Welcome to the eighth chapter of a twelve-chapter story I am sharing on the blog. This is being shared with minimal editing, just for fun, but will be fully edited once it is complete.
You can catch up on chapters HERE.
If you would like to read more about the characters in this story, you can find full-length novels on Amazon for purchase or on Kindle Unlimited HERE,
The first three chapters of the first book, The Farmer’s Daughter, can be found HERE.
Once all the chapters have been shared here, I’ll be providing a free Book Funnel link to blog readers and placing the story on Amazon for 99 cents.
Robert stood back and inspected his work.
His hands ached from the cold. Holding a paint brush wearing gloves had proved too difficult.
The swing itself was ready to go but there were still bolts to be added to attach the chain the swing would hang from. He planned to swing by the hardware store later in the day and see if they were in yet. For now, he had to swing by the house and grab the lunch that Annie had made for his mother and drive it down to her.
When the lunch was retrieved, along with a quick hug from Annie who was on her way to church to finish decorating for the Christmas Eve service, he drove up the hill to his mother’s house, shooing away chickens as he walked down her sidewalk. While the rest of the farm operation had gone to Robert and Walt, Franny had opted to keep a flock of chickens and dutifully fed them and collected their eggs each morning. She said it would give her something to do and a reason for the family to still come visit her if they knew she had all the fresh eggs.
Robert shook his head and laughed. As if they wouldn’t visit her if the chickens weren’t there.
He knocked gently on the front door before opening it. “Mom? I’ve got some lunch for you.”
“I know you do. Get on in here.”
The house was warm, cozy, and smelled of fresh bread – just like when he’d been growing up. A fire was roaring in the woodstove and Robert smiled, knowing she’d loaded it herself this morning from wood Alex and Jason had cut up for her. She was getting older, but she could still outwork most people half her age.
Across from the woodstove in the other corner was a small fake tree that he knew Molly and Alex had helped her decorate the week before. It was sitting in a stand his father had made for a real tree. Franny had said she didn’t have the energy or patience to clean up pine needles any more so she’d purchased the fake tree.
Family photos dotted the wall next to the tree and Robert let his gaze slide over them as he took off his coat and muddy boots. The photo of him, his dad, his brother Walt and his sister Hannah caught his attention as he pulled off his second boot. They were standing in front of the cow barn. He had been about 16, his brother 14 and Hannah 11.
The three of them had never known a life without hard work and determination, with a little bit of heartache thrown in. They’d never known a life without the joy of seeing the good results of all those aspects of life either. Farming wasn’t easy, but it was rewarding in more ways than providing a living.
The lessons Robert had learned and passed down to his children were more valuable than any check from the milking company or from the bottom line at the store. There were some days, however, he had to remind himself of that.
“You coming in or did you fall asleep standing up?”
His mother had stepped into the doorway between the kitchen and the living room, a small smile tugging at her mouth.
He closed the door behind him and headed toward the kitchen. “I’m guessing Annie called to let you know I was bringing you lunch.”
Franny set two plates on the table. “She did, and I made some biscuits to go with it. You’re eating with me, aren’t you?”
He laid the containers of food on the table. “I had planned on it, yes, and I’m even more willing now that I know you made biscuits. I hope you didn’t go to the trouble of homemade.”
Franny huffed out a breath. “Robert Theodore when have you ever known me to make biscuits out of a box or can?”
He laughed and held up a hand as if to defend her verbal blow. “Never.”
“Exactly. Now sit yourself down. I’m sure you’re more than ready to eat after the long days Annie says you’ve been pulling lately.”
He sat as she instructed, taking her hand as she sat to his right and said a quick blessing.
The interrogation began as he served her mashed potatoes and stew fried chicken.
“So what’s been keeping you out so late these days?”
He knew she was fishing for information on how the farm was doing. “This and that. Odds and ends. Like always.”
“Did you get the heat fixed in the barn?”
“We did. It took a bit but got it working before the temps dropped down this week.”
“Walt said it was the second time this month. Did you call the people who put it in and tell them?”
Robert smiled. “I did, yes. They’re coming out Friday to take a look.”
Franny gave a satisfied nod. “Good. They should fix it at no cost. It’s been nothing but trouble since they put it in.” She paused long enough to butter her biscuit and take a bite. “Now, I have something I want to talk to you about. I’d preferred if Annie was here too, but I think I’ll go ahead and take the opportunity since I actually have you in front of me.”
He nodded. “Go ahead.”
