46. Daddy

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My daddy was a Cowboy with a capital "C

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My daddy was a Cowboy with a capital "C."

He lived fast and died young, just thirty one years old. 

He was everything they said he was and more, dominating the rodeo circuit from the get-go, beloved by his sponsors and fans alike for his big heart, all American good looks, and easy demeanor. 

But daddy was no saint. He loved his women and his booze, spent his money as fast as he made it, and was a slave to adrenaline, forever seeking the next high.

To me, though, he was perfect.

When I was thirteen years old, somebody's carelessly discarded cigarette butt had started a fire in the barn where Shannon had been stabled.

We'd all rushed outside.

Daddy's expression had been anguished as he'd looked from the barn to me, then back again.

He knew right from wrong, but I guess sometimes, your heart overrides your brain's decisions.

Once he made his choice, his apologetic gaze settled on me, still dressed in my pajamas, my eyes heavy with sleep.

He'd knelt before me then, too.

"I can't leave her behind no more than I could leave you, Layla-girl. But don't you worry, I'll be back in a flash."

"Well, hurry it up, daddy, I wanna go back to bed."

They'd tried to stop him, but he ran straight into the inferno, his loyal dog right beside him. A single father to a little girl who had no one else in the world but him.

A real swashbuckler, alright.

He would've made it too, they'd been so close. I'll never forget it, their silhouettes, daddy riding Shannon, Outlaw right beside them, charging for the door at breakneck speed, back lit by the fire's raging orange flames.

They'd been so close.

But then the beam collapsed.

And that was that.

A part of me had always stood there, outside that barn in the middle of the night, amidst the glowing embers of the dying fire, still watching, still waiting. 

So senseless.

So reckless.

So stupid.

That was my daddy.

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