This week I’ve been busy trying to extract Jason’s storyline from the novel because if I don’t I’m going to have an opus on my hands and I’m not interested in writing one of those. I figure I’ll plop a novella about Jason in between The Farmer’s Daughter and The Librarian, which is already partially written. I’ll share the remainder of his story here on the blog on Fiction Friday, though.
The following chapter will definitely be rewritten. I hesitated even sharing it this week because I didn’t get to rewrite or rework it as often as I usually do before I post it to the blog. Luckily (I mean that sincerely) I don’t have a huge following so not too many people will be disappionted. Haha!
For those who do read each week, stay tuned for updates or you can download the book when it is done. I’m still trying to figure out a way to offer it for free for my blog readers. I know there is a way. I just need to research it more. The final book will be much shorter than what I post here after editing and removing Jason’s story, of course.
Anyhow, to catch up on the rest of the story click HERE.
I miss you, he texted.
Her: You just saw me in the barn a couple hours ago.
Him: Two days without kissing you is too long.
Her: It is. Drive me to my grandma’s in the morning? Dad’s working on my truck.
Him: Can I kiss you before I drop you off?
Him: I’ll meet you after milking.
Her: I can’t wait.
The leather of the Bible cover was smooth under Franny’s hand as she brushed the dust from it.
She could see better now since her surgery. She really had no excuse not to read it.
Except that whole being mad at God thing.
She sighed and slid her fingers down the spine of it and then across the front again, across her name embossed in gold on the front. The Bible had been a birthday gift from Ned 20 years ago.
“New King James,” he’d announced proudly as she unwrapped it. “Just like you asked. Not too modern. Not too old fashioned. The perfect translation.”
The perfect translation yet it still couldn’t help her translate her pain into joy or her ashes into beauty.
She held the Bible against her as she walked toward the back porch. She usually sat on the front porch, but she needed a change of scenery today and she only had a little time before her friend Betty, Annie’s mother and Molly and Jason’s other grandmother, came to help her finish a quilt they’d been working on.
The sun poured yellow and white across the paint-chipped floor, stretching shadows of trees toward her brown slippers as she walked.
“Should have brought a quilt out here with me. It’s getting chilly.”
Sitting in the chair closest to the railing she lowered herself slowly onto the soft pillow she’d sown several years ago at the sewing club and looked out toward the dirt road and the field.
Someone had parked a truck in that patch of field behind the maple tree where Ned used to hang the tire swing for the kids and just beyond the chicken coop. The area where Robert had made a makeshift entrance for the field when he drove in there to plant the corn.
“Now who would have done that? It gets muddy out there. Don’t they know that? They’ll get their truck stuck.” She lifted herself slightly and squinted toward the truck. “Is that that Stone boy who works for Robert? What’s he doing parking in the field like that? I hope he’s not out there with one of those little blond floozies again.”
She shook her head, her Bible on her lap, knowing she should open it, but her eye was drawn to movement at the truck as the passenger side door opened. Was that her granddaughter climbing out of that truck?
Franny’s eyes narrowed further down and her mouth pressed into a thin line as she watched Alex slide out of the truck, walk around the front of it, and approach Molly.
“Now, what do you think you’re doing there, young ma—ooooh my.”
The sight of Alex pulling her granddaughter close and cupping her young face in his hands before he kissed her expanded Franny’s eyes from narrowed slits to round circles.
She shook her head. “Well, now I’m not sure if I’m glad I got that surgery on my eyes or not.”
She stood when she saw Molly turn toward the house, deciding she wouldn’t let her granddaughter catch her watching her romantic visit with the farm hand.
She was sitting on the couch in the living room with the Bible on her lap trying to act innocent when Molly slipped through the back door, the screen door bouncing closed behind her.
“Hey, girl. Didn’t know I was going to see you today. What brings you over?”
Molly stayed in the kitchen, reaching for a glass in the cabinet next to the stove. “I just wanted to come and say ‘hello’. I haven’t stopped by for a while.”
“Mmmmm. I see. Well, if you stay a bit you’ll get to see both of your grandmothers. Betty is on her way over to help me finish a quilt.”
“Great! Hey, I’m going to grab myself a glass of water. You want one?”
Franny leaned back against the couch and made herself comfortable. “Yes, actually, that would be nice. It is a bit warm today.” She coughed softly. “I guess you’ve worked up a sweat before you got here.”
Molly sat a glass of ice water on the table next the couch for her grandmother and held hers as she sat next on the couch. Franny studied her second oldest granddaughter’s flushed cheeks and knew it wasn’t only the warm day bringing that light pink to her skin.
“I didn’t see your truck. Did you walk here today?”
