranger who said that,” Bobby called from the hallway.
“If he was perfect, he wouldn’t use that kind of…” His mother stood in the living room, a pancake turner in one hand, an oven mitt in the other. When she saw Bobby’s chest, she stopped talking. “Oh, Jesus, Maria!” She crossed herself as she approached him.
Babbling in Spanish, she examined him carefully before leading him back to the kitchen. “Jim, Toby, look! See what that brute did to my baby!”
Toby looked him over with a practiced eye. “I don’t think anything’s broken, but we better take you by the hospital to have x-rays.”
“I’m fine.” Bobby tried to pass off the pain. “Just bruised up.” Shrugging into his shirt, he winced as he pulled it down, gasping as the cloth rasped against his bruises.
“That settles it for me,” Toby said in a no-nonsense voice. “I’m taking you.”
“Can I at least eat first? I’m starving.”
Toby frowned, not wanting to agree, but not wanting the kid to be hungry.
“A man either needs food or sex after something like that,” Jim said, without thinking.
Bobby shot him an ugly look, which fortunately his mother missed. “Yeah, well, I’ll take that food now, Mom.”
Jim mouthed, “I’m sorry,” to him, winking at Maria as she stifled a giggle.
“Does it hurt as much as it looks?” Grace asked.
“Pretty much, yeah. Hurts to breathe deep. I don’t even remember him doing that to me. I didn’t feel anything at the time.”
“Yeah, you don’t,” Toby said calmly. “It’s an adrenaline thing. You get so pumped, you don’t realize you’re taking almost as much damage as you’re giving. Though in this case, I think you did more.” He winked at Bobby. “You’ll have to show me that trick. I know black belts who can’t do that.”
“I wish I could. I don’t have a clue. It was like I saw in my mind how it was done, but unless you pulled a gun on me, I don’t think I could repeat it.”
“We’ll figure it out.” Jim almost clapped him on the shoulder, but refrained. “Bruce Lee, ki ya!”
Bobby tried to laugh but it hurt. Instead, he held his ribs, groaning.
“That’s it,” Toby said, before they even sat down. “Link is on his way here. I’m taking you to the hospital.”
“I’ll take him, Toby,” Jim offered. “I think the ladies need you here more than me. As soon as Link arrives, we’ll go.”
© 2015 Dellani Oakes