June 10th, 1975
Alma was at the apartment, cleaning it and thinking. Ennis was at work and the girls were at her sister's, giving her the chance for some peace and quiet. She needed to think about what was going on in her life and whether or not it was worth making the effort with Ennis anymore.
She didn't like the idea of being a single mother - it was highly frowned upon here and divorce was a sin as far as she had been taught. Alma had never thought she would have to worry about something like that; Ennis had been sweet enough to her during their engagement and had seemed interested. But then he went up on Brokeback Mountain, where she was certain he had met Jack. The whole "fishin' buddies" tale was a lie.
They don't go up there to fish, she thought to herself, feeling sickened by the thought of her husband doing things with Jack Twist that he should only be doing with her. It ain't my face Ennis sees when he's with me, it's his. When he's...doin' that...he's thinkin' of that man.
She shuddered at the thought and wondered where she'd gone wrong. More than once, she'd thought that there had been something wrong with her; that she hadn't been a good enough woman to keep Ennis focused on her. Was it simply because his friend up on that mountain had offered him sex, where she hadn't? She had always been told to wait until she was married, and she had done so.
Clearly, the same couldn't be said of Ennis. He'd had sex with his friend up on Brokeback Mountain, and had been doing so on their little trips. They were making a fool of her and Jack's wife, who was probably unaware of what Jack was up to.
"How can they do this?" she whispered to herself, staring out of the window, arms folded in defence. She felt cold even though it was June, and lonely. She and Ennis hadn't had sex in over a year now, and apart from the times they'd tried to conceive, it was usually in the way she hated. She figured that it was how he did it with Jack, and so was trying to replicate it when they were apart. Alma shuddered again and turned back, looking around the apartment.
When she'd coaxed Ennis into agreeing to move here, she'd thought that they would finally be a real family, and that things would get better. They'd been going fairly well until Jack Twist arrived back in Ennis's life, leading him down that sinful path.
"Jack Twist...what is it about him?" she muttered as she continued to clean. It didn't make sense to her. If Ennis was queer (the thought made her feel sick) then why was he still around? Why hadn't he run off with his friend?
Maybe he's scared of what'll happen if people find out, she thought. And he should be. How can he look me in the eye after one of those trips, knowin' what he's been doin'?
Alma looked around their small home, wishing that things could somehow get better for them. She was doing her best and tried to make Ennis happy, but it was clear that he was only happy when he was going off to be with Jack.
She thought about what she knew, and what she'd figured out, and made a decision. If Ennis wanted out so badly, and wanted to be free so he could run off with that man, then she would give him that. But it would not be smooth or friendly; she would make sure he never saw the girls again.
Got no choice, she realised sadly. I ain't makin' him happy, an' he don't wanna be here. She was so tired, and had been stressed for a long time, ever since she'd seen Ennis kissing that friend of his. She could no longer go on pretending that he would see sense and break things off with Jack, returning to her. Things hadn't been right since 1967, and never would be.
"If he wants to be with that man, he can be," she said bitterly. "But he ain't gettin' away with this."
With her plan of action decided, she went into the bedroom and packed up a bag of Ennis's things, leaving it on the floor. She would allow him to stay for dinner and to be with the girls one last time, but then he was leaving. She didn't want him near her anymore.
Alma then sat on the bed and looked up at the picture on the wall; it was the one from their wedding. They had been told to look solemn in the photo, reflecting the fact that marriage was something not to be entered into lightly, but now she could see something else in Ennis's eyes. He didn't look happy at all, as if his heart and mind were elsewhere. She realised there and then that Ennis loved his friend Jack, and did even while he was engaged to her.
She left the room and went to make herself some coffee, thinking things over. By all accounts, his friend Jack was pretty well-off; maybe that would be an incentive for Ennis to run off and leave her; it wasn't as though she could offer him much now.
"It's over, Ennis," she whispered to herself. She would never be able to clear her mind of the image of Ennis kissing Jack, but at least she could push him away. "This is what you want...but it ain't comin' easy."
Her sister dropped off the girls an hour later, and Alma busied herself with them, thinking about what she would say to Ennis after dinner. She was tempted to tell him that she knew about him and Jack; it was a good enough incentive for kicking him out. While she knew that it would hurt the girls to be apart from their father, it would hurt them more if he stayed and his misery rubbed off on them. She was doing the right thing for herself and the girls.
When Ennis got home a few hours later, Alma had made up her mind. She was going to tell him that she knew the truth, and that she wanted a divorce. Eight years was long enough.
Dinner was relatively calm, but Ennis could sense that Alma had something to say to him, and was waiting until the girls were in bed. They would be safely in their room by nine o'clock, and Alma was biding her time until then. It allowed her to practice in her head what she was going to say.
