Extra Fiction Thursday: Quarantined, a novella, Chapter 6 and 7

*Warning: This week’s chapter deals with the topic of miscarriage.

Normal disclaimer: The fiction I share here is not usually the final draft. It also isn’t normally the first draft. Either way, it is edited and rewritten before the final “publication” as an ebook on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

If you’d like to catch up on the story you can do so HERE.

I welcome feedback, suggestions and corrections.

Chapter 6

The bundle in Maddie’s arms, swaddled in a blue and white hospital blanket, had been so tiny, motionless. Liam wanted to run out of the room and never look back, but he knew he couldn’t. That was his baby in there, in  his wife’s arms; his baby who hadn’t lived. His legs felt like lead weights as he stepped across the room, nodding at the nurse who looked at him with concern and compassion, tears in her eyes.

The nurse’s hand on his shoulder was warm as he moved to stand next to the bed, looking down at Maddie. Eyes still on the small, lifeless face peeking out from the blanket, Liam sat next to his wife, sliding his arm around her as she cried. Maddie’s hair was soft against his face as he buried it there to try to hold the tears in.

“I thought it would be different this time,” she said through the tears. “I thought this time we’d make it.”

The three other miscarriages had been early in the pregnancies and one of them had been what the doctor’s called a blighted ovum – an empty sac, or a baby that never grew enough to be picked up by the ultrasound.

Liam kissed the top of Maddie’s head and closed his eyes. “I know, Maddie. I know. Me too.”

And he had thought they’d be bringing a baby home. The nursery had been ready, the baby clothes purchased, the crib set up. When the doctor told them that the placenta had ruptured and the baby wasn’t going to survive Liam’s ears had started ringing. When he learned Maddie might be lost too, colorful lights mixed with blackness faded across his vision.

A deep breath and a head shake had kept him from hitting the ground, but the doctor still took three long steps toward him and grabbed his arm to steady him.

“Please, Mr. Grant. Sit. We’re going to do everything we can to save your wife.”

In the midst of grief was joy that Maddie had survived; that even if he couldn’t carry a baby home with him, he still had Maddie. Sitting in the dimly lit den in the back of the house, he chewed at the nail on his thumb as he remembered that horrible day and the days that followed.

There was no denying those first few months had been beyond difficult. Maddie was stoic most days, angry others. Then there were the days she spent sobbing almost uncontrollably behind the closed bedroom door, unable to get out of bed and face life, or even face him. He comforted Maddie as best as he could, tried to be gentle, tried to understand her grief and most of all he tried not to burden her with his own grief.

He had to be strong for her. She wasn’t capable of helping him heal when she couldn’t heal herself; he knew that. He also knew he should have relied more on God to heal them both, but he was angry at God; furious that God had not only let him down, but most of all that he had let Maddie down.

All Maddie had ever wanted was to be a mother. Blow after crushing blow eviscerated that dream.

Liam blamed God.

He had been raised to believe God wanted his people to prosper not suffer, that he loved them. If that was true, then why had this so-called compassionate God let Maddie suffer so much and so often?

After the loss of the baby, who he and Maddie named Abrielle, Liam buried himself in work at the public relations firm he’d been employed by during that time. When he wasn’t working, he did his best to make Maddie happy — making her dinners, making sure she had quiet time, and not pressuring her to go back to work at the small magazine she’d been working at.

She was never happy, though. She didn’t want to take the medicine the therapist had suggested. She didn’t want to talk about it. She didn’t answer phone calls from her parents or come out of her room for visits by Cassie or her friends. She didn’t want him to hold her and tell her it was going to be okay.

 Many days it seemed like it was him she wasn’t happy with. He finally  gave up trying to make her happy. Maybe he should haven’t have given up. Maybe if he hadn’t, she wouldn’t have wanted the divorce.

He stood from the loveseat in the den and paused at the window, looking out at the side yard, barely lit by the half moon. He rubbed his chin, biting the inside of his lip.

“I want a divorce.”

Those had been her exact words and she’d said it without even flinching, other than a small muscle jumping in her right eye, right above the small scar she’d gotten when she fell off her bike at 8-years old. Liam had used to kiss that scar, then her cheek, on his way to her mouth.

He hadn’t really wanted a divorce, but he had known in that moment it was what Maddie wanted.

She felt he’d never been there for her, that he had abandoned her.

If she felt that way, there was no changing her mind, no matter how many times he reminded her of how often he had been there.

He shook his head and drank the last of his soda down.

Maybe after the divorce, they would find the healing and peace neither of them could find when they were together.


Maddie poured herself a glass of milk and squeezed in a large helping of chocolate syrup. She knew it wasn’t right, but during stressful times she reached for comfort food and that comfort food was usually full of fat and sugar.

Walking to the back deck she flopped in a lawn chair and guzzled the milk, looking out at an empty backyard, a backyard she had once thought would house a swing set, a tiny kiddie pool, and a sandbox.

She could still remember the conversation she’d had with Cassie after the loss of Abrielle.

“What is wrong with my body? Women’s bodies are supposed to grow babies! It’s natural! That’s what all the books say! I guess I’m just not natural.”

Cassie — beautiful, sweet and fertile Cassie, pregnant with baby number three — shook her head and reached out to take her hand.

“Maddie, that isn’t true. There isn’t anything wrong with you. If there is a medical reason you can’t carry a baby to term the doctors will find it. Having a medical reason for the miscarriages doesn’t mean you’re not a real woman.”

Maddie had known Cassie was right, but she still struggled with toxic thoughts, thoughts that told her that her body had failed her, but more importantly, Liam. She’d seen Liam with his nieces and nephews. She knew he’d be a wonderful father and she’d wanted to make him that father. It had never happened, though, and no matter how many times someone told her it wasn’t her fault, she knew it was.

She leaned back in the lawn chair and closed her eyes against hot tears.

It was her fault Liam wasn’t a dad.

It was her fault their marriage had fallen apart.

What had happened to her? When had she become so miserable? When had she become someone that even she wouldn’t want to be around? No wonder Liam had jumped at the opportunity to divorce her.

He needed someone who had as much passion for life as he did, who wasn’t miserable and depressed and cold.

“God,” she whispered, her eyes still closed. “How did I get here, at this miserable, lonely place? Why did you abandon me here?”

A tear slipped down her cheek and she brushed it away quickly with the back of her hand, choking out a small laugh. Maybe you’re asking why I abandoned you, huh? She shook her head. I don’t know anymore, Lord.  I don’t know where I’ve been or even who I am.

