The final chapter of this long running series.
Danny stepped into the blazing August sun with his arms filled with more of his stuff he wanted to haul to college. His plan was to leave as soon as he finished with the final packing, but he knew the truth. If he left at all today, he would be surprised. There were too many goodbyes, and he had no intention of missing any of them.
But he’d been dreading this goodbye. It was Rob.
Danny saw his boyfriend through the ripples of heat coming from the asphalt driveway. Rob’s stance was a textbook case of dejection. With hands shoved into his jeans and a white cowboy hat setting atop his short blond hair, Danny envisioned the sky-blue eyes in the shadow cast by his hat. The sleeves of Rob’s shirt was cut off at the shoulder and left his sun-bronzed skin exposed for Danny to enjoy.
He dropped his gaze to the barren ground below his feet. This wasn’t going to go well. He’d been working at Yellowstone for the summer and had returned a few weeks ago. He and Danny had tried to reform the connection, but they both understood he was leaving soon for college. That life changing event was enough to create the barrier they now tried to deal with. When the shuffling boot steps came close, Danny sat the boxes he carried into the pickup. He turned back and his heart broke at the sight of the tears rolling down Rob’s downy cheeks.
Rob sniffled, and it couldn’t have been more obvious how fierce the battle with his emotions had become. Before anything else was said, Danny took Rob in his arms and pulled him into a tight hug. Rob returned the embrace as their feelings overwhelmed both of them. As they stood and held each other in the cluster of buildings, a gust of scorching wind twirled around them.
The breath of nature roused Danny from the gloom of the moment. He decided to make their parting as painless as he could and he’d share everything he’d been able to come up with over the past week that might be a positive point with Danny leaving for college at state while Rob settled into working at the ranch that his family had owned for most of a hundred-and-fifty years. When he stepped out of their mutual grip, Danny rested his arm across Rob’s shoulder and guided him into the house.
Before the screen door had snapped closed, the cool darkness of the interior enveloped them. Danny motioned Rob to the kitchen island, pulled out two large tumblers and shoveled vanilla ice cream into them as he considered the situation. By the time he slowly poured the pop over the three-quarters filled glasses, Danny had gathered his thoughts enough to empathize with Rob. He stuck a long spoon into the glass and slid it across the countertop for Rob to catch. When Danny looked into Rob’s face, the pain seemed to be lessening.
He motioned toward the flats, “Go ahead, Dad bought the ice cream on the way home from Lawton.”
Rod slipped his spoon through the frothy dessert then filled his mouth. After a few seconds, his expression relaxed while Danny’s mind spun like he’d hit black ice on the interstate. But they both kept their silence until Danny knew he had ran out of time when Rob finished his float.
Danny trolled his thoughts for anything to make this easier. He came close to spewing out something stupid when he heard the sounds of boots on hardwood and keys rattling. It had to be his dad. He turned and felt a weight lift.
Trent moved through the living room and smiled at the two before turning back to Danny. “You all packed? Your pa is waiting for us.”
“Yeah, I guess. I put in the last of the boxes into my truck.” He gave Rob a smile, but said nothing.
Trent nodded and headed for Danny’s pickup. Just before he stepped out the door he turned to the young men. “Danny will be back next weekend so don’t make it a crisis.”
He focused on Danny. “I’ll go start the pickup and cool it off.” With nothing more said, Trent left the house. He watched his dad disappear around the corner before turning back to Rob. Danny studied the other man for a long minute before embracing Rob again.
“He’s right. I’ll probably be home next weekend.”
Rob nodded before giving Danny a small grin. “We can go to dinner. I want to hear all about your first week in college.”
Danny squeezed him again then dropped his arm to his waist. “We need to go or Dad will honk.”
With their arms interlocked they left the house. The snap of the door shutting made Danny jump, and he laughed at himself. They walked closer to the pickup and paused in the blazing sun. He leaned in and kissed Rob again. “I better go. You have a great week.”
Rob swallowed hard but didn’t say a word. Danny gave him another squeeze and released his grip. He let loose of his grip and climbed into the truck. Trent was driving and Danny was good with that arrangement. He stared straight ahead, not wanting his memory to be of him getting farther away. Trent glanced over and patted Danny’s thigh before refocusing on the road.
“Rob will be fine, and you will be too.”
“I know, but it knots my guts until I want to puke.”
Trent let out a low chuckle. “That’s the sign.”
<<<< the end >>>>
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