Fiction Thursday: A New Beginning, Chapter 20

I think there will be some ladies who will be happy with this week’s chapter from A New Beginning. Ladies, Blanche is about to take her life into her own hands and make something happen. . . but will she be too startled by her actions to admit her move was a good one? Read on and find out and see the blog tomorrow for what happens after this week’s big moment in her life.

Curious about the rest of Blanche’s story? Find the first part on Kindle, or simply follow along with this second novel in progress HERE. You do not have to read the first book to enjoy the second.


Chapter 20

The sun was hot and the small breeze blowing across the lake was doing little to cool us all down as we sat on the shore, the boys with fishing poles, Emmy, Edith and me sipping lemonade and laying out the food for lunch.

Tanner Lake was half an hour from my house. Nestled between two hills it was somewhat hidden away, with few people visiting it other than locals. It had never been marketed as a tourist site, which made it a perfect, private getaway for our family and friends. Looking around the lake at the tall pine trees flanking it, I remembered sitting in a boat with Daddy in the center of the lake probably about 12-years old, a fishing pole in one hand, a peanut butter sandwich in the other, waiting for a fish to bite.

The tan-colored fishing hat Daddy had sat on my head to keep the sun out fell down over my forehead and eyes, making reeling the line in a challenge and doing nothing to protect my bare arms and legs from the sun. I ended up with the worst sunburn I could remember, but we had enough fish to last us the Fourth of July weekend when we’d celebrated with Emmy’s family and our cousins from New York state.

“Why did we agree to this fishing trip again?” Edith asked, dabbing a damp cloth along her throat. “I don’t even like fishing.”

“So, we could all have a day out and finally celebrate summer,” Emmy said cheerfully. “Do you know this is the first real day out I’ve had since the baby was born? I’d almost forgot what the sun looks like. I’m so glad my parents agreed to watch Faith for us.”

I knew we’d also taken this trip to the lake to help take Edith’s mind off her worries about Lily and the baby and Judson’s mind off his dad.

I leaned back, holding a glass of lemonade against my face, hoping it would help me feel cooler. Looking across the grass toward the lake, I noticed Judson kneeling on one knee next to Jackson near the water’s edge, holding Jackson’s fishing pole, hooking a worm as Jackson chatted along about the fish he’d managed to catch earlier using “the biggest nightcrawler he’d ever seen.” Judson’s face was clean-shaven now, his reddish-brown hair neatly trimmed. I felt foolish as I wondered if he’d shaved the beard because he thought I didn’t like it; as if he might make decisions about his life based on what I thought. The truth was, I seemed to find him attractive, sans beard or not, a fact that annoyed me to no end.

“Both our names start with the letter J,” Jackson said suddenly. “Did you know that?”

“Well, yes, sir I did know that,” Judson said.

“Jackson and Judson. Those names sort of sound alike don’t they?”

Judson reeled the line up slightly and handed Jackson the pole again, grinning at him.

“Yes, buddy they do.”

I watched as they walked to the end of the dock several feet away from me and sat next to each other, Jackson wiggling close to Judson and bouncing his feet over the water. He looked at Judson and smiled.  “I like that. That our names sound so much alike.”

Judson smiled and ruffled Jackson’s hair. “Me too, buddy. That’s real cool.”

I bit my lower lip, hoping Jackson didn’t get too attached to Judson. I knew Judson was leaving soon to be with his parents during his father’s surgery and after that, who knew? He might decide his uncle had given him enough training in the last year and head back to North Carolina to start his own business. I dreaded Jackson’s heart being broken.

“Admiring the scenery?”

Edith’s coy question drew me from my thoughts and I stuck my tongue out at her.

“If you mean the sunlight glistening off the surface of the lake, then yes, I am,” I said, scowling at her.

Emmy laid back on the blanket we’d spread out and laughed.

“Oh, Edith, we must let our little butterfly come out of her cocoon on her own.”

“I am not a butterfly, I’m not in a cocoon and I would appreciate it if you two didn’t act like I was your project,” I said curtly.

