As always this story is a fictional serial which I update every Friday. it is also a work in progress and will be turned into a book once I’ve posted the chapters here on the blog and once it has been edited and maybe even rewritten.
I will share part two of this chapter tomorrow on the blog.
Let me know what you think of the story so far in the comments. What do you think should happen next or what has happened so far? And if you would like to read the first book in this series, you can find it on Kindle Unlimited or order a digital copy on Amazon. You can also order print versions on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
To catch up on the other chapters of this story click HERE.
Robert set a steaming mug of black coffee on the table in front of Jason and another in front of himself. Sunlight was trying to peek through dark clouds outside and the light in the kitchen cast a warm glow across the wooden table Ned had made 20 years ago.
“I’ve been thinking of some other avenues for revenue for the business.”
Jason laughed softly, reaching across the table for the creamer. “So that’s what happens when we leave you alone too long.”
“It certainly is.” Robert slid a sheet of paper across the table at him. “We’ve got a group of results from the genetic testing on the jerseys. It looks like we have enough with the A2 gene that we can start producing A2 milk once we build a bottling plant to process it.” He pointed to some figures at the bottom of the page. “That’s going to be the cost which part of the money left over from Alex’s mom will cover the majority of.”
Jason read over the paper. This move would definitely be another source of income for the business if it all came together.
His eyes fell on a few words at the bottom of the page that raised his eyebrows. “Goats? You want to add goats?”
Robert stirred creamer and sugar into his coffee, turning it a light brown. He nodded as he sipped. “The way I figure it,
Robert laughed. “But their milk is. It’s just another product we can add to the inventory of the store. Not to mention, we can make soap from the milk.”
Jason grinned and cocked an eyebrow. “Who’s going to make the soap?”
“Your mom and Molly are interested.”
“Molly? Making soap?”
Robert sighed. “Focus, Jason.”
Jason looked back at the paper again. “What’s this over here?” He squinted. “Should have been a doctor with this handwriting of yours, Dad. Corn maze? You want to set up a corn maze in the Fall?”
Robert sipped his coffee. “Yep. Diversify. Landon Bennett from the Lycoming Farm Bureau is going to put me in touch with a maze designer he’s worked with the last three years.”
Jason rubbed his chin under his bottom lip thoughtfully. “And this brought in some revenue for Landon?”
“Double what he makes in six months with milk sales, but he also added rides, crafts, and set up a pumpkin patch, which we have more than enough space for.”
“Have you talked to Walt yet?”
“Briefly. He agreed we need to get some figures together before we make any decisions. Maybe it won’t be plausible, but at this point I say we try everything and see what sticks. The alternative is —”
“Something we don’t need to think about right now,” Jason said quickly.
Robert set his cup of coffee aside and picked up a pen. He drew an arrow to a figure at the top of the page. “The money from Cecily was an amazing, appreciated boost for us and I think we need to capitalize on the breathing room it gave us.”
Jason nodded. “I agree.”
Robert set his pen aside, folded his arms on the surface of the table. “Now that we’ve got the business talk out of the way, maybe you’d like to talk about some more personal issues.”
Jason shook his head as he stood, the paper in his hand.
He leaned back against the kitchen counter, looking at the paper and taking a long gulp of his coffee. “Nope. I’m good. Plus, we’re not done with business talk. We still need to figure out where and how we’re going to build a shed or barn for the goats you want to buy. Not to mention where to buy the goats. Then there’s the need to get some plans together for the bottling plant. I can talk to Greg Stanton at Stanton Designs about that tomorrow when I’m in town if you want.”
Robert nodded. “We can figure that all out in the next few days. Your Uncle Walt is scoping out some of the space near his barn for the goat barn. We’ll see how that works.” He folded his hands in a triangle in front of him and propped his chin on the tips of his fingers, his eyes narrowing. “Jason, I know things have been rough between you and Ellie. If you need to talk —”
“Dad, I appreciate it, but I’m good. Really.”
“Are you? Really? Because you don’t look good most days. You look pretty beat up. It’s honorable of you to offer to help out the fire department besides everything else you’re doing, but do you think that maybe all of this is just a way to avoid dealing with the situation with Ellie?
Jason shrugged, placed his empty mug in the sink. “It’s not a situation. It’s moving on.”
Robert leaned back, draping an arm over the back of the kitchen chair. “So, the relationship is over?”
Jason shrugged again. “Maybe. I don’t know. It seems to be what she wants.”
“Any reason she wants this?”
Jason slid the paper onto the kitchen table, leaning his palms against the edge of the counter, trying to decide how much he wanted his dad to know. “She thinks she can’t trust me.”
“Did something happen to make her feel this way?”
“Not recently, no.”
“Jase, you know I love you, no matter what. You can tell me what’s going on.”
Jason blew out a breath. “I screwed up, Dad. Okay? I screwed up in college and I never told Ellie. Can we just not talk about this right now?”
Robert didn’t appear to be getting the message. “Okay, well, how did you screw up?”
Jason pressed thumb and forefinger against his nose and closed his eyes.
“Dad, I don’t want to talk about it, okay? I just —” He gestured with his hand, clenched his fist closed. How long was he going to hide his shame from his family? “I was down in college. I started drinking. It didn’t last long, but . . .”
