Daniel stepped off of the porch and into the bright sunlight. Summer was fading away and the first chill of fall was in the air. It had been three months since Allison Freling had exited his life for the second time...She had been institutionalized in San Francisco. After about three weeks, she had sent him a letter. She talked about her treatment and how well it was going. She had a new psychiatrist that she had really responded well too. It was a woman, Dr. Lyles. She went on and on about how easily she'd found it to talk to Dr. Lyles...especially about her feelings for Daniel. After the first letter, Daniel had received both a second and a third...with the latter one having just come in the mail last week. Allison was being released from the hospital soon...In fact, today was the day. She would ride the bus to Angel's Camp and Daniel would pick her up there and bring her back to her cabin. She needed to retrieve her things, then she would be driving her own car back to San Francisco. She had a job waiting for her there and she planned to continue seeing Dr. Lyles on an outpatient basis. Daniel had been so relieved to know that the girl seemed to be getting back on track.
Daniel drove the jeep into Angels Camp and waited for the bus. He didn't have to wait for long. The bus pulled up to the stop right on schedule. Allison was the second person to step off. She looked beautiful. Daniel marvelled at the change in her demeanor. She looked like the Allison he had fell for over a year earlier. He'd been really smitten with her for a while before he'd finally gotten the nerve up to talk to her. Since then, they'd been through a lot. Daniel surmized that any romance would have had a hard time surviving all of it. He didn't know how she felt about him now, but while he knew he wasn't in love with her anymore, he'd always care for her deeply.
"Daniel! I missed you so much!" Allison jumped off the bus and bounced off the curb and into Daniel's arms. He picked her up, spun her around then placed her gently back on the sidewalk. "You look great!" she continued. "You are still the most handsome cowboy I've ever met." She gushed.
"Who me? Nah" Daniel blushed.
"Where's the guy with the big ego that I know and love? You know you are fine!" Allison laughed.
"Daniel had to laugh to at that. Ally, you look beautiful. I'm so glad to see you!" Daniel beamed.
Later, in the jeep, driving out to her cabin the two of them laughed and enjoyed light, playful conversation with each other. Daniel remembered why he'd been so crazy about her back then. When they pulled up to the cabin, Allison sighed.
"This isn't easy. I think I'm going to keep the place, though. It's like the only thing I have left of my family, really." She stated, obviously deep in thought.
"I think you should keep it. It's like, part of your heritage. Yes, you should definately keep it...and I'll look after it for you." Daniel offered.
"Help me pack?" Allison inquired.
"Sure thing" Daniel answered as they stepped into the cabin.
It took them about three hours to pack up the house and cover all the furniture. As they stepped out with the last of her things and placed them into her trunk, Allison turned to Daniel, a tear streaming down her face.
"What's the matter?" Daniel looked at her concerned.
"I still love you Daniel. I know you aren't in love with me, but I want to be honest with you. I'm gonna get on with my life, but I just thought it was important to tell you the whole truth." Allison looked into Daniel's big, beautiful eyes and thought she might get lost in them.
"Ally, I'm sorry there can't be more between us. I just have different dreams than you. It wouldn't be fair for me to lie to you. After all you've gone through, you need a fresh start. You don't need to try to hold on to the past. You're gonna be fine. I look at you now and I am sure of it." Daniel stroked her hair away from her face and pulled her into him for a long, comforting hug.
"I know Daniel. You're right. I will be fine. You'll be proud of me someday, watch and see." She replied as she ran her fingers through his thick, dark hair.
"I'm already proud of you darlin'. I'm so proud." Daniel kissed her on top of the head and she pulled back from him and got into her car. He shut the door for her and then spread his hand out onto the car's window. She reached up and mirrored his hand with hers from inside the car.
"Goodbye" Allison mouthed before turning to start the engine. Daniel stood in the driveway with his hands in his jacket pockets as he watched her pull out onto the roadway. He then turned and walked towards the jeep turning his collar up as he made his way to it. There was definately a chill in the air. Fall was just around the corner, Daniel thought as the sun sank low on the horizon. And Allison will be just fine...