This week there was a lot of thinking about this current book and what I want to happen and how I want it to end so that it will leave the door open for a continuing story of Molly and Alex, Liz, Ginny, Jason and Ellie, etc. I fall asleep dreaming about my characters and hoping by morning they will tell me which direction it all needs to go. The picture is definitely clearing up but I am already able to tell that there are some gaps in the story that still need to be filled in during revisions.
If you want to catch up with the rest of the story, you can do so HERE or by clicking the link at the top of the page.
As always, this is a novel in progress so there are bound to be typos, plot holes, etc. and you are welcome to let me know about them via the contact form or in the comments.
Molly closed her eyes against the darkness, the thrumming of tires on asphalt lulling her into a much needed sleep. When she woke up, Alex was parking the truck in the driveway and she was staring at the darkened windows of her parents’ house, a painful reminder that they weren’t there and her dad was in a coma at a hospital four hours away.
She wished she hadn’t agreed that she and Alex should come home and get some rest while Jason and her mom crashed at a hotel down the street from the hospital. Her world was upside down and she didn’t know if it would ever be right side up again.
“You going to be okay alone?”
She shook her head, still looking at the house.
Wiping her fingertips across the damp skin under her eyes she looked at him, his face barely lit by the light from the light pole next to the barn. “I really don’t think I can be here without them.”
She looked at the house again. “I’d stay with Liz but she’s still at her parents. I could crash at grandma’s, I guess.”
“You could, but I don’t know if the best thing for a woman Franny’s age is someone pounding on her door at midnight.”
Molly laughed softly. “Yeah. You’re probably right.”
“You want me to stay?” He shrugged a shoulder. “I can sleep on the couch.”
She knew she should say ‘no’. The idea of being alone with him when she felt so vulnerable scared her, but the idea of being in her parents’ house without them, alone with the thoughts that her dad might not ever come back here again, absolutely terrified her.
She thought he might hesitate, but instead he jumped out, briskly walked to her side of the truck, and opened the door for her.
“Come on, then. We can do this.” He took her hand in his. “Together.”
Flicking on the lights in the house, they stood in the doorway frozen, as if they were both afraid to take a step inside.
He let out a breath. “Wow. I don’t like this at all.”
“Much too quiet.”
They stood there for a few seconds longer and then he walked inside, snatched up the remote and turned on the TV. “That’s better. It’s not as quiet now.”
Molly laughed, wiping tears from her cheeks. “That works.” She stepped inside and tossed her jacket on the back of the couch, pushing the door closed behind her. “How about a snack and movie?”
She’d almost said, ‘before bed’, but that would have sounded wrong. So wrong. She was glad she hadn’t said it.
Alex flopped on the couch and propped his feet on the coffee table. “Absolutely.”
Molly looked at him with a mocking expression of disapproval.
“Do you seriously have your dirty boots on my mom’s coffee table?”
“Oh, crud.” He slid his feet back down again. He winced. “Don’t tell Annie.”
Molly laughed as she turned to walk back into the kitchen.
When they were sitting together on the couch a half an hour later, watching an old Humphry Bogart movie she’d suggested, a bowl of popcorn on her lap, she was definitely aware of how close he was, how warm his arm was against hers, but she was also bone tired.
She was thankful she was bone tired. Even if he had made a move, she wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it. As her eyelids grew heavy, she thought about their conversation on the way to the hospital and what he’d said when she’d been worried about paying off the loan.
“We’ll figure it out.”
She’d liked the way he’d said it, how it showed that he saw himself as part of the family. Five years ago, he’d walked into the barn for the first time, clean shaven, quiet and withdrawn. He’d had walls up she didn’t think would ever come down. They weren’t completely down, but they were falling piece by piece and she was grateful she was beginning to see sides of him she’d previously only seen glimpses of.
Leaning her head against his shoulder she closed her eyes, drifting to sleep, the voices of Humphrey and Lauren Bacall fading in and out between images of the cows in the field, her dad laughing from the back of the tractor, and Alex’s smile the day he’d kissed her at the overlook.
Alex woke to the sound of the shower running upstairs and a cow mooing in the pasture behind the farmhouse. Sunlight poured in through the front windows and the small window in the front door. He grabbed at his side as he sat up, wincing in pain. He knew he had a bag of painkillers in the truck, but he was leery of taking them again considering the crazy trip they’d sent him on a couple of days before. He’d ask Molly if she had any Tylenol or Ibuprofen when she came down instead.
He kept his hand against his side as he limped toward the kitchen, hoping Molly wouldn’t mind if he made himself some coffee. In the kitchen, he found the coffee already brewing and a plate of eggs and bacon on the counter with a note next to it.
Eat. Don’t argue. You can have the shower next.
How had she woken up without him even knowing, brewing coffee and cooking breakfast to boot? He’d either been extremely tired or she’d been extremely quiet. Either way, he was grateful for the coffee and the food. It would help give him fuel for the day he had planned. He’d be late to the barn, but he had chores to do to keep his mind busy and make sure Walt and Hannah didn’t have too much extra work on them. There was a full staff willing to help, he knew that , but after five years of being Robert and Jason’s right hand man he didn’t want to let them down now when they needed him the most.
Sipping coffee hot and black a few moments later, he was suddenly struck with how domesticated this all felt. The woman he loved was upstairs in the shower and she’d made him breakfast. He was getting ready to start his workday and he wouldn’t be surprised if she followed him to the barn to work with him.
