They rode a bit further, Yuñior holding the reins loosely in his hand, the stallion stepping with pride as his rider made for the tree line. It seemed as if the horses knew exactly where to go without being told, which made the ride far easier for them both.
“I’m dealing with a new feeling inside my head, Brody the Johnson,” Yuñior said. “I’ve never had any friends because of who I am and who my father is. The boys who desired to be my friends all had ulterior motives, or their fathers were jockeying for a position in the cartel. Being my friend would be a leg up for their parents.”
“Tracking,” Mr. Yield responded.
“I hope you are because after dinner, my father is going to sit you down and ask you why you are my friend and what is it you want from me,” Yuñior said. “I too wish to know these things, but right now, you’re all I have. I’m not sure if that makes me pathetic or desperate to connect with something outside of this life.”
Mr. Yield sat high in the saddle rocking along in pace with the slow walk of his horse, questioning himself about why he was here, being a friend to a kid who could have been his son that was conceived on prom night. Until Millicent came along, he also knew the loneliness, hiding in room additions to his home that he never seemed to finish. He had a lifelong friendship with Gabriel Neary, and his bond with his cousin Tim had made his teen years full of fun and adventure. Over the years, life’s changes hadn’t strained the friendships, only altered the pathways. However, at least he still had those times. Yuñior Delgado had none of those things.
“I’m here because you need me,” Mr. Yield said. “I also wanted to see the inside of The Terror Dome, to get a better understanding of you, but…I dunno, getting to see the Pyramids of Giza, kind of teach you, Millicent, and my son about the wonders of the world on your dime, which seemed like a smart decision. But I’m here mostly because you need me.”
Yuñior stopped his horse, lifting his hat, wiping his brow with a dark green bandanna. The little boy inside of him stared at Mr. Yield, asking for acceptance. The tough nails he swore lined his insides of steel were dissolving faster than the coca leaves in the diesel fuel.
“Does it make me pathetic to care what you think of me?”
“No, it makes you human,” Mr. Yield replied.
“My father will ask the details of that night we met,” Yuñior spoke, looking at his friend.
“How much do you want me to tell him?”
“One thing you never should do is lie to the Fer-de-Lance,” Yuñior stated. “He is my father, but he is also my Czar. My actions are accountable to him. He cannot respond to what he does not know. He knows the children were moved, but I didn’t say where. I made him aware of cutting Tito with my knives. The other details he will learn from you in moderation.”
“In moderation,” Mr. Yield whispered softly. “Ed, why me? What do you want from me in return?”
“My father has created in me everything he needed in case his eyes were to close permanently on this night. I would step in and see to the care of my siblings and my stepmother. I shall marry the woman of his choosing and be the man he wants me to be,” Yuñior said. “These things, I shall do with no understanding of the man I want to become. Guide me, Brody the Johnson. I know how to do this shit with my eyes closed and to take the life of a man with no loss of sleep. I’m not a sociopath because I care, but the lines are blurring, and I’m caring less and less.”
“Okay, but how will your father react to me taking such a role in your life?”
“You are my friend,” Yuñior said, “when he asks the questions, you answer openly and honestly. My father only sees me as his son. My shortcomings, flaws, and social anxieties don’t register with him because he only sees me as the heir and Andres as the spare. I do not wish to marry a woman I don’t know or love and become this broken shell of a man.”
“Got it,” Mr. Yield said, looking at the young man who was far wiser than his twenty years. When the Professor he used to be was teaching, he couldn’t get half the students in his courses to understand their roles in the next generation of history recorders, and here was a young man set to make history, who asked for an additional compass to ensure he got where he needed to be. Brody felt honored to be gifted with such a task.