It was the hottest summer Appaloosa Plains had seen for many years, and oh how the residents loved it! After years of barely noticing whether the season had visited or not, the sun was finally here with a vengeance and Dylan was in his element! The new house they’d moved to once the girls had grown up and needed their own space (boy, did they need their own space…) had a much bigger garden, and once the weather had started to brighten up he’d been straight outside laying down some decking and making sure he was prepared for the months ahead.
Once he’d finished installing the new barbeque he invited Robyn over for a feast of burgers and hotdogs. After he’d married Louise his sister had returned to Bridgeport to pick up her old life; she’d been reluctant to go back initially but Ivy had talked her into it. Both she and Dylan had always felt a little guilty about Robbie… After Dylan’s accident she’d just dropped out of her own life in order to put his back together. Back in Bridgeport she had finished school properly and gone to work in Science as she’d always wanted to, ever since she’d constructed her ant farm back when she was a child.
It had also meant that she was there for her Uncle Tristan and Katya at the end. Both had passed away peacefully in their sleep the previous year within six months of each other, and Robyn was on hand to help their son and daughter pick up the pieces.
That wasn’t the end of it, though. Robyn had met someone back in Bridgeport… ‘You must be Booker!’ Dylan smiled warmly (not that he had a choice in the matter in this heat) as he shook his sister’s partner’s hand. As Booker returned the handshake Dylan enviously noted his rippling muscles; his own physique had slipped a little since retiring from the fire service a few months ago. He wasn’t getting any younger, and his old injuries were hampering him a little. He’d decided it was better to bow out gracefully on a high rather than push himself too far again.
‘Indeed I am! And you must be the famous Dylan! Your sister never stops talking about you,’ Booker grinned back.
‘Well, I am pretty amazing,’ Dylan joked as Booker spotted the state of the art barbeque. ‘You like it?’
Soon the pair were huddled over the flames, prodding and poking at the sizzling meat and deep in discussion about cooking temperatures and the pros and cons of gas-powered and charcoal-powered barbeques. Letting them get on with it, Louise and Robyn sat and soaked up the sun together.
‘Bless them! You’d think they’d just gone out and slayed a mammoth!’ Robyn chuckled as she watched the two men. ‘Silly boys, surely it’s too hot to stand that close to open flames!’
Robyn nodded, her cheeks flushing a little. ‘It’s been a year and a half, I met him just before Aunt Katya died. He was really there for me, you know?’
‘Wow! I didn’t realise it had been that long. It must have been nice for you, having someone to lean on rather than be leant on yourself.’
‘Yeah, it really was…’ Robyn smiled contemplatively. ‘I wasn’t quite sure how to handle it at first mind. I’d just become so used to dealing with things on my own, you know what I mean?’
‘Not my finest hour, I’ll admit!’ Louise groaned. ‘Still, I maintain it’s not my fault… Runs in the family, see. My Mum met my Dad when she got drunk to forget how shy she was, so it’s not like I had a choice in the matter!’
‘Well you’re a delightful drunk my dear, so it’s all worked out for the best,’ Booker beamed at his girlfriend as he placed a plate of hotdogs down in front of her and planted a kiss on her forehead. ‘Just as long as you’re not secretly tipsy now and have already blurted out our news!’
‘News? What news?’ Dylan turned around distracted from the cooking. ‘Tell us!’
Booker chuckled happily to himself as Dylan and Louise sat down, leaning forward intently. ‘Well… This seems strange to announce now as I barely know either of you, but… Robyn and I are getting married.’
‘You heard, oh brother of mine! Booker proposed to me last week! It’s why we’re visiting, we wanted to tell you all in person… And so that Booker could actually meet his new family, of course!’ Robyn giggled as Dylan and Louise looked at each other in disbelief.
‘Does your Mum know?’ Louise asked.
‘Nope, not yet. We were going to head over there after here,’ Booker shook his head. ‘I’m really looking forward to meeting her! We’ve spoken on the phone loads but this is my first time here.’
‘Oh Robyn, she’s going to be so thrilled for you!’ Dylan grinned as his phone started ringing in his pocket. Getting it out, he laughed as he saw the display. ‘Hah, speak of the devil! I bet she’s ringing for the gossip on Booker! Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything,’ he chided his sister as he answered. ‘Mum! We were just talking about… What… Who is this? What? Where’s Mum?
* * *
The following week was even hotter in Appaloosa Plains, but the Rivers family didn’t notice the sun beating down on them as they huddled around the pair of gravestones stood solemnly in the cemetery. Even the sunflowers, standing tall and proud, couldn’t brighten the scene up.
Ivy Rivers had passed away at the grand age of 103. Her carer had found her sat in her chair clutching an old photo album, open on a picture of her and Ethan on their wedding day. A ghost of a smile was on her face.
Robyn was utterly devastated. It was a good job Booker was strong enough to hold her up as she wept onto his shoulder, completely crushed. It was supposed to be the happiest time of her life…
A few weeks later and it was time for Dylan to crack his suit out once again. Robyn and Booker had never intended on a long engagement as it was, but after Ivy’s death Robbie was determined to get married in Appaloosa Plains. ‘I need my Mum there, Booker, in spirit if nothing else.’ The two had a private ceremony at Verde Park, which they had closed off for the evening.
‘Oh Robbie… You’ve made me the happiest man alive!’ Booker exclaimed soppily as the ceremony drew to a close. Robyn laughed, tears of joy streaming down her cheeks.
‘My pleasure, husband of mine! My pleasure!’
‘What can I say Dylly-boy, I had a pretty great role model!’ Robyn smiled tearily at her beloved brother. ‘I just… I can’t believe she wasn’t here to see it…’
A refreshing breeze suddenly swept gently through the park, gently rustling the parched leaves of the trees and carrying the scent of the flowers to their noses. It was the first anyone had felt that summer.
‘I think she was here, Robyn!’ Dylan winked at his sister.