Catch up with the rest of The Farmer’s Daughter, a continuing story, at the link at the top of the page or HERE. You can also read my short romance story Quarantined about Liam and Maddie Grant, an estranged couple who get caught in quarantine together.
“I had to explain to the woman that CBD oil is not pot and she will not get high off of it,” Liz said, sliding her shoes off and sliding her legs under her on the couch. “I mean, what did she think, we were selling pot plants in the store? So, she said she’d think about buying the oil the next time she’s in. I don’t know, at least the conversation with this lady was way tamer than the one with that guy with the rash . . .”
Liz shuddered at the memory.
“I did not need that much detail about how fast his rash had spread, or where it had spread to.”
Molly handed Liz a glass of iced tea and sat next to her.
“You certainly have some interesting stories from that health food store,” Molly said, shaking her head. “I’m afraid my stories aren’t that exciting – unless you want to hear about the udder infection one of our cows had and how I had to apply udder cream on her every morning for two months.”
Liz’s face scrunched up in disgust.
“That’s right up there with the rash dude,” she said, grimacing.
“So, Liz, tell me – what’s up with you and Matt?”
Liz shrugged. “We’ve gone out twice now. He’s nice, I guess. Even if he is a friend of your dorky brother.”
“He is a little older than you and I’d hate to see you rush into anything,” Molly said. “It’s only been a couple of months since you —”
“I know,” Liz interrupted. “Since I told Gabe to get lost. Matt and I have just gone to a couple of movies and bowling. We’ve talked, hung out, but neither of us is really interested in anything serious.”
Molly sipped her tea, sitting next to Liz. “I don’t mean to be nagging, or too motherly. I just don’t want to see you get hurt again.”
“Oh, Molly, don’t worry about it. I know you are just trying to protect me. That’s what friends do.”
Gabe and Liz had dated since their senior year of high school. They’d taken a break while Liz attended a two-year business course at the local community college and Gabe had decided to attend a four-year college four hours away. The relationship picked up, gaining intensity when Gabe graduated and opened a physical therapy office in town. The relationship was tumultuous at its best, chaotic at its worst.
The day Liz called Molly, sobbing into the phone, Molly knew it was over. Liz had finally had enough of Gabe flirting with other women and was certain he had cheated on her after she’d agreed to move in with him.
“It’s not my bra,” she’d told Molly. “It’s someone else’s bra, in our apartment. How could I have been so dumb?”
“You’re not dumb, Liz,” Molly told her. “You may have ignored your intuition but you’re not dumb.”
Molly helped Liz move out of the apartment, back to her parents and had also helped her resist picking up her cell when Gabe tried to reach her. Liz had sunk into a deep depression for three weeks after the break-up, feeling as if she’d walked away from everything her parents had taught her and she’d learned at church when she moved in with Gabe. Molly reminded her there was forgiveness and healing from any shame she felt.
“You know, I don’t know how I would have made it without you,” Liz said, sitting her glass down on the end table by the couch. “I’d probably still be in that apartment listening to Gabe tell me that it would never happen again – for the twentieth time.”
“Not necessarily,” Molly said. “You’re stronger than you give yourself credit for. You would have finally had enough and cut him off, even without me.”
Liz placed her hands together on her lap and focused on Molly.
“Enough about me. It’s time to talk about you, Molly. It’s time to get you out and about a little bit. The annual summer benefit dance for the fire company is coming up in a few weeks. Let’s find you a date and go together. Maybe I’ll take Matt.”
Molly rolled her eyes. “You know I don’t go to dances.”
Liz laughed. “No one dances at that thing. Not really. It’s mainly for eating, talking and, for some people, an excuse to get drunk.”
Molly scooped her hair up in her hand and wrapped a scrunchy around it.
“I don’t even know who I’d go with. But I don’t mind tagging along with you for fun. Even if I do hate socializing with – well, anyone.”
Liz and Molly both laughed.
Liz’s eyebrows raised and Molly knew that meant Liz thought she had a brilliant idea. “Molly, why don’t you ask Alex to go with you?”
“Liz, no.” Molly shook her head, holding up her hands in front of her as if to stop that suggestion right in its tracks.
“It’s just – I don’t know – he’s my brother’s friend and we work together and —”
“And that’s enough excuses,” Liz interrupted. “He’s good looking. He’s funny. It’s not like you’re asking him to get married. You’re just asking if he wants to go to the banquet with you.”
“He’s also older than me.”
“By like five or six years, not twenty,” Liz said. “You should just ask him.”
Molly drank the rest of her iced tea and walked toward the kitchen.
“I’ll think about it, but I don’t think so. He won’t want to take me. He hates dances as much as I do.”
Liz sat back against the arm of the couch and slid her feet up on the cushions, sighing.
“What we really need to talk about is what you brought up the other day at sewing club. About how you’re thinking of spreading your wings and branching out from the farm. What about asking Liam Finley at the Journal about some freelance work or writing a column? Or you could start a blog. That could be a way of branching out without making a drastic change.”
Molly’s face scrunched up in disgust at the mention of Liam Finley. In some ways, he was the stereotypical small-town newspaper editor – sleazy, unshaven, frequently intoxicated and a womanizer. He was not, however, balding, or fat. She also didn’t necessarily see the Spencer Journal as the highest form of journalistic integrity, but then again, it was better than some in an age of declining integrity overall for journalism.
