I added a little extra to the end of what I shared yesterday for today’s special Saturday fiction. If you want to see Part 1 of Chapter 14 you can see yesterday’s post. To catch up on the entire story you can click HERE.
Pulling up to the farm store, Molly sat outside in her truck, bleary-eyed and unmotivated. She’d barely been able to sleep last night, thinking about Alex and his . . . well, weirdness and about how much she did not want to come to the farm store this morning. She propped her forehead against the steering wheel and groaned. She was in no mood to be perky and she needed to be perky by the time the customers arrived. Some days she took on the motto “fake it until you make it.” Some days, face perkiness was the only way to make it through their day.
“Is this the only milk you have?” a woman had asked last week, looking at her over a pair of sunglasses, one eyebrow raised.
“Yes, ma’am. That’s the company the local farmer’s supply to.”
“Okay, because I’m a vegan and I need something that doesn’t come from a cow.”
“Oh. Well, then . . .”
Molly had had to pause because what she wanted to say was “If you’re vegan, why are you in a store that clearly sells cow milk?” but she glanced at the woman’s cart, full of vegetables and flowers, and decided to cut her some slack. At least she was supporting farmers in her own way.
“Then, I’m sorry,” Molly said. “We don’t carry non-diary options at this time. Maybe you can try the local Weis?”
“You know this little store needs to move with the times,” the woman said unloading the items from her cart to the counter. “Milk from mammals is a thing of the past. The only ones who should be drinking cows milk are baby cows.”
“Mmmm,” Molly responded adding up the items on the cash register. “That will be $75.50.”
If the woman hadn’t been spending so much Molly might would have told her to shove off, but the money was welcome and needed in a time when local farmers were struggling. The money from the Tanner’s store didn’t only benefit the Tanners. It also benefited several families who supplied inventory – from locally raised and butchered pork, beef, and chicken to eggs, homemade furniture and hand-sewn blankets and quilts. Losing customers could mean losing income for these families as well.
Thankfully the woman left without anymore comments, though a ‘thank you’ would have been nice.
Some days Molly wondered if this would be her entire life; sitting in her family’s story, being lectured by people who called themselves “woke” about what to eat and how to live. She wondered if she’d always be just the farmer’s daughter.
Walking into the store through the backdoor she heard her Aunt Hannah talking in the office.
“I am nervous about the meeting, yes. And I’m nervous because I don’t know how we are going to come up with the money to pay off this loan.”
Molly paused outside the closed door.
“Let’s talk to Bill and see what can be worked out,” her Uncle Walt said softly.
“I would have talked to Bill a long time ago if I had known what was going on,” Hannah said curtly.
“Hannah, Robert told me he explained why —”
“I know,” Hannah interrupted, her voice less tense than before. “I’m sorry. I’m just anxious. I’ve been looking at the numbers this morning. They aren’t great. I’m worried we won’t be able to do this, Walt.”
Numbers? What numbers? Molly’s mind started racing. Was the farm in trouble? And if so, why hadn’t her parents told her?
Her hand hovered over the door handle and she thought about walking in and asking Hannah what was going on, but thought better of it. If her family wanted her to know what was going on, they’d tell her, and, to be honest, she felt too drained to add anymore to her mental que to think about.
She continued her path to the front counter where Ellie was already loading the cash register.
Ellie glanced up as she counted. “Fifty, seventy . . . Hey, Mol. You look wiped today. Eighty…rough morning in the barn?”
“No, just . . .tired.”
Molly didn’t feel like talking about all her worries with her brother’s attractive girlfriend, even though she’d known Ellie for years and they were only a couple of years apart in age and she considered Ellie a friend.
“Ninety. One hundred.”
Ellie shoved the final bill into the drawer and wrote down the amount on the sheet next to the register.
“Looks like a nice day ahead,” she said. “That will probably bring out the gardeners.”
Molly groaned. “Oh no. With gardeners come all the weird questions about which tomatoes I think are best and what kind of squash grows better in what month? You would think after all these years working here I would know.”
Ellie shrugged. “I don’t know either. I just refer them to your aunt.”
Molly’s aunt. That word sent her back to think about what her aunt had said, about the loan and numbers. She sipped the coffee she’d brought with her in a tumbler and sat on the stool behind the counter.
She wondered again why her parents hadn’t said anything to her about it all. Then she wondered if Jason even knew. Were they trying to shelter her? She didn’t need to be sheltered. She needed to be told the truth.
