Sunday Bookends: Christmas displays, somewhat unrealsitic books, Maggie Cole

Sunday Bookends is my week in review, so to speak. It’s where I share what I’ve been up to, what I’ve been reading, what I’ve been watching, what I’ve been listening to, and what I’ve been writing. Feel free to share a link or comment about your week in the comments

What I’m Reading

I started one of those books that annoy me because part of the premise was stupid but the more I got into it, the more I was accepting of the dumb premise, probably because the characters were somewhat interesting and the writing well done. I don’t know that the premise itself was really stupid, but aspects of it were. I don’t want to say what I didn’t like about the story because it would be a spoiler for those who might read it in the future. Of course, now that I said I didn’t like part of the book, others will say they won’t want to read it, but I wouldn’t discourage you from reading it because even though aspects of it irritated me, I had a hard time putting it down. 

The storylines in Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren were actually very engaging. There are four main characters. Two major main characters and two minor main characters. Their stories intersect at times, but the main story is of Kasey and Ben, young lovers who grew apart when Ben left to become a Country Music star. The book sets up future storylines or at least future characters, including the story of billionaire Ian Shaw who spends this book look for his niece who has gone missing. I do enjoy how Susan May Warren writes, but I don’t know if I will buy the other books in this series or not. I am reading this first book in the series because it is on Kindle Unlimited and I usually only pay $9 for an ebook if it is from an author I really enjoy, which isn’t to say I don’t enjoy this author’s work. I’m just not sure I’m going to keep buying the ebooks for that price when I can get the paperbacks for about the same price. I’ll probably purchase paperbacks of hers in the future. 

I’ll probably finish that book in the next couple of days and then I plan to read a book by Ted Dekker, who I’ve heard a lot about recently, and one by James L. Rubart, who I’ve only just heard about. 

Dekker’s is called Water Walker, which is a book that combines four serial “episodes”. The description on Amazon is: “My name is Alice Ringwald, but the man who kidnapped me says that’s a lie.”

 Thirteen-year-old orphan Alice Ringwald has no memory beyond six months ago. The only life she knows is the new one she’s creating one day at a time with the loving couple that recently adopted her and gave her new hope. That hope, however, is shattered one night when she is abducted by a strange man. In a frantic FBI manhunt, the kidnapper vanished with Alice.”

Rubart’s book is Rooms. The Amazon description: What if you inherited a brand-new mansion on the Oregon coast—from a great uncle you never knew? Would you blow it off? Or head down there to check it out?

 Micah Taylor isn’t stupid. He’s made a fortune building a Seattle software empire. But he can’t figure out why he’s been given a 9,000 square foot home right on the beach.

 And not just any beach.  The one beach he loves more than any other.  The one beach he hates more than any other.  Both at the same time.  Micah drives down to check out the house. On the surface, everything seems legit. He instantly feels at home and then he meets a beautiful young woman at the local ice cream shop.  Now there’s two reasons to keep coming back to Cannon Beach. But the house still feels off. Things start happening that Micah can’t explain.  That Micah doesn’t want explained.  Because he’s slowly realizing the house isn’t just a house.  It’s a physical manifestation of his soul.

 He begins a journey into the most glorious rooms of his life, but also the darkest.  Rooms where terrible things happened.  Things that must not be remembered, but scream out to be heard.  Micah can’t run. Can’t hide.  Because the memories aren’t just memories.  They’re real.  Memories that can heal and set him free.  But that can also destroy him.  And there’s no way to know which side will win in the end.

What I’m Watching

My husband and I finished The Trouble with Maggie Cole this week, which we found on the PBS Masterpiece channel on Amazon. I mentioned this show in my post last week. It was six episodes and we really enjoyed it. We don’t see how they could have a season two but Dawn French, who stars in the show, says a second season is planned. I was so nervous that the show, which was fairly clean, was going to delve into this super dark place in the last couple of episodes, but it didn’t. Instead, it was a nice, but suspenseful story with redeeming characters. 

The show starts with Maggie Cole (French) being interviewed by a radio show host who gets her drunk so she will gossip about the people in town. She doesn’t remember or know the gossip part will be on the show when she sets up a party at her house for everyone in town to listen with her. She thinks the man is going to be doing a story on the 500-year celebration party she is organizing for the town, which is what they agreed on when they first met.

The show follows her efforts to make it up to the people she “outed” but also the stories of each person who she shared gossip about. Throughout the series, we learn what is true and what isn’t about the six victims of her drunken ramble.

As I said last week, I completely relate to Maggie, except that I don’t feel I am a pushy person who forces people to do what I want. Sadly, when I asked my husband if that part of her was like me, he paused much too long. He’s still taking care of that lump on his head from the book I threw at him. That last part, of course, is a joke. The part about him pausing too long is not. 

Christmas season is starting so I’m sure I’ll watch my share of stupid Hallmarkesque Christmas movies this week. 

What’s Been Occurring / What I’m Writing

I finished the first draft of The Farmer’s Daughter yesterday. The final version will be a bit different than what I shared here on the blog since I have removed both Franny and Jason’s storyline from this book. Their stories will be separate novels or novellas. It felt pretty good to finish the book since I’ve been working on Molly’s story for the last couple of years when I first wrote the kiss scene on a whim. I started her story before I started A New Beginning and in the middle of writing A Story to Tell. I’m so glad I won’t be saying goodbye to Alex and Molly, though. Their story will continue some in The Farmer’s Son, which will be Jason’s story, and in The Business Man’s Son, which will be Alex’s story.

I will be working on rewrites and edits this week if I can keep my brain from jumping to the other stories I am planning for the series. 

Last week’s posts included:

Last week we spent my husband’s birthday visiting a light display at a golf course about a half an hour away. The Christmas lights lined trees and displays across the course and it was a beautiful sight. The way they made lights look like a running river was amazing. I’m sure my photographs don’t do it justice. I’m sharing a few here and will share more in my Photos of the Week post tomorrow. The only issue we had during the tour were the odd comments from my kids, including when my daughter asked if that was Santa in an airplane in one of the displays and when my husband said “yes,” she said “That is so cringe.”

After the tour, they offered hot chocolate, cookies, and other snacks in a space near the main club room location. One of those snacks were smores kits., which were simply one marshmallow, a mini Hershey chocolate bar, and two graham crackers. The marshmallows were roasted over fire pits they had set up in the open courtyard.

We spent Thanksgiving with my parents, enjoying three different types of pies they made, a turkey my husband made, and a variety of other food we all made together. 

So that’s what I’ve been up to this week. How about you? Let me know in the comments!

Special Fiction Saturday: The Farmer’s Daughter Chapter 35


Welcome to a special Fiction Saturday and another chapter of The Farmer’s Daughter. If you want to catch up on the rest of the story click HERE. I posted Chapter 34 yesterday.



Chapter 35
Molly was tired of looking at her phone, waiting for Jason or her mom to call her with an update. She knew Jason was anxious to head home, take his mind off things by getting back to work. They’d agreed he would head home in a couple of days and they would switch places.

Her mom had sounded exhausted, yet still in good spirits, when she’d talked to her the night before. Molly wished she could make it all better, take away the fear she’d heard in her mom’s voice. None of it seemed real. Her dad should be with her right now in the barn, or at least out in one of the fields planting rye not laying in a hospital bed four hours away.

Looking out the barn door as she filled the bottles for the calves, she squinted at the sun bouncing off the hood of Cecily’s Jaguar as it pulled into the driveway and headed toward the barn. She hadn’t spoken to Alex since he’d taken his mother to dinner, but he knew Cecily had planned to head back to Baltimore today.

Molly stepped outside, watching the woman step out of her car, struck again with how out of place she looked on a farm in her expensive clothes and designer boots. She was also struck, again, how different Alex was from his mother

“Good afternoon, Cecily.” She smoothed her hands along her jeans, sucked in her stomach, still thinking of the way Cecily had looked her up and down at the house the day before and her comment about the ‘leggy blonds.’ “Alex isn’t here right now. He is up at one of the other fields.”

Cecily slid her sunglasses on. “That’s fine. I just thought I’d say goodbye before I headed back.”

Molly slid her phone out of her pocket. “Let me call him down for you.”