She pulled her knees up to her chest, bowing her head against them, letting the tears flow.

Father, help me let Liam go, so he can be happy again.

Chapter 7

Tiny fingers and toes, pudgy arms and pudgy legs. Cassie kissed Tyler’s newborn nose, tears streaming down her face part from exhaustion but also joy.

“I can’t believe he’s here,” Matt whispered near her ear and when she turned her head, she saw that her husband’s face was streaked with tears too.

There were days it felt like Tyler had been born yesterday, not the 13-years it actually was. Thirteen years. So much had happened during that time. Two more pregnancies and two more children, her retirement from social work, Matt’s campaign. . . . How had it all gone by so fast?

There were times Cassie thought she should have done more with her life by now, but there were other times she was happy with where she was. She’d decided to send the children to a small, private Christian school the year before last when Matt’s national profile had increased. She began volunteering there regularly, helping the children at the school sign out library books or teaching them art. Best of all, she was able to see her own children throughout the day, keep an ey on them and make sure they weren’t approached by anyone from Matt’s political world. So far, the media had left the children alone, even when they hadn’t left her alone.

The story on the opinion page of the Post last year had questioned her involvement with the school. If Senator Matt Grant’s children attended a Christian school where his wife also volunteered, could he be trusted to treat all of his constituents fairly? What about the Muslim children? Or the Buddhists? Or even the Jewish?

“How will Grant’s faith influence his oath of office to represent all of his constituents?” the columnist asked.

“It won’t,” Matt told a reporter who posed the same question at a press conference a few days later. “My faith is what inspires me to care about all of my constituents. I believe God created them and called for me to love them as he has loved me and them.” He told her later he had smiled easily, winking at the reporter good-naturedly, even though inside he had felt unsettled by the question. “And you, Jim. He has called for me to love even you.”

The critics continued to squawk, though, and after that Cassie decided to no longer read or listen to the news. She tried instead to focus all her attention on her children and family. She had buried herself in volunteering, in reading, in her Bible study, in anything to try to drown the critical voices of the world out.

She was beginning to realize now, though, that she’d also drowned out Matt and her marriage, subconsciously pushing aside anything she thought might threaten her family’s safety. Pouring herself a glass of milk she leaned back against the counter and winced. Did she really think being close to Matt was a risk to their safety? If anything, being closer to him should have been a comfort in a sea of chaos.

If she had been feeling like she had been in a sea of chaos, alone on a storm-tossed ship in the middle it, then how had Matt been feeling? He’d been the one at the brunt of it, the one taking the hits and, in almost every way, the one shielding the rest of the family from the blows.

Walking into the living room, sipping the milk, she watched Matt in the backyard with the children, tossing a rubber ball between each of them. He tipped his head back and laughed when it bounced off Gracie’s forehead and she tumbled backwards, giggling. Tyler picked it up and tossed it to Lauren, who quickly dropped it, giggling too much to hold on to it.

 Lauren bent to pick it up and Matt lunged for it at the same time, snatching it from her then gently bouncing it off her forehead, sending her into another fit of giggles. Cassie couldn’t hear what they all were saying, but she knew the children were finding whatever Matt was saying funny by their laughter and wide grins.

Cassie hadn’t seen Matt this relaxed and joyful in at least two years, probably longer. She watched him as he tossed the ball, his muscles still well defined and toned after all these years, visible underneath the t-shirt pulling against his stomach as he lifted his arms to catch the ball, stop it from sailing over the fence into the neighbor’s pool.

An ache filled her chest, moved up her throat, threatened to spill tears down her face. She bit her lip, trying to hold back the emotion but it didn’t work. Tears pooled in her eyes, streaked her cheeks and she let them roll, knowing they were as full of joy as they were sadness. She was so grateful for this time with her family, with Matt, but she was also sad that she hadn’t tried to have more of it in the last couple of years.

Matt deserved so much more from her. More of her attention, more of her comfort; simply more of her. She needed to stop holding back and lower her walls. She needed to be sure she was supporting him in every facet of life.

Running for re-election may not have been something she wanted, but it was something he wanted. He was running because he felt it was not right for the people who had voted for him, but his family.

“Lord, help me to be what Matt needs me to be for him,” she whispered, wiping another tear away. “Help us to both lay down what we want for what you want. For what you need us to do in this time.”


On the tenth night of quarantine, still with no sign of illness, Liam headed to bed early, shutting off his phone and laptop around 10 p.m. He slid under the covers, emotionally and physically drained. He was glad, though, that he hadn’t yet experienced any coughing, muscle aches, or sore throat. His mind was racing, filled with thoughts of work, thoughts of what this virus might mean to his parents, his older aunt and uncles, and anyone else whose health might be more vulnerable.

 His thoughts were also filled with Maddie.

She was sitting in the room down the hall, but she might as well have been thousands of miles away with all the interaction they’d had this past week.

Matt was right.

Liam still loved Maddie.

Sadly, it was growing more obvious that Maddie didn’t feel the same way about him. The anger she had for him radiated off her each time they passed each other in the house. He didn’t even try talking to her. She’d spoke her piece. Her mind was made up about their marriage.

To her it was over, and he needed to accept that.

Sleep had finally begun to slip over him when he heard a soft knock on his door. He rolled over and closed his eyes tighter, ignoring it. Ignoring her. Another knock. He pulled the blanket up around his shoulders.

The door squeaked open and then footsteps, soft across the floor.

What did she want? He was too tired for another fight.


Maddie’s voice was barely audible. He ignored her again.

She spoke a little louder. “Liam?”


She sighed in the darkness and he felt, rather than saw, her turn back toward the open doorway.

He rolled his eyes. “What?”

Silence fell over the room and he heard a breath drawn in sharply and slowly let out again.

“Will you hold me?”

He rolled over, squinting in the darkness, trying to make out her face to decide if she was serious or not.


“Just hold me. Nothing else.”

Was this some kind of trick to lull him into a false-sense of security? He squinted again, trying to see if she was holding a weapon of some kind.


She seemed serious.


He heard a vulnerability in her tone he hadn’t heard in a long time.

“Um . . . yeah. Okay.”

She lifted the sheet and comforter, sliding next to him, her body warm, her feet cold. Her feet had always been cold, and she’d always slid them up his legs to warm them, making him squirm but laugh at the same time. There was a time he’d asked if she needed the rest of her body warmed up too and there was a time she’d say ‘yes’ and he’d snuggled close and nibbled at her earlobes.

