In the silence that followed, I sat and stared at the stars as they twinkled down on us. I thought of all the years I had spent wishing for this moment, longing for a life with Cid, yearning for him to want me as much as I had always wanted him. I thought of all the nights I had spent aching when he had kissed me and headed off home. I thought of the joy his presence brought to me every single time I saw him. I thought of his kindness that he had wrapped around me like a huge protective blanket. I thought of how his voice thrilled me to the tip of my toes and how much I loved him. And I thought about how much he loved me. Then I thought of D as he took his first step up onto the train that whistled through the night, its headlights searching for what lay ahead as it rumbled towards me.
“Oh Cid! Why now?”
“I’ve been thinking a lot about us. How happy we are together, how you make me laugh. And I want to take it further.”
“Why did you take so long Cid?”
“I really don’t know. Stupid I guess. But I know now.”
A train whistled far off across the prairies and the sound drifted in on a nighthawk’s wings. It brought to me the image of D, sitting on a train marked with an arrow, its tracks running straight towards my heart.
“I think our life together would be wonderful – I really do. I’ve given this a lot of thought and I’ve finally got my nerve up to ask you. So will you? Will you marry me?”
Tears kept me from answering for a long time and he put his arm around my shoulders and hugged me close while he waited. Never did that stupid cliché of being caught between a rock and a hard place seem more suited to my life right at this moment. Knowing what I had to do – I sagged against him for a few moments and sucked up his warmth. Taking a deep breath I turned towards him and took his face in-between my hands and kissed him long and softly. Looking into his deep brown eyes I thought momentarily of the peyto blue ones that were dreaming of me – and I cried again. The pain was almost physical and I wanted to hurry and get it over with so I could deal with the results.
“I can’t Cid. Not at this time. I’m sorry.”
Cid looked away into the darkness for a bit and took a deep breath before he answered me. “That’s okay. Really.”
“No – it isn’t okay Cid. You have no idea how much I have longed to hear those words from you – and for so many years. But right now – I can’t. And I can’t explain it to you either.”
We held hands under the blanket and as my tears fell into the wool, the smell of wet sheep rose into the night air and encircled us. I sat there and thought of how much I loved this man and how much it hurt me to hurt him. In a few days he would know why, and I felt sick with the knowledge that I was too much of a coward to tell him why I had turned him down.
We sat there for another half hour and watched the stars whirl around us. When a shooting star flashed over our heads we laughed and made a wish before mashing our lips frantically together.
“I love you Cid. I love you so much it hurts. Especially right now. But I do.” His lips tasted bittersweet and I wondered if he would quit coming around once D arrived. I sincerely hoped not. Returning home he made sure I was safe and sound inside the big blue barn before he gathered his things to make the trip back to Edmonton. At the front door I clung to him, unable to let him go without telling him once more how I felt.
“I love you Cid. I really do. Remember this okay?”
“I don’t understand, but I’ll try. Goodnight sweetheart.”
As his taillights vanished into the night I slumped against the door and sobbed.