Special Fiction Saturday: The Farmer’s Daughter Chapter 23 Part II

I shared part one of this chapter yesterday on the blog. I apologize ahead of time for the cliff hanger.

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Freshly showered and her hair piled back on her head ready to clean the cows’ stalls, Molly walked to the barn with trepidation. She had no idea how to act in front of Alex after their encounter a couple of hours earlier. She needed to find a way to get him alone and find out what he’d been up to.

What am I going to ask him? Hey, were you about to kiss me in there or am I just having some sort of out of body experience?

She looked inside the barn for Alex, but didn’t see him.

“Molly, hey.”

Molly inwardly groaned.

Jason.

The brother with the worst timing ever. Similar to the mother with the worst time ever.

She could tell by her brother’s tone she was being given some kind of additional chore.

“Dad needs you and Alex to help us pick up some extra feed at Henderson’s.”

“Where are Tyler and Blake?”

“They’re down at the lower barn moving the cows back inside. So, you and Alex are up. Come on. Dad’s waiting in the truck and here comes Alex.”

Molly looked up to see Alex walking toward a truck she didn’t recognize.

Jason opened the front passenger side door of the large white pick-up. “Shotgun!”

Molly scowled. “What are you, 12?”

Her brother turned and stuck his tongue out at her as he hopped in the front seat. Alex shot her a lopsided grin and opened the back door of the extended cab of the truck. “Looks like it’s you and me in the back, my lady.

Molly quickly pulled her eyes from his, warmth rushing through her.

“Whose truck is this?” she asked, not moving.

Her dad leaned his head out of the driver-side window. “Jason Porter’s. He loaned it to me while my truck is being worked on at Bert’s. Can we end the 20- question and answer session now and just hop in so we can get this feed picked up and get back before milking?”

Alex propped an arm on the inside of the door and motioned inside with his other hand. “Shall we?”

Molly kept her eyes on him as she climbed into the cab and slid in. When he walked around to the other side and slid in next to her she quickly moved her gaze toward the front of the truck, her heart racing, wishing she could have talked to him before they’d left. She could feel him looking at her and when she glanced at him she saw his foot propped on the bottom of the door, his knee up and his arm casually laying across it while he watched her with a small smile.

She needed to distract herself.

She asked her dad how much feed he had bought, if it was new for the cows, and about some of the neighbors. Anything to take her mind off the way Alex was watching her. After the 20-minute drive to Henderson’s Hardware, listening to her dad talk about farming, they found their delivery and loaded it into the bed of the truck.

With almost all of it loaded, Jason started loading the last seven large bags himself, carrying two bags at a time, one on each shoulder. “I’ll put these extras in the back of cab.”

Robert walked back to the front door of the store to pay the invoice as Molly dragged her hand across her forehead, wiping at perspiration from the heavy lifting.

She glanced at Alex, leaning against the back of the truck, his hat pulled low on his head, his arms folded across his chest, the pose similar to how he’d been standing in the laundry room.     

“You okay?” he asked.

“I’m fine.”

“You’re something else you know that?”

“What do you mean?”

“You work as hard as any man I’ve ever met.”

Molly smirked. “Well, that wasn’t sexist at all.”

He swallowed a laugh and then stepped toward her, lowering his voice. “Hey, we need to talk about earlier. Can we —”

“Invoice paid. Let’s head on out, guys.”

Molly tipped her head to look at the ground and followed her dad. Oh my gosh. My whole family has horrible timing.

Walking to the passenger side of the truck and opening the door she glared at the feed bags piled in the backseat of the cab. She looked at the front of the truck and noticed there were only bucket seats, nowhere else to fit another person.

“Um, Jase? Where are Alex and I supposed to sit?”

Jason rubbed his hand across his unshaven chin and jawline. “Oh. Yeah. I guess I forgot we had to fit two people back there too.” He shoved the feed bags as far as they would go against the truck door. “It will be a tight fit, but I think you two can manage.”

Molly had barely gotten her heart under control from the ride to the store. Now it was racing again at the thought of having to sit even closer to Alex for the 20-minute ride home.

Her breath caught at the wink he gave her as he leaned on the open door. “Come on, Mol. I think we can manage. You first.”

Once Alex was inside, the door closed behind him, Molly couldn’t think of anything beyond the feeling of his side pressed into hers  — she closed her eyes and drew in a breath slowly — the warm, solid, utterly masculine side of his body.

She shifted slightly so she was facing the front of the truck. No matter how much she shifted, though, his thigh was still pressed tightly against hers.

