Lena Givens doesn’t drive down to Harlan because she wants to see her father. She goes down there because she’s on spring break from UK and wants to go somewhere interesting. She also goes because Daddy had told her, unequivocally several years ago when she brought up the possibility, that she was not allowed to.
Raylan Givens is the Sheriff down there now. Lena had heard friends of his in Lexington call it his “retirement job” with air quotes and everything. He’d left the Marshal service after thirty years when she was a junior in high school after spending fifteen in charge of the Eastern Kentucky District office.
He told Lena’s mother that he went down to Harlan just a few weeks into his retirement to finally fix up and sell his father’s house.
When he told them the next time he came home that he’d ended up getting elected Sheriff, Mom had let out an exasperated laugh and said, “You never could keep the hell out of that place.”
Lena has never been to Harlan. She knows of it only as the place her father came from. And, to Lena, anything about him, besides his smile and his nearly constant affirmation when she was young that he loved her though he couldn’t be with her all the time, is shrouded in mystery and answers to questions like, “ask your father,” and “I don’t think your mama would like me talking to you about that.”
Lena is bored, all her friends off on spring break vacations or home with family, so she decides to do this thing she’d always wanted to do. Also, she hasn’t seen her father since Christmas.
The drive down is pleasant, though longer than she thought it would be, through rolling hills in steadily increasing altitudes and tiny towns dotting the landscape along the state road. She has some trouble finding the place.
A long time ago, she’d snuck an envelope with the Harlan return address off the kitchen table, saving it for the day she decided to do this. But now the piece of paper is old and wrinkled from being tucked inside her high school diary and she can’t quite make out one of the numbers for the house.
Luckily, there are only so many houses on the road.
She pulls up a low hill that serves as the driveway, noticing there’s a really old blue truck parked next to the house. She turns off her car and gets out, surveying the property. The house is bigger than she thought it would be, with two storeys and a big garden and porch along the side. It looks like it’s in okay shape, she supposes Daddy must have spent a lot of time fixing it up while he wasn’t busy Sheriffing. She wonders how much of his time it takes up.
There’s no cruiser in the drive now, so she assumes no one is home and starts aimlessly walking towards the door, knowing it’ll probably be locked and she’ll have to sit outside for a bit.
She passes by a few gravestones on the side of the house, three actually. “Frances Givens,” she reads aloud, recognizing her grandmother’s name. “Arlo Givens,” knowing that’s the only thing her daddy ever called his own father, the year of his death listed as the year of her birth. “Raylan Givens,” she reads next. “Creepy.” There aren’t any dates on the gravestone, though it looks weathered like the others, like it’s been there just as long.
The door to the house suddenly opens and a man steps outside, staying on the porch. He’s got a shotgun in his hand, though he’s not aiming it, and no shoes on. He’s dressed in a plaid button down shirt and some bootcut jeans. He’s maybe about the same age as her father, with a face just as weather-beaten and piercing dark eyes. “Good afternoon, miss,” he says politely with the same kind of low accent as her daddy, the kind not even the young people around here have any more. “I’m just gonna ask once, real nice, who you are and what you’re doing here today.”
She frowns at him. This was unexpected. And when he doesn’t continue she puts her hands on her hips and says, “Well, are you gonna ask?”
He smiles and it’s all teeth, very white and very straight. Not bad for a man of his age, though most of his hair is gone.
He opens his mouth to ask, but she doesn’t let him, saying, “Though I guess I could be asking you just what you’re doin’ with a shotgun on my daddy’s porch like you’re fending off the Apache or something.”
He lets the barrel drop near the ground and takes a few steps forward, peering at her. “Ah, shit. Lena?”
She twists her frown. “And you are?”
He smiles a little, but like he’s sort of disappointed. “Boyd Crowder,” he says and she squints her eyes. That name sounds familiar. “Your daddy don’t know you’re here, does he?”