Ennis spent most of the evening in his chair, thinking about Jack and their forthcoming trip. He was looking forward to spending some time with his friend, and he could just picture Jack's look of adoration the last time they'd met up. He loved knowing that he was the one Jack was directing the look at. It made him feel that he'd done something right with the man after all, even if he couldn't give Jack what he truly wanted.
When Alma returned from putting the girls to bed, she stood in front of Ennis's chair with her arms folded. "We gotta talk, Ennis."
He looked up at her and couldn't help but feel apprehensive. "What about?"
She bit her lip. "I think...I think we oughta get a divorce."
Ennis's eyes widened and he stood up. If they divorced, she could make it very hard for him to see his girls. What was going on?
"Whaddaya mean? Why?"
She stood her ground, intending to see this through. "Been thinkin' on it for a while. For eight years, actually."
"Eight years? What...?"
Alma met his eyes. "Ever since I saw you kissin' that Jack Twist at the bottom of the steps in '67."
Ennis's face drained of its colour and he felt his heart rate quicken. "What?"
"I saw you, out there. When I finished clearin' the table, I went out the door to meet him, thinkin' he was just a friend of yours. An' I saw you. Kissin' him like you ain't never kissed me." Her voice broke at the end but she kept her composure.
"Can't believe you saw that..." He knew it was no good denying it; besides, he didn't like having to lie about Jack. "I..."
"Eight years is long enough, Ennis. I know you don't love me, probably never did. How can you love me an' still go off to be with him? It don't make sense."
Ennis hung his head. He didn't love Alma the way he should, but he couldn't help it. "So...you want a divorce?"
She nodded. "Yeah. An'...I packed a bag of your stuff while you were at work. It's in the bedroom. I want you outta here tonight, an'...you ain't never seein' the girls again."
His head snapped up. "What...? Don't bring them into this, Alma. Ain't their fault."
"Well, it ain't mine," she hit back. "You're the one who...who's a..." She couldn't say the word; could barely hold it in her mind. "You know what you are, Ennis. Both of you. Before he turned up, I wondered why you did some things. Like...in bed. Why you did that. But when I saw you an' figured it out, I realised why. You was thinkin' of him the whole time, wasn't you?"
"Alma...never wanted to hurt you. Don't tell me I can't see my girls...I love 'em."
"I know that, but I don't want you near 'em. I'll tell the whole courtroom what you are, an' they'll run you outta town. You can go run off with that man whenever you want."
Ennis didn't know what to say, but he was getting angry. For one thing, hearing Alma talk about Jack like that was getting on his nerves. And he heard the threat; what if people found out about him and Jack? What if word reached Texas and Lureen found out? Everything would be a mess for both of them. It was true; he could run off with Jack and find somewhere safe for both of them. But that wasn't the point; he didn't want Jack to get hurt because of him.
"Alma, you can't take my girls from me," he said quietly.
"I can an' I am!" she snapped, growing angry. "You're a goddamn queer an' you ain't never seein' yer girls again!"
She felt a tightening in her chest and clutched at herself, breathing raggedly. "I hate you Ennis Del Mar! You an' that goddamn-"
Whatever she was going to say next died in her throat as the pain in her chest intensified. She gasped, and Ennis's brow furrowed. "Alma?"
"Can't breathe," she gasped out, feeling shooting pains in her left arm to accompany the pain in her chest. "See what you've done to me? This is...all your fault! You an' that Jack Nasty!"
She sank to the floor, and Ennis knelt beside her. "Alma? Alma!" He tried to shake her awake, but when he put a hand on her neck he felt something missing. Her pulse. She was dead, and the last thing she had said was a vicious insult towards Jack.
Ennis sat back onto the floor in shock, staring at her. He couldn't believe it; she was gone. He may not have loved her like he should have, but he had cared about her. She had been the mother of his children, after all. It wasn't her fault that he would rather be with Jack; he just couldn't explain how Jack made him feel.
He wished that Jack could be here, to hold him and tell him that everything would be alright. He needed the man now more than ever, and wondered what he was going to do now.
The first thing would be to tell the girls, which would be hard enough. Then he needed to sort out a funeral. And then he needed to talk to Jack, as soon as possible. He couldn't raise the girls on his own, and needed some help in getting through this.
When Ennis was finally able to move, he called the doctor and asked him to come over, then went into the girls' room to tell them what had happened.
They were both asleep, and Ennis hated to wake them up for this. But he sat on Jenny's bed and gently shook her. "Jenny? Come on, wake up..."
