Auld Lang Syne
December 31st, 1948
Five year old Ennis sat in his family's living room, in front of the warm fire. His parents were sat in their chairs, his mother knitting and his father reading the newspaper. His brother and sister were on the sofa, reading their comics. It was half past eleven and New Year's Eve, and their parents had allowed them to stay up late to listen to the radio as the ball dropped in Times Square. Ennis had heard about New York, about the bright lights and all the people, and it sounded so exciting.
Ennis had never ventured out of his home on his own, had always been out with his mama or father. His mama took him to preschool and picked him up later, so he'd never been allowed out on his own. But he hoped that when he was older, he would be able to go places like New York; that would be exciting.
He was busy playing with his toys on the floor, hoping that he would make it to midnight. He usually went to bed at seven, and he'd never been allowed to stay up this late before, so he wasn't used to being up this late.
His mama had told him about New Year, and how people reflected on the year gone by, and how they looked forward to the year ahead. It was about starting over afresh, having another chance.
She'd told him about how people made New Year's resolutions, promising to change and be better people. He didn't know what kind of resolution he could make; he was still only young and had no life experience, but he had heard his mother saying how she had made the resolution to try and get a part-time job now that the children were all in school, and earn some money for their family.
He hadn't heard his father make any resolutions, though. His father wasn't really into these kinds of traditions. But he had heard his big sister Cecilia make a resolution to work harder at school and get really good grades; she wanted to go to high school and college and get a good job, make their parents proud. She took after her mother.
It neared midnight and miraculously, he was still wide awake. The people on the radio were getting excitable, by the sounds of it. They all sounded like they were looking forward to the coming year. He was too, and he was looking forward to more of preschool; he liked it there.
The ball dropped over in Times Square after a countdown and they could hear people cheering and yelling greetings at one another.
"Happy New Year, kids," said their mama, smiling around at them all.
"Happy New Year, mama," they all chorused. Their father gave a grousing greeting and then went back to his paper. Their mama then shepherded the three kids upstairs to bed.
She helped him get into his pyjamas and into bed. He fell asleep quickly, looking forward to the New Year and what it might bring.
December 31st, 1948
Lightning Flat, Wyoming
Five year old Jack sat on the floor at his mama's feet, reading his comic. It was New Year's Eve and for the first time, he was allowed to stay up to listen to the people at Times Square, New York ring in the New Year and watch the ball drop. He was never normally allowed to stay up this late but his mama said it was a special occasion and he was old enough to stay up with them now.
His mama had told him about New Year's resolutions and how people made them at this time of year, trying to be better people. She'd made a resolution to help out with local charities more, since Jack was now at preschool and John was always working out in the fields during the day.
Next year, his cousin Becky would start going to the preschool like him and he couldn't wait to spend more time with her. They were only still young and weren't allowed out on their own, so he was looking forward to them being out for a few hours.
He didn't know what he might make as a New Year's resolution, figured he was too young to really know. He'd promised his mama that he would work hard at school and get good grades. He wanted to go to big school like his cousin Timmy and get a real good job so he could make his mama proud of him. Maybe he would even make his daddy proud.
Speaking of which, he hadn't heard his father make any kind of resolution. He wasn't really into this kind of thing, Jack had discovered. He wasn't really into anything as far as he could see. Jack didn't feel like he could share anything with his daddy. He'd heard kids at school talk about their dads and all the fun things they did together, and Jack felt left out that he wasn't close to his daddy like that. Maybe his resolution this year would be to try and be closer with his daddy, do some fun things together.
He'd also heard his classmates talk about their grandparents, and all the fun things they were allowed to do at their houses, and all the things their grandparents taught them. He'd met his mama's parents, and they were really nice, but he'd never met his daddy's parents, and they were never mentioned. He wanted to ask about them, but he wasn't sure how his daddy might react to that.
