I introduced the first part of The Farmer’s Son last week. If you would like to read the prologue, you can click HERE.
This is a story in progress, a rough draft in many ways, so there will most likely be plot holes, typos, etc.
A year earlier
His heart was racing, his palms damp with sweat. His stomach felt tight, sick.
What had he been thinking? Was he really going to do this tonight? Was he really going to tell his longtime girlfriend about his past and let the chips fall where they may?
Jason took a deep breath and tightened his hands on the steering wheel until his knuckles faded white. Yes, he was. He was doing this because he needed the burden off his shoulders, and he needed to know how Ellie would feel about him after he told her. He couldn’t keep waiting, torturing himself with the worry of what might be.
He and Ellie had gone to school together since junior high, but it wasn’t until his junior year he really noticed her, or she had noticed him, or he guess he would say they noticed each other. It was in history class, and Mr. Prawley had placed them in a group together to work on a project. Before that they’d seen each other at 4H meetings or when Robert took Jason with him to pick up equipment he’d borrowed from Ellie’s dad Jerry.
Late one night after working on their project about Pennsylvanian history, they found themselves laughing about their shared interest in old movies.
“Cary Grant is the epitome of old-fashioned suave and charm,” she’d said, pretending to swoon, her hand against her forehead when they watched North by Northwest together at his parents.
He grinned, a teasing glint in his eye. “I agree, but I’m the epitome of modern suave and charm, right?”
She’d tipped her head back and laughed, and he wasn’t sure if she was enjoying his humor or mocking him.
“Ginger Rogers was a very underrated actress,” he announced after they watched Vivacious Lady at her parents’ house.
“I agree,” she had said and smiled.
Wow. That smile.
That smile that was for him and only him.
It took his breath away.
That smile and her soft, long black hair against that pale skin, those large dark eyes and her sweet round face — what a knockout combination.
He’d taken her to the movies twice, dinner once, lunch three times and attended youth group with her every Wednesday for two months before he’d finally worked up the courage to kiss her. And now, here he was working up the courage to ask her to marry him, but first he had to tell her about what had happened during the break they’d taken when they’d both been in college–at two different colleges.
Those two years in college when he’d been without her, when they had taken a break from dating to see “how things developed” as she had said, were the loneliest and most confusing two years of his life. He’d felt like a ship out at sea without a compass. Returning home from college, to the farm and to her had anchored him again. He couldn’t even imagine losing that anchor again.
God, please don’t let me lose her.
He caught sight of movement out of the corner of his eye and turned his head to see her stepping off the front porch, down the steps, watching him as she walked. Her smile was broad, captivating.
His breath caught in his throat. His eyes followed the length of her body as she walked, and he bit his lower lip. Even after all these years, she still took his breath away.
She was so beautiful.
“I can’t do this, God,” he whispered as she reached the truck and opened the door.
“Hey.” She slid into the truck seat and had her arms around his neck and her mouth on his before he could ask God for strength. Once she was in his arms, her kiss clouded his mind. She smelled of lilac and vanilla scented shampoo. The skin along her neck was soft as he kissed it and then moved his mouth up along her jawline, her ear and back to her mouth.
“We should probably head out to the restaurant,” she said breathlessly a few moments later. She tipped her head to one side, her hand against his chest. “Before we go too far.”
Jason cleared his throat and nodded. “Right. Of course.”
He grinned as he turned back to the steering wheel and she hooked her seatbelt. “But it wasn’t as if things would get too far with us parked outside your parent’s house. Not before your dad shot me.”
Ellie laughed. “Jason, Daddy wouldn’t shoot you.”
“I beg to differ.”
Ellie shook her head. “He loves you. You know that.”
“But he wouldn’t like me making out with you in my truck.”
“No, probably not,” Ellie said with a wink. “Unless we were married, of course.”
Jason swallowed hard.
There it was.
The one word hovering in his mind 24/7, waking him up at night, giving him near panic attacks daily.
“Right,” he said nervously, pushing his foot on the accelerator slightly, willing his truck to move them faster toward the restaurant where they could talk about the food, the weather, the farm, anything but marriage.
They drove in silence for a few moments, farmland and trees and open fields passing them by.
Hurry up, truck.
“Are you ever going to ask me to marry you?”
Jason’s hand jerked on the steering wheel as he nearly jumped out of his seat from shock. The truck swerved over the center line and then back again into the right lane. Ellie gasped and clutched her hand around Jason’s upper bicep as he regained control of the truck.
She was breathless when she spoke. “Oh gosh. Sorry. I just — I shouldn’t have blurted it out like that, but I knew if I didn’t say something now, I would lose my courage.”
Jason slowed the truck down and pulled off into an empty parking lot in front of an abandoned convenience store. He slid the gear into park and turned to look at Ellie.
“What would make you ask that right now?” he asked, his eyebrows furrowed.
Was she reading his mind? They’d been together so long he wouldn’t be surprised.
“I — I don’t know. I just — ” Tears rimmed her eyes. “I’m sorry, Jason. Are you angry?”
Jason shook his head. “No. Not at all. I’m sorry.” He reached over and took her hand in his. The frightened expression on her face sent stabbing guilt shuddering through him. He let go of her hand and cupped his palm against her face.
“It’s not that at all. It’s just that I was actually going to talk to you about that tonight, and it surprised me that it was on your mind too.”
A tear slipped down Ellie’s cheek and his heart ached even more. He swiped at it with the palm of his thumb.
“Of course, it is on my mind, Jason. I’ve wanted to marry you since high school. I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to have your children. But sometimes I feel like you don’t want any of that at all.”