Edith sat next to me and playfully nudged my arm with her elbow. “Oh, calm down, now, little sis’. You know we’re just picking on you.”

I forced a small smile, still annoyed but not anxious to ruin our day.

“Well, I give up,” Jimmy announced, laying his fishing pole on the ground next to the blanket. He pulled his shirt over his head and tossed it into the grass. “I say if the fish aren’t biting, we just go for a swim in their home.”

He yelled over his shoulder toward the dock. “What do you say, Jackson? Want to go for a swim?”

Jackson turned to look at Jimmy, his eyes wide as he watched Jimmy slide his pants off, revealing a pair of jockey shorts.

“You gonna go in there naked?!” Jackson asked.

Jimmy laughed. “Just half-naked, buddy. Come on. Want to go with me?”

Jackson’s eyes were still wide. “In nothing but my undies?!” He whispered the word undies.

Judson slid his shirt off and laughed. “Come on, kid. I’ll go in too.”

I looked away quickly at the sight of Judson’s bare skin and helped Jackson take off his shirt and pants.

“Are we giving up and going swimming?” Sam asked, pulling his shirt off over his head. “It’s about time! I’m sweating through my clothes.”

Water splashed as the boys ran into the lake one by one, Jackson giggling uncontrollably.

“Mama! We’re in our underwear! Look!”

“I see you, kid. Just keep those on.”

“Come on, ladies! Join us!” Sam called, neck-deep in the water now. “Drop down to your underwear!”

Jimmy and Judson laughed at Sam’s comment.

“Yeah, mommy! Drop down to your underwear!” Jackson called from the water.

“Don’t you encourage my son to suggest such things!” I said with a laugh. “If we go in, we’ll change into our bathing suits, thank you very much.”

“Then change!” Jimmy shouted. “We’ll wait for you and promise only to peek around the back of the truck once or twice while you get into your suits.”

I hesitated when I pulled my bathing suit on, hiding behind Sam’s pickup. I didn’t know if I wanted anyone to see me in a suit that seemed to hug all the parts of me I hated the most. Emmy’s baby fat had almost disappeared and Edith always looked amazing; her slim, yet curvy figure eye-catching no matter what she wore.

“Come on, Blanche!” Emmy said grabbing my hand as I looked down at my thighs and stomach, wincing. “You look fine. Let’s go cool off.”

Judson stood in the shallow part of the lake, as we stepped around the truck, water droplets speckled across his shoulders and bare chest as he watched Jackson jump from the edge of the dock.

I noticed his muscles were larger than I imagined they’d be then mentally scolded myself for actually having imagined once, or maybe even twice, what his muscles looked like under his shirt. I moved my gaze quickly away and turned my head so I was focused on Jackson instead.

“Did you see me, Judson?” Jackson cried as he bobbed up out of the water after his jump.

“I sure did, kid,” Judson said. “Make sure you don’t go too far out, okay?”

“Okay!”

Jackson seemed delighted at any and every suggestion Judson made and I laughed to myself, wishing he would listen to me that well. I dove under the water and swept my hair back as I came back up out of the water. The cool water felt amazing against my skin under the hot sun.

Sunlight glistened off the surface of the lake and flickered through the branches of a weeping willow as I laid on my back, floating on the water, listening to my sister and friends laugh and joke with each other and my son giggle each time Judson caught him as he jumped from the dock.

My muscles relaxed, the water cradling me, the comfort and coolness of the water what I needed for my body and mind as I closed my eyes.

“Hey, your hair is down.”

Judson’s voice startled me and I floundered in the water, my feet sinking into the soft muddy bottom of the lake. I turned to see him grinning at me. “I like when your hair is down. It’s a sign you’re finally relaxing and having fun.”

I made sure to keep most of my body under the water, swishing my arms in the water around me, hoping he couldn’t see the small rolls in my belly I desperately wished weren’t there.

“Are you having fun?” he asked.

“Yes. Sure.”

I wished I could sink deep down into the mud beneath me simply to keep him from looking at me the way he was, the sunlight catching his pale blue eyes as they watched me intently, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.

