Tony drives his boyfriend to a mystery location in America's heartland in Stevie Hall's touching piece.
"Did you say something?" Tony asked as his hand turned the volume knob.
"I'd just like to have a conversation with my boyfriend for once, Tony. Is that okay?"
"Oh, of course, babe. What did you want to talk about?"
"Well, and I know this is crazy to ask, but, for instance, where the hell are we going?"
"I told you before we left that it's a surprise. I promise you'll be so happy once we get there."
They were cruising down I-75 in Tony's most prized possession: his pristine, fully-restored 1956 Ford Fairlane. He and Jared had done every bit of restoration work together, right down to the immaculate gloss black paint job. She was his pride and joy. Her name was Lola, and she was second in Tony's heart only to Jared, which was evidenced by the old Polaroid picture of the happy couple that was a permanent fixture in Lola's driver's side visor.
"I just have one question."
"Am I making it back home alive?"
Tony lets out a hearty laugh before saying, "You should unless you die of excitement."
The trees on either side of the six-lane interstate blurred by as they cruised along talking and laughing, simply enjoying being with each other. Jared almost forgot that he didn't even know why he was in the car or where they were headed.
The sun began to set in front of them, and Jared started worrying if they were even going anywhere at all. "Tony, isn't it getting kinda late, babe? We're a little far from home now."
"We're almost there, baby, I promise. I'll give you a hint: the place we're going is in Atlanta."
"So that narrows it down to just about anywhere then."
"Pretty much," Tony said with a grin and a chuckle.
The city's skyline began to come into view, and Jared perked up a bit. "Are we there yet?"
"I'm sorry, are you five?" Tony said with a wink and a smirk.
"Well, we've driven for four hours, babe. I think I have a right to be curious. If I'm honest I'm getting a little pissed off."
"It's just on the outside of the city. We're about three minutes away."
True to Tony's word, three minutes later they arrived at their destination. Jared's jaw fell into his lap in astonishment. Before them stood one of the most majestic, palatial plantation houses he'd ever seen. He'd only ever dreamed of seeing this place in person. This was The Magnolia, the most famous bed and breakfast in Georgia.
Flawless green hedges stood on either side of them. The house was painted a beautiful shade of light blue, and the tin roof reflected the very last glimmers of auburn sunlight.
Jared's eyes expanded in child-like wonder. "You remembered..."
"Of course I remembered! You've been dreaming of coming here since forever. I got the weekend off of work and booked us for two nights at your own personal Shangri La. A cushy king-size bed, three gourmet meals a day, en suite hot tub and steam shower, and personal massages for both of us. I've got the perfect weekend planned out for us, baby. Now you wait here while I go check in and get our room key," Tony said, giving Jared a quick kiss as he got out of the car.
Five minutes later he returned to the car and motioned for Jared to get out and come around to the trunk to help unload the luggage.
With the cart all loaded down, they made their way into the grand chateau and found their room. Tony unloaded the cart and smiled as he watched Jared run around the room like a kid in a candy store.
"Babe, there are rose petals on the bed! And candles around the tub! And we have a view of the lake in the garden!"
Tony could only smile even harder as he sunk into the lush, enveloping mattress. Then his eyes began to water. His visions of his boyfriend faded away. The tears couldn't be stopped. He knew how much Jared would've loved to have finally gone there. It should've felt wrong to be there without him, but there was an odd sense of peace surrounding him as those tears rolled down his face. It was as though he could feel Jared's eyes resting upon him as he laid in that bed. "Why did we have to be in Orlando that night?" he asked himself. If he imagined it hard enough, he could almost feel him lying by his side. "I miss you, baby. I'll always love you to the stars and back."