The Last Train to Omaha by Ann Whitely-Gillen
ISBN: 9780991832507 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780991832514 (ebook)
ASIN: B00BMAIRB6 (Kindle edition)
Publication Date: February 28, 2013
After a horrific accident claims the life of his best friend at the age of eighteen, James Milligan vows to never let anyone get close to him again.
As a prominent Chicago architect nearly two decades later, James still lives as a shadow of his former self: shutting out those who love him most, navigating his life in a veil of solitude and drowning himself in anxiety and guilt.
As a volunteer at a palliative care hospital, James is most comfortable assisting dying veterans through their final hours. However, when charismatic war veteran Martin Diggs and charming nurse Rebecca Doyle enter his life, complacency and routine are threatened. Faced with yet another life-altering event, James is forced to inescapably choose between a life of pity and an existence he’d long considered impossible.
The night’s warm breeze flows across the fields near Princeville’s West Hillock Cemetery, carrying the smell of fresh tobacco up into the country air and over to North Rice Road. James and Stephen are walking back from a bonfire party to celebrate their last week of summer vacation together. As they stagger along towards the town of Edelstein, they enjoy their unique brand of playful banter. James can’t help but think about a young girl he was eyeing all night. He can’t stop talking about her sweeping dark hair, smoky eyes, and more than ample chest.
Stephen takes off his black and white Bob Dylan t-shirt and dangles it over his head to simulate the girl’s long hair. He starts winking and smacking his lips at James, and then mocks a young woman’s walk and talk.
James falls to the ground, rolling with laughter. When he stills, he lies on his back and stares up at the clear night sky. Stephen staggers over and lies down beside him. He puts his headphones on and starts singing along to his favorite Beatles song, which is playing on his new Walkman—a graduation present from his parents.
James has his eyes closed and his arms crossed behind his head. He can’t stop thinking of the girl. Stephen takes off his headphones and places them over James’s ears, then turns up the volume. The song fills the night for James, but he can faintly hear Stephen’s voice speaking through the music. Without removing the headphones or opening his eyes, James turns his attention to registering what Stephen is saying. At first he is confused and thinks he is misunderstanding his best friend’s words. But soon there is no doubt in James’s mind: Stephen is confessing his love for him. James doesn’t know how to react, so he pretends that the music is too loud for him to understand what Stephen’s saying.
Deep in his heart, James has always known how deeply Stephen loved him, and as much as Stephen’s poorly veiled affections were at times uncomfortable for James, they were also very reassuring. He was loved by at least one man in his life, even if it wasn’t his father. And James felt that Stephen understood him more than anyone else on the planet. They were bonded in mind, heart, and spirit. He closes his eyes tightly and wonders what he should do. He knows that Stephen indulged in a lot of booze and pot at the bonfire, which is usual for him, but it also makes him unruly if things don’t go his way. James knows his friend well, and knows that he must tread carefully.
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