"Max wake up! I came all the way from California to see you." He didn't seem to recognize her. Even if his mind were perfect, why would he? She was no more to Max than electrons.

She wondered to herself why she had waited so long to make the journey. His daughter had stuck a note on the Bulletin Board or he might have just drifted from her mind. She would have wondered but no more than that.

Max had suffered his third and near fatal heart attack. Through her tears Jill decided at that moment to chuck her job. The rented apartment was no problem to dump. It was in a good area and high in demand.

It was time to take that road trip. The one Max was always on about. His heart attack sent the shock through her that she needed. She was surprised by how easily she came to the decision.

At fifty-two she could still have fun, she told herself. Her retirement accounts were all vested. Better still, she had a wad of dough. It grew even larger as she sold everything.

She bought the well-used camper from a friend. Two days later she just hit the road. The three thousand mile drive across country took her three weeks. She stopped, looked, and played every day of it. She decided while sitting outside the nursing home, where max was being held prisoner, that she wouldn't have missed any of it for the world.

"Who are you?" the weak voice asked.

"Hell honey, I am Austin. Now get your ass ready, we are off to adventure." She knew that it was all the explanation she needed to make. She watched him as the recognition came to him.

"Austin? Is that really you?" The look on his face was one of wonder. It must have been mixed with something more, since there was also a tear in his eye.

"Of course it is old man. Now get you ass out of that bed and get dressed. I have places to see and you promised to show them to me. You promised me that you would never lie to me, so get a move on."

"Oh Austin honey, I am not really up to it. I am too weak to do much of anything. Hell honey, I will probably die on you."

"Screw you old man, you can lean on me if you get tired. Don't matter none, you are damn sure coming with me even if I have to kidnap you."

Suddenly there was the twinkle in his brown eyes. The same twinkle she had seen on the web cam over the past two years. It might be the only thing left of her Max. Might be hell, she realized that it was more than enough.\line "Why not, today is as good a day to die as any other." Max repeated his often used line.

Austin burst into laughter. She laughed a lot for a while. Some of it at the memories of Max. While she laughed at the memories, Max would be napping. She made sure he took his meds and his naps. She also made sure he woke up to see the mountains or a creek running shallow and fast by the road.

She noted with satisfaction that Max absorbed it all like a sponge. She noted too that the twinkle was often mixed with a tear.

Max was too weak to make love to her. At least in a way most people would call making love. What he could, and did do nightly, was to hold her tight. Then run his hands over her body. What they shared was a very differnt kind of love. Max said it was courtly love, like in the middle ages. Men loved ladies from afar then. I was acceptable to be in love and never make love. Austin understood but knew she might be the only one in the modern world who did. The love she had for Max was pure romance. When she saw him in the mornings here heart sang.

What Max felt for her she was never sure. She knew ont thing for an absolute certainty. Max smilled a lot during those days on the road. Austin would melt at that smile. She never knew exactly what Max felt but she could tell there was a bond between them. A bond forged in pure love. A love not tainted by any other emotion. It was a new feeling for Austin. She had experienced way too many feeling she had mistaken for love. Max was pure love and nothing more and nothing less.

They were in a fishing camp in Key West, when max slipped away from her. She took care of his last wishes. It was fair. The step brat got the ashes, and Austin got the memories.

Austin moved on down the road just as Max would have wanted. As she moved along she always felt Max in the seat beside her. She even spoke to him often. When she realized it, she said aloud, "I have become a batty old broad Max. I finally have what you called character."\f2\fs24

the end