Fiction Friday: Harvesting Hope Chapter 11

I have been trying to hit my self-imposed deadline of Monday to have the first draft of this book finished, but I don’t believe I am going to hit it so I’ve extended the deadline another two weeks. I may not need that extension, however, after kicking out 2500 words for a very exciting section later in the story yesterday. The section was so exciting and stressful for me, I had to take several breaks, during which my son made fun of me for being upset over the people in my head, because he thinks he’s funny. More on that another day. And know that he was just teasing.

For now the tentative release date for this book August 5, but it could very well be pushed to the end of August.

Let me know in the comments what you think of the story so far.

To read the other chapters from this story, click HERE.


Chapter 10

“Two cracked ribs and a wound that luckily looked worse than it was. The horn scraped less than an inch below the surface and hit a small artery, which is why it bled so much.”

She’d given the update with her eyes focused on Alex instead of Jason and then she’d left to go back to her dad.

When she’d turned away, Jason had felt the familiar heaviness in his chest, the one that had been there since the day she’d told him she needed a break. A break from him. The heaviness stayed there on the drive home and Alex could see it.

“You okay?”

Jason shrugged a shoulder. “Yeah. Worried about Tom. That’s all.”

“He’s going to be fine. You heard Ellie.”

Jason nodded, shifted the truck into a lower gear and jammed his foot on the accelerator, pulling into the left lane to pass another car. “Yeah. I heard her tell you he’d be fine.”

Alex cleared his throat. “You noticed that too, huh?”

“She probably blames me.” Jason lifted his foot off the accelerator and glided the truck back into the right lane. “Like she’s blaming me for everything else these days.”

“You don’t know that. She said she didn’t. She’s probably just tired, worried about her dad.” Alex shook his head, looking out the window. “Things are going to work out between you two. They have to. I can’t imagine one of you without the other.”

Jason let out a breath, trying to keep himself from driving too fast, knowing he only wanted to get back to the farm so he could throw himself into work and forget about it all.

“Thanks, Alex. I appreciate you trying to make me feel better.”

He appreciated it, but it wasn’t necessarily helping. All he’d really wanted to do in that hospital waiting room was pull Ellie against him, wrap his arms around her, and make sure she knew he’d be there for her no matter what. At this point, he needed to start accepting he might never be able to do that again.

“WHERE WERE YOU?” Ellie couldn’t hide the anger in her voice, standing across from her sister in her parent’s living room. She hissed the question out between clenched teeth, her arms folded tightly across her chest.

“I was at Melanie’s.” Judi shrugged and flopped across the couch, propping her foot on the arm of it. She waved her hand dismissively. “Chill out. Dad’s fine. They didn’t even keep him overnight.”

“We could have used your help getting him home, but as usual, you were unreachable.”

Judi made a face. “As usual? What’s that supposed to mean? And what’s so hard about getting him home? Put him in the car and drive him here. Big deal.”

“There was medicine to pick up at the pharmacy, there was helping him to his room and getting his pillows, there was —”

Judi sighed, loudly and flung her arms in the air. “Oh my gosh, Ellie. You handled it fine. Stop being so dramatic. You’re better at all that stuff anyhow.”

Ellie slammed her purse into a chair and propped her hands on her hips, glowering at her younger sister. “I’m better at that stuff because I’ve always had to do it since you were always off playing around.”

Judi stood and walked toward the kitchen. “You could have played around too, El, but you were always too busy trying to be the good little church girl and mom and dad’s favorite.”

Following her sister, Ellie tried to lower her voice, not sure how much their voices might carry up the stairs to her parents’ bedroom. “Someone had to help on this farm. Someone had to be responsible.”

Judi poured a glass of milk and reached for the chocolate syrup in the door of the fridge. She stood with her back to her sister, one leg cocked to the side, dirty blond hair swishing as she stirred the chocolate into the milk.

“Someone had to be responsible,” she said in a mocking tone as she stirred. “Someone has to be an adult. Someone has to be so uptight they could poop out diamonds.”

She turned, leaned back against the counter and smirked. “You know, this is probably why Jason and you aren’t together anymore. Who wants an uptight, bossy, closed off shrew as a girlfriend?”

