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Sue Ellen sat in a straight chair at Dylan's bedside staring at him. He was a tough guy, she had to give him that. The bullet, then the infection might have killed a lesser man, but here he was hanging on. Doing better than hanging on really, he was healing. Still, Dylan was off his game. Normally when someone looked at him for very long, his eyes popped open like he had some kind of sixth sense. 

Finally, Dylan stirred in his sleep, and Sue Ellen went back to tossing a tiny ball from one hand to the other. She didn't want him to catch her staring when he did suddenly wake up.

Sue Ellen threw the ball from her right hand, to her left and back again. Wonder if that kid is still bawling over losing this. She rolled her eyes. A little boy dropped the small red ball as he and his mother had walked across the front of Doc's place. Sue Ellen was sitting on the porch her feet dangling just above the packed dirt below. When the kid dropped the ball, it had sped over the bumpy ground to stop right in front of Sue Ellen. She'd plopped the toe of her tennis shoe over it. The little boy wailed.

His mom looked around the ground with a frown on her face and spotting Sue Ellen asked her if she'd seen it. Sue Ellen had given a shrug and a shake of her head then stared the screaming kid down as the mom continued to drag him through the clearing.

Sue Elen tossed the bass again and giggled. Her blonde curls and big blue eyes always did the trick.

"What's so funny?"

Sue Ellen startled and grabbed the ball from mid-air. "Nothin. I was just thinkin is all."

Dylan's eyes narrowed as if he could read her mind and knew what she did. He'd never liked her. From the minute he'd seen her, he'd been suspicious of her. Try as she might, Sue Ellen couldn't get him to change his mind. Wade though, he'd been on her side more often than she could count, always wanting to help her do better. As if I want to. I like who I am, it'll keep me alive.

"What are ya doin here, girl?" 

"I'm just checkin on you since no one else is around. I thought you'd like that."

Dylan grunted and ran a hand over his face. "Anyone hear anything yet?"

"Geez, Dylan, they just left."

"Watch your mouth. Don't be sassin me."

Dylan never yelled at her. He just got real quiet and gave her that intense stare he had as if he could see through her. It disturbed her. She liked being the one in the room who could read everyone, and here he did it better than she ever had. Sue Ellen shivered. She didn't want anyone to guess her secrets.

Dylan pointed to the ball. "And give that back to the kid."

Sue Ellen's chin dropped leaving her mouth open. "I-I found it."

"Right. Give it back to him."

"All right," she mumbled as she shoved it into her pocket.

"I'll be checkin."

"Whatever!" Sue Ellen stood up so fast her straight chair almost tipped over.

"Then you get your butt back here."

Sue Ellen ground her teeth. "Why?"

"Cause I want to get outta this bed, and you're going to help me do it."

"I ain't your babysitter."

Dylan laughed. "You are now."

Sue Ellen put her hands on her hips. "Why me?"

Dylan stared Sue Ellen right in the eyes. "You know why."

Her eyes darted away, and she ran out of the room.

Sue Ellen hurried down the hall and ignored Bre's greeting when she passed her in the kitchen, slamming the door as she left the house.

You couldn't trust a man like that is what Grandma would say. A man like Dylan knows too much for his own good. Who was he to tell her what to do? It was her ball now, and she was going to keep it. Wasn't much Dylan could actually do about it anyway, he was as weak as a newborn kitten.

Sue Ellen laughed and threw the little red ball into the air watching it sail up into the sky and back down toward her again.

Ain't nobody gonna tell me what to do.

She had plans tonight and those plans didn't include being someone's nursemaid. She waved to the man keeping watch and skipped away.

After wandering down by the creek for a while, Sue Ellen found herself at the clearing that held Annette and Mrs. Gilmore's house. She stopped at the edge hiding behind some scrub brush and watched as Annette sitting on the porch crying.

Everyone felt bad for her. No one really knew her at first, her or the guy, they'd kept to themselves so much. But after he died, everyone brought Annette lots of food, the good stuff. Sue Ellen swatted at a gnat circling her head. She'd visited too. There wasn't any way she would miss out on scoring some of that food. 

Sue Ellen considered another visit. Annette might still have some snack left. But at that moment, the aroma of chocolate chip cookies wafted to her. 

Mrs. Gilmore then, she always had cookies. And it seemed today they were fresh. Sue Ellen's stomach rumbled at the thought. On top of that, Mrs. Gilmore loved her. The old woman's eyes always sparkled the instant she saw her. Not like Dylan's who only looked at her with suspicion.

The fact was Sue Ellen didn't remember anyone who looked at her the way Mrs. Gilmore did, not even her own grandma and definitely not her parents. The only thing Sue Ellen remembered about her and Jesse's parents were eyes dull with drink or hot with anger. Her father never laid a  finger on her, even though he whaled on Jesse, but her mother wasn't above a smack or two. And then there was Grandma.

Someone told her once she was lucky to live with her grandmother as if all of them were soft, and loving, smelling like cookies. They obviously didn't know Sue Ellen's grandmother.

Her grandma was into Life Lessons. Every day held a lesson and maybe a smacking, or an afternoon in the dark, cobwebbed cupboard under the stairs, maybe just a long lecture. But every one was termed a Life Lesson. Many of them consisted of all the many reasons a person couldn't trust --well, anyone.

Sue Ellen could still remember those lessons. "You only have yourself to rely on, girl. You need to practice so you'll need to find your own dinner tonight."

"Why'd you bring that little girl from school home? Friends don't do you no good, they just leave you. That's a lesson you need to remember, and I'm going to make sure you do."

"Stop cryin over your dead mama. She never wanted you while she was alive anyway. I can't stand your caterwauling."

Grandma did real good teaching Sue Ellen Life Lessons. So good Sue Ellen had taught her one right back.

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