Her hazel eyes slowly opened, and she blinked a him. "Daddy?"
"I gotta tell you somethin', just gonna wake yer sister." He went to wake up Junior and she joined him on her sister's bed, wondering what was going on.
"What is it, Daddy?" she asked, looking puzzled. He took a deep breath.
"Yer mama...she just died." Two pairs of eyes started filling with tears as the words sunk in.
"What? Mama...?" Jenny choked out, and he nodded, putting an arm around both of them.
"Yeah, darlin'. In the livin' room just now." The two girls sprung off the bed and ran out of the room, Ennis following with a sigh. Alma's body was still on the floor, and the girls were sat beside her, crying openly.
"Mama..." Junior sobbed, grasping her mother's hand and trying in vain to find a pulse. Ennis sat down with them and rubbed their backs in an attempt to comfort them.
"I'm sorry, girls..." he told them quietly, truly meaning the words. He'd never meant for this to happen, but now that it had he had to be strong for his daughters.
The doctor arrived at ten and the three of them left the room while he examined Alma's body, and then asked to speak to Ennis privately.
"It appears your wife suffered a myocardial infarction," he informed Ennis. "A heart attack, brought on by huge stress."
Ennis bit his lip, knowing exactly what had caused the stress. She had known about him and Jack, and had kept it to herself. It must have been eating at her for years, he figured, and she had finally snapped. He felt very guilty for it, but even now he couldn't blame Jack for it. If anything, it was his own fault for making her suffer alone for so long. If he'd said yes to Jack in 1967, or even right after Brokeback, the pain she would have felt wouldn't have been as bad as the pain he'd caused her by staying. Alma was dead, and the girls were without a mother, because he was too much of a coward to accept Jack's offer of true happiness.
"Thanks, doc," he said quietly. "What do I do now?"
"You need to inform a funeral director so they can arrange a funeral and keep your wife's body until everything is arranged. I would also inform your employer, too. They can probably give you time off to take care of your girls until you find another arrangement."
Ennis nodded. He was thinking of letting Alma's sister take care of them, but that didn't feel right. He knew that they needed him right now, and he would be there no matter what. Perhaps if Jack was there with him, he could help look after the girls. It would suffice until they figured out something else. If they were together, Jack could help him through this difficult time.
It was as though a light bulb had been turned on in his head. The solution was simple; he couldn't look after the girls by himself, and he was only just realising what a mistake he'd made by staying here and saying no to Jack. He'd never wanted to leave his girls behind, and he realised that if he had said yes in 1967, he could have had both Jack and his daughters in his life. It wasn't one or the other; never had been. Jack had never asked him to completely cut away from his girls.
Ennis knew what he had to do. He could still have Jack and his daughters, under the same roof. Perhaps if he had his children with him, it might ward off any suspicion. He couldn't deny that he was scared of people finding out about them and hurting Jack, but they didn't have to stay around here. He would bring the girls to visit their mother's grave whenever they wanted, but they could live somewhere new, with Jack, where they could start over.
"I will, thanks," he said to the doctor, a plan forming in his head. He would wait until the funeral was over, and then he would call Jack. His friend had given him his private office number at the house. "Call me if you need to," Jack had told him. "No matter what for. Even if you just wanna talk." The number was on a slip of paper currently in Ennis's wallet, and he made a silent promise to himself that he would try to have Jack and his girls in his life.
The doctor left and Ennis called a funeral director, allowing the girls to sit by their mother a little longer before sending them back to bed. Alma's body was taken away and Ennis flopped onto their own bed, staring at the ceiling. He did feel guilty for being the cause of Alma's stress, but he couldn't dwell on that. There were two young girls who were depending on him and a man in Texas who would drop everything if he thought Ennis needed him.
Ennis smiled a little at the thought of having Jack here all the time; living with him like how Jack used to talk about. The prospect was enticing, and Ennis knew it would be great, if only he had the courage to do it. He would call Jack after the funeral, explain what had happened and ask him to come up to Wyoming.
"Love you, Jack Twist," he whispered, picturing Jack's smiling face with his bright blue eyes and wide grin. Maybe he hadn't done right by Alma, but he would do right by his girls and Jack. It was all he could do now.
June 12th, 1975
It was the day of Alma's funeral, and Ennis was currently sat on the sofa waiting for the girls to be ready. Alma's sister Amy was here, helping them in their room. Ennis knew that at some point, she would be asking him what he was going to do now, and he would not let her change his mind. He was going to call Jack and ask him to come up to Wyoming to live with him and the girls. Hopefully, Jack would be willing to take care of them while Ennis worked, until they figured out another plan.