The insult stung but Ellie wasn’t about to let Judi know. She tightened her jaw and clenched her fingers around the back of a kitchen chair. “I’m not the issue here, Judi. You are. You are the one who is never around when your family needs you and if it makes you feel better to insult me then go ahead, but it’s not going to change the fact that all you’ve ever cared about is yourself.”

Judi’s slurp let Ellie know that nothing she said was going to matter. Judi would never feel an ounce of guilt for her behavior.

Ellie turned abruptly, shaking her head as she headed up the stairs to see if her parents needed anything. Once they assured her they were fine, she told them she was going for a drive and would be back to help with dinner.

In the car, though, she didn’t know where to drive. She had nowhere to go. In the past when she was overwhelmed or ready to scream in frustration she went to Jason’s or at least the Tanners. Both of those options were out of the question this time and she didn’t know how to feel about that. She turned her steering wheel to the right, pressed her foot on the brake and pulled her car over to the side of the road, pressing her forehead against the steering wheel. She jerked the car into park and let the tears flow.

Stupid Judi anyhow. Why did she have to say that about Jason?

They weren’t together anymore because Jason hadn’t been open with her. It wasn’t because she was too uptight and closed off.


Maybe Jason had never told her about what had happened in college because she was all of those things. Was she such a horrible person he didn’t even feel he could be honest with her? Was she really such a perfectionist that he was afraid telling her about his mistakes would shatter her so-called perfect world? Yes, he probably was.

Tears soaked her face and she brushed them away quickly. She didn’t have time for crying. If Jason had felt she was too closed off and would be too uptight about what he’d done in college then it was a good thing they weren’t together anymore. Who knew what else he had decided was wrong with her over the years.

She took a deep breath, held it, and swallowed hard. When she let her breath out, she shook her head a little to try to shake off the negativity pressing around her. The setting sun cast a red-brown glow on the dirt of the road in front of the car. Her gaze drifted toward a small, cozy-looking farmhouse further down, across a newly planted field on the right. The farmhouse, white, with red shutters, was flanked by two maple trees. She couldn’t see it from where she was parked, but she knew there was a small chicken coup and a tire swing hooked to a tree limb behind it.

Franny Tanner’s. Jason’s grandmother and the Tanner family matriarch. The woman Ellie considered her third grandmother, the one living closest to her since one of her grandmothers now lived out of the area and the other had passed away when she was a child. She hadn’t seen Franny since she’d broke it off with Jason almost six months ago and it broke her heart. She hadn’t known how to explain it all to the woman who had had such a wonderful marriage of 55 years before Ned passed away almost two years ago. Their love had been something to strive for, to look up to, not just for Ellie and Jason but anyone who met them.

She still remembered holding Franny’s hand at the funeral. She was on one side of her, Molly on the other. Franny didn’t cry the entire funeral. The only time the tears came was when the casket was carried out. Jason, Robert, Walter, Brad, and Alex had all been pallbearers.

“There goes my heart,” Franny had whispered, standing next to the pew, grasping Ellie and Molly’s hands for support.

Even now the memory brought tears to Ellie’s eyes. Now her tears came not only for the woman who’d lost her soulmate and best friend but because Ellie had once imagined she’d have what Franny and Ned had.

With Jason. Now, she didn’t know if she’d ever  experience a love as true as Franny and Ned’s had been.

She dabbed a tissue to the corner of her eyes, soaked up the moisture, and crumpled the tissue into her hand. She couldn’t stay out here all night. It was getting late, and she’d offered to make her parents dinner. Yes, once again she had chosen to be the responsible one. All she wanted to do was go home and fall asleep reading a book but instead, as usual, she would be the adult while Judi was the childish one having all the fun.

Fiction Friday: The Farmers Sons (Harvesting Hope) Chapter 8

Here we are at Chapter 8 of The Farmers’ Sons, which will be called Harvesting Hope when it publishes. I may be making the chapters a little bit shorter here on the blog so they aren’t time consuming and some who have missed chapters can catch up.

If you don’t know, I share these chapters as a work in progress, so there will most likely be typos and plot holes, etc. If you notice them, please feel free to share with me in private or in the comments. Also feel free to share with me your thoughts on the story so far, on the characters, and on where you think the story should go next.