At midnight, the ball finally dropped and his mother said Happy New Year to him, and he responded in kind. She then helped him upstairs, since he was falling asleep on his feet and wouldn't last much longer.
She got him into bed and kissed him goodnight, and he fell asleep wondering what the New Year might bring. But he was looking forward to being a year older; he was becoming a big boy now, his mama said. That was something to look forward to.
December 31st, 1953
Ten year old Ennis sat at the top of the stairs, arms resting on his knees. It was New Year's Eve again, a time of celebration, but he was in no mood to celebrate. This year had undoubtedly been the worst of his life so far. He was still having nightmares of seeing Earl in the ditch and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't stop them.
His family were downstairs listening to the radio, waiting once more for the ball to drop in Times Square. He didn't want to be anywhere near his father right now; he was still scared of him after the incident at the ditch. His mother would be worrying about him, wanting to know why he wouldn't come down, but he didn't want to. He didn't think that the coming year could be any better than this one. Everything had changed now, probably forever.
He was now in 4th grade at school, and he was doing okay. His favourite subject was biology; he found it very interesting. His least favourite subject was English; he had very bad eyesight and his parents couldn't afford to buy him glasses. But he managed to struggle through alright. He wanted to go on to high school and possibly even college. But his family were struggling and he wasn't sure if they would be able to afford it.
Still, he was always grateful for the fact that he was in school, and he hoped that his mother was proud of him. He wanted to make her even more proud of him and go on to get a good job, get some money.
The sound of footsteps drawing near attracted his attention. It was his mother.
"Ennis, sweetie, it's quarter to twelve," she said softly, standing halfway up the stairs and looking at him. He raised his head, eyelids low.
"I know, mama," he said quietly. He didn't want to join them; he was too miserable.
She came right up to him, trying to get him to meet her eyes. "You gonna come down an' join us? Hear them over in Times Square? It's New Year's Eve, after all."
He looked around, deep brown eyes full of sadness. "I dunno, mama. I'm real tired. Thinkin' I might just go to bed."
She ruffled his hair, feeling sorry for him. She knew what had happened; what their father had made them see, and she was very scared for the effect it might have on their sons.
"Are you sure, honey? You don't wanna stay up just 'til midnight?"
He shook his head. "Sorry, mama. Ain't feelin' up to it."
She regarded him for a moment, and then nodded. "Alright. You go on up, don't worry about it. Night, sweetie."
"Night, mama." He slowly got up and she kissed him on the top of his head, watching him climb the stairs with a heavy feeling in her heart.
He got into bed and watched the beaten-up watch on his nightstand strike twelve. A new year, but would it bring a new start?
December 31st, 1953
Lightning Flat, Wyoming
Ten year old Jack got himself into bed, sliding under the warm quilt his mother had made for him, loving how warm and safe it made him feel. It was quarter to twelve on New Year's Eve, but he didn't feel like staying up. He didn't want to be around his father right now if he could avoid it.
Over the last few years, his feelings towards his father had gone from dislike to borderline hatred. He was always putting him down and hurting his feelings. He hoped that with the coming year, his father might change; be a better person. He had made himself a resolution to not let his father get him down so much, and he hoped that his father would make a resolution to be a better father. But he couldn't see that happening.
He didn't expect his mother to make any resolutions; she was already perfect as far as he was concerned. She was the only bright spot in his life now; Becky was moving far away next March and he wasn't close to any of his other cousins. His father was a shadow over his life, no doubt about it. He was scared of his father and he was starting to hate him; a bad combination.
He thought back over the last year; nothing major had happened. He was doing okay in school, and he knew his mother was proud of him. He wanted to go to high school and had made the resolution to work hard so he could achieve this. But he didn't know if his parents would be able to afford it by then; the ranch was doing okay but it would still be a large expense to let him go to high school. He wanted to get out of this place and make something of himself. He'd always had big dreams of what he wanted to do, and his mother encouraged this, even if his father didn't.
Just past midnight, he heard soft footsteps approach his room, and his mother knocked softly. "Jack?" she called.
