Bo had discussed his plans with Jesse and the older man, while trying his best to persuade his nephew to stay, understood his reasoning. Jesse had at least convinced Bo to post-pone his leaving till after harvest and the holidays were over. He would start his new life at the beginning of the new year; the months in between, however, had been tough on the young man. Meghan had started coming to the farm more often and had started accompanying Bo and Luke to races and such. Bo had gotten quite good at hiding his feelings when he was around Luke, but it was getting harder and harder to do when he was around Meghan on the rare occasions they were left alone together. Daisy and Jesse made special efforts to be around whenever Meghan was there, but it was not always possible. The emotional stress of hiding his true feelings all the time began to take its toll on the blond-haired man. His sleep was haunted by dreams, both torturously good ones and occasional nightmares. He wasn’t eating well…a fact that caught everyone’s attention, since Bo had always been known to have a big appetite! His asthma, which had all but disappeared again over the summer, had started to make its presence known as late fall came to Hazzard. Bo often woke from his dreams wheezing and coughing; fumbling on his bedside table for his inhaler. He was constantly on edge…afraid Luke would find out his secret love for Meghan…afraid he would slip up and reveal his feelings to Meghan, herself. He had to get away, to put some distance between them…if he didn’t, he would go crazy!
The fall harvesting was over and the year’s crops had done well. The Duke family celebrated a wonderful Thanksgiving with their close friends and had much to be thankful for. The family was, however, worried about Bo. He looked awful and seemed to be lost in his own thoughts most of the time. Bo endured everyone’s fussing and encouragement to eat more and spent his time trying to convince them that he was fine, “just a little under the weather”. Cooter had joined the Dukes and Meghan for the holiday meal and was present for the celebration that followed. Luke had finally gotten up enough courage and asked Meghan to marry him. Much to everyone’s surprise, Luke rose from the dinner table, knelt on one knee in front of Meghan and proposed in front of everyone! Through tears and laughter, Meghan said “yes” and the entire room erupted in congratulations, hugs and sounds of delight. Daisy called everyone she could think of and soon an impromptu engagement party was taking place! The only person who seemed a bit subdued, was Bo. He was, in a way, truly happy for them and was the first to envelope Luke in a bear-hug of congratulations. He warmly hugged Meghan and welcomed her to the family. It was the hardest thing he had ever done. He wanted her to be part of the family, yes…but as his wife, not Luke’s. He wanted to yell in outrage and pain. He wanted to grab Meghan and run to the General to get as far away from Luke and Hazzard County as they could get. He wanted to break down and cry like a baby, but he kept a smile on his face for Luke and the rest of the family’s benefit. As soon as he could, without seeming too rude, Bo pulled on his coat and snuck away from the party…his excuse was that he had eaten too much and now felt bad. He spent the rest of the evening in the hayloft, drinking beer and deciding where he would go as soon as the year was over. He would go north, maybe North Carolina or somewhere else where there were big racetracks. Bo knew his best chance at a decent job would be something related to cars or driving; maybe he could even get back into NASCAR, if he was lucky. Racing without Luke would be hard…they had always worked as a team…but, he would do it if he had to. After all, Luke would be starting a new life of his own…with his new wife. Bo shook his head in disbelief as he thought. The Duke boys are finally growing up! “Heaven help us all!” he said, out loud, before he drained his can of beer and settled back into a bale of hay, tightening his arms around himself against the cold of the late November night.
Bo’s night in the frigid hayloft had left him with a very bad cold and some stiff muscles. The younger Duke slowly made his way into the farmhouse; coughing and sniffing the entire way. He skipped breakfast and went straight to bed, where he planned to stay for most of the day. Bo avoided most of the questioning from Luke and Cooter, who had stayed the night, (Daisy and Jesse pretty much knew why he had been hiding out) by saying he had not felt well and just fell asleep in the barn by accident. Luke seemed to accept Bo’s answer easily. He had noticed that Bo had not looked well yesterday and maybe the excitement of the party had been too much for him. Luke had planned to spend the next few days with his cousin since Meghan was working the next seven days straight. He wanted Bo to be his best man and needed help in getting things organized for the upcoming wedding and he just wanted some extra time with his best friend before he and Meghan started their life together. He and Meghan had decided to marry on New Year’s Eve; neither of them wanted to prolong things much longer! Luke smiled at that thought as he helped Daisy wash up the morning’s breakfast dishes. He and Daisy could hear Bo coughing from down the hall. Daisy looked at Luke, her brow creased with worry. She sometimes still felt the need to worry and fuss over Bo even though he had been healthy as a horse since he was fifteen. After all…this had been a pretty rough year for him…
“Luke, Bo doesn’t sound too good. I’m gonna go check on him.” she said as she dried her hands with a dishtowel and turned to leave the kitchen.