To read Molly’s story from the first book of this series, download a copy on Amazon or read it through Kindle Unlimited. To read the other parts of this story click HERE or find a link at the top of the page.

Chapter 8

Jason watched the truck disappear down the road for a moment before turning back to the tire. He worked a bolt loose, saying a quick prayer for Liz. Quick prayers were all the prayers he allowed time for these days. Any longer and his thoughts spiraled out of control. A cool breeze brushed his face as he worked, the temperature lower after the storms moved through.

The crunch of tires on gravel brought his head up. There was little chance he didn’t know whoever was driving by. Everyone knew everyone in this county. When he recognized the old blue pick-up pulling up behind Molly’s truck, his heart sank.

Tom Lambert, his dark brown hair speckled with gray, leaned an arm on the wall of Molly’s truck bed. “Hey, Jason. Need any help?”

Jason rolled the flat tire off to one side. “Actually, I’m almost done. Appreciate the offer, though.”

He kept his head down, afraid to look at Ellie’s father for more than a few moments, afraid to see the anger that might be in his eyes, anger reserved for Jason.

Tom laughed and shook his head, tapping the side of the truck. “I know this old truck reminds Molly of Ned, but she really needs a new one. I’m amazed she’s been able to keep it running this long.”

Jason nodded with a smile, rolling the spare tire in place. “Yeah, we’ve tried talking her into scrapping it, but she’s not interested.”

Jason was trying to match the lightness he heard in Tom’ tone but he couldn’t help wondering how Ellie’s dad actually felt about him. How much did he know about the reason for their break-up?

“Here, let me get that.” Tom kneeled down and reached for the bolt that had slipped from Jason’s hand and hit the dirt.

Jason nodded his appreciation, taking the bolt and fitting it back onto its spot.

Tom sat there a few seconds, squatting next to the truck before he spoke. “Listen, Jason, I don’t know what happened between you and Ellie, but I just want you to know that Rena and I still consider you a part of our family. If you ever need to talk, we’re both here for you.”

Jason wondered if Ellie’s parents would feel the same affection for him if they knew why Ellie had broke things off.

He cleared his throat and tightened the last bolt, standing at the same moment Tom stood. Looking into the eyes of the father of the woman he’d hurt, he didn’t see anger there. He saw kindness and compassion and he hated it. He should see disgust in this man’s eyes, disgust over how Jason had lied to Ellie for so long, how he had failed the moral code he’d set for himself.

 Despite the tension he felt, or maybe because of it, Jason couldn’t stop a soft laugh from escaping as he pulled his eyes from Tom’ and wiped his hand on a rag. “Thank you. I really appreciate that. I’m not sure how comfortable I would feel talking to my ex-girlfriend’s parents about my past mistakes, but the offer still means a lot.”

Jason heard good-natured sincerity in Tom’ laugh. “I understand, but really, Jason.” He placed his hand firmly on Jason’s shoulder. “We love you. I can’t imagine anything you could have done that would be bad enough for us to ever not love you.”

His words were like a knife to Jason’s heart. “You sure about that?” he wanted to ask. He wanted to tell his man about his past, about that night with Lauren, about his guilt, about keeping it from Ellie. He wanted Tom Lambert to hate him as much as he hated himself.

The ringtone of his cellphone startled him, but in a good way. He had never been more thankful for an interruption.

“Hey, Dad, what’s up?”

“Hey, just got a call from Marcia. The fence is down in the upper pasture and Old Bart’s gotten out. He’s headed down the dirt road toward the Patrick’s house.”

“Okay. I’ll go wrangle him and get the fix back up.”

“Better call Brad to help you out. I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to move fast enough to help.”

Brad. Yeah. Right.

“Keep me updated.”

“Will do.”

He slid his finger over the end call button and slid the phone into his back pocket. “Hey, I’ve got to head out. Aunt Marcia says the bull is out of the fence. I need to head up and get him back in.”

“Old Bart?” Tom looked down the dirt road behind him. “Which way is he headed? I’ll follow you in my truck and we can wrangle him together.”

Jason tossed the lug wrench and jack into the back of the truck. “Thanks, but I can get him. Shouldn’t take long.”

Tom turned back toward his truck. “You’re going to need someone to help you to get that fence back in if you get him inside the fence and that’s a big if. Those old guys can be ornery.”

