A special ‘Saturday Fiction’: A New Beginning Chapter 28

Am I really doing this? Caving to popular opinion and sharing an extra chapter of A New Beginning this week? Well, of course, I am. Why? Because it’s my blog and I can do what I want to. That’s why! Ha! So, here it is, Chapter 28 of A New Beginning. You can find Chapter 26 and Chapter 27 HEREor by looking back to Thursday and Friday’s posts.

As always, this is a first draft of the story and as always, you can catch the first part of Blanche’s story, A Story to Tell, on Kindle. You do not need to read A Story to Tell to follow A New Beginning.

Also, as always, this is a work in progress so there are bound to be words missing or other typos. To follow the story from the beginning, find the link HERE or at the top of the page. This book will be published in full later this spring on Kindle and other sites.

Let me know what you think should happen next and what you think of the story so far in the comments.


Chapter 28

The wrestling match that followed was nothing like the choreographed fights I’d seen in the movies. I watched the messy, overly masculine display in disbelief. Hank slammed his shoulder into Judson’s chest, shoving Judson off the sidewalk and into the street onto his back with Hank following him. Hank’s fist hit Judson’s face twice before Judson swung up and caught Hank under the chin with his arm, sending Hank’s head back hard. Hank staggered back, off Judson, who he’d been practically sitting on, and stumbled, falling onto his back.

Blood dripped from Judson’s nose as he stood over Hank and then he leaned down, swiftly grabbed Hank by the hair and pulled him to a standing position, bringing his arm back to punch Hank in the face. Hank moved his head quickly and lunged forward, grabbing Judson around the waist, pushing him across the street and slamming him hard against the driver’s side door of Judson’s truck, denting it.

Judson grunted and gasped for breath, then drew his knee up into Hank’s chest, slamming his elbow down into Hank’s back at the same time. His knee caught Hank straight in the face as Hank started to fall to the ground. Hank fell to the ground, a sick groaning sound choking out of him as he lay on his side, trying to catch his breath.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed movement to my right further down the sidewalk. Thomas stretched and yawned outside the newspaper office door. Our gazes connected as his yawn ended.

“Hey! There you are,” he called. “I was on my way to check on – oh. What’s this all about?”

He swaggered down the sidewalk, grinning and then stood next to me, leaning against the dress shop door and watching as Hank stood up fast, swung at Judson and caught him in the eye.

Thomas winced. “Ouch.”

He leaned toward me, whispering. “Who are we rooting for?”

He didn’t wait for me to answer.

“I’m betting on the big guy,” he said gesturing toward Judson.

Judson staggered back, off-balance, then lunged for Hank again, shoving him hard onto the ground, falling next to him as his fist hit Hank’s face, under the eye.

Hank tried to kick at Judson as Judson yanked Hank to his feet by his shirt and brought his knee up into Hank’s stomach.

The blood pouring from Hank’s nose and mouth reminded me of that night in the apartment. He stayed on the ground this time, on his hands and knees, retching vomit and blood onto the asphalt as Judson towered over him.

Thomas grimaced. “I thought about stepping in, but it looks like Judson’s got it covered,” he said. “I’m guessing that’s the ex on the ground there, puking his guts out.”

I nodded, still watching the surreal scene before me with wide eyes.

Judson was breathing hard, hands at his side, still clenched into fists. He turned his head and spit blood and saliva onto the street

“Finish puking then get up and get out of here,” he snarled at Hank’s back.

Judson’s nose and mouth were bleeding and he dragged the back of his hand across his face, looking at the blood with a small laugh. He looked so different, covered in blood, his hair damp with sweat, breathing hard from the fight, laughing at the sight of his own blood. I wasn’t sure how to look at him now, how to process what had just happened and the anger that had spilled from him in such a violent display. I could practically smell the testosterone radiating off of him — musky, sweaty and metallic.

Judson walked away from Hank, stepped around me and shut the door to the dress shop, nodding at Thomas.

“Thomas. Good evening.”

Thomas nodded. “Hey, Judson. Good job. Want me to call the police to come take care of this guy?”

“Nah. He’ll be fine when he’s done throwing up. Luckily, it’s past deadline so you won’t need to write this up for the paper, will you, Thomas?”

Thomas winked at Judson. “I think we can keep this one out. For now. But, man, it would make a good story to tell and I bet more than a few people in this little town would love to read it.”

“Night, Thomas,” Judson said, a hint of hardness in his voice.

Thomas sighed. “Yeah. Yeah. Night.” He walked back toward the newspaper office, looked over his shoulder and grinned again. “Take care, Blanche!” he called. “I think you picked a good one, for what it’s worth. Maybe things won’t be so complicated now.”

Judson laid his hand gently on my back and jerked his head toward his truck. “Let’s go,” he said. “I’m driving you home.”

He slammed the passenger side door closed behind me and walked around to the other side, climbing behind the steering wheel. I watched Hank stagger toward his truck through the windshield. He paused and threw up again before climbing into the driver’s side. Hank looked at us through blood-stained hair as Judson revved the engine and ripped onto the street.

“You okay?” Judson asked as we drove, flexing his swollen hand.

“Am I okay?” I looked at him, at the blood still trickling from a cut on his head and a split lip. “You’re the one bleeding.”

“I’m fine. You okay?”

I nodded, but I wasn’t okay. Tremors of anxiety were rushing through my limbs and I was trying to hold in panicked tears. What would Hank have done if Judson hadn’t stopped him? Maybe nothing. Maybe he only wanted to finish talking to me. Maybe he only wanted to say goodbye because he thought he was going to die in Vietnam and instead I’d stood there and watched Judson beat the crud out of him in the street, though he’d gotten a few good hits on Judson as well.

“I thought you were in North Carolina,” I said. “How did you even know he was there?”

“I got back into town a couple hours ago and ran some invoices into the office for Uncle James. I saw him talking to you through the front window and it didn’t look like a friendly conversation so I realized it must be him.”

“He was here a couple months ago,” I said. “But he didn’t stop to see me then.”

Judson glanced at me. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

I shrugged. “He left town, as far as I knew, and I didn’t see why I should bother you with it. Marion said he went to visit some friends in the next county and I thought he had left for good. I should have known he’d be back again. He said he came back to tell me he’d signed up to join the Army to avoid jail.”

I studied the cut above Judson’s eye, guilt turning in my stomach.

“Those cuts will need to be cleaned out.”

“Let’s just get you home.”

After a few moments of silence, he laughed, reaching across me and opening the glove compartment. He pulled out a grease-stained rag and wiped it across his face, smearing some of the blood.

“That jerk is going into the Army? Seriously?” He snorted, shaking his head, his eyes on the road. “He’s going to get his butt shot up on day one. That’s my prediction. It will probably be friendly fire too.”

I swallowed hard. Hank had hurt me. He wasn’t any nicer now than he had been seven years ago. Still, I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of him being “shot up” by anyone, friendly or otherwise.

Silence settled over us again as Judson drove.

“Do you think he’ll try to see Jackson?” I asked softly, not sure if I was asking Judson or myself.

“Not if he knows what’s good for him,” Judson mumbled, shifting gears.

I leaned my head against the window, closed my eyes against the tears, wondering if I’d ever be free of the bizarre world I’d walked myself into all those years ago.

I felt Judson’s hand warm on mine and looked over at him. “I’m sorry, Blanche.”

“What for?”

“For what you’re going through. For what he put you through. And I’m sorry I made it worse. My temper got the best of me. I couldn’t stop thinking about what he’d done to you, how he’d hurt you. How he’d abandoned Jackson and you. I wanted him to pay.”

He laughed slightly and grinned. “I just didn’t expect him to be so wiry and quick. He hit harder than I thought he would too.”

I laughed with him. “I’m not going to lie, you two looked like total idiots out there wrestling like gorillas.”

Judson glanced at me, then back at the road, smiling. “Well, I looked like an idiot for you, you know.”

I squeezed his hand with mine, leaned over and kissed his cheek. “I know. And I appreciate it.”

He glanced at me again, then back at the road and I saw a faint smile flit across his mouth before it set into a thoughtful frown. I wondered what he was thinking about, but a sudden exhaustion swept over me, ending my curiosity. I knew the adrenaline rush from earlier was fading. As I looked out into the darkness through the windshield, I saw Hank’s face again in my mind, leering at me as he reminded me we had made Jackson together. I shuddered, rubbing my chilled arms.

“You okay?” Judson asked again.

“It’s all just starting to hit me, I guess.”

I felt something soft and heavy hit my lap. Looking down I saw Judson’s brown, leather winter coat there.

“Cover up with that and rest. I’ll have you home soon.”

I pulled the coat up over the front of me like a blanket, covering my bare arms and part of my face. The smell of Judson’s cologne swept over me, tripping my heart into a fast-paced clip. I closed my eyes again and this time Hank’s face was replaced with memories of Judson’s hand on the back of my head, up in my hair when he’d deepened that kiss by the lake. I began to wish the coat was his arms wrapped around me, sheltering me from the chill of the night, soothing my anxious soul.

I leaned my head back against the seat, the steady rhythm of the truck tires on the pavement lulling me far away from thoughts of Hank and into peaceful thoughts of my bed at home.

“Come inside,” I said when Judson pulled the truck into our driveway fifteen minutes later. I rubbed my eyes to try to chase away the weak feeling the fading adrenaline had left behind. “Let me take care of those cuts for you.”

“It’s fine. I can —”

“Stop arguing and come in the house,” I said firmly, giving him my best scolding scowl.

Judson watched me with a smile as I climb out of the truck. “Well, yes, ma’am.”

Jackson flung open the front door before we reached it. “Mama! Where have you been? It was getting late and Grandma was getting worried. We did bath time without you and – whoa!” Jackson’s eyes grew wide as Judson stepped into the light. “Judson, what happened to you?” he asked, staring up at Judson.

Judson looked at me and I could tell he was unsure of how to answer the question. “Uh . . . well, you see. . . .”

“Judson was helping Mama get rid of a bad person,” I interrupted quickly. I looked at Judson. “And your mama is very grateful for his help.”

Mama looked at me, her eyebrows raising. “Jackson, honey, why don’t you go up and pick out a book for us to read at bedtime?”

“Aw, Grandma! I wanna hear what happened.”

Daddy laughed and gently swatted Jackson on his bottom with a rolled-up newspaper. “Listen to your grandmother, boy.”

“But when am I gonna find out what happened?” Jackson asked.

“When you’re older,” I said.

Jackson’s shoulders slumped as he walked up the stairs. “I miss out on all the fun,” he grumbled. “And you always say, ‘when you’re older’.”

The door to his room clicked closed and Daddy looked at Judson. “Is the bad guy who I think he is?”

“Yes, sir,” Judson said.

“Does he look worse than you?” Daddy asked.

“Yes, sir.”

Daddy clapped Judson hard on the back. “That’s my boy!”

Judson winced and I knew his back hurt from where Hank had slammed him into the side of the truck.

“Alan!” Mama admonished. “We shouldn’t celebrate violence.”

“Janie,” Daddy said with a tip of his head so he could look over his reading glasses at Mama. “It’s Hank we’re talking about. A good swift kick in the rear is what he needs.”

He looked at Judson with a grin. “Did you kick him in the rear?”

Judson shook his head and laughed softly. “No, sir, but I did nail him in the face and the gut pretty good.”

Daddy leaned back, a broad smile on his face.

Mama scowled at Daddy, her lips pressed tight together. “Come into the bathroom, Judson. I’ll get the first aid kit. You need those cuts cleaned out.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Judson tried to look serious even as he and Daddy exchanged proud smiles.

“You okay?” Daddy asked me as Judson followed Mama down the hallway.

I flopped onto the couch on my back, draped my arm across my face, and closed my eyes, sighing in exasperation.

“Yeah, sure, Daddy.” I knew my tone betrayed my annoyance. “My ex-husband was a jerk to me – again – and this guy who I’m . . . I’m … who is . . .”

I stopped talking, realizing I had no idea how to describe Judson’s role in my life. I sat up on the couch, shaking my head as I unhooked my shoes and slid them off my feet.

Daddy sat in his chair and looked at me thoughtfully, his chin in his hand, tapping his finger against his bottom lip.

“Yes?” he said. “Who you’re —? What?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“You don’t know what? You don’t know if you are okay or you don’t know how to feel about Judson?”

“I don’t know how to feel about any of it,” I responded curtly. “Everyone seems to think I need a man to protect me, complete me, fix me. I don’t need a man to fix me, Daddy. And I can handle myself, which should have been proven when I broke Hank’s nose that night.”

Daddy leaned back in his chair, eyebrows furrowed.

“What makes you think that ‘everyone’, as you say, thinks you need a man to be complete or ‘fixed’?”

Before I could even answer he continued. “I’ve never said that. Your mother has never said that. We know you can handle yourself but there’s nothing wrong with letting someone help you. There’s also nothing wrong with having someone to share life with. Your family and friends just want you to be happy.”

“And I can be happy without a man,” I said firmly.

Daddy nodded. “True. You can.” He folded his arms across his chest and smirked. “But none of this answers my questions. One, are you okay, and two, who is Judson to you?”

The mischievous glint in my dad’s eyes both aggravated and amused me. I bit my lower lip and gazed out the front window at the lights from the Worley’s farm. “First, I’m not entirely okay, no. I just had a confrontation with my abusive ex-husband and I’m pretty shook up from it and as for the second question . . .” I stood up. “I don’t have time to answer the second question because I have to go read my son a book.”

Daddy picked up his book. “Okay, kid. Have it your way, but you’re going to have to figure it out for your sake, and Judson’s, at some point.”

I had finished reading Jackson his book, with him asleep before it was finished. I slipped away when I heard Judson and Daddy talking downstairs.

“Thank you, Mrs. Robbins,” Judson was saying as I stepped down the stairs. “I’m going to head home and try to get some sleep before work tomorrow. I’ll swing by and pick you up, Mr. Robbins.”

Daddy nodded. “Thank you, Judson. Appreciate it.”

That’s when I remembered I had left Daddy’s car parked outside the newspaper office.

I walked with Judson to the door, reaching out to touch his arm as he started to turn the doorknob. A shiner was already starting to turn purple on his cheek and under his eye.

“Thank you, Judson,” I said softly. I leaned up and kissed the bruise on his cheek gently. “For everything.”

“You’re welcome,” he said, leaning close and brushing his mouth against my cheek.

His face lingered close to mine for a few moments and my eyes focused on his mouth, the bottom lip slightly swollen. I felt a sudden urge to kiss it as if it was a booboo that could be healed by a kiss. I stepped back quickly instead and looked at the floor.

“Good night, Judson.”

When I closed the door, I turned to see Mama sitting on the arm of Daddy’s chair and them both watching me. Mama’s expression reminded me of someone who had just laid eyes on a puppy. All that was missing was Mama cooing “aw”. A slight smiled tugged at Daddy’s mouth and I could tell he was trying not to laugh.

“Isn’t there anything on TV tonight you two can watch?” I asked.

“Well, of course, there is, but this was much more interesting,” Mama said, winking at me.

I rolled my eyes, feeling like a teenager again as I flounced up the stairs to go to bed.

Fiction Thursday: A New Beginning, Chapter 26

Welcome to Chapter 26 of A New Beginning. Are you all still looking over your shoulder to see if Hank shows back up?

As always, this is a first draft of the story and as always, you can catch the first part of Blanche’s story, A Story to Tell, on Kindle. You do not need to read A Story to Tell to follow A New Beginning.

Also, as always, this is a work in progress so there are bound to be words missing or other typos. To follow the story from the beginning, find the link HERE or at the top of the page. This book will be published in full later this spring on Kindle and other sites.

Let me know what you think should happen next and what you think of the story so far in the comments.


Photo with Text Overlay Autobiography Book Cover (2)Chapter 26

“You invited Stanley Jasper? Here? To our house? For dinner?”

Daddy was in disbelief. “Janie, honey, what were you thinking?”

Mama turned from the sink, propping a hand on her hip. “I was thinking, Alan, that I wanted to invite Marion and her new friend to lunch when I saw them outside the supermarket yesterday. Is that so horrible?”

Daddy sighed and tossed his newspaper onto the table with a gentle flick of his wrist. “Well, no. It’s not so horrible, I guess. It’s just . . . well, you know how I feel about Stanley Jasper.”