“Well, you best come on inside. Wait for him to get home.” He turns and goes back in, not bothering to wait for her.
She shoulders her purse, and slides her hand in, checking for the mace Daddy’s insisted she carry since she started college two years ago, and follows him.
He’s closing a book left open on the table in the kitchen when she comes in. Her eyes are darting everywhere, taking in all the old furniture, old wallpaper. Some things seem updated, like the windows in the front and the outside and screen doors, but not enough to really sell. It’s not surprising to her that Daddy seems to have given up on the prospect. Mom kept on saying for years no one would buy in Harlan, not for what the land was worth and with the house being so shitty.
Lena didn’t think the house was shitty, just old. She knew plenty of people who wanted old houses, who liked to fix them up. She wonders if Daddy is one of those people and just never bothered to tell them. She wonders, looking at Boyd Crowder, and how at home he seems in her daddy’s kitchen, what else he never bothered to say.
“I don’t think I ever heard your name before,” Lena tells him, eyes raking over some pictures on a corner table and the old telephone still on the wall, the kind with the spinning numbers. It’s a lie, but she can’t remember where she heard it, so she might as well not have at all.
“I ain’t surprised, I guess,” Boyd says and there’s something funny in his voice. Lena thinks immediately of her mother, nothing Daddy ever does or doesn’t do surprises her. He looks Lena in the eye and smiles again, like there’s nothing strange about this exchange at all. “Raylan and I are friends from a long time ago. We dug coal and drank beer together when we were nineteen.”
Just Lena’s age now. “That’s a real long time ago,” she says.
He laughs. “I suppose it would seem so to you.”
“What are you doing here now?”
He throws her a look like that’s some kind of impertinent question, but really, she’s just curious. Also about why he doesn’t have any shoes on. But he answers after a moment, sliding the book idly across the table. She sees that it’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. “I helped your daddy fix the roof,” he says. “and the bathroom upstairs, and replace the doors.”
She raises her brows. “And the windows too?”
He smiles when she does and nods. “Yes, them too.”
But she frowns again quickly. “So,” she says, dragging it out awkwardly, as usual, “I mean, you don’t have to stick around. I’m okay by myself. Er, unless you’re waiting for a repair guy or a delivery or something?”
He huffs an amused little laugh and draws a thumb across his brow, looking away and then back up at her, “No, honey, I live here,” he says like she was supposed to know. “And you’re daddy’s gonna be so pissed that I told you that.”
She sits down. “Why?”
He huffs again. “You want some iced tea?” She nods and he turns to get it.
While he’s busy, searching through the fridge, taking out the pitcher and the glasses, pouring the drinks and all, she looks at him and thinks of her daddy telling her a long time ago, “Everybody’s love is the same, baby girl. Nobody gets to tell you who you can’t love.”
She remembers him smiling so wide when gay marriage went Federal, and hearing Tommy Gaithers talking shit about queers in the schoolyard, how she knew all his family were policemen in Louisville and Newburg, and thinking then a little and now years later, that his attitude was something sort of extraordinary for a man of his background and generation and profession.
She remembers too that he said, “Maybe you tell yourself you can’t love somebody and maybe you believe yourself for a long time, but it always comes out in the end.”
When Boyd returns with the tea, she takes a sip from hers, sets it down with purpose and asks, “So, you’re what? His boyfriend?”
Boyd’s eyes widen. “I think that’s a question you might want to save for your daddy.”
He totally is. He’d deny it otherwise. She never met a straight man his age, younger even, that wasn’t insecure about questions like that one. “Daddy don’t like questions he can’t answer,” she says, instead of accusing him of anything.
His brows draw downwards, but he’s not quite frowning. She thinks he might be impressed. “What makes you think I know if he don’t?”
She smiles. “Oh, I bet he does,” she says, sort of laughing. “It’s just...” she pauses and tries not to let her hurt show. “He must’ve thought he couldn’t say for some reason.”
