Catch up on Molly’s story HERE. As always, this is a story in progress and there very well could be some typos, plot holes and errors.
An update on A New Beginning that I put up on Kindle this week. I have temporarily removed it to fix some errors and issues and hope to have it back up for sale on Monday. A Story to Tell, the first story about Blanche is currently available on Kindle Unlimited (free for members of Kindle Unlimited on Amazon) and will be on sale for $.99 next week for those who don’t have Kindle Unlimited.
“Hey, Molly, guess who I saw in town this morning.”
Molly’s muscles tensed at the name.
It was a name she didn’t like hearing and had hoped she’d never hear again.
She kneeled next to Daisy the cow and prepped her for a milking session. “Oh yeah? Where did you see him?”
“At the gym.”
“Ah. I see.”
Molly hoped Jason would drop the subject. She didn’t want to think about Ben, let alone talk about him, especially in front of Alex.
“Who’s Ben Oliver?” Alex asked, preparing another cow in the stall across from her.
Molly inwardly groaned. Shut up, Alex.
“Molly’s old boyfriend.”
Shut up, Jason.
Alex’s head popped up over the back of a cow. “Boyfriend? Oh yeah?” He grinned. “Do share.”
Jason leaned against a beam, arms folded across his chest, grinning.
“Yep. They were pretty hot and heavy before he left for college in Boston or somewhere.”
Molly’s heart pounded faster. She was furious at Jason for teasing her about Ben, but how would Jason know how much Ben had hurt her the night he’d broke it off with her? Molly had a feeling if he had known not only would he not have been teasing her, but he probably would have punched Ben in the face.
She didn’t know if she would call anything about her and Ben’s relationship ‘hot and heavy.’ They’d only dated a couple of years as two young, inexperienced high school students. He’d been her first major crush, her first kiss and then her first heartbreak.
They’d broken things off when Ben had left for college. Actually, no. Ben had broken things off but if he hadn’t, Molly would have. Especially after what he’d said to his friends when he thought she wasn’t listening.
“He’s a lawyer now,” Jason told Alex. “I don’t know why he’s back here. He can’t be thinking of opening a law office here. There’s definitely less money here than in a big city.”
Alex shrugged. “You never know. There’s probably more legal possibilities in a small town like this than most of us realize. Real estate transactions, divorces, custody battles —”
“Maybe he can represent all those drunk drivers we read about in the Spencer Chronicle,” Jason said with a snort.
Jason stepped away from the beam and reached for a pitchfork. “I still say he’d make more money in a bigger city.”
Alex adjusted the milking machine on one of the cows. “Who knows, though. Maybe he didn’t come back for money.”
He looked at Molly and winked. She saw the wink out of the corner of her eye and ignored it. “Maybe he came back so he can win Molly back.”
Jason shoved the pitchfork into a pile of hay, lifted it and tossed some inside one of the cow’s stalls.
“Hear that, Molly?” he asked. “Maybe you’ll be the wife of a rich lawyer one day.”
Molly inwardly cringed. She finished hooking up the last of the cows and walked back toward the feed room. “Hey, Alex, keep an eye on the girls. I’m going to get some feed. I’ll be back.”
Alex sipped from a bottle of water as Molly walked past him, noticing the tension in her face. He tried to read the expression, wondering if it was anger, longing, or something else. He vaguely remembered hearing about this Ben guy before. That had been a couple of years ago. From what he’d gathered, Ben had been a high school boyfriend of Molly’s, but their relationship hadn’t been serious. Now he wondered what had happened between the two to make Molly so uncomfortable at the mention of his name.
“So, were they serious?” Alex asked when Molly was out of earshot as he grabbed another rag to wipe the next cow’s udder.
Jason tossed more hay into the stalls. “Who?”
Alex looked over the top of the cow. “What do you mean who? Molly and this Ben guy.”
Jason shrugged and stooped to lift another pitchfork full of hay. “Yeah. I think so. For a while anyhow. I can’t really remember why they stopped dating. I guess because Ben went so far away for college. I always felt bad they broke up. I thought they were a good fit, you know?”
Alex’s eyes narrowed as he looked toward the back of the barn. “Yeah. Uh-huh. I guess.”
He wondered how Molly and this Ben were a good fit. What made anyone a good fit anyhow? If they liked the same things, maybe. Had the same interests. Shared the same faith.
Did Ben and Molly share the same faith? Did Molly miss Ben and if she did then why had her expression been so vague and not more joyful at the mention of his name?
He mentally scolded himself for all the questions he was asking himself. He’d never asked so many questions in his life. Alex Stone, what are you doing right now? This is none of your business. You have no claim on Molly because you can’t even tell Molly how you feel about her, you coward.
