The idea for this book and scenes from it have been swirling in my mind and on the page for probably about a year now. I know a lot of what I share on my blog is going to be edited, tightened, maybe even rewritten. There are two scenes, so far, that I have two different versions written for and I haven’t yet decided which version I’m going to choose to propel the story forward.
The one scene is pivotal for one of my characters and while I’ve been considering changing my initial idea for how her story would play out, I don’t think I’m going to be able to and still move her story where I want it to go in a future book of the series.
I’m cringing at what needs to happen for this character’s story to move forward, but there is no way around it. It has to happen and I’m hoping it comes out the way I want it to.
This writing thing is both a blessing and a curse for an over thinker. I find myself thinking about my characters way more than I should. Every time I share a chapter on here I know that I’ll be heavily editing each chapter in the future and maybe even changing the course of my character’s lives because I change my mind so often. Muhahaha…what power!
Anyhow, enjoy Chapter 10. Catch up with the rest of the story HERE. Find links to the rest of my fiction at the top of the blog.
The sun was high in the sky when Molly carried her lunch to the picnic table her dad had set up outside the barn a few years ago. Her back and legs ached from cleaning out the cow stalls and she knew she’d need a break before she headed to the farm store for her afternoon shift.
She straddled one of the benches and watched Alex sit down across from her, pulling a sub, chips and two sodas from a paper bag.
“Brought your own lunch this time, huh?” she asked.
Alex shrugged. “Nah. Stole Jason’s.”
“Really?” Molly watched him bite into the sub.
He grinned as he chewed. “No. I actually picked up lunch for me and Jason yesterday at Ivy’s Deli. You think I’d come between your brother and a meal? No way. I learned my lesson the hard way in college.”
He pushed a soda toward her. “I’ve got an extra. Want one?”
Molly had promised Liz the night before that she’d cut back on sodas to try to start eating better. She shook her head. “Thanks. I’ll stick to water with lemon.”
She placed her container with a salad with chicken, light Italian dressing and half of an avocado on the table.
Alex scrunched his nose up in disgust. “You’ve got to stop hanging around Liz. All her health food weirdness is rubbing off on you.”
Molly laughed. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It won’t hurt me to eat a little healthier. Maybe I can even get you to do it.”
Alex talked around a mouthful of chips. “Nope. Not gonna happen, lady.”
Molly watched her dad walking the fence line across the field as she sipped her water.
Alex followed her gaze. He knew Molly was worried about how hard Robert had been working lately. He also knew she didn’t know about the loan payment that was late and he wasn’t about to tell her. Robert and Walt had given him and Jason the heads up a couple of weeks ago, assuring them that the women in the family would be told as soon as the brothers met with the loan officer. Alex knew Molly would be even more worried if she knew about the loan. He would let Robert tell her and he would when the time was right.
He took the opportunity when she didn’t know he was looking at her to study her. He studied her short nose and her reddish-brown hair that she’d pulled back in a ponytail, the curl that had fallen out and was curving around her ear. He studied her eyes, green with flecks of gold and her lips, perfectly kissable if he could ever bring himself to make that move.
He wondered what she would say if she knew he’d heard the conversation between her and Liz; how she didn’t think she was his type and how she totally was his type. He knew he was eventually going to have to let her know how much his type she was.
“Worried about your dad?” he asked.
“Yeah. He works too hard.”
“He does,” Alex shrugged. “but I don’t think he’d know what to do if he wasn’t working. At least he manages to spend time with you and your brother while he works. My dad’s business was his only focus during my childhood and it still is.”
He laughed softly. “Well, that and his latest mistress.”
Molly and Alex had talked about his dad before and every time Molly felt a twinge of sadness for him. She knew his jokes about his dad were a cover for the hurt still there. She moved her gaze from her dad to look at Alex, tilting her head, thinking what to say next. She stabbed a chunk of lettuce with her fork and decided to take a chance on saying something she knew might alienate him.
“You know, Alex, God can be a father to the fatherless.”
Alex licked mustard off his thumb and looked at Molly through narrowed eyes, a small smile tugging at his mouth. “Yeah? How is that possible when I can’t even see God. Is he going to throw the celestial ball around with me in the clouds or something?”
Molly laughed. “No, but we can talk to God when we’re feeling down or confused or disappointed in someone who should have been there for us.”
“Hmmmm…yeah. I guess I’m not really into that whole talking to someone I can’t see thing.”