Mama turned back to the counter and cracked open an egg over the frying pan. “Yes, I do, and I also know that you are a good Christian man who can handle being polite to another child of God for one afternoon for the sake of a lovely woman who needs a second chance at happiness in her life.”

Daddy snorted. “Well, I suppose,” he said. “But if she needs happiness, she should choose someone other than a bleeding heart liberal like Stanley.”

I clasped my hand to my mouth, trying not to let Daddy see me about to laugh at the conversation unfolding in front of me.

“Who knows,” Mama said, cracking another egg. “Maybe Stanley isn’t the man you think he is.”

Daddy rolled his eyes. “And maybe Khrushchev and I should have tea and crumpets after work tomorrow.”

I was grateful when Jackson skipped into the kitchen and asked if he could have chocolate milk with his breakfast, ending the discussion.

When Marion and Stanley arrived later that evening, Daddy had calmed down and put on a nice sweater and tie and combed his hair.

“Stanley,” Daddy said stiffly, shaking Stanley’s hand when he walked through the door.

“Alan,” Stanley said with a curt nod. “Good to see you again.”

This is going to be such a fun evening, I thought to myself sarcastically, wondering how stilted the dinner conversation would turn out to be.

The conversation flowed along smoother than I thought, with Daddy and Stanley managing to avoid politics and foreign relations and Mama, Marion and I dominating the conversation with comments about the latest fashions and our plans for what to plant in our flower beds in the spring.

After dinner Mama suggested we chat in the living room to let dinner settle, while she brewed a cup of coffee and cut slices of pie.

“So, Stanley – are you a fan of baseball?” Daddy asked, sliding his hands along the arms of his chair.

Stanley nodded, clearing his throat. “Well, yes. I’ve always been a Phillies fan.”

Daddy nodded back. “They’re not having too bad of a year this year.”

“Doing well,” Stanley agreed. “Yep. Doing well.”

Silence fell over the room. I could feel the tension in the air and tried to think of a way to break it.

“I like baseball!” Jackson declared from the living room floor where he was playing with his trucks.

Laughter filtered around the room. Daddy ruffled Jackson’s hair. “That’s right. You do. We’ll sign you up for the local team when you get a little older.”

“Do you like to pitch or hit better?” Stanley asked Jackson.


“That’s a good thing,” Stanley laughed. “You can be an all-around player.”

“And he’ll be the best player out there because he’s my grandson,” Marion said, kneeling down and kissing Jackson’s cheek.

“Aw, Grandma!” Jackson said, rubbing his cheek. “Not when there’s company here!”

We all laughed again as Mama walked into the living room with a tray with the pie and coffee. She set the tray on the table, arranging plates in front of each person.

“Strawberry rhubarb okay for everyone?” she asked.

Stanley smiled. “Well, Mrs. Robbins, that’s just about my favorite pie and I don’t get it very often.”

Mama picked the tray back up and propped it under her arm. “Now, Stanley, please call me Janie.”

“Of course, Janie,” Stanley said. “Thank you.”

Stanley’s eyes wandered to the record player across the living room as he took a bite of pie. He tilted his head to get a better look at the records in the rack underneath it.

“I see someone is a Hank Williams fan,” he said, standing and sliding record out of the stack.  “Emily and I used to dance to his songs at little dance hall near our house when we first met.” He cleared his throat after a few moments of looking at the front of the record and looked up at us. “Sorry. Emily was my wife. She passed away 15 years ago.”

He swallowed hard. “Cancer.”

Daddy looked down at the floor briefly and cleared his throat as well. I began to see that clearing throats was something men did when they were nervous, embarrassed, or having difficulty controlling their emotions.

“I’m sorry to hear that, Stanley,” Daddy said. “That must have been very hard on you.”

Stanley nodded and placed the record back on the rack. “It was, but, well, being able to spend time with Marion has been a nice respite after so many years of grieving.”

He smiled at Marion and pink spread across her cheeks as she lowered her face and smiled back.

Daddy stood and walked to the rack. “You know what song Janie and I like to dance to?” He slid a Patsy Cline record out. “This one…”

He opened the record player and slid the record on the turntable, gently dropping the needle on to it.

I Fall to Pieces crooned throughout the living room. Jackson sat next to me on the couch, pulling his knees up to his chest and leaned against me.

Daddy held his hand out to Mama. “Care to dance, Janie?”

Mama laughed. “Alan, not here . . .”

“Why not? Come on. Stanley and Marion can dance too. Us old folks can get some moves in tonight.”

Mama’s cheeks flushed red like Marion’s had a few moments earlier. She laid her hand in Daddy’s. Daddy gently pulled her close, his arm around her waist, his hand holding hers. She slid her other arm around his back and leaned her head against his shoulder as they swayed.

Stanley grinned and took Marion’s hand in his. I smiled as Marion moved smoothly into his arms, looking the happiest and most comfortable she’d looked since the day I’d met her.

The couples danced slowly to the music, Stanley and Marion smiling at each other, Mama and Daddy lost in the moment, hanging on to each other, swaying. As I watched them, I wondered if this would be me someday – dancing in my living room with my husband, swept up in the moment, feeling at home not in a house but in his arms.

After an hour of more songs and more dancing, laughing and sharing stories, I looked down and noticed Jackson had fallen asleep against me. I nudged him gently, knowing he had become too big for me to carry.

“Come on, kid. Let’s head upstairs.”

He leaned against me and looked up at me bleary-eyed as we walked up the stairs. I helped him take his shirt and pants off, slipping pajama tops and bottoms on him.

“Mama? When is Judson coming home?”

“I don’t know, honey. He’s still helping his family.”

Judson had been gone for over a month now and there were few days that went by when Jackson didn’t ask when he was coming home.

“I miss him.”

“I know, sweetie. I miss him too.”

I knew I wasn’t lying when I said I missed Judson.

Jackson changed into his pajamas and then climbed into bed, yawning. I tucked him into bed and kissed his forehead.



“Do you think Judson is ever going to come back?”

I pulled the covers up over his shoulder and sat on the edge of the bed. Judson had called twice since he’d left. The last time we had talked had been a week ago. We’d talked briefly and he’d given me an update on his father, on repairs he’d made around the house while he was there and said he hoped to be home in a couple more weeks. Jackson had asked to talk to him before we could discuss anything else and then Judson had said family had arrived and he needed to go.

“He said he would,” I told Jackson. “I know you miss him, but he has to be there for his family right now.”

“He promised he’d come back.”

“Yes, he did. So, he’ll be back.”

As I changed into my nightgown for bed, I thought about what I’d told Jackson and hoped I hadn’t lied. Judson had promised, but people had a way of breaking promises, something I knew too well. Sliding under the covers, I wondered if I was hoping Judson would return for Jackson’s sake, or for mine.


“I am so excited to finally meet Miss Mazie in person,” Edith said from the backseat of Emmy’s blue Chevy. “Jackson, honey, take your finger out of your nose.”

I snickered, looking back at my sister pulling Jackson’s finger away from his nose while he giggled.

“Good luck with convincing him to stop that,” I said.

A baby seat sat next to Emmy, Faith snuggled in a pile of warm blankets. Emmy was driving, her hand tapping on the steering wheel to the beat of The Supremes, her head tilting from side to side as she sang along. We’d left early that day to travel to see Miss Mazie, Hannah and Buffy, for only the third time since I’d left almost seven years before. It was the first visit with Emmy and Edith.

“I’m so glad Sam didn’t have to work today and I could drive us,” Emmy said, pausing in her singing. “It’s so fun to have a girl’s day!”

Sunlight streamed through the trees as we drove and I rolled the window down to enjoy the breeze, unusually warm for October. The autumn leaves spread bright colors across the hillsides. The day was perfect and a chance for me to forget about my confusion about Judson and for Edith to take her mind off Lily and the baby.

It seemed impossible it had been eight years since I had driven this road in the passenger seat of Hank’s truck, his hand on my thigh, our future out in front of us like the empty road we were on. I remembered leaving, thinking how I didn’t want to live alone and how Hank was my ticket to adventure and love for the rest of my life. I was so naïve, so oblivious to the reality of married life and life in general.

“Hey, turn here,” I said as we entered the city.

I watched the apartment buildings rise up before us as we got closer, unchanged; rusted fire escapes hanging loosely on the sides, vines crawling up the outside walls, laundry hanging on lines stretched between windows. Inside one of those apartments, on the fifth floor, I’d crossed from innocent teenager to confused and lost young woman.

“Pull over here.”

Emmy pulled into a parking space in front of the building where Hank and I had lived and I stepped out and looked up at the window of the apartment we had lived in.

“You’re too young to know what love is,” Mama told me the night Daddy

caught Hank kissing me in our backyard. “What you have right now is lust.”

Mama had been right. My feelings for Hank might have been tinged with love but they were highlighted by a healthy dose of lust. I had never felt more alive than when he touched me and kissed me in the moonlight. A rush of desire I’d never known before coursed through me the first time he pressed his mouth against mine and that desire consumed me to the point of selfishness and self-destruction.

I closed my eyes, picturing the night in our sparsely decorated apartment when I’d told Hank I was pregnant, six months after we’d been married; the night the veil of fantasy was stripped away.

He had stood over me, a smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth.

“It probably isn’t even mine.” He repeated it, pacing in front of me as if he’d struck on an idea and was thinking how to use it. “It probably isn’t even mine.”

He tossed the empty whiskey bottle at the wall behind my head and it shattered, glass raining around me. I screamed in terror and fell to the floor on my knees, my hands over my head. His fingers encircled my upper arm and he pulled me up to look at him, his eyes wild.

“That’s it isn’t it? It isn’t even mine!” He shouted the words at me. “Maybe you’re just a whore like your sister.”

His face twisted in a terrifying scowl and I turned my head from the overwhelming

stench of alcohol on his breath.

“You’re just a little whore, aren’t you? Aren’t you?”

I opened my eyes to stop the memory and while I couldn’t see the window from where I stood I knew it was there – the bedroom where I’d held Jackson against me while Hank screamed and danced around the room like a man possessed.

“What do you think you’re going to do?” he had asked. “You gonna try to leave me? You gonna try to take my son from me?”

Suddenly he screamed, veins popping out on his neck, eyes wild, words unintelligible except for a few obscene curses.

“The hell you will!”  he screamed. “The hell you will!”

He’d lunged at me and I had fallen with Jackson in my arms.

Like a man possessed by the devil he flailed and screamed and in that moment I had wondered if he really was the devil; the physical beauty I had once seen in him distorted by his rage-filled screaming.

I had only been able to get away because he’d fallen to the floor, grabbing my foot on the way down. I had kicked him full in the face in that split second adn I could still hear his crazed screams in my mind as he clutched at me. Closing my eyes in the bright sunlight, I could still see the blood spraying from his nose and spilling onto the floor; his glazed, unseeing eyes looking at me and then closing before his head fell down into the blood.


A hand touched my shoulder.

“Come on,” Edith said. “We don’t need to keep standing here with all those memories rushing at you. Let’s head down to see Miss Mazie’s. She’s expecting us.”

I drew in a deep breath and nodded, pausing to look at Jackson through the back window, through the reflection of the apartment building on the glass, asleep against the door. The memories were hard. My decisions led to pain for both Jackson and me, but at the same time, if I’d never left with Hank, I’d never have had my son.

Miss Mazie’s house looked almost the same as it did the day I’d left to go back home. The small white house stood close to other, similarly built white houses, rose bushes blooming on either side of the steps leading to the porch. A hanging basket overflowing with small purple flowers swung gently in the breeze. A porch swing looked inviting and cozy on one side of the porch. I remembered nights sitting there, chatting with Miss Mazie about her life, then gently swaying back and forth, a dozing Jackson in my arms.

Standing on the porch, her walker helping to support her, Miss Mazie waved as we pulled into the driveway. Her skin, dark like chocolate, was still smooth on her face, almost, as if she hadn’t aged at all.

“Oh, honey, you get on up here and hug my neck,” she called to Jackson as he skipped up the stairs to her.

She kissed his cheek and laughed, her plump body jiggling as she held him against her.

“You’re like a big fluffy pillow!” Jackson declared, pressing his face against her stomach.

Miss Mazie laughed even harder. When she finally let him out of her embrace, she reached out for me and pressed her soft cheek against mine.

“Honey, you look so good,” she cooed. “Now you introduce me to everyone else and then come on in so I can hold that baby.”

After introductions we entered the house to wait for Buffy and Hannah to arrive with their children. The noise rose considerably when they did and I was grateful the weather was warm enough to send the children outside into the backyard to play. Hannah’s daughter Lizzie announced she would take charge of the younger children, even though her brother was the oldest.

Lizzie was almost unrecognizable to me now. Gone were the pigtails and freckles she’d had when I first met her with Hannah on a cold winter day outside the church the day after I’d learned I was pregnant with Jackson. Her straight blond hair hung down her back, held back from her face with a pink head band. At 13 she no longer stuck her finger in her nose but stood straight with her chin held high and a book hugged against her chest with one arm. Gone were the outfits of denim overalls with tiny pink flowers, replaced by a light pink polo top and an adorable plaid skirt, a pair of pink t-strap Mary Janes completing the ensemble.

Lizzie held her hand out to Jackson. “Come, Jackson. Let’s go play on the swing.”

Even her tone exuded maturity. I watched her lead my son out the backdoor with the other children following behind, in awe of the young lady she had become.

“I can’t believe how much she’s grown,” I said to Hannah as we made sandwiches in the kitchen. “She was so pretentious a young child.”

Hannah tossed her head back and laughed, blond curls falling down her back. “She has now added a touch of impertinence to her growing list of attributes. And oh, my goodness, she still doesn’t know when to hold her tongue, but she’s slowly starting to develop a small amount of tact at least.”

I glanced out the back door at a little girl with blond curls tight on her head giggling and chasing Jackson around a bush in Miss Mazie’s yard. I realized she must be Buffy’s youngest, the baby who had come after three miscarriages. She was the miracle child, the child who had opened my eyes to the need to not judge a book by its cover.

Buffy, the pastor’s wife, had always seemed so proper, well put together and popular, but at the same time always wearing a mask that never allowed anyone to see the real her.

The day she sat in Miss Mazie’s kitchen and began to pour out her heart about the losses of her children and her doubts of God’s goodness and faithfulness, I had seen my own judgmental heart.

“So many people don’t know what it’s like,” she had said abruptly that day, shaking her head. “to always have to be on. To always have to be – perfect. To look like you have it all together all the time, so no one suspects that sometimes you don’t even know if you believe what your husband is preaching up there.”

Tears rushed down Buffy’s cheeks, streaking her face with mascara.

“Do you know what it’s like to hear that God never gives you more than you can handle and have those words echo over and over in your mind while you watch a nurse carry a small box out of the room that you know holds the baby you carried for three months? Isn’t this more than I can handle?”

I remembered my heart breaking at her words and feeling shame at having judged her as someone who never suffered.

Now here was the baby she thought she’d never have, giggling and playing in the autumn sunlight.

“She’s beautiful,” I said as Buffy stood next to me.

“Thank you. She’s the part of our family we never realized we needed.”

“How are your other children and Pastor Jeffrey?”

“They are doing wonderful. You know we didn’t think we would be at this church for this long but it’s home now and such a blessing. The church is growing and Jeffrey is the happiest I’ve seen him in years.”

I was happy to see my friends living lives of joy after their struggles and I knew I was on the same path, no matter what my heart decided about Judson.

I found a seat in the living room on a chair next to Miss Mazie’s recliner.

“Now, Blanche, what’s this I hear from Jackson about his friend Judson who he says is about his mama’s age?” Miss Mazie shuffled into the living room from the dining room. “He says this friend doesn’t have a wife and is related to his Aunt Emmy.”

Emmy almost spit out the ginger ale she was drinking. I shot her a warning glare.

“Sorry,” Emmy mouthed, looking at the floor, her hand over her mouth to stifle a laugh.

When had my son found time to get Miss Mazie alone and spill the beans to her about Judson anyhow? This was one of the times I regretted my son had the gift of gab, which seemed like a curse right now.

“He’s a good friend to Jackson and our whole family,” I said with a smile.

Emmy raised her eyebrows at me and smirked.

“Who are we talking about?” Buffy asked as she and Hannah walked into the room with pitchers of lemonade and plates of sandwiches.

