Chapter 15, Part 2: Hero of the Day
"The window burns to light the way back home -
a light that warms no matter where they've gone.
They're off to find the hero of the day,
but what if they should fall by someone's wicked way?"
The night before...
The clock chimed, rousing Enos and he opened his eyes wearily and sat up, knocking the forgotten magazine off onto the floor. He hadn't meant to fall asleep, but the ticking of the clock on the mantel and the cozy couch beside the warm fireplace had lulled him into dreamland. Knowing if he stayed here where he was comfortable, he'd just fall asleep again, he got up and wandered into the kitchen.
He took the coffee pot from the stove, filling it halfway with water and putting a scoop of grounds in the top, before setting it back and turning on the burner. As his coffee percolated, he washed the dishes from the sink, dried them, and then put them away.
The rain spattered against the window as he worked, the rhythmic ticks of the drops hitting the glass making the house seem less quiet and desolate. When he finished the dishes, he grabbed his coat from its hook by the door and walked out onto the porch.
The night was pitch black with no moon shining made even darker by the overcast sky, and the rain shimmered in the patch of light from the kitchen window. He must have been sleeping for longer than he'd thought – that or it had rained cats and dogs earlier, what he could see of the driveway was flooded. He walked over to the edge of the railing and looked out into the night.
Somewhere, he thought, somewhere out in that dark storm, is my Daisy.
Wind blew the cold rain into his face, and he winced as the invisible drops hit his eyes. Should he even dare to hope that she'd show up before morning? Even if she did, he'd never see her with the rain. He ran off of the porch, out into the downpour, and flipped the switch on the tall pole light that stood beside the barn. Instantly, the yard was flooded with harsh light, illuminating the slick, brown, mud of the drive, its surface alive with the splashing raindrops.
He had just stepped into the house and pulled out a chair to sit down at the table when a car's exhaust drifted in over the sound of the storm. He could see nothing beyond his own reflection out the window, so he hurriedly flipped off the lights. A dark colored sedan pulled up to the end of the drive and stopped. The taillights blinked as the passenger door opened and a figure emerged, nearly getting hit by the door as someone from inside the car pulled it shut. The lights flickered again and dimmed as the car tore off down the road, leaving the person alone. His breath condensing on the window blurred their features, but it didn't matter, he would know her form anywhere. Before he could breathe a sigh of relief from having Daisy home again, she stumbled and collapsed to the ground.
In a flash, Enos was out the door, splashing through the puddles until he reached her side. He knelt down, unmindful of the mud soaking through the knees of his sweatpants.
"Daisy! Daisy, are you alright?'"
He looked her over, but even with the pole light, it was too dark and too rainy to tell if she was injured. Instead of being upset, she seemed to think something was inexplicably funny.
"Enos?" she laughed, happily. "What are you doing here?"
"What do you mean, what am I doing here?" He took a closer look at her face. "Have you been drinking?"
She shook her head. "Jus a little," she assured him, flatly. "Does this mean you don't love me no more?"
He frowned at her question, but he'd been around enough drunk kids on Friday nights at the Academy to know not to take them seriously. He reached his arm around her, trying to help her off the ground. "Daisy, if I didn't love you, I wouldn't be out here getting' muddy and rained on," he answered, gruffly. "Stand up."
She tried her best to steady herself, but by the time she'd gotten shakily to her feet, Enos was tired of getting wetter and just wanted to be inside. He scooped her up in his arms and headed back down the driveway. She snuggled her head into the crook between his head and shoulder, the tip of her nose just grazing his cheek, her arms wound loosely around his neck. Enos focused on the house, trying to ignore the feel of her warm breath on his skin.
Slowly, he made it back up the steps, through the door, and into the kitchen with her, flipping the lights back on as he passed them. Fearing she would just fall over again if he stood her up, he sat her down on top of the table instead, keeping one arm around her to right her if she started to lean. He was relieved to note nothing more seriously wrong with her than a light scrape on her arm and wet clothes. She was shivering, wearing only a thin tank top and jeans.
"Dang it, Daisy, what happened to your coat? You're gonna freeze to death dressed like that in the middle of winter." He looked around, but there was nothing handy but a dishtowel. His own coat was soaked now.
She poked his chest. "You sound like Uncle Jesse."
"Yeah, well, maybe you oughta listen to me once in a while, then. Can you sit there a minute without falling over?" he asked her, doubtfully.
Daisy nodded and he let her go experimentally. She swayed a bit and he hurriedly took off his wet coat, throwing it over another chair, then stripped off the sweatshirt he'd been wearing and slipped it over her head. She giggled as he attempted to guide her arms through the overlong sleeves.
"You ain't that far gone," he griped. "Come on, quit laughing and put your arms through."
She pulled the sleeves on and then wound her arms around his neck again. "You gonna put me to bed, Enos?"
"I think you'd best drink some coffee for you go to bed," he said, unwinding her arms from around himself. He lifted her off the table and set her feet on the floor before guiding her into the living room. "Here, sit on the couch where it's warmer, or you're gonna catch cold," he said, depositing her there before going back to the kitchen.
