We are almost to the final day of this story! Isn’t that crazy?! That means we are almost to Christmas too! So exciting. What do you think will happen in the last chapter? Let me know in the comments!
Welcome to the eleventh chapter of a twelve-chapter story I am sharing on the blog. This is being shared with minimal editing, just for fun, but it will be fully edited once it is complete.
You can catch up on chapters HERE.
If you would like to read more about the characters in this story, you can find full-length novels on Amazon for purchase or on Kindle Unlimited HERE,
The first three chapters of the first book, The Farmer’s Daughter, can be found HERE.
Once all the chapters have been shared here, I’ll be providing a free Book Funnel link to blog readers and placing the story on Amazon for 99 cents.
Chaos reigned in the Tanner household the day before Christmas and Robert couldn’t wait to escape it. Six women were laughing, mixing, baking, bumping into each other and when he’d come into the house for lunch, they’d asked him to taste test three different kinds of cookies, which wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t needed to get back to the shed to finish the swing.
“Which one, Dad? The gingerbread or the molasses?”
“Um.” He spoke with a mouthful of cookie. “They’re both really good. I think we should have both.”
Liz laughed. “We’re going to cook both. Molly and I just want to know which one you liked better.”
He raised an eyebrow and looked between the two young women. “Is this some kind of competition? Because I don’t want to be the judge of some kind of competition between you two.”
Liz looked at him with wide, innocent eyes. “Robert, of course, this isn’t some kind of compe—”
“It’s totally a competition,” Molly said quickly. “And I’m your daughter so you’d better pick my cookie.”
The other women, which included his mother, his wife, Annie’s mother, Ellie, and his sister all laughed and gathered behind Molly and Liz, pausing in their work.
Robert’s gaze slid to the women, then back to Molly who had leveled a steady gaze on him, a small smile pulling at her mouth. He swallowed the bite of cookie. “I like them both. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”
He quickly excused himself to the sound of laughter before any of the women could stop him, snatched his coat off the hanger by the back door, and headed out the door.
Alex was on his way to the house from the barn. Robert grabbed his arm gently. “You don’t want to go in there. It’s a madhouse.”
Alex’s brow dipped in concern as he looked from Robert to the backdoor. “What do you mean?”
“There are a lot of women in there and they’ll try to make you taste test their food and then make you choose sides by saying which recipe is better.”
Alex grinned and gently removed Robert’s hand from his arm. “That sounds like heaven. See you in an hour.”
Robert shook his head and turned back to the barn. That young man would change his mind when two women watched him intently and waited for an answer. No man wanted to tell a woman that their recipe wasn’t as good as someone else’s. Not if they knew what was good for them.
Brad had pulled through much to his and Alex’s relief, despite a two-day snowstorm that had delayed his trip until two days before Christmas.
Robert had put the bolts on the swing early that morning and Bert was finishing up the engine. Alex had finished the paint job and planned to pick up the truck the next morning.
After Robert hooked on the chains, he and Jason would load the swing onto the back of the truck and drive it down to the house covered with a tarp so he could install the swing early Christmas morning. He’d enlisted Molly to keep Annie busy in the kitchen while he installed it.
After chores were completed in the barn and dinner was eaten in a kitchen now emptied of the fairer sex, Robert and Annie showered and dressed and drove to town for the Christmas Eve service. Alex, Molly, Jason, Ellie, Liz, Isabella, and Matt met them there, along with Matt’s mother, brother and sister, and Liz’s parents. Liz’s sister and family also attended, which marked the first time since they’d moved back to Spencer that they’d been able to attend a service as a family.
Robert slid his hand over Annie’s as the music began. The church was lit with candles lining the aisles and spread across the stage and altar up front. Wreathes of pine decorated the wall along the stage and behind the choir and the pastor.
Rush had been the word of the day for the last few weeks and now the entire family seemed to be taking a collective breath and letting the peace of the season seep into their souls, soothe aching muscles physically and worried hearts spiritually.
When the music started to signal that the cantata would begin soon, Robert’s shoulders relaxed, he sat back in the pew, and he closed his eyes. He let the music wash over him and push away any thoughts about what needed to be done tomorrow — for Christmas day’s celebration and on the farm. Farmers never had holidays which meant the cows would still need to be milked and fed and stalls cleaned. Most of the day would be set aside for family time, though. Any repair projects could wait.
