Written by Mandi/Fics_At_Random
A/N: The end. :)
He laid in his own bed… THEIR bed… by himself.
Stared at the ceilin, the panels a the ceilin fan… over at the thermostat, stuck mockingly at sixty-eight degrees jus’ like he liked it, with no sign a Jack.
Half hoped Jack would come in in the middle a the night when they figured Junior was sleepin, but knew he didn’t dare. Hadn’t told him not to, but knew Jack wouldn’t do it. He was only so … so something.
“Daddy?” He nearly shot outta bed at the sound a his daughter’s voice. “Daddy, you awake?”
“Yeah… yeah, I am, you okay?” He shook his thoughts away as quick as he could.
“Bad dream,” she said simply.
It took him a moment t’register she was askin for company. “Oh, uh.. . c’mon in.”
She scurried into the bedroom an sat on the edge a his bed.
“Can I stay a minute?”
“Uh, sure, stay as long as you want.
“What was your dream about?” He asked.
“Don’t wanna say,” she sighed.
“Daddy… you gonna come see my play in July?”
“Imma try, Darlin.”
A long moment a silence.
“Daddy, you gonna bring your friend?”
“Oh, Jack… uh, yeah, he’ll come, too, he’d love t’see your, uh… your play.”
Her eyes sparkled in the dim moonlight. “Daddy… I like Jack.”
“That’s… That’s real good.”
She was quiet for a long moment. “I feel better now. I’m gonna go back t’bed.”
Next mornin, ‘fore Junior woke up, Ennis told Jack ‘bout their conversation. Felt weird not gettin even a belated good mornin kiss from him.
“You think she knows?” Jack asked.
“Did she say somethin…”
“I dunno!” He hissed through his teeth, then looked up at Jack apologetically. “It’s just… this is makin me crazy.”
“I wish I coud… tell her.”
“I know, Darlin. So do I.” Jack looked sad for a moment, then forced a smile. “Y’ain’t even kissed me good mornin yet.”
“Was thinkin the same thing.. Think it’s safe?”
Jack didn’t answer, but pressed his soft lips up against Ennis’, a feelin that he swore he’d never get used to, may he live a thousand years. It was like lookin into the eyes a God, an t’be honest, Ennis never believed in a higher power ‘til he’d found himself standin on Jack’s front steps three years ago, knowin it had t’be some kinda God that fixed all this up an patched the holes in their broken lives.
“Woah, there, Cowboy,” Jack teased. “Don’t get all bothered on me, now.”
“I love you,” he said, firm an clear, one a those rare occasions that he could actually get them words outta his body.
Jack merely smiled and bit his lip.
“County fair’s in town,” Ennis said absently that afternoon, an Junior’s eyes lit up.
“I love the fair!” She shouted.
Back in Riverton, when the little fair would come t’town, he would take the family, Alma optin t’sit out on rides, as they made her sick, while Ennis let himself go and rode the ferris wheel with the girls. Junior would shriek and hide her face in his chest, an he’d smile an hold her close, but wouldn’t mention how bad he hated the heights… Junior liked ‘em. He’d brave the damned thing for her.
“Well, have fun,” Jack folded the paper over an smiled at the two of ‘em.
“You’re goin, too,” Junior announced, leavin little t’no room for arguing.
“You don’t want me wasting the little time you got with your daddy,” he shook his head.
“I want you t’come with us,” she insisted. “It makes me sad to think of you sitting here by yourself while we’re at the fair. It ain’t right.”
Jack smiled; said truly like Ennis’ daughter, he thought, an not for the first time goin off t’look for his boots.
Jack was a true sport; he went on every ride with Junior that Ennis hated, even the Ferris Wheel where they got stuck up top. Ennis didn’t show ‘em the goosebumps up his arm from the thought a them up there.
“You can see all a Colorado from up here,” Jack remarked, not at all ashamed t’be holdin the stuffed bear he won for her in the ring toss.
“Hope they let us down, though.”
“How long have you known my daddy?” She asked quietly, like she’d cornered him up here on purpose, an momentarily, Jack considered jumpin.