He wasn’t going to ask if she needed warming up this time.

Surprise opened his eyes wide as she laid her head on his shoulder, a hand on his chest over his heart and closed her eyes.

They laid in the dark listening to each other breathe until she whispered: “I tried to stay away from the news but it’s like watching a train wreck. I can’t seem to look away.”

His voice as soft. “I know.”

“People are scared.”


“They’re convinced they’re all going to die.”

“They’re not. Fear does crazy things to your mind.”

Silence settled over them again.

She laughed softly again. “Yeah. Like that time you had that spider on your arm when we were driving to my parents and you almost drove us into a river.”

Liam snorted a laugh. “Well, spiders are scary, what can I say? All those legs. . .” He shuddered. “It’s just creepy.”

Silence stretched between them again.


He stared into the darkness, at the light of the streetlight bleeding in under the blinds. “Yeah?”

“If this kills one of us —”

“Maddie, this isn’t going to kill either one of us. I already told you we don’t even know if my test is positive. And most of the cases are mild, especially in our age group. We’re not in the highest risk age group. Okay?”

“But if it does . . . ” Maddie took a deep breath and spoke fast as she exhaled. “I want you to know . . . I’ve always loved you. Even when I didn’t like you.”

Liam laughed softly.

“Thanks. I guess.”

“And, Liam?”


“I’m sorry you thought you had to fix me. Only God can fix me.”

Crickets chirped outside. A dog barked somewhere down the street. Liam closed his eyes and let out the breath he’d been holding.

 “Yeah. I know.”

He laid his hand over hers, the one laying on his chest.



“I’m sorry you thought I didn’t care. I did care. I’ve always cared.”

He had been trying not to be aware of her body warm against his, of the smell of her shampoo, of how soft the skin on her arm as he trailed his fingertips down it, of how her closeness made his heart rate increase.

But he was aware of it.

All of it.

Much more than he wanted to be.

He slid his other arm under her and she slumped into him as he moved his hand slowly up her arm, resting it just below her shoulder. He squeezed it gently then lightly touched his lips against the top of her head, her closeness suddenly intoxicating. “I love you, Maddie. Despite it all. I love you.”

He listened to her breathe and for a moment he thought she had fallen asleep.

 “I’m so tired. . .” she whispered against his neck, her breath warm. He could tell she was fading fast.

“Sleep. We can talk more in the morning.” He looked at the ceiling, barely visible in the darkness from the orange glow of the streetlight outside. “It’s not like we’re going anywhere.”

She slept but he couldn’t. Not now with her tucked against him soft and warm, kicking his thoughts into high gear. He hadn’t expected her to come to him for comfort. He hadn’t expected it, but he welcomed it and loved having her so close, even if that closeness was only physically.

 Had she meant what she said? That she still loved him?

Maybe it had been the stress and worry talking. The exhaustion even.

The only thing he was sure of was that those words had sparked a warm, comforting fire in the center of his chest. He closed his eyes, savoring the feel of her hand over his heart, trying to switch his brain off, knowing he’d meant it when he’d told her he still loved her.

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 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 14

Here we are to Fiction Friday already. I doubled up again on chapters this week (so Chapter 13 was posted yesterday) but will be back to one a week next week as I work out some kinks in upcoming chapters. I already know most of my ending and some in between but there remains a large gap in the middle to finish writing. It isn’t so much that I don’t know what I want to do in the middle but in what order I want to do it. I’ll be hammering that out in the coming weeks.

As always, you can find the other links to this novel in progress at the top of the page under “A New Beginning” or at THIS LINK.

Also as always, there will be typos in this story or other errors because I still have a second draft, rewrite and editing process to go through. I simply share the chapters here for fun and to interact with other writers/readers/bloggers.

The first part of Blanche’s story can also be found on Kindle or Kindle Unlimited.

Chapter 14

I winced at the bitter taste of the coffee from the styrofoam cup Judson handed me. Emmy’s parents were dozing in chairs in Emmy’s room, Daddy and Jimmy had gone home to rest and update Mama and Edith. Judson and I were sitting in the surgical waiting room, waiting for news about Sam, who was in surgery to remove a bullet that had lodged near his spine when he was shot. Sam’s parents were on their way to the hospital from their home in Maryland.

I closed my eyes briefly and tried to forget about the exhausted sobs Emmy choked out when her mom told her about Sam.

She’d clung to me, sobbing against my shoulder as I promised to wait for the doctor to come out of surgery.

“Oh, Blanche,” she whimpered. “I can’t lose him. I love him so much.

She’d eventually fallen into a fitful sleep while the nurses and her parents cared for Faith. I was having a hard time wrapping my mind around the events of the day. I ached to be home with Jackson, holding him close, but knew Emmy and Sam needed me.

I pressed my fingers against my eyes and tipped my head back against the hard back of the hospital chair.

“You okay?” Judson asked.

I nodded, but kept my eyes closed. “Long day. That’s all.”

“Emmy said you were amazing delivering the baby.”

“I just did what I had to do.”

“Blanche, without you, Faith might not be alive.”

I opened my eyes to look at Judson.

“I really didn’t think she was going to,” I admitted, my voice cracking. “It was a miracle.”

“Yeah, it truly was,” Judson said softly.

He leaned back on the couch, laying one arm across the back. He laughed softly as he looked down into his cup of coffee.

“It’s so crazy to think of little Emmy being a mom,” he said. “I keep thinking of her with her pigtails and dirty bare feet, running along the beach on vacation. One time she tripped and fell straight on her face and came up with a mouthful of sand. It was pretty hilarious. I was such a jerk back then. I didn’t even help her up. Just stood there laughing and pointing until my sides hurt. I was probably 12. She must have been …” he though a moment. “Nine I guess.” He shook his head. “Now here she is, all grown up, a wife and mom. Crazy. And here I am feeling like the immature kid who never grew up.”

Silence settled over us until all I could hear was the sound of nurses walking in the hallway and the beep of machines in the rooms of patients.

The enormity of the birth, the blown tire, Sam being shot – it suddenly all hit me at once and I closed my eyes again and turned my face away from Judson, swallowing the emotion.

“It’s okay to cry,” Judson said.

I shook my head and kept my eyes closed.

“No, it’s not.” I bit my lip, my face still turned away from his. “Because if I start, I don’t know if I’ll stop.”

Judson sighed heavily.

“You don’t always have to be so tough, you know.”