Alex finished hooking up the cows in his row to the milking machine and stretched his arms out to the side, yawning.
“Out late again last night?” Jason asked. “I didn’t see you when I got back from Ellie’s.”
“Actually, no. I couldn’t sleep. Took a drive, sat and looked at the moon for a while and came home.”
Alex wasn’t about to tell Jason he’d sat and looked at the moon and thought about Molly part of that time. He’d also thought about his past, stupid decisions he’d made over the years, what his future might hold, and wondered what his dad was up to since he barely heard from him anymore.
He unhooked the machine from the first cow in his row, changing the topic. “So, when are you going to ask Ellie to marry you anyhow?
Jason rolled his eyes. “You sound like my mom.”
“I don’t know. I like how it is now. Things are good.”
“Yeah, but don’t you Christians believe in waiting until marriage?”
Jason looked at Alex and laughed. “Not all of our lives revolve around that, dude.”
Alex grinned. “Yeah, but still. Don’t you want to —”
“Hey,” Jason said, holding his hand up toward Alex. “I’m not talking about this with you.”
“Maybe that’s why you’re so uptight sometimes. Maybe you would be less stressed if you and Ellie —”
Jason gently shoved Alex in the arm. “I said I’m not talking about that with you, got it?” He smiled and propped the pitchfork against a wall. “Seriously, though, I have considered proposing to Ellie. And not just for that reason. I really . . .”
Alex wanted to laugh at the red flushing along Jason’s cheeks but with Jason being twice his size he was afraid of ending up with a broken nose.
“I can see myself growing old with her.” Jason finished his sentence after he cleared his throat and looked away, clearly embarrassed by the tenderness he’d just revealed.
Alex patted him on the shoulder. “Then you’re going to have to pull that trigger soon, buddy. Ellie’s not going to wait forever, you know.”
Jason unhooked some more of the cows. “What about you?”
Alex frowned. “What about me?”
“You think you’ll ever settle down?”
Now it was Alex’s turn to flush red. He turned his face quickly away from his friend, bending down to unhook the milking equipment from Daisy, his favorite Jersey. “Eh, who knows. Not something I think about too much.”
Alex wasn’t lying. He really hadn’t thought about settling down. Not in the same way Jason was thinking about it anyhow. What Alex had been thinking about lately was how much he’d fallen in love with farming, with waking up each morning knowing he would be doing something that mattered; something that would provide food for families across the country. He rubbed Daisy’s ears and let her nuzzle his hand.
He’d fallen in love with the smell of fresh cut hay, of cows mooing in the distance, with barn cats, and even with the sweet smell of manure when it was spread in the spring.
As for finding a woman to marry, Alex wasn’t sure yet. He’d never thought about himself married but if he did ever marry he knew he wanted to marry someone just like Molly Tanner, the girl who wasn’t afraid to compete with him in a burping competition or make a hilarious fart joke like one of the guys. Molly was real and if he ever did marry that was what he wanted in a wife – authenticity, kindness and devotion. He had a good feeling he would find all those things in Molly because he already saw them in her.
He chuckled softly. What was he doing even thinking about Molly and marriage in the same vein? Alex Stone and marriage were two things that didn’t go together.
“What’s so funny?” Jason asked.
“Nothing,” Alex said quickly. “Nothing at all.”
Molly slammed the lever to the feed machine up hard and kicked a metal bucket across the barn floor. Why did Jason have to bring up Ben anyhow?
She still remembered well the night Ben broke up with her. They’d gone to the movies, had lunch at a café in town and he had driven her home and walked her to her front porch. She’d expected a kiss before he headed home to finish packing for college, but instead he’d motioned toward the porch swing.
“Hey, Mols, can I talk to you for a minute?”
There was a cool breeze blowing, golden sunlight was pouring across the fields, and a heifer mooed softly in the barn. One of the barn cats rubbed against her shin and she reached down and stroked its head and back.
They sat next to each other, but Molly noticed Ben sat back slightly away from her, instead of pulling her close like he usually did. When he sighed, turning toward her, taking her hands in his, she knew something was wrong.
“This isn’t an easy thing for me to talk to you about, Mols,” he said softly. “But I’m — I mean, it’s just. . .”
He paused, took a deep breath and let it out slowly. The rest of what he had to say came out quickly and abruptly.
“You know I’ve been working a lot with Angie at the ice cream shop on the weekends?”
Of course, she knew he’d been working with Angie. Angie Phillippi. Skinny. Blond. Long legs. Perfect. All the things Molly wasn’t.
She was starting to feel uneasy. “Yeah?”
“Yeah, so, yeah. We — Angie and I — we’ve grown close this summer and, the thing is, I think we’ve fallen for each other.”
