For anyone who is new here, this is a continuing story. It is a semi-first draft that I edit more later through a few more drafts before it hits as a self-published ebook and paperback sometime in the future.
If you’d like to catch up on the rest of the story, feel free to click HERE.
I posted Chapter 11 yesterday for Fiction Friday. Today’s chapter is a little rough around the edges. It will get a serious working over before final publication.
If you like what you’ve read here, let me know in the comments. You can catch the first book in this series, The Farmer’s Daughter, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and get an excerpt here.
“You be good to the land and the land will be good to you.”
Ned’s words echoed in Robert’s mind. Then he remembered with a laugh how Ned had added, “That’s what some farmers say anyhow. Sadly, I’ve learned that’s all a bunch of garbage.”
Ned had laughed and taken a long swig of his coffee. “The land doesn’t care about you one little bit, Robert. Remember that. It’s got a mind of its own and only cares about itself. It would sooner eat you up and spit you out than be good to you. So, remember this instead, when the world isn’t good to you, it doesn’t matter, because God always is, even when we think he isn’t.”
Robert certainly hadn’t felt like God was good when Ned had gotten sick and passed away so quickly. He eased himself down on the bench of the picnic table outside the barn. Reminding himself that God was good, “all the time” had become a daily practice even when he didn’t feel it. There were days he couldn’t see the good of God, but he knew He was working all things to His glory. One day Robert would see it all, the other side of the picture and what it looked like once complete.
He dragged the back of his hand across his forehead to wipe away the sweat. It was the first official week of spring. What was with the high temperatures? It was like they had skipped spring and jumped head long into summer.
Maybe he was simply perceiving the temperatures as high because he was so wiped out from lifting himself up and down while he tried to repair the mower. He missed being able to easily push himself up from the ground, without the pain in his leg and hips. The loss of simple mobility had been harder to accept than the loss of time while he’d been in the hospital. As much as he missed the ease of which he’d been able to move before, though, he missed his father even more.
Dust curled up around the truck barreled up the road and Robert leaned back on his elbow, considering making himself look useful but deciding he was too tired to care if the visitor thought was lazy or not. When the truck came closer, and he recognized it, he no longer cared about appearances. His nephew Brad knew about the accident and Robert’s struggle to recover, even though he’d been away at the time, spreading his wings, trying to decide if farming was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
Brad parked his truck next to the barn and himself next to Robert on the bench. “Is it the leg?”
Robert shrugged. “Yeah. Not the best today.”
“Taking the painkillers?”
Robert scowled. “We’re Tanner men. We don’t need no painkillers, boy.”
Brad laughed, leaning back on his elbows on the top of the table. “Very true.” He stretched his legs out in front of him. The brim of his hat cast a shadow across his face, but Robert could still see Walt’s smile and green eyes reflected in the face of his nephew. “I’m headed out to Mansfield to pick up some supplies. Dad wanted me to ask if you need anything.”
Robert looked toward the backyard, his eyebrows furrowing. “Well, yeah, I could use a load of potting soil for Annie’s garden. She’s determined to grow strawberries this year.”
Brad scoffed. “Good luck with that. Either the weather or the deer will get them before she can ever harvest them.”
Robert was being summoned. Probably for another menial task Jason was asking him to do so he didn’t feel useless.
When he saw Brad, Jason’s questioning expression faded into a more neutral one, tinged with annoyance. The change in demeanor wasn’t lost on Robert who looked between the two young men, confused by the tension in the air.
Brad flicked his hand up in a quick wave, still leaning back on the picnic table. “Hey, Jase.”
Jason nodded curtly at his cousin. “Brad.”
The two men looked at each other for a few seconds of awkward silence before Robert interrupted the stand off. “Whatchya need, Jason? I was just giving the leg a break.”
Jason pulled his gaze from Brad’s. “Um, yeah. It’s the feeder lever. It’s stuck again and I didn’t know where you put the new box of Shell we ordered.”
Brad twisted so he could see Jason. “Dad and I’ve been using Mystik JT-6 and it’s been working great. If you want to try some, I’ve got a can in the car.”
Jason stiffened, took a step back and turned toward the barn. “No. Shell’s is what we use.”
Brad shrugged a shoulder. “Whatever works.”
Robert cleared his throat pushed himself up from the table. “I think I stacked the box in the workroom. Let me see if I can find it.” After Jason was inside the barn he turned back toward Brad, leaning closer and lowering his voice. “What’s up with you two anyhow?”
Brad pulled his cap lower on his head. “Just a misunderstanding.” He sighed and stood. “I guess we’d better work it out before it gets out of hand.”
