I totally forgot I was going to post Chapter 3 of The Farmers’ Sons earlier today. So here it is, although late. For those who followed Jason’s story when I originally posted it with Molly’s story some of this will be a bit of a repeat, but it has been reworked some.
To catch up on the rest of story, click HERE or find it under the Fiction Friday header at the top of the page.
You can read Molly’s story on Amazon in ebook form.
Jason loaded another set of weights on the barbells and laid back on the bench, gripping the bar tightly.
Why did I let her think I was going to propose that night?
He grunted under the weight, pushing up until his arms were straight, then slowly lowering the bar again, counting under his breath. His muscles strained under the weight.
I should have never waited so long to talk to her.
He pushed up again.
And when she assumed I had actually intended to propose, I went along with it like a complete idiot.
Down, breathing hard.
Ellie had every right to be angry at him. Not only for his non-proposal but for the secret he’d held on to for so long.
He straightened his arms, set the bar back in its place and lay there on the bench breathing hard.
He came to the gym a few times a week to work off some stress. Lately, though he’d only been finding more stress as his mind raced not only with thoughts of Ellie, but also of keeping the farm running.
When he focused on Ellie, his mind always walked him back to the night he had planned to tell her what he’d should have told her when they’d first started dating again, the night that they got engaged instead.
Seven months earlier
His heart had been racing, his palms damp with sweat. His stomach was tight and nausea spun in his stomach. 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?
He had taken 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 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’d 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 four 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 she had decided they should take a break from dating and 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 chewed his lower lip hungerly. Even after all these years her beauty still took his breath away.
His voice fell into a whisper; he barely realized he was talking out loud. “Oh God, I can’t —”
“Hey.” She slid into the truck seat and had her arms around his neck and her mouth on his before he could finish asking God for strength. Once she was in his arms, his mind was clouded by her kiss. She smelled of lilac and vanilla scented shampoo. She curled her fingers in his hair and held his head down to hers.
“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, and winked. “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 were going to 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.”
He pulled the truck out of the driveway, onto the dirt road. “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.” She shrugged, folded her hands in her lap, and looked out the windshield. “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. And she’d just said it. Because it was probably on her mind too.
“Right.” He pushed his foot on the accelerator, willing his truck to move them faster toward the restaurant where they could talk about the food, the weather, the farm, anything but marriage.
The drove in silence for a few moments, farmland and trees and open fields blurring into green and yellow out the window.
Hurry up, truck.
“Are you ever going to ask me to marry you?”
Jason’s hand jerked on the steering wheel. The truck swerved over the center line and then back into the right lane. Ellie gasped and clutched her hand around Jason’s bicep as he regained control of the truck.
Her voice trembled 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.
Was she reading his mind? They’d been together so long he wouldn’t be surprised.
His eyebrows knit together. “What would make you ask that right now?”
“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 I was surprised 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’s 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 again; 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 did think 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.
Only, that had never happened. She’d overheard him talking to Alex and that’s when the manure, so to speak, had hit the fan.
A deep voice startled Jason from his thoughts and he recognized it immediately as belonging to Cody Bracken— Spencer’s fire chief.
“Jason. Bud. You okay?”
Jason sat up, barely missing smacking his forehead on the metal bar. “Yeah. Sorry. Have you been standing there long?”
Cody laughed, tossed his duffle bag on the floor next to the wall. “A few seconds. Saying your name. You were totally gone, though. Got a lot on your mind?”
Jason guzzled the rest of the water from his sports bottle and shoved it in his bag. “Yeah. You could say that.”
Pulling off his sweatshirt, Cody unloaded a couple of the weights off the barbells Jason had been using. “I don’t have the muscle mass you do.” He winked. “Need to talk about anything?”
Jason shook his head. “Nah, but thanks.”
He stood and Cody wiped the bench with a towel. “Don’t want your sweaty germs.” He elbowed Jason playfully in the ribs. “Seriously, you got a minute?”
Jason wasn’t in any hurry to get back to the farm and talking to Cody would take his mind off Ellie for a few minutes at least. “Sure.”
“I don’t want to add anything else to your plate, but we had a meeting of the fire company the other night and we were talking about the need for more volunteers. Your name came up, along with some other men around town.” Cody sat on the bench and leaned forward, propping his elbows on his knees. “As you know, we are an all-volunteer company, other than my position. It’s been tough the last couple of years to find volunteers and we’re in need of some younger, strong men to at least be trained in case we need some additional hands in an emergency. I told the board I see you at the gym sometimes, so I’d ask you if you’d be interested.” He grinned. “So, would you?”
Jason leaned back against the wall and pushed his hand back through his hair. “I am interested but things have been pretty busy with the business lately, so I don’t know if I would really be available much.”
Cody nodded. “I understand. This wouldn’t have to be a full-time commitment by any means. We’d just like some guys to be trained in case they’re needed. At the most you’d be committing to, well, 100 hours of training, but it’s broken up into a few week nights and a couple of weekends over the next few months. Once your training is complete you can hold on to the certification and we’d call you only when we are short men. You’d only respond when you’re able to.”
Jason rubbed his hand along the scruff growing along his chin and jawline. Shoving training into his regular chores on the farm and work at the farm store would be tough, but it would also be the perfect way to distract himself from constantly focusing on the situation with Ellie.
“Think about it,” Cody said. “You can let me know later if it —”
“I’ll give it a try.”
Cody raised his eyebrows. “You’re sure? I don’t want to add more to your plate. I know how tough the farms around here have had it.”
Jason shook his head. “No. It will be fine. If I start and it gets to be too much, I’ll let you know, but I’d love to be able to help out my community. My uncle had a fire on his farm a couple years back and you guys were a big help. Consider this my way of paying you back.”
Cody reached out his hand and Jason took it. “Thanks, Jason. We appreciate it. I’ll give you a call when we have the first training session scheduled. Probably about two weeks.”
Climbing into his truck, Jason wasn’t sure he truly wanted to split his time between farming and fire fighter training, but again, the more he could shove into his days, the less time he had to think about Ellie.