Boyd doesn’t insult her by offering any kind of commiseration. He does stand and retrieve a small bottle of something clear from a cabinet above the fridge. He raises his brows and she nods, so he pours a little in her drink. After he puts it back, he raises his first finger to his lips, silently and she laughs, keeping her eyes down. She toys with her glass and sips it slow. The moonshine gives it a richer taste and a bite at the back end.
“Daddy doesn’t talk about anything he don’t want to,” she says and thinks her mother would kill her over her grammar. She only picks it up when she’s around the hillbilly types at school, kids from places like Harlan, and Daddy, and she guesses Boyd. She thinks if she ever went to a foreign country, like England or something, she’d pick up their accent too.
“No, he doesn’t,” Boyd says and she looks up at him. He knows, she thinks. He must. Like Mom knows. Like she learned when she was little because he’d say, “That’s a story for another time,” or “Your mama wouldn’t like me telling you about that.”
Once, when she did get up the nerve to go to Mom about it, she’d said, quick as lightening, “Your father can tell you what he wants to. He always does whatever he wants anyway.”
She thinks now, it’s not just what he wants, it’s what he doesn’t want too. He didn’t want her to know about this, that’s why he told her not to come. He doesn’t want her to know about anything.
“Is it all so shameful?” she asks and she doesn’t like the way her voice sounds.
“Not so much as it used to be, honey,” Boyd answers with sadness in his tone. “It’s the past, gets in the way of Raylan speaking his mind, and his heart.”
“That’s bullshit,” she says. Her eyes are only on her glass. She doesn’t want to look at his stupid house anyway.
“Maybe so,” he sighs. “I try not to speak for him, more than I need to.”
She wants to say she’s sorry, but her mind is racing through all the things she’s asked, all the questions she’s had, and never received an answer. She just never thought behind all those unanswered questions, those silences, was a series of lies, deep omissions, thing she should have been told.
“Do you know what my real first name is?” she asks suddenly, looking up and into his face. His expression is calm, very collected, and offers no trace of the sadness she’d heard. “Did he tell you?”
Boyd tilts his head. He purses his lips before he speaks. “While your daddy and I weren’t especially on friendly terms at the time, I remember the day you were born.” He gives her a small smile then. “Yes, I know what it is.”
“No one calls me by my real name,” she says. “Most people don’t know what it is. Its funny because according to Mom it was Daddy's choice. She let him have it and he never ever calls me by it. Never.”
Boyd was looking at her sort of funny. “What did your mamma want?”
Lena shrugs. “She never said specifically. I always figured my middle name, which is Olivia. She used to call me Liv, or Livvie sometimes, but it didn't really stick. I've always been Lena.”
Boyd thins his lips at her and then suddenly stands, his chair disturbing the heavy silence that had fallen. He walks over to a side table with the pictures that Lena had glanced over when she arrived. He pulls one off the table, one with the boy and two women.
“That's your daddy,” Boyd says. Lena had figured, but she looks closely, taking the picture from his hand with careful fingers. He points to the thin woman on the left. “That’s your grandmother. Frances.”
“Daddy said she died when he was training at Glynco.”
“That's right.” He points to the other woman who looks similar, but harder in some way, still beautiful, but like she's got a thicker skin. “This,” he says, “is your daddy's Aunt Helen. She took care of him a lot when he was little and things in this house weren't so good.”
Lena remembers being maybe nine or ten and asking, on a rare occasion they did anything as a family, about her grandparents. Mom's mother was retired in Florida and her daddy died young of a heart attack. But Lena had never heard anything about Daddy's family. They both got a little stiff, looking at each other over her head. Mom said she was going to get something from the kitchen.
Daddy had looked at her for a long time, and before he could say anything she asked, “Are you an orphan?”
She thought, that must be it and she was sorry she’d said anything. She thought about Anne of Green Gables and that puppy from the movie about dogs and Harry Potter. Orphans were the saddest.