“Judson T. Wainwright, my handsome cousin from the South,” Emmy told her. “He moved up about a year ago to work in my dad’s construction business.”

Emmy glanced at me, caught sight of my scowl, and cleared her throat. “He has been a good friend to all of us.”

I could tell she was trying not to tease me, knowing how confused I was feeling after the night at the pond.

“Oooh,” Hannah said, sitting in a chair across from me. “I think I need to hear more about this man.”

Buffy sat on the couch, leaned her elbows on her knees, propped her chin in her hands, and looked at me with wide eyes. “So, is he a suitor of yours, Blanche?”

“I think he’d suit her just fine if she’d allow herself the chance to get to know him better,” Edith blurted.

The women laughed as I blushed.

“Now, now ladies, let’s not embarrass poor Blanche,” Miss Mazie said waving her hand as she sat in her recliner. She smiled at me and reached over to take my hand. “Blanche will find someone when she’s ready.”

“It’s okay, Miss Mazie,” I said. “I know they are only teasing me because both of them know how hard it’s been for me to let my guard down since Hank.”

Miss Mazie was still holding my hand. “We all know how much Hank hurt you, baby, but don’t let your heart be hardened against all men. There are many good ones out there. Don’t you forget, God created us in his image – male and female – to compliment each other. Now that I’ve said that, though, you make sure you wait for the right man to come along, okay, now? Pray about it.”

On the drive home that night I thought about how Miss Mazie and Emmy had both implored me to pray about how I felt about Judson. Why did I always seem to forget about prayer when I was struggling with a situation? The only problem was, I wasn’t sure how to pray. Should I pray for God to take away my feelings for Judson to protect my and Jackson’s heart, or should I pray for my heart to be softened toward the idea of Judson being more than a friend to me?

Fiction Thursday: A New Beginning, Chapter 24

Is it really possible we are in Chapter 24 of A New Beginning? Well, I guess it is! If you haven’t read Chapters 22 and Chapter 23 from last week or are even further behind, I will warn you that there are spoilers ahead!



I caused a bit of a stir last week by bringing Hank back into town and maybe into Blanche’s life. We will have to wait and see if he is gone for good like his mother and Blanche believe he is.

Blanche also struggled more with trying to figure out how she feels about Judson.

This week I started another story on Wattpad, which, if you don’t know, is a site with a lot of stories written by (excuse the following term) horny teenagers. This is not meant to be offensive to teenagers but there really is some x-rated and poorly written fiction on this site. Why then am I posting there? Because already I’ve had a couple of adult authors (not authors of ‘adult fiction’ necessarily) give me some pointers to help me tighten up my story. I may, or may not, continue to share The Farmer’s Daughter on Wattpad. I hope to have the final book version of it out on Kindle sometime in the fall or winter of 2020. I am only on the first draft of that novel, which will be first in a series.

Okay. Enough rambling. On to the chapter for this week. As always, this is a first draft of the story and as always, you can catch the first part of Blanche’s story, A Story to Tell, on Kindle. You do not need to read A Story to Tell to follow A New Beginning.

Also, as always, this is a work in progress so there are bound to be words missing or other typos. To follow the story from the beginning, find the link HERE or at the top of the page.

Chapter 24

“Hey, Blanche!”

Thomas waved at me from across the street as I locked the door to the shop. The sun caught his blond hair as he swept it off his forehead. Daddy had climbed into the car and Jackson was standing next to me, swinging a rock on a string.

“The rock is my pet, Mama, since you won’t let me have a dog,” he told me when I’d picked him up at school.

He’d been trying to convince me to get him a dog for a couple of years. Apparently, his sad expression while he tugged the rock along behind him was his latest attempt.

Thomas crossed the street and stopped in front of us, looking down at the rock. “Is that the latest toy craze? Or a failed yo-yo?”

Jackson pushed his lower lip out. “It’s my pet. Because Mama won’t let me have a dog.”

Thomas looked at me with wide eyes and mock horror. “Why, Mama! How can you be so cruel? Look at this poor child with his rock when he could have a ball of fluff licking his face, following him around, being his best friend like dogs are for all little boys.”

I scowled at Thomas.

He grinned and laughed at me. “Ouch,” he said, leaning down so his face was closer to Jackson’s. “Is that the look your Mama gives you when you’ve done something wrong?”

Jackson nodded, his eyebrows raised. “I think you’re in trouble,” he whispered in Thomas’ ear.

Thomas held his hand out to Jackson and Jackson took it. “My name’s Thomas. Looks like us boys have to stick together in this dog thing. I’ll work on your Mama for you about this dog thing, if you let me take her with me tonight to hear a band play a few miles away. What do you say?”

Well the very nerve, I thought, placing my hands on my hip. He hadn’t even asked me, just assumed I would go. “Thomas . . .”

He smiled at me. “What? I’m just trying to help the kid out here.” He winked at me. “And maybe myself.”

Jackson bit his lower lip and placed his finger against his chin, looking up at the sky as if he was thinking.

“Okay, Thomas,” he said. “You can take Mama to hear that band if you tell her she should let me have a dog.”

I shook my head, placing my other hand on my other hip and glaring at both of them. I pointed my finger at Jackson, trying not to smile. “Young man, you remember that it isn’t only my decision about the dog. We’re living with Grandpa and Grandma. It’s up to them too.”

“What’s up to us too?” Daddy asked from behind me.

“Getting a dog,” I said.

Daddy sighed, patting Jackson on the head. “We’ll take about this later, kid.”

A muscle in Thomas’ jaw jumped as he cleared his throat and held his hand out toward Daddy “Hey, you must be Blanche’s, Dad. I’m Thomas. I work with her at the paper.”

Daddy looked at Thomas’ hand for a moment, did a little throat clearing of his own and then took it. He nodded. “Thomas. Night to meet you.”

We all stood there in awkward silence for a few moments, the sound of cars passing by on the street the only sound, before Thomas finally spoke again. “I was just asking Blanche if she would like to go with me to hear a friend of mine that’s playing in a band up in Nichols. I thought we could head out now and grab some dinner there.”

“Actually, you didn’t really ask me,” I pointed out.

Thomas grinned. “Well, in a roundabout way, I did.”

Daddy looked at Thomas, then me and back to Thomas and shrugged. “She’s a grown woman now, as much as I hate to admit it. It’s up to her.”

I was having a hard time reading Daddy’s expression as he looked at me, but I wasn’t sure if he was happy with the idea of me leaving with Thomas. I felt the pressure of needing to answer one way or another with both Daddy and Thomas looking at me. Maybe a night out was what I needed to take my mind off my confusing feelings about Judson and my worry about Hank returning again.

“Sure,” I said. “If Daddy is okay with a night with his grandson.”

Daddy nodded. I worked at deciphering his expression, but still couldn’t read it.

“I’d be glad to take him home, get him fed, and,” he leaned down to look Jackson in the eye. “take him fishing!”

“Yeah!” Jackson cried, jumping up and down, grabbing his grandpa’s hand. “Come on! Let’s go!”

I watched Daddy and Jackson walk down the street toward Daddy’s car and felt a twinge of regret at not leaving with them. I wasn’t one to make spontaneous decisions and on the rare occasion I did, it always made me feel uneasy.

Thomas gestured to a bright blue Chevy El Camino parked across the street and bowed slightly. “Madam.”

I looked at the car, studying the long lines, the sun reflecting off the sleek, blue paint. “Why am I not surprised this is your car?” I asked.

“Why? Because it’s a chick magnet?”

I rolled my eyes as he opened the door.

“Listen, I know what you’re thinking,” he said, climbing into the driver’s side. “This isn’t a date, okay? I actually asked Midge Flannery first. You know Pastor Jenson’s daughter over at the Methodist Church? But she came down with a cold.”

I grinned. “A real cold, or . . .”

“Hey! Watch it. Yes, a legit cold. I saw her myself. Red nose and eyes even. I took some soup over to her apartment before I decided to ask you.”

“Oh. I see. I’m your second choice.”

“Well, yes, actually, you are,” he said, starting the car. He grinned at me again and winked. “But, we’re just friends so that’s okay, right?”

“Yes, actually it is,” I said as he pulled the car away from the curb, hoping he would remember we were just friends as the night went on. “So, who is the friend we’re going to see?”

Thomas clicked on the radio. “Jerry Fritz. The new sports reporter. He’s the bass player.”

Dean Martin crooned over the radio and Thomas turned the knob.

A man on the radio screamed through the speaker:

“I can’t get no satisfaction, I can’t get no satisfaction

‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try

I can’t get no, I can’t get no…”

This time I reached over and turned the knob.

“What?” Thomas said. “You don’t like the Rolling Stones.”

I made a face. “No. They’re sleezy.”

Thomas snickered. “I think that song is my theme song.”

I ignored his comment and turned up the radio.

“Stop! In the name of love!” I sang to the song on the radio, putting my hand out in front of me, wiggling like Diana Ross. “Before you break my heart.”

Thomas watched me with wide eyes, glancing from the road to me, then back again.

“Look at you lettin’ loose!”

I stopped singing and laughed, shaking my head. “I don’t know what I was thinking. And focus on the road.”

“You’re thinking that it’s time to let your hair down, Blanche. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

I touched the bun on top of my head, then smoothed my hair to make sure there were no strands out of place.

“Well, I wouldn’t go that far,” I said.

“Why not? You should let your hair down. I bet you look beautiful with your hair falling down around your shoulders.”

I looked out the window and thought about the day in the barn with Judson, how he’d told me I looked nice with my hair down. I touched the back of my head and closed my eyes and remembered how he’d told me the same thing at the lake. I could almost feel Judson’s hand in my hair as he pulled me closer. I thought about the day he’d left and how I’d barely let him hug me, how I’d pulled back, physically and otherwise. Why had I been so cold? I was driving my own self crazy at this point trying to figure out why I was acting so strange.

I shook my head at Thomas. “I don’t even have a comb to pull through it. It would be a mess.”

“Messy is sexy,” Thomas said with a wink.

I looked at him raised eyebrows, tipping my head. “Are you sure you want to go out with a pastor’s daughter?”

Thomas tipped his head back and laughed. “Maybe she’ll help me turn over a new leaf. Seriously, though, this is tame compared to what I used to be like. I promise you I’ve come a long way.”

“Yikes. I think I’m glad I know you now then.”

The bar was crowded when we arrived, the band already on stage. The bass player nodded at Thomas while he played, and Thomas nodded back.

Thomas gestured toward a couple standing up from a table in the corner. “Looks like that one is opening up. Let’s grab it.”

He pulled my chair out for me and brushed crumbs off the top of the table. Looking around the room, I realized how out of place I felt. I viewed diners and drinkers through a haze of cigarette smoke that stung my nose and eyes. The sickly-sweet smell of alcohol pulled at my stomach, memories of Hank staggering in after work rushing at me fast.

I hadn’t been in a bar since the night I’d witnessed Hank kissing that other woman. I had found my mind wandering to that night often over the years, wondering what had ever happened to her. Had Hank started dating her officially after I left? Maybe he’d even married her. Or maybe he’d done to her what he’d done to me. I was pulled from my memories by Thomas snapping his fingers in front of me.

“Hey, kid, where’d you go?”

“Oh. Sorry. I just haven’t been in a bar in a long time.”

“Back in your other life, huh?”

“You could say that.”

“Tell me about it when I get back. I’m going to order a burger and a beer. What can I get you?”

“A burger sounds good. Just a ginger ale to drink, though, please.”

Thomas sighed. “Of course.”

Watching the people around me sipping alcoholic drinks or gulping mouthfuls of beer, I realized how sheltered my life had become since coming home and it was something I didn’t mind. What had I been thinking agreeing to come here with Thomas? I’d rather have been home, curled up on the couch with Jackson, watching Gunsmoke. While I had once thought my life would somehow become exciting after I left with Hank, I now realized I preferred my quiet nights at home.

Thomas handed me my drink and as I took a sip, he held out his hand.

“Johnnie said he’d bring our burgers out to us when they’re done. Want to dance?”

I looked up at him, shaking my head, my chest constricting. I hadn’t danced in years.

Thomas leaned over me and spoke loudly over the music. “Come on. We’re dancing as friends.” He held up his hands in front of him. “No hanky-panky. I promise.”

He held out his hand again and I took it reluctantly. Leading me out into the middle of the other people dancing, he laid his hand against my lower back, stepping close to me as a fast song faded into a slow song. I took his other hand and slid my arm around his waist, feeling almost as awkward as I had the night I’d first danced with Hank as a 17-year old girl.

Thomas winked at me playfully. “Now, if you said right now you had feelings for me, I would throw all the friend stuff right out the window.”

I slapped his shoulder playfully.


He laughed as we danced, swaying to the music. When a faster song came on he stepped back and we watched the people around us dance. He shrugged at me and tried his best to mimic the steps as I laughed.

He leaned close to shout over the music. “I’m not really a dancer. Can you tell?”

I watched him shuffle his feet and stumble and laugh. He was right. He wasn’t a dancer. But I wasn’t one either and soon we were laughing at each other.

When the band stopped playing a few minutes later we stopped to applaud.

“We’re going to take a break and be back in 15 minutes,” the singer said, tipping his hat.

Sitting down at the table again, I took a drink from my ginger ale and noticed our burgers and fries had been delivered while we were dancing.

“What were you thinking about earlier?” Thomas asked, reaching for a fry and dipping it in ketchup. “When you zoned out on me.”

I drank more of the ginger ale, wishing I could change the subject.

“Just about the past.”

“Something the old man did to you?”

I laughed. “Well, he wasn’t exactly an old man, but he was my husband at the time, yes.”

“Did he do something bad to you at a bar?”

“You could say that.”

Thomas’ expression faded from teasing to serious. “Did he – hurt you – physically?” He held his hands up quickly. “Wait. No. You don’t have to tell me. This is supposed to be a night full of fun, not bad memories.”

“It’s okay. It wasn’t anything like that. It was just. . .” A sudden lump formed in my throat and I found myself unable to speak about the night I’d watched the blond woman with the low cut dress kiss Hank hard on the mouth and him kiss her back. “It was nothing,” I choked out.

Thomas looked at me with furrowed eyebrows, taking a swig of the beer.

“Nothing I can talk about anyhow without crying apparently,” I said, swallowing hard.

I was determined not to cry. I’d pushed tears so far down for so long I sometimes wondered if I could cry anymore.

“The more you tell me about this guy,” Thomas said, his jaw tight. “the more I wish I had walked into D’s that day and punched him straight in the face.”

“You’re not the only one who wants to do that, but really, it was a long time ago. It’s better just to leave it. It only bothers me once in a while and tonight some of the memories came back, that’s all. And really, I’m just not a bar person. I don’t drink, I haven’t got a clue how to dance, and cigarette smoke gives me a headache.”

Thomas grinned. “In other words, you’re a complete square.”

“Yep. And I like it that way.”

Thomas leaned back in the chair, watching me. “I do too. You’re fine the way you are. Not saying that in a flirting way, but you don’t have to be someone you aren’t. I think you know that by now.”

“I’m getting there. Enough about me, though. I want to know what you like about Midge.”

Thomas didn’t hesitate. “She’s cute.”

I sighed and pressed my hand against my forehead. “Thomas. Besides her being cute.”

“Okay. Okay.” Thomas tipped the chair back on two legs as he hung his arms over the back of it. “She’s sweet, smart and makes me want to . . .,” he looked at the ceiling, bit his lower lip and tipped his chair back down, light crimson seeping into his cheeks as he looked at me. He laughed softly and shook his head, looking at the top of the table and pushing at his napkin. “She makes me want be a better person, I guess you would say.”

He rubbed his hand across his face and shook his head. “That sounded so cheesy. I can’t believe I just said that. I’m so embarrassed.”

I tipped my head back and laughed loudly. It felt so good to laugh and release the tension I’d been holding in recently.

“If I was Midge and I heard that, I would melt inside. Thomas! You should tell her how you feel! What are you waiting for?”

Thomas looked at me his face, and even his ears, bright red now. “I’ve only taken her out twice. I can’t tell her that.”

“Okay,” I conceded. “Maybe you can’t tell her yet, but, soon, okay?”

A thought hit me as I took another bite of the burger.

I wiped my mouth with a napkin. “Wait, a minute, Thomas. Weren’t you harassing me about not going out with you just a couple of weeks ago? Why did you even care if you were dating Midge?”

