Just Before Midnight – continued
The strawberries were gone and the champagne bottle was mostly full. Their glasses were barely touched, only missing a sip or two each. Two pairs of shoes were scattered around the edges of the blanket, along with Grant’s gray socks. They lay on the blanket, their ankles crossed, their hands clasped together between their warm bodies, and their eyes focused on the huge looming moon. The night sky was filled with twinkling stars and they felt like they had the bright balls of gas shining in their eyes. The music from Perkins Stadium was still pulsing loudly around them, the beat to this song a little slower than the previous one.
“I wish we had met sooner,” Grant said, turning his head to look at her.
Her face relaxed into a warm smile. She gently squeezed his hand and met his steady gaze. “Me, too. I feel like it was fate that we met at Magic Beans. Of course, my friends and I had agreed to try to find dates for tonight, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to actually meet someone.”
“Right place, right time. I feel like a really lucky guy.”
She laughed softly. “I guess I’m pretty luck, too. Thanks for all of this, Grant.”
“Do you want to go back and join your friends for the last few minutes?”
She shook her head, sadness clouding her delicate features as she thought of her friends. “No,” she said quietly. “We’ve already said our good byes in a million different ways. I don’t think any of us are thinking of being with each other. Our dream growing up was actually to get married on the same day, in the same place, in the same dress. We wanted more than anything else for ourselves and for each other to have a significant other. This was our dream. We each have a man at the end of the world now. We’re happy.”
“I’m happy as long as you are,” Grant said. “Rob and I and our friends don’t have much of a reason to get together. Besides, I think we have better company with us at the moment than either of us would be for each other right now. Your friend Ellie seems nice. I think she’ll be good for Rob.”
Abigail laughed. “Ellie? Yeah. Probably. She’s really great. Your friend is lucky.”
“Not as lucky as I am.”
“You’re sweet, Grant. I just wish we had met earlier.”
He made a face. “But you lived and worked in the city. That’s the last place I ever wanted to be.”
She shrugged. “We could have lived somewhere halfway between here and there. Hey, when I meet the right person, I’m flexible.”
They turned their eyes back to the stars. Between the two of them they didn’t have a clock or watch, but they knew midnight was rapidly approaching. They were just happy that they’d finally managed to find each other, though both wished they had met earlier in life.
“Grant?” Abigail asked, turning back to look at him. “I’m really glad we did meet. We’ll never know for sure if we were meant for each other, but I think we would have had a really good chance.”
“Me, too, Abigail. I’m glad I felt kind of insomniac this morning.”
“Aren’t you tired?” she asked, concerned. “You said you didn’t get much sleep last night and you were up late working.”
He shrugged against the blanket, scrunching it up beneath his shoulders. “Who can sleep on the last night of Earth? Although, I will admit, I would probably have gone to bed if we hadn’t met.”
Abigail turned her eyes towards the stadium. The lights were blazing and she could see everyone was moving to the frenzied music. They really were dancing as though there were no tomorrow. She was glad, though, that she was up on this hill with Grant, someone she really could have had a future with.
“Just a few more minutes, I suppose,” she murmured. “I’m getting a little nervous and more than a little scared.”
Grant moved then. He turned over and pulled her into his arms, cradling her against his body. He held her tightly as she clung to him, hot tears smearing against his shirt as she silently cried.
“I don’t want to die, Grant,” she whispered, her hands clinging to his shirt. “I’m so scared.”
“So am I,” he admitted. “But I’m here for you, Abigail. I’ll always be here for you. You have me until the end of life.”
Abigail couldn’t help herself; she laughed at that last part, choking on her tears as she did so. It was true, though. She was going to have him for the rest of her life, which was ending sooner than she wanted.
They stood leaning against the wrought iron railing around their small balcony. It had a great view of Perkins Stadium and they could see lights blazing from the field. They could hear the pounding of the music and felt slight vibrations in their chests from it. Three stories below them the sidewalk was quiet and empty, everyone either at home or at the stadium. The street lights flickered every once in a while, but they otherwise emitted a soft, steady glow.
Daniel and Alex had disagreed on what to wear for their last few minutes. Daniel had argued for more casual clothes so they would be more comfortable. Suits weren’t really his thing. If he’d had his way, they would have been married in jeans and T-shirts. Alex, the classy impeccably dressed manager of a five star hotel, had wanted to stay in the suits they’d been married in. He also tended to be more sentimental than his husband and dreamed of nothing else than dying in his wedding attire.
They had smiled at their first argument as a married couple and compromised with taking off their ties and jackets and replacing their shiny Italian shoes with their more comfortable day-to-day sandals. Both had to admit, though, that it was nice to be reminded that it was their wedding day, but still be comfortable in their clothes.
Alex turned his head to study his husband’s profile, lit up by the lantern blazing from the wall on Daniel’s other side. Daniel was leaning against the rail, his nearly empty champagne glass cupped in one hand as he stared out towards the stadium. Alex felt his husband’s mind was far from him and wrapped an arm around his waist.
Startled at the sudden touch, Daniel turned his head and nearly dropped his glass. After a moment, his face relaxed into a smile and he leaned over to plant a warm kiss on Alex’s cheek.
“Have you changed your mind again?” Alex asked, mirth evident in his voice and a smile playing around his lips. Already his husband had changed his mind three times.
Daniel glanced at the watch his mother had given him when he had graduated from college. “I don’t think there’s time for that,” he said softly. He abruptly turned and faced his husband, moving his glass to clink it with Alex’s, a forced smile on his face. “We have one minute left.”
A sad smile touched Alex’s lips. He reached out and took Daniel’s free hand, squeezing it lovingly, wanting his new husband to know how much he loved him. “I’m glad we could be together for this last minute.”
Daniel tried to force a smile onto his own face, but failed. His face began to crumple into sadness and tears. His glass fell from his fingers and shattered three floors below on the quiet sidewalk. Alex immediately moved to drop his own glass over the railing and pulled his husband into his arms. Daniel wrapped his own arms around Alex’s waist, holding onto his best friend, partner, and husband with all his might as tears stung his eyes and slid down his face.
“Shh,” Alex whispered, gently running his fingers through Daniel’s hair. “Everything will be okay. We’re together and we’re married. We had a perfect last day. And we’ll be together in death.”
Daniel had no words other than “I love you” as midnight approached, the final seconds counting down to their deaths.
“I love you, too,” Alex whispered as he held Daniel tightly and gently kissed him one last time.
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