Muffled laughter caused him to open his eyes and look around for the source of amusement. Soon the laughing spread and he turned slightly in his pew just in time to see a black and white cat stroll nonchalantly down the center aisle toward the stage. He watched it, eyes narrowing.
Without looking away from the cat he reached over and tapped Annie’s arm.
“Hey, is that —“
“Yes, it is. Whose truck did she climb in the back of this time?”
Scout, one of their barn cats, had climbed in the back of a pickup at least twice before at the farm, once hitching a ride to Walt’s farm and another time to the farm store. This was the first time she’d made it to town, though.
The cat walked up the steps, stretched her long body out, and lay down on the top step as the congregation watched with smiles.
“I’d better go get her,” Robert whispered as the pastor stepped out on the stage.
Annie pulled her lower lip between her teeth briefly, then released it. “Yeah. Maybe you’d better.”
z“Well, I see even the domesticated pets are here tonight to worship the birth of our savior,” Pastor Joe said with a smile. “In Psalm 148 it says, ‘Wild animals and all cattle, small creatures, and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and maidens, old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.”
Scout had curled up into a ball now, ready for a nap. “I think we’ll just let this visitor stay for now. There must be something comforting to him or her about our church and that, to me, is a very high compliment indeed.”
Robert sat back in the pew again, shaking his head and laughing. For the next hour and a half, the cat napped, waking up only when Robert scooped her up after the cantata was over. He placed her in the cab of the truck with him and Annie, both of them unable to stop laughing over her sudden appearance.
They’d been taught that God had a sense of humor, Robert thought as he drove home, the cat in Annie’s lap. Hopefully, he’d found the humor in Scout’s attendance at a service to honor him
The sun had just started to rise over the horizon when Alex left the barn after the morning chores to head for town.
“Hey! Where are you off to?” Molly called after him. “We’re going to have a full family breakfast soon.”
He glanced over his shoulder. “I’ll be back soon, don’t worry. I have something I need to grab in town.”
He left her standing outside the barn with confusion etched on her face. It couldn’t be helped, though. He’d agreed to meet Bert at the shop and pick up the truck and then they’d both drive back for breakfast and lunch at the Tanner’s for the day.
When he reached the shop Bert had already pulled the truck outside. The men stood and admired the new paint job on the truck, the shine on the bumpers, and even the new tires.
“It looks good, Alex it really does.” Bert smiled, eyes glistening. “My father-in-law would have been really proud to see it in such good shape.”
Alex stepped around to the front of the truck, hands at his waist as he admired the final product. “You had a lot to do with it, more than me even.”
“You did the paint job, shined it up. Reminds me of when I first saw Ned with it. Hannah was in the passenger seat next to him. She was the most beautiful creature I’d ever laid eyes on. I never thought she’d give me the time of day that day let alone let me marry her a decade later when we were both old enough to get married.” He winked. “We were only 15 when we first met.” He laughed, touching the back of a finger across the bottom of his eye, and turned away. He pulled a handkerchief from his coverall pocket. “Sorry, I got so emotional there. Didn’t expect that.”
Alex patted his shoulder. “Hey, no problem. Memories are powerful, especially when they are good ones.”
Bert blew his nose and wadded the handkerchief up, shoving it back in his pocket. “My marriage has been a good one, kid. I guess that’s why I keep pushing you to propose to Molly. I want you two to experience the happiness we have. Being married, making that commitment to be there for each other no matter what, in front of all your friends and family – I don’t know. There’s something fulfilling about it.”
Alex pulled his cowboy hat down low on his head and nodded. “I know, Bert, I appreciate it.”
Bert sniffed and tossed a set of keys to him. “Anyhow, here are the keys. I’ll follow you in your truck and meet you at the house.”
Alex slid behind the steering wheel of the 1976 Chevy, cranked the window down, and closed the door. “I have to take a detour, so I’ll meet you there.”
Bert grinned. “Another gift to pick up?”
Alex touched a finger to his hat. “I’m keeping that under my hat, but I’ll see you at Robert and Annie’s for breakfast. Don’t eat all the bacon on me.”
Alex started the truck and listened to it rumble for a few minutes, then slid his hand across the surface of the new red upholstery on the truck seat. He hadn’t thought they’d be able to replace that too, but in the end, Jason had helped and they’d pulled it off.
He took a deep breath and shifted the truck into gear, nodding to Bert again as he pulled the truck out of the parking lot. Turning the radio on, a favorite song came on and he hummed along, turning the truck toward the road that would lead him to Molly, but first her grandmother.