Thomas winked, taking a sip of his beer. “That was more about making you feel guilty than really thinking you’d go out with me. I already knew you had a thing for Judson.”

Biting into my burger I shook my head at him.

“Hey, I told you the truth about Midge and how I feel about her, so now it’s your turn. How do you really feel about Judson?”

I shoved a fry in my mouth as I considered how to change the subject but didn’t need to worry. Thomas’ eyes drifted past me and his eyebrows furrowed. “Speaking of Midge. . .What is she doing here?”

I turned to follow his gaze and saw Midge standing next to a man at the bar, talking with her hands, looking upset. She pulled a thick woolen coat around her as the man responded, wiping her nose with a tissue and blowing into it. Thomas cleared his throat and continued watching the exchange. I had a feeling Thomas was thinking what I was, wondering what Midge was doing at the bar if she’d told him she had a cold.

The man stood abruptly, shaking his head, turned and shoved the man behind him hard to the ground.

“Patrick!” Midge shouted. “Stop it!”

“You’ve been pestering me all night and I’ve had enough of it!” the man Midge had called Patrick shouted as he stood over the man on the ground.

Midge pulled at the arm of the man she’d been talking to. “Patrick, you need to come home with me.”

“I’m old enough to make my own decisions, Midge!” Patrick yelled, facing Midge. “Go home!”

Midge threw up her arms in frustration, walking away from the bar and pushing her way through the crowd. Thomas crumpled his napkin and tossed it onto his empty plate, watching Midge stomp in our direction.


Midge Flannery was petite with a small round face, a cute nose and dark brown curls that fell to her shoulders. I’d known of her since we were both children and though I didn’t know her well, she had a reputation for being sweet, quiet, and well composed. This was the first time I’d ever seen her look flustered and disheveled. She pushed a curl back from her face and I noticed her eyes were red rimmed, her nose looked sore, and she was wheezing slightly.

“Thomas! What are you doing here?” She glanced at me, then back at Thomas.

“I could ask the same thing. I thought you were sick.”

Midge sighed and covered her mouth as she coughed. “I am sick. I came down here because the bartender called our house and told me my brother was drinking too much and to get him out of here. I drove up here so my dad wouldn’t find out Patrick is completely out of control with the drinking. Patrick refuses to come with me, though and I’m too tired and sick to mess with him this time.”

She looked at me and scowled, a hand on her hip. “But it looks like you found a replacement for me anyhow, Thomas Fairchild. Now I don’t have to feel guilty for canceling on you.”

I stood and held my hands up. “Now, Midge. Wait. I’m only here with Thomas as a friend. He was just telling me . . .” I glanced at Thomas whose face had paled as I spoke, probably worried what I was going to say. “Um… Thomas told me he’d asked you to come but you were sick and asked if I would come as a friend.”

Midge’s expression softened, but I could still see unshed tears in her eyes. “Oh. Well, I guess that’s better than what I thought.”

“Do you want me to see if I can convince Patrick to leave with you?” Thomas asked.

Midge nodded, blowing her nose again. “You can try, but honestly, I don’t think it will help.”

A half an hour later, Midge and I followed a beer-soaked Thomas and a staggering Patrick Flannery into the parking lot. Midge and I had both stifled laughs behind our hands when Patrick threw a mug of beer into Thomas’ face, thinking he was someone else. Out in the parking lot we were still laughing as Thomas helped Patrick into the car.

“Real sorry about that, buddy,” Patrick said, slurring his words. “I swear I thought you were Danny harass- harassing me . . . me . . ” he hiccupped in Thomas’ face. “again.”

“It’s okay, big boy,” Thomas said with a grimace. He patted Patrick’s shoulder as Patrick fell into the backseat of the car. “Let’s just get you home.”

Thomas shut the door and turned toward Midge and me, his eyebrows raised. “Whew. That was not the adventure I was expecting tonight. Your brother is as strong as an ox.”

Midge smiled. “I’m just glad he didn’t punch you. We’d be on our way to the emergency room.”

“Are you going to be okay getting him home?” Thomas asked.

“He’ll sleep on the way there and I’ll either drag him inside or let him lay and let Daddy find him in the morning and handle it,” Midge said, flipping her hair over her shoulder.

She laid her hand on Thomas’ arm, tipped her head to one side, and smiled. “Listen,” she said, her nose clearly stuffed from the cold. “I hope you’ll ask me out again, Thomas. When I’m over my cold.”

Thomas smiled. “I certainly plan to.”

Midge stood on her tip toes and brushed her lips against Thomas’ cheek.

“I hope I didn’t give you my cold by doing that,” she said.

I stepped back and moved toward Thomas’ car slowly, feeling like I was eavesdropping on a private moment.

As I turned toward his car, I saw Thomas out of the corner of my eye lean down and briefly press his mouth against Midge’s.

“If you did, it would totally be worth it,” he said softly.

I smirked when he slid into the driver’s seat a few moments later. “Well, it looks like things are progressing nicely in the Midge department,” I said with a wink.

“They certainly are,” he said with a grin, starting the car. “They certainly are.”

We laughed about the evening and sang to the music as we drove and when he pulled the car into my driveway, I saw Jackson standing on the front porch, his hands on his hips.

“Where have you been, young lady?” he said as I stepped out of the car.

I giggled as Thomas stepped around to where I was standing.

“I was out with Thomas listening to some music.”

“You should have been home an hour ago.”

Jackson’s eyebrows were furrowed, his mouth pressed tight into a thin line.

I kissed his cheek as I stepped onto the porch. “We had to help a friend before we could leave.”

His scowl softened and he lowered his hands from his hips. “Well, if you were helping a friend, I guess it is okay.”

Thomas stood next to me and laughed. “Hey, kid, thanks for letting me take your mom with me tonight.”

Jackson folded his arms across his chest and eyed Thomas suspiciously.

“You smell like beer,” he told Thomas. “Mama says beer makes people mean and she doesn’t like people who smell like beer.”

Thomas glanced at me and winced. “Ouch. Your Mama is a tough lady, but yeah, she’s right. Beer can make people mean. Luckily I never even finished my beer tonight. I smell like beer because some guy dumped his on me. Crazy, huh?”

Jackson wasn’t swayed from his indignation. “I think it’s time for you to leave,” he said firmly. “I bet you didn’t even talk Mama into getting me a dog.”

“Jackson, that’s enough,” I said, my tone even sharper than his had been. “Head in and up to bed. You should have been there an hour ago . I’ll be in to read you a book and tuck you in. Now go.”

Jackson turned but kept his gaze on Thomas until he finally walked through the front door.

“Wow,” Thomas said. “I don’t think you need to worry about anyone ever messing with you again. That’s one tough kid.”

“Yeah, he loves his Mama but sometimes he seems to forget who the parent is.”

Thomas stepped off the porch, walking toward his car. “Thanks for a fun night, Blanche and hey, remember what you said about me needing to tell Midge how I feel?”

“Yes. . .”

“If you have feelings for Judson you need to do the same.”

He grinned, tossing his keys into the air and catching them behind his back.

“See you around the office. Oh and get your kid a dog.”

After reading Jackson his book and kissing him goodnight, I tiptoed to my room and closed the door behind me. Undressing I thought about my night, about dancing with Thomas and about what Thomas had said. I also thought about the realization I’d come to when Thomas and I had been dancing; how I had wished I was in Judson’s arms instead of Thomas’.

Fiction Friday: A New Beginning Chapter 23

Welcome to Fiction Friday where I share part of a fiction story in progress. I shared Chapter 22 yesterday so be sure to check it out.

As always, you can catch the first part of Blanche’s story, A Story to Tell, on Kindle. You do not need to read A Story to Tell to follow on with A New Beginning.

Also, as always, this is a work in progress so there are bound to be words missing or other typos. To follow the story from the beginning, find the link HERE or at the top of the page.

Chapter 23

My mind was full of thoughts of Hank the next day as I washed the dishes, sweat beading my forehead and neck from the heat pulsating through the kitchen window. Looking up I watched Daddy and Judson working on the lawnmower, Judson’s forehead smeared with grease after he’d dragged his hand across it to wipe the sweat away. Judson’s presence at our house more than a couple of times a week to help Daddy with this or that project had become uncomfortable for me. I was grateful he had accepted Mama’s invite for dinner only once since we’d kissed.

I still couldn’t believe I had kissed him in the first place. I’d barely wrapped my mind around that fact before Hank showed up in town. Now I couldn’t seem to wrap my mind around anything at all. I looked at the plate in my hands and realized it was the third time I had washed it.


I jumped at the sound of Judson’s voice and turned to see him standing in the doorway, wiping sweat off his brow, the top two buttons of his shirt unbuttoned, a smile tilting his mouth upwards.

“Let me get you some water,” I said, quickly turning away from him.

Blast him. Even covered in sweat and grease he was good looking.

“Thanks,” he said. “I’ll take that offer, but I actually came in to let you know I’ll be gone for a couple of weeks.”

I filled the glass as he spoke.

“I’m heading down to North Carolina to be with my parents while Dad has heart surgery. Not sure how long it will take. My little brother is at college and can’t come help out so I offered to be there.”

He sat on a chair at the table as I set the glass of water next to him, then turned to fill another one for me.

“Whose gonna go fishing with me?”

Jackson was standing in the doorway, lower lip trembling.

“Hey, buddy,” Judson said, leaning forward, arms propped on his knees. “You’ve got your grandpa to go fishing with. You’ll be okay until I get back.”

“Yeah, but he doesn’t make voices for the fish like you do.”

Judson grinned, laughing softly. “Well, you’ll have to make the voices for them until I get back, okay?”

Jackson bit his lower lip, his hands deep in his pants pockets. He sniffed. “What if you don’t come back?”

I held my breath. Judson kneeled down in front of Jackson, one knee on the ground, the other propped up and his arm across it. “I’ll be back, kid. In a couple of weeks. I promise. I’m just going to check in on my family. Okay?”

Jackson nodded, still looking at the ground, tears in his eyes.

“Listen, you take care of your mama while I’m gone and when I come back we’ll go fishing and for a hike and maybe even ride Mr. Worley’s old tractor together.”

Jackson nodded, looking at the floor, bending his foot back and forth, like I always did when I was nervous. “Yeah. Okay.”

He wrung his hands in front of him for a few moments, his lower lip trembling.

“I don’t have a daddy you know,” he blurted suddenly.

My chest tightened. I had no idea where this conversation was going and I almost stepped forward to take Jackson’s hand to end it as quickly as possible. Something held me in place, though. I sat staring at the exchange. It was like a car accident I couldn’t look away from. I gulped a mouthful of water to distract myself from the nerves buzzing in my stomach.

Judson nodded as he stood, rubbing his hand along the side and back of his neck, wincing slightly.

“Yeah, buddy, I know.”

“Maybe you can be my daddy.”

I almost choked on the water I was drinking.

Judson cleared his throat and looked at the floor. He looked up at me briefly as I tried to force the water back down my throat. He looked back down at Jackson again, putting a hand on my son’s shoulder. “You know what, kid? I’m your buddy and I’m here for you whenever you need me, okay?”

“Okay,” Jackson said with a shrug. “Want to go throw the ball out front? You can use Grandpa’s glove.”

Judson grinned and ruffled Jackson’s hair. “You bet, buddy. I’m not leaving for a few more days, so I’ve got plenty of time for that. Let’s go.”

Judson looked at me, raising his eyebrows and letting out a breath. I could tell the conversation had made him as uneasy as it had me.

I felt like I’d been holding my breath the entire exchange, except for the moment I’d almost choked on the water. As the door closed behind Judson and Jackson. I sat in a kitchen chair, clasping a hand against my forehead.

“This single mom thing is not for the faint of heart,” I mumbled to myself.

I felt the same a week later when Judson stopped by to say goodbye to Jackson, reaching down to hug him close. Jackson pulled away with tears in his eyes.

“You gonna come back, right?”

Judson places his hands on Jackson’s shoulders and looked him in the eyes. “Yes, buddy. I am coming back. I promise you.”

My chest constricted with worry as I watched my son hug Judson tightly, knowing that my fears of him becoming too attached to someone who might not stick around were coming true. When Judson pulled away from Jackson he stood to face me.

He leaned over to hug me and I let him but something inside me held me back from leaning completely into him. My muscles tightened and I pulled back, ending the embrace abruptly.

“I hope it all goes well,” I said stiffly, folding my arms across my chest and feeling awkward, knowing I was tossing up walls because I didn’t want to admit I felt like I might crumble into a pile of confused emotions at any moment .

I couldn’t deny the look of disappointment on Judson’s face as he stepped back and nodded.

“I will,” he said, then smiled slightly. “If I write you, will you write back?”

I folded my arms across my chest, trying to smile. “Of course.”

He nodded, eyes on the floor, as he slid his hands into his pockets. “Or, I guess I could call too.”

“Yes, I guess you could,” I said, looking at the floor.

Why won’t he just go away? I thought to myself.

I needed him to leave so I could figure out how to feel about what I’d done, about him, about everything related to us. I didn’t know how to interpret the quickening of my pulse as he had hugged me, the aching feeling inside me urging me to dart upstairs to my room and cry.

He pulled his cowboy hat down on his head. “Okay. Well, I’ll see you soon.” His footsteps faded across the porch and into the grass.

I pushed the door closed against the sound of his truck engine and stood with my hand still pressed against it as Jackson ran out the back door to swing on the tire swing. I leaned my forehead against the smooth wood, closed my eyes and let out a long breath.

“Did you tell him Hank had been in town?” Mama’s voice behind me startled me out of my thoughts.

I turned and sighed, leaning back against the door, my hands behind me.

“No. Why should I?”

“I just thought he’d like to know. I mean you two are . . . well, friends at least, aren’t you?”

“Yes, Mama, but he doesn’t need to know anything about it. I’m fine. Hank is gone and I don’t see him coming back.”

I was grateful when the phone rang a few moments later and snatched it off the receiver to avoid continuing the conversation with Mama.

“What is going on with you and Thomas?”

I groaned inwardly. This conversation with Emmy wasn’t going to be any easier.

“Nothing is going on with Thomas and me,” I said with a heavy sigh.

“You two were in a dark room together . . .”

“Because I was hiding from Hank.”

“With Thomas?”

“Oh, good grief. He was just standing outside the hardware store when I saw Hank and I didn’t want us to be standing there when Hank came out. And I may have punched Thomas thinking it was Hank.”

“You punched him? In the face?” Emmy burst into laughter. “I thought his cheek looked swollen but I didn’t want to ask. So, what about Judson?”

“What about him?”

Emmy sighed. “Blanche, I know something happened between you two at the lake two weeks ago and you keep changing the topic when I try to bring it up.”

I pressed my hand against my forehead and looked back toward where Mama had been standing before. I couldn’t see her and hoped she wasn’t anywhere she could hear me.

“I kissed Judson.”

I thought my best friend was going to have a stroke. “You what?!”

“I kissed him and I shouldn’t have and I don’t want to talk about it.”

“We have to talk about it! How do you feel? Did you like it? Do you like him? What did he say? What did he do?”


“What? I need to know.”

“The kiss was nice. That’s all I’ll say.”

Emmy squealed on the other end of the phone and I cringed, uninterested in acting like a school girl over something causing me such internal conflict.

“I knew it! I knew you two would hit it off and you more than hit it off!”

“Emmy, I’m not ready for anything like that …. I — ” The tears forming in my eyes surprised me. “I’m afraid, Emmy.”

“Afraid of being hurt or how you felt?”

“Both,” I admitted.

“I know I can’t promise that you won’t get hurt, Blanche, but Judson is a good man. I’m not only saying this because he’s my cousin. He’s a good man and I know . . .”

Her voice trailed off and she sighed. “I guess I should say I think he truly has feelings for you. He worries about you and I’ve seen the way he looks at you in church.”

“In church?”

Good grief. Was church the new place to check out the opposite sex?

“Yes. In church. I’m sorry. I noticed. He watches you and I can tell he wants to talk to you but . . . I don’t know. I think he’s trying to give you your space.”

I leaned back against the wall in the kitchen and slid to the floor, hugging my knees against me. “I don’t know, Emmy. It’s just all very confusing.”

“Have you tried praying about it?”

“About how I feel about Judson? That just feels – weird.”

