Chapter 18 of The Farmer’s Daughter? Really? It seems so strange to be this far already in some ways, but in other ways it isn’t because I actually started this story sometime last year and have been slowly working on it since I even wrote my other books.
I can already see some changes and additions I want to make, but so far I’m liking the direction of the story. I have a feeling I’ll be tweaking a lot before all is said and done, but for now – brace yourselves, one of our characters may get themselves in some trouble in the next couple of chapters.
Catch up on the story HERE.
Molly slid a pile of books across the library desk at Ginny, unsure of when she’d have time to read the books but knowing she needed to do something to distract her from life, or her lack of one, these days.
Ginny glanced at the title of the book on the top of the pile.
How To Get Out of A Rut in Your Life.
She cleared her throat, sliding it into the library bag and reaching for another book.
How To Spice Up Your Life.
And then, Does He Like You? Ten Ways to Tell If He’s Totally Into You.
Ginny raised one eyebrow and looked up at Molly who was chewing on her fingernails.
“So, Molly, have you figured out how you were feeling a few weeks ago about sort of being stuck in life?”
Molly shrugged. “Not really. Still not sure about things and still feel like my life is somewhat. . . Hmmmm..I’m not sure what to call it.”
Ginny knew what to call it.
“Stagnant,” she said bluntly.
“Yes. That’s it. Stagnant. Like dirty water.”
Ginny laughed softly, tapping the top of her pencil on top of the desk, leaning against her hand. “Trust me. I get it.”
Molly studied Ginny’s expression, the sadness there, and wondered what was making Ginny feel stagnant. She had a good job, was popular in the community, had three lovely, now grown children, and was married to the most successful real estate agent in the region.
“You?” Molly asked.
Ginny looked up at Molly, a faint smile tugging at her mouth. “Yes, Molly. Even old people feel stagnant in life sometimes.”
Molly laughed, flipping a strand of her hair off her shoulder. “Ginny. You are not old. Stop.”
Ginny shrugged. “I feel old. Much older than I actually am. Maybe we need to cheer both of us up. I’m not an expert on how to do that, unfortunately.”
“Maybe an art class?” Molly suggested, gesturing toward the flyer taped on the top of the counter. “There is one in two weeks that is entitled ‘Lessons in realistic sketching.’ The description says we will be drawing a life model.”
“Knowing my luck it will be some skinny model with a perky chest and perfect skin,” Ginny sighed, rolling her eyes.
Molly snorted a laugh. “It will be both our luck, but let’s try it anyhow.”
Ginny handed Molly her bag of books. “And maybe by getting out a little more you won’t need all these books. Except that one about finding out if he really likes you or not.”
Light pink spread along Molly’s cheeks.
“Um..just pretend you didn’t see that one.”
“You don’t need to read the book. He likes you. I already told you he was flirting.”
“Ginny . . .”
“I’m just saying.”
“I know you’re just saying, but I’m just saying hush.”
Ginny laughed as Molly walked toward the door. “Okay,” she said softly. “But he does.”
“See you Wednesday night, Ginny.”
During the drive to the farm Molly thought about the conversation she’d had with her parents, Jason and Alex earlier in the day.
“We didn’t want to tell you anything until we knew for sure what was going on,” her father had said after he told her about the financial trouble the farm was facing.
“I understand,” she said, deciding not to mention she’d already been tipped off about the situation when she’d eavesdropped on her aunt and uncle at the farm store.
Her parents had assured her and Jason that every effort was being made to keep the farm and the rest of the enterprise afloat but she still couldn’t help feel a twinge of panic and alarm at the idea her family could be standing with so many others watching their lives being auctioned away.
Sure she felt stuck in some ways, but that didn’t mean she wanted her family’s farm to go under or the families who worked with them to be left without an income. The thought that it could happen terrified her. She’d called Liz shortly after talking to her parents. Liz had seemed concerned, but distant somehow.
“Are you okay?” Molly had asked.
“Yeah, fine,” Liz said. “I was just thinking about work, but that can wait until later. What are your parents going to do?”