She raised an eyebrow, waiting for Molly to answer. I’ve got you now, Molly-girl.
Molly’s uneasy expression and the quick way she adverted her eyes to study something obviously more interesting on the cushion of the couch amused Franny.
“Oh. Um. No.” Molly waved toward the window behind her. “Alex dropped me off on his way into town. He’s going to swing by later and pick me up.
Franny propped her elbow on the arm of the couch and leaned her face against her hand.
“Mmhmm…. I see.” She turned slightly toward her granddaughter, stretching an arm across the back of the couch. “So, tell me, Molly, do you love Alex Stone or was that kiss I just saw him giving you part of a summer romance?”
Molly choked on the water she was drinking, droplets sputtering from her lips. She set the glass down and wiped her mouth before looking at her grandmother with wide eyes. “I’m sorry?”
“Are you now? Well, should you be? Sorry, that is?”
Molly watched her grandmother with wide eyes and a partially opened mouth, unsure of how to respond.
“I was on the back porch and saw you two having a nice moment, you might say. Outside his truck. Just now.”
“I hope these little rendezvous of yours have only involved kissing. Or was this the first rendezvous?”
Molly looked at the ceiling and sighed. Lord, have mercy. You sent my grandmother to keep an eye on me?
“No. I mean, yes, it was only kissing, but no it wasn’t the first time.” Quieter, under her breath she added: “And I guess that eye surgery did wonders for you. Sadly.”
Franny smirked. “It was my eyes that were the issue, sweetie, not my ears. I heard that.”
Molly was glad to see some of her grandmother’s spunk had returned, though she wished it had been used on another family member instead of her.
“Does your daddy know about this?”
“No. Not yet.”
Franny sipped her water, glancing out the front window. “It should be interesting when he finds out.”
Molly swallowed water in large gulps. “Mmm, yeah. It should be.”
Franny smiled, sipping her water again. “He’s a good looking young man. That Alex.”
“Bit of a drinker, though.”
“He’s not drinking like he used to, Grandma.”
“Used to watch him drive up this road with some pretty young ladies in his truck.”
“You better not be another notch on his bed post, or I’ll have his hide.”
Molly gasped. What else had the doctors done to her grandmother at that hospital? Apparently, they had turned the dial on her sass factor all the way to ten. “Grandma!”
“I’m serious, Molly.”
“Grandma, I wouldn’t . . . I mean, I don’t think he’s . . . he’s different now, Grandma. He’s . . . changing.”
“Some men will say whatever you want to hear. They’ll say they’ve changed when they haven’t. But I hope he really has so he’s worthy of my granddaughter.”
Molly sat her glass of water on the coffee table, pulled her legs up under her and turned so she was facing her grandmother. She casually propped her arm along the back of the couch to match her grandmother’s pose.
“You’re really enjoying yourself teasing me, aren’t you, Grandma?”
“I am but I’m also serious. I want you to be careful, Molly.”
Franny raised an eyebrow over her glass as she drank from it.
“Really, Grandma. I am.”
Franny sighed and lowered the eyebrow as she sat her glass back down. “Well, he’s a hard worker. That’s one good thing he’s got going for him. That and those pretty blue eyes. I’m sure you’ve noticed them.”
Molly smiled, red spreading along her cheeks again. “Yes. I have noticed those.”
“Your grandpa was a hard-worker too, you know that.”
Molly leaned back, hopeful the interrogation was over. She decided she needed to try to change the subject. “Grandma, how did you and grandpa meet?”
Franny knew her granddaughter was changing the subject but decided to let it go. She motioned toward the bookcase across on the other side of the room, from the couch. “On that bottom shelf over there is a photo album. Go get it for me, will you?”
Molly heard the front door open as she lifted the album from the shelf and sat back on the couch.
Hannah carried a basket into the house, walking toward the kitchen. “Ladies. What are we up to today?”
“Your niece is just over here changing the subject.”
Molly shot her grandmother a warning scowl with a hint of a smile. Franny winked.
“What’s that?” Hannah asked from the kitchen.
“We’re just looking at photos of grandma and grandpa,” Molly said quickly.
The last thing she needed was Hannah chiming in on her relationship with Alex.
Staring back at Molly from her grandmother’s photo album was a couple Molly knew were her grandparents, despite how young they were. She could see them in their eyes, in their broad smiles, standing outside the farmhouse she was now sitting in, his arms around her. The photo was black and white. Franny was wearing a flowered dress, her hair pulled back in a 40s hairstyle. Her grandfather was handsome, square jawline, bright eyes, dark hair swept off his forehead, wearing a uniform.