“I don’t think she’s having enough fun,” Sam said from the other side of me. “Let’s make sure she has fun for once.”

The splash hit me full force in the face and I sputtered and then returned the onslaught, splashing Sam and Judson as Emmy and Edith commenced splashing Sam, Judson and Jimmy.

“We girls have to stick together!” Emmy cried as water splashed around us.

“Take them down!” Jimmy shouted, sliding his arms around Edith and flinging her gently into the deeper part of the lake.

“Jimmy Sickler! I’ll make you pay!” she laughed as she broke the surface of the water and pushed water toward him.

Jimmy lunged toward her, tickling her under the water, kissing her neck as she giggled.

“Ah man! Get a room you two!” Sam called as Edith turned her head and pressed her mouth to Jimmy’s.

Jimmy pulled her against him and deepened the kiss as she slid her arms around his neck.

“Ew! Mama! Aunt Edith and Uncle Jimmy are kissing!” Jackson snickered, wrinkling his nose.

“That’s okay, buddy,” I said with a laugh. “They’re allowed to do that. Come on, let’s go get some lunch!”

“Not so fast!”

Muscular arms swept quickly under me, lifting me up in the water. I gasped, tossing my arms around Judson’s neck for support, shocked that he was now holding me.

“I think you could use a good dunking too,” he said, a mischievous grin on his face.

“Don’t you da—”

My words ended in a scream as I felt myself flying and then sank beneath the surface of the water. Pushing myself up to the surface I rubbed water out of my eyes, the laughter cascading across the lake. As my vision cleared I saw a clearly amused Judson standing with his arms across his chest, watching me with a boasting smile.

“Just making sure you really do have some fun,” he said, winking at me.

I sighed and tapped his arm playfully as I pushed through the water back toward the shore.

I wrapped a towel around my waist and helped Jackson dry off as Judson walked out of the lake, reaching for his own towel.

I glanced at him, catching sight again of his tanned skin as he rubbed the towel across his chest and arms. I looked away quickly. Oh, Lord, why did you make him nice and good looking? Is this just your way of seeing if I can resist temptation?

“You’re not mad at me are you?” he asked, sitting next to me as he pulled on his shirt.

“No, of course not,” I said, kneeling on the blanket and taking sandwiches and paper plates out of the basket. “I just hope you didn’t break your back lifting me.”

I was grateful he was wearing a shirt again.

“Not a chance. You’re as light as feather to me. And I liked having an excuse to hold you close.”

My eyes briefly met his and I looked away, startled by the tone in his voice, the intensity in his gaze.

I handed him a plate with a sandwich, barely able to look at him. I noticed a tremble in my hand as I placed more sandwiches on plates.

“Your kid is great, you know that?”

I looked at Jackson swatting at a tree with a stick he was pretending was a sword.

“I do.”

“You’ve done an amazing job with him.”

“Thank you, but I’ve had a lot of help from Mama and Daddy and Edith, Jimmy, Emmy, Sam – it’s a group effort really,” I said.

Judson shrugged. “But you’re his mom and you’re his biggest influence. You should be proud. Take the compliment.”

I smiled and poured a glass of lemonade. “Thank you. Really. I appreciate it. And thank you for spending so much time with him.”

Judson leaned back and watched Jackson with a smile. “Ah, man. I love it. He cracks me up. The things he comes up with are hilarious. And smart. He is so smart. He just told me all about the different varieties of fish in this lake and in the pond behind the church, and then he told me which lures work best for each one.”

Judson took a bite of his sandwich and washed it down with the lemonade. “If I ever have a kid,” he said, still watching Jackson. “I want one just like him.”

I watched Judson watch Jackson and my heart ached. Jackson deserved someone like Judson in his life, but I knew there was a good possibility Judson wouldn’t stick around and even if he, there would come a day he wasn’t interested in hanging around a little boy, especially if he met someone and started a family of his own someday.