He filled a cup half full of the fresh coffee he'd made for himself, adding two spoonfuls of sugar for Daisy's tastes since she hated the stuff. Her eyes followed his motions as he walked back into the living room and sat down on the couch beside her.
"Careful, it's hot," he said, handing her the brew.
She sipped gingerly at it, grimacing at the taste, before handing it back to him. "Yuck! That's nasty, I'm not drinking that."
"Huh uh," said Enos, pressing it back into her hands. "Take another drink, it'll warm you up."
"Fine." She took another sip before tossing the whole thing, cup and all, into the fireplace.
He groaned. "That's swell, Daisy."
She turned towards him, lit in the semi-dark room by the warm glow of the firelight dancing over her, and he sighed. Tomorrow, she'd be back to normal, ignoring him or gracing him with scathing remarks. At least right now, she had forgotten how much she seemed to dislike him. It had been so long since he'd even let himself look at her. Now, well, she likely wouldn't remember much anyway in the morning, so he supposed she wouldn't mind him staring at her a bit - drunk or not, she was beautiful.
A slow, sensual grin crossed her face, one that made him feel suddenly overly warm, and he looked away as an alarm went of in the back of his mind. Perhaps it would be better to get away from her after all.
Before he could move, she crossed the distance between them and, with a speed and agility surprising for her level of sobriety, slid onto his on lap, straddling his legs, her knees resting against his hips.
"Uh...Daisy," he said, startled, "you ought not to be doing...that." He leaned back against the couch, away from her.
She ran both of her hands through his still dripping hair, and grinned down at him. "You're all wet, sugar."
"Thanks to you," he reminded her. "Daisy, would you get off of me, please?" Unless he wanted to muscle her away, he was trapped, and to make matters worse, his body, embarrassingly enough, had decided it quite liked her current position.
Her fingers traveled from his hair down his neck to his chest, tracing the patterns of the dancing firelight across his bare shoulders. "I had to come home."
"Oh...uh, well, I'm glad you came home, Daisy," he said, distracted by her caresses. "I was worried about you."
Against his better judgment, he closed his eyes. Just for a minute, he thought...lost in the feel of her hands against his skin, the feel of her body pressed against his, the rush of his heart beating wildly under her fingertips. Without thinking, his hands moved up, circling her waist.
"Had to come back and tell you..."
"...Tell me what?"
She leaned down closer, her damp hair falling around him, her hands cupping his face. "Do you love me, Enos?" she whispered.
He tilted his head up, his lips brushing lightly against hers, any thoughts of escape drowned out by the desire raging inside him. "Till the day I-"
She bit his bottom lip teasingly, and whatever else he would have said went forgotten as he pulled her closer to him and kissed her deeply. Time dragged on until it seemed there was neither himself nor Daisy, but something borne of two souls entwined with no end and no beginning...
She tasted of coffee and...and...
The thought intruded - unwanted – like a thief to steal her away from his arms, and God help him, but he didn't want to listen! He wanted this...he wanted her... to feel her soft and warm against him and now everything he'd ever needed was here within his reach.
And yet, still, the sharp, metallic taste of alcohol was unmistakable on his tongue.
His conscience screamed at him to move - to get away from her before it was too late, and with an effort that was almost painful, he caught her face in his hands, forcing her gently back from him.
"Daisy, you're drunk," he whispered.
She mumbled indifferently as she aimed at his lips and missed, planting a kiss on his chin instead.
"Hun, you ain't thinking straight," he pleaded, "and you shouldn't let anyone take advantage of you." Lifting her under her arms, he picked her up and deposited her on the couch. He stood up. "Come on," he said, holding out his hand to help her. "You need to sleep."
She took his hand. "I want another kiss," she pouted, leaning against him.
He gazed down into her hazel eyes. "First, promise me you'll never go and do such a stupid thing again, running off and getting' drunk."
"I promise." She looked at him expectantly, but he pointed to the door of her room.
"Hey, you said you'd kiss me!"
"Ask me when you're not drunk as a skunk, and I will," he told her.
Flashing him a disgruntled look, she stomped off, running into the wall before stumbling into her room. He waited until she had climbed into her bed and then flipped off the light.
"Night, Daisy Mae."
He'd almost made it back to the couch when she called to him.
Sighing, he turned around and went back, leaning in the doorway to her room. "What?"
"Enos, don't leave me," her voice was quiet now, distraught – was she crying?
"Daisy, I'm just going back in the living room. I'm not leaving."
"I don't want you to go to Atlanta. Please, Enos, come back to Hazzard."
He turned the light back on. Her eyes were filled with tears.
"I'll think about it, Daisy," he said, softly. "Get some sleep."
He shut the light back off and closed the door, his heart full of so many things he hardly knew where to start. First things first though – he needed a shower.
A cold one.
Long after Daisy had fallen asleep, and after he'd heard the sound of Uncle Jesse's car pulling back into the drive, Enos lay on the bed in the spare room, staring up at the dark ceiling, a single, solitary thought playing over and over through his mind.
Drunk people said lots of stupid things and did lots of stupid things...but sometimes...sometimes the things they said and did were things they wanted but would never say otherwise.
What if...what if she had meant it?