This encounter was becoming more uncomfortable by the moment. “I really appreciate the offer, but I’m used to him and —”

Tom was standing with his hand on his truck door now, grinning. “Afraid I’ll break a hip?

Jason laughed, rubbing a hand along the back of his neck. “No, sir, it’s just —”

“You think I’m old.” Tom was still smiling. “I’ll have you know I’m only two years older than your dad. Come on, boy, I’ll show you how real bull wrangling is done.”

He climbed inside the truck, signaling the discussion was over. Jason let out a deep breath and climbed behind the steering wheel of Molly’s truck. Apparently, this day full of awkward moments wasn’t going to end anytime soon.

Old Bert was standing in the middle of the intersection of Drew and French Creek Road, chewing grass when Jason and Tom pulled their trucks off into the grass.

Jason exited his truck slowly, not interested in startling the 2,000 pound beast and sending him either barreling toward him or into the woods up an embankment to the left of the road. It would have been easier if he hadn’t wandered this far north and away from the main Tanner farm. As it was now, Jason would have to rope him and lead him back to the farm the old fashioned way, on foot. There was a gate to the upper field about a half a mile down the road.

He told Tom his plan and then reached for the rope he’d picked up at the farm on the way by.

Bert’s eyes were still on him when he closed the truck door with the rope in hand. Tom stepped off to one side, behind Jason. “Should I go behind him and try to move him toward you? He’s usually a pretty calm guy. He probably wouldn’t like me behind him and would step away.”

Jason shook his head. “Not sure really. He can be unpredictable at times. Better stay behind me and let me see if I can get this rope around him first.”

He was only a few steps away from Old Bert, lasso in hand, when the bull turned and ran for it, galloping up the road at a solid pace. Jason growled in frustration and followed him, again only a few steps away when Bert changed direction and darted into a wooded area to the right. Jason was close behind but not close enough to get the rope looped around him.

For such a heavy animal he sure did move swiftly. Jason had a hard time keeping up with him and almost tripped over a tree limb that had fallen and was halfway buried under old leaves.

“I’ll see if I can get ahead of him by going around that grove of trees and chase him back toward the road,” Tom called from behind him. “Distract him for me.”

Jason waved the lasso in Old Bert’s direction, hoping the bull would follow the motion of the rope instead of Tom. He did, starting toward Jason in a startled jog only when Tom crashed through the under brush behind him.

Jason swung the rope, but it slid down Old Bert’s massive side, missing his neck completely. This was nothing like the movies when cowboys rode horses, giving them the advantage of height over the bulls they were trying to corral.

Jason was surprised at Old Bert’s speed. He wasn’t referred to as Old Bert for nothing. He was reaching the end of his use as a stud bull and his legs should have been a little less flexible than they were now.

Tom leaned over slightly, his hands on his knees, breathing hard. “Well, that didn’t work.”

“It was a good idea, though,” Jason said, also breathing hard.

He looked up at Tom, at the sweat on his forehead and drenching his shirt. He’d better try to send him home. The man having a heart attack while trying to help Jason wrangle the Tanner’s bull wasn’t going to help Jason’s case with Ellie at all.

“Why don’t you head on home? I can chase him back down the road and through our fence.”

Tom shook his head. “I don’t mind trying a couple more times.” He stood, stretched his shoulders back. “It’s personal now. I don’t like the idea of that old bull beating us.”

If only Tom Lambert wasn’t as stubborn as his daughter.

It took another 20 minutes but corralling Old Bert between them, stomping their feet and yelling if he tried to dart into the woods again, finally brought them to the gate at the end of the Tanner’s field. Old Bert darted through the gate when Jason opened it, toward the pond his grandfather had built years ago next to a weeping willow.

Jason laughed softly. “He’s probably trying to get away from our shouting.”

They walked inside the gate, several feet into the pasture, chasing Old Bert further in the field to be sure he headed back further down the property. Jason still had to get him to his corral and locked back in, but he’d do that after he picked up his truck.

“I can’t figure how he gets that gate open, but I know what my project is this week.”

Tom nodded. “Fixing that gate latch, I’d guess. Or maybe packing the freezer with some extra steaks and roasts.”