I hated how I always listed the negatives of any situation in my head; always looked for what could go wrong, an attempt to control the situation and head it off before it reached the level where disaster might strike. If life with Hank had taught me anything it was that I needed to be in control to keep Jackson and me from being hurt.

After supper the boys tried their hand at fishing again and Emmy and Sam suggested we stay until dark and build a campfire and roast marshmallows. That was an idea Jackson definitely liked. The men and Jackson gathered the firewood and built the fire while we women chatted about the latest hairstyles and Marion’s blooming relationship with Stanley.

As the sun set, logs were dragged around the fire and Emmy sat next to Sam, Edith next to Jimmy and Jackson sat next to Judson, regaling him with tales about his adventures with his grandpa.  Standing near Jimmy’s truck, I watched them all, happy to see them enjoying each other’s company but feeling an ache of loneliness I hated to claim.

Tipping my head back I looked up at the moon appearing in the fading blue sky even as the sun set, admiring its beauty and taking in the sounds and smells of nature around me; the smell of Honeysuckle, the sound of crickets and peepers, a bullfrog croaking somewhere on the other side of the pond.

I walked slowly, thinking about how the years had seemed to fly by since I’d left Hank, how fast Jackson was growing, how different my life had turned out than what I had expected it would when I left that day with Hank. I had looked at leaving with Hank as a doorway to a life of adventure, a way out of the town I’d grown up in, but here I was back in that town and adventure was far from my mind. I’d settled into a comfortable routine within familiar settings and around familiar people and that was fine by me.

I sat in the grass along the water’s edge and looked at the campfire burning on the other side of the lake, comforted by the thought that some of the people who mattered the most to me were there, laughing, holding each other, and growing closer.

At the sound of approaching footsteps, I squinted into the encroaching darkness, recognizing Judson as he walked toward me still wearing a T-shirt and swimming shorts from earlier.

“Hey, where did you go? They’re getting ready to roast marshmallows. Emmy said to come look for you.”

I shrugged and leaned back on my hands. “Just wanted some quiet time to contemplate life, I guess.”

“Mind if I join you?”

“Help yourself but the sunset is almost gone.”

“So, what are you contemplating about life?” he asked, pushing his hand back through his hair as he sat.

I shrugged. “Just thinking about how different it all is than I once thought it would be.”

“But that’s a good thing right?” He stretched his legs out in front of him and leaned back on his elbows. “It’s turned out pretty good, right?”

“Yeah… it has.”

“But? I sense a but.”

I shook my head. “No. I really don’t have a but to add. It’s turned out different, that’s all.”

“Yeah, I get that. When I graduated high school I never pictured myself in this tiny little Pennsylvania town, working construction, instead of playing football, married to Maggie Frances. But you know what? Sometimes getting what we don’t expect is a good thing too.”

I tilted my head at him. “Married, huh?”

He laughed and shook his head. “Ugh. Yeah. That was a brief view of my future. Very brief. I met Maggie in high school, dated her during college, even though we were going to two different colleges. We were so different.” He laughed again. “So different.”

I leaned forward, hugging my knees. “In what way?”

“Well, for one, she was like a Southern debutante. Very proper. Dressed just so and her hair had to be perfect. She was homecoming queen . . .”

“And you were homecoming king?”

I couldn’t see well enough in the dimming sunlight to tell if he was blushing or not but the way he tipped his head and scratched his nose made me think he was embarrassed.

“Well, I was the quarterback so, yeah.”

“So why weren’t you the perfect couple?”

“I didn’t like to be proper, I guess,” Judson said with a shrug. “I liked to play in the dirt and build things and wasn’t as worried about appearance as her. And I went to church because I believed in what the pastor was saying, not because it looked good to everyone else.”

“Maggie and I drifted apart when I started to pull away from football, from the life Dad had mapped out for me. Maybe the idea of being married to ‘just a construction worker’ bothered her, I’m not sure, but when she told me she wanted to break things off, I wasn’t heartbroken. I felt,” he tipped his head back and looked out at the lake. “Relieved.”

He sighed, sitting up and dusting the dirt off his hands. “I guess that sounds callous. Maggie was a nice girl, just not the girl for me.”

