Predawn light washes over me
like a silken smokey cloud and
I nestle close to you between
the flannel sheets and homemade quilts
and somewhere lost
in dark and light
and sleep and wake
I feel you next to me
and you are warm and smell of
light and dark and musky morning
and my skin against yours is
comforting and sensuous and
the predawn light washes over us
like a silken smokey cloud
November 7, 1976
Jack Twist was in heaven. Or so it felt. He was cradled in the arms of dreamland and his lover and when he cracked his eyes open, he was acutely aware of being filled with complete joy. It was the hour before dawn, when the world is touched with an ethereal quality and the light is infused with warmth and coolness and nothing seems quite real. Ennis was spooned behind him, their bodies connected, skin on skin, from head to toe and Jack was caught in that transcendence of time that is rare and precious and fleeting.
Jack was settled on the couch after a long day, his back snuggled tight against Ennis's chest, his son sprawled out on the length of the couch with his head resting on Jack's leg. Jack stroked Bobby's dark hair, so silky and similar to his own. Bobby, for his part, wasn't feeling good and Jack highly suspected it was from eating too much birthday cake and ice cream. Jack didn't blame him–Alice had made the cake and it was delicious. He sighed and let his head fall back on Ennis's chest.
"Something wrong, old man?" Ennis murmured in his ear.
"Who're you calling old? You're older'n I am."
"Only by a month."
"I might be thirty-two today, but it sure feels like I just started my life. My real life, anyway."
Ennis kissed the top of his head and nuzzled the dark hair for a moment. "Know whatcha mean, darlin."
Jack lost himself in thoughts of the past few months. So much had happened since that cold day in April when Ennis had asked him to drive to Minnesota and check out the farm his uncle had left him when he'd died. Funny how something like the death of someone he didn't even know could set in motion a series of events that would lead him here, to his sweet life, his heaven on earth. His eyes misted when he thought of the birthday gift Ennis had given him.
"Let's go for a ride, Jack. I wanna break in that new saddle ya got me for my birthday." Ennis had said.
"All right, then, I'm comin." Jack followed Ennis out to the stable and was surprised to find Jojo, Ennis's horse, already saddled with his new saddle, and Pepper, Jack's horse, also saddled with a brand new, matching saddle. Jack shook his head and looked at the ground, a huge grin breaking across his face.
Ennis put his arms around him. "You like it?"
Jack kissed him. "Yeah, I like it. How're we gonna tell them apart?"
"Well, mine'll be the one that's wore out from workin and yours will still look new for a long, long time," Ennis replied, a smile playing around the edges of his mouth.
Ennis tightened his arms around Jack's waist and kissed him, his mouth wet and hungry, his tongue tasting Jack's, before he broke away. "Okay, we can do that later, let's go for a ride."
Jack leaned back in and kissed him again. "I already saw the saddle. We don't halfta go for a ride right now. Course, if ya wanna ride, I can give ya one. Be a lot more fun than ridin a horse." His lips went back to Ennis's and they were lost again for many moments.
Ennis moaned and broke away again, "Jack, christ, you're killin me. I got something t'show ya."
"I got somethin' t'show you too, lover." His hands moved inside Ennis's heavy coat and pulled him closer, a mischievous grin on his face.
Ennis kissed him one more time, feeling his body react and trying hard to control it, then stepped gingerly away and buttoned up his coat. "Come on, now. I promise we can finish that later."
"I said so, didn't I?"
"Okay, then," Jack said, his curiosity piquing. It wasn't like Ennis to turn him down, so it must be something really important that he wanted to show him. Jack mounted Pepper and followed Ennis out the door. He expected to head for one of the trails in the woods, but was surprised when Ennis started off down the driveway. "Hey, where we goin?"
"I told ya, I got somethin t'show ya," Ennis said, looking back at him. Before they reached the end of the driveway, Ennis turned off onto a trail they seldom used. It meandered down towards McIntyres and came out on the main road and they headed back towards their own driveway.
"What in the world are we doing, Ennis? You just made a big circle!"
Ennis didn't reply, just turned and smiled a serene, knowing smile. When he got to their driveway, he stopped and waited. Jack also stopped and looked around. He didn't know what he expected, but nothing seemed different. Same mailbox, same ditch, same trees, although they were more bare now that winter was nearly here. Same sign that announced this was 'Del Mar Farm', black lettering on a white background with the outline of a horse in each corner. He looked at the sign again. It was different. It was the same white sign with the black horses in the bottom corners, but now it said 'Del Mar & Twist Farm'.
Jack looked at Ennis, his blue eyes wide and bright. "What's this?"
Ennis looked down, suddenly shy. "Thought it was about time ya got your name up there. Farm belongs t'both of us, don't it?" he asked, then paused and added, "You're my partner, Jack." A thousand meanings were in that one little word.
Jack couldn't reply over the lump in his throat, so he just nodded, his eyes still bright, then looked at the sign again.