“I never even finished my degree,” Molly said.
Liz shrugged. “I doubt Liam would care and you could raise the quality of that paper if you submitted a column.”
Molly didn’t like the idea of writing for the small newspaper in the town neighboring hers. She’d always imagined writing for larger publications, but everyone had to start somewhere she supposed.
“How do you know Liam anyhow?” Molly asked.
Liz rolled her eyes. “He was a friend of Gabe’s.”
Molly grimaced. “That doesn’t make me feel any better about submitting any of my writing to him then.”
Liz shrugged again. “Eh. He’s okay. A little messed up but he’s more level headed than I’d expected. He and Gabe mainly went out drinking a lot together. And he only made a pass at me once. He’s good at what he does, though, and seems to be able to separate the personal from the professional.”
“Well, I’ll think about it,” Molly said. “Who knows. Maybe doing something different means leaving Spencer.”
Liz leaned forward, eyes narrowing. “Molly Tanner. You are not seriously considering leaving me alone in this God-forsaken dump of a town, are you? Don’t you dare.”
Molly sighed and tipped her head back against the couch. “I don’t know, Liz. All I know is I feel so . . . stuck. So stagnant. So . . . I don’t even know what.”
Molly didn’t like the smirk on her friend’s face.
“Maybe you need a little excitement,” Liz said, raising her eyebrows. “And asking Alex to that dance certainly would be exciting.”
Molly playfully tossed a pillow at Liz, laughing. “Liz, stop it! Why don’t we just change the subject? Are you going to go with the ladies group with Tuesday?”
“You can change the subject, lady, but I’m going to keep on you until you ask Alex to take you to the banquet,” Liz said, sipping her tea. “And yeah, I think I’ll go this week. Jane cut the hours for the store back on the weekends now, so I don’t have to be there late anymore.”
“Good! It will be nice to have you there,” Molly said. “I’m not sure what we’re discussing this week, but it will be a good time for fellowship with other women.”
Liz grinned. “Molly, you sound so ‘holy’ anymore. Listen to you. ‘Fellowship with other women.’ Why don’t you just say, ‘We’re going to hang out with some other women.’?”
Molly laughed. “Yeah, I guess I am starting to use a lot of,” she made quote marks with her fingers. “Christianese these days. I’ll try not to do that anymore.”
“It’s okay,” Liz said. “As long as you don’t try to pray a demon out of me.”
Molly almost snorted tea out of her nose. “I don’t think there is any chance of me doing that.”
She leaned forward, reaching for the remote. “Hey, let’s take advantage of your day off and watch a movie.”
“As long as it isn’t anything with Russell Crowe, I’m fine.”
“What’s wrong with Russel Crowe?” Molly asked, looking through her brother’s old stack of DVDs.
Liz rolled her eyes. “He was Gabe’s favorite actor and we had to watch every movie he ever made. Now I can’t see a clip of Gladiator without thinking of Gabe.”
Molly slid a Harrison Ford movie in and sat back on the couch, but found herself unable to concentrate on the movie as she considered Liz’s suggestion about asking Alex to the banquet. Still struggling with how to interpret Alex’s recent change in behavior, she couldn’t wrap her mind around the idea of sitting next to him at a banquet, trying to make small talk without making it obvious everyone else would think they were on an official date.
Of course, asking him to go with her to the banquet could clarify the matter and then she wouldn’t have to wonder anymore. Then again, it could also complicate the situation even further. If she was honest with herself, she was terrified to find out why Alex had been acting strange around her. What if he was simply toying with her to have a story to tell his friends at the bar? She knew he couldn’t be interested in her romantically. She definitely wasn’t his type. Her hips were three times the size of the women he usually dated. Molly glanced at her chest. Well, her chest might be about the same size. She shook her head, trying to focus on the movie again.
Maybe Alex wasn’t acting differently at all. Maybe her restlessness was distorting everything around her, including her friendship with Alex.
She pushed her thoughts of Alex away, forcing herself to figure out what Harrison Ford was telling his female costar. She needed to worry more about what direction her life was taking, or wasn’t taking, than Alex Stone. It would all work out eventually — when she figured out what direction she needed to take to help her feel less . . . Less what? Trapped? Yes. Trapped. That’s how she felt. Trapped in her stagnant, boring life.
So, trapped that she was starting to hallucinate and see things that weren’t even there – like a change in the way Alex looked at her and a change in the way she was seeing him. It must be stress causing her to notice his smile more, the way his eyes sparkled in the sunlight, his long fingers and strong hands, the way his jeans fit . . . She closed her eyes and bit her lower lip, trying to stop her thoughts from spiraling out of control. What other explanation of her confused thoughts and feelings was there than stress? She couldn’t actually have feelings for goofy, obnoxious Alex.
“Harrison Ford still looks amazing for his age, doesn’t he?”
Liz’s comments broke into her thoughts.
“He certainly does,” Molly agreed. “I never thought I’d think a man in his 70s was attractive, but he has proven me wrong.”
With a small laugh to herself, she pushed the thoughts about Alex aside and instead joined Liz in commenting on the movie and admiring Harrison Ford. She could figure out how she felt about Alex and her life on the farm later.