Cecily shook her head and held her hand up. “You know what? No. That’s okay. I doubt he’d want to see me anyhow. I’m afraid he didn’t find me in very good shape last night.”

She cleared her throat and looked at the ground briefly then back up at Molly again. “Have you heard anything about your father?”

“Just that he’s the same as before.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Cecily looked out at the cows in the pasture. “It’s tough for you all without him, I’d imagine.”

Molly nodded, sliding her phone back in her coat pocket. “Yes. It definitely is. We’ve been trying to pay off a loan and the deadline was coming up this week, so that’s made it a little harder too.”

Cecily’s eyebrows furrowed as she turned her gaze back to Molly. “A loan?”

Molly kicked at the dirt with the tip of her boot, wishing he hadn’t said anything about the loan. “Yeah, well, dad and Uncle Walt were trying to help make ends meet during a tough time and got behind. It will work out though.”

“So, what’s going to happen now?”

“We were able to pay off part of it at the end of summer.” Molly moved her gaze across the field, away from Cecily’s curious gaze, suddenly uncomfortable discussing her family’s personal business and wondering why she had started to in the first place. “And this morning my uncle got a call from the bank. They granted a six month hardship deferment after they heard about what happened to my dad.”

“Wow.” Cecily frowned. “I’ve never heard of a bank doing something like that.”

“It’s a small town,” Molly said. “Everyone knows everyone and for the most part people seem to want to help other people. We didn’t expect that, but we’re grateful.”

Cecily rubbed her hands across her arms as a breeze moved strands of hair across her face.

“What will happen when the deferment is up though? Will you be able to keep the farm?”

Molly shrugged a shoulder. “I’m not sure. We always seem to manage somehow. I’m sure we’ll figure it out.”

Cecily looked out across the fields again, shielding her eyes from the sun. “Your family has a nice farm here.”

“Thank you.” Molly shoved her hands deep in the pockets of her coat and gestured toward the west. “Further down is the farmland that used to be my grandparents. Both sets of grandparents actually. One lived at the first farm and the other one about a mile past that. Alex lives with Jason at my mom’s parents’ old place. Beyond that is land my family bought years ago to create Tanner Enterprises to try to help other farmers either stay in business or sell and move on.”

Cecily nodded slowly, following Molly’s gesture toward land she couldn’t see.   

 “It really is impressive what your family has done here, Molly. My husband would be amazed at their ingenuity and resolve not to give up.” She looked at Molly. “He sells and buys real estate for a living. He’s made the bulk of his money off multi-million dollar deals. Much different than what all of you are dealing with, of course, but he’d still be impressed.”

She pressed her lips together for a moment, opened her mouth to say something and closed it again.

She cleared her throat.  “What do you think your parents would say if I wrote them a check to help pay off that loan?”

Molly’s eyes widened. “Oh. Well, I don’t know, but Mrs. — I mean, Cecily, it’s a lot of money and —”

Cecily waved her hand in a dismissive gesture. “Money isn’t an issue.” She was playing with her necklace, sliding the charm up and down the chain. “Would they feel like it was charity if I wrote them a check? They’re hard workers. Maybe they wouldn’t want to feel like someone was pitying them. I don’t want them to feel that way. It’s just —”

Cecily took a step forward, pressed the charm against her bottom lip, and tilted her head, narrowing her eyes. “I wasn’t a very good mother, Molly. I’m sure you’ve heard that from Alex.”

Molly didn’t know how to answer so she didn’t. She simply watched Cecily as she turned her head to watch the sunset.

“It’s okay,” Cecily said without looking at her. “You don’t have to tell me. I know.” She turned her head to look at Molly again. “I can’t give Alex back all those years where I wasn’t who I should have been to him. I think at this point saying ‘I’m sorry’ would sound hollow and cold somehow. The only way I’ve ever known how to show my boys I care about them is to buy them things.” A slight smile tugged at one side of her mouth. “Sad, I know.”

She shook her head slightly and smoothed her hands down her skirt. “I know I can’t buy Alex’s love, but he loves this farm. He loves your parents and brother, and from watching how he looked at you yesterday, I can tell he loves you too. If helping your family will help Alex be happy then it’s what I want to do.”

Molly took a deep breath. She was afraid to say anything that might offend this woman she barely knew but she still felt it needed to be said. “Cecily, as much as that money would help my family, I really believe Alex needs to hear from you that you care about him. That’s what he needs.”

Cecily looked down at her pink high heels, twisted the tip of one in the dirt, and laughed softly. “It sounds so easy when you say it.” She drew in a deep breath and hugged her arms tight around herself. “Maybe I’ll try that, but until then will you talk to your mother? Ask her if she’ll allow me to help.”

Molly smiled, pushing a strand out of her face as a breeze blew at it. “I’ll ask.”

Cecily rubbed her arms against the cold. “Thank you.”

She started to turn toward her car, wind whipping at her hair. Molly had already been bold when she told this woman she barely knew that she needed to talk to her son, so she decided to be bold again.

“Would you like to stay for lunch?”

Cecily turned back toward her.

“I was just going to cook some chicken for me and Alex,” Molly said. “and bring my grandmother down to eat with us. Why don’t you stay?”

Cecily chewed on her lower lip for a moment, then released it. “Thank you, Molly, but I think I’d better get on the road.” She opened the driver side door, then paused, holding on to it and looking over the edge. “Tell Alex I said good-bye and I’ll be in touch.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to wait for him?”

Cecily shook her head. “No. That’s fine. I think he’s happier when I’m not around.”

When the door to the car closed, Molly felt the heaviness of a family’s brokenness in Cecily’s words. Her family life had been so much different than Alex’s. Her relationship with her parents was so much different. She couldn’t help but feel guilt that she had been given two parents who loved her and loved each other.

While she’d heard the stories about Alex’s mother, she now saw a reason for the walls Alex had built around himself, for the destructive behavior he had engaged in to try to forget it all. She’d sensed a sadness in Alex for as long as she’d known him, but now she had seen that same sadness behind the eyes of the woman who had given birth to him, a woman that Molly had a feeling wanted a real relationship with her son, but didn’t know how to make it happen.

***

Walt sipped coffee from the mug and let out a long sigh.

“Now that was definitely needed,” he said with a contented smile. “That’s good coffee, Molly. Not as good as mine, but good nonetheless.”

Molly chuckled. “Your coffee tastes like tar, Uncle Walt. Anything has to be better than that.”

Walt gasped in mock shock. “Molly Tanner. How could you? I’m your favorite uncle.”

Bert rolled his eyes and laughed. “Yeah, right. You know I’m her favorite uncle.”

“Boys. Boys. Settle down.” Hannah sat across from Molly with her own cup of coffee. “We all know she loves both of you.” She stirred cream and sugar into her coffee and sipped it. “But she loves me more.”

Franny, sipping tea instead of coffee, raised a mischievous eyebrow. “And she loves me more than all of you, so that settles that.” She winked at Molly who laughed and took her hand, squeezing it gently.

“I love all of you,” Molly said. “Now, what is this meeting all about?”

Leaning back against the kitchen counter, Alex folded his arms across his chest and watched the exchanges with what looked to Molly like an amused expression. She poured creamer in her coffee and leaned back in the chair, looking at Walt.

“It is about some ideas your aunts and I have had about how to keep our farms, the store, and Tanner Enterprises as a whole making us a profit,” Walt said, rubbing his chin, his elbow propped on the table. “I mentioned some of this to Annie last night when she called, and she said she was on board with it but wanted us to discuss it all together as a group.”

The only one who wasn’t there was Walt’s wife, who was manning the store with Ellie while they were all at Robert and Annie’s farm, and Jason who was returning the next day.

“There’s a young kid in the next county over who mentioned to me at one of the 4H shows that his younger brother has a milk allergy,” Walt continued. “He’s allergic to the protein. While doing some research about milk allergies for a school paper, this kid found out about something called A2 milk, which I had briefly heard about at one point. Some Jersey cows produce this A2 milk, which is apparently easier for some people to digest. The kid said a simple genetic test using the hair of the cow can help determine if a cow produces A2 milk or not. It could be an expensive endeavor to start, but if some of our cows produce this milk, it could be another revenue source for the store.”