Ennis thought that if they moved to a house or a ranch, then he and Jack could work right there and still keep an eye on the girls when they weren't at school. Perhaps they could do the work during the week when the girls were out, and spend the weekends with them. Either way, Ennis knew he had to at least try. He wondered if Jack would want to bring Bobby with him, and that wouldn't be a problem for him.
He knew from their fishing trips that Jack had grown closer to Bobby than he had been at first, and that he was turning out to be a good father. Ennis thought of his girls and hoped he could be a good father to them now.
The girls came out of their room, followed by their aunt and looking downcast. Both were carrying daisies for their mother, and Ennis's heart ached to see his little girls like that.
Amy looked at him, clearly wanting to ask him what he was going to do next, but held her tongue. "We ready?" He nodded and led the way out.
At the church, he sat with his girls on either side of him and held them as they leaned into him, tears falling silently down their cheeks. He wondered briefly if Jack knew how much he was hurting right now; it wouldn't surprise him if Jack could sense it wherever he was.
"May this woman find eternal peace in the Kingdom of Heaven, and may the ones she left behind find solace in her absence. May her children always remember her with the kind of love and affection they carried for her in life. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection into Eternal Life. Amen."
"Amen," they all said quietly, Ennis hugging his daughters tighter. The congregation left the church and headed to the spot where Alma would be buried. A few more words were murmured for her and her coffin was lowered into the ground, watched by her tearful children and remorseful husband. Ennis swallowed past a lump in his throat and reminded himself that even though it was his fault, there was nothing he could do about it now. The girls needed him and he needed Jack; that was what he had to focus on right now.
Afterwards, there was a wake at Amy's house and he sat in the corner, watching his girls play with their cousins and clearly trying to keep their grief in check. He peeled the label on his beer bottle and remembered when he'd done the same thing in the bar in Signal, the day he'd first met Jack.
Amy sat down near him and fixed him with a beady eye. "So what happens now?" she asked, and he sighed inwardly. He wished that she would leave him alone.
"One day at a time, I reckon," he replied, hoping it would satisfy her. It didn't.
"You're gonna have to go back to work sometime, Ennis. An' then what? You plannin' on sendin' them here all day durin' the summer? I love 'em, but I remember how Alma was always havin' to call me to take care of 'em. Like that time you said you'd do it, but then you got called to the ranch. You left the girls with Alma even though she was workin', an' she had to call me."
"I know," he told her, irritation building.
"Maybe you should think 'bout findin' a babysitter," she said, and he recalled having the same argument with Alma whenever she wanted him to take her out.
"Can't afford it," he said flatly. "Besides, I...I got somethin' worked out. Gonna call a friend of mine an' he can help me out."
"Who?" she asked, eyes narrowing. Alma hadn't told her about Jack, but she had voiced her suspicions that Ennis had been having an affair. "Who's your friend?"
"Just someone I know. He, uh...he's talked about movin' up here an' I was gonna ask him to move in, take care of the girls."
"A man, Ennis?" she asked sceptically. "Is he any good with kids?"
"Got a boy of his own. Reckon he's pretty good."
She nodded but didn't say anything. It was clear that Ennis wasn't telling her the entire truth, but she wondered what that could be. She thought back to Alma telling her that Ennis was having an affair, and had to wonder if this man was the secret he was keeping. Amy fully intended to keep an eye on this.
Ennis endured another hour of being around her, and then decided it was time to go home. The girls were growing quieter and clearly wanted some peace, so he got up and took them home, thanking Amy for her hospitality.
"Daddy?" asked Jenny when they got home. "What's happenin' now? You gonna look after us when we're not at school? What about work?"
Ennis kissed the top of her head and sat on the sofa with them. "Don't worry, girls. I've got somethin' figured out. Gonna ask a friend of mine to come up here an' help us out. My fishin' buddy, Jack. Remember me tellin' you about him?"
The girls nodded and leaned into him, and he held them close. Ennis hoped with all his heart that Jack would agree to living together, and that it wasn't too late.
When the girls went to bed, Ennis sat in his chair and reached for the phone, heart beating a little quicker than usual. He hoped that Jack was still awake, and would hear him tonight.
He dialled the number with trembling fingers, realising that this was the first time he'd ever called Jack. He couldn't wait to hear the man's voice.
"Jack Twist." He sounded tired and worn; exactly how Ennis was feeling.
"Jack, it's me."
"Ennis?" The uplift in his tone was evident as he realised who was on the other end. "Hey, bud. That really you?"
"Yep. I, uh...I gotta talk to you."
"Sure, that's what I gave you the number for. I need to talk to you too, actually."