Molly didn’t think Liz was fine at all. She could hear the tension in her voice, but she decided she wouldn’t push for an answer for now.
“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing but add some different items for sale at the farm store, expand what we offer and hope we have a good crop this year. We are looking at opening a café. I don’t think we have time to pull it off, though, Liz. We had a lot of rain this spring, the crops aren’t growing as fast as they should and it will take time to expand what we offer at the store. This might be it. We might lose our farm.”
“It’s not going to happen, Molly,” Liz’s tone was firm. “Something is going to work out. It has to. I can’t imagine your family without their farm.”
Molly couldn’t either and as she pulled into the driveway toward it she felt tears choking her. She pulled the truck off next to the top field, shifted it into park and gulped back a sob. She’d spent her whole life here, took her first steps outside the barn, learned to ride her bike in this driveway with her grandfather’s hand on the back of the bike until she took off. She’d even had her first kiss ever on the front porch of her house. That kiss had been with Ben, of course, and even though her feelings for him weren’t as strong as they were back then, it was still her first kiss.
Her grandfather had taught her about cows and calving and how to store grain on this farm. She had shucked corn and snapped green beans with her mother and grandmothers on this porch before her mom’s mom had moved away. She didn’t even have to close her eyes to imagine her grandfather walking out of that barn wearing a pair of dirty overalls and a pair of manure and mud caked work boots, reaching into his front shirt pocket for a piece of hard candy to hand her before he headed back to his house for the evening. Somedays it was if she could still see him there, out of the corner of her eye, but when she turned it was her dad or the wind or nothing at all.
“God, what are we going to do?” Molly asked softly. “Please, please don’t take this farm from our family. Help us, somehow. Help us figure out how to save it.”
She wiped the back of her hand across her cheeks and couldn’t help laughing slightly. Only a few weeks before she’d been lamenting her life here on the farm and now she was asking for God to save this farm, save her family’s livelihood, save the very life she thought she hadn’t wanted.
Alex’s phone blinked a warning of awkwardness ahead.
He held it in his hands for a few moments, staring at the ID blinking at him, his thumb hovering over the decline button. He rolled his eyes and hit the accept button instead, bracing himself.
“Well, well, look who finally answered his phone.”
“Hey, yourself. I guess you’ve been busy. I’ve been getting kicked to voice mail for a month or more now.”
“Service isn’t always great out in the fields.”
“Hmmm..right. The fields.”
He heard the mocking tone and chose to ignore it.
“Have you heard from your father lately?”
“Me either. Thank God. How about your brother?”
“Is he doing okay? He never calls me anymore and I have to chase him down too. I guess I’m not as important to him as his father is.”
Alex ignored the passive aggressiveness. “Yeah. He’s fine. Got a promotion at the office.”
He heard an exhale, knew his mom was blowing a plume of cigarette smoke out. “Well, good for him.” She inhaled and exhaled again. “So, you’re happy? On that farm in the middle of nowhere?”
He laughed softly. “Yeah, mom. I’m happy here. On this farm, in the middle of nowhere.”
“And Jason is good?”
“Yes, Mom. He’s good.”
Jason grinned and pointed his thumbs toward his chest. “Is she talking about me?” he whispered.
Alex nodded and rolled his eyes.
“Did he ever ask that nice girl he’s been dating forever to marry him?”
Alex laughed out loud, looking at Jason.
“No, Mom, he hasn’t asked Ellie to marry him yet.”
Jason smirked, shaking his head. He stood and leaned close to the phone. “You too, Cecily? Thanks a lot.”
Alex wasn’t used to hearing his mom laugh, especially now that her laugh was hoarse from her years of smoking. The sound was slightly jarring to him. “You just tell that boy to do the right thing and propose,” she said.
“She says just propose already,” Alex told Jason as Jason walked toward the door.
He waved his hand at Alex. “Yeah, yeah. See you at the barn later.”
Alex turned his attention back to his mom. “So, what’s up, Mom?”
“Nothing is up. Can’t a mother just call her son?”
“Sure, she can, but you don’t usually do it unless something is going on.”