“Oh, uh… Real long time. Since we were kids. Probably nineteen or somethin.”
“I jus’ wonder why I never saw you or Daddy didn’t say nothin ‘bout you,” she shook her head an looked up at Jack with Ennis’ black eyes. “I know he really likes you. You’re his best friend, I can tell.”
Jack beamed t’himself, happy at the knowledge that it was so clear even t’a little girl that they were special. So what if she didn’t quite understand how?
“I jus’ think it’s weird he never talked ‘bout you.”
“Sometimes… sometimes fellas don’t really talk ‘bout their friends the same way girls do.”
“I guess so,” she nodded sagely. “It makes me sad.”
“What does?” How could anyone be sad on a Ferris Wheel? Ennis’ kid, probably, he smirked t’himself and stored that away t’tell his man later.
“That he can’t talk about you.”
She had no idea what she jus’ said, but suddenly, jumpin weren’t such a bad option. He ran a hand through his hair an prayed they’d be let down, an quietly thanked God when the ride lurched forward an down t’earth again.
Dinner was… well, quiet.
Ennis couldn’t put food in his mouth for fear words would come flyin outta it that Junior didn’t need t’be hearin.
Honey, I’m in love. With Jack. Have been for years. Since I met him… please forgive me for how I done your mother an you an your sister… For lyin t’you and Alma an him an myself an everyone…
“You ain’t eatin,” she said accusatory. Jack looked away an laughed a little; clearly, he weren’t so hung up on the tellin a their story as he was.
“Not that hungry,” he pushed his plate away.
No. I ain’t nothin close t’okay. I’m sittin here, lyin t’you an maybe worst a all him, an you think I’m some fancy wonderful rancher an father figure all ‘cause your mother made up stories ‘bout me. I’m playin a part in a fairytale.
“Yeah,” was all he said.
“Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!” Junior bounced into Jack an Ennis’ bedroom, now jus’ Ennis’, with a card an a little box.
“Well, you know y’didn’t need t’go get me nothin,” he felt a little embarrassed; his first father’s day with her in… shit, he didn’t wanna think on it. Instead, he pulled back the wrappin paper, (it was neat an tidy, clearly Alma’s begrudgin handiwork), an revealed a small metal pocket knife.
“For when you wrote me ‘bout gettin all stuck up in jungle vines in Vietnam!”
Shit, Alma didn’t gimme no letters that said she knew ‘bout Vietnam… Goddammit!
“Real nice a you t’think a that,” he smiled an hugged her, hopin he could pull off the fairytale he’d been set in.
It was quiet for a moment. “I didn’t get nothin for Jack.”
“Uh, that’s all right,” he said quickly, bitin back things he wanted t’say.
“I should have.”
“You didn’t know ‘bout him, how could you have gotten him somethin? You jus’ met..”
“Momma told me ‘bout him.”
“…. Oh.” He was too afraid t’ask what she’d been told.
“He’s… real nice,” she said in a way that sounded like Alma might a said. Shit… shit, shit an more shit. Heaps an piles a shit. Goddammit!
“Junior, I… Jack is…” He stuttered, stopped, an turned ‘round in his tracks. “My best friend.”
“Sometimes… real best friends…” Share bedrooms. Share clothes. Share a house an a bed and a life… Some best friends are more than best friends. “Nothin.”
Father’s Day breakfast at the local greasy spoon diner was a quiet affair; Junior only seemed t’answer questions.
“You happy t’be flyin home tonight?” Jack asked. “Is it scary bein on a plane by yourself?”
“No,” she put some more hash browns in her mouth, maybe ‘cause she was hungry, but Ennis figured it was on account a she didn’t wanna talk. “I like it here.”
“We love havin ya,” he replied, his foot touchin Ennis’ under the table in a way that woulda been casual if he weren’t so focused on keepin his secret life jus’ that. “Don’t be a stranger.”
“You never came t’visit,” Junior said suddenly, soundin angry. “Why should I?”
Ennis choked and swallowed his orange juice in big gulps t’clear his throat. “Junior, don’t you mouth off t’him!”
