A/N: Very special thanks to WENN9366 for being such an inspiration. The characters of Otis and Agnes Strate were created by WENN9366 in the fanfic, The Story of Us, which can be found here on FFNet. Enjoy!
Changes, A Journey Begins...
"I never dreamed home would end
up where I don't belong.I'm movin' on."
~ by Rascal Flatts
May 13, 1987
The sun had barely peeked over the horizon and the colors of dawn still lingered as Enos looked at the bare room that he once called home. His furniture would be moved out later today, his suitcase was already waiting in his new pickup and all that remained was a box he received on Monday.
Enos heaved the box off the floor and took one last look before walking out. He carried the heavy box down the Boarding House stairs, another thing he was doing "for the last time." The world as he knew it was slipping from his grasp.
He would miss this place. As a Hazzard County Deputy, he hadn't spent much time here, preferring to be on duty than alone, but he would miss the place just the same. There were special memories here, one night in particular stood out in his mind. A night spent on the couch, watching over the woman he hoped would some day be his.
He walked outside and stopped short when he saw the Chevy one ton parked at the curb. The dually was brand spanking new and the sun sparkled off the fancy chrome like a shiny jewel. It still took his breath away. The truck was another change that had come with the whirlwind of discovery during the last month and he sat the box on the sidewalk to open the back door. After putting the box in the back seat, he turned to lean against the truck, deep in thought.
As the son of a moonshiner, Enos grew up with little to nothing in the way of material possessions. Hard work and long hours moved him out of the poverty of the hills and eventually lead to the Metro Squad in L.A. Of course, the violence of the city had seared him raw and his love for Daisy had called to him from across the country. He returned to Hazzard with high hopes and a year ago, he almost married her.
The recent circumstances tapped on his shoulder, telling him it was time to complete that task and make her his wife.
Last month, on his twenty-seventh birthday, Enos became the recipient of an unbelievable gift. Possessions, property and finances beyond his imagination. He almost turned the offer down out of his sense of humility. He had no use for that kind of wealth and his pride objected to such generosity. Enos's mind was set, until this past Monday.
That was when Thomas S. Grady, Esquire, arrived on an unannounced visit, determined to compel Enos to accept the offer. Enos discovered that the wealth came with an unexpected twist - a quest of discovery and more. The very private friendship he had shared with the benefactor would be impossible to keep from the citizens of Hazzard when he returned. The attorney also had some very intriguing items in his possession.
Mr. Grady brought with him a box of diaries from his deceased friend, the same box now in his truck. The visit and every meticulous detail had been planned - six years ago.
Enos's future had, in some ways, been partially scripted for him. He felt blind-sided. He was confronted with a million unanswered questions and no idea what he might find in the lifetime of diaries. It would take months just to read them all.
Monday afternoon, he felt he had no other choice. At Enos's humble table in his modest abode, he had sat across from Mr. Grady and respectfully declined the offer.
The lawyer had smiled, pulled a letter from his briefcase and said, "I think you'll change your mind. This is for you, from Beth. Read it. I'm supposed to wait."
The letter was a very motivating piece of writing, changing Enos's mind and his future. The benefactor beseeched him to undertake a labor of love, her final wishes. They always did have a lot in common, including a love as deep as the ocean for someone that had been just out of their reach.
The letter touched Enos's heart and drew him in like a moth to the flame.
"My Sweet Enos,
I cherished every moment of our friendship and you were always so very dear to me. I leave this world in peace, knowing that my secrets are in your loving hands. Thank you for honoring my last wishes. That must sound presumptuous, but my dear, I know your character and you won't let me down. You couldn't if you tried.
I need a little more of your time - one last trail ride so to speak. God knows I wish I could be there.
I'm sure you are confused and must be wondering why I waited six years for you to handle my affairs. Answers are coming. You are the perfect choice. I can trust you to take over my life's work, my legacy, because you know how important it is to me.
There are things I need to share with you before you take over the ranch. Those things will be revealed as you move forward. First, I need you to take charge of my diaries. Read them. Begin with the one I've marked, but I beg you, tell no one and please leave Hazzard. Arrangements have been made and everything you need has already been provided. Think of this as a time of reflection.
I know you trusted me. Trust me one last time. Doing things privately, at least until you return, is for the best.
I bet your world feels like it has been turned upside down, but I promise, you will land on your feet. Mr. Grady will get you started on you quest and guide you in the months to come. Some of the immediate tasks may seem odd at first, but take it slow and be patient. I think a month's time will be sufficient. While you are away, you'll come to understand. I wish we had been given more time together, but the time we shared I treasured. It was over before I expected it to be and I had so much left to tell you, but I ran out of time and for that I'm truly sorry.
When you complete my last wishes and return to Hazzard, please take what I leave you and use it however you see fit. Help friends and loved ones. Marry, have children, fill my house with love and laughter. Make it the way it was when I was little. A home.
I pray for your happiness, Enos. With all my heart, I want you to find love. We spoke of our hardships in matters of the heart. The man I loved was my one and only. What a fool I was to let him go. No one else ever measured up. He was my perfect match, my soul mate. Don't make the same mistakes I've made, don't spend your life alone and don't ever settle for less than true love."