“So Jason is taking me out this weekend for our anniversary,” Ellie said, interrupting her thoughts.
“Oh yeah? Where to?”
“He won’t tell me.
Molly hated the look of excited anticipation in Ellie’s eyes. Every year on June 24th for the last four years Jason took her out for dinner to celebrate their night of their first date after he came back from college. And every year on June 25th, Ellie relayed how wonderful the night had been but in a tone tinged with disappointment. Molly still couldn’t understand what was taking Jason so long to propose to Ellie.
They were perfect for each other. Ellie and Jason were both farm kids, for lack of a better term, both Christians, both loved sappy romantic movies (though Jason refused to admit it), and both wanted to continue farming, either on a farm of their own or on the Tanner’s farm. Molly was tired of facing Ellie Fitzgerald’s forced smile overshadowed by sad eyes every June 25th. She needed to ask Jason what the deal was already. Why was he dragging his feet on proposing to the woman that Molly, and he, knew was the only woman for him?
Franny couldn’t get over the size of her grandson. He now towered over her when he’d once been small enough for her to sit on her knee and hear about his day. She guessed him to be over six foot now and maybe — she tipped her head and looked him up and down as he placed a box on her counter — maybe 210 pounds, with a good amount of that weight being muscle.
“So mom sent some of her famous chicken soup over,” Jason was saying, sitting a large sealed bowl on the table. “Biscuits and a side of carrots too.”
He might be big now and speak with a deep, mainly voice, but Jason was still Franny’s sweet boy and she was proud of him the same way she was of Molly.
“That’s very nice, hon’” she told Jason. “You tell Annie thank you for me. What happened? You get the short straw and had to take your cantankerous grandmother dinner?”
Jason laughed, bending down and kissing Franny’s cheek. “Now, grandma, you know I love coming to see you. Aunt Hannah has a PTA meeting tonight so mom offered to cook some dinner to you and I actually asked to bring it.”
Jason sat on the chair across from his grandmother and leaned back, stretching a long leg out in front of him. Franny braced herself. It looked like he was going to launch into a heart-to-heart and she wasn’t sure she was up to it this evening. He folded his hands across his stomach, and she was reminded again how much he looked like his father; her serious, thoughtful oldest son Robert.
And like Robert, Jason didn’t pull punches. “So, what’s going on with you, Grandma? You know you can tell me. I’ve noticed how down you’ve been and we’ve missed you in church.”
Franny avoided his eyes, stirring her spoon in the soup. “I’m fine, Jason.”
“You’re anything but fine. Out with it. Is it your eyes?”
Darn it, that Jason. He always was observant. To a fault in this case.
“How did you know about my eyes?”
“I’ve noticed you bumping into tables when I’ve been here, squinting through your glasses.”
She cleared her throat. “Well, yes, I am concerned about them.”
“Do you think it could be macular degeneration?”
“I don’t know. I’ve heard of that but I’m not really familiar with it.”
“Ellie’s grandma has it. Her eyesight is slowly detorating. But maybe yours isn’t that bad. We can go see Dr. Fisher and it could turn out you just need a prescription.”
“Ah, now. Speaking of Ellie —”
“Grandma, we’re talking about you right now.”
“We’ll get back to that. Let’s talk about Ellie and why you’re not proposing to her.”
“Jason, honey, she’s the girl for you. You believe that, right?
Jason laughed softly and cleared his throat. “Yes, Grandma. I really do.”
“Then what are you waiting for?”
Jason softly groaned and covered his face with his hands, leaning his head back. “Grandma. . .”
“Don’t let her get away from you, Jason. Do you hear me?”
Jason looked at his grandma, his face flushed but a smile tugging at his mouth. “Yes, ma’am. I do, but right now we are talking about your eyesight. I can drive you to Dr. Fisher. Let’s find out what’s going on. It may not be as bad as you think, okay?”
Franny sipped from her glass of water, a small smile flicking across her lips. “Okay. I’ll make you a deal, Jason Andrew Tanner. I’ll let you take me to Dr. Fisher if you agree to propose to that lovely Ellie.” She reached her hand out toward her grandson. “Deal?”
Jason tipped his head back and let out a deep laugh. He shook his head and chewed his lower lip for a moment, rubbing his chin as he looked at his grandmother’s hand. He couldn’t lie to himself; he was scared to propose to Ellie in some ways, but he knew his grandmother was right. Ellie was his best friend and the only woman he could imagine being married to.
“Yeah, okay, grandma.” He took her hand gently. “Deal.”