Promises to Keep

by Grasshopper

Chapter 8


Have you ever given any thought to the fact that we don't much take pictures of sad occasions? Our memories keep the good things, the happy things, the moments when we felt loved and safe. If we had a slideshow on our screensaver of our memories, we'd have birthday parties and first kisses, we'd have beautiful summer days and little puppies. The sad memories are there, inside our heads, but not for the slideshow are the fights, the breakups, the times our hearts were broken or the times we broke a heart. What do we do with the memory of our heart breaking? What would a photo of heartbreak look like?

Trip didn't go to town. Brandon didn't ride out to the bluffs. Life became a still pond again and nothing rippled the surface.

Trip learned that you should never ask for what you shouldn't want.

Brandon learned that love has nothing at all to do with having or touching.

They both turned twenty in the spring of the year,

Spring comes wetly to Wyoming. Snow runoff makes the ground mushy, the first sprigs of purple sage begin to pop up here and there, bringing color to the winter dead landscape.

Ranch work becomes easier as the ranch hands drifted north again, the days warming and the money good. Trip dreamed of big cities and learning something other than mending fences and loading stock. He kept away from town and after a few weeks could even go back to the bluffs. The hurt didn't go away, but it did ease back.

On the morning of May 16th, Trip's dad was carrying a pan of scrambled eggs to the table when he felt his heart clutch in his chest. There was nothing to be done, that leaky valve had finally reached its limit. People were kind, bringing food of all kinds and saying in soft voices what a good man Clarence Tripley had been.

At the funeral, old Mr. Young, the lawyer, handed Trip a copy of the will. Trip carried it home, then while neighbors visited in the house, he took it outside, sat in Kick's stall in the barn, Jasper's head in his lap and cried as he read it. Cried because his father had been so good to his family, had provided them with a future and he cried because he was finally trapped forever in this place he loved and hated at the same time.

Bran found him out there, the paper crumpled in his hand. Bran held him until the sobbing stopped, wiped Trip's eyes with a blue bandana, held him until Trip could stand it and then walked away. Walked away from what he wanted more than anything else. Walked away because he had to do what was right and he had no right to touch Trip.

Sarah Tripley watched her son. She had known for a long time that he wasn't happy. How could he be, alone out here on this lonely place? She thanked everyone for coming, for helping and then she sat down in her rocking chair to think.

The days were long, Trip did what he always did, rode the fence, got the hands moving, and dreamed of another life when he sat alone up on the bluffs.

Brandon moved through his days, earning a living, repairing what the harsh winter had done to their little house, reading to Callie. He was trying.


Mom called me into the kitchen. Her voice sounded better than it had in weeks. She took Dad's passing hard. I worried about her, but we'll make it.

"Trip, come sit."

I sat down at the table watching her, not sure what she wanted. "What's up?"

"I'm going to say something and I want you to let me have my say before you jump in with a bunch of 'buts'," she said.


"Your father, God rest his sweet soul, meant to help us. He never meant to punish you."

"Mom, I......" She raised her hand.

"He never saw the look in your eyes or the longing for more; not like I did; like I still do. He meant well when he made that will. He really did. He loved.....loves you. He just never understood. I talked to your Aunt Caroline and she is all excited about Grandma and me going to live with her in Salt Lake. That house has been so empty since your Uncle Bernard died. Kit graduates this year and she's all set to go to that nursing school in Cheyenne. All we have to do is sell off the cattle, the land, and you'll have enough money to go to college."

Trip couldn't take it in. "But, Dad said...."

"He said that you would stay and take care of us as long as we needed. Well, you have....long past when you should have stopped. You're my son, not my keeper, Sweetheart. Grandma needs to be nearer to medical facilities and I will enjoy getting to know my sister again."

"Mom, I know how much you love this place." Trip's mind was beginning to tumble over the words she was saying. He could go. He could..............His mind froze. He could leave everything he loved. Go where he didn't know a living soul. Kick.....Jasper. But.....his mind laughed, 'you can be you'.......finally.

"I do love this ranch. I love the peace and quiet and I loved being here with your father and you and Kit. That's over now....whether we like it or not, life goes on and we have to move with it. I'm moving to Salt Lake City, Kit to Cheyenne, and, my lovely son, you can move to wherever your heart desires." She hugged him tightly, brushed away his tears and watched him leave the old familiar kitchen. Only then did she look around, her eyes bright with sad tears, knowing she was doing the right thing.

Mr. McClenoth came by as soon as he heard the news, wanting to add their ranch to his larger holding to the north of them. He wanted the house for his son and new daughter-in-law and the Tripleys ended up making enough money for the move to Salt Lake, Kit's schooling and Trip to move to wherever.

His wherever became a reality when he was accepted for the fall term at The University of Washington in Seattle. He totally made up his mind when he saw the whole website for UWGBLTC and found that they even had GBLT classes he could take to help him be himself, to find his place in the world.

Bran heard the news from Joey McClenoth when he came in for a new spreader. Joey kept on talking, but Bran's mind stopped listening. Trip was leaving.

The phone on his desk rang late in the summer and he heard a voice he'd never expected to hear again. "Brandon, I'd like to see you before I leave." He heard a click and knew where to go.

The bluffs were so different in the summer, all green and lush, the smell of the pines heavy in the air. Bran remembered another day, cold and bitter, snow covering the ground, the day that broke his heart.

Jasper barked, like always. Bran saw Trip sitting on Kick, like always. It's what he would keep in his mind long after this day was gone. Trip, Kick, Jasper and the bluffs. Loving isn't having or's just loving.

"I need you to do me a favor," Trip said without a 'Hey'.


"You didn't even ask what."


Trip caught his breath, understanding that Bran would have done anything for him, and he reined in his emotions hard. "I'm leaving."

"I know."

"I'm taking Jasper, and I just can't sell Kick." He rubbed his hands along the horse's silky mane.


"Thank you."

There was so much to say and nothing left.

"Be happy, Brandon."

"You too, Trip."

Trip reached over, laid the back of his hand on Bran's cheek for just a second, turned Kick with a pull on the reins and was gone.

Bran sat up on the bluffs until the sun went down, watching an eagle circle, soaring and drifting as the currents caught him. Then like Trip, the eagle disappeared.

A week later, Joey McClenoth pulled up in front of the feed store with a horse trailer behind his pickup. Ringing the bell on the door, he called out, "Bran, I've got Trip's horse. What ya want me to do with him?"

And Bran knew that if he had Kick, Trip was gone.

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