"I was gonna put your name first, but then I thought, this was Uncle James', I mean, my dad's farm first, so I kept Del Mar first, for him."
"I'm glad, Ennis. Del Mar should be first." Jack sniffed and wiped a gloved hand across his eyes. He looked at the sign a long time before they finally rode back to the stable.
Back in the present, Ennis asked, "You okay?"
"Yeah, I am." Jack turned his head and met Ennis's lips with a soft kiss. "Which is more'n I can say for Bobby."
"Too much cake and ice cream," Ennis said, matter-of-fact. "Hope he feels better for school tomorrow."
"I'm sure he will. I think I'll take him up and tuck him in." Jack said. He extricated himself from Ennis's arms, moved Bobby's head, and stood up. Bobby didn't even move. Ennis reached over and felt his forehead and the flushed cheeks. "He's a bit warm, but it don't feel like he's got a fever."
"I'll just carry him up to bed. I hate t'wake him."
Ennis went up the stairs ahead of Jack and switched on Bobby's lamp and turned back the covers of his bed, then stood to the side as Jack laid Bobby down. He watched as Jack pulled his blankets up to his chin and leaned down to kiss his forehead. He stood up and saw Ennis watching him with soft eyes. "What?" Jack asked.
"You're a good daddy."
Ennis's smile slipped the tiniest bit as Jack took his hand and lead him out of the room and back down the stairs. He stretched out on the couch and held his arms out for Ennis. "Come here." Ennis obliged and they lay there for a while, Ennis's back pressed against Jack's front, held safe in his arms, blue-jean clad legs and stocking feet entwined. They were quiet during the end of the movie they'd been watching.
The news started and Jack said, "I been thinking, Ennis."
"Oh, yeah? Should I be worried?"
Jack smiled and nipped his neck.
"I was thinking that I should take Bobby down t'Texas to spend Thanksgiving with Faye and L.D."
"Well, they did lose the custody battle and I told them they could still see him. Guess I feel bad about the whole thing."
"Jack," Ennis ran his hand up and down Jack's arm, "you ain't got nothin t'feel bad about. L.D. started that whole thing. If you're talkin about Lureen, we been over that an over that. It wasn't your fault."
"I know it wasn't. I don't blame myself anymore. But the whole situation just makes me feel like I need to do something. Mostly for Bobby. And maybe some for Faye, too. She was always nice t'me and she loves Bobby." He kissed the back of Ennis's neck, lingering a little. "Besides, if I go down there for Thanksgiving, I don't have t'offer time at Christmas when the girls are here."
"If Alma lets 'em come," Ennis muttered.
"She said she would, but I'm always afraid she'll change her mind."
"Anyway, about Thanksgiving, if you're goin down there, so am I."
"Ennis, you don't have to."
"You don't want me t'come?"
"No, it ain't that. I just . . ." he paused and kissed Ennis's neck again before he said quietly, "I don't want anything t'happen t'you."
"Jack, nothin's gonna happen."
"It's just, well, L.D. has a big mouth. He had those guys from work testify, so I know the story's out about his queer son-in-law." There was a tinge of bitterness in Jack's voice.
"And you expect me to let you go down there alone after telling me something like that? I'm coming for sure." He craned his neck to see Jack's face. "Besides, it's our first Thanksgiving together. I don't wanna spend it all alone."
"You won't be alone. Alice already invited us, and so did the McIntyres."
"That ain't what I mean. I'd be all alone without you."
Jack dropped his forehead to rest against the back of Ennis's head. "God, Ennis, I think I love you more and more everyday."
Ennis didn't say anything, just turned around so he was facing Jack and met his lips with a gentle kiss. The kiss grew deeper and more urgent as they each savored the taste of the other, their tongues exploring the deep, wet recesses of the others' mouth. Ennis raised his head as Jack moved down to kiss his neck. A low sound escaped from deep in his throat before he whispered, "Hey, didn't you promise me a ride earlier."
"Mmm," Jack ran his tongue up the curve of Ennis's jaw. "I believe you were the one makin promises."
"Was I?" he asked as his fingers began to unbutton Jack's shirt.
"Mm hm," Jack murmured, moving back to Ennis's mouth.
"Guess you're right. But you were the one offered me a ride," Ennis said, his tongue darting out to trace the shell of Jack's ear.
"Mm, guess I did, didn't I?"
"Let's go upstairs," Ennis whispered. He slid off the couch and led Jack up the stairs, into their bedroom.
Jack and Bobby were just finishing breakfast when Ennis came in from outside. "It's sure getting cold out. You make sure to wear your hat and mittens today," he said to Bobby.
"I will," Bobby replied, his mouth full of cereal.
Ennis poured himself a cup of coffee and took a seat at the table with them. "How're we comin on hirin someone? I'd like to have someone in place before Thanksgiving."
"Actually, Gordon Albrecht called me yesterday, wonderin if we was still lookin for someone. Said his secretary has a son that just moved back up here. He's lookin for work and has some experience working on a farm down in southern Minnesota."