Hannah nodded. “There are a lot of people out there who are sensitive to dairy but who would still like the health benefit of milk. We have people who mention their sensitivity to dairy a lot in the store. This could help them and us.”

Molly and Alex listened as her aunt detailed additional ideas for the country store, including items to add to the café she had already suggested they add.

“We thought an indoor patio near the greenhouse would be a nice addition,” she said. “That might not come right away, of course. We have to see if the café takes off first.”

Walt looked between Molly and Alex. “We wanted to discuss all of this with you two because we’d love for Molly to help with the advertising and promotion, maybe by starting one of those things on the internet.” He looked at Hannah. “What did you call it again?”

Hannah rolled her eyes. “Really, Walt. You need to move into the 21st century.” She winked at him and looked at Molly. “A website and a blog. I know you’re good at writing and thought that might be up your alley.”

Walt looked at Alex. “And Alex, we’re hoping that you’ll stay on and help us with the construction of a new milking station for the A2 cows, if we have any, and maybe in the future a bottling plant. We think you could run it. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders, a lot of drive, and from what I can see, you really care about this farm.” He paused a moment, rubbed his stubbled chin. “So, what do you think? Will you stay on? Help us out?”

Molly’s eyes moved to Alex and she drew in a slow breath, holding it, waiting for his answer. She didn’t have to wait long.

“Yes, sir. I’d be glad to stay on.”

She let her breath escape slowly.

Walt smirked. “I’m sure my having a pretty niece is a good incentive to stay, eh?”

Alex laughed, looked at the ground and rubbed the back of his neck.

Was he actually blushing? Molly smothered a smile behind her hand.

He looked up, caught her eye, held her gaze. “It certainly is, Walt. It certainly is.”

Hannah smiled at Molly. “So, Molly, what do you think? Is this something you’d be interested in as well?”

“It is,” Molly said. “The only thing we have to do now is sell the idea to Dad.”

Everyone nodded, a somber tone settling over them.

“Don’t worry,” Franny said finally. “I’ll make him see the positives of it. I’m his mother, after all. He has to listen to his mother, right?”

Everyone agreed, but Molly knew they were all hoping they’d have a chance to pitch their idea to Robert, that he’d wake up again so they could.

Fiction Friday: The Farmer’s Daughter Chapter 34

This week’s chapter is a little bit longer. The chapters in the final book will probably be longer than what I usually post here, which will reduce the number of chapters in the final book. Also, for those who have been following this story for awhile, you might be wondering what will happen with Jason and Ellie. I haven’t forgot that I need to finish that part of the story and will add it as a separate part at some point in the future. Honestly, I’ve been so focused on finishing the storyline with Robert, Alex, and Molly, that I haven’t gone back to decide what will happen with Jason and Ellie. I’ll keep you updated, in other words.

To catch up with the rest of this story click HERE or find the link at the top of the page.

To pick up a copy of my other books see the link at the top of the page under “Books for Sale.”


Chapter 34

Cecily Madigan Burke stepped inside the Tanner’s farmhouse with two swift, long steps, paused in the living room, and slowly slid her sunglasses off, taking it all in.

Alex could only imagine what she was thinking as she looked around at the walls covered in family photos, at the comfortable couches and chairs, the woodstove, and the cozy farmhouse kitchen. It was nothing like her three story, 10-bedroom mansion in the Baltimore suburbs. Unlike the Tanner’s house, nothing about where she lived felt like a home.

“Mom.” He snapped his fingers in front of her face. “What are you doing here?

She huffed a breath out and propped a hand on her hip. “What am I doing here? I had to hear about my own son being injured from his best friend instead of him and he asks what I’m doing here?”

“Mom, I’m fine —”

“You’re fine? Really? You don’t look fine. You’re all bandaged up and bruised. You wouldn’t answer my phone calls, so I finally called Jason.”

In one quick movement Cecily swung around to look at Molly who was still standing in the doorway with a stunned expression.

Cecily tipped her head to one side, lips pursed, and stuck her hand out. “Hello. I’m Cecily, Alex’s mom. Apparently, my son isn’t going to introduce us.”

Alex sighed and shoved one hand in his front jean pocket and gestured between his mom and Molly with the other. “Mom, this is Molly. Molly, this is mom.”

He tipped his head at his mom and raised an eyebrow as Molly took her hand. “Happy?”

“Nice to meet you,” Molly said quickly, apparently still trying to recover from Cecily’s sudden appearance.

Cecily let her hand drop, pursed her lips, and studied Molly, looking her up and down. “Ah, yes. Jason’s sister. Alex has mentioned you.”

Alex noticed his mom didn’t tell Molly it was nice to meet her too.

“Molly’s my girlfriend, Mom.”

Cecily looked Molly up and down again, slower this time, her cheeks sucked in slightly. “Oh. Well, okay. That’s different. You usually date tall, leggy blonds.”

Alex rubbed a hand across his eyes, closed them, and pinched his nose between his finger and thumb. “Mom, how did you find me?”

Cecily slid her jacket off and sat on the couch, crossing one leg over the other. “I know how to use the internet, Alex. I’m not a total moron. I just punched in the Tanner’s address, told Harold to put the directions into the Jags GPS, and here I am.”

Harold? Really? Apparently his mom had claimed his stepdad’s assistant as her own.

Alex scoffed. “You drove here alone? You?”

Cecily raised an eyebrow and narrowed her eyes. “Yes, Alex. All by my little ole’ self. Now, are you going to tell me what happened?” She glanced at Molly. “Or am I going to have to ask Molly here what happened?”

Alex tried to suck in the exasperated breath quietly but failed. “I got hurt trying to lift a tractor off Robert. He’s in critical condition. I’m fine. Just a few stitches.”

For the first time, Cecily’s tense demeanor faded. Her eyebrows lifted and her mouth fell open slightly. “A tractor fell on Robert? Are you serious?”

She swung her head to look at Molly. “Is your father okay?”

Molly looked startled at having the attention turned to her so quickly. She glanced at Alex then back to Cecily. “Oh. Well.” She started to stammer. Watching his mother unnerve someone wasn’t a new thing for Alex, but he didn’t like that Molly was his mother’s target this time.

“I – I’m not sure,” Molly choked out. “He had surgery yesterday for a broken leg and cracked pelvis and, um, well, during surgery he had a small stroke so he’s in a coma right now.”

Cecily looked genuinely concerned and that surprised Alex. “Oh my. I had no idea.” She smoothed her hand across her pleated pants and cleared her throat. “I’m so sorry. Alex speaks very highly of your father. Much more highly than he does of his own father but then, I can’t blame him for that, of course.”

Alex exchanged a look with Molly and rolled his eyes.

“Can I get you something to drink or eat, Mrs. Burke?” Molly asked.

“Call me Cecily, please. I’ve never been good at being a Mrs. Not with Alex’s dad and not now. And I’d love a glass of water with a splash of lemon if you have it.”

Molly smiled as Alex flashed a look of annoyance at his mom behind her back. “We definitely have that. I love a splash of lemon in my water myself.”

Cecily watched Molly walk into the kitchen and then looked at Alex. “You ignored my calls.”

“I had a lot going on.”

“You ignored Sam’s calls too.”

“Like I said —”

His mom waved her hand dismissively. “I know. You had a lot going on.” She leaned back on the couch. “Did you ever call Sam back?”

“No. I’ll call him later.”

She cocked an eyebrow. He hated when she cocked an eyebrow. “So, you don’t have any idea what’s going on?”

Alex shook his head. “No. Is something going on?”

Cecily accepted the glass of water from Molly and took a sip. “That’s good water. Very fresh. Thank you, dear.”

Molly stepped toward the door. “Listen, I’m going to head out to the barn to check on Uncle Walt. You catch up with your mom, okay? So nice to meet you, Mrs. —”

Cecily raised her hand and shook her head. “Again, please, Cecily is fine.”

“Nice to meet you, Cecily,” Molly said.

Alex looked over his mom’s head and mouthed, “Don’t leave me.”

 “Good luck,” she mouthed back with raised eyebrows.

Cecily sat on the couch patting the cushion next to her as the front door closed. “Sit, Alex. We need to talk.”

***

Alex looked sore and beat down as he walked toward the barn from the house. Molly had watched his mom drive away in her silver Jaguar about ten minutes earlier and she wondered if it was his side that was making him walk slowly, or the conversation with Cecily.