“You fell in with some wrong people?”
Jason smirked. “Well, Alex, for one, but yeah…one person in particular. A woman.”
Robert sat back in his chair. “Ah. I see. And you never told Ellie about this woman and whatever happened between you two?”
Jason nodded. “A few months ago, she overheard me and Alex talking about it. I was going to tell her before that but when I tried to, she thought I was proposing so —”
The squeal from the scanner hooked to Jason’s belt startled them both. Jason twisted the volume knob.
The voice on the scanner broke through the static. “Department 12, brush fire. Corner of Drew Road and Pine Creek Road. Fully involved and spreading.”
Jason stood and reached for his cap. “That’s just up the road. It would be a good training opportunity for me.”
Robert nodded, his mouth pressed into a thin line. “Okay, but be careful and let’s talk about all of this again later.”
Out in his truck, starting the engine, Jason was glad for the excuse to leave. He was tired of talking about his past life, his mistakes, Ellie. He was tired of thinking about them, too. Luckily, he now had a brush fire to fight and later he would have a bottling plant and a goat barn to figure out how to build. Plenty to keep his mind off the thoughts burning painful paths through his heart and mind.
Robert envied how quickly Jason rushed out the front door. He couldn’t do anything quickly anymore. He lumbered like a bear shot with a tranquilizer dart most days, staggering across the pastures like a man 20 years older than he was.
It was amazing Annie still had anything to do with him.
It was a silly thought, grounded in self-pity, he knew it, but the thought was still there. Annie was vibrant, active, beautiful. She deserved more than a hobbling old man.
He winced, standing and placing his empty coffee mug in the sink.
There she was now. He watched her walk across the side yard toward the clothesline.
He listened to her often complain about the wrinkles she was finding, the gray hairs that were cropping up here and there, what she saw as extra skin under her chin. He saw none of those things, though.
To him she was still the 17-year-old girl he’d fallen in love with, the 19-year-old who had given birth to his son and then four years later their daughter. There had been a loss in between, a son they’d named Joseph even though he’d been born at 28 weeks, not old enough to breathe on his own, not strong enough even when the machines breathed for him.
A breeze blew stands of her dark brown hair across her face. She pushed them aside, behind her ear, and propped a clothespin in her mouth.
How was it that the sight of her still sent his heart racing in his chest, his muscles tightening with a desire to hold her close? They hadn’t had a lot of time alone together since the accident and before that he’d been working hard to pay off the loan by the deadline. The last several months had been filled with her waiting on him, especially when he’d first come home and slept in a bed downstairs until his pelvis and leg healed more.
He enjoyed waiting on her instead and had hated not being able to do for himself. Now he could get his own breakfast, his own coffee, do some work around the farm, and take showers without her helping him undress and dress again, though he had to admit that part had been fun in some ways. He smiled, thinking of her helping pulling off his jeans each night and how he’d chased her from the bathroom before she tried to remove anything else.
It was ridiculous, he knew, but somehow he had felt less of a man with his leg all mangled and in a cast. The way he winced from the pain in his pelvis each time he’d moved didn’t make him feel very masculine either. Even with the cast off, he still felt like only half of a man.
Annie hooked a sheet over the line, pushing herself up on the tips of her toes to reach. He grinned, his eyes traveling down her legs, exposed thanks to a pair of denim blue shorts.
Robert’s physical pain was better now, but there were still too many things he couldn’t do that he wanted to, including climbing onto the tractor, lifting heavy objects, dancing with his wife under the stars. Not that he’d danced with Annie under the stars regularly. It had only been that one time, three years ago, after they’d helped on of the pigs give birth and he hadn’t wanted to go back to the house yet.
He’d like to try it again, though. Hopefully soon the pain would be all the way gone and his leg wouldn’t be so stiff. He tried to bend the leg, now free of the lighter cast, and grimaced.
Hopefully then he wouldn’t feel as old and helpless as he did now.
He wondered if his dad had felt this way when age, and later dementia and heart failure, had forced him to slow down. Ned had been cognizant enough before the dementia took over to realize he was losing his mental faculties. They’d talked about it one day sitting on Ned and Franny’s front porch, rocking in the chairs his father had built for him and Franny to rock in when Ned retired.
“I’m not of much use these days, Robert,” Ned had said, his cloudy blue eyes looking out over the yard where chickens scratched at corn and a barn cat rolled in the grass. “Not to you boys. Not to your mom. Not to anyone.”
“Don’t say that, Dad.”
“It’s true. I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast yesterday.”
Robert had laughed. “I don’t even remember what I had for breakfast yesterday.”
Ned shook his head. He hadn’t laughed. “Who’s going to take care of your mom when I don’t know who I am anymore?”
Robert had reached over and done something the Tanner man rarely did. He’d squeezed his father’s hand and looked at him until he looked back.
“We will dad. Your kids and grandkids. And most importantly God will.”
Ned’s eyes glistened. “Do you think I’ll even know who God is when I forget who everyone else is?”
“Yeah.” Robert clutched his dad’s hand tighter. “Yeah. I do. And if you don’t, it doesn’t matter because he knows who you are.”