Molly swallowed hard, a heavy lump forming in the center of her chest.
“Molly you know how much I care about you, but,” Ben shifted nervously on the swing. “I feel different when I am with Angie. I feel — I don’t know. I feel like she really gets me. We’re into the same things. We laugh at each other’s jokes. . .”
I laugh at your jokes, Molly thought.
“She’s . . . I don’t know. She’s someone I can’t imagine not being in my life and it’s not fair to you to keep stringing you along when I know I want to be with Angie.”
I can’t imagine you not being in my life, Molly thought.
Molly nodded slowly, pulling her hands from Ben’s grip. “Oh.”
She wished she could say more than “Oh,” but she seemed to be at a loss for words.
“I’m sorry, Molly. I really am.”
Molly forced a smile.
“It’s okay,” she finally managed to say, pushing the buzzing feeling in her chest – the one that signaled her emotions were about to override her brain – deep down because she was not, no, she was not going to cry in front of Ben Oliver, her first ever crush and boyfriend. “You can’t help how you feel.”
Her voice sounded far away, like someone else’s. What was she even saying? She didn’t believe any of the words flying out of her mouth, but she had to say them to hurry this conservation along, to end it quickly before she sobbed in Ben’s face and made a fool of herself.
Ben sat back slightly, his shoulders relaxing. “I am so relieved you understand. I never wanted to hurt you. I just knew I had to be honest with you, though, and with myself.”
He leaned forward and took her hands in his again. His dark brown eyes focused on hers. “I will always remember our time together, okay? And you’ll always be special to me.”
Molly suddenly felt like a first grader being talked to by their teacher.
“If I’m so special, then why are you breaking up with me?” she wanted to ask, but she didn’t, because she didn’t really want to hear the reason again.
Instead, she told him that she was okay, that she was happy for him, that this was for the best. She was glad he had told her now, instead of waiting until after he left for college, she assured him.
Of course, they’d still be friends.
Of course, she’d write him at college.
Of course, she’d always remember the good times.
Yes. Good luck at college.
She reassured him again she’d be fine and then he’d left with a gentle, brief kiss on her cheek. After he’d left, and she walked into the house, she answered her parents concerned expressions by telling them she and Ben were taking a break while he went to college and that was fine with her. Then she lied again, telling them she was relieved because she had felt herself drifting away from Ben for a few months now. He’d be away at college, going to law school, and she’d be at the community college, pursuing a degree in English, or writing, or something similar. There hadn’t been a future for them anyhow, right?
She hadn’t told Jason because he’d been away at college, hanging out with Alex and earning a degree he’d use when he came back to the farm.
Her parents had said they understood, asked if she was going to be okay, and each gave her hugs.
“Yep. I’m good.”
She had smiled broadly and walked up the stairs to her room. Behind the closed door she blasted Garth Brooks from her stereo, sat at on her bed, laid there on her side for a few moments starring at the blank wall of her bedroom and then cried until her throat and chest burned.
As if Ben’s breaking up with her to date Angie hadn’t been enough, Molly was in the convenience store a week later when she heard Ben’s voice from another aisle.
“Yeah, I know it is weird,” he was saying. “But it was time. Molly’s a nice girl, but Angie. Dang. Angie. She’s hot. She’s got legs that go for miles. And she’s so slender she just fits against me perfectly, you know?”
One of Ben’s friends laughed a laugh Molly could only think to describe as a dirty laugh. “Fits against you? Dude, how far have things gone with Angie?”
Ben joined the laughter. “That’s personal, man. All I can say is she has way more experience than Molly Tanner ever did or ever will.”
Molly’s sob had caught in her throat as she sat the soda and chips she’d been holding onto the counter and darted outside. Tears streaked her face all the way back to the farm, her hands tightly gripping the steering wheel of her grandfather’s old pickup. At church the pastor always acted like God cared more about what a person looked like inside, but Molly knew that wasn’t what Ben cared about. Somehow, it seemed to matter more at that moment what Ben cared about.
As she drove, she vowed to never again let herself fall for someone like she had fallen for Ben. She’d never let those walls down again, let any man see the deepest parts of her. She was going to keep her distance from men from now on, keep herself from feeling the pain she felt now.
She vowed that one day she’d lose weight and make Ben Oliver regret he’d walked away from her all those years ago. Watching the feed fill the wheelbarrow, Molly felt self-focused anger rage through her. Ben wasn’t going to regret he’d left her if he saw her now. She’d never lost that weight and had maybe gained more. What she hadn’t gained was more experience at whatever she should have had experience at, at whatever experience Angie had had. She was still the same, fat Molly and there was no way Ben would ever regret he had broken up with her