“You okay?”

He nodded. “Yep.”

He kept walking toward the stalls, pushing his hands back through his hair and clutching it there for a moment before he reached for a shovel.

“Maybe you should just rest today.”

“Too much work to be done.”

“Uncle Walt and Hannah are here. Troy too.”

He shook his head as he reached for a shovel. “I need to keep my mind off things. This will help.”

She didn’t want to push for information about what all he needed to keep his mind off of. Was it just her dad or was it whatever his mom had talked to him about?

 She knew he’d share when he was ready.

Or he wouldn’t.

 It was up to him.

“Is your mom driving back to Baltimore already? I could have made up the spare room for her.”

Alex pushed the shovel gently between the cow’s hooves, scooping manure and hay. “Actually, she’s going to stay overnight at that bed and breakfast in town. I forgot the name.”

“The Lavender Inn?”

“Yeah. That one. I’m not sure it will be up to her standard of living, but I’m sure she’ll whip them into shape in no time.”

Molly stuffed her hands deep into her coat pocket. “I’m going to head out to the store, see if they need anything there.” She kicked at the dirt with the tip of her boot. “Do you need anything?”

He shook his head. “Nope.”

She turned, leaving him in the barn, working and clearly not interested in talking about his mother’s visit.

On her way to the store she called Liz to update her. After she’d filled her in on her dad and Alex’s condition, she decided to tell her about Alex’s morphine-induced rambling.

“Whoa.” Liz blew out a long whistle. “That’s a Hallmark movie moment right there.”

 “I’m starting to think he was pranking me,” Molly responded. “Maybe he wasn’t as out of it as I thought.”

Liz laughed. “I doubt it. Has he said anything since then?”

“No. I don’t think he remembers anything after those painkillers kicked in.”

Molly heard her friend sigh on the other end of the phone. “Molly, why don’t you think Alex could really feel that way about you?”

Molly paused at a four way stop, empty fields on either side of her and a red, paint-chipped barn in front of her. Her chest constricted. She didn’t want to answer the question.

“Molly?”

“Yeah.”

“I knew you were still there. You hadn’t had time to hit that dead spot yet,” Liz said. “Listen, I’m going to tell you something that you would tell me if the situation was switched. You need to start believing Alex really loves you. I’m your best friend and I know you think that you aren’t pretty enough or good enough or whatever enough for a good-looking guy to be in love with you, but you are, Mol. You’re way too focused on your weight and it’s obvious Alex isn’t. He loves you for you.”

Molly pulled her lower lip between her teeth and left it there while she turned toward the main road into Spencer. All the doubt about anyone loving her even though she wasn’t a size four wasn’t going to disappear with a simple pep talk from Liz, but she knew her friend meant well, and she knew she needed to work on believing that Alex truly loved her, despite the flaws she saw in herself.

“You know,” she said finally. “I have a feeling that I’ll be saying something similar to you one day, Liz. Like how you seem to think you’re not worthy of happiness because of your past mistakes or —”

Liz hissed out a few breaths to mimic static. “What’s that? Molly, you still there? I think I’m losing you. Did you hit that dead spot?”

“Very funny, Liz. I am actually almost at that dip. I’ll call you later and we will finish this conversation.”

Molly shook her head as she pushed off on the phone and laid it in the seat next to her. Liz was right. She needed to accept that Alex really loved her, but she had doubted her worth for so long she didn’t know how to break out of the pattern. It was something she couldn’t do alone, she knew that. It was also something that wouldn’t come over night, no matter how much she wanted it to.

Her thoughts drifted from Alex to her dad as she hit the main road to head to the store.

Jason had texted her while she’d been in the shower. There was no change in her dad’s condition, and she couldn’t help wonder if there ever would be. Would he ever come home and if he did, would he be the same man he’d been before the accident?

***

Alex had been looking forward to another night with Molly, but she’d chosen to spend the night with her grandmother, who was having a tough time after losing her husband only a year and a half ago and now her son being in critical condition.

He knew it was the right thing for her to do, not only so she could be with Franny, but to remove the temptation that would come if they were alone again. With her trying to distract herself from worrying about her dad and him trying not to think about his dad or how his mom was staying at an inn 15 minutes down the road, they were both in dangerously vulnerable emotional spaces in their minds. That vulnerable mental status could very well lead to a vulnerable physical status and he had committed to Molly, and himself, to not rushing things.

Now, instead of watching a movie with Molly, he was standing outside The Lavender Inn, scowling at the front door, dreading having another conversation with his mother and regretting he’d agreed to her request to take her he’d take her to dinner before she left for Baltimore in the morning.

At this point he wished he hadn’t decided to give up alcohol. He could certainly use a belt of something strong before he faced her again. He let out a long breath and took a step toward the front door, which opened quickly before he got there.

“There you are.” His mother swept past him wearing a puffy silver jacket, a pair of blue slacks, and pink high heels. “Does this town have any good restaurants or should we just swing by a convenience store and buy some packaged meat and cheese?”

Alex recognized the sweet smell that overtook his senses as his mom passed. It clearly wasn’t her perfume. She’d been drinking and by the way she was listing toward the left he had a feeling she’d worked her way through the mini-bar over the last several hours since she’d left the farm.

He pressed his hand against the truck door as she tried to open it. “I don’t think you’re in any shape to go out, Mom.”

She turned to look at him, scowling. “We’re going. We have a lot of things to talk about.”

“Like?”

Anger flashed in her eyes. “Like how you never talk to me.” She stepped toward him, speaking through clenched teeth. “Like how you blame me for your father leaving us.”

Alex rolled his eyes. He didn’t have the emotional reserve for this conversation after the week he’d had.

He grabbed his mother under her elbow and turned her toward the inn. “You’re drunk. Come on. You’re going back inside.”

She wrenched her arm out of his hand. “You!” She pointed at him and staggered backward. “You act like I’m – I’m too stupid to know that you and Sam hate me. You always hated me. After all I did for you!”

Alex put his hands on his hips and bit the inside of his lip to keep himself from causing any more of a scene than his mother already was. Thankfully no one was outside to see her. “We don’t hate you.” He grabbed her arm gently and pushed her toward the front door of the inn. “Come on. Let’s get you back to your room so you can rest. You need to sleep this off.”

She swung to face him, her face smeared with tears and mascara. “I did not drive your father away. I was never good enough for him. I wasn’t pretty enough. I was never skinny enough. I- I – I wasn’t strong enough or something and that’s why he left us for that woman and —”

Alex placed his hands on his mom’s upper arms and turned her toward him. “Dad left you because of his problems, Mom. It wasn’t something you did. Now come on. I’m taking you back to your room.”

Cecily nodded slowly, closing her eyes as the tears rolled down her cheeks. She slumped against Alex as he hooked an arm around her waist and led her back into the inn.

She fumbled in her purse for her key when they reached her room, swaying too much to slide it into the lock. Alex pushed it in for her and helped her into the dark room.

When she collapsed onto the bed, still crying, he saw for the first time his mother for what she was, maybe what she’d always been: a lost, confused, and betrayed woman who used her internal pain to lash out at others. He should have felt more compassion for her in that moment, but his emotional well was dry, especially for the woman who had never really been a mother to him.

He sat on the chair across from her as she sniffled and pulled the comforter up around her shoulders, not even bothering to slip off her designer boots. Leaning back, he watched her a few moments, until her sobbing quieted and her breathing fell into a rhythmic pattern.

He didn’t know how to feel about this latest breakdown. Mostly he felt annoyance, bordering on anger. He’d seen so many of these shows over the years, most of them fueled by too much alcohol, that he’d grown numb to them. Was it all an act this time too? Like all her other performances? A ploy for sympathy? Simply an opportunity to paint herself the victim again?

He didn’t know. Maybe this time there was sincerity in her tears. Sadly, he didn’t really care if there was.

Maybe there was some legit guilt on her part. He probably should have said even more, comforted her more, but he truly didn’t have it in him. He didn’t feel the compassion he knew he should feel for a woman who was obviously in search of reassurance that she wasn’t as bad as she thought she was. The problem was, he couldn’t lie and tell her she’d been an amazing mother. He couldn’t summon the tenderness a son should have for his mother. It simply wasn’t there. It had been drowned out by resentment and bitterness he knew he’d have to address one day.