Emmy laughed. “Blanche, God cares about every part of our lives, even the romantic parts. I think this is one of the biggest issues you should be taking to him.”

“What do I even say, ‘Lord, please help me to not have feelings for this man?”

“Do you have feelings for him?”

I let out an exasperated sigh. “Emmy, I’m just saying that I don’t know how to talk to God about this.”

“Well, how do you talk to God about anything else? Just talk to him the same way about this you would any other issue you bring before him.”

I knew Emmy was right. So why was it so hard for me to just do it?

Fiction Friday: A New Beginning Chapter 10

Welcome to Fiction Friday, where I share a fiction story I’m working on or a novel in progress. If you share serial fictions on your blog as well please feel free to share a link to your latest installment, or the first part, in the comment section.

Right now I’m sharing from a novel in progress, A New Beginning, which is the sequel to A Story to Tell, now available on Kindle. As always, there may be typos, left out words or even awkward sentence structures I didn’t yet catch. This is a first draft so there will be changes before I publish it as an ebook in the Spring of 2020.

Are you caught up with Blanche’s story or do you have some reading to do? This week we continue with some take-it-easy character building, but there will be some excitement next week. Do you want to know what?

Well, I’m not telling you. You can read it next week. So there!

As always, you can find the links to the other parts of the story here and if you have any comments on how the story is going so far, or any ideas for future chapters, let me know in the comments!

Chapter 10

“Here we go. Chicken salad sandwich and fries for Blanche and a small salad for Edith.”

Betty Bundle’s hot pink, looped earrings bounced as she placed our plates in front of us. She stood for a moment, one on her hip, the other hovering out to her side, smacking gum like a cow with its cud as she looked down at Edith.

“Is that really all you’re going to eat, hon’?”

Edith glanced up at Betty without lifting her head. “Yes, Betty,” she said with a sigh. “That’s all I’m going to eat today.”

“Eatin’ a salad is like eatin’ air, you know,” Betty said. “You need something more substantial than air to get you through the day.”

Edith sighed, stabbing a piece of lettuce with her fork. “Thank you, Betty. I appreciate your input, but I’m eating light today. My stomach isn’t feeling the best.”

Betty pursed her lips and furrowed her eyebrows, folding her arms across her chest. “Well, I guess but you make sure you get something later. It’s not healthy eating so little and if you’re trying to lose weight, well, you don’t need to. You understand me?”

“You’re starting to sound like my mom, Betty,” Edith laughed. “Don’t you have another table to wait on?”

Betty sighed and flounced across the diner toward another table, tablet in hand as she reached for the pen she’d propped behind her ear.

“So . . .” I sipped my iced tea and cleared my throat. “Is your stomach feeling off for any reason?”

Edith sipped her water. “I think it’s nerves. The adoption agency called this morning. Jimmy and I have been approved for adoption. Now we just wait for the phone call that says someone has chosen us to adopt their child”

“Oh, that’s great!” I cried.

My sister’s hand trembled as she stabbed at a tomato. “It’s getting real now, Blanche,” she said. “We’re really doing this and I’m not going to lie, I’m terrified.”

I reached across the table and took her hand. “It’s going to be okay, Edith. You and Jimmy are going to be amazing parents, you know that.”

“It’s not just the parenting that scares me. It’s the idea that we might fall in love with this baby, or child and then the mother changes her mind. I can’t imagine that heartbreak. Blanche, I think I know why you put up walls around yourself now. I’m afraid to be hurt again. I’m afraid to . . .”

She shook her head and I could see she was trying to hold back the tears. “I’m afraid,” she said a few moments later, her voice cracking. “To love this child in case we lose him or her the same way we lost Molly. Jimmy and I made a space in our hearts for our baby girl and then I came home from the hospital with empty arms.”

Edith wiped her eyes with her napkin. “I couldn’t bare to hold a child and fall in love with that child, only to have that child taken from me.”

“You’re acting like me, Edith,” I said. “You’re thinking of all the worse case scenarios and letting them guide your decisions in life, when you don’t even know if they’ll ever come to pass. That’s no way to live.”

Edith blew her nose and laughed softly. “Physician heal thyself,” she said with a smirk.

I bit into a fry and leaned my head on my hand, sighing.

“This isn’t about me, it’s about you,” I told her. “We are psychoanalyzing you today. My session can be tomorrow.”

Edith wiped her eyes again and smiled. “Well, at least you know I can empathize with you now and I understand the fear of letting anyone else into your life. I think this is something you and I will have to work on together. We will have to do what Lillian said during Bible study a couple of weeks ago: feel the fear and do it anyhow.”

The ding of the bell on the front door announced the arrival of Emmy, Judson and a few more of the workers from the construction business. Judson and the other men took up two booths on the other side of the diner while Emmy slid in the booth next to me, her belly almost touching the table.

“I said I was coming to lunch and the whole lot of them spilled out after me like a gaggle of schoolchildren,” she said picking up the menu. “The stench behind me was all-encompassing. Sometimes I wonder what I was thinking agreeing to be Daddy’s secretary and having to put up with this group of dirty, sweaty gorillas every day.”

I sipped my iced tea and laughed at the drama in my best friend’s voice. “You love it and you know it,” I said. “All those men fawning all over you, especially now that you’re expecting. ‘Yes, Miss Emmy.’ ‘ Can I hold the door for you, Miss Emmy?’ ‘Let me get you a glass of water, Miss Emmy.’”

Emmy looked at me in mock shock. “Blanche Robbins, that is not true.” She looked back at the menu. “They get me lemonade, not water. Plain water is evil.”

Betty returned to take Emmy’s order.

“You know, Blanche,” she said smacking away at her gum. “There’s a lot of good lookin’ men over there. At least one of them has got to be single. Maybe you should—-”

“Good grief, Betty! Not you too!”

“What? I’m just sayin’ — You’re still a young girl, you know. You don’t have to act like such an old woman. Go out on some dates, have some fun already.”

Another person trying to fix me with a man.

“Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match…” I sang at Betty. I slipped into my regular voice as I shook my finger at her teasingly. “Don’t you join the Fix Blanche Cause being headed by the rest of my friend’s and family, Betty. I don’t need a man to make my life better.”

Betty blew a bubble of gum at me, standing with a hand on her hip. “Well, I didn’t say anything about it being better but it might be a bit more interesting.”

I mimed a person writing in an order notebook, moving my hand across the top of the table. “Why don’t you just take Emmy’s order and go play matchmaker somewhere else, Betty.”

Betty shrugged and took Emmy’s order as I’d suggested.

“Don’t blame me if you end up old and alone,” she said with her dry wit as walked back toward the kitchen. “I tried to help but you jus’ wouldn’t listen.”

As she walked from the table I sighed and ignored the giggles from Emmy and Edith, wondering who else would be next to remind me I needed a man to have a better life.


“Now, Blanche, you tell me, is this dress just too fancy for an old lady like me?”

86-year old Jessie Reynolds was modeling the dress I’d made for her in front of the mirror, holding herself steady with her cane and lightly touching the bun her long, white hair was twisted up in.

“No, ma’am. I think it’s just perfect.”

“Not too risqué?”

I snorted a laugh. “No, ma’am.”

She looked over her shoulder and winked at me. “Hmmm..maybe you better start over and add a little flare to it then.”

“Now, Jessie. . .”

The elderly woman laughed and sat back in the chair across from me. “I still have a little spunk left in me, you know. Maybe I can snag myself a new man before I walk across that rainbow bridge.”

“Oh my goodness,” I laughed again and shook my head. I poured some tea into a teacup and set it on the plate next to Jessie.  “And which man do you have your eye on?”

“Well, that Bill Sprowles just lost his wife a year or so ago. He might be a bit lonely.”

Jessie and I laughed together. “Ah, well, you know I’m just teasing you. A woman doesn’t need to have a man to be happy, does she?”

“No, ma’am. She doesn’t.”

“But it certainly is nicer when she does. Now, tell me, Blanche, have you thought about dating again?”

I shook my head and laughed. “I should have known that was coming. Jessie, you’re a troublemaker.”

“Have to keep myself busy somehow at my age.”

“Honestly, I haven’t really been worried about it. I’ve had Jackson to take care of and this shop to run. I’m happy where I’m at, Jessie.”

Jessie sipped her tea. “I do know what you mean. Sometimes it’s easier to stay where we are and not allow change. But maybe in the future you’ll be ready to let someone else into your world and I hope you won’t be afraid to do so when the time comes.”

Although I didn’t enjoy discussing my love life, even with Jessie, I knew she meant well, and her blunt humor made the conversation less painful than it would have been with others. “Thank you, Jessie. I’ll keep that in mind if that time ever comes.”

“Oh no. Not ‘if’, Blanche, honey. When.” She winked at me over the edge of the teacup and giggled. “Plus, I need you to hurry up. I’m not a spring chicken and you need to have a nice big wedding with a nice, handsome man before I die.”

“Okay, Jessie,” I said. “Let’s get you out of that dress so I can get to work on making the alterations and have it ready for you by tomorrow.”

To myself I added: “And so I can rush you out of this shop before you start suggesting men for me to marry.”

As Jessie left the shop, Marjorie stepped in, her eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

“Blanche, do you know anything about Stanley Jasper?”

“Just that he’s the editor of the paper,” I said, choosing not to add that he’d asked me about his intention to ask her out to dinner.

“Well, the strangest thing just happened with him at the diner. He asked me if I’d like to have dinner with him some night.”

I feigned innocence as I looped some thread around a spool and slid it into a drawer. “Oh? Well, what did you say?”

Marjorie picked at a piece of lent on her coat. “I didn’t know what to say so I asked him if I could think about it.” She shrugged. “He said that was fine, but, I don’t know . . . I’m not ready to — I mean I’ve never thought about dating again. I’ve just . . .  well, I’ve just never really thought about it. I don’t even know what to say. I guess I figured I was too old for such things.”

“Marjorie, you’re never too old for companionship but I understand,” I said. “It was nice of him to ask but you’re not sure you’re ready to open yourself up again.”

She nodded, sitting on the hard metal chair across from me. “I know you can relate to that, to putting up walls and being afraid to pull them down again; afraid to be hurt again.”

She sighed and tipped her head slightly, staring at the sewing machine with a far off look. Sitting with the front window as a backdrop, sunlight behind her, making the light grey streaks in her hair appear blond, she looked more like a young girl than a 55-year old woman

“I just don’t know what to do,” she said softly, wistfully almost, caught up in her thoughts.

“Well, it’s entirely up to you,” I said. “I think you did the right thing telling  him you needed some time to think about it.”

A small smile tugged at her mouth. “It was nice being asked – having someone actually seem . . . interested in me, I guess you’d say.”

I smiled as I leaned back against the sewing table, happy to hear a hint of joy and excitement in her voice and curious to know if she’d eventually accept Stanley’s invitation.

Fiction Friday: A New Beginning, Chapter 8

Well, readers, I’m going to confess that I’m a bit stuck on Blanche’s story after about Chapter 14 so — any suggestions to how you think her story should go? Let me know in the comments. I do have some ideas and some ideas somewhat, (dare I even say it since I’m a writer who writes by the seat of her pants?) plotted out.

If you want to catch the beginning of Blanche’s story, you can read it on Kindle and Kindle Unlimted.  However, you don’t have to read the first part to be able to enjoy A New Beginning.

If you want to read A New Beginning’s chapters that have been posted so far, you can find themhere (or at the top of the page). 

As always, this is the first draft of a story. There will be typos and in the future, there will be changes made, some small, some large and as before I plan to publish the complete story later as an ebook. 


The hay bale I was trying to catch slipped through my arms and cut scratches across my skin, even through the thick flannel shirt I was wearing, causing me to immediately regret volunteering to help Daddy, Judson and Jimmy stack hay bales at Mr. Worley’s barn.

“You should catch the bales like this,” Judson said, bending with his knees, his arms out a little further than mine had been. “Instead of what you were doing. You might be able to stack a little faster.”

I didn’t know why but the way he instructed me on how to catch hay bales irritated me and made me want to tell him to shove his opinions where the sun didn’t shine. He was the one lofting the bales too high from the back of the truck.

I hoped Jimmy came back from gathering more hay bales from the field soon so he could help with the stacking and I didn’t have to deal with Judson on my own.

I literally bit my tongue to hold back my comment as another bale fell out of my arms.  I knew we’d never finish the job if Judson didn’t start throwing me the bales from the wagon the right way. When the third bale slammed hard against my chest, my resolve crumbled.

“You’re throwing them too high!” I shouted.

Judson shrugged. “I’m not throwing them too high. You’re just not catching them right. Why don’t I come up there and help you?”

“Why don’t I come up there and help you?” I mumbled to myself in a mocking tone.

“No. I’m fine,” I said, catching the next bale and carrying it to the growing pile of hay bales at the back of the loft.

As I turned around, a hay bale flew at me, almost hitting me in the face.

“What was that?!” I snapped.

Judson winked at me and grinned as I swiped a strand of hair out of my face. “It was you being too slow and not following my advice.”

I propped my hand on my hip and glared down at him, desperate for a retort but afraid what might come out if I opened my mouth. I turned instead and picked up the pieces from the haybale that had crumbled. When the job was finally finished my face, shirt and jeans were damp with sweat and stained with dirt. I sat on a hay bale, breathing hard.

I looked up at the glass of iced tea Judson was handing to me.

“You’re a hard worker,” he said.

I still felt annoyed at him over his comments, so I simply nodded, standing and wiping the dirt off my face as I took the glass. Like I cared if he thought I was a hard worker.

“You’re angry at me, aren’t you?”

I shrugged. “No. It’s fine.”

His laughter made me even more annoyed. Blast him.

“You are! Hey, I was just trying to help. Besides, you finally got the hang of it after you started catching them the way I told you to.”

I glanced at him standing at the edge of the loft, muscular arms folded across his broad chest, grinning, his blue eyes glinting with amusement. I clenched my jaw and hoped the warmth I felt in my face wasn’t showing as flushed crimson on my cheeks.

I couldn’t figure out why his grin was infuriating me so much, but I had a feeling it was because I didn’t like the idea that he thought he could tell me what to do and how to do it. When I’d left Hank I’d been determined that no one, especially a man, would ever tell me what to do again. But it was ridiculous. Judson wasn’t like Hank. He wasn’t trying to control me. He’d only been trying to help. Was I ever going to get past the feelings Hank had left in me?

I swallowed hard and cleared my throat.

“Yes, well, thank you. We got the job done and that’s all that matters.”

Judson leaned back against a pile of bales, pushing his legs out in front of him and looked at me as he drank from his own glass of tea. “I’m not sure what to make of you, Blanche, but I’m beginning to think I’m not your favorite person.”

I glanced up at him in surprise. “I’m – what?”

“You avoid eye contact with me. You duck into stores when I walk toward you on the street. I’ve noticed you’ve been laying your Bible at the end of your pew during church, as if you’re holding a spot for someone else, but no one else ever comes and when I talk to you I sense every word I say irritates you.”

Several strands of hair fell out of the ponytail I’d pulled my hair into earlier in the day.  I yanked the hair tie out and let my hair fall around my shoulders as I prepared to put it back up again. I drew the strands all into one hand, the hair tie in the other. I knew I was buying time to try to think of how to answer Judson. I couldn’t believe he’d noticed all the times I’d tried to avoid him and felt guilty that he thought it was because I didn’t like him.

“You should keep your hair down.”

I paused with my hands on my hair and looked up to see Judson watching me intently, his expression serious.

“You look beautiful with your hair down,” he said, leaning forward, his elbows propped on his knees as he watched me.

I knew my face was red with embarrassment now. “Thank you,” I mumbled but still pulled the hair back and slid the hair tie around it tightly.

He cleared his throat and stood. “Well, it’s late and I’d better get home and get some dinner in me before I head to bed. I’ve got an early day on the construction site tomorrow.”

“Judson – it isn’t that – I mean, it’s not that I don’t –“

I had no idea how to explain why I’d been trying to keep him at a distance.

He walked toward me, stopping in front of me and smiled.

“It’s okay, Blanche. You don’t have to explain.” He pushed a strand of hair off my forehead and hooked it behind my ear. “Maybe one day you’ll decide I’m not so bad to have around.”

He winked and walked past me, climbing down the ladder of the hayloft. I closed my eyes and held the cold tea glass against my throat.