But Daddy had shook his head, then frowned, “Well, yes, now. But not when I was little. Not like you mean, baby. My parents are both gone, but I was a man when that happened.”
He told her about being in training, and not being able to go home to his mother’s funeral. He told her she’d been sick and he was always sorry about that. Then he paused again, for a long time and said, “My daddy wasn’t a nice man, baby. He wasn’t nice to me and he wasn’t nice to my mama. He died too.”
And when he didn’t say anything else, she reached up and gave him a big hug. She’d told him she thought he was very nice, like that was going to make it all right.
She wonders now why he didn’t take that moment and tell her about Helen, about her namesake.
When she was in school, on the first days, and when they’d have a sub, the teacher would call, “Helen Givens,” and some days she’d forget to answer. She’d say, “It’s Lena,” and not be bothered by it again for a long time.
The name Helen meant nothing to her. She hated now that she knew that it should.
“He never talked about her,” Lena says, shaking her head, like that would take all this back. “Not once.”
She looks up at Boyd as he tells her, “Some things are too painful for words, honey. Especially for Raylan.”
She’d finished her tea and the moonshine, which had settled into the bottom of her glass, is warming her belly now and loosening her tongue. “What was she like?” Lena asks almost desperately. “What did she do for him?”
Boyd begins to shake his head. “These are things you should ask your Daddy. I shouldn’t’ve said anything, honey. I’m real sorry--”
“Lena?” Her father’s voice comes through, then, from the door. He must have recognized her car.
Lena turns and sees him. He’s decked out in the Sheriff’s uniform she’s never seen him wear, his old hat sitting on top of his almost white hair, sticking out the sides and the back. He’s skinny as ever and she wonders if these two ever eat anything at all, they’re both so lean.
“Hey, Daddy,” she says standing.
He looks a little confused to see her and also like he’s trying not to look too mad. He gives her the once over. She wonders sometimes if he ever examines his suspects so carefully as he does her when it’s been a long time since they’ve seen each other. “Lena, baby girl,” he says, “what are you wearing?”
She huffs. She’s wearing track shorts and boat shoes and a halter top. She left her school sweatshirt in the car. She knows girls wore plenty skimpier shit when he was her age. She bets Boyd knows too. “Clothes, Daddy, Jesus.”
He glances over her shoulder at Boyd and she sees his eyes grow a little harder, his brows come down. His eyes fall to the table and the glasses and the old picture. He frowns, but it clears when he looks back at her. “Come on now,” he says, pulling her into a hug, and she’s so mad at him, but still she goes.
He smells like gun oil and sweat. It’s a hot day for the springtime and the sun was beating down hard on her drive.
He puts his hands on her face, fingers in the hair flying loose from her messy ponytail. He gives her a quick kiss on the forehead, to the side a little. His favorite spot, where she got a chicken pox scar when she was three.
He pulls her into another hug, probably so he can make faces at Boyd behind her and she thinks about how Mom always told her she had hair like him if he’d let it grow long, thick and wiry and brown with a wave. She thinks about the sisters in his picture, his mother and his aunt. She has hair like them.
She looks into his eyes, wrinkled from all those years squinting in the sun and peering down a barrel, but still wide sometimes, when he’s trying not to be mad, like now. His eyes are brown like hers, like theirs.
Lena pulls back and crosses her arms in front of her chest. She says, "Tell me about Helen."
Daddy works his jaw and he shifts his gaze to Boyd, who slides his chair across the floor and moves to exit the room.
Lena steps between them. “He doesn’t have to leave,” she says and hates the hardness in her tone. She thinks she sounds like her mother. “Don’t you make him leave, Daddy.” She knows what he can do with a look.
He makes this face like he’s trying not to be amused and she’s ready to blow.
