Without You(6)

By: Kelly Elliott



I swallowed hard and nodded my head.

As I walked past Grams on my way out, she took my arm and said, “I’m proud of you, son. Know what you feel in your heart is real. Love can weather any storm.”

I gave her a weak smile and whispered, “Why does it feel like I just made the biggest mistake of my life then?”

She smiled and shook her head.

As I made my way out onto the porch, my mother and father stood up.

“I’m proud of you, Will,” my father said as he slapped me on the back.

My mother walked up to me and gave me a hug. “Will, you did the right thing, honey. Don’t overthink this.”

I kissed my mother on the cheek and whispered, “I love you, Mama.”

My father walked with me down to the barn. We began saddling up two horses, neither of us speaking.

“Dad?”

He looked up at me and said, “Yes?”

“Is Gunner gonna kill me now?”

My father threw his head back and laughed. “I’m not sure. If I saw Luke or Colt kissing Libby in my barn, I’m not sure what I would do.” He let out a chuckle and then looked at me with a serious face. “I also know that I love those two boys like they were my own sons, and if I trusted anyone with my daughter, it would be one of them.”

I laughed. “You’d better think twice about Luke.”

My father winked at me. “That boy is so much like his father, it’s unreal. They’re both hotheaded and full of crazy ideas.”

I let out a breath and said, “Dad, why does it feel like my heart just got ripped out, and I just let go of the best thing that ever happened to me?”

He walked up to me and pointed to a chair for me to sit down. He sat down in front of me and put his hands on his knees. “Will, I’m not going to sit here and fill your head with a bunch of bullshit. I don’t know what the future holds for you and Alex. I know that when I see you look at her, I see a younger version of myself when I used to look at your mom.”

“When did you know Mom was the one, Dad?”

The smile that spread across his face had me smiling along with him.

“It seems like it was just yesterday when I saw her walking into the room. Jeff and Gunner were throwing a party, and when your mother walked in, something happened. To this day, I can’t even explain it. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to get to know her more. It was almost like I needed to be near her to breathe properly.”

I smiled bigger. My father and mother were so in love, and everyone could see that. I wanted a love like theirs. As far as I could remember, my mother and father always showed how much they loved each other. I couldn’t even count how many times Lib or I had walked into the kitchen to see our parents making out. At first, it had disgusted me…until I’d begun having stronger feelings for Lex. Then, I’d understood it—the need to always have the one you loved in your arms.

“Did you and Mom have problems in the beginning?”

My father laughed and shook his head. “Hell yeah, we did. Ask Jeff and Ari, or Brad and Amanda, or Scott and Jessie. Hell, son, you could even ask Gunner and Ellie. We all had problems, and we still do. Nothing in life comes easy, especially the good stuff. We all have troubles and obstacles we have to overcome. Will, I’m not going to tell you that it will be easy. It’s gonna be hard to be away from her, but…” He looked down and then back up at me. “Neither of you have been anywhere but Mason. I know that you say you love her, and I don’t doubt that. Just know, Will, that college is a whole other world. Gunner is right. If your love is strong and meant to be, then you’ll be okay, son.”

I blew out a breath. “I can’t lose her, Dad. I can’t. I love her more than I love anyone or anything.”

Gunner cleared his throat, and I immediately jumped up. My father slowly stood up and walked over to Gunner. He whispered something into Gunner’s ear. Gunner smiled and looked at my father as he nodded his head. When he glanced back at me, his smile faded some, but he was still smiling a little as he walked up to me. My knees felt like they were about to give out from under me.

“Um…Gunner…uh…I mean, Mr. Mathews, um…the horses are ready.”

His grin grew bigger, and he let out a chuckle. He put his hand on my shoulder. “Will, just call me Gunner. I can’t do the whole Mr. Mathews thing. I keep looking for my father.”

I nodded my head. “Yes, sir. Gunner it is.”

He squeezed my shoulder. “Let’s go for a ride and talk, shall we?”

I swallowed hard and said a quick prayer that I would make it back alive after our talk.

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