I thought about a quote I’d read one time by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was killed during World War II.

“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.”

To be interrupted by God was one thing but sometimes it was hard to know if it was God interrupting or someone else was. And, to be honest, I wasn’t ready for any interruptions in my life that would threaten the life I’d built for me and Jackson. I hated that I saw a friendship with Judson as a threat to our current contentment. Maybe it was because I was worried Judson wanted more than a friendship.


The first time I’d walked into Stanley Jasper’s office my legs were weak. I felt like I needed to sit down but I didn’t want to sit down until I’d been asked, so I stood there, clutching a folder with two column samples and trying not to sweat.

Stanley sat, typing furiously on his typewriter without looking up, a cigar tucked in the corner of his mouth, a cup of coffee next to him and the surface of his desk cluttered with newspapers and sheets of typing paper. Some pages were crumpled up and tossed to the side, obviously tossed there out of frustration. The editor was unshaven, his hair sticking up in front as if he’d clutched his hair in anger one too many times, his clothes wrinkled and his shirt haphazardly tucked in.

The click of the typewriter keys filled the room, blending in with the more muffled sounds of the rest of the newsroom outside the closed door. I wondered how long it would take him to look up from the typewriter but wasn’t sure I should interrupt his train of thought in case he was writing up a big story for the next day’s paper.

“Blanche!” he declared suddenly, causing me to jump back slightly. He stood and thrust a hand at me over the desk.

I reached out and took his hand and he jerked my arm up and down in a quick movement before releasing it.

He gestured to a brown, leather chair with a ripped seat across from his desk while simultaneously ripping a page from his typewriter and tossing it on top of a pile of other pieces of paper. “Please, sit.”

“I liked your columns,” he said as he sat. “What made you send them in?”

“Well, I – I – like to write and my sister – I mean, well I –“

Stanley pulled the cigar from his mouth and starred at me for a moment, a wry smile curling his mouth. “Huh, I can see you’re more articulate in writing.”

I laughed softly and shook my head. “I’m sorry. I’m a little nervous –

Stanley spoke in a rhythm similar to his typing. “No reason to be nervous. I liked your columns. Down home stuff. We need more of that light stuff in our paper. I’d like to run a column by you once a week. No pay, just my heartfelt appreciation. What do you think?”

He had stopped talking so abruptly I hadn’t been ready to answer. “Oh. Well, I, yes, that would be fine.”

“Great. We’ll use these first two you sent in and then you can start submitting one each Tuesday so we can typeset it and have it ready for Thursday. Sound good?” He didn’t wait for me to answer. “What’s that in your hand? More columns?”

I nodded and handed them across to him. He snatched the folder flipped it open, scanned the pages and nodded. “Great! I’ll read these over and let you know what I think.”

“Thank you,” I managed to choke out, trying to keep up with the pace of the conversation.

“So,” Stanley leaned back slightly in his chair, propping the cigar in one hand as he looked back at me. “Local girl, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Don’t call me sir. It makes me feel old. Stanley’s fine.”

“No problem . . . Stanley.”

“Did you go to school for writing?”

“Well, no, I didn’t – I just write for myself, I guess, you’d say.”

“It’s paid off. You’re a good writer.” He stood and walked around the desk and flung his office door open, letting in the sounds of the newsroom. “Let me show you around and introduce you to the staff, or the staff that’s here anyhow. A lot of them work at night after they cover council meetings.”

“You’ve met Minnie. She’ll be the one typesetting your columns each week.”

Minnie nodded, dark curls bouncing, even darker eyelashes fluttering. “Nice to meet you, Blanche. Looking forward to reading your columns.

Stanley kept walking, stopping briefly at the next desk.

“This is Danny Post. He’s our sports editor, writer and photographer, all rolled up in one nerdy package.”

The balding man with glasses smiled as he stood and shook my hand. Standing at about my height, I guessed his age to be around 50 and him to be someone who wrote about sports because he most likely had never played any.

“Nice to meet you,” he said in a voice softer than I imagined a sports editor having.

I managed brief greetings to each person as Stanley clipped through the introductions like a drill sergeant, pausing at each desk only long enough to rattle off a name and a title and an occasional good-natured jab.

“This is Thomas Fairchild our cub reporter,” Stanley said standing in front of the last desk in the newsroom.  “We call him a cub because he’s young and new and one time we caught him eating out of the dumpster outback because he makes so little money here he was looking for dinner. Thomas, this is Blanche. Try not to corrupt her when she comes in to drop off her columns okay?”

Thomas grinned as he looked up from his computer, green eyes sparkling beneath strands of dirty blond hair laying across his forehead. “I’ll try but I can’t promise,” he said, his eyes drifting from my face to glance down to the top of my blouse.

He winked and tilted his head to move his bangs out of his face. I immediately felt uneasy and hoped the introductions were over for now. Luckily, they were and I thanked Stanley for his time and walked quickly through the newsroom and down the street toward the dress shop.

The next time I saw Thomas it was two weeks later when I dropped off my column. The newsroom was quiet with much of the staff missing. I assumed it was either a lunch break or they were in a staff meeting. Thomas was sitting at the front desk, sipping from a cup of coffee, the phone receiver tucked between his shoulder and the side of his face.

“Yep. Yep. Yep. I think that sounds like a great story, Mr. Tanner. Of course the Simpson’s cows breaking loose and taking a swim in the church pond is worthy of a story. Yep. I’ll head out now and see you shortly.”

I handed him my column and gave him my best sympathetic look. “Good luck with that one.”

“Want to go with me? I could use someone to grab some photos of the wading cows while I chat with the pastor and the farmer. The staff photographer’s out to lunch.”

“Nah. I don’t think so. I’ve got to head back to the shop to help Doris.”

He shrugged. “Well, suit yourself, but I’m telling you, this is going to be some hard-hitting news.”

“And that’s why I’m glad I’m only a volunteer columnist,” I said.

Thomas grabbed his coat and slid it on, then reached for a camera on the desk behind him.

“You should be a writer you know,” he said. “I mean writing more than just columns. We could use a good writer like you to write some feature stories for us. I have a feeling you’d shine more as a writer for us than you ever would in a dress shop.”

“Well, thank you but I don’t think so.”

“You should think about it,” he said, walking around the desk as I walked toward the front door. “And then you should think about going out with me.”

I snorted a laugh as we walked out in the sunlight together. “Excuse me?”

I looked over my shoulder and saw him grinning broadly.

“What? Don’t you ever get asked out?”

“Not really. No.”

“Well, that’s a shame. Those guys are missing out.”

He winked at me, sliding a pair of sunglasses out of his jacket pocket. “So? Are you going to go out with me, or what?”

He slid the glasses on, still grinning.

My throat felt tight as I realized he was serious. The sun hit the blond highlights of his hair and I couldn’t deny he was attractive. Still, there was too much of Hank’s charming personality and boldness in him for my liking.

“Thank you, Thomas, but I’m not really – I mean, I don’t — ”

I suddenly realized I had no idea how to turn down a request for a date since I’d only ever been asked once and that had, obviously, ended badly.

“I’m not dating anyone right now,” I blurted. “It’s complicated, but I really do appreciate the invite.”

He was still smirking. “That was the nicest rejection anyone has ever given me.” He tossed his head back to move his bangs off his forehead again. “I’ll be sure to try again and see if every rejection is as nice as this one.”

I laughed at his determination. “Have fun with the cows, Thomas.”

His invitation had been a surprise to me, to someone who thought Hank’s pursuing me had been a fluke, but it had also been unwelcome to a young girl uninterested in frivolous romantic pursuits.

Lisa R. Howeler is a writer and photographer from the “boondocks” who writes a little bit about a lot of things on her blog Boondock Ramblings. She’s published a fiction novel ‘A Story to Tell’ on Kindle and also provides stock images for bloggers and others at Alamy.com and Lightstock.com.

Fiction Friday: ‘A Story To Tell’ Chapter 19

This week’s Fiction Friday has a trigger warning for anyone who might be bothered by scenes of domestic violence. I think, however, this will satisfy the thirst for Hank’s blood that some of my followers have had throughout this story. (You know who you are.) This week also brings us closer to the end of this part of Blanche’s story, with a plan for a second part to start sometime in October or November. I’ll be publishing the complete first part of the story in ebook form on Sept. 19 and possibly paperback at a later date.

Need to catch up on the story? Find the rest of the chapters here or at the link at the top of the page.

Escape Blue View Instagram Post “I made you your favorite this morning,” I told Hank, setting a plate full of sausage and pancakes in front of him.

He dragged his hand through his hair, his eyes heavy with sleep.

“Where did you get the money for this?” he asked, his voice gruff.

“Mama and Daddy gave me some as a gift before I left,” I said, ignoring his tone as I poured him a cup of coffee. “And then I’ve been saving a little bit out of the grocery money each week.”

I was determined to show love to Hank, even when he wouldn’t show it to me. Lillian had encouraged me to pray for Hank and I had been, every day since Jackson and I had come back from Edith’s wedding two weeks before.

“What are you so happy for?” he snapped. “We’ve got no money. I’m getting less hours at work. I’m not getting any gigs and you just sit here smiling like an idiot every day.”

I took a deep breath.

“I just believe it is good for us to try to look at the positives in life instead of the negatives,” I said, even though I felt anger rising up inside me.

I stood from the table and started to clear my dishes from the table, placing them in the sink.

He gulped down his coffee and slammed his cup on the table. His hand was suddenly tight around my wrist and I winced as he stood and pulled me hard against him and roughly pressed his mouth against mine.

“I can see some positives today,” he said as he pulled his mouth away a few moments later, sliding his hands down my hips and pressing himself against me. “I can see my wife, looking good, feeling good, smiling at me and I can see there’s no baby hanging on her for once.”

I let him pull me roughly to the bedroom as Jackson napped on the couch. The image of Hank’s hands on the woman in the bar flashed in my mind, as he clutched at my dress, pulling at the buttons, and trailing his mouth across the bare skin he exposed. I remembered that Lillian had said sometimes we had to show love to our spouse even when we didn’t feel it. I wanted to try my best to show Hank I loved him, even though I didn’t feel it at the moment. I had hoped our marriage was redeemable, despite Hank’s betrayal.

If I showed Hank love maybe he’d love me again and we could go back to the way things used to be when we first met. I winced as we fell onto the bed and he covered my mouth with his again, still holding my wrists tight in his hands.

My body was sore when Hank left to go back to work, but I hoped I’d done what a wife should do for her husband. I hoped I’d done what God would have wanted me to do.


“There he is!” Hannah scooped one-year-old Jackson into her arms and put him on her hip. “The birthday boy!”

She kissed his chunky cheek and danced in a circle as he giggled, a beautiful sound to my ears. Lizzie skipped into the kitchen and looked at her mom holding another baby.

“Don’t get attached, mommy,” she said bluntly. “We don’t need another one of those.”

She skipped away and Miss Mazie and I burst into laughter at her precocious comment.

“Oh, my word, how do you keep from laughing at her?” I asked.

“I do my best not to because laughing only encourages her,” Hannah said, smiling.

She sat Jackson in a highchair she’d brought with her to Miss Mazie’s and slid lemonade and a cake out of the refrigerator, placing them on the table.

“Thank you for celebrating Jackson’s big day,” I said. “I know he won’t remember it, but I still think it should be celebrated.”

“Of course, it should!” Miss Mazie said. “Celebrating a baby’s birthday is as much for us as it is them.”

Jackson patted his hands onto the highchair tray and grinned as he watched Hannah and I pour lemonade and cut cake.

“Hank wasn’t really interested in a party because he said Jackson wouldn’t remember it.” I shrugged and chose not to add that Hank wasn’t even really interested in Jackson at all.

Hannah sighed.

“Men, I swear. Sometimes they are so clueless.”

I nodded and turned to see Miss Mazie watching me intently.

“What happened to your arm, Blanche?” She asked.

I pulled my gaze away quickly. That woman seemed to have some six sense as if she could read me with her eyes and I didn’t want her to read what was really happening at home. I looked at the fading burn and laughed slightly.

“Oh, just being a klutz as usual and burned myself on the stove,” I said, pouring more lemonade for Hannah’s children, refusing to look at Miss Mazie. “Complete accident but, boy, did it hurt.”

Miss Mazie cleared her throat.

“Mmmmhmm,” she hummed, then quietly, almost under her breath, “My mama had a lot of ‘accidents’ too over the years. I know how much they can hurt.”

I kept my eyes lowered, though I could feel her eyes boring into me, urging me to tell her the truth.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I invited Buffy and her girls over to help us celebrate,” Hannah said, as her children each took a glass of lemonade and ran into Miss Mazie’s dining room. I was grateful for the change of subject “She’s been having a rough time lately and I thought it would be good for her to get out a little bit.”

I struggled to imagine what Buffy would be struggling with. She was young, beautiful, even if her smile seemed plastered to her face somehow, and the wife of a well-loved pastor. I knew even the beautiful and well-polished struggled, though, and I mentally scolded myself for judging Buffy based on her appearance and, quite frankly, her name.

“Of course, she’s welcome,” Miss Mazie said. “Has she . . .lost another one?”

Hannah nodded solemnly.

“Her second,” Hannah said. “I know you’d been praying so I’m sure she won’t mind me sharing. She was about three months along this time.”

My heart sank at the words, realizing that Buffy must have suffered a miscarriage, something I’d once heard Mama talk about when it happened to a cousin of mine. I couldn’t imagine such a loss, the physical and emotional toll.

“How are you doing, sweetie?” Miss Mazie asked after Buffy had come in, poured lemonade for her children, and sat the table with a piece of cake and lemonade of her own.

“I’m doing okay,” Buffy said, with her familiar plastic smile. “I mean, it’s been tough, yes, but I’m grateful for the children I do have. And it’s important, I think, to put a good face on for the members of the church. No one wants to see a pastor’s wife crying all the time.”

Miss Mazie reached out and laid her hand over Buffy’s.

“Honey, even the pastor’s wife needs to be comforted sometimes,” she said softly.

Buffy smiled faintly, her lower lip quivering. She swiped at a tear that escaped the corner of her eye, smudging her mascara.

“You don’t know what it’s like,” she said abruptly, shaking her head. “To always have to be on. To always have to be – perfect. To look like you have it all together all the time, so no one suspects that sometimes you don’t even know if you believe what your husband is preaching up there.”

Tears suddenly rushed down Buffy’s cheeks, streaking her face with black mascara.

“Do you know what it’s like to hear that God never gives you more than you can handle and have those words echo over and over in your mind while you watch a nurse carry a small box out of the room that you know carries the baby you carried for three months? Isn’t this more than I can handle?”

Buffy cried harder and I stiffened, unsure how to handle her outburst.

“As if being brought up by a mother who told me that I was only worth something if I married well and raised beautiful children wasn’t already more than I could handle,” Buffy said, anger in her voice. “Sometimes being a Christian, believing it all, is simply too much. Where was God when my baby died? I’ve always done what I was supposed to do. I took care of the children while Jeffrey went to seminary. I cleaned the house and made the dinners and organized the church dinners. I read my Bible every morning and go to Bible study. I’ve done it all right, but still, I suffer.”

She shook her head again and rubbed her crumpled handkerchief roughly against her face.  Hannah, Miss Mazie and I watched her take a long, ragged breath in stunned silence. She looked around the table at each of us and her angry expression quickly faded into a look of horror.

“I can’t believe I just completely flipped out like that,” she said. “I’m so sorry. You poor ladies. We were supposed to be celebrating Jackson’s birthday and I just – I just completely fell apart.”

Hannah smiled. “What better place to fall apart than among friends?” she asked.

Buffy laughed softly as she tried to wipe the black from her face.

“Even the pastor’s wife deserves to flip out once in a while,” Miss Mazie said, clutching Buffy’s hand and squeezing it. “God’s not afraid of your anger Buffy. Let Him have it. Even when we feel He isn’t there, He is, and our emotions are from him, so your anger doesn’t surprise him one bit.”

Buffy nodded. “I must look awful,” she said.

I leaned forward and laid my hand over her other hand, suddenly overcome with compassion for the woman I’d thought had it all.

“You look beautiful,” I told her.

She smiled at me through the tears.

“Oh, thank you. I feel like I’m a mess – “

“I do believe it was your husband who once told us that beauty comes from ashes,” Hannah said.