Jason laughed, stopping with his hands at his waist to catch his breath. “That sounds good but he’s an old bull. That would be some pretty tough meat.”

Tom turned and looked back over the field toward the road and an old stone fence running down a short length of the border of the Tanner’s property against the road. A warm breeze filtered over the two men and Jason wondered if more storms would be coming later in the evening.

Tom nodded toward the fence, his breathing still fast, but slowing down. “Is that still the original fence down there?”


“1800s? Early 1900s?”

“We think late 1800s. Probably built by my great-great grandfather to mark the end of our property.”

They started walking toward the fence. “It’s amazing isn’t it?” Tom shook his head as he walked. “How well they built things back then. They really took their time, made sure it would stand the test of time.”

Reaching the old stones, crumbling but still in place, they stopped walking and looked at the fence that reached the level of Jason’s chest.

“They did that with everything back then,” Tom continued. “Homes, barns, even relationships.”

Jason nodded, not sure where Ellie’s father was going with this conversation, but fairly certain that he didn’t want to know.

“Holding on in the tough times can make the foundation of a relationship stronger,” Tom said. “But only if there’s a third person in the middle to help two people hold on.”

Jason pulled his cap low on his head. He didn’t want to have this conversation right now, or ever. Not with the father of the woman he loved, but now hated him. He cleared his throat, shifted his weight from one leg to the other and folded his arms across his chest. He looked at the ground, kicked at the dirt with the tip of his boot.

“Thanks for the help with Bert, Tom. I should be getting back.”

Tom nodded. Jason was glad he didn’t push the conversation any further. Tom put a foot on the old wall and climbed up it, tapping the stones with his foot as he stepped, shaking his head, still obviously amazed at the workmanship. Jason followed him for a few steps, then stopped, an unexpected sound catching his attention. Thunder maybe?      

By the time he registered it was hoofs on the ground, not thunder, Old Bert was only a hundred feet away and gaining fast.

Old Bert wasn’t usually violent but the way he lowered his head and pawed his hooves made Jason think he might have turned over a new leaf. He and Tom had to get out of this pasture. And fast.

“Tom, climb faster.”

Tom tilted his head, raised a questioning eyebrow, his back to Bert. “What’s that?”

“I said —”

It was too late. Bert was already a few feet away. Jason took off for Tom, hoping to grab him and push him over the wall, but worried he couldn’t outrun a 2,000 pound bull.

His hands were on the back of Tom’s shirt, yanking him up the stonewall when Bert reached them. A sickening crack coincided with Tom’s body flying up and over the wall. He slammed into Jason and they both fell in a heap into the road on the other side of the fence.

Grimacing as pain shot through his back, Jason was at least glad they were out of the pasture to keep them from being hit again.


Ellie’s dad was eerily silent, laying on his side in the ditch behind the fence. Jason’s heart pounded hard as he sat up quickly and half crawled, half dragged himself to Tom. Pain shot through his back, but he didn’t have time to focus on it.

Oh God, please don’t let me have gotten Ellie’s dad killed.

Special Fiction Saturday: The Farmer’s Daughter Chapter 37

After beginning the tweaking process for the final draft of The Farmer’s Daughter (still rewriting, etc.), I now know it will not be a full 37 chapters. That seems like too many chapters to me somehow, but I guess it doesn’t matter if those chapters are short. Who knows!

I have ideas rolling around in my head for the next installment in the Tanner family’s saga, mainly about Jason, which I know some of you wanted to know the outcome of.

I posted Chapter 36 of the story yesterday and you can catch up on anything you missed HERE.

For those who have been reading along, how do you think the book should end? I have ideas, have already written an ending, but I’m not sure I’ll keep it or not. I want it to lead into the other books, but I’m not really sure how to do that yet. Let me know of ideas on how to, or of some good book series you’ve read that do so!


Annie’s eyes were red-rimmed, her face streaked with tears. Alex had never seen Annie in such rough shape, and it rattled him. She was trembling as he helped her to her feet.

“What happened?” He heard the fear in Molly’s voice.

“I — Robert — your dad —”

Annie shook her head. She couldn’t seem to form words. Alex wanted to shake her out of it and hug her at the same time. Thankfully Molly was there so he didn’t have to figure out how to handle the situation his own.