“Now wait a minute, Daisy. Bo probably just has a bad cold from being in that loft all night. He needs to get warm and get some rest; and he can’t get any rest if you wake him up and pester him. If he needs something, he’ll let us know. Besides, I’ll be in and out today and I can check on him. You get on to work and tell everyone at the Boar’s Nest about my weddin’!” Luke said with a wink and a grin as he popped his dishtowel at his cousin.
“All right, Romeo! You call me at work if you need anything. Uncle Jesse’s gone to Aunt Lavinia’s for a couple of weeks to help her with some business and to visit some of the cousins so try not to make too big of a mess while he’s gone, OK?” Daisy said quickly as she grabbed her coat and purse, gave Luke a peck on the cheek and headed for the door.
The next few days went on as usual for the three Duke cousins. Jesse’s nightly phone calls let them know that he was well and enjoying his visit with Lavinia. Daisy had her chores and her work at the Boar’s Nest. Bo and Luke had their chores and the plans for Luke’s wedding to occupy them…that is, when they weren’t being chased by Roscoe and Enos for one thing or another. However, things were far from being well for the youngest Duke. Bo’s cold was not leaving him; in fact, it was becoming alarmingly worse. He tried to hide his symptoms from Daisy and Luke…they would only worry and he would get a long lecture about sleeping in the hayloft, and frankly, he didn’t want to hear it! Bo had been taking some cold medicine and had decided to go see Doc if he wasn’t any better by the next day.
Luke had asked Bo to go with him to pick up his and Meghan’s marriage license. The boys were driving to town, the sound of General’s engine roaring through the cold December air, and enjoying the slow pace of the day. They were talking of Luke’s upcoming trip to Tennessee with Meghan to visit her family at Christmas. Luke also told Bo of his plans to get a job in Capital City and move into Meghan’s apartment until they could get a new place. Silence eventually overtook the two cousins, since Bo did not feel like keeping up his usually endless supply of chatter. Bo sat, leaning against the door, with his eyes half closed. Luke noticed that his cousin seemed quieter than normal and looked ill. Luke thought, “Bo must be sick, he asked me to drive and he’s been quiet for ten minutes!”
“Hey, Cousin, you OK?” Luke asked.
“Yeah…,” Bo started to say, but Luke looked sideways at him as if to say he didn’t believe him, “…Well, not really. I guess I’ve still got a little bit of that cold.”
“Well, that’s what you get for sleeping in the barn in November…” Luke started to say.
“Luke, I know it’s my own dang fault! I don’t feel like hearing a lecture, all right? Let’s just get into town and do our business so we can get home.” Bo snapped.
“OK, OK! Don’t get your feathers up. Jeesh, you’re as testy as a wet hen!” Luke replied.
“I’m sorry, Luke; but I really don’t feel good. I just want to get home and go back to bed.” Bo said, miserably. The younger man immediately went into a coughing fit.
Luke looked at his cousin with concern. Bo seemed really sick. His face was flushed and he sounded as if he were coughing up a lung! The dark haired man pulled the General into a 180, taking them back toward the farm.
“What are you doing?” Bo managed to say between coughs.
“I’m taking you home and then I’m calling Doc.”
“Luke, you need to get that marriage license today. Let’s just go on and get it. It won’t take long, and then I’ll let you call Doc.” Bo replied and jerked the keys out of the ignition.
Luke glared at his cousin as the car rolled to a stop.
“If you felt this bad…why didn’t you just stay home? I could’ve done it by myself.”
“Because you asked me to go with you…that’s why. I’m your best man and I’m supposed to help you with stuff like this. I wouldn’t leave you to do it all by yourself. Besides…” Bo said sheepishly, “I didn’t feel this bad when we left. So let’s get goin’, cousin! We’ve got things to do before I keel over.” Bo said with a slight chuckle as he tossed the keys to Luke.
Luke shook his head. He would never understand his younger cousin. Luke realized then how much he would miss being around Bo all the time; but…Capital City wasn’t that far from Hazzard and he could still see Bo and the others at least a few times a week, he hoped. Luke headed the General toward Hazzard and they sped off.