In last week's episode of Don't Look Back, Marshall and Lee found out from Roy what Rhonda did. They had a decision to make - go to Milly's Diner and face everyone, or sneak out of town. Find out what they chose in this week's chapter. Don't forget to find out what the other Briefers are up to. Their links follow my tale. Enjoy!
Don't Look Back #58 (11.3)
They decided to take the sedan. Lee drove, with Marshall beside him, and Roy in the backseat.
Marshall had trouble wrapping his head around the idea this would be the last time they went to Milly’s. The last time they would see their friends and neighbors, people he’d come to know and like over the past eight years, ever since Burnham became his home. More than that, these people were like his extended family. Everyone in Burnham looked out for everyone else, presenting a close-knit united front to the rest of the world. The thought they might now despise him and Lee, might have some pretty nasty things to say to them and about them, was a painful one.
Lee reached for Marshall’s hand and held it clasped in his on top of his thigh. “We can do this,” Lee said softly. He squeezed Marshall’s hand gently. Marshall returned the squeeze.
“We can,” he agreed, trying to put a confidence into his voice he wasn’t sure he possessed. He turned to look at Roy. “I’m sorry she dragged you into this.” Rhonda had made some nasty comments in her letter about Roy, questioning his fitness to be sheriff. “You don’t deserve it. You haven’t done anything wrong.”
“And neither have you,” Roy replied. “I’m not going to lose any sleep over anything that woman had to say about me. And I don’t necessarily admit we’re beat. Not yet.”
Marshall wished he had Roy’s optimism.
Milly’s Diner was completely lit up, the exterior festooned with Christmas lights for the holidays. The parking lot was full of familiar vehicles. Marshall’s nervousness, which had begun to recede a little bit, came back in full force, and he couldn’t prevent the shiver that coursed through him.
Lee pulled Marshall into his arms and kissed him. As if in answer to Marshall’s unspoken question, he said, “I’m not changing how I behave or who I am for anyone. I’m not ashamed of us, and I’m not going to pretend I am. They’ve seen us kiss many times. If that bothers them now, that’s their problem, not mine.”
They exited the car and headed toward the door. Marshall and Lee walked hand in hand, while Roy brought up the rear.
They stepped inside the diner, filled to busting with their friends and neighbors, laughing and chatting amongst themselves. Marshall braced himself for anything and everything. Lee’s arm was about his waist for support. A silence fell as everyone turned to look at the three men. The only noise was the music playing in the background, something by Blake Shelton.
It felt like forever, but was probably just a few seconds, before Milly stepped out from behind the counter, wiping her hands on her apron. Milly was in her sixties, a motherly woman with gray hair, crazy pink glasses, and a warm smile. She generally gave Marshall an extra helping of whatever he ordered, saying he looked hungry. What she would do now, he had no clue.
“Well, there you guys are. We were wondering if we were going to have to start without you.” She winked at them before she enveloped Marshall in a big bear hug then doled out more of the same to Lee and Roy. “Merry Christmas, boys. Come on in and set down.”
Other voices echoed Milly’s words. Marshall glanced uncomprehendingly at Lee, who seemed as mystified as he was. Roy seemed rather pleased, as if he’d expected something like this. They found themselves seated at one of the booths, which had apparently been saved for them. All three squeezed into one side, while across from them sat their neighbors, Sarah and Craig Ferguson.
Conversation resumed, and the noise level returned to normal. It seemed like everyone in the diner made a point of stopping by their table to wish them a Merry Christmas. Marshall was stunned. Of all the things he’d expected, this possibility hadn’t even made the list. He saw no judgment in anyone’s eyes, only love and acceptance and good wishes.
Milly had made her usual Christmas turkey plate. Kelly from the deli helped her to serve everyone. She blushed a little as she set Marshall’s plate before him, managed to squeak out a quick “Merry Christmas” before heading off to serve another diner.
The food was delicious, and everyone ate their fill. Once the plates had all been cleared, Marshall heard a spoon being tapped against a glass. Everyone quieted down, as Mayor Callendar cleared his throat and began to speak.
“I want to thank everyone who turned out tonight for our annual celebration. Milly outdid herself, as usual, let’s all give her a big hand.” Everyone applauded, and Milly pinked up, a pleased smile on her lips.
“Now, there’s something else I’d like to say.”
Marshall’s stomach clenched, and he gripped Lee’s hand tightly.
“As you all know, a certain letter was distributed recently by an outsider looking to make trouble for some of our people. “ Nods of acknowledgment followed his words. It felt as though everyone turned to stare their way.
“Things were said and accusations were made of a serious nature. All I have to say is any woman who’d say such things about her own son isn’t much of a mother, and frankly, I have no use for that sort of person.”
Cries of “Damn straight” and “Yeah, me neither” rang out around them.
“I’ve known Lee and Roy for a long time now, and Marshall for almost as long, and you couldn’t ask for finer men. “
“And Roy’s the best sheriff we’ve ever had!” Milly piped up, to which everyone agreed.
“They’re an important part of Burnham, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, no matter what anyone else says.” He looked straight toward them now. “Merry Christmas, gentlemen.” He raised his glass and everyone followed suit. “Merry Christmas to us all.”
Marshall turned to Lee. They came together for a kiss, and it sounded as though everyone cheered.
to be continued
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