If he moved to Atlanta, it would be over, and any slim chance that he might have had with her would be gone forever. Was staying in Hazzard worth the risk of him being wrong?
He spent the night wrestling with the two choices, balancing one against the other, knowing each could end with him being alone. By morning, he'd made his decision.
Enos figured, as he sat at the table waiting for Daisy to wake up, that the morning would play out in one of three scenarios; one, she'd remember nothing – which he really preferred; two, she'd remember bits and pieces that would leave her confused and embarrassed; or three, she'd remember everything and they'd have a lot to work out between them.
It was almost eight-thirty before he heard her door open. He got up and paced nervously around the kitchen until she finally appeared, dressed in clean clothes, but obviously not feeling her best.
"Uh, here Daisy," he said, pulling out a chair for her, "have a seat. You can't be feeling real good this morning."
She sat down in the chair he offered without a word while Enos poured himself another cup of coffee and took the seat across from her and waited for her to say something.
"Enos..." She looked down at her hands, a deep blush staining her cheeks, "I didn't...um...I just want to apologize if I said anything...unkind to you last night."
Enos raised his eyebrow at her. "Unkind?"
"I said some stuff I didn't mean before I left, and I wanted to say I was sorry...only, I...I can't remember if I did or not."
He stared at her. "You can't remember?"
She looked up sharply at him. "That's what I said, alright?"
She hesitated. "Enos, I swear I don't normally drink that much," she pleaded, trying to make him believe her. "I've never lost that much time before."
That much time? Enos tried not to think about what may have happened to her in the other unaccounted for times. Suppose it had been some other guy that had been with her last night? He tried to push the thought aside.
"What's the last thing you remember?"
She shook her head. "I don't even know how I got home," she said, sounding a bit frightened by the thought, "maybe you oughta just tell me what happened."
He shrugged, nonchalantly. "Well, someone dropped you off, you fell down in the mud, I made you drink some coffee, and then I sent you to bed."
"So...I didn't do anything...embarrassing?" The relief was evident on her face.
He grinned. "Embarrassing? Shucks, Daisy, you were a perfect angel."
She narrowed her eyes at him. "I doubt that, but you're sweet for saying so."
He laughed, a laugh that lit up his eyes, and made her smile despite herself. It had been so long since she'd seen him happy.
"You did chuck the coffee, cup and all, into the fireplace if that makes you feel better."
"Actually, it does."
Enos rolled his eyes at her and got up to set his cup in the sink. "You also promised me you wouldn't go out getting drunk any more."
"Well, I suppose it made sense at the time." He frowned at her and she laughed. "I'm just joshin' you, Enos," she said, getting up and walking over to him. "I just...there ain't a lot to do around here, you know."
"Well, I reckon you can go fishing with me after I settle in."
"Settle in?" she asked, confused.
"I reckon Atlanta's got enough problems without me adding to 'em," he said. "I thought I might see if Sheriff Harris needed any more deputies."
Her eyes lit up. "You mean...you'd stay in Hazzard?"
"If he'll have me," he shrugged.
Daisy nearly knocked him over with her hug, "Oh Enos! That's wonderful," she cried, happily. "I knew you didn't want to work in Atlanta!"
"Yeah, well, we'll see, I guess," he stammered, wishing she would take her hands off his arms. Her touch reminded him of the night before, of her fingers running over his skin and how she felt pressed against him. He looked down at her, knowing he was blushing. His cup slipped from his hand and broke in half as it hit the floor.
"Ding-dang it!" He bent down and picked up the pieces, then tossed them into the trash.
"Between you and me, we're gonna run out of coffee cups, Sugar." Daisy told him.
He laughed nervously. "Sorry, Daisy."
She waved his concern aside and walked over to where he now stood. "I just...I want to thank you," she said, shyly, "for taking care of me last night. Some guys would...well..."
He pretended not to understand what she was referring to. "Shucks, Daisy. I didn't do nothing special."
"Yeah, well...you're my hero, Enos." She leaned up and kissed his cheek.
Thoroughly flustered, he looked for an escape from her. "I guess I'd best see the Sheriff about a job," he said, picking up his coat from the chair he'd draped it over the night before. "I'll see you, later, Daisy."
He practically ran out the door and down to his car while Daisy watched him, wondering what had gotten into him. He'd never acted so nervous and self-conscious around her before. Of course, it had been almost three years since they'd been alone together...and she hadn't flirted with him in ages. Maybe he just wasn't used to it anymore.
Enos drove into town, hope blossoming in his heart. Her hero? He supposed he could accept that designation in her life for now.
After all, in the end - the hero always got the girl.
One day later:
In the quiet of the guest room that night, Enos whispered a prayer of thanksgiving, mingled with guilt. He had held Daisy in his arms, safe and sound, while 28 drunken teenagers burned to death in a shack on the banks of Moccasin Creek. The blaze had spread like wildfire, the newspaper said, fueled by high-proof moonshine. There had been no survivors.
~~The End~~ If you have enjoyed this story, please consider leaving a short note in the reviews! Thanks so much for reading.
If you have enjoyed this story, please consider leaving a short note in the reviews! Thanks so much for reading.