"Yeah, mama?" he replied, peeking over the edge of the quilt at the door. She entered the room, bringing a slice of cherry cake on a plate. His eyes widened and he could swear that his stomach started to rumble.
"Here, honey, thought you might want a little somethin'. Happy New Year," she said, walking over to his bed and holding out the plate.
"Thanks, mama. You too." He sat up and she handed him the cake, which he took eagerly. She sat on his bed while he ate, smoothing his hair back. He always felt loved and safe with her.
"You okay, sweetheart?" she asked, looking down into his bright blue eyes.
"Yeah, mama," he said quietly. She knew how he felt about his father. When he had finished eating, he yawned and lay back, and she pulled the quilt back over him.
"Get some sleep, Jacky," she whispered, kissing his forehead. "Don't go worryin' about nothin', ya hear?"
"Okay, mama. Thanks." He yawned again and curled up on his side, and she left the room, hoping that this year would be a lot better for her young son than previous ones.
December 31st, 1958
Fifteen year old Ennis finished shifting the last of the hay bales in the barn and wiped his brow. It was half past eleven on New Year's Eve and he was still working, and feeling resentment towards his brother. K.E. was out; he had met a girl named Sarah and they were at a New Year's dance at a local hall. K.E. had offered him an invitation to come with them, maybe find a girl of his own, but Ennis wasn't interested and there was still work to do on the ranch. Work on the ranch hardly ever stopped; they only stopped briefly for meals during the day and they slept light in case something happened. The animals needed constant care, especially the cows during calving.
He thought about the year that had just gone. Cecilia was now married to her sweetheart Tom and they had just had their first child; a girl they had named Amy. She was beautiful like her mother and Ennis was happy for his sister, but he still couldn't quite shake off the last bit of resentment he felt towards his sister for leaving him and K.E. to fend for themselves. He didn't want to hate her for having found love and starting a family, but if she had stayed with them, maybe things would be different. Maybe things could have worked out and he and K.E. wouldn't be on their own like this. From time to time he felt resentful toward his parents for leaving them, but this made him feel awful.
He thought about the year ahead, and what it might bring. He hoped that this time next year, he would be away from here. He made himself a resolution to work really hard and earn some good money, so that he could settle down and maybe start his own ranch. That was his dream, and he hoped that it could come true.
As he was crossing the land back to the bunkhouse, he heard the ranch owner's wife calling his name and walking towards him. He immediately took off his hat in respect.
"Howdy, ma'am," he greeted nervously. She smiled when she got to him. She was always pleasant to him and K.E.
"Evenin', Ennis. Are you all done in there?"
"Yes, ma'am, was just headin' back."
"Well, it's not far off midnight. You must be lonely out there. Why don't ya come on inside with us outta the cold an' listen to Times Square?"
"Oh, um..." He was surprised but grateful. "Thank you, ma'am, that sounds good."
"Okay, c'mon." She led the way back to the house and the warmth, and they sat him down on the sofa, letting him have a glass of mulled wine for the occasion. When midnight struck and they heard the excitement over at Times Square, his employers kissed and he found himself thinking about his family, what was left of it. He didn't know what the New Year might bring, but he was determined to get himself a better life.
December 31st, 1958
Lightning Flat, Wyoming
Fifteen year old Jack sat on the sofa next to his mother, listening to the radio. It was New Year's again and since he was older now, his mother was allowing him to have a small glass of mulled wine from the bottle a neighbour had given to them. It made him feel very warm inside and he loved sitting here near the fire.
Earlier that week, he'd received a letter from Becky. She wrote to him every three months to let him know how she was doing down in Texas, and it sounded like she was having a fun life. She still wanted to be a barrel racer and her parents had just bought her a horse of her own. She could already ride but barrel racing was completely different to the kind of horse riding she was used to, and her father didn't want her trying to ride like that until she was eighteen and undergoing proper training. It was understandable; he didn't want her to get hurt and wanted to make sure she could handle it. She didn't complain; she wanted to do well and knew that she would have to train properly.
