The RV was silent and still when Jessie stirred from the spot Bonnie had left her in before falling asleep. The cowgirl sat up slowly and glanced around her, taking note that Forky slept securely in his owner’s grasp, wearing a contented smile. She reached up and ran her fingers across the shiny golden badge she now wore, feeling a sense of responsibility in doing Woody’s treasured gift justice, and took an unspoken roll call of the other toys. Once she had noted where all her friends were resting on the floor, she spotted a familiar silhouette against one of the small windows in the compartment above the cab.
She slipped carefully down from Bonnie’s bed and tiptoed across the hard flooring to the front of the vehicle, then hoisted herself up to the upper perch. An extra bunk that the family was only using to store luggage, it was a quiet and private retreat.
“Hey, you.” Sidling up to Buzz - who was sitting with his arms wrapped around his bent knees, staring out into the darkness - she leaned against him, linking her arm through his.
“Hey Jessie,” he answered quietly, keeping his focus on the window.
“You doin’ okay?”
“Yeah,” he rested his hand on hers. “You?”
Jessie nodded against his shoulder. “I reckon so. Still doesn’t seem real that he left.” After a few quiet minutes, she sighed. “You wanna get outta here for a bit? Might cheer us up a little.”
“I think I’ve had enough adventure out in the world to last me quite some time,” Buzz let out a weak chuckle.
“Nah, I didn’t mean that. Just the roof, for some fresh air. You mighta had your fill, but I’ve been cooped up in here worryin’ for two days.” She smiled. “C’mon.” Standing, she set down her hat and stepped over to the sunroof in the ceiling above the mattress, sizing it up. Sliding over a suitcase to stand on, Buzz gave her a boost so she could push the glass open slowly, then they helped each other climb out onto the top of the RV.
All the other RVs in the park were dark, and the only light shone from the moon and stars peeking through the pine forest above and the occasional streetlight that dotted the grounds. The late summer air was cool, and they made themselves comfortable reclining against the box that housed the vehicle’s air conditioning system and looking up at the sky.
Jessie stared up into space. “Where d’ya think the carnival went?”
“Hard to say,” Buzz answered. “Could be anywhere.”
“Ya never know, it could show up in our town someday. Maybe Trixie can look it up online for us, find a schedule or somethin’.” She rambled on, not waiting for a response. “I can’t believe Woody found Bo, and I hardly got to see her. I’d have liked to catch up with her some, tell her about us,” she reached for his hand, and he gave it a squeeze in return.
The couple sat in silence with their fingers entwined for quite some time, until Buzz spoke up tentatively. “Did I do the right thing? Telling him to go?”
Jessie turned to her boyfriend, and could see the uncertainty in his eyes as he met her reassuring gaze. “Of course ya did. Can ya imagine livin’ with him if he had to say goodbye to her a second time? I don’t think we could go through that again, listenin’ to all those sad songs,” she joked, and he cracked a faint smile.
“In the moment, it felt right, but everything happened so fast. And when Bonnie was looking for him today…”
“Bonnie’s gonna be fine,” she ran her thumb gently across the back of Buzz’s hand. “That’s what we’re here for. Didja see her with Forky? Havin’ him back has already made her feel better. Heck, she’s prob’ly gonna handle Woody bein’ gone better than the rest of us.” His expression was still clouded with doubt, and she pivoted so that she could face him. “Look - and I don’t mean this bad - but forget Bonnie. Take her outta this.”
Buzz’s eyebrows dipped in confusion at his girlfriend’s bold statement.
“I mean it. Just think of Woody and Bo. And us. What if it was us instead? Would ya have wanted Woody to tell you the same thing - to go - so we could live our own life, together?”
“Of course,” he replied without hesitation.
“And if it came down to it, and we had to choose bein’ together, you’n me, over Bonnie, or some other kid, wouldn’t ya do it?”
“You know I would, Jessie.” The truth of his words shone in his earnest blue eyes. “Because I have you, I understood what he was going through. I couldn’t walk away from you. I’d go anywhere, even break the rules, just so we could stay together.”
“You bet yer boots I would, too,” she smiled back at him sincerely. “I love Bonnie, and I’ll do everythin’ I can for her as long as she needs me… but when you’ve been around as long as I have, ya realize kids come and go. You can’t replace what we’ve got, or what Woody and Bo have. You gave him a wonderful gift, sayin’ whatcha did. And I don’t wantcha frettin’ over this anymore, ya hear?” Her grin widened as she noticed a lightness wash over him. “Sheriff’s orders.”
“That’s going to take some getting used to, you being sheriff,” Buzz teased, smirking as he reached to straighten the star pinned to her shirt.
“Well, you are my favorite deputy.” Jessie leaned in to kiss him softly, and when they pulled apart, she snuggled her head against his chest as he wrapped an arm around her waist.
“Badge or not, I don’t expect Dolly to relinquish leadership very easily,” remarked Buzz, “so just be prepared for that.”
“I ain’t too concerned about bein’ in charge. We’ll see how things go, once we get home. I just wanna do right by Woody, for entrustin’ me with it.”
“You were the only one with any sort of idea how to get the RV to the carousel,” he pointed out proudly. “So I think you’re more than capable of following in his footsteps.”
“Buttercup was determined to send Dad to jail, all day!” Jessie giggled. “I dunno what was up with that. But ya know, the family was about to hit the road before you and Woody and Forky got back, and I handled that, too.”
“What did you do?”
“Popped a tire.”
“RV tires can’t be cheap,” Buzz’s tone grew serious. “That was a rather expensive tactic.”
“Would ya rather have been left behind?”
“No ma’am,” he chuckled.
She hugged her arm tighter around Buzz’s midsection. “I hope the rest of this road trip is more relaxin’. It woulda been fun to see somethin’ like a carnival under different circumstances. Or the beach. Have ya heard them say where we might be headed tomorrow?”
“No, but I’m just thankful Forky has come around. I was thinking we might end up raising a spork child,” he laughed. “I’m sure he’ll still have some adjusting to do, though, when we get back.”
“Things are gonna be different back at Bonnie’s for sure. But there’s no one I’d rather have helpin’ me figure it all out than you.”
He leaned down to kiss her on the forehead. “We got this, cowgirl.”