She quickly pulled her mother into an embrace.

“Your dad was having a seizure and they rushed me out. I don’t know what’s going on.”

Alex looked at the closed hospital room door, turning his gaze away from the heart wrenching scene in the hallway. His limbs had gone cold and his chest was constricting with panic. He listened to the sound of Annie crying and silently cursed the direction this was all taking. Robert was supposed to be getting better, not worse.

He leaned back against the hallway wall and slid his hands in his pockets, unsure what he could do to help comfort the women holding each other in front of him. He wasn’t good at comforting. He never had been.

It seemed like hours before the hospital room door opened, but really it had only been fifteen minutes since he and Molly had arrived.

A disheveled looking doctor with graying hair stepped out of the room and dragged a hand across the back of his neck. “Mrs. Tanner?”

Annie had pulled out of Molly’s arms. She nodded weakly.

“Your husband has had a scare, but he’s stable now. We think he had a reaction to one of the medications we were using to keep his blood from clotting. We’ve stopped that medication and will see how he is in a couple of hours. For now, though, he’s not seizing, and his breathing and heart rate are normal. The only not so good news is that although his brain waves are normal, we won’t know for sure how the stroke affected him cognitively until he comes out of the coma.”

Annie pressed her hand to her mouth, tears flowing freely.

“So, this wasn’t another stroke?” Molly asked.

The doctor shook his head. “No. Thankfully, not.” He gestured toward the door. “You’re welcome to go back in. I’ll be back to check on him before I leave for the day.”

Annie nodded, her face streaked with tears. “Thank you.”

The doctor nodded in return, his smile slight, revealing exhaustion.

Alex waited until Molly and Annie walked inside and then followed them, sitting on the other side of the room as they approached the bed. Annie slid her hand under one of Robert’s  and Molly held the other. A half an hour later, after the women talked, cried, and talked some more, Alex decided they needed a break. He stood, laying his hand against Molly’s back.

“You two need some lunch. Go. I’ll stay with Robert.”

“I appreciate that but —”

He interrupted Annie. “Go. You’ll be no good to him if you collapse.”

She nodded, a faint smile crossing her worn expression. Her hand against his face was warm. “Thank you, Alex. I’m so glad you’re here.”

She hugged him briefly before she and Molly walked into the hallway. Her tenderness toward him was something foreign to him in some ways, after growing up in a family that rarely showed affection, but it was also familiar in that it was how Annie had always shown him love.

Alex pulled the chair closer to the bed, sitting and leaning back. He stretched his legs out in front of him, pulling his hat down across his face, and folding his hands across his stomach. He didn’t feel like praying again. He wasn’t sure prayers worked. Instead, he was going to take the time to at least try to calm his racing thoughts and hope that Robert would pull through all of this and be the same, good man he’d been before.


The sound of choking, coughing, and gagging woke Alex. He hadn’t expected to fall asleep in the chair, but he also hadn’t expected to wake up to find three nurses around the bed, leaning over Robert, comforting him.

“It’s okay, Mr. Tanner.”

 “You’re in the hospital.”

“You’ve been in a coma.”

“You might feel funny because we’ve had you on some medicine.”

“Your throat might be sore because we had you intubated part of the time.”

“Don’t try to get up, sir.”

Alex stood, looking over one of the nurse’s shoulders so Robert could see him. Robert’s body stilled, his breathing slowing.  The nurse stepped aside so Alex could stand closer to the bed.

He looked down into glazed eyes not sure if they were seeing anything or not.


Robert swallowed hard, closed his eyes briefly, opened them again.


Robert’s voice was raw, barely above a whisper.

Emotion clutched at Alex’s throat and moisture spread across his eyes.

“You would pick a time when Annie isn’t here to wake up, wouldn’t you?”

A faint smile tilted one corner of Robert’s mouth upward.

“You —” He swallowed hard. Tried again. “You  . . .take  . . care of . . .” His voice was halting. “My girls?”

“As much as they would let me, sir. You have some stubborn, independent women in your life.”

The faint smile again, eyes drifting closed again. “Take care of Annie and Molly.”

Alex scoffed. “You’re going to take care of them. You’re awake. That’s a good sign.”

