No Tomorrow, Part 59

7:00 pm – continued

Cooper was the next one to leave the nest. The door had no sooner been closed behind Abigail than his phone beeped, indicating he’d received a text message. Everyone was still standing near the door and it was all Callie could do to keep herself from draping her body over Cooper’s and tearing up again as another one of her babies walked out the door.

“It’s Valentine,” Cooper said, sliding his phone back into his pants pocket. “She’s on her way to the stadium with some of her friends.”

Jenna jabbed her brother with her elbow a few times, forcing a playful smile onto her face. “Don’t you wish now that you had some friends around here?”

He glared at his sister, but it didn’t stick. He didn’t feel it was worth it to be mad at her. They only had until midnight and he really didn’t want any negative feelings or memories to taint his and everyone else’s death.

“Not really,” he responded with a shrug, smoothing out his face. “Most of my high school friends were jerks, anyways, and all my friends from the past couple of years went back to wherever they came from.”

“Are you going out now, too?” Callie cut in, her voice wavering and uncertain.

Cooper turned to his mother, the confident, self-assured news anchor. She didn’t look anything like that reporter now. Her eyes were bloodshot from crying and her cheeks were stained with tears. As always, she was beautiful, but now she looked devastated and pleading with her hands clasped at her waist.

Slowly, Cooper made his way to his mother and wrapped his arms around her. Callie reciprocated and held onto her one and only son tightly. He could feel his normally strong mother trembling in his arms and he felt a pang of sorrow for her. Once he walked out the door, they would never see each other again. There was no coming back home anymore.

“Yeah, Mom, I’m going, too,” Cooper said quietly. “I’m walking to the stadium and it’s a couple of miles away. If I’m going to meet Valentine by eight, I need to get going.”

Callie nodded. She had already offered to drive him to the stadium, but he had already declined. Four times. “I know. I love you, Coop.”

“I love you, too, Mom. Have fun with Dad tonight, okay? I’ll be thinking of you.”

“I know you will,” Callie whispered, her voice so quiet Cooper almost didn’t hear her.

After a final moment, Callie released her son and let him hug his father good bye. While her two strong men exchanged their good byes, Callie went over to her last remaining child and put her arms around her. Jenna held her mother back and leaned her head on her shoulder.

Finally, Cooper and Evan let go of each other and Evan clapped his son on the back. A brave, but proud smile was on Evan’s face and Cooper looked relieved. No words had to be said. Cooper already knew his father was proud of him, regardless of what he had done in the past.

“Go have a good time, son. I wish we could have met this Valentine, but I’m sure there are plenty of other girls and plenty of other friends we haven’t met and never will.”

Cooper gave a non-committal shrug, suddenly feeling a little overwhelmed with all the emotions hanging in the air. It was making him feel a little squeamish, which was exactly why he hadn’t wanted his parents to take him to the stadium. He couldn’t imagine having this scene over there. Other people were probably going to have wet, sloppy good byes, but he didn’t want that. He knew he would be burning from embarrassment for the last hours he had to live if he had to deal with that. 

Moving away from his father, he went over to Jenna and gave her a last hug. Her arms wrapped tightly around him, forcing him into the tight hug he had wanted to avoid. Jenna had always been his favorite sister, the one sister he would do anything for. If she wanted him to stay, he knew he would, and they would end up playing video games for the last hours left of life.

“Take care of yourself, sis,” he said quietly.

“You bet I will,” was her response. “Go have fun, Coop.”

He knew Jenna released him with reluctance. He was glad she wasn’t going to ask him to stay, but, at the same time, he knew he was going to miss her.

Stepping away from his family, Cooper opened up the front door and took one last look around the house and at his parents and sister. With a last sad smile and a jaunty wave, he stepped out and quietly shut the door behind him. As soon as he heard it latch closed, he took in a deep breath and smiled. 

He loved his family, but he loved his freedom more. There was only so much time for it left and he intended on spending every possible second with the lovely Valentine. His smile still in place, he started jogging down the walkway and along the sidewalk.

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