JASON TOOK THE container of grease from his dad and headed toward the feed room, doing his best to ignore Brad following closely behind.
It was hard to ignore Brad tapping on the inside wall of the feed room, though. “Knock, knock, cousin. We need to talk.”
Spreading the grease on, Jason tried his best to concentrate on his work and not on the man behind him, the man related by blood who had gone out with his ex-fiance while he was away at college.
Brad leaned back against the wall of the barn, folding his arms across his chest. He was almost as tall as Jason, less muscular, but still built strong and lean like most of the Tanner men. Wearing a pair of faded jeans, brown work boots, and a white t-shirt, he was also wearing what most of the Tanner men wore. As far as Jason was concerned, physical appearances were where the similarities ended. Brad had taken a few years away from the farm to, as he said, “figure out if farming is what I really want to do.”
To Jason he’d shown he didn’t have the passion for the business that the rest of the family did. Jason hadn’t needed two years away from farming to know farming was in his blood and what he wanted to do.
Brad propped the bottom of his foot against the wall behind him. “Yeah, we do. You’re blowing this whole thing with Ellie completely out of proportion. I took her out on two dates, six or seven years ago. That’s it.” Brad shrugged a shoulder. “I wouldn’t even call them dates. We went to a movie once and lunch at Bettie’s Diner another time. We ended up talking more about you than anything else. She probably went out with me to be nice. That’s how she is. You know that.”
The lever still wouldn’t move. Jason scowled at it and walked past Brad to find a wrench.
Brad pushed himself off the wall, hands on his hips, watching Jason walk back into the room with the wrench.
“It’s true, Jason. Besides, why are you angry at me? It’s not like you and I were dating. Your relationship was with Ellie. She’s the one who didn’t tell you. You should be mad at her.”
The wrench wasn’t loosening anything. In fact, it was the wrong size for the bolt. In a burst of frustration Jason tossed the wrench against the wooden planked wall, denting the wood. The wrench flew back and struck the metal of the feeding pipe with an ear piercing clank.
“I know, Brad! I know! I am mad at her, okay?”
He dragged his hand through his hair and let out a low guttural growl. “I know we were in a relationship. I get it. She didn’t feel she could be open with me, I wasn’t open with her. It’s a mess. I know. Just —” He let out a breath, propped his hands at his waist and shook his head. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be taking this out on you. You didn’t know she hadn’t told me. None of this is your fault. I’m just — It’s just — I screwed stuff up with Ellie and I’m on edge about anything to do with her.”
Brad’s eyebrows raised and he held his hands up, palms out. “Whoa! That’s more than I bargained for.” He laughed softly. “Seriously, Jase. I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened between you two, but I’m sure you and Ellie will work through it. She loves you and you love her, or you wouldn’t be so upset.”
Jason shook his head, retrieved the wrench from the ground behind a bag of feed mixture. “I don’t know if we’re going to work it out. She’s not very interested in that at this point.”
Brad laughed, slapping Jason on the back. “Well, then, there is plenty of fish in the sea, as they say. You’re a good looking guy. I mean, how couldn’t you be? You’re a Tanner. I’m sure you’ll find someone new.”
Jason looked up from the lever, scowling. “Really, Brad?”
Brad shrugged. “You know me. I’ve never been good at comforting people in their times of need.” He patted Jason’s shoulder. “Really, though. You and Ellie are going to make it. You’re the golden couple. Everyone wishes they could be like you two. Chin up, bud. It’s all going to work out.”
Jason kneeled back by the lever, working at the bolt again. He wanted to believe Brad but his faith that he and Ellie would be able to patch things up was fading the longer she wouldn’t talk to him.
HE’D LIED to Jason.
Brad knew it was wrong, but there was no way he was going to tell his 6’ 2” tall, overly muscular cousin how much he’d enjoyed going out seven years ago with the girl who was now the man’s ex-fiance.
He turned his truck onto the dirt road, headed toward home.
Sure, it was true that Ellie had spent most of her time talking about Jason on the three dates they’d gone on, but it didn’t stop Brad from noticing how beautiful and sweet she was and wishing she’d been talking about him instead.
Oh, that’s right. He told Jason it had only been two.
What Jason didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. Apparently Ellie hadn’t told him the right number either. There must be a reason for that.
Jason didn’t need to know how many dates they’d actually gone out or the fact that his break-up with Ellie had been the icing on Brad’s welcome home cake.
He probably still didn’t have a chance with Ellie, but her view of Jason had changed for the worse. Maybe, if he could find time alone with her again, her view of him would change for the better.