Robert closed his eyes and then opened them again. Alex could tell he was fighting to keep them open.

“I’ll take care of Annie,” he whispered, reaching out and grasping Alex’s forearm. His grasp was stronger than Alex expected. “You take care of Molly.”

As emotion threatened to spill over, Alex knew he had to pull his gaze away, get one of the nurse’s attention, break the moment. “His wife and daughter are in the cafeteria – they need to know he’s awake. Can you stay with him while I —”

“I’ll find them,” the nurse said. “I’m sure he’d rather have his son here with him.”

Alex shook his head. “No, I’m not his son. I’m just —”

“Like a son.” Alex looked back at Robert saw him watching him, felt his hand squeezing his forearm. He managed a slight nod of his head. “Like a son.”

Alex pinched the bridge of his nose between his finger and thumb and closed his eyes tight against the tears. He fought the emotion hard, but a tear managed to slip through, down his cheek and dripped on to his coat sleeve.

He glanced at Robert, saw his eyes were still open, still watching him, his smile faint but widening.

A story to tell Chapter 9

Have you been following along with Blanche’s story? Let me know in the comments! To catch up to the story find the links to the other chapters at the end of this one.


Chapter 9

The few weeks after Daddy caught me were what I would call overwhelmingly tense. He didn’t speak to me. He didn’t speak to Edith. He barely spoke to Mama.

He left for work early and came home late. Dinners were silent and then he went to his chair to read his paper. I went to my room to do my homework or disappear inside a book.

Edith was quiet as well. She barely looked up from her plate at dinner. I knew she was thinking a lot about what Daddy thought of her. I hadn’t seen her flirting with boys as much lately, even though they flirted with her.

I listened to Daddy at first. I didn’t see Hank and he didn’t try to see me. I went to school and came home, helped Mama with the chores, went to church and did my best to be the Blanche I’d been before Daddy had caught me. I even visited that Bible study Lillian had suggested I attend, and I tried my best to really listen to the stories the women shared.

“Ladies, did we all get a chance to read the chapter in Proverbs about a virtuous woman?” Fran Sampson asked opening her Bible.

All the women opened their Bibles and I opened mine. I read:

Proverbs 31:10-31 “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.  She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.  She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.”

I decided not to comment too much, unsure what it was all supposed to mean. It sounded like to be a real woman I needed to be perfect and make wool. I couldn’t even sow, let alone make wool. And what did it mean to “girdeth her loins?” What were loins? It all sounded fairly ridiculous to me.

The women around me, most of them much older, nodded and smiled in agreement. Apparently, it made sense to them, then why couldn’t I figure it out?

“What do we think about this verse?” Fran asked, looking around the room.

I looked around the room too, hoping someone would enlighten me.

“Well, of course, it is probably unrealistic to believe we can live up to all of this, but it’s a wonderful guideline,” April Spencer said encouragingly.

April always had a sweet smile, perfect white teeth, blond hair, milky-white skin. Her daddy had been a farmer and her husband was a farmer and she looked like she should be on an ad for dairy products.

“It’s more of a goal to strive toward, something to work toward, rather than a list of how we need to be, I believe,” Lillian said.

The women around the room nodded in agreement and I felt a little more relieved about the passage, even if I didn’t understand all the words.

I decided I would think about the beginning of the passage: “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

I thought I could handle that much, at least, when I got married. I could “do no harm” and I could make sure a husband could always trust in me.


I was walking with a basket full of baked goods Mama had asked me to take to the neighbors the evening before the last day of school when Hank pulled up in his truck. I was about a half a mile from home, on the dirt road, and along the edge of the Worley’s hay field, the grass high.

“I’ve missed you,” he said as he drove along next to me.

“I can’t talk to you,” I said, keeping my eyes on my steps as I walked.

“Haven’t you missed me?” he asked.

I had, but I couldn’t tell him.

“Come on, Blanche. I haven’t seen you in weeks. Go for a drive with me.”

I kept walking, trying to ignore him.

“Your daddy won’t find out. We’ll drive down by the covered bridge.”

I shook my head.

I wanted to be the good girl again. It had been easier when I was the good girl. Daddy had loved me when I was the good girl.

“Not now, Hank.”