He looks at Boyd, who’s paused, turning away from the table and looking back at both of them, between them. “Seems like you made a friend today,” Daddy says dryly. There’s a warmth in his voice she’s only ever heard him use on Mom.
She thinks she’s going to be sick, and it’s not because of them, Lord knows. She looks up at him again. “How could you not tell me?” she asks and she’s pretty sure he knows she means about both things.
He sighs and rubs at his eyes. He takes off his hat and tosses it on the table, half obscuring the picture still lying there. “You wanna find the right words, baby,” he says. “Those ones just never came. Not about Helen. Not about Boyd.”
She shakes her head. “That’s no excuse.”
“No, Lena, it ain’t.” He looks tired and she didn’t mean to make him that way. But she’s not sorry she came. “Your mother will tell you I’m full of nothing but bullshit excuses. And that’s another bullshit excuse. I won’t hand you the one about old dogs either, all right?”
Lena doesn’t know what to say after that. She won’t ask for an apology. One wouldn’t be forthcoming and she’s not sure she wants it right now anyway.
Boyd does turn away now, but it’s only to step further into the kitchen and pull out a nearly full handle of Jim Beam. He gets out a glass and pours a double, neat, sets it on the table and looks at Daddy hard. He says, “Now, sit down and talk to your daughter.”
He almost leaves then, but Daddy shakes his head as he takes the glass. “Goddammit, Boyd, stay,” he says gruffly, and sits down. Lena is quick to follow them both.
Daddy drinks a good bit of that bourbon before he starts speaking. When he does speak, he looks at Boyd first, like he’s making him do it, then he looks at the picture on the table.
“The day Helen died, I couldn’t stop looking at this picture. Tom Bergen,” he pauses, and looks at Boyd again, that same hard, angry thing coming into his eyes again too. “Trooper Tom Bergen was talking to me, but I didn’t hear much, because I was looking at this picture so hard.”
When he doesn’t say anything else right away, Lena asks, “How did she die?”
“She was shot.” He points over into the kitchen. “Right over there.”
Lena stares. She knows her eyes are big and Daddy looks at them very directly. “Now you know I wasn’t fucking around when I told you not to come here.”
She blinks. “I hardly think--”
“That’s right, honey,” he says. “You don’t. Things are different down here. Dangerous. They always have been.”
“You’re off the subject, Raylan,” Boyd says suddenly and Daddy takes a drink, a long gulp.
“Helen was my mother’s sister and my father beat my mother and when he did that, Helen took care of me. Helen was the reason I left Harlan when I was 19. She gave me the money. If not for Helen, I would never have left the mine, gone to school, gone into the Marshals, met your mother. Helen was the reason I made it mostly okay. I was the reason I didn’t make it better.”
“Who shot her?”
“Dickie Bennett,” the answers are coming automatic now, like he’s made himself numb to it and Lena hardly likes that any more than she did the silence. “There was a blood feud--”
“Dickie thought I’d slighted him. Long time ago, long even then, maybe I had. His mother didn’t call the shots for him anymore and Helen died because of it. Because of some other things too.” Daddy looks at Boyd again and his expression is almost angry.
“But what was she doing here?” Lena doesn’t think any of this makes sense. It’s years and years of history. She feels robbed of it. These are things she should have known all her life. A fucking blood feud, she thought. Christ.
“She married Arlo after my mother died,” he answers. “Never could tell me why to my satisfaction. He said, after she was gone, she made him happy. I know she never took any shit from him.” He hasn’t taken his eyes off Boyd.
“Arlo, your father?”
Lena’s not sure she wants this anymore. Little girls have daddies that are larger than life--tall cowboys who walk around in white hats with badges and guns and talk smooth and low until they fall asleep. She isn’t prepared for today to be the day her daddy is an old man with a long past of abuse and violence, tangled up with this man who looks to be about as dangerous as the town itself--she’s noticed the tattoos on his hands--and as deep as the mine they both made it out of.