Buffy nodded, letting the tears flow freely again as Miss Mazie and I held her hands.

“It’s not that I don’t believe,” she said after a few moments of crying, her voice breaking. “It’s just sometimes – life seems harder than I can handle. And sometimes . . . sometimes God just seems so far away.”

“It is in the moments he seems the farthest away, that He is the closest,” Miss Mazie said.

Buffy managed a smile.

“I will try to remember that, Miss Mazie,” she said. “You certainly are a blessing to me and our church.”

My heart ached for Buffy’s pain even as watching her mask being pulled away was eye-opening for me. I couldn’t imagine feeling as if I always had to look and act the part of the pastor’s perfect wife.

“Well, enough of this crying,” Buffy said, pulling her hands away from ours and wiping her eyes with her handkerchief again. “If I’m meant to have more children, then God will provide them. That’s how I have to think about it from now on.”

Hannah wet a dishcloth and started to wipe the mascara from Buffy’s face.

“I hope you brought your make up with you,” she teased. “You’ll definitely need to reapply.”

Buffy laughed freely, tipping her head back to let Hannah wipe under her eyes and along her cheeks. A few moments later, a ruddy-faced toddler rushed into the kitchen crying and fell into Buffy’s lap. She lifted the boy against her and kissed the top of his head.

“He fell into the table!” Lizzie yelled from the living room. “And it weren’t my fault!”

Hannah laid her hand against her forehead and sighed.

“Lord, give me strength,” she muttered.

Buffy hugged the little boy, burying her face in his red-blond curls and closed her eyes. When she opened them, she was smiling – a real, genuine, non-fake smile.

“I love you, sweet boy,” she said. She looked at us as we watched her. “If God only gives me this beautiful boy and his sister, then I will be blessed beyond measure.”

We all smiled at her, then each other, and I looked at Jackson in the high chair next to me, his face covered in cake, his smile wide and contagious. He giggled at me and spit chocolate down his chin. I laughed, feeling the happiest I had in a long time, knowing that he was my blessing, despite my mistakes.


 “Where were you all night?”

I looked up from the sink where I was washing dishes, confused. Hank was standing in the bedroom doorway, bleary-eyed. He staggered toward the table and sat, slumping in the chair, glowering at me.

“I came home for dinner and you weren’t here,” he snapped.

He had stumbled into the bedroom after work a few hours earlier, falling asleep with a bottle of bourbon in his hand. This was the first I’d seen him since then. I could have easily asked him where he’d been most of the previous night and many nights before, but I’d been up all night with Jackson and wasn’t in the mood for confrontation.

“I was at Hannah’s,” I said, drying my hands off on a dishtowel. “I told you I was going there to have cake and ice cream for Jackson’s birthday. I asked you if you wanted to go and, of course, you refused, just like you always do when I want you to spend time with Jackson.”

Hank slammed his hands on the table and stood, knocking the chair back and stepping toward me, towering over me.

“I told you not to hang around that nigger lady anymore!” he hissed, spit hitting my face.

“Hank, you’re drunk,” I said tightly, angry at how he spoke about Miss Mazie. “You just don’t remember that I told you I was going to Hannah’s. And don’t call Miss Mazie that na‑.”

The blow knocked me to the floor, leaving me desperately gasping for breath, searing pain coursing through my side and head. I hadn’t even seen it coming.

“Don’t you ever talk back to me!” Hank hissed, his hand still balled into a fist.

When I finally dragged air into my lungs, burning pain spread through my chest, I felt as if I was standing neck-deep in water with weights tied to my ankles. I reached up to feel warm, sticky fluid on my face, pouring from my nose. I pulled my hand away and stared in disbelief at the dark, red blood. My head was throbbing, my ears roaring, and I felt blood dripping down onto the back of my neck.

I felt like I was someone else, floating outside of my body, watching something horrible unfold, but unable to stop it. Hank hand’s clutched at the hair on the top of my head and he dragged me to my feet bring my face close to his.

“Why couldn’t you just do what you were told?” he asked, the smell of alcohol filling my nostrils.

I tightened my fists and spit blood and saliva in his face a second before the second blow came. Down on my hands and knees, I gasped for air again, the roar in my ears fading to high pierced ringing as Hank loomed over me, a shadowed, blurry figure in the corner of my eye.

Jackson abruptly screamed from our bedroom, drowning out the ringing and I looked toward the bedroom, through a veil of red, at the same time Hank’s head jerked toward the sound.

Hank drained the last of the alcohol and staggered through the bedroom doorway, into the darkness. I lurched forward, reaching out for his shirt, trying to stop him, but fell to the floor, the room spinning violently. I tasted metal and I spit blood onto the pea-green linoleum of the kitchen floor.

The sound of glass shattering against a wall splintered through the apartment, sending panic shooting through me. I struggled to my feet, the room still spinning.  I closed my eyes, praying for it to stop, knowing I needed to get to Jackson. I stumbled toward the bedroom, grasping the door frame, touching a stinging pain on the back of my head, squinting in confusion at blood on my hand, bright red, still trying to make sense of what was happening.

Hank was standing over the crib, his face close to Jackson who had pulled himself up to a standing position, holding on to the railing, his red face streaked with tears as he screamed. The whiskey bottle was shattered on the other side of the room.

“Hey there, little boy,” Hank slurred. “What you cryin’ about?”

I slammed against Hank, shoving him aside and swiftly lifted Jackson out of the crib, clutching him against me.

“Don’t you touch him!” I shouted, my hand against the back of Jackson’s head, pressing his face gently against my chest as I moved away from Hank and backed against the bedroom wall. “Don’t you dare touch him!”

I felt like something had snapped inside me. If Hank was going to hurt someone, let it be me, but I wasn’t going to let him touch our son.

Hank started laughing, staggering around the room, lit only by the streetlights outside. Jackson was still crying, terrified.

“Oh, looky here,” Hank said, leering at me. “Little ole’ Blanche finally got her voice.”

He laughed again, leaned close to my face and sneered.

“Whatcha’ going to do with it now you got it?”

He lurched away from me and staggered to one side, almost falling, still laughing. I started for the bedroom door, but he stepped in front of me, his face twisted in an ugly grimace.

“What do you think you’re going to do?” he asked. “You gonna try to leave me? You gonna try to take my son from me?”

Suddenly he was screaming, veins popping out on his neck, eyes wild, words unintelligible except for a few obscene curses.

“The hell you will!”  he screamed. “The hell you will!”

He was like a man possessed by the devil and in that moment, I wondered if he was the devil. The physical beauty I had once seen in him was distorted by his rage-filled screaming.

He lunged toward me, tripped on the edge of the carpet, falling forward on his face. I moved quickly around him, toward the bedroom doorway but his hand grabbed my ankle, pulling hard. I cried out in pain, lost my balance, and started to fall forward. I turned quickly and fell on my back with Jackson in my arms, against my chest, his screams piercing my ears. Hank struggled to stand, propped himself up on his hands and knees, still holding on to my ankle, his laughter maniacal until he was consumed with a coughing fit.

I took advantage of the moment and yanked my leg out of his hand, panic and rage rushing through me as I kicked him full in the face. Crazed screams came from him, like a pig being slaughtered. I started to sob, a mix of terror and anger, kicking harder, striking him repeatedly between the eyes with the heel of my shoe.

“Get your hands off of me!” I screamed then let loose a string of curse words I didn’t even know were in me.

My foot contacted his face over and over and blood sprayed up his face from his nose and then spilled onto the floor in a rush of red. He looked up at me with glazed, unseeing eyes, closing them seconds before his face hit the floor. I stood on trembling legs, my chest on fire as I struggled to breathe between sobs and screams.

Blood pooled under Hank’s head, staining his face and hair.  I could hear labored snorts being dragged through his broken nose. He was breathing but he wasn’t moving, and I knew I needed to move fast before he regained consciousness.

I quickly grabbed Jackson’s blanket, two journals, my Bible, and a few clothes, shoving it all into a canvas bag with one hand, Jackson on my hip. I checked Jackson for cuts and bruises as I rushed toward the front door, flinging it open and running down the stairs to the apartment building front door, looking over my shoulder at Hank’s prostrate form on the bedroom floor.

“What’s going on down there?!” a woman yelled down the stairwell from the second floor as I reached the front door and slammed it open.

I could feel warm blood on my face as I walked briskly into the crisp night air, walking briskly in the direction of Miss Mazie’s. I didn’t want to go to Hannah, to scare her young children with all the blood. Ten minutes into my walk Jackson began to quiet, falling asleep to the rhythm of my steps. I was breathing hard, seething inside, uttering angry epitaphs under my breath, wishing Hank could hear every one of them.

I had been walking for about ten minutes when a car pulled up next to me as I walked. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the lights on the roof and my chest tightened.

“Ma’m? Do you need a ride?” I could barely hear the officer’s voice over the pounding of my heart.

I kept walking, looking down, hiding my face in Jackson’s blanket. I shook my head. Someone from the apartment building must have called the police. I didn’t know whether to be angry or grateful.

“Ma’m, please. I can see you’re bleeding. Let me give you a ride to the station or anywhere else you need to go.”

“Thank you, but I’m fine,” I said, my voice hoarse.

I was shaking, clutching Jackson, terrified and in pain, head spinning, the sidewalk tilting.  The officer had lowered his head so he could look at me through the passenger side window. I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye. His expression was soft, concerned.

“Ma’m? Who did this to you? I can take you somewhere safe. Please. Let me help you.”

I stopped walking and the car stopped next to me. I looked back toward the apartment building, watching to make sure Hank wasn’t following me. The officer opened the passenger side door. I hesitated, looking back at the apartment building again. When I slid into the passenger seat and pulled the door shut, I winced as pain shot thorough my rib cage. I rubbed Jackson’s back as he cried in his sleep.

The officer handed me a handkerchief and I took it, pressing it against my nose to try to stop the bleeding.

“My name is Officer Judson,” he said. “I’d like to take you down to the station. We can file a report against whoever did this to you.”

I shook my head.

“No,” I said firmly. “I don’t want to do that.”

“I think we should get you checked out at the hospital at least,” he urged.

I shook my head again. “I’m okay. Please, just take me to my friend’s house.”

I gave him Miss Mazie’s address, barely able to speak as my top lip swelled.

“Did your husband do this to you?” he asked, pulling the car away from the curb and into the street.

I looked ahead, afraid to answer, trying not to cry.

“We can stop by the police station if you . . .”

“No,” I said firmly, shaking my head again. “I don’t want to do that. I just want to get my baby somewhere safe.”

I swallowed hard, the urge to cry suddenly gone, replaced again by anger.

“But thank you,” I said.

I realized my nose was stuffed and guessed blood was drying inside it. I touched it and felt a large bump in the center. I wondered if it was broken.

“Okay, I understand,” Officer Judson said, and we drove in silence the five minutes to Miss Mazie’s. “I might not agree, but I understand.”

As I reached for the handle, I felt the officer’s hand on my arm and turned to look at him.

“I’ll be praying for you,” he said, his blue eyes filled with compassion. “If you change your mind, about filing a report, stop by the station and ask for me. We will make sure whoever hurt you is punished.”

“Thank you,” I whispered.

A little extra fiction – The Farmer’s Daughter

I thought I’d share some extra fiction today,  beyond the story I’ve been working on with “A Story to Tell,” even though it isn’t Fiction Friday. This is the beginning of another novel in process, The Farmer’s Daughter. This is the story of Molly Tanner, who thought that by now she’d be living away from her family with a career of her own, but instead is still living on her parent’s dairy farm in rural Pennsylvania. Now 26 she begins to wonder what the future will hold for a girl whose whole life has been working on her family farm and selling produce at her family’s farm store.

“Okay, cow.”

Molly Tanner spoke through gritted teeth. “You want a fight? You’ve got one.”

She grabbed the harness of the usually docile Jersey, jerking hard to pull the cow forward. The cow stretched her neck, looking bored while she chewed her cud, ignoring Molly’s efforts to lead her the 100 yards from the pasture to the barn, her feet firmly planted in the mud.

Molly pulled harder and gasped as the rope slipped out of her hands and she fell backward into the mud and manure.

Up at the barn Molly’s brother, Jason, and the hired hand, Alex Stone, were watching her. Her brother was holding a bucket of feed for the pigs and Alex was leaning against the doorframe of the barn door, chewing on a piece of sweet grass.

“What do you think she’s doing down there?” Alex asked, arms folded across his chest.

“Looks like she’s arguing with Lilly-belle again,” Jason said.

“Should we help her?” Alex asked.

“Probably,” Jason said.

Neither man moved to help. Instead, Jason poured the grain mixture into the feeding bin in the pig’s pen and Alex tossed the chewed grass at the ground and hooked his thumbs in his belt loops, still watching Molly.

Sitting there on her butt in cow poop, rain falling on her, Molly thought how this moment represented where her life had ended up since she’d graduated high school eight years ago.

She was still living on her parents’ farm in rural Pennsylvania, still sleeping in her old room, her mom still cooking her meals and washing her clothes. Molly thought by now she’d be out on her own, with her own career, her own life. As it was, she didn’t even know what career she’d have outside of farming. Working on a farm was all she’d ever known and all she’d ever wanted – at least until recently when she’d started to wonder what else the world might offer a 26-year old with no degree and little knowledge of the world other than how to milk a cow and sell produce at her parent’s small farm store.

“Listen here, girl, it’s time to get in that barn,” Molly said, pushing herself off the ground, lecturing Lily-belle. “I’m tired. It’s been a long day of milking and cleaning out all that poop you and your friends make. And I’m not done yet. I still have to help Mom bake cakes for the church rummage sale next week. You know how much I hate that bake sale, so come on, give me a break, okay?”

Molly looked into the deep brown eyes of the cow and realized how pathetic she must look standing shin-deep in mud, covered in cow manure, talking to a cow as if the cow could understand her. Her life really was swirling down the proverbial toilet.

“Good grief, she’s a mess,” Jason said from the barn, shaking his head. “You’d better go rescue her.”

“Hey!” Alex shouted. “What’s going on down there? We’re ready to start the milking!”

Alex’s voice booming across the cow pasture brought a curse word to Molly’s lips, which she immediately felt guilty about.

“If you’re so impatient then you get this stubborn cow moving!” she shouted, tugging hard at the harness again.

Molly heard the sound of boots thumping heavy in the mud behind her and watched in disbelief as Alex reached over her shoulder, took the harness from her hands and Lily-belle moved forward with him.

“Are you kidding me?!” Molly shouted. “I’ve been trying to get her to move for 20 minutes!  What did you do differently?”

Alex looked over his shoulder and smirked as the cow followed him

“I guess the ladies just like me.”

“You wish,” Molly grumbled loud enough for him to hear.

“Molly, why don’t you just head in and get cleaned off,” Robert Tanner said to his daughter as she stumbled through the barn doorway. “You can start helping your mom with those cakes. Alex, Jason and I can finish up the milking.”

“I’ll take you up on that offer,” Molly said. “Maybe I can even manage a shower before bed for once.”

“That would definitely be a good thing,” Jason said with a look of disgust. “You smell like the pigs.”

Molly shot a glare at her brother and turned to walk back toward the house.

“And you smell like the gas that comes out of their behinds!” she shouted over her shoulder.

“Always have to have the last word, don’t you?” Jason shouted back.


“Whatever back at you!”

“Okay, that’s enough,” Robert said. “I’ll have the last word.”

Molly watched the sun slipping behind the hills that hugged the Tanner’s 250-acre farm as she walked. The sunset, a mix of orange with a streak of pink, made the fields of the farm look almost mystical. She knew she’d never get sick of this view, of these sunsets at the end of a long day. She walked into the chicken coop to look for eggs she knew her mom would need for the cakes.

The last few years had definitely been a challenge for the Tanner family. They had watched their once strong patriarch, Robert’s father, Ned, fade away, trapped in a mind riddled with dementia. Around the same time Ned’s dementia had progressed, the family farm had plunged toward bankruptcy, as two years of heavy rain and flooding killed the corn and hay crops, leaving the family with little feed for their cattle.

Robert and his brother Walt’s decision to increase the farm’s organic produce inventory had helped save the business, but only barely. Now the family joined other farmers in the area in another crisis – a surplus of milk and decline in demand.