"When's he comin?"
"Told him today, round nine or ten. That's okay, I hope?"
"Sure. Hey, Bobby, you about done? I think it's near time for the bus to be here."
"Yep," Bobby replied and jumped up. He pulled his boots on, then his heavy winter coat, stocking hat, and leather mittens. Ennis stood up and helped him put his backpack on. Bobby gave Jack a hug and said, "Bye, daddy."
"Bye, son. Have a good day."
"Come on, I'll walk down with ya. I gotta get the mail anyway." Ennis said the same thing everyday–wasn't fooling Jack or Bobby. They stepped outside and started off. "When it gets colder and snows, maybe I'll drive you down to the bus stop in the truck."
"I ain't a baby, dad."
"I know that, but it'd make me and your daddy feel better if we knew you weren't gonna freeze to death waitin on the bus."
Bobby glanced up at him and said, "If you say so."
They finished their walk in silence and arrived just as the bus pulled up.
"Bye, dad," Bobby said, giving a little wave.
"See ya later, son." Ennis nodded at the bus driver and turned to get the mail out of the box. His eyes were drawn to the new sign that proclaimed this to be the Del Mar and Twist farm. As much as he loved seeing their names there, together, in black and white, it also gave him a sense of unease, and he hoped, with all his heart, that this visible sign of their commitment to each other would not bring anything bad with it.
Ennis had just reached the house when an orange pick-up pulled in the driveway and stopped in front of the garage. He stopped and waited as a man, about his height, maybe a couple of years younger than him, with dark, wavy brown hair, cut neat around his ears, and wearing a baseball cap set at a jaunty angle, stepped out of the truck. He was wearing jeans, work boots, a flannel shirt, lined denim jacket and a quilted vest. He threw down the cigarette he'd been smoking, stubbed it out, and flashed a friendly grin at Ennis. "Morning," he said, nodding his head and holding out his hand. "I'm Ben Miller. Are you Jack?"
"Nope, I'm Ennis. Jack's in the house. He said you were comin out, though." He reached to shake Ben's hand. "Come on in, get a cup of coffee."
"Sure, thanks," Ben replied and followed him in the house.
Ennis put the mail on the counter and poured Ben a cup of coffee, then refilled his own cup. Jack came from the office upstairs and into the kitchen. "Jack, this is Ben."
"Hey, Ben, nice to meet you." He gave Ben one of his thousand-watt smiles and got one in return. Ennis realized Ben had the same bright, full-of-joy smile that Jack often wore. "You still interested in workin for us?"
"I'm here, ain't I?"
"Well, there's one thing we oughta talk about." Jack's smile slipped a bit and Ennis looked out the window, ashamed of himself for not helping Jack, but knowing that Jack would understand.
"Sure, what's that?" Ben asked, looking from one to the other.
"Ya see, the thing is, me and Ennis want to make it clear about us right from the beginning–"
"Oh, don't worry about it, my mom and Gordy already told me about you guys."
"They did? They told you we're business partners and partners partners?"
"Well, my mom said you were boyfriends, but I guess that's the same thing."
"And you're okay with it?"
"You gonna pay me?"
"Yeah, of course."
"Then I don't care one way or the other, as long as you treat me right and pay my wages."
Jack and Ennis exchanged a look and a tiny shrug.
"All right, bring your coffee and come on, I'll show ya around," Ennis said.
A quick knock sounded and Beau opened the door and walked in. "Morning, sorry I'm late. Had to stop by the feed store this morning," he said, going straight to the bottomless coffee pot and pouring himself a cup.
"Didja actually buy anything there or were ya just window shoppin?" Jack asked, a smirk on his face.
Beau grinned right back at him and replied, "Well, I did pick up some more of that winter feed Ennis asked for, but I must admit they opened a little late this morning and it was almost entirely my fault, though Tyler was partly to blame."
Ennis didn't even blink at the mention of Tyler. His feelings for him had cooled to the point where he missed his friendship and nothing more. They had been around each other a few times in the past couple of months, but kept their distance, too. He was happy that Tyler seemed to have found what he needed in Beau and he would be even happier if they could all be friends again. However, he was also very protective of Jack's feelings and they hadn't really talked about Tyler much, so he just kept avoiding the whole topic.
Jack saw Ben's eyebrow go up at the mention of Tyler. "Ben, this is Beau, our other hand. He's, well, he's like us."
"That's not a requirement for working here, I hope," Ben replied.
"No, of course not, but being okay with it is."
"That I can do. Does that mean I'm hired?"
Jack looked at Ennis and another look and a nod passed between them.
"Guess it does. Let's go. Come on," Ennis said and headed out the door.
"I'll be out in a few minutes. I wanna call the airport this morning and get our tickets for the trip to Texas."
"Okay, bud," Ennis replied and turned back to give Jack a warm smile before he went outside, into the cold of the day.