“I don’t know if Molly mentioned to you what I talked to her and Alex about last week.”
He shook his head and took another bite of chicken. “She didn’t.”
“I’m thinking of moving into Shady Pines next year.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You are? Why?”
“I think it’s time to pass this house on to someone else.”
“Molly and Alex.”
He coughed gently. “Excuse me?”
“Robert, don’t be naïve. You know that boy is going to eventually get up the courage and propose to your daughter and when he does and they finally get married, they’re going to need a place to stay. This house is perfect as a starter house. Somewhere for them to raise some children.”
He set his fork down on his plate. “But do you really want to move off the farm into town? The houses down there are pretty close together.”
“Well, yes, they are, but at my age it might be good to have people close by.”
“Mom, if you’re really determined to give this house to Molly, you know you’re welcome to come live with me and Annie.”
Franny made a face. “Oh, Robert, you know we’d never survive living together again. Plus, you and Annie are finally alone again. You don’t need your mother breaking in on kissing sessions.”
Robert laughed. “We’d adapt. We can make sure our kissing sessions only happen after you’ve gone to bed. Like when we were teenagers.”
Franny laughed with him. “Listen, it’s something to think about anyhow. I’ll think about your offer, but I really believe that moving into town will be good for me. It will be a change and I’ll be closer to Leon and Eleanor and we can play cards together without them having to worry about driving home from here late at night. Leon’s eyesight isn’t what it used to be.”
Robert knew his father-in-law’s eyesight wasn’t as good as it had once been. He’d started saying so himself.
“Okay, let’s think on it, then. It’s not like we have to make a decision right away. We don’t even know if Alex is planning on proposing any time soon.”
Franny sipped from her glass of water. “I hope sooner.” She looked around the kitchen, letting her gaze drift into the living room. “The place will need some fixing up, but I think you’ve trained Alex enough over these last six years for him to be able to handle it.”
The idea of his mom no longer living up the road from him left a funny feeling in Robert’s chest – a feeling that was a mixture of sadness and fear. What if his mom needed him? It would take him 20 extra minutes to get to her instead of the five it took now. What if she developed health problems and what if –.
He took a deep breath, held it a few seconds and let it out quietly. There would always be what ifs and they could address each of them as they each came up. Plus, moving her in with him and Annie was something he and Annie had already discussed in the last year or so. He knew Franny could be a challenge, but taking care of her in her later years would be something he’d be glad to do after all she’d done for him over the years.
It had been three days since the doctor had told him to rest and Alex couldn’t stay at the house any longer. For one, Matt had invited Liz over and Bella was with her grandparents. The couple probably wanted some time alone to watch a movie and snuggle together on the couch. More importantly, though, he had to finish the paint job on the truck.
Bert had already installed the engine and was finishing it up today – if a part he needed arrived that was.
“It’s about time you got here,” Bert said as soon as he walked in the door. “I just had to have Troy chase off Molly by telling her that Hannah needed to talk to her about how they’re going to handle the situation at the store without the freezers for another week. It wasn’t a lie, but still – it was a close call. She almost walked back here.”
Alex worked to take off his coat, grimacing with each movement. “Thanks for keeping her away. I appreciate it.”
Bert frowned. “What’s up with you? You look like you’ve been hit by a truck.”
“A concrete floor actually. I fell through the roof of the calving barn last week.”
“Oh man. So that was the accident you were talking about. I’m surprised you’re walking. How did the calves fare?”
“They’re completely fine. Little buggers just wanted to know what I was doing in their sleeping area.” He tossed his coat over a chair and reached for the spray paint can. “Now let’s get these doors painted so I can finish the rest of the truck in the next few days. How is it going with the engine?”
Bert winced. “Still need one part. A supplier about three hours away has it but doesn’t have a truck coming until the end of the week.”
Alex didn’t like the sound of that. “Maybe we’re not going to make it.”
Bert slapped a hand hard on Alex’s back. “Now, now, my boy let’s not be negative.”
Alex groaned. “I could be more positive if you stop slamming your hand on my sore back.”
“Oh, yeah. Sorry about that.” Bert wiped some grease off a car part and laid down to slide under the truck. “So, have you thought anymore about that whole proposal thing?”
Alex placed a painting mask and respirator over his face. “You know, I’d like to talk about it but I don’t think you’ll be able to hear me well under this mask so I’m going to get to work.”
“What?” Bert called from under the truck.
“Exactly,” Alex mumbled glad to have avoided the topic again.