Alex’s hand shot up behind her to catch a bag of seed that slid toward her when her dad pulled out of the parking lot. He held it in place on top of the other bags and stretched his other hand in front of her to steady the bottom of the pile. Now she was not only pressed up against him but trapped between his arms, possibly for the duration of the drive.

He looked down at her with the cocky grin she’d once thought was obnoxious but had somehow become endearing to her recently. “That was close. You could have been crushed by that bag of feed.” His eyes sparkled with amusement. “And sorry. I’m probably smelling pretty bad right now.”

Smelling bad? Uh, no. He was smelling amazing despite the warm day and the fact they’d just been lifting heavy seed bags into the truck for the last half hour.

Molly shook her head, looking up at him, his face now inches from hers as he leaned against her to hold the bags in place.  “You aren’t.” Her voice faded to a whisper. “At all.”

He kept his eyes on her for several seconds, one hand holding the top of the feed in place, the other the bottom and when he moved his thumb it grazed her side through her shirt. She drew her breath in sharply and held it. He dipped his head until his mouth was close to her ear, out of sight of Jason and her dad.

She closed her eyes at the feel of his breath warm against her skin.

“We need to talk about earlier.”

She nodded.

“Can we meet somewhere later?”

She nodded again.

“Is it bad I want to finish what I started earlier and kiss you right now?”

Molly glanced at the front seat out of the corner of her eye, grateful that the country music station was blaring so loudly from the speakers.

She shook her head slowly, gasping softly when she felt his mouth on her earlobe and his hand lightly touch her side.

“Sorry,” he whispered. “I couldn’t resist. Your ear was right there. Waiting to be kissed.”

Fifteen more minutes. Just fifteen more minutes and I can get out of this truck, clear my head, and make sense of all this.

Jason turned down the radio. “You two okay back there? Enough room?”

Alex lifted his head from where he’d lowered it to kiss her ear, his eyes on hers as a playful smile tilted his mouth upwards. “Yep. Little bit cramped but we’re doing just fine.”

Jason turned part way to look back at them. “Are you two whispering about something?”

Molly smothered a smile behind her hand. She knew she couldn’t answer without laughing and was grateful when Alex answered for them.

“Yes, actually. I was just telling Molly about how much you snore at night and she was just telling me she knows all about it. She was completely sleep deprived as a child thanks to your freight train impersonation.”

Jason scoffed. “Whatever. You should tell her what a pig you are to live with.  Which reminds me, it’s your turn to wash the dishes and don’t wait a week like last time.”

“As long as you didn’t eat those disgusting tuna fish sandwiches again and leave the bowl in the sink.”

Molly looked toward the front of the truck, at the back of Jason’s head after he turned toward the front again. “You know, Jason, you wouldn’t have to put up with Alex as a roommate if you would just propose to Ellie already.”

Jason groaned to cover the nervous butterflies in his stomach. He and Ellie had agreed to tell their families about their engagement in a couple of weeks at the annual firemen’s fundraiser, which was the only barn dance in the area. Alex had agreed he wouldn’t tell anyone until the official announcement.

“Seriously?! What is with everyone lately?”

“We just want to see you happy, buddy.” Alex winked. “And I just want to sleep without hearing your snoring. Let Ellie deal with it.”

Jason turned to look at him. “You know I’m kicking you out when I get married, right?”

“Did you hear that, Dad?” Molly laughed. “There is hope, yet. He just said when he gets married.”

Robert playfully punched his son in the arm. “Hallelujah!”

Jason shook his head, laughing at what the good-natured ribbing.

Molly looked at Alex again, lowering her voice. “Jason’s right, though. He’ll probably move Ellie in with him. Where will you go then?”

He shrugged a shoulder. “Haven’t thought that far ahead. Never do. Planning makes my head hurt.”

He leaned his head close to hers again, his lips grazing her ear as he spoke. “Wherever it is, though, it won’t be far away from you.”

The truck swerved abruptly, and Molly fell against Alex, her hand falling on his knee to steady herself.

“Whoa!” Robert called from the front. “That was a huge deer! Everyone okay?”

Alex smiled at Molly, who realized her hand was still on his knee. “All good back here.”

Molly pulled her hand away quickly and propped it on her own knee, her cheeks flushed bright pink. She focused her gaze out the windshield, but she could see Alex watching her with a Cheshire Cat grin out of the corner of her eye.

Her heart beat faster with every mile that passed. Alex kept quiet for the rest of the ride, but his smile had faded and his hand slipped off the lower part of the seed bag pile more than once to graze her side. She was trying to control her emotions, but her thoughts were jumbled. There was also an insane urge pulsating through her to push him up against the inside of the truck door and press her mouth to his, ending this insane cat and mouse game he’d started. She was definite a move like that wouldn’t go over very well with her dad and brother, though.