"Well...I'm sorry, bud. I can't come on the trip next month."
Jack sighed. "You can't, huh?" Ennis couldn't work out Jack's tone here, but he pressed on.
"Alma died...had a heart attack the other day."
"Oh God...Ennis, I'm sorry. She wasn't my favourite person in the world but I ain't never wished that on her. Are you okay?"
"I guess. The girls are in bits, though. Had the funeral today."
"I'm sorry...I gotta stay with 'em...are you mad?" Ennis chewed at a hangnail, hoping that Jack wasn't about to yell at him.
"No...the thing is...Lureen died too. Yesterday."
Ennis's eyes widened; they'd both been hit by bad luck. "Shit, Jack...what happened?"
"She was drivin' home from work, an' there was this drunk driver on the road. Didn't stand a chance."
"Shit...talk about bad luck. How's Bobby?"
"He's copin', but...he was havin' nightmares last night. Kept picturin' it in his mind 'cos he was with me when I went to identify her. She was a little...torn up." Jack's voice broke and he cleared his throat. "She was my friend if nothin' else..."
"I know, bud. Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine. But I was gonna tell you...I can't make the trip, either. Gotta look after Bobby."
There was a silence between them as Ennis worked up the courage to ask Jack what they both wanted. "Darlin'...I..."
"I dunno what to do," Jack admitted. "We can't just go off into the mountains no more, but...I don't wanna stop seein' you. I...I gotta spend time with you, Ennis." It was the closest he had ever come to telling Ennis he loved him, and he hoped that Ennis knew how he felt.
"Me too, bud. So...I done a lot of thinkin' over the last couple days. Got an idea, if you wanna."
"What is it?"
"Well, um..." He played with the cord and took a deep breath. "I was gonna ask...would you...come up here? Live with me an' the girls?"
Jack nearly dropped the phone. For eight years he'd been asking Ennis to live together, start a life together, and now Ennis was the one asking. He wished it were under better circumstances, but still. They had been given an opportunity in the light of these tragedies.
"You mean that?" he breathed. "Live together? Like..."
"Yeah, bud. An' Bobby too. We can help each other with our kids, like...a family."
Jack felt a tightening in his throat and swallowed hard, emotion creeping up on him. "Oh God, Ennis...I dunno what to say..."
"Well...yeah would be good," Ennis replied, unable to stop a grin. "You wanna?"
"'Course I do!" Jack told him earnestly. "Ennis...you know I've wanted us to be together ever since Brokeback. All I ever wanted was to be with you, but...I didn't know for sure if you wanted it too."
"I do," Ennis replied, knowing that he had to make up for sending Jack mixed signals all these years. "Sorry if I made you think I didn't."
"Don't matter now," Jack said, grinning. "I can't believe it. What made you change your mind?"
"Reckon I caused Alma a lot of stress these past few years," Ennis started. He didn't want to go into detail of what Alma had said to him, not right now. He felt guilty enough already and wanted to wait until he could lose himself in Jack's arms. He would explain to Jack what he'd figured out; that if he'd gone off with him in 1963, or even 1967, Alma would probably still be alive. He knew that Jack would never judge him. "An' I know I didn't do right by her. But I ain't gonna let my girls down, or you. Gonna try an' do right by all of you. I need you here, Jack, if yer still willin' to live with me."
"I sure am," Jack said, smiling. "I'd love to, an' I reckon Bobby needs to get outta Texas anyway. So, um...it'll take a couple days. We're havin' the funeral tomorrow, an'..."
"It's okay, bud. Do whatever you gotta, an' call an' let me know when yer on yer way."
"Okay. Ennis, I...I gotta tell you somethin' else. Been thinkin' of tellin' you for a while, but I didn't know how you'd react. But now we're gettin' together...I gotta say it."
"What is it, Jack?"
"I...I love you. Been in love with you since that summer in '63." His voice shook and Ennis was silent for a moment. He'd suspected that Jack's feelings for him were that deep, just like his feelings for Jack were, but to hear the words was like music to his ears.
"Um...I...thanks, bud," he finished, and wished he could say it back.
"It's okay, Ennis," Jack said softly. "You don't gotta say it back if you can't."
"I...I do, though," Ennis affirmed. "You gotta know I do."
Jack smiled. "I know. So...I'll see you in a couple days, then. That okay?"
"Yeah, you bet. Ain't workin' right now, with the girls bein' here. Was hopin' we could figure somethin' out."
"Don't worry, cowboy. We will. We'll work it out together. Bye, bud."
"Bye, darlin'." They clicked off and both leaned back into their respective chairs, feeling a new and much-wanted chapter of their lives starting to open at long last.