“I swear, if one more person tells me they drink almond milk I’ll scream,” Jason said one day, climbing down from the tractor and slamming the door closed. “It’s not milk. You can’t milk an almond. Milk comes from mammals. It’s false advertising. They should call it almond juice. Plus, who knows what’s in that stuff – it isn’t only almonds, that’s for sure.”

Walking back toward the house, trying to wipe dirt from her face, but instead only wiping more onto it, Molly paused again to look out the fields of the farm. The green of the corn was starting to peek up from the soil and soon they’d be harvesting it, if the rain would ever stop. It would be the third year of harvesting without her grandfather, the first since he’d passed away from heart failure at the end of last summer.

“Are you going to stand there all day or are you going to bring those eggs into the house?”

Her mom’s voice and laughter startled her and she turned away from the sunset.

“Sorry,” Molly said. “I was just admiring the sunset.”

“I know it’s beautiful,” Annie Tanner said. “But I need to get those cakes started. A sunset will wait. Mavis Porter won’t.”

Annie looked at her daughter and sniffed. “What were you doing out there? Rolling in the manure? Head upstairs and get a shower before we start on these cakes.”

Molly inwardly cringed at the mention of Mavis, the woman who had overseen the Spencer Valley Methodist Church rummage sale for 20-years straight. Mavis had a knack for making anyone feel less than, her thin face pursed into a permanent look of disapproval. Molly hoped she wouldn’t be roped into manning the baked goods table again this year. Mavis seemed to think it was ironic to have the fat girl guarding the cakes and cookies at the annual rummage sale.

“I can’t believe there are any cakes left,” a middle school-aged boy said one year, looking Molly up and down from across the church basement while his friends laughed.

“There were probably even more before she came in,” another boy said, as they all snickered.

She pretended she didn’t hear them as she counted the change in the money box.

Molly wasn’t proud of the weight she’d gained over the years, but no matter what she did she couldn’t seem to get back down to her high school weight of 118. She missed when she was in junior high school, thin and limber and not the butt of little boy’s jokes.

With long brown hair that curled when wet and plenty of curves, she possessed a clearly feminine shape. She was not what some might call grotesquely obese. Still, she wasn’t happy with the extra cushion to her belly, backside, and thighs she’d developed in high school. She wished she’d never heard the term “saddlebags” beyond what was hooked to the actual saddle of a horse. Drying off in front of the bathroom mirror she kept her eyes downcast, hoping to avoid a full view of what her body had become over the years.

Three cakes were baked and cooling on the dining room table when Molly heard her father’s truck pulling into the driveway of the house.

Her father’s red Ford needed to be replaced. The old truck was Robert Tanner’s pride and joy and a gift from his father when Robert had taken over the farm. Annie kept urging him to invest in a new one, but each time she did he responded with: “It gets me where I need to go and when it won’t no more then I’ll get a new one.”

Molly watched as her dad climbed out of the driver side, more gingerly than he had even a year ago. He’d been up since 4 a.m. to oversee the milking of the cows, the shoveling of the manure, the preparations to mow the field and she knew the last few years had been as physically rough on her dad as it had been emotionally.

Alex slid out of the passenger side easily and walked toward the house. He wore the same style of faded blue jeans and brown work boots he did every day. A white t-shirt was dirt-stained under a blue button-up, shirt sleeve plaid shirt. Molly couldn’t deny Alex’s rugged good looks quickened her pulse at times, but he was six years older than her, obnoxious and preferred the bar when she preferred solitude with her journal.

“Are you coming to dinner tonight, Alex?” Annie asked from the doorway.

“I don’t like to intrude and I smell like – ..”

Annie interrupted before he could finish.

“Jason is visiting Elsie tonight so there is already an extra place at the table for you,” she said. “Wash up and head on in. I’m dipping it up now.”

“Good day in the fields?” Molly asked after the prayers had been said and the food was on the plates.

“The John Deere finally broke down,” Robert said, breaking a piece off a chicken breast.

“Will John come and look at it?” Annie asked.

Alex and I can take care of it in the morning after milking,” Robert said nodding toward Alex. “It will make a late start, but I hate to spend the money if I know we can fix it here.”

Alex grinned. “Robert forgets I’m not good with the tractors, just the trucks,” he said. “But I’ll see what I can do.”

“I have faith in both of you,” Annie said with a smile.

Quiet settled over the dining room. The clanking of forks against plates was soon the only sound. Molly felt the tension in the air like someone wanted to say something but didn’t know how to. Her dad cleared his throat and she felt apprehension curl in her stomach.

“We got a letter from the co-op today,” he said.

“How bad are the numbers?” Annie asked and spooned more potatoes on Alex’s plate.

“Worse I’ve seen in five years,” Robert was somber. “It’s going to hurt a lot of farmers. Even with the organic market, I think it may even hurt us. There were also more farms that went out of business this year.”

Molly felt sick at the thought of even more of their friends being forced to sell their farms. She had attended too many auctions last year, hugged too many farmers wives, watched too many farm families weep as their lives were sold to the highest bidder.

“I don’t understand how the buyers can keep getting away with his,” Annie said, shaking her head. “It’s like the harder we all work, the more we get punished. We make the milk, they raise the prices and barely pass anything on to us.”

Molly pushed her potatoes around her plate as silence settled over the small group.

“We just have to give this over to God,” Robert said softly. “It’s all I know how to do anymore. Keep plugging ahead somehow and pray God shows us which direction to take. We’ve got the store, we are offering organic meats and products, something many people seem interested in now. It’s all we can do.”

The family and Alex nodded but they all felt the dread and the worry, like a sojourner without a compass.

Robert Tanner had been working on his family’s farm for more than 50 years and in the last 10 years, the farm had expanded to include farmland once owned by neighbors who had sold family businesses after the decline in milk prices had devastated them financially. Robert and his father Ned had offered area farmer’s a fair price and in some cases had even given them jobs in Tanner Enterprises. The farmers were able to keep their homes and remain in the area, if they wanted to, with the Tanners taking over their planting, harvesting, and milking.

Robert was proud of how he and his brother Walter had been able to grow the family business his grandfather had started almost 100 years ago, but he was also tired. It hadn’t been easy to keep a small farm, let alone a big one, operating in the black and it was getting harder each year. Diversifying what the farm produced and adding a farm store had increased profits enough to keep food on his, and his employees’, tables, but there were some days Robert wondered when the other shoe was going to drop and his dream of being a farmer would die.


Looking for other fiction? Catch up on my novel in progress: ‘A Story to Tell’ Here.

I’m also working on a Biblical novella, which you can find excerpts of here or at the link above under Fully Alive

Fiction Friday: A Story To Tell Chapter 11

This is part of a serial story I share part of every Friday for Fiction Friday. Are you reading along with Blanche’s story? If you need to catch up, you can find the links to the other parts HERE, or at the link at the top of the page.

The sound of the ceiling fan barely drowned out the sound of the couple next door arguing. The humidity was stifling, the sheets sticky against my bare skin. My gaze traveled along the crack in the paint chipped ceiling above my head. I couldn’t sleep and I was hyper-aware of every sound, every smell, every touch. I felt Hank’s bare back against mine, hot, sweaty like mine and closed my eyes tight against the anxiety.

Even with Hank asleep next to me, I felt insanely alone. I missed my own room, my own bed. I missed talking with Edith. I missed Mama cooking breakfast in the mornings and Daddy sitting in his chair smoking his pipe, reading G.K. Chesterton in the evening. I missed feeling safe.

The judge’s office where Hank and I had got married was dark and smelled of stale cigars. We drove to the office before Hank had even shown me the apartment.

“I made the appointment last week,” Hank said, grinning as he parked the truck. “I knew you were going to come with me.”

My legs were weak as we walked up the steps of the courthouse, Hank’s hand tightly gripping mine. The courthouse towered above us, larger than any building this smalltown girl had ever seen.

The judge was kind, but I could feel the sting of disapproval in his gaze as it moved from me to Hank then back to me again.

“You’re sure you’re 18?” he asked me.

I nodded but didn’t speak.

“I just can’t believe we forgot that birth certificate,” Hank was saying, nervously shifting from one foot to another. “It means a lot to us that you’re doing this for us without it.”

The judge looked at Hank for a moment, then glanced out the window, appearing deep in thought.

“I’ll sign this, but I want you to know I’m not comfortable with it,” he said.

“I understand, sir, but you have nothing to worry about,” Hank said. “We’re old enough to know what we’re doing.”

I knew I wasn’t old enough to know what I was doing. I didn’t know what I was doing at all. Each time I repeated after the judge I was simultaneously asking myself if this was right, wondering if I’d regret it all.

“By the power vested in me by the state of New York, I pronounce you – “ The judge looked from Hank to me and back to Hank and cleared his throat. “Man and wife.”

When we left with the certificate we celebrated with a trip to a local diner, eating hamburgers and fries, sharing a milkshake, making plans about our future. We giggled, feeling like two young kids, which, really, we were.

Hank already had a job at the local factory and on the weekends he played and sang at local clubs for extra money. He sang to me from the stage, green eyes focused on me, so I felt like we were the only two in the room.

“Lee says I’ve got some real talent,” he told me as we walked back to the apartment one night. “He says he can get me some more gigs around town and hey – have you heard this new song by Hank Williams? It’s great! Lee played it for me at the club last night when I stopped after work. I’m going to try to learn it so I can play it at my next gig.”

His eyes lit up when he talked about his music and I loved to see him happy. I thought we’d always be happy like we were that first six months; late nights at the club, kissing and laughing as we fell into bed, bodies intertwined.

I started to enjoy cooking for him, making sure his food was hot and on the table when he got home from work like Mama had done for Daddy. I walked to a small market two blocks from our house and bought ingredients for dinner, never exactly sure what I was doing or how to cook it, learning as I went.

Hank would tell me I was a wonderful cook, even if I burned it, grabbing me around the waist, pulling me into his lap to kiss me.

When Hank was at work, I washed his work clothes in a small washing basin and dried them on a line that rolled out between the buildings.

As the days went by, I began to realize I was becoming exactly what Mama had said I would become. I loved being with Hank and I loved when he said I was a good cook, even though I knew I wasn’t. I washed his clothes, did my best to keep the apartment clean, but I’d left home to show Mama and Daddy I could be more than they thought I could be and now I was turning into exactly what Mama said I would be.

“I can’t sleep.”

Hank’s voice broke through my thoughts.

“Me neither.”

Hank rolled over to his back and slid his arms behind his head.

“I don’t know, maybe I’m never going to do anything with my music,” he said. “I hate that factory job. It’s wearing me down, Blanche.”

“You’ve only been there six months,” I said. “I’m sure it will get better. And the music will come. You said Lee said you’re great and I already know you are.”

I leaned down over him and covered his mouth with mine.

“You always know how to make me feel better,” he said when I pulled away.

He reached up and sank his hands into my hair and pulled my head down for another kiss.

“Get over here and take my mind off things, girl.”

He turned toward me and pulled me against him, laughing, kissing me fully on the mouth. I closed my eyes and thought about how I felt like I could never be happier than I was right now – his hands gently caressing me, his skin warm against mine.


I pressed the side of my face against the tiled floor of the bathroom and closed my eyes, my body curled up around the toilet. The coolness of the floor against my face was welcome after a night of throwing up. The vomiting had been ongoing for two weeks and was draining me of my energy. I knew it was more than a stomach bug. My belly felt empty and full at the same time. When I ate I rarely kept food down and the reflection looking back at me in the mirror each morning was pale and gaunt.

I knew something was horribly wrong, but I was too afraid to visit a doctor. I was afraid to call Mama or Daddy, Edith or Emmy. I was afraid even to pray. I had convinced myself God was punishing me for my sins. Hank and I had been married six months and I still hadn’t asked God to forgive me for leaving my family and running away with Hank.

“Blanche, you need to go to a doctor,” Hank said, standing in the doorway of the bathroom, groggy and leaning against the door frame. “You can’t keep sleeping and throwing up all day and night. Maybe he can give you something to make it stop.”

Later that morning I staggered into a doctor’s office, frail and my hair uncombed.

“Make it stop?” The doctor looked at me with a bewildered expression. “No, I can’t make it stop, but your sickness should go away in a month or so as you move out of the first trimester.”

I stared at him blankly. “First trimester?”

“You don’t get it, do you?” he asked a clipboard in his hand.

I shook my head, afraid if I opened my mouth, I’d throw up on him.

He placed a bottle of pills in my trembling hand, closed my fingers around it with his hand and looked me squarely in the eyes.

“This should help the nausea,” he said, his words slow and even. “You’re about three months along if the information you gave me is correct. Your due date is about seven months from now.”

Then, as if to reiterate the point he was trying to get across to me, he said, “You’re pregnant, young lady. Congratulations.”

I opened my mouth to speak and promptly threw up on his shoes.

No one had ever told me how it felt to have a baby growing inside. We didn’t talk about those things in my family. Maybe Mama would have told me when I got older – if I had waited, but I hadn’t, and Hank had been the one to show me what men and women did when they were married. I knew that’s how babies were made because I’d read about it in books, but I didn’t think it would really happen to me, not until I was ready, not this soon.

I walked back to the apartment, stopping three times to throw up in garbage cans or along the sidewalk along fences. Inside the apartment I gingerly took my coat off and stumbled to the couch, laying across it on my back.

“So, what did the doctor say?” Hank asked, walking out of the bedroom, rubbing his eyes.

I laid my arm across my eyes, gulping back bile, my stomach empty of the breakfast I’d tried to eat that morning. I sat up slowly and looked at him, trembling.

“He says I’m pregnant,” I said, terrified at the words.

Hank looked at me, incredulous. I could smell a mix of bitter and sweet in the room.

“You’re what?”


“How did you let that happen?” he snapped.

I looked at him, shocked.

“I – I didn’t let it,” I stammered. “It just happened.”

I suddenly felt overwhelmed with exhaustion and anger.

“It’s not like you didn’t have anything to do with it,” I said sharply.

He walked toward the kitchen, snatched a half-empty bottle of whiskey from the counter and gulped some down, wiping his hand across his mouth.

“I don’t want to take care of any baby,” Hank said, anger thick in his words.

He drank more of the whiskey, his eyes narrowing, slightly glazed, as he looked at me.

“Is it even mine?” he asked suddenly.

I looked at him, trembling now, my head spinning. Did he really think I was seeing someone else behind his back? I had started attending an evening class at a small community college, studying to become a secretary, about a month after we had arrived and when I wasn’t there I was at the library. The teacher of the class had accepted me even though I didn’t have my high school diploma, telling me we’d work out how I would pay for the classes later.

“Are you serious?” I asked.

“I don’t know what you do here while I’m at work,” he snapped. “Do I? You could be doing anything.”

He stood over me, a smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth.

“It probably isn’t even mine,” he said. He repeated it, pacing in front of me as if he’d struck on an idea and was thinking how to use it. “It probably isn’t even mine.”

He tossed the empty whiskey bottle at the wall behind my head and it shattered, glass raining around me. I screamed in terror and fell to the floor on my knees, my hands over my head.

His fingers encircled my upper arm and he pulled me up to look him, his eyes wild.

“That’s it isn’t it? It isn’t even mine!” He shouted the words at me. “Maybe you’re just a whore like your sister.”

His face was twisted in a terrifying scowl and I turned my head from the overwhelming smell of alcohol on his breath.

“You’re just a little whore, aren’t you? Aren’t you?”

He was shouting and he pulled his hand back to hit me.

I closed my eyes, turning my face away from him, waiting for the blow. He wasn’t the Hank I had fallen in love with. He had turned into someone I didn’t even know – a monster with a beautiful face.

The blow never came.

He let go of my arm and I fell to the floor on my side, sobbing. I looked up and his hard expression had softened. He stumbled back a few steps, drawing his hand across his face, shaking his head as if to shake himself sober.

“I’m sorry, Blanche,” he said softly. “I’m drunk. I don’t know what I’m saying. I’m sorry I raised my hand to you. I don’t want to hurt you or .. or..” His eyes drifted to my stomach. “Or the baby.”

His gaze stayed on my stomach for a few moments, then he looked away, rubbing his hand across his face again, then through his hair and down the back of his neck.

“I’m going out for a while,” he said hoarsely. “We’ll talk about this when I sober up.”

The door clicked closed behind him, between us, and I sat at the kitchen table, laid my head on my arms and cried.