Robert parked the truck next to the barn, near the back door. “Okay, kids, let’s get these unloaded and then everyone can head in for some lunch.”

Fifteen minutes later, when the feed was unloaded and stacked in the barn, Molly headed toward her truck.

“I’m going to sit up on the hill and read a book while I eat lunch,” she called over her shoulder. “See you guys later.”

“And I’ve got to run to town for some errands,” Alex called over his shoulder, walking toward his own truck. “Be back in a bit.”

Robert waved toward them on his way to the house, Jason falling in step next to him “Sounds good.” He patted Jason on the shoulder. “I guess it’s just you and me eating Mom’s friend chicken for lunch.”

Jason pumped his fist in the air. “Yes! More for me!”  

. “Just save some for your poor, starving father, big boy.”

Fiction Friday: A New Beginning Chapter 6 & 7

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. Also, sorry about the lack of indentations at the beginning of paragraphs. I can’t seem to figure out how to make that happen in WordPress.


As the nights get colder and we snuggle under covers, warm cups of tea and a book in our hands, let us embrace how life slows down to give us time to experience life around us in a simpler way. Don’t look at winter as just a time for dreary weather, cold winds, or snow to shovel this year. Instead, see it as what it can be – a time to pause, reflect and reconnect with those in your family as you wait for the warmth to come again.

I finished the last paragraph of my column, pulled the page from the typewriter and slid it into the envelope so I could drop it off at the newspaper office the next day. I pulled my sweater close around me as I stood and looked out my bedroom window at the leaves falling from the maple tree in our backyard. The colors weren’t as brilliant this autumn as they had been in previous years but mixed among the dark oranges and browns were a few bright yellow and red bursts of foliage across the hills that surrounded our small valley.

Jackson had been in school a little over a month now and while he had cried the first day I took him, he seemed to love it now. I missed him terribly during the day and I anxiously watched the clock, walking to the school every day to meet him outside. My heart melted at how his face lit up when he saw me, leaving behind the friends he’d been talking to so he could run to me and throw his arms around me. I walked with him back to the shop each day and we waited there for Daddy to finish at the office, pick us up and take us home.

I was happy to see him growing but struggling with it at the same time. He was growing so fast. His childhood seemed to be rushing by and I wanted to stop time and just enjoy it all a little more. I’d never thought I’d be a mother and now I could barely remember life before Jackson.

“Hey, Mama.”

I turned to see Jackson looking up at me, one of his toy trucks clutched in his hands.

“Hey, squirt. What are you doing?”

“I’m pretending I’m a truck driver and I’m gonna dig a hole in the backyard.”

“That sounds fun.”

I sat on the edge of my bed and lifted him into my lap, pressing my face into his soft brown hair.

“How are you liking school?”

Jackson scrunched up his nose, spinning the wheels on his truck. “It’s okay, I guess. ‘cept for all that writing and numbers. That stuff’s borin’. But I like when we get to do that recess thing. And lunch is good, unless we have meatloaf. They don’t know how to make it like Grandma.”

I knew recess was his favorite part of the day by how hard I’d had to scrub his pants clean lately.

“Mama, how come I don’t have no brother or sister?”

The way children could change a topic so abruptly amazed me. I knew questions like this one would come one day and while I dreaded them, I knew being honest was important. Still, I wondered how honest I should be with a 6-year old.

“Well, honey, because right now Mommy and you live with Grandpa and Grandma and there really isn’t room for a brother or sister.”

I felt confident that while my answer didn’t address the lack of a husband to help provide a sibling, it still wasn’t a lie.

“Oh.” Jackson furrowed his little eyebrows and scrunched his nose again. “Well, if we move away, can I have a brother or sister?”

“Do you really want to move away from Grandpa and Grandma?”

“No. I like living here, but I want a brother too.”

“What if you had a sister one day instead?”

“No. That won’t happen. I’d have a brother.”

“Are you sure about that? You know you don’t get to choose, right?”

“What would I do with a sister? I don’t wanna play with no dolls or dresses.”

“Honey, some girls like to climb trees and play with trucks too, you know. I always did.”

Jackson scrunched up his face like he was deep in thought.

“Well, then, maybe I can have a sister, I guess.”

I kissed his cheek and hugged him close. “For right now, you don’t need to worry about that, though. Why don’t you and I bake some cookies after dinner?”

“Chocolate chip?”

“What other kind is there?”

“Cool.”