Silence settled comfortably over us as the sun faded behind the hillside.

I looked out at the lake, resting my chin on my knees. Was there someone for everyone? I’d heard it said before, but I was never sure it was true. I had thought Hank was the one for me, until who he really was overshadowed who I thought he was. Who was it that said ‘opposites attract?’ I couldn’t remember but I didn’t know if that saying was true. Hank and I had been as opposite as any two people could be. Yes, we had been attracted to each other physically, but on the deeper, more important levels of emotional and spiritual attraction there were gaps as large as the Grand Canyon.

“Why did you really stop by the other night?” Judson asked, flicking a rock into the water.

“I told you,” I said, watching ripples slide across the lake as the rock sang. “To check on you for Emmy. She was worried about you.”

He looked at me as he leaned back in the grass, propping himself up on his elbows again. In the fading light, I saw a smile tilting up one side of his mouth.

“Okay.”

“You know,” he sat up again, wrapping his arms around his legs and pulling his knees against his chest. “I’ve been thinking a lot about you since that day at the hospital. I wanted to call, or stop by, but . . .”

His voice trailed off and he looked out over the lake.

“I guess I decided maybe I should start taking your hints and leave you alone. You’ve made it clear you’re not interested in getting to know me and …”

“That’s not true,” I said. “I never said I didn’t want to get to know you.”

He leaned back slightly, tipping his head to one side. “You avoid me as much as possible, so I took that as a sign for me to get lost.”

I sighed and looked out at the water. “It’s not that, Judson. I’m just – I don’t know – not a very outgoing person. It takes me a while to get comfortable around new people. I’ve always been that way, but it’s been worse since . . . Well, in recent years anyhow.”

Judson watched me, grinning. “You’d think you’d be comfortable with me now. We’ve been around each other for almost a year now – off and on anyhow. I’m always helping your dad with projects around the house.”

I smiled sheepishly, knowing my excuse had been lame.

“Yeah, well…” I let the sentence trail off, unsure how to finish it. I looked at him, furrowing my eyebrows. “What’s with you always helping around our house anyhow?”

He tipped his head back and laughed. “Well, it’s not some kind of conspiracy. I like your dad, that’s all. He’s asked for my help and he’s a good guy. He’s been more of a dad to me than my dad was, in some ways anyhow. I mean, my dad wasn’t, or isn’t, the worst guy ever. He didn’t beat me growing up. He was hard on me, but he did spend some time with me – if it had to do with football that is. Your dad is interested in the things I’m interested in, so I like to learn from him.”

We sat in silence a few moments as the bright red of the sunset faded completely and the darkness of dusk began to settle around us. A cool breeze brushed over my skin and I shivered slightly, rubbing my hands over my arms and watching a dragonfly hover above the surface of the water. The shape of the weeping willow silhouetted against the full moon rising brightly above us caught my attention.

I flinched slightly as Judson reached out, his finger trailing down my nose, over the small bump in the middle.

“So, what happened here?” he asked, a teasing tone in his voice.

A sick feeling burned in the pit of my stomach. I knew he was expecting some cute story about falling off my bike or falling out of a tree as a kid. I could have lied but I had lied a lot in my life and I was tired of it.

“That’s where my ex-husband broke my nose the night I left him.”

His smile faded and he looked at me with furrowed eyebrows, as if he was trying to tell if I was joking or not.

“Are you serious?”

“I wish I wasn’t.”

A muscle jumped in his jaw as he clenched it. “Emmy told me he was a jerk, but she didn’t tell me he was a monster. He better hope I never get ahold of him or I’ll teach him about what happens when you don’t respect a woman.”

I laughed softly and shrugged, flicking a rock into the water. “That’s okay. My daddy already beat you to it. He chased Hank off with a shotgun when he tried to see me.”

Judson shook his head, his mouth still clenched tight. “You didn’t deserve to be treated like that,” he said.