As he left the room and the inn, climbing back into his truck, he knew one thing. He’d rather be cuddled up with Molly, instead of driving home on a cold autumn night, alone, thinking about how dysfunctional his family had been his whole life.

Randomly Thinking: More crazy book descriptions and premarital handholding

Welcome to my weekly Randomly Thinking post where I share random thoughts that pop into my head throughout the week. Enter at your own risk.

I imagine most of you in the US are having some sort of Thanksgiving celebration today. So first, Happy Thanksgiving!

***

Nothing like looking up at the clock in the living room and realizing it is 20 minutes fast. Wonder how long it’s been like that? And what did I do very early in the day that I didn’t need to? This same clock was 40 minutes fast the next day even after we changed the battery. We decided it was time for the clock to be retired.

***

My son is 14 now so some of his friends are starting to “date”. A sort-of friend of his texted him the other day to tell him he had a GF (girlfriend). My son rolled his eyes. I said “It’s probably one of those girls from the Christian school he goes to.” The Boy says, “Yeah, one of those girls that doesn’t believe in premarital hand holding.”

I snorted out a laugh.

“And they don’t even look each other in the eye because that’s too much too,” The Boy continued. “Like she accidentally looks him in the eye and goes ‘oh my gosh! We’re moving a little fast here, aren’t we?'”

I said, “Well, that’s why a lot of the kids from that school get married immediately after they graduate.”

“Why?” asked The Boy. “So they can finally make eye contact? ‘Oh! I always knew your eyes were hazel!'”

I said, “Um, no not so they can make eye contact.”

The Boy’s response: “Oh.” And he went back to school work because I’m pretty sure he didn’t want to think about that.

Plus, he knew I’d remind him that I don’t believe in premarital handholding either! At least not until he’s 25 or so *wink*

***

An elderly woman at the local little supermarket was the only bright spot of my day one day last week when she offered to let me go in front of her and I told she could go ahead, I was in no rush. She said ‘thank you’ because her husband was waiting for her in the truck outside and he “might get into trouble if she didn’t hurry up.” The way she said it with a little wink just cracked me up.

***

Pretty sure a lot of women would kill for a husband like mine who randomly says after dinner, “You just go sit and rest. I’ll wash the dishes.”

***

Do you have a family of ad-libers like I do? People who watch movies or shows and occassionally sermons, and ad-lib one-liners, additional quotes, or new plot lines? If you do, you have my sympathy. It can be funny at times but when they are rewriting the entire script as the movie plays it can also be aggravating. I blame Mystery Science 3000, a show known for the way its hosts mock horribly bad movies. After The Boy and The Hubby watch their episodes, they suddenly think they can do the same thing. (Honestly, their ad-libs are funny, so don’t take my suggestion that it is annoying seriously.)

***

I wanted to update the tagline for the Kindle book ad I saw and mentioned last week. The actual tag line was “Accidentally wed to a screaming hot stranger.” Again, how do you accidentally marry someone?! My son said maybe they stumbled between the bride and groom right when the pastor said “I now pronounce you man and wife!” Even if that was possible, there is all that marriage license needing to be signed thing.

***

Have you ever looked at some of the books on Kindle Unlimited? I’ve found some good ones but I’ve also seen more than I care to of “billionaire romances.” Seriously, how many single, eligible billionaires can there be in the world? To see all these romances you would think there are thousands of them, all men, and all sexy and living alone on their sprawling 200 acre ranch, pining away for a woman. And the women — well, they are always poor and in need of rescuing but they are also always suspicious of the rich man who can rescue them because he couldn’t possibly be rich and good looking, right?

***

Our kids were playing Minecraft the other day and Little Miss told her brother she needed him to get the creepers out of the McDonalds she built (which was odd since we never go to McDonalds). He used an ax and Little Miss said, “I don’t want you to use an ax! I want you to use your hands like a real man!” I have no idea where she got such a thing. I’m guessing she’s heard The Boy say it.

***

We went to see a light display at a golf course about 30 minutes from us. Lights and light displays were installed all throughout the course, on trees, in the fields, etc. I took some vidoes to show family but forgot about the my family’s tendancy to offer commentary at about every event (see aforementioned ad-libing issue). At one point our daughter said “Is that Santa in an airplane?” My husband said, “Yep.” She responded, “That is so cringe.” She’s six.

***

We discovered The Goes Wrong Show a couple of months ago and it’s caused some serious laughing fits in our house. I highly recommend watching their show if you can find it. It is currently streaming on Britbox on Amazon. The premise is that a drama society acts out plays but something always goes wrong. They offered this skit up about a week ago for a charity event for the BBC. This is about the craziness that COVID has brought to us. Their other episodes will help you escape from current events so I have added a couple other clips of those, and one from the Royal Variety Show five years ago at the end of the post.

***

So those are my random thoughts for this week. How about all of you? Any random thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

Why Lockdowns aren’t great for everyone.

You know that normally I don’t write extensively about politics or controversial current events here because I want my blog to be a little bit like a safe space from controversy or stressful things. I may mention them in passing but I don’t like to dwell on them. Today I’m breaking my rule and yeah, I might regret it, but talking about current events won’t be a regular thing here. Also, I don’t consider this post political because I’m not referencing political parties when I write this. This also isn’t written to attack anyone but to try to make us all think beyond our own situations.

I hesitated writing this post because I know people both in the real and virtual world, so to speak, who support locking down the country, or at least their states, to stop the spread of COVID. I understand why they support lockdowns and I am not totally against lockdowns. I am not an anti-masker either. I wear my mask in public, to stores, church, etc. I want to make those clarifications first. You know, before anyone accuses me of being any of these things (but I know my bloggy friends wouldn’t because you all are awesome and usually understand where I am coming from.).

What I have been thinking about is how we all tend not to think of the bigger picture when we support various actions or mandates or whatever, no matter when it is made.

And I hope you read “we all.”

I do it too. So when the lockdown came in March I was like “Yeah, I get it. Let’s go. We can do this.” I understood we needed to” flatten the curve”, or whatever each person was calling it at the time. I understood it could be for a month or more. I accepted that.

A month or more. Maybe two months. That’s what we were originally told by the task force or whoever was rambling on a particular day.

We are now in our ninth month of various restrictions to “flatten the curve.” I didn’t know it would go this long, as many of us didn’t, but okay, this is where we are at, so we deal with it.

I’m not going to discusss any specifics about the virus such as recovery/survivable rate and all of that because that creates a lot of heated discussions and feelings.

What I am going to write about is how lockdowns have a ripple effect on the rest of society and the economy and how, while they can help and are sometimes warranted, they aren’t good for everyone.

Maybe you are among those who think, “Well, shutting down bars and restaurants is needed because that’s where people are sitting close and can spread the virus.”

And okay, so bars and restaurants are closed. It’s fine, right? I mean, maybe some of those business owners can’t make ends meet and end up closing their doors and they have to find a new career and until then the government will help them, right? It’s sad, right, but it’s only a few business, a few lives changed, a few worlds flipped upside down. It’s for the greater good, right?

Sure it is. We have to think of the more vulnerable in society who might get a virus and might get really sick. Right?

Sadly, there is no might for many of these business owners when a governor tells them, many times at the last minute, to close their doors. There is fact. The fact is that if they don’t have money coming in they can’t pay for their product and if they can’t pay for their product then they can’t sell their product (when they are allowed to open again) and if they can’t sell their product they can’t pay for their product and . . . well, you get it.

It all comes full circle. But then that circles ripples out because then they also can’t pay for a lot of other things. They can’t buy their groceries, they can’t buy things their children need for school, they’ll choose not to go to the doctors when they should because they know they can’t afford their health insurance anymore and they won’t be able to afford to pay the doctors bills. The small grocery stores will begin to suffer and then the small stores that sell clothes will suffer. Of course, the big box stores will do fine because the governor said they can stay open. This all effects the suppliers of the restaurant’s food as well and eventually it trickles down to the farmers who provide some of the food and eventually the people who are already the most vulnerable economically are even more vulnerable and in danger of losing everything.