I slipped into the familiar comfort of emotional numbness, the urge to cry fading . “I used to be soft. It didn’t work so well for me.”

Judson sipped from his coffee and held it between his hands as he propped his elbows on his knees. “So, you just don’t feel anymore?”

My jaw tightened and I opened my eyes, feeling suddenly annoyed, lifting my head to look at him. I folded my arms right across my chest.

“I feel. I just don’t broadcast to everyone how I feel.”


Judson raised his eyebrows, looking surprised but then smiled slightly as he stood, walking across to the sink on the other side of the room. He poured the rest of the coffee in the sink, tossed the cup into the trash can and turned toward me, leaning back against the sink and folding his arms across his chest.

“You’re an interesting one, Blanche,” he said. “I can’t seem to figure you out. You’re like a gentle lamb one moment and a prickly porcupine the next.”

I winked and managed a tired smile.

“And do you really want to figure me out? You might be drastically disappointed if you do.”

Judson grinned. “I don’t think I’d ever be disappointed learning more about you.”

Good grief, how did I walk into that one?  I mentally scolded myself for letting my guard down during a moment of exhaustion. I cleared my throat and stood, walking across the waiting room floor and looking out the window at the empty hospital parking lot lit by fluorescent street lamps four stories below me.

“So,” Judson said behind me. “Your dad was really worried about you today. You’re lucky to have him.”

A car turned into the parking lot and I watched it slide into a parking space. “I really am. It’s not lost on me.”

Judson sighed. “My dad only seemed to care about me when I was playing football and even then we only talked about drills and passes and strategy. When I told him I was quitting football, the look of disgust he gave me showed me I was nothing to him unless I was on a field with a ball in my hand.” He laughed softly as I turned to face him and sat in a chair across from him. “Apparently you’re my therapist now.”

I shrugged. “It’s okay. I get it. Daddy and I haven’t always have a great relationship either, to be honest. We were close until – well, puberty hit to put it delicately. I don’t think he knew what to do with a growing girl. He didn’t seem to understand I was still the same Blanche — just with a lot or rebellion and confusion in me. Our relationship definitely wasn’t any better after I ran away with Hank.”

Judson stretched his legs out in front of him. “What was all that about anyhow? I know I don’t know you real well, but you don’t seem like the type of girl to just take off with some man.”

I sipped the coffee again and grimaced at the bitterness. “I guess I was just tired of doing what everyone thought I would do and acting the way everyone thought I should. I thought Hank was my ticket to a life more exciting than the predictable one I was living at the time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly the excitement I was expecting.”

I sat and my leaned my head back again, a wave of exhaustion over taking me. The magnitude of the day was beginning to hit me and I was struggling to keep my emotions in check. I didn’t want to talk about my ex-husband with Judson anymore. I wasn’t interested in sharing too much of my personal life, letting him too far in.

“Why don’t we pray?”

I turned my head and looked at Judson in surprise. “Um..yeah…that would be nice.”

He leaned forward and took my hands in his, bowing his head and closing his eyes. He laughed softly and looked up at me again. “I’m not great at this, so bare with me, okay?”

I smiled and closed my eyes as he closed his again.

“Father, we bring Sam before you. We ask for you to guide the hand of the surgeons, to bring comfort to Sam and to Emmy. Hold them both in your watch care tonight and bring them, and us, the peace that only you can give. Amen.”

“Amen,” I whispered.

I opened my eyes and my gaze met his. His face was much too close to mine, his hands much too warm around my fingers. I’d never had a man ask me to pray with, other than Daddy. Judson’s blue eyes were fixed on mine and he opened his mouth to speak at the same moment the door to the waiting room squeaked open.

“Are you here with Sam Lambert?”

I jerked my hands out of Judson’s grasp at the sound of the doctor’s voice.

Judson and I spoke at the same time. “Yes.”

“Are you family?”

“No,” I said. “His parents are on their way here.”

The doctor sighed and dragged his hand through his hair and across the back of his neck.  “I don’t usually release information to anyone but the family, but it’s been a long day and I’m heading home for some rest. For now I can say the surgery went well. We were able to remove the bullet. It was close to the spinal cord so we will need to wait and see what that will mean with his ability to walk. We’re hopeful there won’t be any issues at all, but we’ll know more in the next few days. He also has a few broken ribs and those should heal well on their own.”

I thanked the doctor and promised to update Sam’s parents when they arrived. Judson and I sat on the couch next to each other to wait, sitting in silence. Leaning my head back against the couch, sleep overtook me quickly, despite my attempt to fight it. As sounds faded in and out I dreamed Judson slid his arm around me and pulled me against him as I slept, my head on his shoulder. In the dream I felt his hand push a strand of hair off my forehead.

I woke to Judson standing, talking to Sam’s parents, sharing with them what the doctor had told us. Judson’s rolled up jacket was under my head and I had slumped over on the couch. I sat up and rubbed my eyes.

“Thank you both so much for waiting.” Sam’s mother Maryellen dabbed her red-rimmed eyes with a crumpled tissue. “You’re more than welcome to head home and get some rest. We plan to stay here until Sam wakes up.”

“Of course,” I said, standing. “Please know we’re all praying and will be by tomorrow to check on him and Emmy.”

“Thank you, Blanche. So good to see you again,” Sam’s father, Freddy, said, hugging me briefly.

Outside the waiting room, Judson and I pulled on our coats and hats. “Come on, I’ll give you a ride home,” he said through a yawn.

As we walked outside a soft glow was brightening the sky along the horizon.

I looked at the sunrise through bleary eyes, drew in a deep breath of the crisp morning air, and looked up at the mainly gray sky. “God, please be with Sam and Emmy and their baby girl.”

Snow crunched under our feet as we walked to Judson’s truck and he opened the passenger side door for me.

“Wow. What a day huh?”

I yawned. “Yes. A day and a night. It all seems like a dream in some ways. I think we may have to trade church for a nap today.”

Judson rubbed his eyes and turned the heat up before pulling out onto the road. My eyelids were heavy and I blinked to try to chase away the exhaustion.

We drove in silence for several miles, farms and fields passing by, scenery  slowly growing brighter as the sun rose over the hill.

“It was nice seeing you and Emmy at that movie yesterday,” he said suddenly.

A silence fell over us again as he drove. I stared out the windshield, thinking of my warm bed and anxious to hug my little boy.

He glanced at me quickly as he drove.

“Maybe sometime I could take you to a movie. Alone I mean.”