“You didn’t,” she said sadly. “When you left… for the war.”
“The war?” Jack looked at Ennis, painful confused.
“Momma said you told her you was drafted t’fight in Vietnam,” she said plainly.
Jack was blasted with sudden realization; Ennis had lied! He flat out lied t’Alma! He hadn’t been drafted, an he’d bet the ranch that he was to be “shipped off” the very night he found himself on Jack Twist’s porch…
Oh, shit, Jack thought t’himself. That’s why Alma had to make up all the letters! It looked like Ennis writin back t’Junior from Vietnam!
He pushed his plate away… his stomach burned with acid.
“So…” Jack began, wettin his lips several more times than was necessary outta nervousness, “your daddy wrote t’you while he was … in the war…”
“Yes,” she replied, lookin almost concerned that the realization hadn’t come t’her daddy’s friend before.
“Check, please,” Ennis called across the dinin room. It was cliché, but it worked.
She’s leavin in an hour… you gotta tell her. Ennis paced the floor; Jack had retired t’the livin room t’read the newspaper while Junior packed her bags. They were both takin her t’the airport, still under the guise a “housemates.”
I cain’t let her go off without knowin the truth.
He stood in front a the door t’Junior’s guest room, certain he was gonna die with his hand jus’ inches from the knob.
“Oh!” Junior threw open the door suddenly t’head for the bathroom t’retrieve her toothbrush. “Were you spyin?”
She fixed him with a look that was purely Alma’s. He remembered it well.
“Wanted t’talk,” he shoved his hands in his pockets.
“I dunno… didja have fun here?”
Her face grew softer, more serious. “I really did, Daddy.”
“I guess… Junior, I… I’m sorry I took off.”
She shrugged. “You came home at least. Betsy’s older brother didn’t, he died along a river in a little province of Vietnam. Betsy’s a girl from my school,” she added quickly. “Momma told me I should be grateful you didn’t come home in a pine box, but I don’t know what that’s supposed t’mean.”
“Well, trust me when I tell ya she’s right.” It was quiet for a long moment until Ennis spoke up again. “What’d you think a Jack?”
“I like him,” she replied quickly, like she didn’t spend no time thinkin on it.
“Couldja… get used t’him?”
“Is he gonna stick around for a while?”
Ennis smiled. “Yeah… Yeah, Baby, I think he is.”
“Bye, sweetheart,” Ennis kissed Junior for what musta been the third time; watchin her go back home was so painful. Wanted t’keep her here forever.
“It was real nice meetin ya, Miss Junior,” Jack leaned down for a hug an got a surprise smooch on the cheek.
“Thanks for everything… both of you,” she smiled, and reached into her pocket, pullin out a folded up piece a paper. “I wrote you a letter… both of you… you can read it while I’m on the plane.”
Ennis took the paper. “We’ll do that, Darlin.”
She only smiled an headed through her gate.
An jus’ like that, she was gone.
“Can we read it now?” Jack asked, hoppin into the passenger’s side a the truck where Junior had been only moments ago.
“Guess so, she’s in the air now….”
Enins unfolded the letter.
Dear Daddy and Mr. Twist,
I know. I know everything. I’ve known all along. If you want ‘em, I left the letters Momma wrote to me as you in the guest bedroom. They’re under the mattress if you want them. I don’t need them anymore.
I know you didn’t leave for Vietnam, Daddy. You left for Mr. Twist. I was angry for a long time, but until I met him, I know why you did. It’s okay.
I wish things were good so you didn’t have to lie about loving each other. But you don’t have to lie to me. Not anymore.
Ennis sat at the desk in his study late one night, several days after Junior left.
His heart was free. Junior knew ‘bout him an Jack. His man’s things slowly started reappearin ‘round the house from that throw rug he hated t’the rodeo trophies that he’d collected more of than Ennis; but that rivalry didn’t seem t’matter anymore.
Junior wrote ‘em both when she got home from Denver. Said the view was spectacular. Thanked ‘em again for the good time. Wondered when they’d do it again.
He smiled an leaned over the paper he was workin on at his desk an continued t’write in his neatest penmanship.