“No, El, that’s not true. I do want that. All of it.”
“Then why aren’t you asking me to marry you?”
“I — well, I was going to —”
Ellie’s eyes grew wide and her eyebrows shot up. “Oh! Were you going to ask me tonight and I totally ruined your plans?”
“Well, I —”
“Oh, Jason! I’m so sorry! I ruined your plan.”
“No, that’s okay. It’s just —”
Her mouth was on his again before he could explain. The expression of sheer delight on her face when she pulled back, her arms still around his neck, sent warmth bursting through his chest.
“You know I don’t need a big fancy proposal. All I want is you. Of course I’d say ‘yes’ no matter how you asked.”
She was kissing him again, and he was forgetting what he’d been going to say. Her body was so warm and solid against his and her lips so soft. Her hands were in his hair and he couldn’t focus. Slowly his thoughts began to clear and that’s when the panic set in.
Wait a minute. Did she think he had just proposed, and she was saying yes?
She peppered his cheek and neck with kisses. “Oh, Jason! I’m so excited! I’ve been waiting for this moment for years!”
Yes, she thought he’d just proposed, and she was saying ‘yes’.
“I know. I have been too, but I —”
She cut his sentence short again. “Are you okay? I’m so sorry I ruined the surprise.”
“No, it’s okay, I mean — It’s just that I —”
Her large brown eyes were watching him with hopeful expectation, with joy, with complete and utter adoration. There was no way he could tell her about his past now; ruin her night completely.
“I don’t have a ring,” he blurted.
She tipped her head back and laughed. “I don’t care about a ring, silly! We can worry about that later, or not at all. You know I don’t care about stuff like that.”
“But it’s a symbol, and it’s important, El. I should get you a ring.”
Ellie kissed him gently and shook her head. “Later. I just want us to enjoy this moment together for now.”
Jason swallowed hard. He wanted to enjoy the moment too, but he knew he couldn’t keep his secret forever. Ellie needed to know sooner rather than later. He wouldn’t tell her tonight, though. He’d already made his mind up about that. They would go to dinner, celebrate their engagement and then later, another day, he’d tell her what she needed to know and let her make up her own mind about whether she still wanted to spend the rest of her life with him.
Standing outside her house, her parents inside, watching TV and reading the paper, Ellie Lambert took a deep breath and felt giddy butterflies in the center of her stomach. She tipped her head back, breathed in the cool night air, the smell of autumn leaves, and giggled.
She giggled like a young girl without a care in the world.
She wanted to tell the entire world, to scream it from the rooftops.
She couldn’t, though.
They had agreed they wouldn’t tell anyone about their engagement for a couple of more weeks at least so they could choose a ring together.
“I wanted to have the ring first, so you can show your friends, but I—”
“I know. I ruined it for you. I’m so sorry, Jason.”
He’d kissed her and told her she hadn’t ruined anything, but she knew she had. Why couldn’t she have been patient and waited for him to propose on his own?
Well, maybe because she had been waiting for him to propose for almost five years now and he never would. She had to ask. She had to know if they had a future or not.
In two more months, she’d be 29, and she was still living at home with her parents, working two part jobs, with her life really going nowhere. She loved her life; it wasn’t that. It was that she felt like she was in limbo, between the life of a young adult and the life of an actual adult.
Her sister, Judi, was living the life of an actual adult, even though she was two years younger. Judi was living in New York City after moving there four years ago.
Her real name was Judy with a “y” but in an attempt to be cooler and, in Ellie’s mind, stand apart from others, she started spelling her name with an “i” in junior high school. It irritated Ellie that everyone, including her parents, catered to her, went along with the ridiculous spelling, like they went along with every other eccentric, off the wall thing Judi did.
Ellie didn’t want to live somewhere chaotic like Judi. She wanted to be married, with children, building a life with Jason in their own home, in the same small town they’d grown up in. Farming would be their life, of course. She knew that, and she was fine with it. Farming was in both of their blood. They were both farm kids, even though she spent more time at the Tanner’s Country Store and Little Lambs Daycare as a preschool teacher in town than on the farm these days.
She tipped her head down, bit her lower lip to force the smile away, as she looked at her mom standing in the doorway.
“You’re home early, aren’t you?”
“Well, Jason had to get up extra early tomorrow.”
“Oh, I see. Everything’s okay then?”
It’s amazing. It’s wonderful. It’s spellbindingly perfect.
“Yep. All good.”
“Okay. Good. I was just a little worried since you hadn’t come in yet. Your dad and I are heading to bed in a few.”
Ellie trailed her fingers along the railing along the stairs. “I think I’ll stay out a few minutes longer.”
Her mom smiled, nodded, and closed the door, leaving Ellie with her thoughts. Thoughts. So many of them. She had a wedding to plan now, and she still couldn’t wrap her mind around that fact.
She sat on the top step, under the pale light of the porch, and felt a frigid chill she knew wasn’t from the night air.
Rubbing her hands across her arms, thinking about how she was about to marry a man she hadn’t even been honest with for all these years she let out a shaky breath. Yes, she’d been honest when she said she loved him. Yes, she’d been honest when she told him she wanted to marry him, have children with him. But there was something she hadn’t told him, and she wondered how he would react when she did.
He’d probably be less upset than she imagined, but she still couldn’t shake that fear that he’d be crushed. He would be the first person beside her parents to know this about her. She should have told him years ago, not right before their wedding.
She felt the tears hot in her eyes, pressed her hands to them and let out a shaky breath.
God, please let him forgive me for not telling him before. I can’t lose him.