Vignette 15 - 1981
Lily dismounted from her horse and headed to the grave, flowers in her hand. She knelt down and placed them there, smiling a little. "Hey, mama." Brushing off a few twigs from the headstone, she sniffed. "Ennis an' Jack are finally lettin' me ride all this way on my own, since I'm sixteen now."
She raised her eyes and looked out across the horizon. She could see Sandersville in the distance, and a gentle breeze was blowing. This was a peaceful area of the ranch, left alone out of respect for its only resident. The headstone became a little more weather-worn each year, but was always kept in good condition. She knew that Jack liked to keep it looking as good as he could, and had heard him saying to Ennis that it was for his sister, and it was the least he could do.
"Doin' well in school," Lily said now, sitting down and wrapping her arms around her knees. "Hopefully goin' to college in a couple years. Dunno what I'll be doin' later, though. Maybe get married, get a job. I'd like to stay here for a while, help to run the ranch as long as I can. Sure would like to be up here more, now that I can come on my own..."
After a while, she got up and brushed herself off. "Anyway, I better go. Jack's got lunch goin'. Bye, mama," she said softly, touching the stone briefly and walking back to her horse.
Jack had Ennis's hand in a tight grip as they waited in Rick's office, feeling like he was about to be sick. Even though he had been faithful to Ennis ever since meeting him, he was still terrified that he might have picked something up before meeting him. The recent news stories about AIDS were scaring him senseless.
He cleared his throat. "Ennis, I...if we're positive, an' it's 'cos of me...you gotta know how sorry I am..." he started, a lump in his throat. Ennis shook his head and kissed Jack's hand.
"It's alright, Jack. I ain't gonna get mad. We'll work it out, alright? We'll be fine." He gave a small smile and Jack nodded, unable to speak further.
Rick finally came in and smiled at them, walking around his desk. "Okay, guys. I've got your test results." They both sat up and he sighed, knowing how scared they must be. "You're both negative."
Jack exhaled and put his hands over his eyes, able to breathe again. Ennis put a hand on his shoulder. "Thanks, Rick."
The doctor nodded. "Jack...you said you've only ever been with another guy besides Ennis once, before you met. It was 1962, an' let me tell you that it would have been well before the virus ever came to this country. You've got nothin' to worry about."
At this, Jack nodded and threw his arms around Ennis, letting his cowboy pull him close and rub his back, thankful that they would be alright.
Jack was sat on the back porch in one of the wicker chairs, a small glass of whiskey in his hand. It had been seventeen years to the day since his father's death, and he'd been out of sorts the whole day, barely registering anything around him. Ennis had left him alone, knowing that he liked to be by himself on this day, but now Jack was yearning to see him, and was ready to be comforted.
His prayers were answered as he heard the screen door opening, and then the sound of boots on the wood as Ennis approached him. "Hey, bud," came the soft voice, melting right through his heart. He smiled up at Ennis.
"Hey. C'mere." Ennis sat on the arm and pulled Jack to him, stroking his hair. Jack rested his head against Ennis and closed his eyes, revelling in his lover's warmth and solidity.
"You alright?" Ennis asked after a few moments, and Jack nodded.
"Best I can be, considerin'. Kinda missed you today. I know you just wanted to give me some space, an' I appreciate it, but...I still missed you."
"S'alright, Jack. I'm here now. You need anythin'?" Jack met his eyes, his own growing dark.
"Can we go upstairs?" he breathed, looking imploringly up at him. Ennis touched his cheek and nodded.
"Sure can, darlin'. C'mon." Jack drained his glass and let Ennis pull him into the house by the hand, putting the glass on the counter and following his cowboy.
Lily rushed through the school grounds, eager to get inside and out of the biting wind. The new school year had just started and she was already yearning for her warm bed at the ranch. Still, she did love it at school and had missed being here over the holidays. And after this summer, she would only have one year left until college, which she was looking forward to.
She was already looking around for potential courses and locations. Her chosen major would most likely be Art, and she had a feeling that she might go to a college out of state, just for the change in scenery if nothing else. At least then she would feel independent, but if she just went to a neighbouring state then she wouldn't be too far away from home.
"Hey, Lily!" one of her friends called to her, and she smiled as she joined them. They talked for a few minutes and then started walking down the hall to homeroom, catching up on what they'd been up to over the holidays. These friends lived further away from school than she did, and she hadn't seen them over Christmas and New Year's. But as they happily chatted away, it was as if no time had passed. She knew that Ennis and Jack were relieved that she had friends, given their living situation. Most everybody in town knew by now the nature of their relationship, and nobody bothered them, to the relief of everybody.