I tipped my head at him quizzically. “Excuse me? Weren’t you just out with another woman yesterday and now you’re asking me out?”

He grinned and glanced at me again, then turned his eyes back to the road.

“Well, yeah, but she’s just a friend. She asked me out. I didn’t ask her out. It’s not like we’re,” he made quotes with his fingers as he briefly lifted from the steering wheel.  “going steady or something. It’s not like I gave her my class ring.”

I sighed, knowing I was too tired for this conversation.

“Is that a no?” he asked.

“You didn’t exactly ask. You just said maybe you could sometime.”

“Well, that was meant as a hint.”

“I’m too tired for hints.”

Judson pulled onto our road, heading toward our house. Smoke rose from our chimney and I knew Mama was inside, cooking breakfast, getting ready to wake Daddy and Jackson so they’d have plenty of time to get ready for church.

“So, I’ll ask directly,” Judson said as he drove down the driveway. “Will you go with me to a movie some time?”

I yawned again as he braked in front of the house and clicked the truck into park. I opened the passenger door and slid out into the cold winter air, shivering as I pulled my hat over my ears.

“Get some rest, J.T.” I said with a wink as I held the door, ready to push it closed. “Thanks for staying with me and for the ride home.”

I smiled and closed the door, watching him through the window as a smile tilted his mouth upwards and he shook his head at me.

After kisses for Mama and Daddy and Jackson, I undressed and climbed into bed, pulling the covers around my shoulders, too tired to even think about Judson’s question.

Flash Fiction: Carrying His Wife Out

From the Carrot Ranch Writing Prompt for January 9: “A Carried Wife”. To see the first part of this continuing flash fiction, see Writing Prompt: When the Wealth Didn’t Matter. 

They had to carry her out when they found him lying there on the floor by the hutch covered in blood.

How could he have done it? Why would he have done it? He had all a man could want, all she could give him. Hadn’t the money been enough all these years?

They called it a miracle that she’d walked in when she had; startling him and causing him to drop the gun and shoot himself in the foot instead of the head liked he had intended. She’d collapsed when the gun went off, falling against the hutch.

January 9, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a carried wife. Why is she being carried? Who is carrying? Pick a genre if you’d like and craft a memorable character. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by January 14, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Fiction Friday: A New Beginning Chapter 12

As I said yesterday,  I felt like putting up two chapters from A New Beginning this week. Chapter 11 was up yesterday and I’m sharing Chapter 12 today, but next week I’ll probably be back to one chapter a week.

As always, this is an initial draft so there will probably be typos, missing words, maybe even plot holes. I take feedback from the blog and other sources to help me rectify those issues, but for now, I’m simply sharing a story for fun.

Need to catch up? Find the link to the other chapters HERE or at the top of the page. Want to read the first part of Blanche’s story? Find A Story to Tell on Kindle.


Chapter 12

The cold air stung my nose and face as we rushed toward Daddy’s car, rubbing our arms as we slid inside.

I cranked the heat up in the car and turned the radio on as Emmy wedged herself behind the wheel.

“Ooh, I just love this car,” she cooed as she turned the key in the ignition. “It’s so smooth and shiny and ..” she slide her hands over the dashboard, a dreamy smile on her face. “…new.”

I laughed as she wiggled back and forth in the seat, as if dancing in place.

“Don’t wiggle too much,” I warned. “I don’t want you wiggling that baby out of you in Daddy’s new car.”

Emmy slid the shift lever into drive and laughed. “Oh no. This baby can’t come yet. I still have to finish the nursery.”

As we pulled onto Main Street, Emmy glanced at me and raised an eyebrow. “So,” she said. “Let’s talk about how you feel about seeing Judson out with Sherry.

I rolled my eyes, feeling like I had rolled my eyes more in the last few months than I had in my entire life.

“I know you had hoped to set me up with him, but it doesn’t matter to me who he goes out with.”

Emmy’s raised her eyebrows.

“Excuse me! I was not trying to set you two up!”

I tipped my head slightly. “Really? I’m not naïve little Blanche anymore, remember? I know when my best friend is trying to set me up. You can act innocent if you want but we’ve already discussed the efforts of friends and family trying to find a man for little ole’ Blanche. Seriously, though, why would I care? He’s perfectly welcome to go out with whomever he wants.”

“I don’t know,” Emmy said. “I guess I just thought you looked a little uncomfortable sitting next to him while he sat next to Sherry.”

“Well, sure, I felt uncomfortable. It was their date. I couldn’t figure out why Judson would invite us to sit with them.”

Emmy smirked, that blasted one eyebrow still raised. “Hmmm…maybe because he realized how much he’d rather have been on a date with you instead of Sherry when he saw you standing there in the lobby of the theater looking so lovely.”

“Emmy . . .”

“What? It’s possible. My cousin doesn’t share a lot with me, but he did ask me quite a few questions about you after he met you in the fall.”

“I know, Emmy, you told me, but I’m sure he was simply being polite.”

“I’m fairly certain he was being more than polite. . .”

“Well, if he had been, he wouldn’t be on a date with Sherry would he?”

Now it was Emmy’s turn to roll her eyes. “Blanche, it doesn’t help that you avoid him at every chance . . .”

“Who told you that?”

“I’m not blind, Blanch,” Emmy said. “I’ve watched you purposely switch seats at church. A month ago, I watched you from the window of our office walk to the other side of the street when you saw him walking toward you from the diner. You’re clearly trying to avoid him, but I don’t think you’re trying to avoid him because you don’t like him. I think you like him much more than you want to admit.”

I looked at the snow starting to cover the road in front of us. “And I think you should focus more on driving and less on concocting conspiracy theories.”

Emmy’s laugh faded into a strained wince as she hunched slightly over the steering wheel.

I laid my hand against her shoulder. “you okay?”

“Just a slight cramp. I’m sure it’s just Braxton Hicks. No big deal. And don’t change the subject. Admit it. You’re avoiding Judson because you’re attracted to him and you’re-”

Emmy grimaced and bit her lower lip. Her grip had tightened on the steering wheel and I noticed her knuckles were white.

“Something is going on, Emmy. What is it?”

Emmy gasped and glanced toward the floor of the car. “Oh Blanche, I think something is wrong.”

“What do you mean something is wrong?” I asked Emmy, watching her face lose color.

“I just felt something – weird . . .”

“What?! What did you feel?”

“Like something – something – popped . . . where it shouldn’t.”

“Was there a rush of water?”