Was this how Robert and Annie felt? Like a team? Two people working toward the same goals – putting food on their table but also the tables of their employees and consumers.
He added cream and sugar to the coffee, sipping it as he wandered into the living room and looked at the photos on the wall, photos he’d seen before, but never really studied close.
There was Jason and his dad standing next to a cow with a number clipped on its’ ear and a ribbon around its’ neck. Jason was probably 12 and Alex guessed the competition to be related to 4-H. The next photo was Molly riding a bike on the dirt road outside the house, her dad behind her, balancing the bike with his hand. Her grin was mesmerizing, her beautiful curls trailing behind her, blowing in the wind. She was probably seven or eight
His eyes moved across the images, the moments and memories that made up a life of the family he’d fallen in love with. His gaze stopped at Robert and Annie’s wedding photo. He’d already been told they had married right after high school and Jason had been born a few months after Annie turned nineteen. He couldn’t imagine starting a family at such a young age.
He could barely imagine starting one now at his age. Still, there were those images he’d had in his mind that night in the barn when he was kissing Molly. Those images of Molly holding a baby on her hip. Some part of him must have been able to imagine his future with children in it. His children. His and Molly’s children.
Seeing those visions that night had been one of the most surreal moments of his life. He had never experienced such a visceral moment with a woman and the experience had completely terrified him.
He didn’t intend to ever tell anyone what he’d seen so clearly in his mind’s eye..
Rubbing his hand across his face and the back of his neck, he hoped the coffee kicked in soon. In that brief moment as he sipped his coffee and heard the bathroom door open he pictured himself in the emergency room, hooked up to an IV, Molly next to him, her head bent down close to his. He almost choked on his coffee as the moment rushed back in sickening clarity.
He had told her about the visions. He remembered it now.
He shook his head, rubbed his hand across his mouth, down his chin.
He must have dreamt it.
That painkiller had hit him hard.
He hadn’t known what was real and what wasn’t that night and he still wasn’t sure. He took a deep breath and let it out again.
Yes, it had been a dream. It had to have been.
He hadn’t said anything to her. Right?
Molly stepped off the bottom step, her hair damp, her skin glowing, wearing a pair of jeans that fit her curvy figure perfectly and a clean, crisp flannel shirt that he knew meant she planned to head to the barn. He looked at her over the edge of the mug and tried to decide if he really had told Molly about seeing her with that baby on her hip, her parents in the backyard pushing a child on a tire swing and Ellie pregnant in the front yard, holding an apple pie. He was sure it would all come back to him over the next few days and until then he decided not to bring it up. It was too mortifying, too frightening to think that he might also have told her he knew he was going to marry her one day.
The key word was “one day.” What if she’d thought ‘one day’ meant today’?
She tilted her head to one side, narrowed her eyes. “You okay?”
“Hum?” He realized he was still staring at her, both hands cupped around the mug of coffee. He lowered the mug and smiled. “Oh yeah. I’m great. Thanks for breakfast and the coffee.” He gestured toward her. “Are you thinking of heading to the barn? I was going there myself after I clean up.”
“Yeah. I want to see if Uncle Walt needs any help. Speaking of help, when you’re done washing up, I’ll help those bandages. The doctor said to change them once a day, remember?”
He shrugged. He hadn’t had time since he’d left the hospital. “I can handle it.”
A half an hour later, though, he was sitting in the living room shirtless embarrassed to admit to Molly he couldn’t get the bandage tapped to his back so it would cover the stitches which stretched from his stomach to around his side.
“It looks better than it did a couple of days ago,” she said after she’d pulled the old bandage off. “Did I tell you I almost passed out when they started to clean it out?”
He grinned. “No, you didn’t tell me that. A strong farm girl like you couldn’t handle the sight of blood?”
She didn’t smile when she lifted her head to look at him. “Not yours. No.”
He lifted his arm as she taped the bandage to his skin with the medical tape. Her damp curls grazed his cheek as she worked, and he breathed in deep the smell of her shampoo.
Was it wrong to kiss a woman when her dad was in critical condition in a hospital four hours away? He wasn’t sure but before he gave himself time to think about it, he kissed her cheek softly, hoping she’d turn her head so he could kiss her mouth next. She did and the kiss was sweet and long and enough to make him forget the events of the last few days, at least temporarily.
When she pulled her mouth away slowly several moments later her hands were in his hair, his hands were on her hips, he had pulled her against him, and they were both breathless. She slowly let his hair slide through her fingers as her hands fell to his bare shoulders and she leaned back to look at him.
“I’m going to tape the rest of this up and go check on Uncle Walt,” she said softly. “Because if I keep kissing you, we’re going to get into trouble.”
He smiled and nodded. “Understand.”
And truly, he did understand.
He tried to calm his racing heart as she finished with the bandage and then stepped away from him, turning to walk toward the front door.
“See you in the barn,” she called over her shoulder as he buttoned his shirt.
When she opened the door, though, she started and stepped back surprised to see an attractive blond woman in her mid-50s, wearing a pair of sunglasses, and a light pink suit coat and pants, standing there with her arms folded across her chest and dark red lips pursed together.
Alex, standing and buttoning his shirt, looked at the woman in surprise. “Mom?”