I watched as he slid from my lap and ran from the room, his toy tightly clutched in his hand. There were some days I liked that it was just Jackson and me, but other days I found myself aching for a father for Jackson and a man to love me. I didn’t like, however, that my family, and apparently even Emmy, thought any gaps in my life could be filled with a man.  I knew for a fact that a man wasn’t the answer to all the problems in a woman’s life and, if anything, a man seemed to complicate it more.

Hank had certainly complicated my life, first with his attention and then with how he’d treated me not long after we were married. The arrival of Judson was threatening to complicate things too, but I was determined not to let it – at least not in a romantic way. I had a feeling even a friendship with him would throw a wrench in the regularly scheduled program that was my current life.

***

“What made you leave with Hank that day, Blanche?”

Six months after I’d returned home with Jackson and Edith had apparently decided it was time I share my thoughts behind leaving my family. I focused on the apples I was peeling for the apple pie and tried to decide how to answer without sounding like a silly schoolgirl. But there wasn’t any way I wouldn’t sound silly or trite. I had been a schoolgirl and I had been silly. My thoughts were immature; my idea of what life should be skewed by romance novels and Ava Gardner movies.

“I thought I loved him,” I said finally, still not making eye contact with Edith. “I was very stupid and naïve. I know that now.”

“I didn’t ask you to make you feel bad, Blanche. I just really wanted to know. I never really asked you. I guess I figured it was none of my business, even though I was dying to know since I never expected you to do that.”

I laid the knife down and gnawed gently at my nails, a habit I’d picked up on the days I wasn’t sure which Hank was coming home from work.

“I think,” I started, with a shrug. “That’s partly why I did it. No one expected me to. Everyone seemed to always know what I was going to do, what I was supposed to do, who I was supposed to be. Mama and Daddy seemed to have my life planned out for me. Everyone saw me as boring and predictable and you – well, you weren’t. In the back of my mind I guess I wanted to prove everyone wrong. I wanted to write my own story and I wanted Hank to be in it. I did love him, or the version of him I imagined in my mind. I didn’t know . . .” I starred out the window at a car driving by the house. “Well, who he really was underneath the charm and handsome façade.”

Edith picked an apple from the bowl and started peeling it. “I’m sorry I made you feel that way. It was never my intention. Honestly, I had no idea.”

I laughed softly. “Edith, I’m not blaming you. It was how I felt at the time. Feelings are not always facts, as we know.”

“True,” Edith said. “And what we think are facts are sometimes simply facades – like the idea I was always spontaneous or fun, or whatever you thought I was. You must know by now that I was simply a lost girl who never accepted my parents’ or God’s love as being enough. I thought I had to have a bunch of boys love me too.”

She shook her head as she tossed the slices into the pie crust. “I was so foolish back then. I guess you and I were foolish together. Thankfully God protected us from doing any worse harm to ourselves or anyone else and brought us back to our senses.”

“I only wish it hadn’t taken me so long to come back to mine,” I said, feeling tears in my eyes. “And I wish it hadn’t taken Hank beating me to wake me up. I did bring harm to at least one person – Jackson.”

Edith reached across the table and cupped her hand against my cheek.

“What’s done is done and it’s time to move forward. For both of us.”

Over the years, I did my best to move forward, as Edith had said, rebuild the relationships I’d damaged when I left but I was still stuck, especially when it came to building new relationships. I wasn’t only disinterested in navigating the world of romance; I wasn’t even interested in meeting new people. My experience with Hank had left me with a healthy dose of mistrust, not only in others, but also in myself. When I was younger, I had trusted myself to make the right decisions, to know by how a situation felt whether it was right or not. Leaving with Hank had felt right at the inexperienced age of 17 had moved forward with a confidence I no longer possessed.

Edith poured hot water over my tea bag and set the milk and sugar next to me. “Part of that moving forward means reaching for those dreams you had for your future before you left. So, what did you imagine you’d do with your life one day, before you met Hank Hakes?”

I stirred milk into my tea and shook my head. “Those were just childish thoughts, Edith. Like a lot of the thoughts I had back then.”

“You wanted to be a writer. I remember that. Why don’t you start writing? Even if it’s just for yourself. You still keep a journal right? Oh! Why don’t you submit a column to the local paper? You could write about small-town life, the weather, whatever. People around here really love those types of columns and our paper needs that. Take a sample column over to the editor and see what happens.”

I shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“Why not? What do you have to lose?”

I laughed. “Certainly not my pride. I lost that a long time ago.”

“Oh, stop it, Blanche. Just go for it. You never know what will happen and there is no use living in the past. We’re moving forward, remember? This is just one more step you can take to do that.”


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