“It’s just — well,” his mother let out a heavy sigh, an exhale that probably include more smoke. “It’s your father.”
Alex rolled his eyes. “What about him?”
“I don’t think he’s doing well, health wise.”
“Why do you think that?”
“It’s just that your brother hinted that something was going on awhile back. He said he’d had some appointments with a doctor. He said it wasn’t anything to worry about, but I don’t know. I felt like he wasn’t being honest about what’s really going on.”
Alex shrugged. “Like I said before, I just talked to him and he didn’t say anything to me about Dad’s health. I’m sure it’s nothing.”
“You know I don’t care much about your father’s health for my own sake, Alex, but maybe you should call him, talk to him.”
Cecily Madigan Burke wasn’t sounding like herself and now Alex was wondering is something was wrong with her health.
“Mom, compassion toward Dad really isn’t like you. Are you okay?”
Cecily sighed again. “Alex, I just said I’m not worried about him for my own sake. I’m not even worried about him for his own sake, but I don’t want something to happen to him before you’ve talked to him and worked some things out. I don’t want you to carry that anger for him for the rest of your life. It’s not healthy. I’ve had to let a lot of it go or I’d have even more wrinkles than I do now. My Yoga instructor led me through this amazing meditation of forgiveness last week. Maybe you could do something like —”
“I think we’re rushing things a bit here,” Alex interrupted. “We don’t even know there is anything wrong with his health, okay? And you’re already acting like he is dying. Besides, Dad is the one who should be contacting me and, as you have always said, act like a real father for once. I’m not going to chase someone who obviously doesn’t care whether I live or die.”
“Alex, I don’t think it’s true that he doesn’t care, he’s just too selfish to show it.”
“He’s focused on himself, Mom. Always has been and always has. Listen, I’ll ask Sam about his health, but I think you’re reading too much into it. He’s probably just getting a vasectomy to make sure he doesn’t father anymore children in his old age.”
His mom laughed softly at the suggestion and then they said their goodbyes, with Alex agreeing he’d try to keep in touch more and insisting he was still happy on the farm. When he slid his finger over the end call button his phone, though, he knew he was only half telling the truth. He did love working on the farm, but right now he was struggling because of what he’d witnessed between Molly and Ben.
He pulled a soda out of the fridge and cracked it open, pushing the refrigerator door closed hard behind him. He hadn’t been able to get the image of Molly and Ben together out of his mind for a week now. He’d been quiet in the barn, talking when talked to but not offering comments or jokes like he usually did. He’d been inside his head too much to feel relaxed enough to act like nothing had changed since he’d seen Molly laughing and lightly touching Ben’s arm outside the church that day.
He sat on the porch railing, his legs hanging down, the soda can cupped between his hands, glad Jason was still down at the farm bringing the cows into the barn for the night.
Sleep had been hard to come by for the last week. When he closed his eyes, he pictured Molly and Ben together, Ben’s arms around Molly, leaning down to kiss her, her leaning up to kiss him back. No, he hadn’t seen that actually happen, but in his mind it had or was going to.
He was tired of thinking about it, tired of knowing he wasn’t good enough for Molly. He needed to get out of his head, and he needed to get out of this house.
He crunched the empty soda can in his hand, jumped off the railing, and stood on the porch as he stared down the road that would lead him toward town. He had no chance with Molly. He was wasting his time imagining he did.
She was a hundred times better than him. She believed in God; he didn’t know what to believe. She was sweet and gentle; he was hard and often cynical and bitter. She’d been talking to Ben outside a church.
They’d smiled, looked happy together. Because they were, like Jason had said, “meant to be together.” A good fit.
He and Molly weren’t a good fit and it was time he accepted that.
When it came down to it, she was good, and he wasn’t.
He was restless, anxious to get away from his own rambling thoughts. He’d been avoiding the bars lately, avoiding the temptations they brought but he needed the distraction tonight, temptations or not. He reached inside the front door and snatched keys off the hanger then turned on his heel, walked briskly down the front steps and to his truck.
He ripped out of the driveway, driving fast in the direction of town and away from the thoughts that tortured him at home.