“That was the day before he left for Vietnam.” Franny tapped the photo with the tip of her finger. “He’d proposed to me a month earlier.”
“What color was the dress?”
“Blue with red flowers. Your great grandmother made it for me as a graduation gift.”
Cupboard doors opened and closed in the kitchen. “I picked up some of that soup you like, Mom,” Hannah called from the kitchen. “And a couple boxes of crackers.”
Franny tapped her finger against another photo. “Here we are on our wedding day, after he came home. He was over there about a year before he was shot in the leg. Doctors didn’t think he’d walk again so he was discharged.”
Another page was turned. “Oh, and here a year and a half after our wedding, with your uncle Walt. He was such a fat baby.”
Molly and Franny laughed.
Hannah walked from the kitchen, drying her hands on a dish towel. “I put some lasagna in a container in the fridge for dinner tonight and some pork chops for lunch tomorrow.”
“Thank you much,” Franny said still looking at the album.
Hannah sat on the arm of the couch, craning her neck to look at the album on her mother’s lap. “Is that me with Robert?”
Franny smiled. “Oh, yes. You loved to have him give you piggyback rides around the yard.”
Molly looked at a photo of her grandfather standing outside the barn, a little girl about five, with reddish-brown curls cascading down her back. “Is that me?”
Hannah sat on the couch next to Molly. “Oh, you were so funny. You’d follow Dad around with that little metal bucket we used to use for the chicken feed. ‘I milk da cows now’d, Grandpa,’ you’d say, you rlittle pants falling off your diaper clad bottom.”
The three women laughed at the memory.
“And who knew that a few years later Sarah and Max would be doing the same,” Molly said, talking about her much younger cousins, now 14 and 16.
Franny traced her fingertip along a photo of Ned, mentally transported to a day 10 years earlier when he’d talked about retiring, letting the boys take over more of the operation of the farm.
“We’re going to have more time for ourselves, Franny,” he’d told her. “More time for long walks around the farm, watching fireflies in the field, maybe we can even take a trip or two.”
They had had a few years of those nights to watch fireflies and they’d even taken a couple of trips to a couple of lighthouses a few hours away before Ned became sicker, but Franny had expected many more years and in so many ways she felt robbed.
She bit her lower lip as Hannah and Molly laughed about other photographs on the page; Robert in bellbottoms, Annie’s hair when she was pregnant with Molly, Hannah’s high heeled shoes she almost fell out of on her prom night.
Molly glanced at her grandmother and noticed the tears glimmering, hovering on the edge, ready to spill over. Her laughter faded and she reached over to cover Franny’s hand with her own.
Franny nodded, but closed her eyes, a tear escaping down her cheek. When she opened her mouth to speak, she found she couldn’t. An ache squeezed at her chest as more tears pooled in her eyes.
“I miss him, girls,” she whispered a few moments later. “I miss him.”
Hannah moved to kneel in front of her mother, sliding the photo album from her lap and laying it on the coffee table.
“We do too, Mom. We do too.”
Sobs shook Franny’s small body as she bowed her head. “I’ve — I’ve been mad at God.” She opened her eyes and looked at the ceiling, so she didn’t have to look at Molly and Hannah, see their looks of surprise, maybe even shock or disappointment. “It’s wrong, but I’ve been mad at him for taking Ned away from me.”
Hannah clutched Franny’s hands in hers.
“Mom. Look at me.”
Franny shook her head and closed her eyes again.
She looked at Hannah, her eyes red from crying.
“Remember what you told me after my miscarriage? You told me that it’s okay to be mad at God. You told me, ‘He’s big enough to handle it.’ Remember?”
Franny continued to cry, nodding.
She mouthed “thank you,” her voice stolen by emotion.
Molly swallowed hard as Hannah, still kneeling, laid her head in her mother’s lap and began to cry. Franny touched the top of Hannah’s head, sank her hands into her daughter’s dark hair and bent over her in a protective move, continuing to cry softly.
Molly felt like she was interrupting a tender, private moment somehow until Franny looked over, slid her arm around Molly and pulled her close.
The front screen door squeaked open a few moments later and footsteps followed.
“Hello? Franny? You here?”
There was pause in the footsteps and then a soft gasp. “Oh…my. What have I walked into?”
Molly sniffed and looked up at her other grandmother Betty, smiling slightly through the tears. “A good cry.”
She held her hand out to Betty whose eyes softened with compassionate realization, not needing to be told what the tears were for.
She took Molly’s hand.
“Well, then, let me get in on that good cry, ladies.”
Molly held Betty’s right hand and leaned against Franny and Hannah reached up and clutched Betty’s left hand. The four women cried together, letting go of the emotions they’d been holding in for far too long.