Molly wasn’t deterred. “You can’t see the wind, but you can see the affects of the wind. You can see the wind blowing those tree limbs over there so is the wind real?”
Alex shook his head, laughing softly. “Molly Tanner, you like to screw with people’s minds, don’t you?”
“No. I’m just saying that sometimes we need to think about God differently. Maybe he isn’t just someone up there in the clouds, maybe he’s all around us and affecting our lives more than we think. I don’t know, Alex. I don’t have this all figured out either. I have doubts and —”
“You? You have doubts?”
“Yeah, of course. I’m not perfect. I’m not some angel.”
“No? Now I’m interested,” a broad grin crossed his face as he sat the soda on the table. “Tell me, Molly Tanner, what have you done that would prove to me that you’re no angel.”
Molly cleared her throat and pulled her eyes from his intense gaze, his sly smile. Her cheeks grew warm as he watched her.
“I’ve made mistakes. I’ve had thoughts I shouldn’t have.” Like right now. About how good you look in those jeans and how amazing it would probably be to kiss that mouth. “I’ve said bad things about people. This morning I even cursed when I pinched my finger in the barn door.”
“What did you say? ‘Oh shoot’? ‘My lands’?” Alex laughed.
“Actually, no, it was worse,” Molly answered with a smile of her own. “I’ll just leave it at that.”
“Compared to me, Molly, you are an angel.”
“You’re not so bad that God can’t forgive you and that he can’t still love you. I believe he does. He loves us both, despite our failures and our shortcomings and the ways we think we don’t measure up to his standards.”
Alex sucked down the rest of his soda and dragged the back of his hand across his mouth. “It’s a nice thought, Molly-belle but I don’t know if I buy it. Life seems pretty random and unplanned to me and I like it that way. I don’t like the idea of being a puppet for some higher being in the sky.”
Molly rolled her eyes. “We’re not his puppets. We’re his children and he wants the best for us.”
Alex swung his leg over the picnic table bench and stood up. “OK, little lady. Enough church for today. I’ve got some work to finish up in the barn. See you there?”
Molly drank more of her water. “Not today. I have the afternoon shift at the store and then I told Ginny Jefferies I’d go to an art class with her.”
“Okay. Well, enjoy your art class.”
Alex shook his head when he reached his truck, laughing softly to himself. How had he fallen for a girl like Molly? A girl so pristine and proper in her thoughts she made Mother Theresa look mean. Sure, she claimed she had inappropriate thoughts, but he highly doubted it. Someone who talked and thought that much about a mystical being in the sky didn’t have time for thoughts that weren’t in line with what her parents had taught her.
He tossed what remained of his lunch in his truck and headed toward the barn, still pondering what inappropriate thoughts Molly Tanner might have had.
Ned stared at Franny from a faded black and white photograph. The photograph didn’t have to be in color for her to remember his bright green eyes or sandy blond hair he swept off to one side. And how handsome he had looked in his uniform that day he’d signed up for the Army. She’d never imagined that a couple of years later that uniform would take him on a ship, far away from her, to war. But when he came back, he’d dropped to one knee and asked her to marry him. She couldn’t say ‘yes’ fast enough.
She remembered the tender kisses, the soft caresses, oh, yes, she did. Her children and grandchildren probably thought she was too old to remember what it felt like to be in love, to be kissed for the first time by the man you were in love with, but she wasn’t. She remembered it all like it was yesterday.
There was a chill in the air that night and she’d worn her favorite white sweater with the pink flowers for their walk around the town square. He’d been so shy, finally reaching over and taking her hand in his as they circled the gazebo for the third time. He’d stopped in front of the gazebo, under the street lamp, turned toward her and cupped her face in his hands. Her heart had been pounding and when his mouth covered her’s she felt like her insides evaporated into a fine mist. She was floating on air.
He smiled and laughed sheepishly when he pulled back, looking down at her.
“I can’t believe it took me so long to kiss you,” he’d whispered.
She couldn’t believe it hadn’t taken him so long either.
She set the picture back on the top of her dresser, wiping a tear from her cheek. It all seemed like yesterday, but it hadn’t been yesterday. It had been 56 years ago and now here she was, alone in this house, without the man who had made it a home for her.
He’d come home from the war, married her and she’d moved to the farm to become a farmer’s wife. At first, they had lived with his parents and then a new house had been built up the road. It was a tough few years, that’s for sure. Walter was born first, then Hannah, then Robert, back-to-back. Money had been tight, but Ned had worked hard with his father to keep the farm going. Producing the best milk in the region was Ned’s goal and he met that goal year after year until the early 60s when a test on the milk came back saying their milk was unsafe.