“Suit yourself, but I’m going to try again,” he said and sped up, driving past me, his truck disappearing down the dirt road in a cloud of dust.

He did try again, two weeks after school ended. I had taken a walk to try to decide if I should apply for a summer job at the library and to think about what I wanted to do after I graduated the next year.

This time when he pulled up, I looked up from the road and our eyes met. I felt a funny feeling in my stomach, a mix of fear and excitement.

He was as handsome as he’d ever been.

“Come on, Blanche,” he pleaded. “I have to see you. Just take a little drive with me. I miss our talks and want to see how you are..”

I hesitated. I thought about Bible study and how we’d talked about resisting temptation. I felt like God wasn’t helping very well with keeping temptation from me.

“I can’t talk long,” I said.

Hank’s grinned. “I’ll take any time with you I can get.”

When I climbed in the front seat Hank’s smile sent heat rushing through me. He leaned in and kissed me hard. I knew I shouldn’t lean into the kiss, but I did, reaching out and sinking my fingers into his soft, brown hair. It felt so good to hold him and to be held by him. My body reacted as he opened my mouth under his and clutched at my hair.

“Girl, I’ve missed that mouth,” he said breathlessly, kissing me again.

We spent an hour kissing and talking under the covered bridge, his hands gliding where they shouldn’t be, but me liking it and reveling in the feel of his mouth on my skin. I was starting to understand what Edith had meant that night when she said that one day I’d understand how nice it was to have a man who paid attention to me.

“We can’t ever be apart that long again,” he said, leaning back to look at me. “What have you been up to?”

He kissed my neck.

“Trying to decide what I want to do after high school,” I told him, closing my eyes.

“What do you mean what you want to do?”

His mouth moved to my earlobe.

“Like, what career will I have,” I said, distracted with his hand gliding up my leg. “Mama says maybe I will be a housewife like her, but I don’t know if that’s what I want to do. I want more – you know?”

“I do know, yes,” Hank said leaning back to look at me. “I want more too. I want to get out of this area. I want to be away from all the people who tell me who I should be and who I never will be.”

He sat up, laid his arm across his propped up knee.” Why don’t you come with me? If you’re going to be a housewife, you can be my housewife.”

I laughed a little as he grinned.

“You can cook me some good food and wash my clothes and I’ll make crazy love to you,” he said.

“Is that a proposal?” I asked with a roll of my eyes. “If it was, it wasn’t a very good one you know.”

Hank laughed.

“What if it was a proposal?” he asked, flipping a piece of my hair off my shoulder with his finger.

I shook my head and laughed.

“Hey, girl, I’m serious.”

I looked up at his face and I felt weak. His expression was serious, his eyes watching me intently.

“Oh, Hank – I’m too young to get married,” I said softly.

“You’re not too young. You heard what I told your daddy. A lot of girls your age are already having babies.”

Hank grinned.

“You wanna have babies with me some day?” he asked.

I swallowed hard. I’d never thought about having babies. I shook my head.

“Not really,” I said honestly. “Or at least not now.”

“If I ever have babies, I want it to be with you,” Hank said, lightly touching the buttons of my shirt then trailing his fingertips along my collarbones

I only knew a little about where babies came from, and I knew what Hank wanted to do might lead there. I wasn’t ready for babies. I didn’t even like holding someone else’s baby.

“I have to go,” I said abruptly and pushed his hands away.

“Come on, Blanche. Just a little longer,” he kissed my neck and slid his hand across my stomach under my shirt.

I pushed his hands away again and stood up abruptly.

“My parents are going to wonder where I am and I’m pretty sure my daddy was serious about that gun,” I said.

Looking down at him I felt a rush of warmth move from my chest into my cheeks. He was so handsome, and I still couldn’t figure out what he saw in me. I knew if he asked me to marry him again I would say yes, just so I could spend my life looking at him.

But I didn’t want him to ask me to marry him again. My head was spinning. I was as confused about my present as I was about what I wanted for my future.

I knew Hank didn’t want to, but he drove me back to the end of our road, kissing me hard before I jumped out of the truck, like he wanted me to know who I belonged to. I smoothed my hair down and pulled the bottom of my shirt over the top of my skirt as I walked back to the house, ready to be the good girl for Mama and Daddy again.

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8