She asked him what was going on back home, and he told her about high school and how he was doing well, making his mother proud. He knew that Becky knew that his father wouldn't be proud of him; never was. So she hadn't asked about that. She called whenever she could, usually on special occasions, like today. They always made time for a phone call over the holidays.
He missed her; she was like a sister to him and they'd been thick as thieves when they were younger. He'd made this New Year's resolution to do really well in school and then go on to college. He could get a good job and go down to Texas to visit her. He could go anywhere he wanted if he had money. He could get out from underneath his father's oppressive shadow.
His mother was sewing a pair of his socks next to him, and her voice broke into his thoughts. "So, Jack, you got a New Year's resolution this year?"
He cleared his throat and nodded. "Sure do, mama."
She looked at him and smiled. "What is it?"
"I wanna do real well in school an' go to college. Make ya real proud of me."
"Oh, Jack, that's great. Hope you can see it through."
His father snorted. "A college man, huh? You ain't got the brains fer that, boy. Best stick to ranchin' with brains like yours."
Tears stung in Jack's eyes at the insult, but he wouldn't let his father get to him enough to make him leave and go upstairs. Rose chastised John for what he'd said, but he just grunted and went back to the paper. She wanted to comfort her son but that would only make things worse. She didn't want to give John ammunition against Jack. She just prayed that Jack's resolution would come true, and that he could one day get away from all this.
December 31st, 1963
Jack was at the stove, making breakfast and humming to himself, when a pair of arms slipped around his waist from behind, and he felt a great warmth against his back.
"Hey, rodeo," came the low purr in his ear.
Jack smiled. "Mornin' cowboy. Good shower?"
"Yep. Wish you'd been in there with me though, bud." Jack grinned at this.
"I was makin' my man breakfast, in case you hadn't noticed." Ennis nibbled at his ear as he spoke.
"Mmm. Hope it tastes as good as you."
Jack giggled. "Come on cowboy, it's ready. Lemme go." Ennis relented and let him go, helping him to get their plates ready. They sat down and started eating, Jack locking one of his ankles around one of Ennis's.
"So, it's New Year's Eve today, cowboy. I know we been talkin' about our experiences from the holidays when we was younger...got any stories?"
Ennis chewed thoughtfully, trying to think about his younger years and any memories that came to mind.
"Well, my mama was always talkin' about resolutions, an' the kind of things people promised. My mama wanted to get a good job an' get us some more money. Cecilia was always talkin' about gettin' on in school, gettin' a good job herself. Thought about the same thing myself as I got older."
Jack nodded. "Yeah. I was the same when I was younger. Wanted to get away from the ranch an' my daddy, get out there, ya know?"
"I know. I guess you always wanted to get outta there, huh?"
"Sure did. All I ever wanted was this...a home of my own, with someone I love." He smiled at Ennis. "I love my mama, but...I'm real happy here."
"Me too, Jack," replied Ennis, smiling back. "You ever listen to the radio on New Year's? At Times Square?"
"Sure did. Every year. Wanted to go myself; see the bright lights in New York, ya know?" said Jack, eyes sparkling. "Thought it'd be real excitin' to go."
"Yeah. I mean...we ain't city boys, but...it'd be good to visit, I guess."
"It would. Maybe...we could go one day. Like a weekend or somethin', or maybe a week," Jack suggested.
"Sounds good, bud." They went back to their breakfast, thinking about today and what kind of resolutions they would make. Jack told Ennis about his wishes that his father would resolve to be kinder to him, and about his own resolutions to not let his father get to him. Ennis shared his old resolution of working hard and getting enough money for a ranch of his own, and they reflected back on the luck they'd had this year. Ennis then told Jack about the New Year's Eve when he was ten, and about how he was scared to be near his father. Jack held his hand and comforted him, reminding him that his father could no longer hurt him.