In our state, the government promised to help these small business owners, but then denied them help or the process to get help was so slow that many of them simply gave up and closed their doors. They closed their doors in small little towns that needed their businesses. I should mention that this virus effected our hospitals, especially the ones here in the rural area, differently than you think. Our hospitals didn’t fill up in March and April or any time recently. Our governor ordered all elective procedures canceled in the spring and when we did that the hospitals lost money big time.

So much money that when the federal government cut our local hospital a check for $32 million it didn’t matter and they laid off 400 nurses and staff members. More people with no jobs and no income and no way to support their families. Now we are having a surge in cases and no staff to help while the little hospitals fill up (though thankfully many of these cases are not ending up in deaths) and the health secretary is calling for the cessation of electives again to pull the hospitals even more into debt.

In other words, poverty snowballs into other areas of the economy, in case you weren’t already aware of that, which I know most of you are.

So while you are worrying that a family member of yours might get a virus and might die from said virus (as I am doing as well), the people who can’t operate the businesses they built up from the ground are dealing both with that fear and with the fear that they might lose everything they own, including their homes.

“None of this effects you,” you might say. “You aren’t a small business owner. You stay at home with your kids. What do you know?”

Actually, I do know.

My husband works for a small, independently owned newspaper. The paper survives on selling the paper, yes, but also on advertising. If they don’t have advertising money then there is no money to pay the printer to print the paper so sell the paper to pay the employees. See how that work?

If businesses are shut down by order of the governor then they obviously won’t be advertising with the paper. One, they have no reason to because they are closed and two, they have no money to because they are closed.

If they aren’t advertising, then the paper isn’t getting any income and if the paper isn’t getting any income eventually my family might not have any income, and if we don’t have any income, well we can’t support whatever business your family is in that allows you to be happy when your governor shuts down all the businesses.

So, yeah, it does affect me and it is affecting me and while I’m trying to be polite and nice and bite my tongue when many of you are happy and celebrate when businesses are shut down, it’s hard because I know of families, including my own, who have suffered, who are suffering, and who are going to suffer.

Does this mean I’m angry that you want to slow the spread of COVID? Not at all. I want to as well. I simply want it to be done in a better way that still allows businesses to operate and keep their livelihoods because when a government says they will be closed for “only a short time” we all know that’s not true.

Does this mean I wish people would think beyond their own world and their own fear to realize lockdowns aren’t good news for everyone?

Definitely.

Photos of the week and a few extras

It was so cold and dreary here last week that we didn’t really leave the house much, which means I didn’t take a lot of photographs.
I took a few, though, and thought I would share them. Hopefully I’ll have more next week.

I decided to also add some photos I found in my Lightroom that I hadn’t edited yet. I guess you would call them some “lost gems” from the last six months. I also seem to have a black and white theme going on this week. Sometimes black and white helps me to focus on moments, as well as light and dark, more than other aspects of photography.

Also, from these photos it looks like I only have one child. I assure you that I have two, but one is 14. I think that’s all I need to say about that.

Photos from This Week

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Old/New Photos

Sunday Bookends: Too.Many.Books. And cold weather comes to stay

Sunday Bookends is my week in review, so to speak. It’s where I share what I’ve been up to, what I’ve been reading, what I’ve been watching, what I’ve been listening to, and what I’ve been writing. Feel free to share a link or comment about your week in the comments.

What’s been occurring

Cold weather moved in this week (except one day when it oddly went up to 60) and I think it’s here to stay. Sadly. We’ve pulled out our winter coats and had to wear them most days. We even had snow on the ground two mornings in a row.

To cheer us up and fit in with the cold weather, and the neighbors, we also started decorating for Christmas this weekend. We decorated mainly inside the house but we did wrap some ribbon and a bow around our lightpost out front. We will probably decorate more outside today or later in the week. We do know one thing – keeping our kitten out of the tree is going to be very difficult since it is now her favorite place to lay and play. She almost knocked it over nore than once the night we put it up and had to be pulled out three times. If you have any tips on how to keep her out of it, I’d love to hear them.

I told my neighbor this week that I’m not used to the time change yet so I didn’t know what time my dog had run into her yard and got herself wrapped around their cinderblocks (which they use during the summer for their gazebo). I said “It felt like 9 but it was probably 6. My body hasn’t adjusted to the time change yet.” She texted back: “Just wait until our Christmas lights come on. It will feel like daytime at night.”

I asked her if it will be like National Lampoon and she said “not that bad.” I was actually hoping it would be that bright, to be honest. We are looking forward to the display, which our other neighbors have already been telling us about. I think it will be so cheerful to see full-on Christmas lights right now.

What I’m Reading

I just finished Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes. It won a Christy Award last week.

It’s beautifully written. It’s also very poetic. It was almost too deep for me with where my brain is, or rather isn’t, lately, but it was a wonderful story. I was determined to finish it last week because it was taking me so long to push through it with all the metaphors and characters speaking in riddles. That sounds like a complaint and I don’t mean it to be. It was just a lot for my muddled brain. I hope to have a review of the book next week sometime. Until then, here is a description for anyone interested:

In the wake of WWII, a grieving fisherman submits a poem to a local newspaper: a rallying cry for hope, purpose . . . and rocks. Send me a rock for the person you lost, and I will build something life-giving. When the poem spreads farther than he ever intended, Robert Bliss’s humble words change the tide of a nation. Boxes of rocks inundate the tiny, coastal Maine town, and he sets his calloused hands to work, but the building halts when tragedy strikes. Decades later, Annie Bliss is summoned back to Ansel-by-the-Sea when she learns her Great-Uncle Robert, the man who became her refuge during the hardest summer of her youth, is now the one in need of help. What she didn’t anticipate was finding a wall of heavy boxes hiding in his home. Long-ago memories of stone ruins on a nearby island trigger her curiosity, igniting a fire in her anthropologist soul to uncover answers. She joins forces with the handsome and mysterious harbor postman, and all her hopes of mending the decades-old chasm in her family seem to point back to the ruins. But with Robert failing fast, her search for answers battles against time, a foe as relentless as the ever-crashing waves upon the sea. 

I’m trying to choose which book I want to read next. I have a Kindle full of books I haven’t read but want to read. It’s hard to choose, especially since I have downloaded books by a lot of new authors recently. The candidates for this week are Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren,

Messenger: A Walt Longmire Story by Craig Johnson, (Update: I finished this Saturday night. It turns out it was a short story. Oops!)

Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon (not sure how I never read this one. I have a beautiful hardcover copy my husband bought me when it first came out.)

and

Heart Restored by Elizabeth Maddrey.

I’ll let you know next week which one I chose.

What I’m Watching

I’ve got completely caught up in The Trouble with Maggie Cole, which I discovered during a trial of PBS Masterpiece. Actually, I got the trial because the description of the show completely intrigued me. I probably won’t pay for another month of it because we have enough subscriptions already but I’m going to make sure I go through all five of the episodes that are up for now and if they are going to keep adding them, since this is a new show for 2020, I will probably have to cancel Hallmark to keep Masterpiece so I can finish it.

I looked for a full description on PBS but their description didn’t really do it justice. I found a better one on Wikapedia:

The six-part series takes place in the coastal village of Thurlbury and follows the local busybody Maggie Cole (Dawn French). Maggie refers to herself as a “local historian” and owns a local heritage-gift shop, while her husband Peter is the headmaster of the local primary school. Self-important Maggie has spilt the beans, drunkenly, on local radio about six village characters with secrets, and is thus racked with guilt for her pointless gossip. But she somehow seems to have hit a seam of truth about at least two or three, and thus the stage is set for confrontations and reckonings.

The show stars Dawn French from The Vicar of Dibley fame.

I think one reason the show is both cringeworthy and interesting to me is because, well, I’m Maggie Cole in real life. I’m the person who eviserates friendships and family relationships by somehow sticking my foot in it, or blowing up and regretting it later. After watching the first episode with me, my husband said he’s glad I’ve never gotten drunk because if I did I would scorch the earth with what I would say. Ouch. I wasn’t sure how to take that, but, well, he’s right. I’m bad enough sober.

My husband said “If you got drunk, you would lose control. You are one of the most controlled people I know.”

I looked at him in shock, thinking of the former friends I had told off in the past (though not as bad as I could have) and laughed. “Most controlled?!”

He smiled, “You could be worse. Trust me.”