“I don’t know.” She looked at the seat between her legs as she drove. “I think so. Oh no! The seat is soaked! What do I do, Blanche!”

A cold chill shuddered through me but I tried to stay calm. I knew we still had plenty of time, even if her water had broke.

“You stay calm, first,” I said. “It’s going to be fine. We have some time. Babies don’t come as soon as the water breaks. Just keep driving and we’ll head straight to labor and delivery and I’ll call Sam when we get there.

Emmy’s face paled and I knew I had to change the subject as quickly as possible.

“Let’s talk about something else,” I said quickly.

“Like what?! The weather?!” I could tell Emmy was panicking.

I looked out at the snowflakes swirling in front of us and the haze settling on the mountain tops around us. The snow was starting to pile up on the edges of the pavement and the road was wet now.

“Um…maybe not. How about the movie. Did you like it?”

“Blanche! I am about to give birth in your dad’s new car if I don’t get to the hospital! Paul Newman kissing Shirley MacClaine is not what I want to think about right now.”

“Right. Well . . . how about we talk about our plans for this summer?”

Emmy’s face had contorted in a grimace and her foot was tapping the break. “Blanche, I have a horrible pain. Is this normal?”

Now I was starting to panic. Why was she asking me what was normal? I’d only had one baby. I wasn’t the labor expert.

“Yes. It’s normal,” I assured her, deciding not to mention this probably meant her contractions had started already. “It’s going to be fine. This is just the very early stages of labor.”

The fact her contractions seemed to already be starting so soon after her water broke was alarming to me but I didn’t want her to know I was anything but confident that we’d make it to the hospital.

“Was that a contraction?! It was, wasn’t it?! Isn’t that what you have when you’re in actual labor?”

“Yes, but they will be far away to start with and then get closer together. There is plenty of time.”

“Blanche, you have to drive. I can’t drive if I’m going to be having these waves of pain.”

I felt anxious about driving in the snow, but I knew Emmy was right. I started to agree with her and tell her to get out so I could climb in the driver’s side but she rambled on, apparently determined to convince me.

“There’s nothing to it. You’ve driven a tractor before. I’ve seen you. I know you can drive a car. I’ll tell you how to shift the gears if we need to. It’s just I don’t know if I can keep driving because of the -” She grimaced. “The discomfort I’m having.”

My heart was pounding faster. “Emmy, I can drive. Don’t worry about that but, please, oh, please don’t have this baby in the car. In Daddy’s car.”

“I know it’s your daddy’s car,” Emmy said through clenched teeth. “Let’s stop talking about it being Alan Robbin’s new car. I am not having my baby in your daddy’s car.” She pulled the car to the side of the road and slid it into park. I quickly jumped out and ran around the front of the car, as she slid to the passenger side.

My hands were shaking as I hooked the seatbelt and placed my hands on the steering wheel. I knew I could drive the car fine at a reasonable speed, but a reasonable speed wasn’t what we needed right now. I needed to get Emmy to the hospital in Sawyer quickly and that was a 40-minute drive.

“Blanche, what –“ Emmy gasped again. “I mean, how close –” Her words started coming out between winces. “How close are contractions supposed to be?”

I glanced at her as she gritted her teeth and clutched the door handle. “You need to breathe slowly through each contraction,” I told her, something I had learned only after I had had Jackson.

I wish I had known it before. Her contractions seemed too close together so soon after her water broke. I wondered if we would even make it to the hospital. What was I going to do? I didn’t know how to deliver a baby. I’d read about women having babies in many of the books I had read and one time a lady gave birth on Gunsmoke, but the show didn’t show what actually happened.

“I don’t know how to deliver a baby!” I blurted, as if stating that fact out loud was going to help the situation.

“You’ve had one!”

“Yes, but I was on the other end!”

Beads of sweat dotted Emmy’s forehead as she let out a long breath and pushed herself up a little in the seat.

“You might not have to worry about it,” she said, her expression relaxing and her breathing beginning to slow down some. “I think the contractions are slowing down now.”

I let out my own deep breath. “Thank, God.”

I started making a mental list of what we would need to do once we arrived at the hospital, besides walking Emmy through the emergency room to labor and delivery. I would need to make some phone calls. Sam for one.

“Where is Sam today? We’ll need to call him when we get to the hospital.”

“I’m not sure. He’s on assignment somewhere in the western part of the county. Honestly, I was a little worried about it. Some guy that’s been running a burglary ring has been on the loose in a really remote area. They were backing up the state police to try to arrest him. I was hoping he’d be home when we got there.”

“Well, let’s hope he is so he can head up to the hospital to be with you.”

“I hope so.” I heard Emmy’s voice crack as she spoke.

I reached over and took her hand in mine. “It’s going to be okay, Emmy. You can do this.”

She nodded but tears were streaking her face. “I’m scared, Blanche.”

I tried to sound confident, even though I was afraid too. “Nothing to be afraid of. Women have babies every day.”

I glanced at Emmy and she caught my eye. I knew we were both thinking about Edith and the baby she’d lost.

“Women have healthy, beautiful babies every single day and you’re going to be one of those women,” I said firmly.

Emily nodded but closed her eyes against the tears. When I glanced at her again her face seemed even more pale that before, her eyebrows furrowed, and I could tell another contraction had hit.

“It’s going to be fine.” My words were aimed at reassuring us both.

We drove for several moments in silence as Emmy focused on breathing through the contractions and I focused on the road, which was now covered with a thin layer of snow; the sight sending fear shivering through me. My foot gently tapped the brake as a deer darted across the road in front of us. I knew deer always traveled in groups and continued to drive slow in case another one decided to cross.

I drew on my mother’s advice for how to face fear and began to recite Bible verses about peace and God’s protection as the snow began to fall faster, forcing me to lift my foot off the accelerator and focus on the lines in the middle of the road.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Umm.. Umm…” I paused, trying to think of another verse. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Emmy cried out in pain. I reached out to take her hand again and winced as she squeezed it hard.

“But now, this is what the Lord says…” Her grip loosened slightly. “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

The windshield wipers were barely keeping up with the snow now. I pulled my hand from Emmy’s and turned the wipers to the highest setting.

“Blanche  . . .”

“We’re going to be there soon,” I said, though I knew we had at least 20 more minutes to drive and even longer if the weather got worse.

“Blanche! I think I feel . . . something is happening!”

“Emmy, you can’t . . .”

“This baby is coming!”

“Don’t push!”

“I’m not trying to!”