Lena knows about the mine. That was the one thing he’d talked to her about before, about how scared he was. He’d told her that when she was little, waking up from nightmares and crying in the dark.
Daddy turns to her then and his eyes are just as wide as hers. He looks younger and open somehow. He says, “You are the only thing that ever meant more to me than Helen Givens.”
Lena takes a moment, then says, “Well, shit,” and bursts into tears.
He takes her up into his arms then and she says she sorry a few times, crying into his shoulder. He whispers in her ear that he’s sorry too and that everything’s fine and he’s glad that she came to see him.
When she pulls back and looks up again, Boyd has left the room.
“I suppose he told you a bit about--” Daddy breaks off and Lena laughs at him. The only time he ever said anything profound, or even vaguely mature about relationships was the thing he said about loving who you love.
She thinks about that again. It always comes out in the end. She laughs softly at him. “I figured it out. He wasn’t wearing any shoes. And he said he lived here.”
He taps her forehead with one finger. “Smart,” he says and smiles, with only a trace of awkwardness.
“Why was it so hard to talk about Boyd?” she asks.
He makes a face. “Boyd is easier to talk to than he is to talk about. It’s--”
“Don’t say complicated.”
He pushes her off his lap, but she was expecting it and slides back into her own chair.
“We’ve known each other for a long time. And we weren’t always on the best of terms.”
Lena frowns. This was like pulling teeth. “He said all that, Daddy, come on.” She grabs at his hand and tugs on it, impatiently. “I saw his tattoos.”
He taps her forehead again and she shifts away. “He hasn’t touched that shit since a few years before you were born. He was into some other stuff--he never could stay away. ‘Cept for now, I guess,” he pauses and adds loudly, “though I got my eye on him.”
Lena likes the smile that’s on his face now. It’s soft. Fond.
“He ran into bad luck. Got low. Someone he loves very much was taken from him and they can’t be together.”
Lena gives a half-hearted smile and wraps her fingers tighter around his hand. “That sounds like someone I know.”
When Lena’s parents are together, they’re together. They love each other and that is obvious. When they aren’t together, they just aren’t. Lena knows that, has always to some extent or other, and hasn’t questioned it for a long time. Everybody’s families are weird, her parents are just deeply in love and don’t live together.
But now that she thinks about it, since she left home, she’s not sure how much Daddy’s been at home either.
“You think she won’t understand,” Lena says, leaning against the table and propping her head up on her arm.
Daddy doesn’t answer. He stands up and goes to look in the fridge. “You want something to eat, baby?”
“Sure,” she answers. Then says, “You should give her more credit.”
“That’s what I said,” Boyd says as he comes back in. He’s still not wearing any shoes. He cuts in between Daddy and the food, easily stepping into his personal space, telling him, “You go sit back down. I’ll make us something.”
Daddy looks at him and smiles.
They sit for a while and they eat and they make her talk about her classes and her friends. She’s purposefully vague. She’s not sure why, but she doesn’t want Daddy to know that her most interesting classes are the ones in Sociology and Criminology. She’s pretty sure he’ll think she’s just doing it to make him happy, or not happy--she doesn’t actually know what he’d really think. But she’s also pretty sure it makes her happy too.
Maybe an hour or so later, Daddy tells her she should get on back to school, or she’s going to be driving in the dark.
“Oh, no,” she wails. Getting up anyway, but covering her hands with her face. “What will I dooo?”
“You’ll pull out that can of mace I bought you,” Daddy replies, very seriously.
“Oh my god, Daddy,” she says, letting him pull her into a hug. “I’ll be fine.”
“She was reaching for it when she saw me on the porch,” Boyd says, standing too. He seems sort of proud.
Lena feels a red blush bloom across her cheeks as she shoulders her bag.
“Good girl,” Daddy says and gives her a kiss.
“Ah, oh my god,” she cries, smiling despite herself. “You Harlan people really are crazy.” She sticks her tongue out at him, Boyd too.