After breakfast, Ennis helped Jack clean the dishes, which was hampered by Jack scooping up a handful of suds and rubbing them on Ennis's face, and Ennis retaliated by cracking the towel at him.
They went outside to tend to the stock. Since it was a holiday, they'd given their workers a day off so they had to do the chores themselves.
Ennis was busy brushing Signal and Jack was filling up the horse's water trough. Ennis couldn't take his eyes off Jack's ass as he leaned over forwards, and he felt his jeans tightening. He gulped and tried to finish off his brushing. When he was finally done, he crept up on Jack and pressed himself against him, making him jump.
"Jesus, Ennis," said Jack, laughing when he felt Ennis's growing erection pressing into him. "That a gun in yer pocket or somethin'?"
"Well, I remember someone sayin' 'gun's goin' off' a couple months ago, so I guess," murmured Ennis, kissing at Jack's neck.
"Mmm..." Jack purred, and then he leaned back into Ennis and walked them both out of the stall so they had more room. They stood that way for a while, Ennis's arms wrapped around Jack and his face buried into Jack's shoulder.
"Ennis?" asked Jack in a soft voice after a moment.
"You got any resolutions for this year?"
"Hmm..." said Ennis thoughtfully. "Dunno. Got everythin' I want. Guess I could promise to make ya happy, now that we're livin' together." He still wanted that more than anything; to make Jack happy like he knew he hadn't been while growing up.
Jack smiled. "You already do, but I appreciate that. I guess I promise to make you happy too. An' we should resolve to make this whole thing work, with the ranch an' all."
"Yeah. Gotta knuckle down now an' make things work. As much as I love ya, this place won't work unless we make it."
"I know. Ennis..." Jack turned in Ennis's arms, and their eyes locked together. "I promise to be a good partner, husband, whatever. I swear." His hands came up Ennis's chest to lock around his neck.
"I do too, Jack," Ennis whispered before leaning in for a deep kiss, holding Jack close to him so tight that Jack had to hold on to avoid falling backwards. He loved how romantic Ennis could be sometimes, sweeping him up in his arms and kissing the breath out of him. He'd come a long way since Brokeback. He'd known pretty much nothing of romance back then, but neither had Jack. Love had unlocked his heart.
They went for a ride afterwards up to their hill. It was still fairly cold so they didn't really want to get undressed for anything, but they could make out on their blanket, which they did with enthusiasm.
Jack lay on top of Ennis, rubbing their noses together and smiling down at him. In the bright wintery sunlight, Jack could see the fleck of green in Ennis's eyes that he loved, as Ennis's eyes sparkled up at him, full of warmth and love. He buried his face in Ennis's shoulder and they lay there for a while, listening to each other's heartbeats and breaths.
After dinner, they retreated into the living room to watch TV for a while, sharing a bottle of wine between them. Jack curled up on the sofa against Ennis; his favourite position while they were in this room. He loved how Ennis automatically put an arm around him and let him snuggle even closer. He knew, without a doubt, that he had found something special here, the one thing he'd always wanted. He hoped that the coming year would hold many happy memories for them.
They watched their movie and then Jack turned on the radio to listen to the Times Square broadcast. This marked the first time they had ever done this together and it was a momentous occasion.
"Five, four, three, two, one..." they chanted together with grins on their faces. When the ball dropped their mouths met like magnets, arms wrapped around each other. They kissed eagerly for several seconds, and Jack was on cloud nine.
"Happy New Year, Ennis," said Jack, smiling warmly up at him. Ennis tangled his hand in Jack's hair, feeling happiness and love flood through him.
"Happy New Year, Jack." They kissed again and Jack turned the radio off, before turning to Ennis with that look on his face again.
"Wanna go up?" he asked mischievously, grinning.
"You bet, bud." Ennis took his hand and they went upstairs; Jack's second favourite time of day, after waking up next to Ennis.