The letter went on to explain a few more details. After reading it a second time, Enos had looked up to see Mr. Grady smile as he offered a pen and slid the papers across the table. Enos had signed his name and initialed more boxes than he cared to remember. When it was over, he had accepted the wealth and whatever secrets were coming. His journey began today.
At least his pre-planned destination was among family. A month in Wyoming at his godparent's dude ranch was just what he needed. L ots of fresh air, miles of open range, beautiful scenery, horses, a cattle drive and a few strangers on the trail sounded like the perfect way to recharge. The perfect "last trail ride."
His heart twisted as he remembered all those evening rides with his friend. He still missed her and not a day went by that he didn't think of that summer. It was one of the most memorable of his life.
He needed this time with Emily and Gus, his godparents. They had always been an encouragement and comfort to him. Enos wrote them often. This was his first visit to Wyoming and he hadn't seen them since he was a small child, but even with thousands of miles separating them, they had always helped him regain his sense of balance. They were like surrogate parents and he kept his close relationship with them very private, protected, safe.
He let out a deep sigh and took a last look up at the window that was once his home. Yes. Seeing Gus and Emily would be good. It would help set things back in balance - he hoped.
Lately it felt as if he lived the life of a stranger. There were too many unknowns waiting in his future and he struggled from moment to moment just to keep calm. He hoped the pain and confusion would begin to subside once he confronted the only unknown that he could.
The words from the letter constantly echoed in his mind, especially this morning. Since this began, he had wrestled with his decision to propose to Daisy. His heart ached with that familiar longing and unease over her answer grew, swelled, and increased in intensity like an overfilled balloon about to burst.
Enos didn't realize he was hyperventilating until the bright flowers in the window box began to blur.
Pull it together and get an answer. Either way, ya get' out of here t' give your heart time t' catch up with your head. Just breathe. Just. Breathe.
He needed Daisy, loved her, and desperately wanted her to return his love. He had been starved for her affection for years, but the friendship that once flourished was like a light switch on the fritz. She had been his saving grace in his youth, but then things changed. Doubt edged it's way in and they grew apart. Then there was Darcy.
Darcy Kincaid had put a crack in their relationship that had yet to be mended. Enos had loved her for as long as he could remember and today he would take a battering ram to those walls that kept them apart. If successful, he would return next month and make her his wife.
He was taking a tremendous risk. If she refused his proposal, he would be completely wrecked and there was that issue of the promise he made to himself. He wasn't getting any younger and it was time to commit or move on.
The constant push and pull of their relationship had taken a toll on Enos over the years. Some folks said the two were still engaged to marry, but Daisy no longer wore his engagement ring, nor had she returned it to him. It was a perfect picture of the confusion surrounding their current relationship status.
There had been no significant forward movement in the romantic relationship since their wedding was postponed last year. In fact, there had been no movement at all. The same pattern that had existed for years continued to repeat. They grow close when she needed him, then she would pull away and eventually date other men. The feelings of hurt and rejection would come crashing down and his dreams would be back on hold.
Enos had spent most of his adult life waiting for her and watched while she dated guy after guy without a second thought about his feelings. Because he loved her, he waited it out and had always forgiven her for the schemes with her cousins and the other men in her life. In his heart he believe that she truly loved him, but was afraid of the feelings she carried.
That was little comfort when he was alone in his room at night and Enos was growing weary of the ride. He didn't know from one day to the next where he stood. Which brought him full circle - to his promise.
Enos was always on her merry go round and for the first time in his life he wanted off. For better or worse, today he would have his answer and the cycle would end. For good. They would share their lives together, or he would escape her hold on his heart for good. From this day forward, Daisy would be his wife or his friend, no looking back. His heart couldn't take anymore.
He needed to propose now, before the official papers arrived at the Hazzard County Clerk's Office and alerted the entire town of his wealth. The lawyer promised to hold the papers until next week, but the knowledge of his new financial status, and eventually the secrets they carried, would be the biggest news to hit the town in decades.
Buying a brand new pickup truck and taking a vacation had already raised a few eyebrows. The rumor mill was in full swing. Just like everyone else, Daisy would learn the truth after he left.
He wasn't thrilled at the idea of starting their life together with a secret, but his benefactor said it was best to wait. Enos was determined to honor her wishes. Beth was a fantastic person and she must have had a good reason.
Besides, if Daisy truly loved him she would understand. He had forgiven far worse over the years and it wouldn't matter when she learned about the money...too much...right? He sighed, heavily. Enos had run the scenario six ways to Sunday and this was for the best.
He climbed behind the wheel of his truck and pulled the letter from his jacket. Enos needed to read it one more time before driving to the Duke's. It was a reminder of what he was fighting for.
"Be loved...marry...have children..."
Enos absorbed every word with deep affection and lovingly traced the signature with his finger. He missed his special friend. It didn't seem fair that she was gone. He tucked the letter inside his jacket with a tear in his eye.
Beth, I sure miss ya'.
He started the truck and began his journey. First stop, the Duke Farm, where he prayed the outcome would be his heart's desire.