My eyes darted along the road as I drove, desperate to find a house or at least a place to pull off. I should have stopped somewhere earlier to call Sam, or my parents or Mr. and Mrs. Stanton, anyone, but there weren’t many places to stop between Dalton and Sawyer and we’d already blown by the road to my house into desperation to get Emmy to the hospital.

Now we were in the proverbial middle of nowhere with miles and miles of nothing but trees and empty fields flying by in a blur.  A small dirt road appeared in front of us and I gently moved the car to the end of it, slamming it into park as I turned my attention to the crying Emmy. I’d been denying the baby was coming for 20 minutes but I knew it was time to accept this was really happening. Emmy was going to give birth to her baby in my daddy’s new car and I had to focus, even though my mind was racing and images of all that could go wrong were forming faster than I could dismiss them.

“Can you move your legs?” I asked. “You’re going to need to turn and put them up here so we can see just what’s happening.”

I wasn’t even sure if getting a better look would help me know what was happening. When I was 11, I’d watched our cat give birth on Daddy’s side of the bed. Daddy had been equally horrified and in awe. I had to wonder how he’d feel about Emmy now giving birth in his red and white shiny and new Olds. I imagined his reaction would be similar to the one he’d had when we’d all stood and stared at Mittens – though he probably wouldn’t mutter plans for revenge on Emmy like he had Mittens. I knew watching Emmy give birth would be nothing like watching Mittens and trembled as terror gripped me.

I helped Emmy lean back against the door, her legs facing me as we worked to slide her undergarments and hose off.

“Blanche! We can’t do this here!”

“We’re going to have to. The baby’s head is there!”

I smiled at Emmy, even though my heart was pounding so hard I could hear it in my ears and feel it in my throat. “Lots of dark hair!”

When Emmy bore down the rest of the head emerged and I cupped my hands around it but then it disappeared again.

“Emmy, push!”

“I can’t!”

“You have to push!”

“I can’t!”

Emmy was crying, her breath coming out in short panicked gasps.

“Emmy! Look at me! You have to slow your breathing or you could pass out. Don’t look away from me.”

I had to think of some way to get her to focus.

God, help me,” I prayed silently.

I leaned close to Emmy as an idea came to me. “I want you to focus on me and say ‘I can do all things through Christ.’ Say it over and over if you have to but those are the only words I want you to think about. Got it?”

Emmy nodded, her face soaked with tears.

I tightened my hand on her knee and looked her in the eye.

“Say it, now!”

Emmy sobbed, her hair matted against her forehead with sweat. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” she whimpered, her eyes clenched closed.

“Look at me!”

She looked at me, tightening her jaw.

“Say it again.”

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”

“Now, push down right now like you’re going to poop.”

If it had been under different circumstances I know Emmy and I would have laughed at the poop comment but we didn’t have time. Emmy tightened her jaw again, kept her eyes on me and bore down.

I felt a tiny head and shoulders against my hands.


Emmy screamed and pushed again but the rest of the baby still wasn’t out yet.


After two more pushes I was holding a wet, heavy and warm baby girl in my hands.

“It’s a girl, Emmy! It’s Faith!”

The baby was solid, slippery and motionless.

Panic ripped through me. Why wasn’t Emmy’s baby moving? The gray color of her skin was terrifying. Images of Edith holding a limp, grey colored baby in her arms flashed through my mind and I began to sob.

God, please. No.

I could tell Emmy was tired, but she was also starting to realize something wasn’t right.

“Blanche. Why isn’t she crying? Don’t babies usually cry?”

Yes. Babies usually cried and this baby wasn’t crying.

God, help me, please.”

Fiction . . . Thursday? Yep. A New Beginning Chapter 11

I’ve decided to share an extra chapter of A New Beginning this week on the blog. Why? I don’t know. Why not? Call it a New Year’s gift. Plus, I wanted to get some of the more exciting portions of what I’ve been working on, knowing all this could change when I work on the second and final drafts in February and March.

As always, this is an initial draft so there will probably be typos, missing words, maybe even plot holes. I take feedback from the blog and other sources to help me rectify those issues, but for now, I’m simply sharing a story for fun.

Need to catch up? Find the link to the other chapters HERE or at the top of the page. Want to read the first part of Blanche’s story? Find A Story to Tell on Kindle.


Chapter 11

Emmy was definitely sporting the “pregnancy glow” as she sat across from me on the couch in my parents’ living room almost nine months after she had told us all she was expecting. Her face lit up even more when I mentioned Daddy had been giving me driving lessons.

“If you can drive now, then let’s drive to Dalton and see a movie together! We can have a girl’s day out!”

“I don’t even have my license yet,” I said. “I go next week for the test.”

“Well, then I can drive! Oh, but Sam dropped me off. Oh! I’d have to drive — oooh…”

I didn’t like the expression on Emmy’s face. I knew what she was thinking and it wasn’t going to go over well. Daddy was proud of his Oldsmobile, bought new only the year before. He’d had his old car for 20 years. Mama and I thought he’d never get rid of it but were thrilled when he came home with the new car one night, told us all to get in and drove us to Dalton for ice cream. He washed it every Saturday afternoon during warmer weather and even built a carport to protect it in the winter.

I wasn’t sure he was going to be willing to let Emmy and I drive it even 20-minutes away to see a movie.

Daddy walked into the living room with a slice of pie on a plate in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.

I lowered my voice to a whisper. “You ask him. You’re a guest. He might be more willing to say ‘yes’ to you.”

“Ask me what?” Daddy asked.

Emmy sighed and coughed softly. “Mr. Robbins? I was just wondering . . . see, Sam went to work after he dropped me off and he was going to pick me up later, but Blanche and I would love to go to a movie. Would it be possible for us to borrow your car?”

Daddy looked at Emmy as he shoved a forkful of Mama’s blueberry pie into his mouth.

“My car?” he asked around a mouthful of pie.

“Yes, Daddy. Your car.”

He swallowed. “Well, I don’t know…I mean… I guess . . .”

I could tell Daddy was nervous and I imagined he was more concerned about his car than Emmy and I but I wasn’t about to say it out loud.

“Daddy, we’ll be careful, I promise. Emmy said she’ll drive since I’m not totally confident yet. She’s been driving a lot longer than me.”

He cleared his throat again and his gaze drifted to Emmy’s stomach. He tipped his head so he was looking over his reading glasses at her.

“You sure you can reach the pedals in your condition, young lady?”


Emmy laughed and flipped her hair over his shoulder.