I shrugged, tossing another rock into the pond, agitated by his comment, though I couldn’t figure out why. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to be treated like a Faberge egg anymore, someone too fragile to face the punishment she deserved for being so naïve and selfish. I hadn’t been fragile when I had kicked Hank in the face and broke his nose, but now people acted as if I needed protection.

“How do you know?” I said, tipping my chin up slightly as I looked at him. “Maybe I did.”

“No one deserves to be treated like that,” Judson said firmly. “Not ever. I don’t care what you did or what you think you did. You deserved to be treated better than,” he made a disgusted face as he spat out the next words. “ – that boy treated you. No real man hits a woman.”

I looked up at him, my heart pounding at the husky tone of his voice. The serious expression faded into a teasing one as a grin tipped his mouth upward.

“Like Rhett told Scarlet,” he slipped into his best Clark Gable impression “You should be kissed and by someone who knows how.”

He was watching me intently and I felt a rush of weakness slide through my limbs at the thought that he might actually try to kiss me. He couldn’t be serious. I wanted to jump up and dive into the lake to get away from him. I recognized the feeling in my chest as pure terror.

I couldn’t deny I’d thought often about what it would be like to kiss him, but I’d pushed those feelings deep inside, willing them to fade so I didn’t risk being hurt again. I was so tired of pushing my feelings inside, though, of mentally scolding myself for the attraction I felt for him. My resolve was crumbling each time I was around him and sitting so close to him was obliterating my will power.

I swallowed hard as he leaned his head closer to mine. I was ready to dart away into the darkness. But then he started to lean back again, his arms still folded across his knees.

“I’m sorry,” he said, softly. “I’m being too forward, too pushy. I shouldn’t be doing that.”

I felt a twinge of disappointment overriding the terror. My eyes were on his mouth and I was thinking about what a kiss from that perfectly shaped mouth would feel like. Here he was so close I could feel the warmth of his skin without even having to touch him and he was starting to pull away, maybe taking away any chance I’d have to know if those lips were as soft as they looked. I was tired of waiting for my life to start again.

I moved my head quickly, catching his mouth with mine before he could pull away, determined to do something on my own terms for once.

His lips were as soft and warm as I thought they’d be. I wasn’t sure how he would react, but he didn’t pull away, instead he slid closer, pushed his hand up into my hair, cupping the back of my head and deepening the kiss. I reached up and clutched at the hair at the back of his head, losing track of where I was, thinking of only the feel of his mouth against mine.

I’d been here before, though. I’d been caught up in moments only to lose track of who I was and what I needed to protect.  While it felt good to be the one to make the first move, I was suddenly terrified that I’d let my walls down more than I should have.

I pulled away abruptly and stood, clenching my hands into fists.

“It’s late.” The words gasped out of me. “I need to get Jackson home.”

He looked up at me, saying nothing at first, but then stood too.

“Okay, but–”

I turned, started to walk back toward the bonfire, trembling, shocked at what I’d done, and wanting to keep him from saying anything that would make me change my mind or feel guilty.

“Blanche, wait…”

His fingers gently encircled my wrist and I looked back over my shoulder briefly before his other hand touched my shoulder and he turned me toward him.

Suddenly his mouth was warm against mine again and I strained against him when his arms slid around me and pulled me against him.

I pulled myself from his arms, breathless, hugging my arms around me and shaking my head.

“I can’t do this, Judson.”

He held his arms out to his sides, opening them in a questioning gesture. “Do what? Enjoy life? You kissed me first you know.”

Anger burned inside me. Why did he have to point out that I kissed him first? What difference did it make? It didn’t. No matter who kissed who I didn’t want to let him any closer.

“I don’t need a man to fix me!” I blurted, knowing my anger was based in fear. “Everyone wants to fix me. Everyone thinks I need a man to fix me. Poor little, Blanche, she needs a man and then she’ll be okay.” I felt tears choking at my throat, but I swallowed them down, my words strangling with emotion.

“I don’t need a man to fix me,” I snapped. “I don’t!”

“Blanche, I never said that. What are you even — ”

“I have more to think about than me! I have a son and I have to protect him.”

