We are winding down to the end of The Farmer’s Daughter. I’ve been sharing chapters here since April and I’m in the middle of edits, revisions, rewrites and all that jazz. I finished the book last week, but I am still reworking chapters and scenes and trying to decide what I need to add and remove.
As always, this is a work in progress and there could be typos, plot holes, etc. Please feel free to tell me about them in the comment section or by using the contact form. This is a chapter I will definitely be working on because I didn’t get the chance to read and edit again like I normally try to do before I post it.
Annie ran her fingertips along the veins on the back of Robert’s hand. Up and down. Back down to his fingertips, sliding her hand under his and intertwining her fingers with his.
Lifting his hand, she pressed the back of it against her cheek, closed her eyes, and remembered their wedding night and so many nights afterwards when his hands had gently caressed her skin. She thought of the many times his hands had cradled her face, stroked her hair when she cried, clasped her hands as she prayed.
“I don’t know how to help her, Robert,” she’d whispered one night two weeks ago as they laid in bed. “She’s restless. I think she wants to see if there is a life for her off the farm, but this is all she’s ever known. Part of me wants to shove her out the door and say ‘go find what’s out there for you’ and part of me wants to hold on to her.”
He’d kissed her forehead and nodded. “I know. I feel the same way. I even hinted to her that it’s okay to leave if she wants to. I can’t imagine waking up and not seeing her at the breakfast table, but maybe she does need to explore a life away from here.”
Annie had sighed and intertwined her fingers with his, the same way she was now. “And then there is Jason and Ellie . . .”
Robert had laughed softly. “Annie, you can’t stay up all night worrying about our adult children. We can’t fix everything for them. They have to do some of it themselves.”
Annie had sighed and closed her eyes against the moonlight spilling in from the bedroom window. “I know,” she whispered. “I know. But what do you think happened between them that they’re not talking?”
Robert rubbed her arm gently and kissed her forehead one more time. “Go to bed, Annie.”
She wondered if these hands, laying here now, so still, would ever do those things again, touch her, comfort her. What would she do without him if he didn’t pull out of this? Never before had she so clearly understood the pain her mother-in-law had faced a year ago as she held her husband’s hand, begging God not to take him home.
“Not yet,” Franny had said, tears in her eyes. “Not yet, Lord.”
And now Annie was saying the same, praying for a man in the prime of his life, who had so many years ahead of him, who meant the world to her.
“Not yet, God, please. Not yet.”
She laid her head against Robert’s hand clutched in hers and closed her eyes, the tears falling freely. Her head jerked up fast seconds later at the garbled sound of choking.
At the sight of Robert’s body convulsing, his muscles tightening like a rope being yanked hard upwards, she cried out and stood from the bed, letting go of his hand. His body stiffened, then convulsed again.
“Oh God. No.”
Two hands gripped her shoulders, pulled her back away from the bed, let her go. A nurse stepped around her swiftly; the nurse who a few moments ago had been on the other side of the room filling out paperwork. The young woman’s hand moved expertly, pushed a button then grabbed Robert by both arms, holding him down against the bed.
In minutes the room became a blur of blue and green, nurses and doctors, pushing past her, reaching, mashing buttons, leaning over her husband, calling out words and terms she didn’t understand.
She clutched her shirt at her chest, backed against the wall and stared in horror at it all. Wild beeps blistered her ears then a long beep that bore its way into her mind.
Her heart raced at the word, bile rose in her throat, cold shivered through her.
“Oh God,” she whispered. She slammed her back against the wall, sliding down it, darkness drifting across her vision, her world falling apart around her.
“Oh God. God help him.”
They were in Alex’s truck for the drive to the hospital this time and Molly was looking at a stack of country music CDs and a container of toothpicks in the console. She flipped through the CDs and pulled out George Straight.
“Mind if I put this one in?”
He leaned back in the seat, draped one arm over the steering wheel, the other over the back of the seat as he settled into the groove of the 65 mph speed limit. “Not at all.”
It had been a month since Robert had fallen into the coma, a little less since Alex’s mom had visited. Molly hadn’t asked about their conversations and Alex hadn’t offered.