As they walk out to the porch, Daddy says, “Hey, you got that crazy too, baby girl. You’re a lot like your mama, but you got Helen inside you too.”
Lena can’t control her grin, so she says, “Yeah, I probably got too much of you too, huh?”
“Amen to that,” Boyd says as Daddy replies, “Why you think I ain’t that mad you’re here when I told you not to be?” He glares at Boyd right after.
“Well, it was real nice to meet you, Boyd Crowder,” she says to him, extending her hand. He takes it in his tattooed one and she suddenly remembers. "To Boyd Crowder's rocket launcher, " she says, raising her other hand to point at him.
"Excuse me?" he says, and doesn’t let go of her.
She’s grinning like a maniac. “Oh man, Daddy, you were so mad,” she says, turning to look at him. He’s got a hand up to his face, dragging across his eyes.
“I hate Dunlop so much,” he grumbles. “What an asshole.”
“You were a toast at Daddy’s retirement party,” she says and winks. “Oh, shit, or your rocket launcher was, huh?”
Boyd was looking at Daddy like he wasn’t sure whether to laugh or not. Daddy wasn’t saying anything yet.
“I got Timmy--”
“Tim Gutterson,” Boyd says, half a question.
“Yeah. To tell me. He said you shot a rocket launcher into a weed church the night before Daddy came back into Kentucky.”
Boyd does smile now. “You never said those two events were so close together, Raylan.”
Lena sort of loved the way he said Daddy’s name. Like it was rolling off his tongue too fast to control.
“I did too. I said I just got back.”
“I thought you meant like a week or two. How...” He pauses. “Providential.”
“Oh, don’t give me that shit, Boyd.”
She looks between the two of them an obvious question on her face.
Boyd smiles. “He’s still pissed I was rather religious for a little while.”
“Jesus,” she replies. “What weren’t you?” His smile is very enigmatic in that moment, but it fades when she adds, “Timmy said Daddy shot you.”
“He did,” he says solemnly and lets go of her hand. He points to his chest. Just above his heart. “Raylan saved my life.”
“Bullshit.” She doesn’t really mean for it to come out so harsh. “Sorry,” she says quickly. “I just didn’t realize I’m second generation southern gothic crime novel.”
Boyd laughs out loud at that one.
Daddy steps forward then and bundles her off the porch and down to her car. “We’ll talk about it another time, okay?” He sighs when she gives him a look and says, “Boyd just likes to make it seem like everything means something special. Sometimes, baby, shit just happens, you know?”
Boyd isn’t far behind them. “Not that shit, Raylan,” he says, still smiling. “Bet you wouldn’t have this beautiful girl, you hadn’t put me down that day.”
“We’ll all talk about it another time, then, all right, Boyd?”
Daddy says Boyd’s name like he has to bite it out, like he wants to growl it, instead of speak it, but not like he’s angry. She’s gonna get embarrassed soon.
Lena gives her father a brilliant smile and another hug. “So I guess you don’t want me to mention this to Mom, huh?”
Daddy sighs. “I’ll talk to your mother, Lena. Don’t worry.”
“I’m gonna check,” she insists. “I’m gonna call her up and say, ‘You talk to Daddy? How ‘bout that big news huh? It sure is big, right?’”
“I’ll talk to her, I said.” He’s smiling. “You got a talent for manipulation, darlin’.”
“Wonder where she learned that?” Boyd calls from behind them.
“I’m comin’ back soon,” she says and looks hard over Daddy’s shoulder at Boyd. “Count on it!”
“He can’t wait,” Daddy says as she climbs into her car.
“Love you,” she calls and waves to Boyd.
If Daddy says anything in response, she doesn’t hear it. She does see him, in the rearview mirror, snake an arm around Boyd’s shoulder and press a long kiss to his temple, as they watch her drive down the hill and out of the holler.