And yeah, I guess he has a point. I could be. Also, I pointed out to him the many times I really could have let someone really, really have it in the last four years, but haven’t. We also both agreed that neither of us have felt an urge to really let someone have it since we’ve moved to our new town, mainly because we are a lot happier where we live now.

What I’m Writing

I’m working on The Farmer’s Daughter and shared a new chapter Friday. I hope to finish it and have it out on Kindle by February, but we will see how revisions and editing goes. Rekindle (the new name for Quarantined) is free on Amazon through Thanksgiving day.

On the blog last week I wrote:

Randomly Thinking: I want my men to be men and other random thoughts

Faithfully Thinking: When You Don’t Follow Your Own Advice

So what are you reading, watching, writing, listening to or doing this week? Let me know in the comments.

Fiction Friday: The Farmer’s Daughter Chapter 33

Thank to you 21:25 books for the review of A New Beginning on her blog and then for her interview with me the following day.

This week there was a lot of thinking about this current book and what I want to happen and how I want it to end so that it will leave the door open for a continuing story of Molly and Alex, Liz, Ginny, Jason and Ellie, etc. I fall asleep dreaming about my characters and hoping by morning they will tell me which direction it all needs to go. The picture is definitely clearing up but I am already able to tell that there are some gaps in the story that still need to be filled in during revisions.

If you want to catch up with the rest of the story, you can do so HERE or by clicking the link at the top of the page.

As always, this is a novel in progress so there are bound to be typos, plot holes, etc. and you are welcome to let me know about them via the contact form or in the comments.


Molly closed her eyes against the darkness, the thrumming of tires on asphalt lulling her into a much needed sleep. When she woke up, Alex was parking the truck in the driveway and she was staring at the darkened windows of her parents’ house, a painful reminder that they weren’t there and her dad was in a coma at a hospital four hours away.

She wished she hadn’t agreed that she and Alex should come home and get some rest while Jason and her mom crashed at a hotel down the street from the hospital. Her world was upside down and she didn’t know if it would ever be right side up again.

“You going to be okay alone?”

She shook her head, still looking at the house.

Wiping her fingertips across the damp skin under her eyes she looked at him, his face barely lit by the light from the light pole next to the barn. “I really don’t think I can be here without them.”

She looked at the house again. “I’d stay with Liz but she’s still at her parents. I could crash at grandma’s, I guess.”

“You could, but I don’t know if the best thing for a woman Franny’s age is someone pounding on her door at midnight.”

Molly laughed softly. “Yeah. You’re probably right.”

“You want me to stay?” He shrugged a shoulder. “I can sleep on the couch.”

She knew she should say ‘no’. The idea of being alone with him when she felt so vulnerable scared her, but the idea of being in her parents’ house without them, alone with the thoughts that her dad might not ever come back here again, absolutely terrified her.

“Yes.”

She thought he might hesitate, but instead he jumped out, briskly walked to her side of the truck, and opened the door for her.

“Come on, then. We can do this.” He took her hand in his. “Together.”

Flicking on the lights in the house, they stood in the doorway frozen, as if they were both afraid to take a step inside.

He let out a breath. “Wow. I don’t like this at all.”

“Too quiet.”

“Much too quiet.”

They stood there for a few seconds longer and then he walked inside, snatched up the remote and turned on the TV. “That’s better. It’s not as quiet now.”

Molly laughed, wiping tears from her cheeks. “That works.” She stepped inside and tossed her jacket on the back of the couch, pushing the door closed behind her. “How about a snack and movie?”

She’d almost said, ‘before bed’, but that would have sounded wrong. So wrong. She was glad she hadn’t said it.

Alex flopped on the couch and propped his feet on the coffee table. “Absolutely.”

Molly looked at him with a mocking expression of disapproval.

“Do you seriously have your dirty boots on my mom’s coffee table?”

“Oh, crud.” He slid his feet back down again. He winced. “Don’t tell Annie.”

Molly laughed as she turned to walk back into the kitchen.

When they were sitting together on the couch a half an hour later, watching an old Humphry Bogart movie she’d suggested, a bowl of popcorn on her lap, she was definitely aware of how close he was, how warm his arm was against hers, but she was also bone tired.

She was thankful she was bone tired. Even if he had made a move, she wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it. As her eyelids grew heavy, she thought about their conversation on the way to the hospital and what he’d said when she’d been worried about paying off the loan.

“We’ll figure it out.”

She’d liked the way he’d said it, how it showed that he saw himself as part of the family. Five years ago, he’d walked into the barn for the first time, clean shaven, quiet and withdrawn. He’d had walls up she didn’t think would ever come down. They weren’t completely down, but they were falling piece by piece and she was grateful she was beginning to see sides of him she’d previously only seen glimpses of.  

Leaning her head against his shoulder she closed her eyes, drifting to sleep, the voices of Humphrey and Lauren Bacall fading in and out between images of the cows in the field, her dad laughing from the back of the tractor, and Alex’s smile the day he’d kissed her at the overlook.

***

Alex woke to the sound of the shower running upstairs and a cow mooing in the pasture behind the farmhouse. Sunlight poured in through the front windows and the small window in the front door. He grabbed at his side as he sat up, wincing in pain. He knew he had a bag of painkillers in the truck, but he was leery of taking them again considering the crazy trip they’d sent him on a couple of days before. He’d ask Molly if she had any Tylenol or Ibuprofen when she came down instead.

He kept his hand against his side as he limped toward the kitchen, hoping Molly wouldn’t mind if he made himself some coffee. In the kitchen, he found the coffee already brewing and a plate of eggs and bacon on the counter with a note next to it.

Eat. Don’t argue. You can have the shower next.

How had she woken up without him even knowing, brewing coffee and cooking breakfast to boot? He’d either been extremely tired or she’d been extremely quiet. Either way, he was grateful for the coffee and the food. It would help give him fuel for the day he had planned. He’d be late to the barn, but he had chores to do to keep his mind busy and make sure Walt and Hannah didn’t have too much extra work on them. There was a full staff willing to help, he knew that , but after five years of being Robert and Jason’s right hand man he didn’t want to let them down now when they needed him the most.

Sipping coffee hot and black a few moments later, he was suddenly struck with how domesticated this all felt. The woman he loved was upstairs in the shower and she’d made him breakfast. He was getting ready to start his workday and he wouldn’t be surprised if she followed him to the barn to work with him.

Was this how Robert and Annie felt? Like a team? Two people working toward the same goals – putting food on their table but also the tables of their employees and consumers.

He added cream and sugar to the coffee, sipping it as he wandered into the living room and looked at the photos on the wall, photos he’d seen before, but never really studied close.

There was Jason and his dad standing next to a cow with a number clipped on its’ ear and a ribbon around its’ neck. Jason was probably 12 and Alex guessed the competition to be related to 4-H. The next photo was Molly riding a bike on the dirt road outside the house, her dad behind her, balancing the bike with his hand. Her grin was mesmerizing, her beautiful curls trailing behind her, blowing in the wind. She was probably seven or eight

His eyes moved across the images, the moments and memories that made up a life of the family he’d fallen in love with. His gaze stopped at Robert and Annie’s wedding photo. He’d already been told they had married right after high school and Jason had been born a few months after Annie turned nineteen. He couldn’t imagine starting a family at such a young age.

 He could barely imagine starting one now at his age. Still, there were those images he’d had in his mind that night in the barn when he was kissing Molly. Those images of Molly holding a baby on her hip. Some part of him must have been able to imagine his future with children in it. His children. His and Molly’s children.

Seeing those visions that night had been one of the most surreal moments of his life. He had never experienced such a visceral moment with a woman and the experience had completely terrified him.

He didn’t intend to ever tell anyone what he’d seen so clearly in his mind’s eye..

Rubbing his hand across his face and the back of his neck, he hoped the coffee kicked in soon. In that brief moment as he sipped his coffee and heard the bathroom door open he pictured himself in the emergency room, hooked up to an IV, Molly next to him, her head bent down close to his. He almost choked on his coffee as the moment rushed back in sickening clarity.

He had told her about the visions. He remembered it now.

He shook his head, rubbed his hand across his mouth, down his chin.

No.

He must have dreamt it.

That painkiller had hit him hard.