Ned was beside himself with worry and sank into a deep depression. It was the first time Franny couldn’t seem to soothe him and not even prayer seemed to help. For two weeks Ned paced and wrung his hands. His milk had to be tested again and until then their milk couldn’t be sold. They’d sold vegetables from the fields at a roadside booth to try to make ends meet until the milk was tested again.
“Sorry, Mr. Tanner,” the inspector had said after the second test, stretching his hand out. “It looks like our test was wrong last time. There’s not a thing wrong with your supply. I hope this hasn’t been too much of an inconvenience.”
Franny had thought Ned might bite clear through his tongue and bottom lip the way he clenched his jaw and pressed his lips together. She knew he was literally biting his tongue.
“Not at all,” he said finally, his grip tight on the inspector’s hand.
Things had run smoother after that, but of course there were always the droughts, the flooding, the occasional years when bugs or frost destroyed entire crops or one disease or another spread through the herd. Still, no matter what life through at them, Ned and Franny had been in it together.
Them and God.
A cord of three strands was not easily broken and they had not been broken, despite it all. That was until Ned’s diagnosis when Franny had felt more broken than she’d ever felt before. She’d overcome two miscarriages, the loss of her parents and one brother, but somehow, she felt like she might never overcome the loss of Ned.
She sighed, catching sight of her Bible on the bedside table. It had a thick layer of dust on it and she knew she should wipe it off and open it, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She was mad at God. Plain and simple. She couldn’t deny it to herself or anyone else, and she knew God already knew. She was mad at him for taking Ned from her when they’d had so many plans together.
Maybe that’s why she’d been so annoyed with the visit by the pastor. There he stood representing the naivety of the Church as a whole. Millions believing what she now struggled to believe — that God was for her and not against her; that he wanted to prosper her and not harm her. Hadn’t the loss of Ned harmed her? What greater purpose had it served to pull him from the earth when he’d finally had the time to relax and enjoy life; to enjoy life with her?
She hadn’t set foot in the church since the day of Ned’s funeral. She couldn’t even bring herself to attend the retirement gathering for Pastor Larson who had officiated not only Ned’s funeral but all three of her children’s weddings. He’d pastored Calvary Church for 45 years and counseled Franny more times than she could even remember. But she couldn’t bring herself to stand under the roof of a building built as God’s house. She didn’t want God to have the chance to even try to talk to her. While her Christian upbringing had taught her that he could talk to her whenever and wherever he wanted, she felt walking herself right into the lion’s den might give him even more opportunity to try to reach her again, when she didn’t want to be reached.
And then there were all those sad looking parishioners waiting for her there. All those people looking at her in pity, treating her like she wasn’t just plain old Franny anymore.
She scoffed, flicking a dead fly off the window sill. She guessed in some ways she wasn’t the same Franny anymore, the more she thought about it. She had definitely changed. Death did that to a person. She was a widow now. Her heart was broken.
Worst of all, she’d lost a piece of herself and maybe even all of who she used to be, and she had no idea how to find herself again.
She hated that she’d taken her anger with God out on young Pastor Fields. He didn’t deserve it. He’d only been trying to reach out, to offer her comfort in her time of need. Maybe she would find a way to apologize to him. Hopefully at the bake sale. If she could bring herself to go and face all the sad eyes and pushed out bottom lips, the tilting heads and the voices that spoke to her as if she was child.
As if she’d lost all her facilities simply because she’d lost her husband.
“Oh, Mrs. Tanner, so good to see you. How are you, hon’?”
“Let me do that for you, Mrs. Tanner.”
Heads cocked to one side with pity-filled expressions as they said things like, “Ned was a good man.” Or, “We sure do miss him.” Or, “It must be lonely up there in that house with Ned gone.”
She knew they all meant well, but she could only smile and nod and thank them so often before she wanted to scream and run away. Even if her old legs would let her run away, she knew her eyesight wouldn’t. She was having more and more trouble seeing. She was running into the corners of tables, tripping over shoes she’d forgot to put on the shoe rack, losing her glasses and maybe even her mind. Wouldn’t that just be her luck? Losing her husband, her eyesight, and her mental facilities in less than two years.
Lately it seemed that if she didn’t have bad luck, she wouldn’t have any luck at all.