They went into the darkened room, and Ennis flicked on his lamp before turning to Jack, who looked nervous as he sometimes did when sex was before them. It was a big deal for them, the most perfect way of showing each other their love, so Jack sometimes got nervous. It was, according to some folk, the ultimate act of love, at least for those who loved the people they were with. Jack knew it was like that for them, and he knew how lucky they were to have found that.
Ennis walked up to him and placed his hands on Jack's hips. "C'mere," he whispered, leaning in to kiss Jack, who wrapped his arms around him, breathing into his mouth.
"Mmm..." Jack moaned, shivering when he felt Ennis's hands drop to his ass.
After a few more kisses, they were growing hard. They pulled apart slightly and slowly undressed each other, relishing each part of skin as it was revealed. When they were naked, they stood there in the lamplight, holding each other close and slowly running their hands over each other's skin. Ennis then lifted Jack right up and Jack wrapped his legs around Ennis's waist. Ennis carried him to the bed and lay him down, being so caring and tender with him that Jack was in heaven. Ennis slicked himself up and then lowered himself into Jack's waiting arms, sliding into him with ease.
Ennis laced their fingers together and pinned Jack's hands above his head, then kissed him deeply as he began to thrust into him, slow, steady strokes that made Jack's head spin. Jack's eyes were closed in ecstasy, even as Ennis kissed him, drawing his tongue out. Jack's legs were tight around his waist, pushing him further in with his feet and making Ennis groan.
Their mouths finally parted and their eyes met. "I love you," Jack breathed, feeling the end loom nearer and his loss of control coming.
"I love you too," whispered Ennis as he captured Jack's lips again. Jack bucked and squirmed beneath him and he felt his own warning signals start. He picked up the pace and Jack moaned aloud, head deep in the pillow.
"Oh God, Ennis...so goddamn good..."
"Fuck...Jack..." Ennis let go of Jack's hands and fell forward onto Jack's chest, Jack holding him close as they moved together, the bed starting to squeak with their movements. Jack busied himself with Ennis's neck, sucking and biting softly at it and Ennis started to do the same.
With one final, deep thrust into Jack, Ennis finally found that place he was looking for, hitting it hard. Jack gave a yell, his muscles locked and he shot between them violently, shaking and feeling like his head was splitting in two. The feeling of Jack shaking around him sent Ennis into his own oblivion, filling his lover with everything they had just built up together. He collapsed onto Jack's chest and they took deep breaths, Jack staring up at the ceiling and seeing bright spots of light before his eyes.
"Damn, Ennis. That was good," gasped Jack. He felt Ennis moving out of him, and he clamped his muscles, making Ennis laugh.
"C'mon, Jack, lemme go."
Jack grinned and held him tight. "Don't wanna. I wanna keep ya in me forever."
"I know, but...kinda hurts if I don't pull out soon enough."
"Oh, shit. Sorry, Ennis," Jack said, wincing for him and letting him pull out. Ennis lay on his chest, just looking at him.
"S'alright, rodeo. Wish I could stay in ya forever, but we got a ranch to run, remember."
Jack giggled, the beautiful sound warming Ennis's heart. "Guess so. Listen..." He shifted a little, wrapping his ankles around Ennis's calves. "It's been a real weird year, I know. We didn't have the best start to it, things only got better fer us in the summer, right?" Ennis nodded. "But I promise, Ennis...this year's gonna be a whole lot better." He kissed Ennis's forehead.
"Yeah, it is. Gonna be a real good year, Jack," Ennis affirmed. "Love ya so much, darlin'."
Jack smiled, feeling tiredness take him over. "Love ya too, cowboy." He yawned. "Wanna get some sleep?"
"Yeah, back to normal tomorrow." They disentangled themselves and Ennis spooned up around Jack, one arm around his stomach. He kissed the back of Jack's neck and they exchanged a goodnight before dropping off, knowing that this year would be much better than the last.