They had both spent their time working on the farm, at the country store, and discussing Walt and Hannah’s ideas with Jason when he’d come home from the hospital after spending almost a week staying at a nearby hospital with Annie. Jason had stayed home this time, promising Molly he would find time to work things out with Ellie, straighten out whatever he had broken.
Molly had made a promise of her own to Liz. When Robert came home, Molly would move into an apartment with Liz, to offer support and be there when the baby was born.
“If Dad comes home —” Molly had started.
“Not “if”, Molly,” Liz had said. “When.”
“Yes,” Molly said. “When.”
They were half an hour from the hospital now.
A smile tugged at the corner of Alex’s mouth as George’s smooth tone drifted from the speakers.
“What’s that smile for?”
He shook his head. “Just thinking about how this song makes me think of you.”
Warmth rushed through the center of her chest. “Really?”
He kept his eyes on the road, but he was smiling. “Sure. A goodbye kiss is all I need from you.” He glanced at her. “And a hello one for that matter.”
She looked out the front windshield, a shy smile crossing her face, unsure how to take him sharing with her that certain songs made him think of her.
“Did you listen to country before you came here?”
He shook his head, smiling. “No. Never. I used to go in my room and blast Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, or anything else that was loud and could block out my parents and later my thoughts.”
Molly stretched her legs out in front of her and settled back against the seat, enjoying learning more about him, the sound of his voice. “What made you start listening to country?”
“If you remember, I had to listen to it.” He grinned. “It’s all you guys every played in the barn. Eventually, though, it grew on me. The lyrics spoke to me about things I’d always wanted but never had and started wondering if I could have.”
Molly laughed. “Women in Daisy Dukes in the back of a pick-up with a keg of beer?”
Alex tipped his head back and laughed. “No. I’d had some of that before.” Red spread across his cheeks and he cleared his throat. “All that wasn’t what I really wanted or needed. It was the other kind of country songs that caught my attention. The ones about the land, small towns, good people, and,” he reached over and took her hand in his, brought it to his mouth and kissed the back of it. “A good woman.”
Molly’s heartrate increased, watching him as he watched the road, starting to believe that he truly meant what he was saying, which was both thrilling and terrifying.
Silence settled over them for a few moments, the sound of the tires on the highway the only sound.
He broke the silence first. “You know something else?” He rubbed the top her hand with his thumb. “Your dad has been more of a father to me than my dad ever was.”
He looked in the side mirror, pulled into the other lane. His smile faded and a distant expression crossed his face. “When mom was here, she told me my dad has cancer.”
Molly’s eyebrow furrowed in concern, even though he didn’t exactly seem upset. His tone was neutral, more matter-of-fact than anything else.
“Oddly, yeah.” He pulled into the other lane, both hands on the wheel. “I mean I should be sad or worried, right? But I don’t feel anything. I’m not worried about him or sad or angry or . . .” He paused and looked at her again, frowning briefly, shrugging. “Well, anything. It’s normal for there to be some kind of drama with my dad. This is just another time I’m supposed to care, but don’t.”
Molly had never not cared about her dad, but in Alex’s case she could understand why he found it hard to care for the man who had essentially abandoned his wife and children. Still, finding out his father had cancer had to have been a shock.
“I know.” Alex shook his head. “It’s not normal not to care when you find out your dad has cancer. I probably need some kind of therapy.”
Molly laid her hand against his upper arm. “Therapy may be in order someday, yes, but a brain can only process so much and you’ve had a lot happen in a short time. Cut yourself some slack.”
Looking up at the exit sign for the hospital, Alex blew out a breath. “Yeah. I’ll try. One good thing is that they caught it early from what Sam said. The doctors are optimistic that he’ll beat it.”
Molly moved closer as he pulled into a parking space, kissing his cheek as he pushed the truck into park. “I’ll be here if you need me, okay?”
He smiled and kissed her briefly on the mouth. “I know. Thank you.” He tilted his head toward the door. “Come on. Enough about my dad. Let’s head in and check on yours.”
Molly walked into the hospital, hopeful her mom would tell her good news but when she saw her mom sitting on the floor in the hallway, her legs hugged to her chest, her forehead on her knees, she knew that wasn’t going to happen.