He hadn’t known what was real and what wasn’t that night and he still wasn’t sure. He took a deep breath and let it out again.

Yes, it had been a dream. It had to have been.

 He hadn’t said anything to her. Right?

Molly stepped off the bottom step, her hair damp, her skin glowing, wearing a pair of jeans that fit her curvy figure perfectly and a clean, crisp flannel shirt that he knew meant she planned to head to the barn. He looked at her over the edge of the mug and tried to decide if he really had told Molly about seeing her with that baby on her hip, her parents in the backyard pushing a child on a tire swing and Ellie pregnant in the front yard, holding an apple pie. He was sure it would all come back to him over the next few days and until then he decided not to bring it up. It was too mortifying, too frightening to think that he might also have told her he knew he was going to marry her one day.

The key word was “one day.” What if she’d thought ‘one day’ meant today’?

She tilted her head to one side, narrowed her eyes. “You okay?”

“Hum?” He realized he was still staring at her, both hands cupped around the mug of coffee. He lowered the mug and smiled. “Oh yeah. I’m great. Thanks for breakfast and the coffee.” He gestured toward her. “Are you thinking of heading to the barn? I was going there myself after I clean up.”

“Yeah. I want to see if Uncle Walt needs any help.  Speaking of help, when you’re done washing up, I’ll help those bandages. The doctor said to change them once a day, remember?”

He shrugged. He hadn’t had time since he’d left the hospital. “I can handle it.”

A half an hour later, though, he was sitting in the living room shirtless embarrassed to admit to Molly he couldn’t get the bandage tapped to his back so it would cover the stitches which stretched from his stomach to around his side.

“It looks better than it did a couple of days ago,” she said after she’d pulled the old bandage off. “Did I tell you I almost passed out when they started to clean it out?”

He grinned. “No, you didn’t tell me that. A strong farm girl like you couldn’t handle the sight of blood?”

She didn’t smile when she lifted her head to look at him. “Not yours. No.”

He lifted his arm as she taped the bandage to his skin with the medical tape. Her damp curls grazed his cheek as she worked, and he breathed in deep the smell of her shampoo.

Was it wrong to kiss a woman when her dad was in critical condition in a hospital four hours away? He wasn’t sure but before he gave himself time to think about it, he kissed her cheek softly, hoping she’d turn her head so he could kiss her mouth next. She did and the kiss was sweet and long and enough to make him forget the events of the last few days, at least temporarily.

When she pulled her mouth away slowly several moments later her hands were in his hair, his hands were on her hips, he had pulled her against him, and they were both breathless. She slowly let his hair slide through her fingers as her hands fell to his bare shoulders and she leaned back to look at him.

“I’m going to tape the rest of this up and go check on Uncle Walt,” she said softly. “Because if I keep kissing you, we’re going to get into trouble.”

He smiled and nodded. “Understand.”

And truly, he did understand.

He tried to calm his racing heart as she finished with the bandage and then stepped away from him, turning to walk toward the front door.

“See you in the barn,” she called over her shoulder as he buttoned his shirt.

When she opened the door, though, she started and stepped back surprised to see an attractive blond woman in her mid-50s, wearing a pair of sunglasses, and a light pink suit coat and pants, standing there with her arms folded across her chest and dark red lips pursed together.

Alex, standing and buttoning his shirt, looked at the woman in surprise. “Mom?”

randomly thinking: I want my men to be men and other random thoughts

Welcome to my weekly Randomly Thinking post where I share random thoughts that pop into my head throughout the week. Enter at your own risk.

***

I need to stop watching The Man From Snowy River. The Australian TV show version. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it is cheesy, and second, I’ve started talking to everyone in a very bad Australian accent.

***

Our new kitten drives me crazy most days. I have to grab her when I let the dog out or when anyone goes in or out of the house or she takes off across the yard or toward the street in front of our house. On Monday we had to take her to be spayed and it was very strange not to have her in the house overnight. I had to admit that as annoyed as I get at her, I missed her stretching up her paws in the morning, meowing until I pick her up. I also missed her curling up on my chest for naps (she’s getting too long for this now). I didn’t miss her running around the house, climbing our window screens, scratching or attacking my daughter when she wants to play or running into the basement, rolling in the dirt, and bringing that dirt back up with her.

***

My dad is in self-imposed quarantine after a possible interaction with someone who had a family member who had COVID so I picked up some supplies for them at the local Dollar General. When I drove up their dirt road (we live on dirt roads here in the Boondocks) I saw something in the road, in front of their garage and hoped it was not dirt and their cat lying dead in the road. When I drove closer I could see it wasn’t their cat Molly (no I didn’t name my Molly in The Farmer’s Daughter after their cat), but an opossum. I looked down at it from the car and hoped it was simply “playing possum” and not actually dead, but alas, it did appear dead. I sent this text message to my husband later: “Dead possum in my parents’ road. Thought it was their cat, Molly. On a totally ‘unrelated note’: tacos for dinner!”

***

Note to cat owners, or those owned by cats rather: do not buy the cheap cat litter to save money. Just trust me. Especially do not do this if your adult cat thinks she can pee in your kitten’s cat litter, adding a much larger volume of urine to the cat pan each week.

***

My parents have horrible internet and a horrible internet provider. Their internet is out and they were told it will take three weeks for someone to come out and see why it’s not working. This means my mom is unable to download books to her Kindle and my dad is now unable to go on Facebook or look up information online. They are also in quarantine and it’s cold out, which means my dad won’t be outside working around the house to distract himself from the lack of internet. This combination of Mom without reading material and dad without a venting outlet (he actually connects with friends from high school on there as well) seemed like a bad idea to me so I drove to my parents’, picked up my mom’s Kindle, and am now downloading a ton of books into her Kindle to keep my parents from divorcing after 57 years of marriage.

***

I get the weirdest ads on the front of my Kindle these days. They are almost always for some weird romance book that makes me roll my eyes. One of the most hilarious taglines was something about a woman accidentally marrying a “hot assassin”. The Boy and I kept trying to figure out how a person “accidentally” marries someone. We were like, “what did she say? ‘Oops, it appears I tripped and fell into this wedding ceremony at the exact moment the pastor pronounced us man and wife.'”?

***

Here is another winning description on a Kindle romance book ad: “The powerful, terrifyingly seductive leader of Earth’s invaders wants to make her his.” That’s a lot of adjectives. And I’m guessing he’s an alien?

***

And another: “What happens when you fall in love with your fake fiancé?” And all I can think is “Why do you have a fake fiancé in the first place?”

***

Harry Styles, the kid who used to sing with One Direction, posed for Vogue recently wearing a variety of dresses. Most of the “dresses” Harry wore aren’t anything a person in the real world would wear. They looked like he simply wrapped some fabric around himself and called it “a dress.” Celebrities. Sheesh. When is someone going to tell them they’re not grounded in reality? Oh, right. They like it that way. It’s how they make their living after all. I’d love to see him wear one of those “dresses” on stage while trying one of those fancy dance moves he’s famous for. I bet he breaks a leg, or at least an ankle when his foot gets caught on the hem or up in the fabric.

***

It seems to be a popular theme in our society these days that a man can dress or act like a woman and a heterosexual woman will still find that man attractive. I didn’t find Harry attractive even when he wasn’t wearing a dress. I’m old enough to be his mother (if I’d had him at 17 anyhow). I, definitely, though, don’t find any man wearing a dress attractive (this does not include sexy Scottish men in kilts. Those are kilts, not dresses and with the right pair of manly legs, they are sexy.). I want my men to be scruffy, dirty, and all-the-way masculine. And I want them to be wearing pants. Well, not all the time, but if not pants, then shorts or boxers or nothing (gasp!); just not a dress. And okay I don’t really want them dirty either because well — ew. Dirty and sweaty? Gross! But you know what I mean.

***

I should probably mention that my husband is not scruffy or dirty. He doesn’t hunt, own a gun, ride a motorcycle, play a sport, knows nothing about cars, and he is a total Comic Book, Sci-Fi Geek. BUT he doesn’t wear dresses or paint his fingernails or put on lipstick so that makes him manly to me.

***

Those are a few of my random thoughts today. What are yours? Drop one in the comments and maybe I’ll share it in my next Randomly Thinking installment.