“Oh, Mr. Robbins! You’re so funny!”

Daddy chuckled but then levied a serious look at her.

“But, seriously – can you?”

Emmy sighed. “Yes, Mr. Robbins. I can reach the pedals in a car just fine still.”

Daddy sighed and lifted the keys from the table next to his chair.

“Well, go on then. You girls be careful and don’t hang around in town too long afterward. I heard we’re supposed to get snow this afternoon.”

He hesitated as he handed the keys to Emmy holding tight to them for a moment as she reached for them.

Emmy smiled at him. “You have to let them go, Mr. Robbins.”

“Yeah, I know. Just .. well, be careful with her.”

“With Blanche or the car, Mr. Robbins?”

“Uh, with Blanche?”

Emmy and I laughed, knowing he meant the car.

“We’ll take good care of the car, Daddy,” I said as we reached for our coats and headed toward the door. I leaned down and kissed Jackson on top of the head. “Be good for Grandma and Grandpa.”

“Will you bring me a treat?” he asked.

“I can bring you back some theater popcorn, what do you think?”

“Okay,” he said. “If you get me chocolate too, you can go.”

Daddy chuckled as lifted Jackson into his lap and winked at me. “He’s definitely your kid.”

Jackson looked at his grandpa. “We gonna watch the baseball game on the TV, Grandpa?”

I smirked. “And he’s definitely your grandson.”

“Where are you girls headed?” Mama asked as she walked into the room with a cup of tea. “We’re supposed to get snow today. I don’t think you should be out on the roads. It could start early.”

I kissed her cheek. “I’m sure we’ll be fine, Mama. I heard the forecast on the radio earlier and it’s not supposed to start until this evening. We’ll be back long before then.”

Emmy giggled as she shoved herself behind the steering wheel a few moments later.

“Your daddy might have been right. I almost can’t fit back here.”

When we reached the theater I felt like a young girl again, out on the town with my friend, only this time my friend’s belly was poked out like she had swallowed a watermelon and I knew I needed to be home before dark so I could give my son a bath and tuck him into bed.

After we’d purchased our tickets we waited for popcorn and snacks. “Well, look whose here!” Emmy called as I turned toward the theater a few moments later, a soda in one hand, a bag of popcorn in the other.


Judson, standing with Sherry Fenton, who I would have graduated with, if I had graduated high school, reached out to hug Emmy.

“Judson! So happy to see you finally socializing!” Emmy leaned toward him.

I hadn’t seen him in three months and almost didn’t recognize him. He’d grown a full beard but his eyes were still the same bright blue, his dark hair still long across his forehead, and his smile still aggravatingly attractive.

Sherry’s reddish blond hair was coiffed on the top of her head in a modern hairstyle, her dark eyelashes framed under dark blue shadow. My eyes fell to her low cut blouse and moved back up to her bright red lipstick.

“Whoa there, kid, be careful you don’t tip yourself over,” Judson teased Emmy. “I don’t know if we could get you back up again.”

Emmy playfully slapped his arm. “You hush up, J.T., I know all kinds of secrets about you I could spill right now in front of your date.”

Judson held his hands up as if in surrender. “Now, now. Slow down there. You know I was only teasing. I guess it’s the perfect day for a movie. You two want to sit with us?”

Emmy enthusiastically agreed before I could protest and we soon found ourselves a foursome, with Sherry in the seat on the inside, next to Judson, and me on the other side of him with Emmy on the end of the aisle in case the baby kicked her bladder and sent her running to the bathroom. I was glad the movie started before we all had to make small talk.

Sitting there, in the dark, Judson’s arm brushing against mine, I thought about the day in high school Edith had gone to a movie with me and spent most of the movie watching Jimmy with Annie Welles. Edith had been so jealous she could barely contain her fury when she’d left the theater. She’d channeled that anger into a lewd, flirty  moment with Jimmy and later admitted to me that she and Jimmy had never established they were an exclusive item, so she had no right to be jealous.

I noticed Sherry watching Judson as he watched the movie. Her eyes traveled across his face and down his arms, a small smile playing across her lips. I couldn’t explain why I felt so annoyed at the idea of the two of them together. I knew it wasn’t because I would have preferred Judson had asked me out. Why would he ask me out? I’d made it clear I wasn’t interested in him by avoiding him, making our conversations short and sweet, and shoving any remote attraction to him deep down inside me. If it hadn’t been clear to him before, our interaction in Mr. Worley’s barn at the end of the summer had driven my position home. I had no claim to him and no right to feel uncomfortable with the way Sherry was laying her hand against his and smiling.

I was determined not to be silly like Edith had been when we were younger and she had seethed with jealousy over Jimmy. The difference was that Edith had actually dated Jimmy while I’d only met Judson a few times and had a few spars with him while I tried to make sure he kept his distance. He’d clearly taken the hint and moved on, if he had even been interested in the first place.

“So, what did you think of the movie?” he asked when the movie ended and we slid our coats on.

“It was different seeing Paul Newman in a comedy,” I said. “But he pulled it off, didn’t he?”

“He can pull anything off with those blue eyes,” Sherry said with a wink.

“Well, I suppose that’s true,” I laughed.

“He’s always been one of my favorites and he didn’t disappoint,” Emmy added.

Judson cleared his throat as we walked into the lobby. “Well, maybe I should just leave you ladies alone to discuss Paul.”

Sherry joined Emmy and I as we laughed.

“Oh, dear, is someone feeling left out?” Sherry asked, laying her hand against Judson’s shoulder.

“I’m sure I’ll be fine,” he sighed, feigning hurt. “I’ll just think about Shirley while you all talk about Paul.”

Sherry playfully slapped his arm. “Well, let’s hope not,” she scoffed. “That woman needed more clothes on.”

Sherry turned to Emmy and me as she slid her scarf around her neck. “Emmy, Blanche. I’m so glad we bumped into you. This was really fun.”

Why did she have to be nice and pretty? It made it hard to dislike her.

And I had to admit she was right. It had been nice watching the movie as a group.

“It really was,” I said sincerely as I buttoned my coat.

Emmy was cheerful, maybe too cheerful. “We will have to do it again sometime.”

I wasn’t sure I would go that far, but it was a nice sentiment.

Outside the theater, we all glanced up at the milky haze that had settled over the town. Large flakes were drifting from the murky clouds and landing in our hair and on our coats.

“We’d better head out before this gets worse,” I said.

Judson nodded as Sherry looped her arm through his. “Agreed. You ladies drive careful.”