“I know you have a son. Why are you–”

I needed him to stop talking. My thoughts were spinning. I held up my hand at him. “I have to go.”

I turned, running up the path toward the bonfire before he could stop me again, my face warm, heart pounding, trying to hold in the tears. I brushed my hand against my face, wiped away the tears that spilled down despite my effort to keep them in. I was thankful that the dark concealed most of my face as I approached the campfire.

Jackson had fallen asleep, sitting on the log, leaning against Jimmy. I leaned down and lifted Jackson against me, trying to ignore how his legs now stretched down almost the full length of my body.

“Emmy, can you and Sam give me a lift home? I need to get Jackson to bed.”

I could tell by the expression on Emmy’s face she knew something was upsetting me, but I was grateful she didn’t ask any questions.

“No problem. We need to head back and pick Faith up too.”

Judson carried our fishing poles and picnic basket to Emmy and Sam’s car, lifting them through the back hatch.

“Drive safe,” he said as I gently laid Jackson on the back seat.

He leaned close to me as I closed the door to walk to the other side of the car.

“We need to talk about this,” he whispered. “I never said . . .”

I didn’t let him finish. I stepped around him without making eye contact.

In the car, I leaned my head back against the seat feeling like a fool. First I’d broke my own rule about letting anyone into my life by making the first move, kissing Judson before he kissed me, and then I’d run away like a scared rabbit, leaving him standing in the dark, most likely confused and frustrated.

The way he had returned the kiss, hungry, passionate, fully willing, was clearly his way of silently asking permission to love me and I’d refused, shutting him out instead, terrified that his love would only last so long, just like Hank’s.

I closed my eyes against the tears and mentally chided myself, wishing I was brave, unafraid to open myself up again, willing to embrace life and really live again. I had let fear rule me for so long, I no longer knew how to function beyond it’s suffocating grasp.

I stared out the window, praying Emmy wouldn’t ask me how I was. I knew I’d burst into tears if she did. When we pulled into the driveway Sam carried Jackson into the house and into his room while Emmy helped me carry the basket and poles into the house.

“So, when are we going to talk about whatever happened back there?” she asked.

I hugged her. “Maybe someday.”

She frowned and studied my face. I knew I couldn’t mislead her for very long, but I wasn’t ready to talk about what a fool I’d just made of myself. I wondered if I was always going to just keep making my life a mess with stupid actions for as long as I lived.

“I’ll see you at church tomorrow,” she said. “We’ll talk.”

I closed the door behind her, knowing I wasn’t about to tell her I’d kissed her cousin and had no idea how to feel about it.

Written by Lisa R. Howeler

As a writer, photographer and former journalist, Lisa R. Howeler writes a little bit about everything on her blog Boondock Ramblings. She self-published her first novel, A Story to Tell, in September 2019 on Amazon. She's a wife and a mother and enjoys a good John Wayne movie and a cozy Jan Karon book. She's also a freelance writer and photographer who is a contributor to various stock agencies, including Lightstock and Alamy. Her photography work focuses on documentary and photojournalism.

11 comments

  1. Yay Blanche!! Ok, except for the whole back-pedaling, which, ok I kind of expected given her personaltiy, YAY BLANCHE! At least she is actually thinking about her feelings and where they come from and so that means she HAS to deal with them….right? Right? Right. 🙂 God Bless!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That back-pedaling annoyed me too, but that’s Blanche for you! She better start chilling out and enjoying life a little more or I might scream!

      I know..this all sounds weird since I am writing it, but the more I write fiction, the more I discover that the characters have to tell their own stories.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I find myself yelling at them … “holy crud, Blanche! Just get over it already!” But I just didn’t find it realistic for her to be so open and ready for a relationship so fast so I listened to her and pulled back. Sigh.

        Like

  2. My thoughts as I read this; oh, what a nice summer day! I wouldn’t mind a day at the lake. Aw, Jackson is so darn cute! Are they going to kiss? I hope they kiss. Ohhh, Blanche…

    Well, I can’t wait to see what happens in the next chapter!

    Liked by 1 person

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